Smalltown Supersound founder Joakim Haugland on the label's secrets
Norway's hippest electronic label reveals its secrets.
There are fewer than five million people in Norway, but somehow, the oil-rich Scandinavian country manages to release more than its share of new electronic music that’s both cutting-edge and listenable. (The high price of beer may have something to do with the nation’s productivity in the space disco and indie electronic genres.) One label in particular, Smalltown Supersound, has a foot planted firmly on U.S. soil with fabulous electronic long-players from Lindstrøm and Bjorn Torske. This week, the nu-disco leaning Smalltown showcase—featuring Torske, Kim Hiorthøy and diskJokke hits the Empty Bottle. We asked the imprint’s founder, Joakim Haugland, for ten little-known secrets about Smalltown, and being the gracious Norwegian that he is, he even divulged one extra.
1. The first 11 releases on Smalltown Supersound were cassettes.
2. The “STS” in the Smalltown Supersound’s catalogue numbers is an homage to the [Los Angeles-based ’80s punk label] SST Records.
3. The “small town” in Smalltown Supersound is Flekkefjord on the southwest coast of Norway (population: 4,000). This was the town where Haugland grew up and started the label.
4. Kjetil Brandsdal’s How to Deal with the Evil Alpha LP was released in 19 handmade copies. A magazine commented, “To own this record you have to move in with the label boss.”
Big sister city
5. Chicago is the second home of Smalltown Supersound. The label works with Chicago-based companies for U.S. booking, promotion and distribution. And Smalltown’s Haugland is responsible for the Norwegian distribution for Chicago labels Thrill Jockey, Touch & Go and Drag City.
6. When Haugland sent Kim Hiorthøy’s first 7-inch to [legendary BBC DJ] John Peel, Peel sent back a written note, which Haugland read as saying, “I love it.” This was widely quoted in the Norwegian press and made the national news. A few years later, Haugland discovered that he had misread Peel’s handwriting and that it actually said, “I will play it.”
7. The “Deliverance” track on Mental Overdrive’s 083 album contains a recording of Russel Haswell and Aphex Twin chatting while on a hike in the north of Norway. Their conversation inspired the track’s title.
8. Martin Horntveth of Jaga Jazzist has only read one book in his entire life. It is the autobiography of Norwegian comedian Harald Heide Steen Jr.
9. Smalltown band the Thing went from hard-core vegetarian to hard-core carnivore after a number of visits to Ruby’s Barbecue in Austin, Texas. Ruby’s BBQ now sponsors the band.
10. Every Saturday, various people attached to Smalltown Supersound meet for breakfast at a restaurant in Oslo called Sult, which means “Hunger.” They usually have either the double-egg-and-bacon or the farmer’s omelette.
A matter of trust
11. Kim Hiorthøy once fooled label founder Haugland into appearing in a short 16mm film, in which he scratches his beard and feels his corduroy pants while reading British improviser Derek Bailey’s book Improvisation. During the filming, Haugland told Hiorthøy, “If you ever show this to anyone, I will kill you.” The film was later shown at the Hermitage museum in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Smalltown Supersound—featuring live sets from Kim Hiorthøy, Bjorn Torske and diskJokke—takes over the Empty Bottle on Sat 15.