Diggers Directory: a new mix & interview series that salutes the diggers, record enthusiasts and music lovers. For more in the series, browse through the archive.
As a contributor to the esteemed Trushmix series and close affiliate of DJ Fett Burger and the Sex Tags Crew, Kokk N Roll is a perfect fit for our Diggers Directory series. The Norwegian digger also runs Ille Bra Records which has just released one of the best under the radar EPs this year, in Olefonkens Til Hanne. Alongside a 100% Senegalese mix (why wouldn’t you on the DD series?), we spoke to Kokk N Roll about his about his favourite places to shop, the secret to the imitable Norwegian sound and a life devoted to vinyl.
DJs and producers often mention their musical education came through their family’s record collection. Was this the case for you? Can you pick out any pivotal records from your upbringing that informed your musical journey?
I remember my beloved mum had a record player when I was young but she only used here CDs so it’s definitely not from there. I started rapping and b-boying when I was 13 years old so I got really into hip-hop at that point. I can remember the first time I heard Nas with Illmatic on my walkman, and although I don’t play too much hip-hop anymore it’s a record that helped me through my youth and I will always love that classic album.
People buy records for a multiple of reasons. What first drew you to collecting records and what motivates you to continue digging after all these years?
I really got dragged into music through the breakdance scene when I was a teenager, but first started buying and collecting records about eight years ago when I was on a trip in New York – I bought 70 records and I remember paying a huge overweight fine at the Newark airport. DJing was just a hobby until I accidentally injured my knee five years ago at a breakdance trip to Kiev with The Kakaroach Crew. I was heavy into breakdancing then and dancing was my main expression, but after the injury I had to find other ways to express myself as an artist and I got into DJing way deeper than in the beginning. I’m quite a fresh DJ, actually I just had one deck until four years ago when I bought two 121os and a Rane sixty two mixer, then the mixing adventure started. I’m kind of the new kid on the block in the DJ game and that’s a big inspiration/motivation in itself.
Where do you store all your records and how do you file them?
I’m so lucky to have a new house now and my own record room where I store most of my records in boxes so I can dig in them, instead of keeping all of them in shelfs. I keep at least half of my records in boxes, I always enjoyed to dig records from boxes not shelves so that you can see the front page of the records. For me its just the best way of digging! I also store them after genre / country and on top of that its all alphabetical.
What are your favourite spots to go digging and why?
Sofa Records (Lyon) has to be my favorite record shop in Europe. I never had the opportunity to visit the shop physically since I buy most of my records online but, every time I deal with them it’s true pleasure. They sell both reissues and originals in a great shape and that;s quite rare when you collect African records. They are always honest and professional to deal with and they use to give a great discount in the end. Recommended!
Record Mania (Stockholm) is a great record shop and is probably the one of the best record shop in Scandinavia when digging for rare grooves and world related stuff. What’s funny is that they keep a lot of their golden records behind the counter and if you ask for a certain record they might just find it to you from their stock well hidden behind the desk. Record Mania also has a great online shop.
Råkk & Rålls (Oslo) is probably the biggest record shop in Norway. They have crazy amounts of records and I think it’s a favorite shop for many Norwegian DJs. You can find anything in there but you need to use some hours to dig ’cause it’s a huge shop. I love the atmosphere over there and the fact that they have such a big stock is magic too.
There are some other record shops I love in Oslo to do I rarely buy records there because of the genres. If i need any DJ gear or want to buy club music i always visit Filter Musikk run by the well known Norwegian techno legend Roland Lifjell. It’s always a great vibe in his shop and the laughter is never far away when talking to Roland. Other shops in Oslo worth checking out would be Baklengs, Big Dipper & Tiger.
Digging isn’t just about the records you find, but the people who help you find them. Who are some of the colourful characters you’ve met on your travels in record stores round the world? Any unsung heroes you’d like to shout out?
I made friends in the strangest places because of record hunting but there is one story that never leaves my memory. I was digging records with my good friend and producer Yogisoul from the Norwegian beat collective Mutual Intensions and the records were located in a forest area outside the city of Moss where we grew up. After long time searching we found the seller spot and it appeared that he kept all his records in the barn. We went in and it was stuck up with probably 20,000 records + records. We where both amazed by the quantity of the records but did not have a good time to look through it that day. So some months later I was eager to check out the barn again so I drove all the way there because I could not reach the seller on his phone. When I came there I had a shock, the barn was totally gone. I rang the doorbell where I was met by his former wife and she informed me that her husband sadly passed away lately and so I asked; where has all the records gone ? She pointed to the middle of the lawn where I saw a huge black pile and a lot of melted plastic and said. She burned it all because they reminded her of him….Ehhhh…. I think that guy has to be one unsung hero for me. May he rest in peace and hope he never saw what happened to heis records up there from the golden gate.
DJs and producers often talk about a number of records that never leave their bag. Do you have any records like this?
1. Ifang Bondi – Saraba
2. L’Orchestre Kanaga De Mopti – L’Orchestre Kanaga De Mopti
3. Youssou N’Dour – Diongoma
Is there a record (or records), which you’ve wanted to own but cannot afford or find in print anymore?
