The Punkt festival is coming to Rich Mix. It’s the acclaimed live remix festival hailing from Norway that promises to blow your mind in Shoreditch on Saturday (February 11th). Founded 10 years ago by longtime friends and musicians Erik Honoré and Jan Bang, the festival will see precision noise trio Three Trapped Tigers perform alongside sound artists Mira Calix and Ståle Storløkken, as well as legendary trumpeter Arve Henriksen. Their performances will be remixed in real time.
It’s a superb and full-on night of improvised tunes where you are encouraged to participate. But don’t take our word for it – here’s what Brian Eno had to say about his experience performing at Punkt: “It’s the kind of festival I dreamt of before it existed. To connect things is culturally more interesting than to separate them.”
After the initial performances featuring all of the artists, you – the audience – will be invited upstairs to interact with two rooms of interpretations of the show, where live sampling and live electronics are mixed with visuals to create a ‘thrilling sonic and visual sensation’, Jan and Erik say.
The duo put down the festival’s roots in the Norwegian city of Kristiansand. And over the past decade it’s attracted musicians such as Eno, Laurie Anderson and David Sylvian to its stages. Speaking from Norway I quizzed the duo about their habit of taking risks, why sharing works better in their home country and just why you should part with a hard-earned £20 to take part in the fun…
How did you come up with the concept of the Punkt festival?
The concept was built on earlier work with live sampling in improvisational band situations – notably Jan’s experiences with Bugge Wesseltoft’s New Conception of Jazz where he sampled the other musicians and immediately fed the treated samples back into the mix. Then in 2000, we arranged a concert series based on us live-sampling and live-treating invited musicians in a more organized fashion.
After that, we decided to try this out in a larger format – in festival form, with concerts on one stage immediately remixed by other musicians/producers on another stage, giving the audiences an immediate interpretation of the concerts they had just heard. This became the annual Punkt Festival, arranged for the first time in 2005. Later, we also took this concept ‘on the road’ and have now visited approximately 25 cities in Europe, Asia and Canada.
Why Kristiansand? And do you think there is something intrinsically Norwegian about the participatory element of the festival?
Kristiansand is where we were born and where Jan still lives – and it’s where we could find funding and suitable venues for starting an ambitious project like Punkt. There is a strong tradition for volunteering in Norway, which is vital to such a project, and in a smaller city it is easier to build a network of collaborators – venues, the university, visual arts institutions etc.
Also, the ‘flat structure’ is in many ways typical for Norway (or at least it has been so far…), which is a good thing if you want to eliminate or at least reduce the division between artist, audience, volunteers, media – all the participants in a project of this kind.
This lack of hierarchy has also been important artistically, we believe. For instance, the number of very proficient sound and visual engineers is high for such a small country. This is in part due to the fact that technicians are regarded as artists, on the same level as the musicians. Also, Norwegian music education institutions have benefitted from good funding, and an increasing focus on improvisation/electronic/cross-genre music.
There is always an adrenalin factor when working in new environments, remixing new artists, meeting a new audience.
Are you looking forward to bringing Punkt to Rich Mix?
We’re looking forward to the combination of working with artists we already know (Three Trapped Tigers, who Brian Eno introduced us to when he guest-curated Punkt 2012) and interesting new acquaintances (Mira Calix).
Yes, there is always an adrenalin factor when working in new environments, remixing new artists, meeting a new audience. But this tightrope approach is at the core of the concept (starting with empty hard disks and having only 40 minutes to sample and prepare for a live remix performance), so it’s one of the things that make it interesting to us.
What’s been your favourite live performance/remix during the 10 years of Punkt?
The experiences we’ve had of curating and performing with some of our favourite musicians (Jon Hassell, David Sylvian, Brian Eno, Laurie Anderson, John Paul Jones and many others).
And, perhaps more importantly, some of the artistic results, especially when we’ve felt that we’ve succeeded in creating something new and unexpected. This – creating something that surprised also ourselves – has been the success of the Live Remix concept.
What’s the best reaction you’ve had to Punkt on tour? And the worst? Will you ever take it to North America?
Perhaps the best reactions have been in Germany where we’ve worked with, among others, the contemporary musicians Ensemble Modern. It is satisfying to work with something quite complex, when it seems to work both for fellow musicians and communicate in a very immediate and direct way with an audience.
The worst experiences have been when things haven’t quite worked, musically – or where there have been logistical/technical challenges. The places and venues shall remain unnamed…
And as for North America, we’ve arranged Punkt for the Montreal Jazz Festival, and there have been plans for going to the US. Bringing a large production from Norway to the US is costly, so we’ll have to see. (Insert wall/tax/isolationist joke here…)
You’ve always placed a big emphasis on good artists, sound and lights. Do you think live performances are becoming more important?
Yes, definitely, live performance – and expanding and experimenting with the live format – has become more important, and is Punkt’s main focus. But it is also a case of ‘cross-fertilisation’ – many live recordings from Punkt festivals in Kristiansand and abroad, including live remixes, have become foundations for album productions (Bang and Honoré solo albums, collaborative projects such as the “Uncommon Deities” album together with Sylvian etc), and likewise our studio production work for Arve Henriksen, Nils Petter Molvær etc have been expanded live at Punkt.
Brian Eno & Peter Schwalm at Punkt 2012
How did you two meet? How would you describe your partnership in getting Punkt to work? What drives you crazy about working with each other?
We met in Kristiansand when we were in our late teens, forming a duo and later a band before moving to Oslo to work separately, mainly as record producers, for some years. Then we teamed up again for the Punkt project and record productions, both our own projects and producing others. We seem to be a good mix of different talents and experience, completing each other.
When two individuals with distinctive ideas and ambitions work together, there will be tensions from time to time. But the fact that we’ve been working together for 30 years means that it hasn’t been critical.
You describe Punkt as being at the ‘core of a natural network’ – what does that mean?
We started Punkt aided by a core group of Norwegian musicians (Nils Petter Molvær, Eivind Aarset, Sidsel Endresen, Arve Henriksen), and through these a ‘family tree’ grew: Aarset introduced us to Hassell, Molvær introduced us to Sylvian, other international musicians were added through these contacts.
We’ve mostly worked outside of the normal agent-based system having direct contact with the artists. This means that we’ve been able to curate more projects exclusively for Punkt, and that we’ve built quite an extensive network when you consider that Punkt is a project of limited size and resources.
Why should anyone in London come see Punkt at Rich Mix?
We believe that great artists (Three Trapped Tigers featuring Ståle Storløkken, Mira Calix, Arve Henriksen) combined with the excitement of the immediate live remixes will give the audience an evening of experiences that are a bit different from what they normally see and hear.
Punkt comes to Rich Mix on Saturday February 11th
THE RICH MIX:
JAN & ERIK’S PUNKT PLAYLIST