Work Redux #16: Telephones

January 18, 2023

Telephones is a renowned DJ for his free-spirited curve ball-mixes, ranging from Balearic tutti-frutti, proto-house and percussion workouts to cosmic techno, discokraut-gymnastics and outer worldly explorations.

A firm believer in quality over quantity, Telephones has released a sparse but highly sought-after discography on acclaimed underground labels like Running Back, Sex Tags UFO, Acido, Love On The Rocks, Klasse Wrecks and Full Pupp. As well as production work and remixes for legends like José Padilla, Joan Bibiloni and Vangelis Katsoulis, to mention some. Starting with primitive PC software and DJing in the late 90s, he has since equally focused on production and DJing, now with more than 20 years of experience behind decks and knobs. In 2016 releasing his debut album, "Vibe Telemetry" on Running Back, taking his eclecticism and sound one step further, expanding the palette with influences from early Norwegian club-roots, Ambient House, NY House and Disco, 90s UK Balearic, Italo House, Underground Resistance and Detroit Techno. The recent years has taken Telephones across the globe with frequent tours in Asia, Australia and the Americas, playing in over 35 different countries and as diverse locations as Sao Paulo, Taipei, New York, Mexico City, Hanoi, Tokyo and Melbourne, as well as frequently laying it down on his Berlin/EU home-turf at some of the best underground clubs, such as Berghain/Panorama Bar, Bassiani, Corsica Studios, Griessmuehle, Jaeger and festivals like Love International, Dimensions, Pitch Music and Arts, The Garden and Bahidora.

So, you're from Berlin?

I live in Berlin, I’m from Bergen, in Norway, but I’ve lived in Berlin for 12 years now.

Was moving to Berlin from Bergen something a lot of young people do, or did you choose it because you wanted to pursue music?

I had quite a few Norwegian friends that went there around the same time. Most of them were there to do music or arts. Norway is a very expensive country, so part of it was to move somewhere where it was cheap to do all the basics you need and then have more time and space to do music. That was my main reason for moving there.

So, twelve years ago, that would have been 2010? What was going on in Berlin in 2010?

Pretty much the same that is going on now. Just tons of parties. Things are changing, but many things are not changing. The only thing that changes is maybe music, a little bit. Around that time, it was just getting slightly more alternative on the dance floor. Maybe it started a bit before when you could find alternative spaces, but the dominating thing was minimal tech-house or techno. Then there were quite a few, not a lot, but a few venues that played disco and alternative things, house, or whatever. I think that’s increased, and things have changed, and now it’s a more diverse scene. Though I don’t really feel there is one scene. There are many scenes. And it’s a lot more expensive than it used to be. That’s the main change.

The music scene that you find yourself in now, is it centered around a club or a style of music?

It’s not centered around a club or anything like that. I have a lot of friends who do many different things, but it’s mostly experimental, or, I don’t know what you might call, left-field dance music, which can be like ambient, house, techno, disco, or electro, but slightly to the left of commercial. I think it’s very friendship oriented. I have friends doing a lot of different music, and we meet up; some to skateboard with, some to do music with, and some friends of friends. It’s a tiny world, so I know a lot of people I met in Berlin that now live in Canada or Vancouver or friends from Australia that are in Berlin. It’s just a big extended group of friends that know each other.

Is that kind of how you got into the world of DJing and selecting?

Ya, I guess. When I first moved there, I was kind of lucky because right away, I got some gigs, and now they are friends that I’ve known for twelve years. When I moved to Berlin, I released some music and knew one or two people through MySpace. So, I just wrote them, and within a few months, I had my first gig, then a couple more gigs, then I met more people. It just kind of built in a very natural and organic way. I didn’t have any serious career ideas. I was still working 50/50. I used to be a journalist in Norway, so I worked freelance when I was in Berlin. If I had a month with a lot of gigs, I wouldn’t have to write anything. I guess, since like six or seven years ago, it’s been enough that I didn’t have to do any writing. It was just a very organically growing thing.

You mentioned MySpace, was that an early platform you used to get your music out, and were there any other social media platforms you used to learn about and share music?

At that time, it was mainly MySpace. That was, I don’t know when was this? Before 2010 at least. Way before.

Ya, like 2005?

I think in 05, 06, and 07, I had stuff there and then it was Facebook. But now, to be honest, I hate all social media.

I was just going to ask if you miss MySpace.

