Artist To Artist – Prins Thomas & Mental Overdrive
Both Mental Overdrive and Prins Thomas feature on Ploink's recent release which landed late last month. In fact Prins Thomas stepped up to remix the work of Mental Overdrive. The pair of Norwegian musicians sat down to talk music, talent shows and more… Read their conversation below:
Mental Overdrive asks Prins Thomas…
What’s the main difference between the Norwegian town of Hamar -spawning both yourself and DJ Strangefruit – and NYC and it’s disco scene during the early eighties?
"Wow, that's a compressed question. Where to start? Keep in mind that my interest in dj'ing, hip hop culture and later house and disco started when I was 9 back in 1984 and I wasn't really aware of anything except my own reality at the time. Which was the youth club, bedroom dj'ing, making pause-button edits and mixes and then gradually seeing interesting documentaries and little bits in movies that pieced it together.
What came later being taken under the wing of my slightly older mentor DJ Strangefruit in 1986 was random bits of knowledge about actual scenes elsewhere but I don't think even my mentor at the time was much aware of what went on elsewhere, past or present.
I would rather say "Are there any similarities between the town of Hamar(population approx.29 931) and NYC?" And the answer is no…."
What is your favourite trance record?
"Jam & Spoon's 'Stella' is a favourite from the 'actual' trance section. So is LFO vs Fuse's 'Loop'(pitched down all the way)though I'm sure someone will deny that this is a trance record.
If you mean trance as in records that puts you in a trancelike state there's so many to choose from… Manuel Göttsching's "E2-E4", Miles Davis 'Shhh / Peaceful'…"
Have you ever entered a talent show, and if so, how did it go?
"Ha ha…. I think I know what you're fishing for…I did enter one once… I played bass in a band and in 1992 we won the local, regional then national 'youth rock contest' of Landsorganisasjonen(Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions). I placed decent in a couple of local skateboard contests to and done quite poor at national contests in miniramp and vert. I did also win a limbo contest once but I think that was partially due to dressing up in a bikini."
Will you attempt to play Toto’s “Hold the line” as the closing track of a night ever again – like you once did at Blå in Oslo (as we+most others were rather coincidentally leaving the club)?
"I might. That's probably one of the lesser offensive misplaced end of the night tracks I've played… even though it caused a riot within the inner sanctum of techno and disco high priests of the local community…"
Do you believe in strictly dividing dance music into different genres, and if so/if not, do you think this has something to do with your personal opinion only, or a more general opinion of the Norwegian dance music scene?
"No, I do not believe that strictly dividing any musical genres is good for anything except people who works in record stores AND for music journalists. I do feel that at least in the past the nightclub crowd in Norway has been more openminded than you'll find elsewhere but I also feel that post internet and techno tourism things are changing so it's now also more common to find dj's and club nights here with their blinders on."
We first met while we were both regular dj’s at Oslo’s Jazid club in the late nineties. Do you regard Jazid as an important arena for your generation of dj’s and producers such as yourself and Lindstrøm?
"Yes, Jazid was in my opinion the most important club in Oslo of that era. There where many others like Skansen, Barock and Head On but Jazid was the one that felt like home for a few years. Besides being meeting ground for quite a few of the people I still work with, being able to play all night sets for an open minded and usually appreciative crowd gave me a big head and blind belief in what I keep on doing."
In one of my more conceptual fits I suggested that music had reached a kind of “peak future” with acid house and detroit techno before entering this millennium, and then had started regressing into nostalgia with more organic sounds like disco etc. (it was written in the liner notes of my album “The Phuture that never happened”). Do you think this statement is pure bullshit, and if you do, where do you find the most futuristic music nowadays? And secondly, is it of any importance (do we still need "the future”)?
"I never really thought much about it and the concept of "future music" or coming up with something brand new is if little or no interest to me. I always thought that there's so much music out there, enough to fill many lifetimes of listening. if I didn't hear it before then it is new me. whether it's an actual new record or a lost nugget from 1984 or something from the future(that's what I call my unreleased demos)I care less about as long as it gives me some kind of pleasure."
What are you wearing?
Prins Thomas asks Mental Overdrive…
What's the connection between Tromsø and Detroit if any?And if Vidar Hansen had played hair metal on local radio instead of Depeche Mode would you all have started playing in metal bands instead?
"I’ve never actually been to Detroit, so I wouldn’t really know. But I’ve noticed that it gets pretty cold in winter there through watching some movies set in Detroit, so that might be one thing. Also I’ve heard a lot of Detroit artists refer to the car industry and the heavy presence of technology in it as an inspirational factor for developing their music. A parallel here in Tromsø might be that the town is heavy on space and polar research, as well as a very technology-driven shipping industry. I believe my first spiritual connection with a machine was with a radar monitor on a ship my dad worked on when I was a little boy, so that might be another connection. As for Vidar playing poodle rock, I’m afraid I had left Tromsø for London at the time he started his radio show. But it might have slipped into our psyche via some other channel, now that you mention it."
