When I call up Bård Aasen Lødemel, aka Skatebård, I’m a little surprised to find he’s rather reserved. There’s nothing wrong with being choosy with words or even shy – it’s just that his music paints quite the opposite picture of the man behind it. Throughout his robust career, the Norwegian producer and DJ has consistently created some sort of IDGAF-hybrid of saucy and kitschy Italo Disco, deliciously dirty Detroit House & Techno and cosmic Space Disco. Basically, his music sounds like it belongs somewhere between a sleazy bar in Miami frequented by men wearing snakeskin suits and a well-organized Scandinavian warehouse where kids remember to wipe under their noses – in the best way possible.

Thing is, Bård has somehow avoided letting all of that fall into anything campy – as proven by his releases through notable labels such as Kompakt and Sex Tags Mania, and his reputation as somewhat of a Scandi dancefloor guru. On top of that, he also used to be a heavy metal drummer and a hip-hop star – so naturally, my interest was piqued to have a chat with him before his upcoming Copenhagen show. Skatebård is playing VEGA this Friday as part of Klubben Arcane – the second in a series of events focusing on exploring different genres within electronic music. In light of that, I asked him about the allure of Italo Disco, the failings of minimal techno and his new EP.

Bitchslap: Hey, Bård. What about Italo disco has captured you for so long? It’s been a constant in your music for sixteen years now.
Bård: For me, Italo disco is a genre with a lot of musicality, emotion, melodies and interesting rhythms, plus a lot of synthesizer and drum machine sounds to the maximum. It’s very synthetic, but it’s still very human.

Speaking of which, I read an interview where you seemed pretty snarky about minimal techno. What do you have against minimal techno?
I don’t remember saying that, but I’m not really interested in the so-called techno that’s really big now. I like old techno – 90s techno, Detroit techno, old English techno. I think a lot of techno these days has became too loop-based, to the point where elements from any track are interchangeable with any other track until there are no recognizable tracks anymore. I’m a bit old-fashioned and like tracks where you can hear a signature, a personal style, a song structure. But I do love the origins of minimal techno, like Plastikman and Maurizio, of course…

You also have a background in hip-hop and drumming. How has that impacted your perspective as a DJ or your outlook on making music?
I don’t know if it has. I make music without giving much thought about which genre I’m making music for. If I make a track, it can go in any direction. Certainly, drumming and drum programming is there for me all the time when I make music, even though the style may differ.

So would you say you’re more of an experimentalist than a perfectionist?
I am experimental, but I guess I have a pretty good overview of what matters. Music is about details. It’s only details that differentiate one genre from another. For example, if your ear isn’t trained for it, it’s not always easy to say what’s a techno track and what’s a house track. I don’t think it should be that way in the first place. That’s why I’m not into this so-called ‘minimal techno’—because what I think of as techno is really close to house music.

Is there anyone fitting into the genre of ‘techno’ you’re into you’d want to collaborate with right now, then?
I think there is a scene for my kind of techno or what I like, ‘cause it’s kind of modern techno but it’s not streamlined. It’s a bit dirty, from labels like Pinkman and Lobster Theremin. Legowelt, for example, has always made this kind of music. A lot of producers in Holland, actually. Legowelt, DJ Overdose, Alden Tyrell and more.

What keeps you based in Bergen if the scene is elsewhere, then?
If there’s a big scene, it’s still just a few people. So no matter where you are, it’s just a small scene.

How would you describe the electronic music scene in Bergen? Do you think there’s a ‘Bergen Wave’ of electronic music happening right now?
I’m not good at seeing it from the outside, but perhaps some would say there’s a new wave of younger producers who are even more diverse in electronic music. I guess you could describe it as ‘electronica’, but it also has elements of trap/bass/juke. Some of them are based on the label where I released my latest CD called Balsa Wood, the sub label of Brilliance. You also have the label Maksimal, which is much more house. Plus, a lot of older guys from the old techno scene are still doing it well around the label Ploink. Röyksopp and Bjørn Torske are still based in Bergen, too! Telephones, Untz Untz Records and Sex Tags also started in Bergen but are now based in Berlin. Partly Annie, as well. Also, Sandra Kolstad and Vilde Tuv. Many producers are based in two cities simultaneously now. That’s the new style.

Photo from Bård's early DJ days. Siiiiiick style.
Photo from Bård’s early DJ days. Siiiiiick style.

I also read that you started a label. How has that impacted how you see yourself as DJ – does it make you more strategic with your career, somehow?
I started my label in 2006 just to release my own music, and I think it’s a really natural thing for me. However, the music I make and the DJ sets I play are two very different things. For example, I usually wouldn’t play my own tracks in my DJ sets. I just started doing that by popular demand because I realize some people come to my DJ gigs because they like my tracks. I have two different styles when I make music versus when I play.

Why do you prefer it that way?
I think it comes from DJing a lot in Norway, where I have to be a bit light in my style – playing a lot of disco and stuff that’s more jolly and happy. My own tracks can get a bit monotonous, dark and introverted. Playing in Norway has kind of forced me to play a bit more commercially than what I could do otherwise. However, just in the last six months, I’ve started playing a lot abroad – in France, the Netherlands, England, Scotland, Australia – and that’s a different way of playing.

So playing this much outside of Norway, has it changed your perspective on what you can play?
Abroad, I can play less “commercial” music and more niche stuff because the club scene is so much bigger in bigger cities abroad. Even Norway’s biggest cities will only have like 10 people who can truly appreciate my stuff on a regular night. Of course, it also depends on the place, too: it’s pretty different to play at a discoteque than an underground warehouse party

Speaking of genres, I’ve often heard the word ‘space disco’ thrown around your music. Does that make sense to you?
It’s a typical journalist term, I guess. It’s actually an older term – there was kind of a scene in the 80s they would call space disco. It’s disco but based around themes of planets, stars and robots. The music is kind of science fiction-esque. With the Norwegian scene, with Lindstrøm and those guys, it was known as Space Disco. But that’s a few years ago – everyone’s moved a little bit away from that, you know.
I would say, that’s cool, but just a few tracks from the producers of the Norwegian scene are actually space disco. Most of the other tracks are something else. Space disco will always live on, though, side by side with other styles.

You have a release coming out in April. What’s interesting about it?
I was approached by a label in London, Vivod, and they asked if I had any new tracks. I did, and I thought I could make a couple, too, so I made a few tracks pretty fast and kind of went back to basics a bit. I went back to simplicity and went into a harder style, which I used to do in the beginning. Two of the tracks are actually just one synth that I tweak all the time. Plus some drums programmed on my computer. So it’s pretty rough and distorted – but then there’s the last track that is deeper.

It sounds like it could get pretty lethal on the dance floor.
I was thinking, ‘this is too crazy’. Then I played two of the hardest tracks on the EP at Panorama Bar and it really worked. Somebody made the loco hand gesture, even.

Thanks, Bård.