Norwegian DJ / musician Olefonken is co-founder of the cool Oslo-based label, Snorkel Records – home to class acts like Dibidim and Raaja Bones. With roots and inspirations in Todd Terje & Dølle Jølle’s fabled fun night, Shari Vari, in 2020 he released the Balearic stunner, Sun City – which, had the pandemic permitted, would have been a sure-fire “poolside at Pike`s” smash. He is also part of the duo, Hubbabubbaklubb – of Mopedbart fame – who have just had their 2018 album Drømmen Drømmerne Drømmer, remixed by a whole host of equally famous names. Our first point of contact was when I ordered a copy of Sun City, direct, but it was this latter package of 8 sides of superior “dub house disco” that prompted me to pull my interview finger out.
Where are you from?
I´m from Oslo, Norway, roughly a 163 hour drive from where you are, in Tokyo.
When did you first start DJing?
My older brother borrowed our neighbour’s decks, as the neighbor was going in the mandatory military service for a year. When I saw my brother play with his friends down in my parents` basement, it just was the coolest thing I had ever seen and heard. But he did not want me to mess around with his records and the decks, so as soon as he went for work I would pop down and try to imitate what I`d seen him doing. Soon after he moved out I bought my own equipment and start DJing.
Were there any particular parties, or DJs, that inspired you to start?
Well, besides my brother, there was his neighbour as mentioned, and they would throw a regular party, called Klubb Dada, which was sort of an eye opener for a pubescent and lightweight kid. They had circus themes and great line up’s – like Per Martinsen vs Bjørn Torske, only Bjørn was cooking soup for everyone rather than playing records! But probably the biggest inspiration was Todd Terje & Dølle Jølle’s night, Shari Vari, at a place called Blå in Oslo – mainly because they span so playfully, or rather not too seriously. It was all about having fun, and this was before Terje had his big hits, so it was not too packed on the dancefloor. Their girlfriends would bake cupcakes for everyone, the smartphone was not invented and it was a free entrance before 11PM – aka pure bliss!
What kind of music were you playing?
Well, the first records I bought were online actually, from Clone, probably back in 2002 or 2003. I bought two compilations called The Dark Side of Disco Vol.2 and Theme From Radius. I was very much into the italo disco stuff at the time, still am, but I also quickly got into more house stuff like Metro Area and so forth.
Where were your first paid gigs?
It was a place called Fugazi here in Oslo, that`s now sadly closed, with my friend André Bratten. We would go under the pseudonym, Hubbabubbaklubb, which later expanded with 3 new members and focused more on producing rather than playing records. But I remember this gig very well, since André and I had been living together while studying music, and we played a lot of records together during the late nights in our dorm room, so we knew each other’s record collection in and out, therefore we knew exactly what to play that night, giving us the confidence to keep at it.
Prior to the pandemic did you have any regular gigs or residencies?
Yes, I was a resident DJ at Jaeger every Friday for 12 years or so, together with Ricky Late, G-Ha and Olanskii, and we – Snorkel – also had a concept called Taffel, at Bortenfor – a snuggly cocktail bar in Oslo every Thursday for some years, which was more a leftfield, library kind of thing. Neither of these nights I have any longer due to the pandemic outbreak. But it’s all good – onwards and upwards!
When did you start making music?
I guess when I was around 15 or 16 years old, after several years playing drums in a funk rock band..
What equipment did you have then?
I borrowed a Roland Groovebox, and later spent all my money on the first iMac – indgo color – and Reason 2.0, and that was it. It took me years before I bought a midi keyboard or a sound card. So it was all plotting the midi with the mouse in the sequencer and redrum.
What equipment do you have now?
Too much to be honest, it`s almost embarrassing to mention it all. But a few key items are a big enough Dotcom Modular, Tore Seem Desk, old Ludwig drum set and Logic X.
Are there any artists or pieces of music that have a direct influence on the music that you make?
Magnus Uggla´s Sommartid Remix was a huge inspiration for Hubbabubbaklubb at least, Dibidim and their album “riders” too, and all the local heroes of course.
Could you please give me 3 pieces of music that you are currently enjoying?
Don Melody Club – Isabel (Les Disques Bongo Joe Records)
Random Access – Bodywork (Emotional Rescue)
Daniel Monaco / Mc Matsui – Swimming With Turtle (Periodica Records)
When and why did you start Snorkel?
Snorri and I started the label the summer before I moved to London, back in 2016. We were out on his boat in the Norwegian fjords – which we have named the Snorkel office. Once we did the blood oath we jumped into the sea. A couple of hours of snorkeling later we had a name for it, Snorkel Records. Understood by us as the amateurish, naive and spontaneous sibling of the more calculated, serious and professional scuba diver. We have always shared the same artistic sensibilities and the same goes for the sense and importance of independence. So among ourselves we often ask why we didn’t start the label together much much earlier. Telling ourselves that if we had done so, then we would have been millionaires by now.
How many people are involved with the running of the label?
Just the two of us still. Running it all from our studio in Oslo. No physical distribution yet, which we need to get into soon. When I lived in London it was more managable, due to shipping being cheaper, and there were a lot more record stores close by. So Snorri would come over and we would spend a couple of days packing records in the backyard and cycling around town to various shops. We still love that part of the hustle, but making music and graphics is what we enjoy the most.
Can you tell me more about the artists on the label? From the outside it looks like you are all a close knit bunch of friends, is this the case?
Yes, Hubbabubbaklubb is a band which we started after high school, so we were all friends from before, and Dibidim and Raaja Bones are our newest members in the family, people who we`ve looked up to since high school, so that has just been such a blessing and great fun. Hopefully it will expand even more in the future.
Were you surprised by the success of both Mopedbart and Sun City?
For sure! And Mopedbart is a great example. Snorri used to drive this noisey old veteran moped called a Tempo Corvette to school, always smelling of gasoline when entering the classroom. So one night Hubbabubbaklubb got together and for a laugh and made a song about it. Who would have known that this song would kick everything off? Since then we no longer try to predict what track will catch on. Rather let the day´s mood dictate the sound, and hopefully people will jump on it after a while.
Would you ever do a repress?
We tend to want to do something new rather than doing a repress – looking forward to the next thing. But if there is public demand and we have the money to do so, then yes of course – music to the people!
What are you working on at the moment?
We have a few exciting projects cooking in the stew as we speak and which gets us up in the morning. Plus, hopefully an Olefonken album will be released this year.
Has the lockdown period been creatively productive for you?
Sadly, quite the opposite. The whole pandemic has just sucked the life out of the whole music thing. It made you question what you really do in life, and it was also a vital reminder of how important it is to hear music live, or presented by DJs, played on good sound systems, and so on. But we are getting there these days though.
Prior to the pandemic where there any local parties that you enjoyed?
Oh yes. Would like to mention Skranglejazz which is a party often thrown during the daytime, in nice locations around Oslo. These were always a blast, and there were some good parties at the villa, followed up with some illegal afters.
Are there any local artists, or DJs, that we should watch out for?
I would watch out for Helene Rickhard. She has been one of Snorkel’s favorite DJs for years, and she also makes the most beautiful music.
Are things beginning to open up again where you are?
Yes, slowly but surely. Smaller listening bars are beginning to pop up, which is a nice contribution to Oslo.
All being well what are your plans for the rest of the year?
Don´t get stuck. Finding new beginnings, and enjoying the struggle of making a good album.
Hubbabubbaklubb`s Drømmen Drømmerne Drømmer Remixed is out now, on Snorkel Records.