André Bratten is one of Norway’s leading artists in terms of electronic music. We caught up with him at Sommerøya, and spoke about everything from black metal to Prins Thomas.
We’re sitting in a small tent behind one of Sommerøya’s two stages. It’s the only electronic music festival that caters to solely underground music in the entire country. André is well spoken, and seems the perfect person to shed some light on the mysteriousness of Norwegian electronic music.
Growing up in Norway, how did you first get in touch with electronic music?
Oslo is 100% black metal, there’s no recordshops that cater specifically to electronic music, yet that same black metal is in some way closely related to ambient. They both have that same, arctic sound, if you will.
So when I was a kid, listening to Mayhem, and going through all the mail orders for more of that stuff, you’d come across other music like Biosphere, and be like “Wow, this is amazing!”. So Biosphere was my first real step into electronic music, and then of course Röyksopp broke through and put Norwegian electronic music on the international map.
And like I said, they would share the same musical ‘stamp’ if you will, they both have that cold, Norwegian sound. Because when you’re a small country like Norway, you’re not going to be as influenced by European or American music, as opposed to, for example, England.
So how does it feel to play a ‘home game’ here in Oslo?
To be honest, kind of strange! I usually only play in Oslo once a year, and that’s in a different context. I would probably be writing music for a contemporary concert and not doing a club gig like I would in Amsterdam or Berlin,
This is because a lot of the original electronic music in Norway originated up north in the country. Not just me, but also names like Prins Thomas, Lindstrøm and Todd Terje hail from there. Its where the disco scene all started.
So this is essentially one of the first times I have a ‘normal’ André Bratten gig in Norway.
Thats an interesting fact right there. Leading on from that, let me ask you, what are some of the main ‘obstacles’ the electronic music scene in Norway is facing right now?
I guess Norways’ biggest obstacle is that they’re trying too much to be like Berlin right now. There’s not really a niche or scene right now in Norway where people really get into this music and dig deeper.
While at the same time the clubs are doing extremely well and you can find Ben Klock and Moodymann playing the same night even though the crowd might be relatively small with 350 people, while in another club you find A Guy Called Gerald playing the main room and upstairs in that same club you will find Karenn and James Ruskin. And then on the same street, a 150 metres down the road, DJ Stingray is headlining.
But then when you ask people ‘Do you know who’s playing?’, they have no idea. And the clubs still book them anyway. Its absolutely insane! So you know, it almost feels like a small festival every weekend.
That is absolutely crazy! I know we have these names in Amsterdam now, because the scene has been very carefully built up over the past few years, and promoters know people will buy tickets specifically for these artists. Do you think Sommerøya is moving the Norwegian scene forward in that respect?
I don’t really think Norway has a scene right now. And I personally feel that Sommerøya is more about giving back to the people who are really into this type of music. To give the people that are genuinely interested in electronic music, a place celebrate that interest together.
But do you think that scene would maybe grow as a side effect from that celebration?
I still think it’s more about giving the people the opportunity to appreciate this kind of music in a certain way, without becoming entangled in the whole corporate world of club capitalism. So I think that makes it the only sincere electronic music event in Norway.
With that being said about the scene, or the absence thereoff, how do you see the future of Norwegian electronic underground music, and what would your role be in that future?
My role is unimportant, I just do my own thing. People are always telling me “Oh, you’re the guy who did disco.” I don’t do disco, you know. I feel like its good to always evolve over time from one record to the next.
But my first record sort of started over dinner with Prins Thomas. I was just being a little kid trying to prove myself, and we were talking about this whole space disco sound, and I was bragging like “Making a disco record is easy!” so I made a disco record even though he was obviously much better at writing disco than I was.
And even though I grew up more with things like, for example, WARP Records, which now I’m older is a sound that comes much easier to me, I am still being associated with that disco record I first made. Even though I do something really different.
But as to your question, I don’t think there really is a ‘scene’. I mean, you have Prins Thomas and Lindstrøm and then there is Todd Terje entirely in his own ballpark; and of course I’m doing my own thing.
But there is no solid basis for new talent to come up, and Norway has nothing new on the horizon right now. So, I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.