From the 17th till the 25th of October, the Ekko Festival will once again strike down on the otherwise so peaceful and quiet Bergen. With artists like DJ Harvey, Future Brown and Luke Abbott, the tranquility will soon be swapped for artistic vibrations. A wide variety in the program, not only focusing on musical extravagance, can keep the seasoned party-vikings going for a total of five days. With a slight homesick feeling towards ADE, I had a talk with Ekko Festival’s artistic director Asle Bakke Brodin about the diversity in the program, their national and international focus, and what we can expect from the Ekko Festival that has started last Friday.
I see a huge variety in your line up, ranging from beautiful music like Nils Frahm to a somewhat rough, maybe even vulgar beat of Future Brown. What are your criteria to book an artist for the Ekko Festival?
The main issue and reason for why our bookings are so diverse can be found in the history of the festival, its location and the image we try to represent. As the only electronic musical festival in Bergen we try to incorporate all the genres that we find suitable under the umbrella called electronic music. It might seem really diverse, but the common denominator is the presence in the electronic music and club sphere.
It’s all about the discussion of contemporary music and its definition. If you take it from the Norwegian perspective, the definition would include of what is normally spoken of, like the more experimental stuff, the noise-oriented music. And we feel that it should also include artists like Future Brown, Nils Frahm and DJ Harvey. It’s all within the contemporary field, which we feel that should be covered. Because when you put things like these artists together, they grow on it, and you can show that it both represents pure quality.
Do you feel that Ekko Festival is representing Bergen’s view on music, or do you see Ekko Festival as a way to educate people about the electronic music scene?
It’s both in a sense, given Bergen is a small city, but also concerning the history of the music scene here. I grew up with a group off people working all in the electronic music scene, either performing, writing, DJ’s or organizers, and we now represent that scene. And although I’m not the one to state we educate, we do have that role, given we have the means, venue and possibilities. This is also reflected by the support we get from the cultural council, who acknowledge our aim for high quality, and see that we do stuff others couldn’t.
As a foreigner the festival hasn’t passed my Facebook feed a lot throughout the years. In what sense is the festival focused on international visitors?
There is an international perspective, but we feel that there is so much competition in the European festival circuit and the electronic music scene in general. Therefor we don’t go out and market ourselves high internationally, but we of course have international partnerships, and every year there are people travelling to Bergen for the Ekko Festival. But given that we’re limited to our capacity we have to focus mainly on the local perspective, after which the international will follow automatically. Of course we could have turned the festival around, and have had a mainly international focus, but I think it’s important to have a mix between both.
Is this main focus on Bergen also reflected in the program of this year?
When you put it together it’s a definite choice to blend the local and international acts. Given that we have a perspective of both stimulating and representing the local scene, we want to feature some artists from Bergen or Norway on the program. And this creates the interesting diversity within the list of artists, which also appeals better to the audience and Bergen’s music scene.
Yesterday the Amsterdam Dance Event (ADE) started, do you see such an event as competition or do you see it more from a complementing perspective, both supporting the music scene?
I would definitely not see it as a competition, on the general basis that I don’t see any international, or national festival as competition. In the end it’s all about representing the same thing. And given our limited audience and geographical placement, there is definitely no competition from ADE. Of course there are people travelling from Bergen to Amsterdam, but we look at it from a more practical angle. For us it is good to have other big events going on the same weekend, giving us a better choice in artists. On Saturday for instance, we’re going to have a project with Susan Giani, an American composer. Her project, with Neotantrik, has been made possible since Unsound Festival in Poland is the week before Ekko Festival. So I’d say it’s more a good than a bad thing to happen.
From an international perspective, what artists do your recommend from the Norwegian representatives?
There is one really interesting project, which is one we repeat every year, and is this year performed by Skatebård & Biosphere. This is a commission piece, which has been around for the last six years, and gives composers and producers the opportunity to compose for the Ekko Festival. Two years ago for instance we had Todd Terje doing this commission piece in which he wrote new music. With some of the music he performed for the first time at Ekko Festival, and a lot of it finally ended up on his new album.
Another interesting thing among the Norwegian projects is antoher commission piece performed on the final Saturday. Stefan Meidell, a Bergen composer, and Birk Nygaard, a visual artist also from Bergen, than create the ‘Dialogues’ work. And during the opening concert tomorrow there is Analogik (a group project from Flø, Ratkje, Rishaug and Tajford) who all four are important players in the experimental scene in Norway, coming together to perform one piece.
Besides Brodin’s recommendations, numerous national and international artists, spread among five different days, will represent the Ekko Festival. With unique projects, both from a musical and visual perspective, the festival is a must go for those with artistic desires. For the full program go to www.ekko.no, or focus on the many posters spread throughout town. Concerning my beliefs about the festival, it definitely has been confirmed that the artistic view of the organization is one to admire, and will guarantee performances worth writing about. So keep an eye out on my reports of the different events, or join me to the Ekko Festival for Electronic Music and Art.