No, I don’t. Well, I don’t know. Maybe. It was less intrusive than Facebook, Instagram, or any of this stuff, because now they’re designed to steal your time and attention constantly. They want you to be on all the time, so you can see the ads. You’re gonna buy the products, and they’re going to make money. So everything is tailored with notifications and shit just to keep you hooked, and it’s not what I want to do, you know. I want to make music. I don’t want to spend time being a hobby influencer or, like, unfolding my not-so-exciting life that is mainly just about music, or family, my dog, or friends. But it’s still important to have a presence there. If it’s not on Instagram, it didn’t happen. It’s just changed like that. Before, it was more like friends sending each other music over the internet around different countries. I would go online to record stores, and I remember, even in the early days, you couldn’t find stuff through - what was it called, Napster?

Ya, Napster.

I was looking for things you couldn’t hear online much. I knew there were a few records I wanted and couldn’t find because they were sold out. It was before Discogs became a thing. It was a different world.

Now that a lot of those have disappeared and the landscape has changed for social media, how do you go about discovering music and finding what you want to play or create?

I think a lot through friends. Hearing what friends play. Going out to see friends play. Discogs is definitely important, though. A bit more than half my music I buy in stores, and the other half I buy on Discogs. Then it’s just diving down the wormhole. You know, you discover a new label you haven’t heard, or a friend played a record that you haven’t heard, and so you check out the rest of the catalogue, and you notice that this guy has produced a lot of stuff elsewhere. It’s just kind of organic. There are regular record stores that I go to, people that I’ve known a long time running them, that know what I play and what I like, so I just ask them what’s new, and I always end up with something that I didn’t know about, or something I wouldn’t have picked out myself. And from there, you keep doing the research and discover new things. So, it’s an organically evolving network of accumulating knowledge and records.

Do you have a large collection?

Not huge. I mean, on purpose, I try to limit it. I think I have roughly around 3,000, and I don’t want to have more. So, I guess, a few times a year, when I buy new records – which I do all the time – I go through and sell things that I thought I would play a lot but haven’t. Then there are things that I’ve had for a long time that I thought about selling, and I didn’t, and I’m really happy about it now. It’s just like, I don’t know, you can’t be too much of a hoarder now.

I’ve been hearing that from a lot of DJs I’ve been interviewing.

I think that’s good. It’s very healthy to keep things moving. A friend of mine from Ireland said, “One man’s shite is another man’s dynamite!”

[Laughs]

So, whatever you don’t play anymore, someone else is going to appreciate it, and a lot of stuff I buy is probably shit for other people, so you gotta just keep it moving.

So, you’re here in Toronto after coming from Vancouver. What were you doing in Vancouver?

I played in Vancouver at Paradise and visited friends. I hadn’t been to Vancouver before. I’ve been to Toronto, this is the third time, and I’ve been to Montreal once. So, I wanted to go to Vancouver, play there, and also play here because I have friends in both places. It’s kind of work, and slightly a holiday.

You mentioned before we recorded that you left the club in Vancouver, got on the plane, and arrived in Toronto, and then your gig was the day you arrived.

Ya, I mean, I played in Vancouver on Friday, technically Saturday morning from one to four in the morning, then took the flight at eight in the morning, and I think I arrived around three o’clock here. I arrived at my friend’s, had an hour nap or so, ate, and then went to play the gig. I’m not often here, so I forgot how big the country is, and I forgot about the time difference. All the later flights, I would have arrived too late, so It’s better to have two very heavy days than chill. Rather than three days that are medium stressful.

Do you get to have some time here in Toronto while you’re not working?

Mostly just to chill out and meet friends. We went to the beach yesterday, which was great. Just been eating good food, had a barbecue, met some other friends, then spent the day at Invisible City Record Store and found some good records. It’s a friendly city, so I know I’ll be back soon, so I don’t have any ambition to -

Pack it all in?

Exactly. When you travel so much to different places, this idea of a very compact tourist thing, having to see all this stuff, gets really exhausting. There’s always a chance to go back somewhere. I’m very grateful and blessed to be able to say that, but it’s nice to just have a good time and not feel stressed and pressured.

What did you find at Invisible City?

I found quite a bit of what I’m going to play for the Work Redux, actually.

Oh cool.

I brought records from Berlin, one record bag with roughly around fifty records in it, but mainly just club-friendly records, like house, disco, Balearic, this kind of stuff.

The kind of stuff you might play at Paradise or Bambi’s?

