Interview with Rune Lindbæk

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The man recorded music under 25 different projects. He was a part of “Norwegian disco phenomenon” since its first days. We talked for hours about almost everything on a boat party in 2012 and I had a dream to make the same on Krossfingers. Now the time has come: Rune Lindbaek tells his story

Where are you at the moment?

Right now I’m at home in Oslo trying to finish these questions that you asked a while ago.

What are you working on right now?

I’m working on a remix for Todd Terje’s Olsen Records and I’ve been to Lárisa in Greece​ where I was working with a talented local guy called Cebit​​ exploring some greek and other oriental flavours that I’m mixing right now.

Apart from that​ I am and have been working on many different projects​ and styles​ over the years making all kinds of music from ambient, rave, balearic, disco, to music for art exhibitions, theatre, short film scores, and everything in between. The changing of music styles and creating new project names might sound like a silly idea if you’re into the horrible business of self promotion and building a «music brand name» doing the same thing over and over, but the most important thing for me is to be free to explore and to have fun in the studio, which I really have! So we’ll see what surface to the rest of the world.

We heard you lived in a bunch of cities around the world. Could you tell us about it?

Well, not that many?​

I was born on this little fishing island called Vardø next to the former Soviet Union in 1970. It’s within the visible distance to the other side of the short border across a big fjord that was one of two direct front lines at the height of the cold war (Norway are a member of NATO) with a massive arsenal of atomic weapon on the Soviet side. But I grew up in the capital of Northern Norway, Tromsø, that was the pioneering city for electronic music in Norway back in the 80′s which was very nice.

I then went to Darlington near Newcastle and Middlesbrough​​ in the North East of England in the beginning of the 90′s to study journalism. I was actually admitted into Goldsmith University in London that is sort of a reputed place to study​,​ but I thought I couldn’t live there​​ doing a degree for three years​ so close to all of the city’s record shops with my limited student fundings and my vinyl junkie habits.

But I soon found out that Darlington actually had a really good vinyl shop​​ in an disused garage​​ in a derelict backyard​,​ with some great people working and hanging around there who were kind enough to «adopt» me. They were seriously into shrink wrapped proper underground skippety New York garage 12″s and Italian dream house. As a bonus​,​ London was just 3 hours away on the bus which was nothing coming from Northern Norway with the long distances between the towns there.

Oslo has been my base for almost 20 years​,​ and I lived​​ up until recently ​for 10 years​ in my studio​ which was in the same building as my friends Lindstrøm, Prins Thomas and Todd Terje’s studios in the downtown area near the Red Light district (while also commuting back and forth to cheap flats in Berlin for some years). I moved a little while ago and think it’s nice to have a bit of more homely comfort as well. I’ve got about 3,5 tons of vinyl along with my studio stash, so it’s a bit hard to move them around too often.

Other than that I’ve stayed with my musical brothers Dan & Conrad Idjut Boys in London for about 6 months​​ whilst making an album with them as Meanderthals for Smalltown Supersound.

What are your plans for your Drum Island Records?

I don’t have a business bone in my body and I’m not really a record company guy but I think it’s fun to share good music once in a while on this label I’ve had since 1995, like the forthcoming releases from very talented local people​ like Øyvind Blikstad, Helene Rickhard, and the now Tokyo based Cato Canari, along with stuff from myself.

Are you a classically trained musician?

No, I’m not a proper musician​.​ But my heart has always been bubbling over with melodies and it might have something to do with my local legendary good fisherman grandfather Hugo from Vardø where I was born. He was among the first record collectors in Norway already back in the 1940s in the days of the 78 rpm shellac pressings before vinyl records came along (they break easily but we still got some of his rather big collection left after him) and he only played those records to his friends — not traveling around playing in New York, Ibiza and the rest of Europe like I’m lucky to do. He used to whistle all the time, and my grandmother always used to ask him «could you please whistle something that we have heard before — for a change?». He composed music on the spot all the time — and no one really cared. I hope he might have passed on some of his musical nuclear reactor on to me.

