In Focus: Höga Nord
If ever a record label and its assorted offerings were made for the Convenanza festival and its driving force Andrew Weatherall, then it would be Hoga Nord.
The Swedish label’s output, works equally well in Weatherall’s sets both as a DJ, where the imprint’s electronic disco influences come to the fore – its occasional roster and guest releases include offerings from the likes of familiar Weatherall cohorts such as Tim Fairplay and Vox Low, while its more psych-based releases sit perfectly well on Music’s Not For Everyone, Weatherall’s NTS Show and the similarly themed opening sets from Convenanza, where a wide-ranging selection of not necessarily acid house or squelchy disco songs are showcased.
So it’s fitting then, that Hoga Nord will be closely involved with this year’s event, which takes place on September 22 and 23, in the new Convenanza home of Sete, having moved some 80 miles or so east, to the coast, no less (the new location, an amphitheatre, looks out on to the sea).
“I went to Convenanza the last two years,” says label founder Mathias Nilsson.
“We got in touch with [festival organiser] Bernie Fabre, that’s how it started. Right from the very beginning, Weatherall started playing our releases on his show.”
The Hoga Nord Rekords involvement at Convenanza will see one of its acts, Fontan, playing live on the Friday night, and a special, super-limited vinyl offering from the label.
“It’s going to be a remix 12” with remixes from tracks from the Fontan album,” says Nilsson.
“The contributors include Red Axes, Timothy Fairplay, Khidja, Vox Low, Mythologen, The connection that was part of the thinking behind it. The name of the 12 is the Convenanza Remixes, in honour of the festival. It’s going to be available there, it’s a limited press, only going to be 300 copies.”
Nilsson adds that any copies left over may be sold elsewhere, although given the rush for limited edition gear at previous Convenanzas that may be surprising to say the least.
For Bernie Fabre, the driving force behind the event curated by Weatherall, it was a logical progression too, particularly given not just the music, but the way Hoga Nord goes about its business.
“Andrew and I admire Höga Nord because of their high quality output (Andrew always plays one new track from the label, every month, on his radio show), but also because they're really passionate about it. They make a real effort regarding records covers, picture discs… and they remain uncategorisable, which for us, is really important: every release is different. And on top of that they're really nice guys… So it seemed an obvious move to do things together (like the Convenanza special 12"), invite Föntan to play their new LP live, and there's more to be announced soon!”
The album, some seven years in the making, is indicative of the Hoga Nord Rekords sound, if such a thing exists. As Nilsson explaied: “It’s Swedish proggy psychedelia bonded with black electronic disco vibes.”
The label initially started without hugely lofty ambitions, on a much more local scale.
“When we started the label we wanted to release things from Gothenburg, Sweden, things we thought were really good. That’s how it started out and as time goes, we broadened our horizons, taking influences from all over the world.”
The look of the label, as mentioned by Fabre, is key here too.
“There’s a graphic feel for the releases. We have a really strict graphic feel, using the same fonts and stuff. I think that kind of thing helps a lot, especially as it’s mostly instrumental music.”
It’s a cottage industry, certainly, sitting putting the releases together yourself, as Nilsson explains.
“It’s important for the look of the label. We hand-stamp them here in my living room. It’s a lot of work but it’s fun. I like the handmade feel."
He cites the influence of British post-punk and indie labels in this.
“We have some beautiful Postcard Records in the store, they are amazing. We’ve been hugely influenced by this kind of label, labels like Creation and Postcard.”
Much like Weatherall himself, Hoga Nord straddles the divides between genre. Echoing his previous statements, Nilsson notes: “I’m turning 37 this year, when I grew up in Sweden I always had one foot in the punk scene and one foot in the electronic scene.”
Which makes the Chairman’s patronage all the more inspiring.
“Weatherall has helped a lot, it’s really flattering as well. I’ve been loving his stuff since I was a kid. He’s a real pioneer.”
Beyond Convenanza the label is booming. The Fontan album is out now, as is the outstandingly named Ultra Satan with a cheeky seven inch entitled USA (the flip-side is craftily called USB and is a little Balearic gem) and a new Fairplay EP. Beyond that lurks an album from The Exorcist GBG and another seven inch by Pardon Mpi.
“There’s some really nice spacey disco stoner stuff, organic bass guitar driven music. There’s pretty much always a drum machine.”
“We play out a lot, we DJ a lot, we organise concerts. We have to do a lot of different things to be able to run without any involvement from anyone else. To be one hundered percent independent, it’s incredibly hard work. It’s fun though, it’s ruled by passion.”