Rune Grammofon: Mutation and Reevaluation

David McLean By

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Since its inception in 1998, Rune Grammofon has been at the forefront of ground breaking new music, heralding a new unprecedented interest in Scandinavian music. Whereas ECM's focus on the region has largely been based around the folk/traditional music explorations of its most prolific artists, including Jan Garbarek, Arild Andersen, Terje Rypdal and Jon Christensen, and a new wave of "Nordic Cool"/experimental signings such as Mats Eilertsen, Jacob Young, Trygve Seim and Tord Gustavsen, Rune Grammofon has stridently and effectively destroyed any stereotype or genre tag applicable to the region in a catalogue that envelopes pioneering electronic composition, microtonal improvisation, out rock, "death ambience" and beyond.

Rune Grammofon Head Rune Kristoffersen

Specifically, Its approach to jazz to say the least is just as forward-thinking as the disparate music collected in each of its releases, where constant mutation and reevaluation is characterized by the output of label staples Supersilent, Basic Food Group, Humcrush, Huntsville and Ultralyd, to name but a few. But to tie Rune Grammofon's output to any specific sound pool would be doing the label an incredible disservice; its very existence is in opposition to such a premise. This is what makes the above mentioned artists so important to the world of jazz, for it is their ingenuity that is stretching the limitations of what is considered by the genre term.

The task of completing a label overview for one as far-reaching as Rune Grammofon is a daunting one, to say the least. From the spritely, chirpy electronics of Alog and Phonophani, and the mind-warping out rock of Scorch Trio, Motorpsycho and MoHa!, to label staples Spunk, Humcrush and In The Country, once initiated, each Rune Grammofon release becomes just as vital as its back catalogue, and worth of obsession. For a label that produces consistently excellent music which has garnered such International acclaim on its own uncompromising aesthetic, it comes as a shock to learn that Rune is still a one man, DIY operation, run by the hard-working Rune Kristoffersen.

All About Jazz: Could you give us a bit of background on yourself?

Rune Kristoffersen: Born in Oslo in 1957, discovering Jimi Hendrix when 13 got me into music and basically changed my life. Started pop/rock group Fra Lippo Lippi in 1980, recorded two albums for Virgin Records—the second, Light And Shade, being produced by Walter Becker from Steely Dan. Label manager for ECM in Norway between 1995 and 2003. Started Rune Grammofon in late 1997, first releases—Supersilent, 1-3 and Arne Nordheim, Electri, in January, 1998.

AAJ: What were your original reasons for starting the label? Ten years on, have your goals and aims changed?

RK: I had been involved in releasing records since the early '80s, and after a couple of years with ECM I wanted to get back into working with artists from scratch, not only with finished product. I also wanted to make records with good artists that probably would have problems getting records out at other more traditional labels. My goals at the beginning were just to survive from record to record and to make each and every one as excellent as possible. To this day I don´t think we have released a bad one, and this is still my goal. But pushing 100 releases I do think a bit longer than the next release.

AAJ: A difficult question to ask, but what releases would you define as being the most important to the label and for what reasons?

RK: I wouldn´t want to go into this too closely as there are so many various reasons and would take much time to justify it all, but on a general note I would say that both Money Will Ruin Everything editions and the Deathprod box set have been quite important, as well has having worked with Supersilent since the very beginning of the label.

AAJ: How much involvement do you have with the actually recording process of the music?

RK: Not much, and not as often as I would have liked, as few of the records are made in the form of traditional studio sessions. Also, I don´t really have the time. But it does happen, and I have been involved in all three Scorch Trio recordings.

AAJ: How are artists recruited to the label and why have you specifically chosen to release music from exclusively Norwegian artists?

RK: Well, Skyphone are Danish, Archetti/Wiget are Swizz and Fire! are Swedish, so it´s not exclusively Norwegian. But it´s natural to work with local artists, even in these global times it´s more practical to be able to meet people more often. These days new artists are often recommended by other artists or spring directly from artists I´m already working with.


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