I really wanted to play the drums when I was a kid but got talked into playing the 3rd voice clarinet in our local Tromsdalen (Tromsø valley) youth orchestra for a couple of years in the early 80′s instead. I thought it was a bit dull compared to the breakdance music and the import 12″s I was listening to at the time and I didn’t practice much. My main reason for joining the orchestra was that they were going on a trip to London, and when we got there I managed to get get side tracked into a small record shop somewhere in Soho with rows after rows of records to go through, looking at the sleeves, while the rest of my group wandered off. That lead to an alarm and a search party among the grown ups. A bunch of vinyl is all it takes for me to get me into my own world so nothing has changed!

Could you tell us about your parents?

My dad Ole is a funny guy who used to be a very easy going Lensmannbetjent (hillbilly police man) in an extremely low crime area around the beautiful Sommerøya (Summer Island) outside our hometown Tromsø. He’s a sports enthusiast who has won lots of national police running and skiing competitions and he’s the current Norwegian Champion for running 400 metres for 70 year olds. But he got an awful music taste and prefer Swedish «danseband» schlägers and stuff that I tend to avoid like the plague.

My mum Tove on the other hand is a ABBA lover like me and she used to work in the national Norwegian postal and post bank system all through her working years until she retired. She loves to knit on Sunday afternoons listening to the many mix tapes I’ve made specially for her over the years (I know her taste very well). She’s quite smart and has been a fantastic help for a long time. I’m not sure if I could have been carrying on doing underground music for 3 decades without her practical help since I’m a catastrophy zone when it comes to organising while she’s the polar opposite. The Sunday Best balearic crew in London that I’ve been hanging out with quite a bit nicknamed me both «Lively» and «Rooneh Random» — or they just shorten it to «Random». I must admit it might sum it all up..

Have you got a teacher or guru in Norway before you started to write music? We mean, who did inspire you as a musician?

My local Tromsø neighbourhood guys Geir «Biosphere» Jenssen, Per «Mental Overdrive» Martinsen, Hans Olav Grøttheim (who’s behind the balearic classic YBU — Keep It Up), and Nils Johansen from Bel Canto (who used to live right across our lawn) all went out in the world in the 80′s and did several classic releases for labels like SSR and R&S Records that was very inspiring to us back home. They all had synthesizers and samplers and I thought that was the coolest thing on earth.

Then Ole Johan Mjøs, Bjørn Torske and I started to piss about with music aswell in the early 90′s after Ole spent all his money from a summer job on an Akai S1000 sampler.

We hooked it up to an old 80′s Steinberg midi cartridge on a Commodore 64 with a 5″ floppy disc, as well as a Roland Juno 106. The result became Open Skies on 4 Hero’s Reinforced Records in London, and we were the label’s first signing outside the capital’s city limits. The artwork was made by Goldie who was quite a character. Years later when passing by my mum glancing on a James Bond movie on the telly, I said to her «do you see that Bond villain with the gold teeth? He made the cover for the Open Skies record».

Then we recorded as Volcano on Deconstruction Records and it ended up on the UK top 40 charts for weeks as the third Norwegians ever in history after Sultana’s excellent «Titanic» in 1969 and A-Ha in the 80′s. We were just 3 guys having fun in Ole and Bjørn’s bedroom studios having zero idea that what we did might end up in the UK and Norwegian pop charts. I think Pete Tong ended up playing «More To Love» five or six times on his BBC Radio 1 show including the remixes (which almost never happens) and he tried to sign us. But I don’t think he’s been playing much of what I’ve done since then — and that probably is a good thing.

Before that — the father of one of my my best friends in life, Philip Gundersen, lives in London and was one of the main disco in guys in the UK and he was also very inspiring to me. His name is Biddu, and in the late 60′s he was busking his way from his home on the Indian west coast over land via the Middle East to the UK where he got a job as a chef at the American embassy — because all he wanted to do was to meet The Beatles — which he eventually did. He met Philip’s au pair mother from Tromsø one night in London at a party celebrating the first moon landing earlier that day — and Philip was born 9 months later.

