Stronger and more active than ever, Norwegian indie label Smalltown Supersound celebrates its tenth birthday with several concerts at Blå, Oslo this weekend. With 80 releases in its catalogue, the uncompromising label has changed the sound of new music. Jaga Jazzist, Kim Hiorthøy, Sir Duperman, Lasse Marhaug, Martin Horntveth, and Jazzkammer are just some of the names we associate with Smalltown Supersound.
Latest addition to the roster is Lars Horntveth (Jaga Jazzist member) and his new solo album Pooka.
“I haven’t borrowed any money. I can release whatever I like, whenever I want!” managing director of Smalltown Supersound, Joakim Haugland recently said to Norwegian daily Dagsavisen.
He started the label when living at home with his parents in Flekkefjord. At that time, Norway had few and centralised record labels; no one produced music from the boy’s room. Everyone does now, it seems like, and Smalltown has long ago established itself internationally as a cult label for electronica, free jazz, and noise.
MIC English presents part of an article about the Smalltown label, written by Ballade’s Hild Borchgrevinck.
Hiorthøy insisted on Jaga Jazzist
“I got a tape with ‘something’ from him, and I thought it was fantastic. We agreed that he was mine,” says Joakim Haugland about how he met the filmmaker, designer, and electronica artist Kim Hiorthøy.
Kim Hiorthøy has since been Haugland’s closes advisor. Hiorthøy was also the man who insisted that Smalltown signed Jaga Jazzist.
“I knew about them, I just had not thought about them that way before,” Haugland says.
Kim Hiorthøy og Jaga Jazzist have since become Smalltown’s biggest international successes.
In a different universe
Kim Hiorthøy’s debut Hei and Melke got great reviews all over the world. With his music, design, illustrations, and books, Hiorthøy has created a universe of his own: electronic pop with a naïve charm and warmth. The live sets have become harder, but are performed with the same playfulness and originality as the albums. During the spring, three new releases are expected from Hiorthøy: a new EP, a live album, and an album with field recordings.
“For Jaga Jazzist, Smalltown Supersound meant stepping out of Norway and into the world,” Martin Horntveth says to Ballade.
“We got access to an environment that worked with the same things as we did, both people we did not know and people we wanted to get in touch with. Smalltown was also our way into Ninja Tunes, our English label.”
“Since I was 17, I have been internationally oriented,” Joachim Hougland says.
“Slow and steady, I built a network by people I knew and met. One thing lead to the other, I travelled a lot, listened to music, and also met some people through my job at Voices of Wonder (Norwegian label).”
For the past few years in Norway, small indie labels, often owned by one person, have received most of the attention abroad. Large multinational companies have more problems going abroad with their Norwegian artists. Before Jaga Jazzist came to Smalltown, they were signed to Warner. Is that how it works abroad as well?
“Most of the companies I work with are larger than Smalltown Supersound,” Haugland says.
“Jaga Jazzist’s British label (Ninja Tunes) is indeed large, but small in an international context, much smaller than the major labels.”
“Jaga Jazzist and Smalltown Supersound have become a two-way-system, we use each other equally,” Horntveth says.
“We got access to a new networks and it started rolling for Jaga, which has also helped Smalltown to become bigger. Several of Joakim’s artists have received international attention and support through us.”
Jaga Jazzist’s two albums, A Livingroom Hush and The Stix were both released abroad by Ninja Tune/Smalltown Supersound, and accompanied by panegyric reviews and sold out concerts. Now, the band is home to write its next album, and will play at Blå in Oslo on Saturday.
“Smalltown has eventually got very good publicity abroad,” Haugland says.
“Especially when we are playing abroad, but foreign radio stations, newspapers, and magazines are also coming to Norway to write about us.”
Norway’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has several times proclaimed that they want to operate more untraditionally when using Norwegian music to promote Norway.
“The Foreign ministry want to use music and culture more actively to promote Norway abroad. More than before, we want to delegate and let professional groups outside the house decide more, Ann Ollestad said, director general of the Department of Information and Press relations when she entered upon her position in 2002.
“The black metal environment and bands such as Satyricon can also receive honourable commissions as official representatives for Norway,” Ollestad said.
Has this initiative meant anything for Smalltown Supersound?
“We don’t have direct contact with the MFA,” Haugland says.
“But we have a very good co-operation with the Norwegian embassy in London about Jaga Jazzist, and with the embassy in Japan about several projects. Especially the embassy in London are very active and helpful,” Haugland says.
This weekend, Blå will be filled with supersound. These are the performers scheduled for live performances: Jaga Jazzist, Kim Hiorthoy, Martin Horntveth, Mental Overdrive, Sir Dupermann/Jazzkammer, The Thing, Paal Nilssen-Love/Mats Gustafsson and DJ sets from Dan Bitney of Tortoise, Per Martinsen aka Mental Overdive, Joakim Haugland, Martin Revheim and Rune Danielsen.