Sten Ove Toft has been of a mainstay of Norwegian Noise for
sometime and his Roggbif label is turning out some of the
most interesting and aggressive music from the genre.
The first time I met him however, it was a somewhat quiet
I had received a txt msg from someone saying "You should
like this" a time and an address. So, I went, a poster the
size of a BandAid (infact it may even have BEEN a BandAid)
adorned the door... I pushed and went in, up a windy, dirty
staircase my footsteps reverberating in the stairwell - "Is
this a concert" I said to the silence, "or what?". At the
top I was met by a very friendly face (This was the
aforementioned Mr Toft), that confirmed that I was indeed in
the right place and not breaking and entering as I was
beginning to think.
"Der koster tretti kroner" He whispered... yes, whispered, I
handed over the thirty kroner as requested, and he lifted a
curtain to let me enter "Hshhhh!!!" he hissed as I ducked
It took me a few moments for my eyes to become accustomed to
the dim light, but i could hear some faint breathing sounds
and some distant clicking. Then, through the smoke filled
room, I finally made out one man stroking lovingly the body
of an enormous double bass and another fellow seriously and
carefully plucking an amplified cactus.
That was three years ago... tonight was a tad noisier.
Ryfylke, the main vehicle for Mr Tofts onslaught of brutal
noise, took the stage at midnight and were done by twenty
past. A slow progression from tasteful, planned and
remarkably hi fi clicks and scrapes that built and built to
an unholy roar which seemed like it could go no further, but
then did. Toft screaming into a microphone that bottomed out
the PA system which actually created spaces in the wall of
flatline distortion and brought dynamics to the sound.
I caught up with Sten Ove before the show:
>How and why did you start Roggbiff (it is YOUR label
Yeah, Roggbif is my label, as well as the sublabel NOISE2.
Roggbif started in 2003, after I moved to Oslo. I started it
more as a time-filler; I was making music of course, but
generally I was bored with my studies at the university and
my part time job at a primary-school. Having just moved to
Oslo I didn't know that many people either so Roggbif is a
result of boredom than anything else - haha. But the real
purpose behind the label was to archive my own releases
which previously only had been no-label releases, CDR's and
tapes made on demand.
> First release was?
The first release on Roggbif was Devold: Ola By Rise EP. It
was - as it is for many labels - a cassette release. Devold
was a project between me and Sindre Andersen (whom released
the first Fe-Mail album on his label TV5). It was only made
in 30 copies and was more given away to reluctant friends
than traded or sold. The resources and knowledge I had back
then was little. I had a hard time finding tapes which were
short enough to cater for the 15min long record, I only
found C-90 tapes, so the tape has the same 15min track,
going 3 times on each side!
I then went over to CDRs - faster and cheaper. I found it to
be easier to make and sell. But in 2004 I released my first
"real" CD which was the debut album by Ryfylke, "Boknafjord".
That was quite wierd, that album actually sold a total of
1000 copies, which one normally doesn't do within noise, not
even on a worldwide basis unless your Wolf Eyes or something
like that. So now we're in 2007, and I'm up to 17 titles, a
couple are yet to come, but the "boknafjord" album gave
Roggbif a name on the international scene, not a big one,
but it's at least out there.
> When did you start Ryfylke with Stian Skagen?
Ryfylke started in 2003, when Stian and I both got into the
art academy in Oslo. We were just talking, and had somewhat
the same interests in music. We had some spare time one day
and decided to do a small session in the schools
sound-studio. We where both blown away afterwards, we
thought this sound-combination was really fucking good. So
there you go. 2 weeks after we played our first concert and
now, almost 4 years after we've toured Europe twice, going
to the US tomorrow and released 2 studio-albums and been on
> So.. How did you get into noise in the first
place...and whats so great about it?
I started up with noise/experimental sounds in 1999 i think,
heavily inspired by my hometown's (Haugesund) alternative
festival Safe As Milk. A year later I ended up enrolling in
the collective and started working as a artist-contact for
the festival, and I was in my element. In the beginning I
was more into quiet musique concrete stuff, like Tore Honore
Bøe, but like olives, the craving started and I got more and
more extreme, listening to Japanese stuff and trash noise
from the US. It was great to have this curiosity and
explore. Hearing stuff you never thought was possible.