Biddu ended up making some massive world wide disco hits like Tina Charles’ «I Love to Love (But My Baby Loves to Dance)», and Carl Douglas’ «Everybody Was Kung Fu Fighting» (that was written and recorded as a joke in just over two hours and was only intended to be a funny b-side for another song). But he also made a bunch of superb underground disco solo tracks like Eastern Journey, Nirvana, Dance of Shiva, Hot Ice, Boogieton, Funky Tropical, Rain Forest, Futuristic Journey, Exodus — and Voodoo Man (where he used the same production techniques as Giorgio Moroder did around the same time). And he even went on to record with Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones from Led Zeppelin and David Bowie’s producer Tony Visconti — on top of recording for the iconic Chicago house label Trax Records and New York’s legendary disco label Prelude Records!

Who has made an impact on your musical taste?

It’s probably people like Brian Eno and my old friends and mentors for trippy disco Idjut Boys and DJ Harvey, along with François Kevorkian (who was among the first to mix dub and disco) and all the other dub and disco legends. But also Kraftwerk, Vangelis, Eduard Artemiev (and the other fantastic film composers) along with the great makers of all the myriads of sub-genres within rhythmic electronic and acoustic music, ambient, synth, library, world, folk, good pop, balearic, kraut and prog rock + the pirate radio stations in London back in them rave days. My inner musical landscape is big.

Your edits from the Klubb Kebabb LP are for us a kind of disco blueprint, like Harvey’s Black Cock edits or Daniel Wang. Could you tell us about the secret of a great edit and what’s happening with modern edits? Are you still making some these days?

Spasiba (means «thank you» on Russian) Krossfingers! Yes, I do it all the time and I’ve actually just launched my own edit label called Norsk Tripping after having made many of edits over the years.

Edits like DJ sets should be about bravery, not blandness. I like it when someone takes chances and makes great dance floor tracks from editing music from the most unusual sources when it comes to styles, instruments, geography and languages. There are some absolute champions in that field out there that I doff my hat to.

When I started to make edits as a 13 year old in 1984 I did it with a cassette player and a turntable plugged into an old Philips hi-fi system with a inbuilt second tape player that got a super quick cassette pause button — pressing both the tape and the phono button in at the same time — like a mixer with no faders. Strange to think back on it now in these day and age of computers. Prins Thomas also used to do the same around the same time — and we’re both still editing music all these years later!

The New York tape edit gurus like Latin Rascals and Chep Nunez along with Shep Pettibone were my edit heroes back then. And I was floored when I heard the Tommy Boys Records megamix on the label’s Greatest Beats double LP that my grandfather Hugo bought to me in 1985. It might not sound like a big deal today but it was quite radical at the time. It got a hefty dose of Africa Bambaataa tracks in it and my mum used to tease me again and again by saying «Africa Bombaataa — the dinner is ready» — to which I responded (as a not too clever teenager): «nooo mum, urk, his name is Africa Bambaataa!».

Tell about years when you started making music. For me that time is very romantic, great things were started or in the best form: your Those Norwegians on Paper Recordings, the Norwegian disco scene, early Lindstrom, and Erot. It was magic, wasn’t it?

Absolutely. I personally prefer to lurk in the background under the radar as a slow burning wild card but I’ve been really privileged to see the wellspring of creativity blossom around me. I enjoy seeing good people fulfilling their potential. That’s the main thing: Do your upmost to make some great music.

Ole Johan Mjøs, Torbjørn Brundtland (now in Röyksopp) and I jokingly named ourselves Those Norwegians in 1996 as a piss take because we were one of the few Norwegians around in electronic music then and record companies in England used to refer to us as «those Norwegians» — often along with the phrase «nil points» — referring to Norway’s poor Eurovision Song Contest results at the time along with the lack of other Norwegians they knew of. That conception of Norway has really changed over the years.

Erot sadly died of a heart disease in 2001. He was a really nice and talented friend that was cool to hang out with whenever he came across the mountains from Bergen to Oslo when he even stayed at mine with his lovely girlfriend Annie. We all miss him. Everyone wonders what he would be doing today.

Hans-Peter’s (Lindstrøm) «I Feel Space» was actually on my Romklang label mastered and with a finished artwork ready to go for over a year but I couldn’t find any decent international distributors at the time and I’m not good when it comes to business and marketing so in the end he released it himself on his own Feedelity Recordings. And then the whole «nu disco» thing started — and the rest is history.

