Interview with Alex Ketzer about Noorden!

Noorden is a music-collective from Cologne with focus on producing both music and art, which is also open for people who just want to support them or hang around. They arrange concerts, they produce limited edition material and are spearheaded by two men, whom go by the names of Alex Ketzer and Florian Gassman. One of their most popular releases is the V/A – Rumble When Bumble compilation which feature artists from the label, some of them might be known to you, some of them might not be. The ambitious release is a hand-made digipak also containing a 40-paged fanzine, printed on neon-paper. Amongst other things, they always have some of the most stunning releases, in limited edition for the collectors needs. They’re currently paving the way for a release that will celebrate their first netlabel, Noorden and unreleased tracks in a proper fashion. I took some time to write questions for Alex and I hope that you will enjoy this interview, as it also contains a lottery further down below in which readers of my blog can win exclusive limited edition releases from Noorden. You’ll also get a sneak peek of the upcoming 3-CD release, as I show you the artwork exclusively for this interview. Because I think we’re going to see more of them in the future.

Could you tell me about how and why it all started and what paved the way for your first release ever? How was the creative process in that regard?

– Before starting the Noorden project, we had another netlabel called WeArk (you can find all releases from that time here: noorden.org/wa) from 2007 until mid-2011. But during the last year of this project, we felt that its spirit got lost more and more. We all grew up and developed ourselves, but for some reason our project didn’t. So we made a break and everyone concentrated on their own music and art for some time. But after a while, we felt the need to show our projects to each other and, above all, to present the results to the world.

The idea and the spirit behind Noorden was born on a 3-week trip to Norway (without mobile, internet and Facebook) where I thought a lot about what a new project should feel like and how to make it work for everyone involved – but that was just the starting point, the 10% input from which the new project was to grow. The rest just worked out by itself and the project started to take shape. The first release was dedicated to the village of Flatabø in Norway – the »birth town« of Noorden. The track by Odda, who I met during my trip, was produced a couple of days after I told him about the idea for the project. He put this inspiration into his music and sent his results to Salmiak and Suod who decided to remix it for our first release: Noo1 (noorden.org/noo1). That’s it.

Artwork from the upcoming 3-CD release!

What artists and bands are in the collective…

– The inner circle of Noorden consists of two people –Florian (floriangassmann.com) and me (alexketzer.com). Then there are Steffen (gatonet.de), our secret consultant and exceptionally gifted bartender, and Johannes, who also releases music as »Suod Ulbeba«. Another member of the collective is Andreas (andreasmuxel.com) who created »NoordLicht« (a DIY light controller and modular light installation system) together with Florian. Furthermore, there are several artists that share the studio floor called »Kunstetage« with us and who we occasionally organize art shows with, e.g. Dennis Guillomo (denisguillomo.de), who will equip one of our next »Cluster« events, or Wolfgang Voegele (wolfgangvoegele.com) with whom we organized »Cluster« for the first time.

Another part-time member of the collective is Gabriel Vanegas (firstlife.me) who was responsible for some great visuals at our parties. We also got into contact with a couple of other artists through the internet: The OP1-Compilation for example brought us together with a handful of nice people (eg. Virtual Flannel, Jogging House and Dataline), others sent us demos which we liked and thus released. And then there are people like The Marx Trukker who just liked us on Facebook and we get in contact that way. So, as you can see, the constellation of members is the result of a mixture of fortune and being »in the right place at the right time«.

…and what’s the history behind the different shows you’’ve put up?

– For our shows we try to bring together artists, musicians/bands and DJs. We call this format »Cluster« and it’s hosted at our studio once a month. It starts with a one-day exhibition at 7 p.m., followed by a concert at around 10 p.m. and ends with several DJ-sets and dancing late into the night and the early morning. We also have visual and/or light installations on these parties that interact with the whole event. In the past, there were other shows, too, but those were special events like watching the UEFA Championchip together or just hosting club nights without showing any art.

By the way, I found Noorden via the “rumble when bumble”-compilation you released some time ago. Could you tell me anything about the creative process behind it? And what did you think about the end-result of it?