Amazing. Now I'm really into the trash-sludge noise. Just
the pure essence of noise, the energy.
I reminded Sten Ove of a performance I witnessed a few years
ago, that took place in an old chocolate factory, where Toft
and his cohort proceeded to fight each other viciously, in a
somewhat school playground fashion it must be said, rolling
around the floor, smashing their own equipment of CD players
and TV and effect pedals to pieces, while dressed in
branches and plastic bags... a genre that some friends of
mine have dubbed "Happy Noise"!
That project was called "Brølelabb & Bråkifeijs" it has a
direct link to the Holland/US scenes with Fucking Bastards
and Cock ESP.
We did some performances with that project in 2005/2006 and
every time we ended up getting really bruised and damaged.
That's the only time drinking allot before the gig (I
slugged a bottle of whiskey before that chocolate factory
gig) actually helps the performance - it gets much more
brutal because you don't think of the consequences of what
you're actually doing. I even smashed a laptop at that
chocolate factory gig, intentionally, but still. I don't
think there's many people who can say that they've done the
Sten Ove Toft and Ryfylke are touring the US as this goes to
press, and yet weirdly don't print their dates on the site
Maybe that will change.
So for the stout of heart, there follows a quick rundown
of some tasty bif morsels from Roggbif Records:
H5N1 - various RR008
A three track split album of ambient noise pieces from
Ryfylke collaborator Stian Skagen, Morton Norbye Halvorsen
(or MHH as he prefers) and Sten Ove Toft. The title takes it
name form the chemical composition of bird flu, the music
however, although varied over the three tracks, has a
coherence that suggests landscapes and weather and reminds
me of Brian Eno fro some reason.
Skagens chilly hisses, Halvorsens crackles that burst
surprisingly and delightfully into a few minutes of digital
disco and Tofts monumental grinding of tectonic plates,
makes for a strong and powerfull trio of tracks for people
with big Hi Fi speakers.
Daniel Menche RR014
This hour long piece of asynchronous percussion loops is a
powerful and by no means unlistenable onslaught to the
senses. This is heavy stuff and quite an ordeal to listen to
all in one go, especially when loud, but the slow and
gradual change through out the piece is really quite
mesmerizing and when the track ends and your room fills with
silence again, its quite a cathartic relief, like you got
your private space back after a gate crashed party. The
press release says its pure power tribal noise to
resonate the beasts, which it most certainly is. However
it goes on to say that one should not listen to this while
sitting down, I am not sure why exactly, as I was indeed
mostly sat down, and I'm just fine.
Waffelpung - Storesle M RR016
Another Toft project is Waffelpung, which could be a kind of
beginners guide to noise, spanning the many different sounds
and possibilities that could come under the noise banner,
from good 'ole harsh noise, some droney stuff, some almost
ethnic bell tones, field recordings, quite a large dollop of
glitch and tape collage, and most tracks coming in under a
cosy 4 minutes, which is really rather remarkable!
I love this record, especially "Mannevold"
which contains all of the above, some disorienting panning
and a kind of laid back, unhurried quality that I haven't
heard since some of the 12 inches by 23Skidoo which this
also slightly reminds me of. Although this mood is quickly
dispelled by "Craic's" ear splitting high pitched feedback
tones. You know, really every album should let some mice eat
a microphone as the final track, at least that's what it
Penumbra Booming - Eriksen Toft Utarm RR017
Another three splitter, starting with "Bolts
Unfolding" a hellish swirl
of crunchy digital noise and tone mangling from Jon Eriksen,
moving on with a Toft piece that almost imperceptibly builds
from silence to total chaos, to the orchestral drone from
Utarm a majestic and rather pompous guitar is joined by
piano, strings and crashing percussion all of which is
enveloped in a warm duvet of reverberation and echo.
The compilation is ended by an almost identical track as the
first from Jon Eriksen. I liked it the first time, this time
was a tad too Merzbow... even for me.
Roggbif... for those that were wondering stands for the
initials of the colours of the rainbow, in Norwegian. (Rød,
oransj, gull, grønn, blå, indigo, fiolett) which I suppose
makes sense, and I could make some lame arty farty reference
to all the colours of the spectrum and how when mixed make
white - white light - white heat - white noise but that's
not really going anywhere and anyway now I can't get that
horrible Pink Floyd Album cover out of my mind now... damn!