035 - Bjørn Torske
Norway has a relatively young club culture in comparison with other more historic musical locations, and yet, perhaps as a consequence of it’s relative infancy, it appears to have spawned a very distinct sound of its own. Many people will recognise the signature ‘Nordic Disco’ style of lauded producers such as Todd Terje, Lindstrom & Prins Thomas - and yet one of the pioneers behind the birth of this sound is perhaps a little overlooked. With a number of excellent LP releases under his belt, and DJ-ing regularly for the past 30 years as something of a cult hero in the Norwegian scene, Bjørn Torske is a producer and DJ with an idiosyncratic style, a nuanced ear and a most unusual ability, to be ultra eclectic without losing his own voice. Much of his early work has informed the
What is most appealing about Torske, both as a DJ and producer, is the breadth of musical influence from which he is able to draw. I was only introduced to Bjørn’s works earlier this year myself as Métron’s very own Harry Leath sent me a few tracks, along with a message ‘You’ll love this.’’ Nothing could be truer, the joyful disco cuts he sent were irresistible. And yet his RA mix, to my surprise, was something of a psych-rock epic. Digging further, his full lengths offer up a veritable bag of dub, jazz, funk, disco and house, showcasing a voice distinctive in it’s varied and experimental quirk.
I was excited to hear what he had prepared for his Métron Musik Mixtape, and was predictably delighted with the outcome. Recorded at home Bjørn takes us on a moving musical odyssey, spanning everything from Electro synth pop, Ambient, Italian funk, Reggae, Kraut psych-rock, Afro-Cuban Jazz, and of course, a sprinkle of house & disco for good measure. He’s a DJ, that after 30 years in the game, is still interested in trying new combinations and taking risks. The results are powerful and clear for all to hear on this wonderfully cinematic excursion into just a small section of Torske’s bag of tricks. He’s a selector of the highest level and seems to breathe new life into his sets with each new track. It’s an honour to have him as a part of this series of mixes, this is certainly one on my favourites to date.
Be sure to check out more of Bjorn’s work online, a great place to start is with his excellent full lengths Nedi Myra, Trøbbel (both reissued last year on Smalltown Supersound) Feil Knapp, and Kokning. Keep your eyes peeled for an extremely exciting collaboration coming soon.
I spoke with Bjørn about the mixtape and what he's learned from 30 years in the game:
JH: Hey Bjorn, first off, I absolutely love the mix, where and when was it recorded?
BT: It was recorded at home a little more than a week ago, using turntables, one cd-player and a mixer.
JH: We live in an era where a lot of producers get gigs as a result of their productions, and therefore feel the need to play many of their own tracks in sets. It seems that you like to keep production and DJing mostly separate, rarely including your own works in your sets. Is this by design, and if so why?
BT: I’m usually too fed up with my own productions. I’ll rather let others play them, as I play other people’s music too. There are exceptions though. Some of my earlier productions might from time to time find their way in my bag. Additionally, I’ll try unreleased stuff to check the reaction. An unbiased judgement from the punters is a good indicator.
JH: How does DJing influence the way your produce, and vice versa?
BT: My understanding of music is very much connected to the flow of a DJ set. Making interesting blends in the booth can inspire me to try similar combinations when making a track. This is quite instrumental in the way I try to combine different styles in production. I'll have a notion of how different types of sound work together. The results of my experiments will sometimes kick back in the way I choose or mix music in my DJ sets.
JH: One of the things I enjoy about your DJ sets is how they often take on a cinematic quality. It’s a really small detail but in the opening of this mix there’s a few field recordings, I really enjoyed the contrast of the waves washing up on the shore broken up by the sound of passing cars, I’m a sucker for this kind of detail but I think it’s a great way to take the listener into a story. Is this something that you recognise in your own sets, or that you aim for consciously at all?
BT: The aim of dropping sounds on top is usually to create a setting for the dancers, very much like the early house and disco djs would do it. Also, when I feel it is time to change style or tempo, a soundscape or so-called "contentum" will make for a smooth transition. There are some very obvious "cheap" effects that will work wonders instantly - for instance mixing in a pre-recorded party atmosphere with cheering and clapping.
JH: You’ve been DJing since the late 80’s, what would you say is the biggest things you’ve learnt about playing music for other people during that time?
BT: First of all - don't compromise your own taste. Never succumb to the temptation of a "quick fix" to get the floor going just because you're impatient or people are hassling you for "faster" music. Of course, in most good clubs you won't have such a problem at all. But I know that if I don't play by that rule, I wouldn't be in this much longer. It's part of making one's own niché, thus not really competing with anyone else but yourself.
JH: I know you’ve been fairly secretive about your latest collaborative project, are you able to talk about what you’re new record?
BT: I'll just say that it is due on Smalltown Supersound early next year, and that I am collaborating with a very nice guy who is also one of the more prolific artists coming out of Norway these days.
JH: You clearly have a desire to explore many music avenues. How do you find new music to listen to?
BT: Well, initially it was other people's record collections, then radio (especially UK pirate stations late '80s and early '90s). Now we have the internet and all I need is to go surfing. But still I very much cherish to just go digging in record shops, checking what's around and buying what I like.
Biosphere - Kobresia
Reverberi - Cat Casanova
Yellow Power - Blue Fusion
Suns of Arqa - World Peace (Edit)
Negril - East side West side
Sabu Martinez - Afro Temple
Lee Ritenour - Slow Glide (Edit)
Balearic Gabba Sound System - Quando
Karamika - Ton 1
Toni Esposito - Caucciu (Edit)
Dan Lissvik - Airwalk
Cos/Mes - Natural Lifespan (Acid Orchestra Mix)
Nad - Music take you
DJ Fett Burger - Burger Trip
Mungolian Jet Set - A city so convenient
DJ Sotofett - TBC
Jeff Mills - Alarms
DJ Sotofett - Tribute to “Sore Fingers”