With the BORG music collective, we will all dance as one mind
It’s the May Day bank holiday and everyone in Iceland is taking it easy in the warm sun. At Lucky Records there’s a release party that includes local house DJ and producer Viktor Birgiss performing an energetic house music live set with a drummer. Throughout the afternoon, the mood has been chilled and relaxed as friends, scenesters and record buying fiends have come to sample the music and savour the atmosphere.
The occasion is the release of ‘Marienleben’ by Dutch musician Frits Wentink, the second EP from Icelandic electronic collective BORG. Since its 2012 inception by Ómar Egill Ragnarsson and Jón Reginbald (who perform under the DJ name No Class), BORG has become an integral part in helping to re-energise and promote the house music scene in Iceland, with energetic club nights, assorted merchandise and secret shows from undisclosed locations streamed live on the internet. In 2013 they became a trio when local producer Housekell aka Áskell Harðarson joined, whereupon they branched out in 2014 as a record label with the release of the ‘Get Bizzy’ EP from German producer Alex Agore.
As the release party wound down, we spoke with Ómar, Jón and Áskell about BORG and its plans for eventual world domination.
So when did you first start making music together?
Jón: We went to grade school together at Árbæjarskóli before going to Menntaskólinn við Hamrahlið. There was a competition in history class to make a song for a project called ‘the idea bank.’ We decided to work together to make a song for it.
Ómar: We just went onto GarageBand and made some stupid crap, chucking in samples and making loads of loops with us just talking/singing into the microphones on our macbooks. After that we started taking things a bit little more seriously though.
And then you went and entered the 2010 Músiktilraunir [Battle of the bands] music competition.
J: Actually we entered it twice!
Ó: At that time we were making tracks that were essentially brostep, with all those ‘wub wub wubs.’
J: It was 2010. Dubstep was big then!
So how did being in Músiktilraunir pan out then?
Ó: They thought we were excellent! They said it was great to see electronic music performed live the way we did with ‘feeling.’
KAOS PADS AND BICEPS
So after Músiktilraunir, what led you to switch from making music to DJing?
Ó: Well our first ever DJ gig turned out to be our last ever live gig. By then our tastes were beginning to develop and were listening to all sorts of stuff, not just dubstep and Swedish electro.
J: But when we first started, we were making DJ sets that were also kind of live as well. We were linking our own beats with the records, using kaos pads to drop samples into the music, changing certain parts of the record during the set.
Ó: Basically we didn’t know at the time how to DJ, things like beat matching and stuff like that. So it became a bit of a live production, with us whacking in a bit of noise between songs to link them together.
It can be difficult for new DJs to break into the Reykjavik dance scene, but you seemed to be immediately working with the more established DJs. How did you guys swing that?
Ó: On our first club night we got Gluteus Maximus to play with us and that was a big thing. We just simply got in touch with them via Soundcloud and asked them play, and they said yes!
J: Social media networking has in a way been a real blessing for us and the whole concept of BORG itself has been built up around this. It allowed us to approach people that we didn’t really know, and just straight up ask them, ‘are you interested in doing this?’ And it helped us to bypass having to work our way up from the very bottom.
At this point Áskell, you were already making a name as a producer and DJ. So how did you become a full time member of BORG?
Áskell: I remember first meeting these two when I was DJing at Faktorý. They booked me for some of their club nights at Hemmi og Valdi and at the time I was playing mainly garage house music. Nobody was really playing that, but these two were really interested in this style of house and it was really good to get to know guys who knew about acts such as [UK House music duo] Bicep.
J: And then last year, we all really connected at the Northern Wave Film Festival in Grundarfjörður and we asked Áskell if he wanted to be a third member of the team.
THINK AND ACT GLOBAL
So you were doing club nights and live sessions. At what point did you start to think about becoming a music label as well?
Á: Jón and I were driving back from Grundarfjörður after the festival and he told me that Alex Agore had said, ‘you know he’s going to quit making music?’ Apparently he had about 40 unreleased tracks and he was going to walk away if no one was interested in releasing them. About a week later I thought about it again and ended up calling these two and telling them that we should contact Alex and release his stuff ourselves.
BORG as a label seems different from other Icelandic electronic labels in that while they often work on a local level with local artists, your releases have been from non-Icelanders. Do you view yourselves as an Icelandic label at all?
Á: Well we are more trying to set things up on an international rather than local level. That’s always been our goal. Getting the likes of Alex was such a boost to getting everything started. And with getting feedback from known house DJs and producers in Europe and social media in place it doesn’t matter where your base is.
Ó: But as it becomes bigger we can start releasing music from Icelandic producers and get it out there to more people. It all depends on what order you do it in when it comes to releasing music. We’ve decided to release music internationally first, and then we will look to introduce local acts to a wider audience.
So what can we expect for the rest of 2014?
J: Well we have a tight schedule of releases on vinyl coming up in 2014. But we can say that for our next release we are looking to get German producer Nick Beringer to remix tracks from a young French duo known as Dub Striker. This one will be really good!
‘Marienleben’ by Frits Wentink is available to buy from Juno Records and local record shops in Reykjavik