An increasing number of productions, projects, concerts and releases are labelled Audio Virus Lab. The source is Deathprod. in the form of Helge Sten who, in just a few years, has infiltrated Norwegian musical life.
Silence meets analogue noise. Slow, repeated phrases with high frequency feedback meet a massive wall of low frequencies. The sound level is painful, and it doesn’t help to stick your fingers in your ears when the rest of your body acts as a membrane. In the course of a few minutes, the audience’s otherwise extrovert social behaviour is transformed into a total lack of motion. There is a resounding silence. No-one speaks. Your stomach shakes and almost turns inside out. Loops of 8mm black and white film are projected onto a white silk screen. Well hidden behind the screen, armed with analogue jack plugs and pedals, you glimpse the origin of the noise: Helge Deathprod. Sten. This scenario was played out on a small stage in connection with an art project in Oslo a few years ago and was part of his course at the Trondheim Academy of Art.
In principle, there are many categories of musician and producer. Nevertheless, a remarkable number of them limit themselves to what the equipment producers have put on the agenda, or have the catchy tune as their main objective. Luckily, there are others who leave the beaten track in terms of both technical and musical potential. Helge Deathprod. Sten certainly belongs in the latter category. He is not content with chords, harmonious keyboard sounds and simple digital parameters. He refuses to learn to read music and he can’t play an instrument. Helge Sten characterises the Well-tempered Klavier as “one of the greatest crimes in the history of music”. His background and education at the Academy of Art have made him consciously reject history.
“Silence and inaccessibility will be the greatest privileges for the people of the future,” believes Sten. In the last six years, he has gradually achieved considerable success in terms of both his own records and the productions he does for other people. With Biosphere, he has recently released Nordheim Remixed, thereby guaranteeing the accessibility of that doyen of Norwegian music to the next generation and new audiences. He is also actively involved with the deathjazzambientavantrockensemble Supersilent, whose second record was released last year.
Helge Sten was first seen in public six years ago with the noise rock group Motorpsycho, of which he is still a sporadic member. Since 1992, he has produced some 30 records and been involved in several theatre and dance performances. He has also found time to release the CDs Treetop Drive and Imaginary Songs From Tristan Da Cuhna. With the help of old technology such as theremins, oscillators and recording on wax rolls, he manages to manipulate sound so that it becomes organic and pulsating. Associations may be drawn from Einsstürzende Neubauten to Brian Eno and Kiss (!).
The name Deathprod. is wordplay on “cowprod”, a battery-driven stick that is used to give electric shocks when driving cattle to the slaughterhouse. The tool is banned in Norway and the name is linked to a funny story about the time a friend sent Sten a cowprod from the UK, thereby inviting the Norwegian Customs Authority to impose punitive fines. The cowprod was returned.
Now new releases with Supersilent and dance and theatre performances await him, in addition to releases on Young Gods Records, the recording company owned by underground hero Michael Giras from The Swans. Noise is definitely making imperialistic advances!