Ya, and the Work Redux is music for working, you know? It’s not a club. So I found something different: a very nice Kenny Dixon Jr. and Moodyman 12” Planet E, one that I’ve forgotten the name of; some Second Circle records, which is the label of Jamie Tiller – I have a lot of those records because he was a neighbour and friend in Berlin, but I didn’t have that one; and one that’s called L.U.P.O., who is a producer who did a lot of records on Low Spirit back in the day, which I’m a big fan of. This one, though, is a white label that apparently never got released. Nobody wanted it on Discogs. It was just unknown. But it was a different L.U.P.O., not the same one. It did have one track that was really good, though. Then, just like four or five other records that I had never heard of, neither the label nor the producer, but I cannot remember what they were. That’s the best. That’s the best day for me in a record store or in the club, when I can listen to amazing new music and tracks that I’ve never heard before.

What does Toronto symbolize musically for you?

Hmm. That’s difficult to answer. Canadian music…I don’t know. I have a lot of friends from Vancouver, so I know a lot of the music and sound from there. Toronto, I’m not sure. I have a lot of Stickman Records. That’s maybe Toronto? I have quite a bit of Steel City Records from Hamilton, I think it is. The part outside of Toronto, right?

I don’t know if you’ve been

It’s like the Detroit of Toronto or something like that? Got some cool techno records from there. And then there’s, like, Gary and Laura, who I’ve known for quite some time, that do something completely different from house and techno; more alternative digger music of all sorts, from ambient to African, to cosmic or whatever. And I’ve only played at Bambi’s before, three times. I’ve never been to another club. 

Are you going to go to one while you’re here?

I’m leaving tomorrow, so not this time. [Laughs] So, for me, that’s my experience of Toronto. But I know it’s also a versatile scene, maybe similar to Berlin, with a lot of friendships and interactions that cross genres and musical boundaries, which is really good and healthy. All your friends or people you know don’t all do the same thing. Like, I love hanging out with this person. He’s cool, he plays drum’n’bass, and I play 90bpm hip-hop instrumentals, or whatever. I think that’s healthy. I have the impression that Toronto is similar to that.

I’d like to think so. So, you’re heading home after this?

Ya, going home after this. Just a mini trip.

A mini trip, but it’s a long distance to go

I was supposed to go to Columbia and Peru as well, but it didn’t work out with the logistics. Flying from Peru to Berlin is not cheap, so I’d have to make a stop on my way back, either in Mexico City or Montreal or something, but time went by really fast, so it’s a bit too late. Now it’s just back to Berlin to work with music. Then in November, I’m going to Asia for a tour, which I used to do every year since 2015 but not the last two years.

And what does that look like?

This time there’s still some COVID thing that makes it a bit difficult. Japan and Hong Kong are still a bit complicated, and definitely China is complicated, so this time, I think it will be two or three gigs in Vietnam, where I have the most friends and where my Asian agency is based. Then, I think it’s supposed to be Bangkok, and maybe Manila in the Philippines, and maybe Taipei, but it’s not completely nailed yet. There’ll be four or five, a maximum of six gigs, I think.

That sounds great.

Europe at that time of the year is not very nice, so I try to coordinate some tours around that time. Go to Asia in October/November, and then try to go to Australia in January/February/March. Whatever I can do to chop down the Winter into a couple of months instead of half a year.

How do you recover from so much travelling?

I don’t know. It’s not that different from normal DJing in Berlin. For example, it’s crazy hours. You'll play from like eight in the morning to twelve in the morning, or it can be around the clock. So, for many, many years, I’ve been already used to being able to quite easily shift the daily rhythms. Stay up for a long time, then sleep the next day. It kind of works. I find going West, like to Canada, is quite easy. Going East to Asia or Australia is quite difficult. It’s just about developing good routines; how do you manage to be comfortable or sleep on a flight. Sometimes when you arrive early in the morning, you just have to suffer through that day, not sleep right away. How can you, as fast as possible, fit into the local timezone. And then it’s just resting when you come home. I’m a flexible sleeper. I can sleep anywhere, at any time.

Do you know the photographer Weegee? He photographed a lot of crime scenes and had this saying, “Sleep is wherever you can find it.” Because he’d be sleeping in his car, get the radio dispatch, take photographs, then go back to sleep.

It’s like Da Vinci's sleep. He did something similar. I only know it from Seinfeld. Kramer was trying to do it. He sleeps twenty minutes every hour, these tiny naps. That was a disaster.

Work Redux is a collection of mixes made to be listened to while working. We work closely with local and international DJs to assemble thoughtful music that will carry members throughout their day and introduce them to new sounds. East Room is a shared workspace company providing design-forward office solutions, authentic programming and a diverse community to established companies and enterprising freelancers. We explore art, design, music, and entrepreneurship, visit our news & stories page to read more.

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