Usually it’s the Swedish bands, like the Hives, Hellacopters and Kent most people think of when Scandinavian rock is concerned. And by all means, the Swedes are very good at promoting and believing in their own bands, a lesson quite a few Norwegian record execs could have benefited from learning.
Norwegian music abroad is either related with mainstream pop like A-Ha or fierce Black Metal bands. And the metal scene is indeed very much alive, kicking and screaming in Oslo - but so is our rock scene.
Fans from all over the world
Bands like Gluecifer, Euroboys, JR Ewing, Big Bang, Ricochets, Motorpsycho, Cato Salsa Experience, Amulet and last but not least Turbonegro are just a few, but all great examples of Norwegian bands who keep the spirit of old-school rock, punk, garage and surf very much alive. All of them have toured Europe, and most of them continue to do so on a regular basis. Several of the acts have also toured the States.
Turbonegro (infamous deathpunk band), for instance, have massive fan-bases all over the world called ”turbojugend”. These fans, and many others, were greatly disappointed when Turbonegro split up in the late 90ties after their lead singer Hank von Helvete had to leave the band due to a serious drug addiction. A tribute album to the band called Alpha Motherfucker followed, where bands like Queens of the Stone Age and Supersuckers contributed. Turbonegro reunited this summer, after they were given an offer they couldn’t refuse (i.e. loads of money) and are currently working on their new album.
Gluecifer, testosterone/oldschool rockers have also a fan following in the States and in big parts of Europe. Their latest album ”Basement Apes” got nothing but rave reviews here in Norway and if you want to see a prime example of Norwegian rock n roll, they will be touring in Europe in October and November. Check out their official site for more info:
Small, but flourishing rock community
Norway is a small country and Oslo is a small city, but nevertheless we do have some of the most exiting concert venues. The size range from Spektrum where all the big stars like Nick Cave, Destiny’s Child and Smashing Pumpkins have performed, to the smaller venues such as Rockefeller and So What where the bands who don’t draw the biggest crowds perform. But make no mistake, it is often the stars of tomorrow you can see live there. Artist such as Marilyn Manson, Eminem and Soundgarden have all performed at small clubs in Oslo before they became superstars.
The guys responsible booking at the rock club So What have a reputation for booking the weird and obscure, but talented bands from all over the world. If you want to see something perhaps a little out of the ordinary, So What is the place to be. Some mainstream artists slip through the cracks from time to time too of course, but what they all have in common is that the ones responsible for booking believe in them and like them. They have also started a new record label, Racing Junior.
So What shares its booking philosophy with the crews at the quality rock bars Last Train and Mono. These three rock bars put on one of the best festivals in Norway each year, the Øya-festival, which takes place in the heart of Oslo. Ten thousand people visited ”Øya” this summer and Nancy Sinatra, Tortoise and Motorpsycho were amongst the headliners.
Bars give birth to bands
Since Oslo is such a small city, it’s only natural that everybody in the rock community knows each other and work together. Although one wouldn’t go as far as calling the Oslo rockers one big happy family (there are enough petty feuds), the Øya-festival is just one example of how the people, who in one way or another is connected to the different rock bars in Oslo, co-operate. Rockers hang out at the same bars - indie rockbar Last Train being the most important one, and this place has given birth to many a great rock band. But Last Train is not the only bar where one can meet musicians. Apart from the places already mentioned, Ny-lon, Paragrafen, Elm Street and Rock-In are also places where musicians meet each other, become friends, get introduced to other musicians through their new found friends, get drunk together and plan to start great new bands. Of course, a lot of their plans never amount to anything, but some of them do.
The student community connected to the University of Oslo also work hard to fill the city with exiting concerts and festivals. The Oslo Student Festival is put on every summer with great bands from both Norwegian and international bands. It lasts for about two weeks and is considered a big event, but that’s not all. A lot of concerts are also being held at Betong, the student community’s own concert venue. A lot of Norwegian bands play there, but a number of legendary bands have also played there like The White Stripes, Cowboy Junkies, Iggy Pop, Pearl Jam, The Clash and Ramones just to name a few.
So Detroit might be the Rock City in the US, but take our word for it, here in Europe it’s Oslo.