– When I first saw this fucking great piece of hardware (Teenage Engineering OP-1) I wanted to own it so badly. And when I finally got it, I spent hours browsing the ohpeewon-forum, listening to the op1-only tracks, and was stoked by the possibilities this gadget offers. That was at the same time when we launched the label. As we wanted to be the first to make a compilation with OP-1-only tracks, I wrote an email to Yellow Tangerine (soundcloud.com/yellow-tangerine) and asked him if he was interested in curating this project together with us. We sent soundcloud links back and forth and after a couple of weeks the final playlist was all set. We also wanted to include some background information about the artists and why they are so much in love with the OP-1 so we sent out a questionnaire and asked each artist to create a cover artwork for their track.

Regarding the layout, we wanted to produce a fancy, neon-colored, DIY-xerox-like artwork with a look significant for its content. I wanted to finish the layout as soon as possible, but was very busy with my job at that time, so in the end the whole process took several weeks. But then, one evening, after a couple of beers, I decided to start designing and it took me two nights to finish the artwork and two more days to produce the 100 CDs. Everything was handmade: We sorted and folded the pages ourselves, bound them with staple guns, glued in the cardboard etc. But we (and also the artists as well as the audience) were very happy with the result. Submissions for the second edition which will be released in spring 2013 will be possible from January.

How would you like to see Noorden developed in the future, do you have any certain plans as of now?

– First of all, we are very happy with the results of the project’s first year. For the future we’re planning to find a distributor for our releases which will enable us to reach a wider audience with our music. Furthermore, we’re dreaming of being able to release 12-inch-vinyls, but this is too expensive for us at the moment. With an adequate distributor, however, this should become possible. Anyway, we’re doing the same things as last year: releasing great music made by great people, digitally as well as in form of limited CD and cassette editions that we produce ourselves with a great amount of love and dedication.

What’’s the most fun part about being a collective and what’’s the least fun part about it? How much time and effort do you need to put into it and what do you normally do on a hectic week?

– The most fun part about everything is to have people around you that you like and that inspire you. We’’re all friends sharing our working space together and also our spare time, so that’s a really great gift! We meet up, drink beer or coffee together, talk about the things we love and make plans for new projects. I guess there’s no negative side to it, everyone contributes whatever they like and it’s just great the way it is. We don’t measure the time we spend on the project because we do everything between our daily routine, between working and living. But I guess, if it was a full-time job, we had to spend one full day per week for all the things that need to be done. And when we’re planning an event, you can add two more days. Usually, we all work as freelancers and designers for magazines, books, websites, products and prototypes for several agencies, publishing houses and other, smaller clients.

Noticed that you have a temporary headquarter, but where would you want to be based, how is it to live in Cologne and do business, music and art from there?

– In our »temporary headquarter«, the lovely »Galerie Frei« (facebook.com/Galerie.Frei), we hosted a 3-week-exhibition in March 2012. We invited all our buddies that are involved in art and music to show their works – along with happenings, live performances, concerts and DJ-sets. We all had a really good time, so much fun and met loads of very nice people. At the moment we are thinking about exhibiting at »Galerie Frei« again in spring 2013. Our »real headquarter« is our studio which is situated in a former factory building in »Köln-Deutz«. We’re three people (Florian, Steffen and I) who work (and sometimes live) in this studio as a graphic designer, web designer and architect. In our spare time we use the studio for making music, meeting people, drinking beer or sometimes even listening to soundchecks at Gebäude 9 (http://www.gebaeude9.de), a wonderful and atmospheric concert venue on the ground floor of the building.

The building’s windows are so thin that during sound checks the »whoop-whoop-whoop« of the basses makes listening to our own music inside the studio impossible – but it’s also a lot of fun at the same time. To live and work in Cologne is very nice and relaxed. I read a quote in a magazine some weeks ago that described Cologne quite well: »In Cologne people collaborate and work with each other in a very friendly, family kind of way. You don’t have to prove yourself to anybody, time just moves at a different pace here…« So this is what most of us feel like. The city is rather small compared to Berlin or Munich and you can reach everything by bike in about 20 min. Interesting spots are located quite close to each other and if you long for a day in the nature, it takes you less than 20 minutes by car to find beautiful spots. Another thing (in comparison to Berlin) is that everything is a bit less »hip & cool«, so life is very laid-back… »Prost!«

Could you tell me anything about the creative process behind your latest release on Noorden? Also, why should one consider to buy it from you?