There is loads of that off course – and the list grows bigger every day – but there is this one special record I’ve been searching for years: Xalam – Daïda. Its a Senegalese psych classic but very hard to find now a days. Great album all the way! I have it in a VG condition but need it in NM so please contact me if you have one for sale 😉 I would also like to mention Mor Thiam’s (Akon’s Father) record Dini Safarrar. It always sells for over 1000 euros and its not that kind of money I can spend right now.
Do you prefer record shopping as a solitary process or with friends to nerd out with and search for strange sounds together? If the latter, who do you like to go digging with?
I guess both is cool but, I must admit I love to dig on my own. You will always see a familiar face in the record shop as well as talking to the owner ore employees.
Walking into a record shop can be quite a daunting process. Do you have a digging process that helps you hone in on what you’re after?
Daunting, yeah that’s for sure! Most of the time I leave record shops empty handed because I’m so picky now a days. Id rather spend 100 euros in one insane record than to buy 10 average records to be honest. I used to look at the instruments on the release and the names of the artist as well. If I know the shop I usually know where to dig but, If I don’t know the shop I’m not afraid to ask and the the owner/employee can guide me where I should search. It’s also a good way to get to know the person sitting at the desk.
How big a role does album artwork play in your digging, esp. if you’re not familiar with something you pick up?
Huge, but over the years I learned that you can’t judge a book by its cover. I have some records with awful artwork with great music on it so the cover can both fool you and help you depending on the release really.
We asked you to keep the tracklist secret (to get listeners to dig deep for their IDs!) but are there any standouts from the mix you’d like to shout out?
When it comes to this mix I would name Youssou N´Dour and his groups Super Etoile Dakar / Star Band Dakar. He’s represented multiple times in this mix and has to be my favourite Senegalese artist of modern times. I actually met him in person on a flight from Banjul to Dakar once when I was upgraded to business class because I happened to have birthday that day. He passed my seat and I thought man that’s Youssou N’ Dour should I greet him or not? I ended up giving him and his wife the privacy I would appreciate if I was a big star like him. If there will be a next time I guess I will greet him since he has become a big part of my life in recent years. This mix is a tribute to Senegal and their beautiful music and people, if you like it you should try to dig deeper into Senegalese releases. WARNING: its not a cheap experience!
With the likes of Todd Terje, Lindstrom, Prins Thomas, Bjorn Torske and of course the whole Sex Tags Crew and yourself, Norway has produced some of the most exciting and unique voices in electronic music. What is it about the nation, which has seen such a rise in amazing talent?
Great question and I had to think about it for half a day before I answer it. I dont think there is one reason for that, it’s a lot of coincidences. Norway is a pretty cold and dark country meaning in the winter we really dont have a choice we’re stuck inside by ourselves and all our belongings, that might be one of the reasons at least. The other reason has to be money and wealth and in fact we have a pretty great founding system for artists were they can search for money from governmental institutions to help them out economically.
In the commercial part of the Norwegian society sadly it seems like all of the artists mention above are just in the shadow of more commercial artist like Kygo. In the underground scene the mentioned artists are off course more respected again. All of the artists mentioned in this question has helped put Norway on the map for over a decade and they deserve a big thanks for that. They have been leading the way for new talents and put a standard we all have to reach after and that makes competition and makes you stronger in the end. They all work like great role models for younger talents. There is coming a movie/documentary soon called Northern Disco Lights and its about the Norwegian disco / house society and how it all started up in the north with Bjørn Torske. You should check it out when it’s released. Norway is also quite famous for our heavy metal scene as well, I think it’s the weather. Man I’m not even sure !
Since 2013 you have run Ille Bra Records which has seen releases from the likes of Ubat and Olefonken. Can you tell us a little about the label and if there are any upcoming releases we should look forward to?
Yes, I started Ille Bra Records by myself in 2013 and released the Ubåt record. After one year I transformed the label to a charity label and involved three of my friends (Ak, Yogi, Toro) so now we are four people contributing at the label. Transforming it to a charity label meaning all the excess will go to the artists and the label itself and we are not aloud to take out any salary or money in our pocket. The label works as a investor for the artists without any personal economical interest at all. It’s great and it makes the artist feel more safe and the whole thing less greedy.
For Ille Bra Records it’s about the music. That’s what drives us, not the fame or the money, simply the talent is what we are aiming on. Ille Bra is Looking for a new Todd Terje or Bjørn Torske, that’s one of the reasons we released Olefonken in June because we think he has the international quality needed & he’s a newcomer and simply has a great talent. We believe in him as an artist. Our first release was a strictly hip-hop record then our second record has a more electronic vibe. By releasing two totally different styles we want to open both the house & hip hop communities not to be so straight forward and for people to open their mind when it comes to music. We had hip-hop heads that bought our house release and the other way as well so we are very pleased with that. There is always someone who wants to measure you up and down and put you in a box. Fuck that shit, let’s be real. Good music comes from all genres. As for the future I guess people have to stay tuned. We are searching for artists in this present moment and got some demoes in as well so it’s exiting. We don’t know ourselves who it’s gonna be, but we will let you guys know when we are ready!
Finally, what are your plans for the rest of 2016, and beyond?
We want to release a new record with Ille Bra and I’m building up my new club concept The Jungleclub at Dattera Til Hagen. 17th September Fredrik Lavik is guesting and representing his label Afro7. And, at last, I would like a vacation at a beach far away from Europe!