Could you tell us about the Metamorfozy project. «Towlines» is super special for me (Sasha), and it’s one of the greatest tunes in the world for us. There are so much heartbreak, love and drama in it. Could you describe how such a beauty came to life?

Ahh, I really appreciate that you’ve discovered it! Hardly anyone have heard it but we’re very proud of it.

I made it with my good friend and super nice guy Øyvind Blikstad who is one of the greatest musicians in Norway ever, although too humble to put his name too much out there. We just wanted to make a heartfelt cinematic album that ended up being called Decasia and we’re still very pleased with the result. Even though he have moved from Oslo to Lillehammer we’re still working together having released a 12″ on Drum Island and remixed people like Seahawks, Coyote (on Jason Boardman and Moonboots’ Aficionado Records) and a couple of mixes for Bryan Ferry. We also did some production for The Bryan Ferry Orchestra that almost made it all the way into Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby film. Our bizarre near Hollywood experience!

Where is your favorite place to DJ?

My two long-term favourite clubs are the Salon des Amateurs in Düsseldorf (where the weirdest records is what the crowd go wildest to) — and the legendary Disco Not Disco parties on the David Lynch looking 20/44 party boat in Belgrade. Both places have great resident DJs (Lena Willikens, Detlef Tolouse Lowtrax, Slobodan «Brka» Brkić, Nebojša «Schwabe» Bogdanović etc) who have taught the audience well. I’m really grateful and feel privileged that people keeps on bringing me to these kind of fantastic places having played in 26 countries and made lots of friends all over.

But there’s nothing that beats my former monthly Undertonar (translates to: tones from below) nights at Oslo’s now sadly defunct legendary oasis of an intimate basement club Nomaden, from 2004 to 2012 (when the club that had to shut because of the landlord wanted to transfer it into a shop..). It had a magical combination between a lovely, warm and powerful sounding Turbosound sound system and some truly great staff, dancers and other freaks!

What writers are constantly inspiring you? What kind of literature are you interested in?

I often prefer memoirs the best and I recently read a book I found very fascinating about The Beatles engineer for a decade — Geoff Emerick’s «Here, There, and Everywhere». He started by coincidence to work at the Abbey Road Studios the week before the band’s first recordings there and worked with them all through their recording career. The memoir got tons of first hand inside information about their inner studio life that I found very interesting (and not just the image many artists wants to present of themselves to the world through professional publicists and other image bullshit creators). The book also gives an insight about the studio techniques that is common today but was invented and developed by Geoff Emerick and the band’s producer George Martin in the Abbey Road Studios during the 60′s.

Have you got ideas and dreams not related to music? Where do you want to try yourself?

Well, music has always been the main part of my life and I’m definitely not going back to the hard work I did fishing for a couple of summers a long time ago on my granddad Hugo’s sjark (a medium sized fishing boat) with the rough sea belting in from the Arctic. The fishermen are truly the last vikings but they’re rapidly evaporating from the face of the earth. I feel a connection to them but have always been more drawn towards the city lights instead so I think I’ll just stick with the music.

Are you good at cooking? What’s you favourite dish?

I think I’m quite all right. I’ve found out that a lot of great record collectors and DJs often are good in the kitchen as well. There must be a link between music and food somewhere — getting the tastes going, avoiding blandness. I’ll try and capture some of that in my food blog www.discocookbook.com

My favourite dish is to slightly boil my dad’s homemade bokna fish, which is the super fantastic skrei cod that comes from the Atlantic Ocean around the North Pole going to the coast of Northern Norway to breed for a few months after Christmas every year. It has to be semi dried in the cold North Norwegian winter winds for several weeks, and it’s best served with steamed vegetables, butter and onion sauce, good mustard and proper bacon. The ingredients somehow melts together into a whole new holy union. Just ask your fellow countryman, the Ukrainian balearic hero and sometimes Oslo resident, Pavel Plastikk about it. We’ve had it many times. Yummy

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Cover illustration Sasha Tessio
Words Sasha Tessio & Artem Super Ikra