Did you play in any bands in your youth?And of so, is there anything you brought into your music?
"Yes, I played drums in local post-punk bands when I was a young teenager, so definitely that has played a big part of my entry into music. My biggest problem at the time, though, was that most of the music I liked used drum machines instead of live drummers, so I spent endless hours trying to play like a Linn drum. I must have succeeded in some way, as people wanted me to play with them. Also I was way cheaper than a Linn machine."
What's your favourite disco record?
"The Residents – 'Kaw Liga' (i.e. Michael Jackson’s 'Billy Jean' gone totally Discordian)."
Why and when did you move to UK and Belgium and what effect did it have on the music you made?
"Although I enjoyed growing up here and being part of the small music scene we had in the early eighties, I felt an urge to connect directly to my sources of inspiration, which by the mid eighties were mostly coming out of the UK and some European cities like (West) Berlin. Southbound on a train out of Copenhagen I met some people who were based in Hackney’s squatland of the time, and decided to join them for a visit. I ended up staying there for almost two years, and immediately got exposed to tape copies of Acid House and Detroit Techno circulating on the scene. The following summer of ’88 the whole club scene blew up, as is pretty well documented. I used to work in a studio in Brixton, and some of the beats I made travelled with a friend who was signed to Crammed Discs to Brussels. Crammed called me up and invited me over to do some sessions, which ended up as my first releases. I also met Renaat and the early R&S crowd around that time, and did some sessions in Gent that ended up as my first Mental Overdrive release the following year."
Is there any truth to the documented but disputed rumour that you engineered Joey Beltram's "Energy Flash”?
"Well, no. Joey came over to Gent and I did the programming and assisted him on the other 3 tracks featured on his first EP for R&S, but “Energy Flash” was a track he had already done in NYC before coming over. I guess the “rumour” stems from the fact that I was wrongfully credited on the label of Transmat’s release of “Energy Flash”. It was a great tune, though, and a joy to work with Joey."
Do you think too much of the attention around electronic music in Norway is being given to Oslo and it's producers?
"I’m afraid I’ve lost a bit of touch with whoever gives attention to anyone after I moved back to Tromsø around seven years ago. When I lived in Oslo in the nineties and early noughties I would always know what was going on through going to clubs and seeing friends on the scene, but after relocating to the Arctic I’m more dependent on people sending me stuff, or that the new faces are coming here to Tromsø to play and connect. I like Andre Bratten’s stuff, both the techno bits and the more experimental work he did on Smalltown. But I trust you will one day send me a bunch of Full Pupp and Rett I Fletta vinyls so I can catch up with all the new talent."
I recently asked Sabine (The S in R&S Records)about any old stories relating to your stay in Belgium and the word is you're remembered as a "young polite boy, a bit absent minded and always showing up at their place in Ghent unexpectedly". In other words, not the filth and drama I was hoping for. Is there any fun stories you can share with us?
"Haha, yeah I guess that’s pretty accurate. The funny thing is that the tiny flat they were living in at the time also served as a studio and office space. As I remember I wasn’t very much into making appointments back then, and mobile phones didn’t exist, so I’m sure my behaviour could seem a bit random, turning up on their doorstep without notice and asking to use the studio. I remember one funny situation when I was recording one of the most ravey tunes on my first EP (I believe it was the track “Invasion” – fittingly enough). The studio was rigged in one end of their living-room, while their dining-table (that also served as their office desk) stood at the other. The big analogue mixing console was facing the table, where Renaat and Sabine were sitting having their dinner and talking calmly. I mixed on headphones at max volume, and was jumping up and down and probably shouting out loud as I went along doing a live mixdown of the track. As I finished, I ripped the phones off my sweaty head, looked up, and straight into two faces at close distance, with open mouths and some pretty stern stares, communicating a kind of “Now, would you PLEASE..?"
Name 10 NEW records that you're currently enthusiastic about. If you can't come up with that many then let me know what your alltime favourite records are?
"To show that there’s still some resistance in me, I choose to ignore both your questions, and rather list some albums I’ve been listening to lately, regardless of whether they’re new or old:
1. Lawrence English – “Wilderness of mirrors"
2. The Aller Værste – “Disniland i de tusen hjem"
3. Moirée – “Shelter"
4. André Bratten – “Gode"
5. Lucy – “Wordplay for working bees"
6. Prins Thomas – “Principe del norte"
7. Call Super – “Migrant"
8. Oren Ambarchi – “Audience of one"
9. Lorenzo Senni – “Quantum Jelly"
10. Floating Points – “Elaenia"
Being one of the grand old men of techno here in Norway. What's your take? Was it all better before or do you share my optimism and enjoy the presence even more?
"NOTHING was ever better before! It’s just old people lying to young people as they begin to feel they’re losing their mojo, and are trying to use the advantage of their life-experience to shit on the upcoming “competition”. Also, the fact that no-one can ever go back and double-check the truthfulness of these claims, makes this a near perfect scheme."
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