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Hubro: Making Room for Marginalized Music

Jakob Baekgaard By

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AAJ: So the exact year where you started Hubro was?

AM: Next year is the ten-year anniversary so it was 2009.

AAJ: And when you came to Grappa with this project, did you already have an artist whose work you wanted to release?

AM: Yes. I had been approached by a friend of mine who knew a piano trio who were going to release an album on a Swedish label, but the label had stopped communicating and they were getting a bit frustrated. This was the trio Splaschgirl, so my friend recommended that band to me and I really liked it and they have released six albums on Hubro so far. I also had a project in my cupboard from Sigbjorn Apeland, the harmonium-player. When I was doing my bedroom-label back in the days, he had a project with solo harmonium. It was partly just pure harmonium sounds but also remixes, and we never found out how to put it together, so we never finished that album.

The start of the label coincided with me moving back from Oslo to my hometown on the Westcoast of Norway (Haugesund), and when I was moving I rented a car and it was full of books, LPs and stuff. We were driving over the mountains and I had this CD-R with the music that Sigbjørn never got to release on my former label. I listened to that driving from Oslo to Haugesund and I realized an album could be made out of this, a little editing was just needed and some minor things. I called him, and it became one of the first releases on the label.

There was also Mats Eilertsen. He approached me quite early on and then it just developed like a bit of a snowball effect. After a while there were many offers for things to release.

AAJ: Those offers. Were they contacts like Sigbjørn, recommendations or people you knew or how did that snowball effect come about?

AM: I think it was very organic. Some just listened to the first albums and thought the label seemed interesting and there were recommendations from artists and there were people I knew already that I approached. Now there is no need to approach anyone, I get too many offers. I can't keep the pace.

AAJ: If you think about label identity, it is often connected to a city or scene. Is it the same with Hubro? You said you moved from Oslo. Is there a city or scene you connect with or is it more all over Norway?

AM: I don't think there is a scene. Of course, for marketing it is good to talk about scenes, but I don't think one exists in a way, but Norway is a whole as a scene. It is not that I don't want to release anything from outside Norway, but so far, I have been focusing on the Norwegian artists and people that I can meet and have coffee with without having to fly abroad.

But I think we can sort of speak of a scene in Norway because I think there are some things that are quite specific about musicians in Norway. Okay, you can find it anywhere else too, but I feel like I work with a lot of musicians that have a very broad approach. They can play with pop artists one day and a completely different project the next day and they are also very openminded when it comes to music and the same goes for me. I also have a really open approach when it comes to listening, so I think we find each other in that way and quite often the music I release is between genres. It's not pure jazz music or pure folk music, it is a mix. The musicians don't have the idea: now I want to mix this and that, it is just something that comes into existence organically.

AAJ: But the thing is, when you pitched the idea to Grappa it was a jazz label, so what is your idea of jazz if we say that it's not playing mainstream, hard bop or avantgarde, but is this mixing of genres. Still, what is jazz to you and is it important at all to have this definition?

AM: No, honestly, I don't think that it is that important and it is impossible to define, and I can really love music "from the past" as long as it feels like it is happening now. You don't have to mix everything and make new hybrids to make it interesting, but in Norway I think we don't have a strong American jazz tradition. For instance, when there were American jazz musicians living in Copenhagen for longer periods that didn't happen in Norway, so we just took what we liked and made something else. I think that has been a part of the Norwegian jazz history to try to find our own identity in jazz. But rules are not important to me. I'm not against anything or pro anything, it just has to be interesting.

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