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Outspoken advocates of the nu jazz sounds emanating from their homeland of Scandinavia the Swedish duo of Andreas and Jakob from Nordic Lounge have propelled once unheard of local artists into the international spotlight. With the nu-jazz lounge sounds becoming increasingly popular with electronic fans not wanting fast hard bpm’s they’ve hit on a new market that is rapidly growing all over the world, not least in Japan. HigherFrequency caught up with Andreas and Jakob at the Swedish Embassy’s annual Swedish Style event where they had been invited to play.
Interview by Kei Tajima (HigherFrequency)
HigherFrequency (HRFQ) : You’re here for the Swedish Style Festival this time, aren’t you?
Jakob : Yes, that’s right. The Swedish embassy invited us to play 3 different gigs here. They have some parties here every year for the embassy and there’re some show cases of Art, Design, architecture and some interesting stuff. Then music is one part of this Swedish Style Fest. So we’ve been playing at clubs like Room, Montookcand here in La Fabrique tonight.
HRFQ : Is it your first visit to Japan?
Andreas : Well, it’s my fist time to Japan.
Jakob : I’ve been here few times also as a part of past Swedish Style events and also with Hird and for some promotion. It’s very nice to play here.
HRFQ : What do you think of this cultural exchange between Sweden and Japan?
Jakob : For us it’s a great opportunity to get contact with other labels and clubs here and also meet people who have the same interests so for us it’s been a great introduction to Tokyo and after the first time we’ll have lot contacts and good friends then we’ll be able to come here again and promote our music. I think it’s really really good opportunity for us. I think there’s big interest in our music and whole Scandinavian-design thing here so we are kind of interested in establishing some kind of base here in Tokyo.
HRFQ : Do you think there’s been a difference in Japanese people’s awareness of Lounge Music in the last few years?
Jakob : Actually this time I’ve noticed there’s a lot of more interest with Lounge music and electronica labels. I guess there’s been a lot of Lounge compilations released and the scene has become a big market so last year it seemed like people hated this whole lounge scene but nowadays I feel like “Lounge” means not only about music for people. It’s more like a grand concept such as an Airport lounge so I think the interest is growing but maybe it’s not only for music, maybe people like the idea of “Lounge” itself.
HRFQ : What have been your first impressions of Japan Andreas?
Andreas : It’s more than I expected. It’s a fun place to be, there’s a lot of things to do! We’ve been record shopping and actually we’ve been to fish market as well which was really fun. We’ve been staying quite a long time.
HRFQ : Is it true that there’s a Tokyo Style Festival there in Stockholm?
Jakob : Yeah, actually there was a festival last August. Just the same idea as this Swedish event here in that there’s many Japanese people in Stockholm and we invited Kyoto Jazz Massive. They played there in our club and we played here in their club (The Room).
HRFQ : Do you have your own club??
Jakob : Yeah, it’s called DNM (laughter). It’s like CLASKA, you know? It’s a well-designed hotel with a stylish bar, which is really cool. When Shuya Okino was in Sweden he played in a bigger venue, like a dance venue. It was really fun to see 400 people dancing really madly. It was more like a rock concert, people were screaming and all thatcI guess people got really excited because they are interested in Japanese Jazz scene and it’s hard to find in Stockholm.
HRFQ : Regarding your label, Dealers of Nordic Music, how did it start?
Andreas : We’d been working together in a different musical projects and then in 2002, we actually formed the label and started to work on our music. Then we started to work on Nordic Lounge, compiling other people’s music.
HRFQ : What concept do you put on your label?
Jakob : There is so much music being produced in Scandinavia but there wasn’t much recognition to that outside of Scandinavian countries before. Because none of us has had released 12′ in small labels like in UK or US or Japan or wherever so what we wanted to do is to make it easy for more people to connect to Scandinavian scene, so we started off with the compilation series, to get people used to the sound. So the basic idea was to get more people connected to this music scene and for the artists to use this compilation as a platform to promote their music. Part of this concept of getting people introduced to the Scandinavian scene is also to do live events and tours in the different countries to present music like we’ll do tonight. And other thing is to give information of our scene through our web site, it’s also important.
HRFQ : Do you think people’s recognition for the Lounge music scene is quite high in Scandinavia?
Jakob : If you see the lounge scene it works. People in their 30’s living in the city, having a modern lifecthey can buy lounge music because it’s cool to listen this kind of lounge music and nu jazz when you are having parties, having dinner. Of course some people are really into our music but also you’ll have a lot of those people buy the compilation just because it’s nice to have, so they don’t really care about who’s in there. But it’s alright, I think it’s cool. Of course it’s fun to have some people who’re interested in music and care about everything.
HRFQ : I guess it’s difficult to make difference from all those lounge-chic compilation sometimes, isn’t it?
Jakob : Yeah, but I mean there are loads of lounge compilations and some of them are really bad, I mean, really sound bad. Actually, our compilation’s name, “Nordic Lounge” makes people buy our record same as any other lounge compilation but when people listen to it I guess they will notice that we don’t have so many of Lounge classics. The name “Nordic lounge” is just a name. The sound is more like Nu Jazz and electronic music. And also I think our compilation bit stands out a bit because we only present Scandinavian music and because Scandinavia is where we have contact and connection with a lot of the artists. It’s like our ID to use only Scandinavian music. Although we’ve had quite a lot of discussion on using this word “lounge” as our compilation. Because there’s a lot of bad “lounge” compilations with out there. But we said it’s just an ID to get people interested in. As long as we chose music with our heart and the music we like “Nordic lounge” can be a good name. It’s easy to remember and it’s good conceptual name so we said let’s go for it.
HRFQ : Can you tell us about the artist you have in your label?
Jakob : Actually we have another compilation, “Jazzflora” which is more like live-jazz compilation. Hird has just released his album here in Japan and he’s doing really well. Especially the first single “KEEP YOU KIMI” with Yukimi Nagano that has been a hit on J-WAVE and also there’s The Similou.
HRFQ : How did the relation with Yukimi Nagano start?
Jakob : Through Hird, he knew her sincecI think they went to same school. They’re all from Gothenburg and basically the community is small, it’s a small town so everybody is collaborating with everybody else so she did collaboration with Hird and also The Similou. Right now, I think she is working on her own album. She is a good friend of us.
HRFQ : Are there any new releases in the near future?
Andreas : We will be releasing “Nordic Lounge 3” exclusively in Japan in December then The Similou will be releasing the album next year.
Jakob : Their music is more like electro-pop. I don’t know if it’s going to be released in Japan but I hope so because their music is more like for wide range of people.
HRFQ : Last question, how do you think the Scandinavian electronica scene is connected to the UK and German scene?
Jakob : It’s not so much to do with where it’s from in this genre. When you look at the global scene, if you have same interest it doesn’t matter where you are actually from. Like Sonar collective and the label Kompost, we just do stuff together. There’s a tight network between the people who have the same interest. It’s not where you are from; it’s more what you focus on. It’s just a global network of people who have the same interest.
End of the interview
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