– I guess you’’re talking about the DOMINGA release? I first got into contact with Jeff Ortega about a year ago when he sent me an email with a link to his tracks. I listened to them and was hooked right away, wanting to release them. But I thought that Noorden was too unknown at that time and his music was – in my opinion – too good for just a digital release only a small audience would listen to. So I asked him if he was interested in having us as his »art directors« for the release of a CD and he liked the idea and sent us some images and the lyrics for his tracks. We then decided to produce a CD in a handmade cardboard-sleeve and a trifold poster with a typographical interpretation of his lyrics on the one side and a nice picture of him on the other side.

Unfortunately, I was very busy at that time, so a few months went by until we finally released the CD a couple of weeks ago. Jeff and we really dig the result and we already got some positive reviews on the music as well as on the artwork. People should hurry buying it because there are just a few CDs left from the first release. The music is fucking awesome and your CD-player will be forever grateful. If there’s a second release, we’’ll produce the edition in a different way than the first release though, i.e. with a different kind of paper. The current release has a little bug in the cardboard sleeve which adds this certain something to the product, but also degrades it in its quality. So if you want something special with a touch of class – GRAB IT!

Are there any other collectives or organized forms of music collaborations that you admire or would just like to recommend for this blog?

– Yeah, there are many of them around. At the moment we’re in contact with two crews: 101.io crew (facebook.com/101.io) have their rehearsal room located about 50 meters from our studio. They also release great music and I love their style very much. We’’ve also released a single with two of our remixes together with the very talented Morning High (morninghigh.bandcamp.com). He’’s also running a label called ZIPS records (http://zipsrecords.bandcamp.com) which is definitely worth checking out.

I know by now that you’’ve got a big release coming up in the middle of November, care to tell me a little bit more about it?

– In the last week of November we’re releasing a 3-CD box as a kind of »best of«. The box comes in a stamped and numbered cardboard sleeve with 3 CDs, a 24-page booklet and a trifold poster. CD1 is a best of of our first netlabel which we ran between 2007 and 2011, CD2 is a best of of our recent Noorden project and CD3 is a mixtape with unreleased tracks that can exclusively be found on this compilation. Altogether there are 45 tracks with a total running time of almost 4 hours! We’’ll produce an edition of 25 pcs. which you will be able to buy from our Bandcamp-store or download all tracks from our website for free.

Artwork from the upcoming 3-CD release!

What’’s happening on the Noorden-front in the end of November and the last month of this year? Do you have any other releases planned?

– We have a release schedule providing for one release every week until Christmas. There will be a new album by Virtual Flannel (www.facebook.com/VirtualFlannel), an ambient tape by The Marx Trukker (soundcloud.com/the-marx-trukker), an EP by Zasten from the Noorden crew, a new EP by Jogging House (facebook.com/Jogging.House), a remix single by Morning High (morninghigh.bandcamp.com), another ambient project by a secret member from the hood, and, finally, the second album by Dataline (www.facebook.com/Project.Dataline). We’’re very happy to have all these great artists with us and are looking forward to their releases!

Thank you for answering my questions! How would you like to end this?

– Thank you for the interview. It’s always good to reflect on things and think about your own project. We would like to finish the interview with a mixtape that we made exclusively for your blog, it’’s a mix with the most loved and most influential tracks by each artist. We hope you enjoy it.

And if you want to be part of Noorden – with your music, your creativity, or just as a friend or supporter – we would be happy to hear from you! Cheers!

Listen to the exclusive mixtape Noorden produced for Invisible Guy down below:

http://official.fm/tracks/M0hx

The latest release from Noorden:

If you want to participate in the lottery, go to Noorden on Facebook and like their facebook-page and write “Win-Invisible” on the image to win the following packages:

· 1 x http://noorden.bandcamp.com/album/falling-off
· 1 x http://noorden.bandcamp.com/album/all-night
· 3 x CD »Rumble When Bumble« mini-fail-edition (from the super pack)
· 2 x SCHWERMETALL fanzine (from the super pack)

Artwork from the upcoming 3-CD release!

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