Wonderland.

LINDSTROM AND PRINS THOMAS

From neighbouring studios in the heart of Oslo’s red-light district, two Norwegian musicians are busy ensuring that disco never dies. For the past five years Prins Thomas and Hans-Peter Lindstrøm have championed the Nu-Disco cause, both as solo artists and as a producing-writing team. Together they have injected the form with a raw, live element that is light years away from its synthetic past…

Thomas Moen Hermansen is disciplined. He has to be. When he’s not in his studio – producing, remixing and running record label Full Pupp/Internasjonal – the 33-year-old father-of-two DJs all around the world as Prins Thomas. “I have a strong work ethic,” he insists. “If I didn’t, I’d have ended up just a grumpy local DJ in Oslo. I really don’t believe in sitting around and waiting for inspiration. You have to go into the studio and record and record and record.”

Hermansen’s studio sessions are often free-form affairs that give him the opportunity to play with conventions. “I was doing some work on a track for Justus Köhncke, a producer on the Cologne label Kompact, and I wanted a string quartet on the record but I didn’t want it to sound very good so I got my younger brother and some friends in to play it.” Even his two sons (Edvard, 13 and Olav, 4) have ended up on a Prins Thomas record. “I was playing drums and they were banging around on some cymbals in the background,” he explains. “They’re not exactly /talented/ but they enjoy music.”

His own childhood in Hamar – a town on the shores of Norway’s largest lake – was infused with every musical influence imaginable. Aged ten, Hermansen combined cello lessons with mixing his own hip-hop at home on two mismatched turntables and a tape deck. His stepfather played him Iggy Pop and Bach. As a teenager, he taught himself guitar, bass and drums, and in 1992 he started playing in bands, the “coolest” of which was a punk group called Kefir Killers.

“The best parties are where people come to have fun and dance and not just check out what the DJ is doing,” reckons Hermansen, who began his own DJ career playing techno and The Thompson Twins at a friend’s club. “It’s always been that way in Norway, where it’s about catering for all kinds of people, of differing ages. I guess some of the diversity in my music comes from this.” He’s tried the same open-minded policy on foreign dance-floors – with varying degrees of success. “Once I was playing in New York to a crowd of 4000 people… I put on T Rex’s Get It On and cleared the entire place.”

It was one such off-kilter selection that initiated his first meeting with Hans-Peter Lindstrøm, his disco partner-in-crime. “I was DJing in an Oslo club in 2001,” he recalls, “and he came up to compliment me on playing Wham!’s Club Tropicana.” Since 2004, the duo has released a crate load of singles and remixes together, as well as their self-titled debut album in 2005. They are currently working on material for a follow-up album, II.

Hermansen’s close alliance with Lindstrøm (“He’s on the other side of the wall!”) allows him to indulge his teenage passions. “I run around the room playing drums and bass while he concentrates on the melodies and chord changes,” he explains. “I always think of our music as the result of happy mistakes. And if our studio sessions produce less-than-happy results, we can always blame the other one.”

PRINS THOMAS’ TOP 5 PICKS:
1. Afro Punk Reggae Dub by Steel An’ Skin – “Really amazing reggae disco.”

2. Try To Find Me Vol. 1 by Unknown – “Just bought this and I know I’m going to be playing it a lot.”

3. Love Is On The Rocks by Lama – “High energy Italo-disco.”

4. Last Dear by Siriusmo – “It’s from earlier this year but I missed it the first time around.”

5. One Nation Under A Groove Remix by Timmy Regisford – “A really tacky house version.”

Hans-Peter Lindstrøm hasn’t made any new music for months. “I’ve been expanding my studio,” explains the 35-year-old sheepishly. “I needed more space because I have become obsessed with old 70s equipment: vintage synthesisers and reel-to-reel tape machines. Plus I’ve moved a whole new drum kit in here. I need to get organised.”

Lindstrøm likes to take his time. “Finishing music has always been hard for me to do,” he says. “I can write a track in one day but it can take months to get it to the mastering stage.” He is clearly not a man to be rushed: the title track on his second solo album – “Where You Go I Go Too,” released earlier this year – runs at a leisurely 28 minutes. Happily, though, since blazing a trail through the world of dance music with his laid-back synth-disco sound, Lindstrøm is now able to cherry-pick new projects. It’s a turn of events that still makes him smile: “I never expected to even make a living from music… it was just a hobby for 20 years.”

Like his friend and collaborator Hermansen, Lindstrøm spent his formative years exploring all that music had to offer. At ten he was a classically trained pianist and choirboy at the local Lutheran church in the mining town of Stavanger. In the early 80s he discovered a love for pop music through British acts like Nik Kershaw, Limahl and Japan. In the 90s he played piano in an Elvis-inspired gospel act; the Hammond organ for a Deep Purple cover band; and the guitar in a series of folk and country groups. Then in 1999, aged 26, he decided to take a sabbatical from music, sold his record collection and moved to Oslo to study literature. It didn’t last.

A friend lent him some 12-inch dance records, he started DJing, bought a sampler and got to work. “I had no idea what dance music was supposed to sound like,” laughs Lindstrøm. “I was more used to song-writing than arranging repeated bass lines. But I guess that’s why my music stands out.” His 2003 debut EP and his first 12-inch with Thomas in 2004 – both released on Lindstrøm’s own label Feedelity ¬– ushered in a new genre of expansive, slow tempo disco. His first live show, though, was a disaster. “I was in front of 16,000 people at a festival in Poland,” he squirms. “I was supposed to be playing on my laptop with a live drummer and bassist accompanying me. At the last minute the crappy laptop packed up so I had to play a CD on a portable machine and look like I was doing something on the laptop. But the CD suddenly started skipping.”

Miraculously Lindstrøm wasn’t permanently scarred and still relishes performing live. After giving up DJing four years ago, he has now decided to put remixing on hold – previous commissions include Franz Ferdinand and LCD Soundsystem – and focus on his own material. “Thomas is itching to get back to work on our new album,” he laughs. “He knocks on my door and says, ‘Can we record something yet?’ I’m /almost/ there.”

LINDSTRØM’S TOP 5 PICKS:
1. My Bloody Valentine – “I’m rediscovering them now because I spent the 90s listening to folk and country.”

2. Queen – “One of my favourite bands of all time… Every album they put out from the early 70s to the mid 80s is perfect.”

3. Bob Ezrin – “He produced Kiss’ Destroyer album and Alice Cooper’s The Nightmare. I love them both.”

4. They Don’t Know by Tracey Ullman – “It’s a great track but it has a very fuzzy 80s sound… I’d love to do a remix.”

5. The Evil Eye – “I listened to them at high school but I didn’t understand it then. Now I’m ready for their minimal sound.”

Words: Ben Cobb

A full version of this article first appeared in Wonderland #15, Oct/Nov 2008

LINDSTROM AND PRINS THOMAS

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