If you combine the names of Lindstrøm and Haugland you get Strømland. And if you know anything about Hans-Peter Lindstrøm and Joakim Haugland you will acknowledge that a record label run by this duo sounds promising.
Lindstrøm has risen to international cult status in the sphere of contemporary disco and dance music, and his own Feedelity label, which releases Lindstrøm’s music and all his collaborations and remixes, has become a emblem of feel-good. Joakim Haugland’s Smalltown Supersound is easily one of the most defining labels of the international indie sphere as such; one of the labels that have blazed the trail for a new category of music lovers, the label-fans. The new label Strømland is a joint platform where the two of them can present bands to one another and release records that don’t fit in on their respective main labels.
However, there is very little information and talk about Strømland so far. We ask Joachim Haugland why.
-It is supposed to be a little secretive, says Mr Haugland, it is a lax and low-pressure kind of project for us; something we want to maintain as a free-space. We don’t have any specific ambitions for this label. It saw the light of day because we both felt that there were artists we wanted to work with and records we might want to release that needed a platform different from Smalltown and Feedelity. At Smalltown I’m always very concerned about the general profile and I want the music I release to align with the character of the label. With Strømland things are more relaxed; of course it is based on shared references and common ideas about what kind of music we want to work with, but the mode is unhurried and we don’t have any definite plans or objectives with the label. It’s not like we are out to prove anything or fulfil an ambition, it’s more of a retreat really; a place where we can lower our shoulders and take it easy doing what we love doing.
Feedelity is now a label dedicated to Lindstrøm alone. But it was a Feedelity release that actually sparked Strømland?
Yes, Hans-Peter wanted to release Dominique Leon, a personal favourite of his, on Feedelity. However, people were starting to get confused about the Feedelity label and the overlap between Feedelity and Smalltown since Feedelity co-released with Smalltown. So we set up Strømland to tidy up the picture and to have a designated label for the joint venture between Hans-Peter and myself. With Strømland now up and running Feedelity is reserved for Lindstrøm and Lindstrøm projects exclusively.
So far there is only one artist on your official roster (Leon) and only a single record has been released. Is Strømland still very much in the preparatory phase? When was it actually established? And what size and form will this operation eventually take on do you think?
Well first of all I have to say that even if it is a kind of haven for us, and a project without a delineated ambition, that does not mean we are not serious about it. On the contrary, because it is a place for somewhat irregular projects that we truly believe in, Strømland is important to us. We started it last year, so we haven’t had too much time to get things into gear. Anyway, it was never meant to be a label that we would launch with a lot of buzz and the intention is not to make a big impact with a rapid flow of releases. So far there has been only Dominique Leon, but two more releases are coming up shortly. First there is Montée, this great new Norwegian pop band releasing their debut called Island of Now on March 16th. And then we will re-issue a lost classic, Alf Emil Eik’s Joy and Breath of Eternity from 1979. Lindstrøm discovered this lost gem and decided he wanted to release it anew with a couple of remixes by himself and Prins Thomas. Remixes by those two will make the record interesting for a lot of people who would otherwise never contemplate buying a re-issue of an obscure 1979 prog- album. Strømland is exactly the label for this kind of project; weird but so very likable. I have no idea how many artists we will work with or how many records we will release. But I know Strømland might well turn into something special. Lax projects with unhurried agendas have a tendency of becoming something more than one first thought.
How does the label function practically? Who does what?
In a way it is a subsidiary of Smalltown Supersound because we make use of the same network; the same media contacts, the same distributors etc. So internationally, whoever gets music from Smalltown will also be offered something from Strømland. I am in charge of all these practical things, while Hans-Peter takes care of the artists on the personal and artistic level. It is a natural way of doing it, in so far as this is a strictly two-man enterprise. We had already been working together for years –with Smalltown and Feedelity joining forces on the Lindstrøm releases– yet I guess we both felt a little lonesome, each one in a secluded, one-man sphere of his own. So Strømland is about doing things we otherwise wouldn’t have done, but also about doing it together, and over time hopefully outlining a specific Strømland sound; something in the intersection between the weird and the danceable.
In your case, already running Smalltown all alone, it seems quite remarkable that you can find time to establish another label?
Well, there isn’t really time, that’s why it’s important that Strømland is a kind of leisure project, free of all stressful elements. But you know the fact is that even Smalltown is free and open venture for me, it is not a business. I don’t run it for profit and it is not how I earn my living. So I don’t really feel a lot of pressure and stress. Time-wise I’m certainly pushing it, but my day-job at VME (a distributor) means that I get to keep updated and keep in touch with people. So there is a lot of mutual exchange and synergies going on, which makes it easier. In this respect Strømland does not really amount to that much more work and the obvious benefit of creating another platform, which is based on all interchange that is already going on, is that we can reach far and wide without any extra effort. Smalltown is a strong brand name and Lindstrøm is of course quite a door opener. This means that we have a lot of free momentum to utilize. A good example is that the American electronic music magazine Exhilarator just included Strømland on their list of the ten most important labels, after one release! Both Smalltown Supersound and Feedelity have featured on the list previously, and one of them was there along with Strømland now, I forget which one; perhaps it was both? Anyway, it is funny to see that three labels, run by only two people, can make it to such a top ten list.
As evidenced by Exhilerator, cult status and reputation matters. Norway is already at the forefront when it comes to trend-setting indie music and labels. With Strømland the label fans have been dealt another ace. They just have to wait for the tranquil machinery to crank into action...