Thomas URV is somewhat of an old hand in terms of the techno game, especially in his home town of Bergen, Norway. The Norwegian is known for his masterful multi-tasking skills working both as a producer and a promoter for the best part of his musical career, booking acts like Derrick May and Jeff Mills for his club night PLOINK, the same name of his self-run label. Unlike the club night, the label is still very much in its infancy having only released its first EP, Bergen, this summer, but is set to expand its catalogue in the near future with the help of music from Vakum and Nordenstam.
Making his Farringdon debut this Saturday, where he'll join Dave Clarke, Terry Francis and Phuture in Room Two, we got in touch to find out a little more about the bustling Bergen scene, and his plans for PLOINK, grabbing a new and exclusive mix along the way...
Who were the first major influences in your life, like at what point did you start collecting records and thinking that you wanted to be a DJ? Me and my mum used to go to this tiny, butterfly-shaped, greek island, Astypalaia almost every summer since I was six. It was that kind of low budget resort but we'd stay there for weeks every summer. The Greeks love children, and the island was small enough to allow kids to safely roam free. So once, after going to the local disco, I found my way into the booth, befriended the local DJ and was lost. My first collection of vinyl was bought when visiting Athens for the summers to follow, from Eurythmics, M.A.R.R.S’ Pump Up The Volume, Lil Louis’ French Kiss, and a lot of old Italohouse.
Finally, during a morning in 1990, I was able to buy my own Technics decks and a Phonic MRT-70 mixer. Even though I was fourteen at the time, I still remember the smell of the fresh 1210's...I later discovered Jams/KLF, Rising High, R&S, early XL and Warp, March Archer, before kind of ending up with Jeff Mills, Hood, Surgeon, Beltram, +8, Hell, Clarke. But perhaps what was really inspiring was seeing Darren Emmerson and Laurent Garnier at the Quart Festival in '94 and '95 as well as booking DJ Hell in '96. And I would say the CDs of Jeff Mills and Derrick May in Japan, and X-mix series, especially with Garnier. So to conclude, my mum was always the major influence. My mum and KLF, that should cover it.
When did you start out promoting? Was there already a following of people who were filing your parties from the start or was it something you had to grow? I actually “promoted“ my first three parties at my house while my mum worked her night shifts – approx £5 in cover charge to make money for vinyl.The plan was always to clean the house before she returned from work. It never ended well... Eventually, this evolved to a few school dances and performances at the youth clubs around Bergen until I turned 18 and could promote nights at venues serving alcohol. By then, I had a small, local radio show and more contact with like-minded people so I started booking DJs and promoting parties much more frequently. I guess it was to mainly get some playtime for myself but even so it was always great fun. I had no control over expenses though, so with the increasing vinyl addiction it got pretty expensive...
Is there anyone left on your wish list that you haven’t been able to bring to town yet? For sure! I've tried to book both Sven Vath and Laurent Garnier for nearly twenty years now! Richie Hawtin played PLOINK with his decks, efx, 909 and 101 in 2000, but it would be grand to get his Plastikman show over here. Future Sound of London and Aphex Twin will always be the dream too. Even though Bergen is the 2nd biggest town in Norway, it only holds near to 270k, and just a few of those are actually familiar with these kind of artists. Saying that, I'm certainly proud of all those that have played here so far...
Can you share what you think has been the best moment/ party you’ve put on over the years? Erm, that's impossible, but there was this night with Speedy J back in May 2009. We had a PLOINK night inside an old bunker - an actual tactical HQ the Germans built during the way - that was litereally underground. When we had to close at 3am due to the strict alcohol laws, we simply closed the bombproof doors and kept going. Speedy J played for many, many hours more and nobody could get in or out. At some point we even decided the bar should be free of charge. It's hard to remember what followed after that...Another night was when Biosphere played on top of mount Floien with this huge screen behind him showing rain falling in slow motion. It then started to rain ever so slightly...Luke Slater and Jeff Mills were also incredible, as well as this time when Derrik May played in a really intimate club with 80 or so people. Also, Robert Leiner performed his Different Journeys album live in the woods on Mount Sandviken, and Teebee is always amazing.
