About: Veteran Icelandic/Danish techno producer, based in Copenhagen. DJ and producer Ohm is one of the leading figures in the Icelandic contemporary techno scene. Widely associated with iconic labels. Ohm stays true to his roots by consistently innovating his interpretation of techno music, integrating soul and innovation with the scene.
Discovering and exploring new music is one of the key elements of the Regenerate’s efforts to bring global dance music to the forefront in India.
In this section, Regenerate has a candid chat with artists from across the world about their music, their inspirations and their experiences in their current musical careers.
For our first time out, we interview the Icelandic dub techno veteran Bjarnar Jonsson AKA OHM. Ever since releasing his first ever record titled “Sameing” in 2000 on Force records with his good friend Exos, Ohm has been turning heads across the European techno circuit having gone onto to release on labels such as Kontakt, Rawax and Taped artefact. Currently signed onto the legendary deep techno label ‘Thule’ , OHM treats our ears with an ethereal and eclectic mix for the Regenerate Podcast #41.
1) Tell us about your musical beginnings? What kind of music did you listen to while you were growing up?
I started to listen to Electronic music at the age of 12 -13.
In the beginning, I was mostly into artists like Acen, Prodigy,House crew, 2 bad mice, Blame, Mickey Finn and others like them .That was the golden era of White label vinyls – around 1992.
This type of music was named hardcore and jungle (which kind of changed into drum and bass) and was fast, driving and so very danceable. Around the age of 15 I started playing with the yearly programs that I heard music was made with and got hooked to it right away!
Listening to pirate radio shows and sneaking in to raves was my biggest passion in my early years along with selling newspapers so I could start my record collection.
I haven’t stopped yet!
2) What was the ‘techno/house scene’ in Iceland back then. Can you tell us a little bit about it ?
The scene back in the early 90s was growing and we had a couple of great record shops ( Undirgøngin & Thruman . The parties in those years mostly started around these record stores with the people working there, as they planned the raves and parties which people could attend.
A bit later, the music started to arrive at the club and more and more electronic events started popping up in these clubs. The scene got even bigger and has been growing ever since in Iceland.
3) How did your early days as a DJ and producer go?
I guess my first mind blowing experience happened when I was around 17. I played in my first gig at a real club together with one of my best friends Exos.
The clubs had an age limit that was 21 at the time , so every time the police came by we had to hide as we were too young to be in there, let alone to be playing there.
Around the age of 18 me and Exos hosted many parties in many of the clubs in Reykjavik and I remember us carrying our 100 kilos of vinyl (sometimes also our record players and mixers, because not all the clubs had those ) through the crowded downtown area of Reykjavik to our cars in the morning when the clubs closed.
It was so thrilling and scary at the same time and I loved it!
4) Could you tell us a bit about what inspired you and continues to inspire about this style of music?
Around the same time I had started to buy more techno, electro and house music records. It was a natural step from my sample based hardcore, jungle music and it sounded better produced.
I loved the fact that I could be playing different styles in different events, but it was the sound of 90`s techno that got me hooked. It sounded more free and like there were no limits using sounds and soundscapes in that genre.
It sounded like music from the future!
5) Could you walk us through your early days as a music producer exploring a new realm of techno?
Around the same time, when I was around 18 , I was hanging out at Exos’s home studio a lot and I heard his early works. They were deep, dubby and sounded like nothing I had ever heard before so I started buying machines and began producing music with him. Some how I just kind of made up my own sound.
Maybe it’s got something to do with being from Iceland and being deeply inspired with Thule records artists and hearing the stuff that they were making.
I was also greatly inspired by the dub techno and techno in general coming out around late 90`s from amazing labels from Europe and America. The beauty of that sound is that you can listen to it at home, relaxing, or doing whatever. It works wonders on the dancefloor too played in large sound systems.
6) Exos is another producer who’s pedigree is unquestionable. Together, the both of you released on Force inc. in 2000.That EP was extremely well received. Can you tell us a bit about that release and your relationship with him?
Exos and his family have been my other family growing up in Iceland. Our first release was on this huge label from Germany and we worked on that Ep in my house and his
house. The tracks on ‘Sameining’ Ep ( In Icelandic it means being together ) were a mixture of 140 bpm Techno and a mixture of sounds that we loved at the time. Mixing old school beats and voices into this melting pot of techno rhythms came out really well.
Later on we released two other Ep’s together from Thule records sublabel Tissju Records. This was around 2001 and 2002. Just recently (December 2017 ) we released our 4th EP on Exos’s new label X/OZ Music.
Exos Or Addi, like I call him, has been my biggest influence and has helped me through the years. He has always believed in me and my music and is just like my brother.
7) What’s your studio set-up like at the moment? Can you walk us through it?
My Setup today is more simple than it was in the old days. I don’t have so much hardware anymore, so I mostly produce in Ableton with a ton of plugins and controllers.
I use the Roland Tb 3 for bass a lot, I have a Korg Electribe for rhythm and bass which I use sometimes and when I work with Kvadrant we use his Korg Volca bass or Keys and Roland Space echo for our dub chords.
I have recorded hundreds from our sessions together and use them in my own productions as well. So I keep it simple and user friendly so I can get my music done as fast as possible, without the need to play with so many machines.
8) Just like America has Detroit techno and Chicago house, just like Romania has microhouse and minimal. Iceland and Scandinavia in general are known for their dub techno. Do you think there is a particular reason behind this?
Well I think because of the hard weather conditions in Iceland we Icelanders have more time in our house then people in other countries to make music. Icelandic producers have
in my opinion something special in their sound, and somehow always sound unique. I guess we just have it in our blood to be creative. Thule Records has been releasing Music since 1995 and some of our brightest stars come from Thule. People like Thor, Plastic, Den nard husher, Octal industries, Exos and many others have been doing dub techno for such a long time, I think they have inspired many other Icelanders to make dub and deep techno music.
9) Your style of music has been described as ” Tribal, rubbed, smoked out and morphed” by some. Can you tell us a bit about your vision and how to apply it to your music?
When I normally start a track I have a clean slate, maybe just a little idea of how my track is going to end up sounding and it normally just happens by itself.
I am always greatly inspired by other artists , but even when iI start with an idea from a track I love, I always end up giving it my own twist.
Tribal means I love tribal grooves and add them to my tracks often and smoked out means that I Iove delays and reverbs a lot so it sounds smoked out. Morphed means I guess that I like to use other FX as well and am not afraid to twist my sounds so they sound warped and different!
10) It’s the first time that we have an artist from Iceland record a set for us. How does it feel to have your music played in India and do you look forward to playing here someday?
I’m deeply honored to have been asked to do this podcast and going to India to play for the Asian public is something I have dreamed of. I would love to introduce them to Icelandic techno scene and show them how we play at clubs and events!