Monday, March 12, 2012

Interview with Fredrik Rangnes of Koppklys Records

A week or so back, I was unexpectedly floored by the genre bending ambient release from Basic House on Oslo based Koppklys Records. And since then, I've been practically stalking Koppklys founder Fredrik Rangnes via email to learn more about his young label that was previously unknown to me.  Turns out Fredrik was more than kind in answering my questions, and agreed to allow me to share his thoughts about the label, his possible future directions, and even drop a few recs for us tape hunters.  So without more unnecessary commentary, choose a sample below to get started, and then, read on...

Talk a little bit about the origins of Koppklys, what inspired you to create a record label?

It’s something I’ve been thinking about doing for a pretty long time. In a way it’s sort of an extention of a music blog I’ve been running for the past four years (called Uaxuctum), which mainly focuses on making out-of-print experimental music available for anyone looking for it (which, as it has turned out, is a surprisingly large number of people). Over the past couple of years I’ve been getting into the “tape-revival scene” (if you can call it that), and the drone/ambient stuff in particular. Something about the aesthetics of the cassette drew me to it, both in terms of the physical product itself, but also the sound of the actual tape. I guess it’s sort of a cliché, but it does seem to complement a certain style of music in my opinion. So it’s more than just a nostalgia gimmick, which seems to be some people’s criticism of it. I remember receiving Deep Magic’s Planetary Roots tape, which really appealed to me a lot, both visually and musically. That’s the first time I seriously started thinking about starting a label like this. I decided to actually go ahead and start the label after having discussed the idea with some of the bands and artists I’ve been pushing on my blog over the years. That’s probably been the most pleasant surprise so far, how incredibly open and forthcoming people have been when I’ve contacted them about wanting to put out their music.

What musical involvement do you have, if any, in the projects released on Koppklys?

None whatsoever thus far. And I don’t expect that to change anytime soon. This is in the best interest of everyone.

What is the music scene like in Oslo? Is there a healthy experimental music scene?

To be perfectly honest I don’t pay as much attention to the local music scene these days as I used to. On the more experimental side of things I suppose Oslo is mostly known for its free jazz and noise scenes, with fairly prominent people like Lasse Marhaug, Maja Ratkje, Paal Nilssen-Love, Anders Hana etc and a good number of really excellent festivals like All Ears and Ultima and venues like Blå. These were all pretty important to me when I started getting into so-called experimental music in my late teens. Oslo is the city in Europe with the largest number of shows and venues per inhabitant, so it’s not really possible to complain. Any band doing a European tour is pretty likely to play Oslo, which of course makes the people in this city really fortunate in that regard. There is definitely cool stuff coming out of this city, but there is also a lot of watered-down state-funded mediocrity.


The visual aesthetic of the label is quite unique. Striking visuals, clear tapes, how did you settle on the concept, and do you create the art?

I did the art for the Sundrips tape, but usually the artists themselves provide some art, and I sort of design everything based on that. That’s why the concept of the design itself is pretty simple and standardised, so that it can be applied to pretty much any type of artwork I receive. And more importantly perhaps, it’s simple is because I don’t really know what I’m doing, haha. I’m really happy about how people have been giving me good feedback on the look of these early releases though. But the credit really goes to the people doing the art. For example, the guy behind Basic House, Stephen Bishop, he did the art for the Ambrosias tape himself. It’s crazy good.

How do you choose which artists work with?

I really try not to tie myself down to certain genres. Or formats for that matter, I don’t really consider Koppklys a “tape label” per se so much as just a label, even though I’ve only put out tapes so far. Of course I try to make the different batches work as wholes, but in theory I’ll release anything that I think is good and if I communicate well with the artist. The best is obviously when you get to put out an artist’s first release and it gets a good response (like with the Faxmaskin and Basic House tapes, for example).


Koppklys is still very young. In what directions do you aspire to take the label?

I don’t know, actually, I’m kind of taking things batch by batch at this point. I do have some fairly concrete plans and some more vague plans for future releases though. There will hopefully be a Faxmaskin 12” out sometime during 2012. I’m also going to put of a tape with a friend of mine who plays classical guitar. The plan is to record this in a 13th century church, probably this spring. And I’ve got about five or six other projects that I’m very excited about that will hopefully materialize eventually.

What tape releases have you personally enjoyed in the past year that others should know about?

Sweat Lodge Guru put out two really great tapes during the last year, namely Mpala Garoo – Ou Du Monde and Guanaco ± – Ardea Cinerea. Other favourites of mine that I’ll mention were Den – Bronze Fog (Retrograde Tapes), Sundrips – Guide (Hooker Vision), Aieyiyiyi – Manners (905 Tapes) and Élément Kuuda – Flight 2 (Fadeaway Tapes). Of the more recent ones that I believe are still available for purchase I will mention Venn Rain – Place In World (Tranquility Tapes) and Thoughts On Air – Paleo Sails (Avant Archive).

Much thanks to Fredrik for his time and generosity. Plenty of links to check out in the world in experimental music, and it seems like more everyday. I strongly suggest you spend at least a few of those clicks on Koppklys, check out the sights and sounds, and support the folks dedicated to supporting the music we all enjoy so much.

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