Basically, working in such a small market can make it quite difficult to book certain artists, but those that do play here are often booked at really intimate venues, which is quite unique for the artist. For example; the last couple of years we've had insane artists such as s Juan Atkins, Carl Craig, Alan Fitzpatrick, Dixon, Darren Emmerson, Grandmaster Flash and many more, all performing in a small room in front of less than 200 people.
What else is going on in Bergen at the weekend? Is there quite a big music scene there? Some of the clubs here in Bergen tend to survive three to four years before closing down, only to be replaced by something else. There are some long-standing venues as well but these mainly book rock and pop. There are a lot of festivals, literally thousands of them spread over every town and small village, on top of uninhabitable mountaintops, inside deep forests or on one of the islands off the coastline. There is so much amazing nature here, and fortunately there are a lot of good promoters who are willing to spend time and money to promote underground parties that do not have to follow the same strict curfews of the alcohol-licensed clubs. I think the music scene in Bergen is extremely vital. Within the electronic scene, there are superheroes like Teebee, Royksopp, Bjorn Torske, Annie, Skatebård, Ralph Myerz, Kygo, Drippin, Leca, Telephones, Kahuun, Terje Bakke, to name a few, whilst there are many artists and labels still spawning. Some people try to explain why artists flourish so well in Bergen. I think it's because; we're not in Oslo where much of the major music business is based, our backdrop is unique with high mountains, the north sea, fjords and glaciers all around, and because we're, in some ways, closer to London, Berlin and Amsterdam. It doesn't take more than some 90min to fly abroad from Bergen, but it does take about eight hours to drive over the mountains to Oslo,, so I guess it feels much further away...
You’ve just started up a label too right? Can you tell us a bit about it? Oh yes, it's all very very exciting but also a very step learning curve. It's been the plan for pretty much forever but we finally released our first record, Bergen EP this summer. The label spawned out of our techno club night PLOINK (it holds the same name), and it was really surprising to see how quickly it took form. We have releases planned throughout the next year, and the two that are due to be released this year are almost done. The next release is Vakum, with a four track EP due September 29th, and then Nordenstam due December 8th, You'll hear both during my set at fabric this weekend for sure.
I think, compared to the label, the party has such a short life span whereas a release gets a whole new life of it's own. It's probably all sounds quite obvious for anyone who has been running a label, but to us it's all new territory and we love it! There just so much great music around us to release.
Where’s the best snow? I'm happy to confirm that the best snow is waiting for you right here in Norway. Of course, snow isn't just snow. I find it’s much like sparkling wine. The finest champagne or sweaty grey stuff somewhere else. Naturally, snow was invented in Norway. Just as Santa’s reindeer, the ski and polar bears!
Any aspiring producers we should keep our eyes out for? Vakum and Nordenstam from the next PLOINK releases of course but also Christian Tilt, Oobleck and +Plattform! Kahuun, Roland Lifjell and Skatebård are not at all new producers, but do look out for them!
You’ve recorded this mix for us to give a better picture about what you’re about on the decks – can you tell us a bit about how you put it together and how you went about your track selection? Well, recording a mix alone in a room infront of two speakers has always been a bit of an issue to me - I think it's really hard. I don't tend to plan ahead, and need some kind of feedback from whoever's listening to make it work as a set. I figured I'd play something entirely different from what I expect my set at fabric will turn out like. It's my first set in London so I'm sure I'll be playing early on the night. I actually went to bed late at night before waking up at 5am to record the set. I went straight to my decks and aimed at creating something I'd play in the woods at one of the mountains surrounding Bergen. It turned out very dark, not so fast but slightly messy. I do like get a little dirty with a bit of scratching and whatnot so it's never perfect anyway. I even found my way to that beautiful track by The Knife which was a bit of a surprise... I don't really care what medium other DJs choose to use but for myself, I still keep to vinyl and perhaps USB for music that's not been released yet. This mix was all vinyl though, some old and some new.