Courtesy on Kulør, fast techno, and her 2019 plans
As the 'fast techno' scene in Copenhagen continues to gather speed, we catch up with Najaaraq Vestbirk AKA Courtesy, the DJ/producer who is leading the charge
Najaaraq Vestbirk, AKA Courtesy, is a Copenhagen-based DJ, producer and label owner. Formerly a member of the Apeiron DJ crew – a collective that thrust Copenhagen's dance music scene into the spotlight – Vestbirk has been at the forefront of the city's 140+ BPM techno scene. With Apeiron Crew's Mama Snake, she founded the renowned Ectotherm label, and her monthly Ectotherm radio show on NTS has become essential listening, as have her solo mixes. Last year, Vestbirk launched her own imprint Kulør (a way of saying colorful in Danish). We caught up with her ahead of her show in Glasgow this month to find out more about her plans for 2019.
The Skinny: We’re looking forward to seeing you play at The Berkeley Suite in Glasgow in January. What is your favourite experience of the Scottish clubbing scene to date?
Courtesy: I think my favorite Scottish clubbing experience was meeting and playing with the Glasgow-based DJ IDA. Besides being a lovely person, she’s such an incredible digger. We share a passion for going deep in the overlooked cheap crates and I’m constantly asking her to send me rips of the records she finds.
2018 was a huge year of touring for you. Is there a particular event or gig that stands out for you as a highlight?
It’s difficult to pick one thing when I’ve played almost 100 gigs this year, so I’m going to focus on something in the UK for this one: a really important part of touring for me is connecting with nice and interesting people, and Twitch in Belfast immediately made me feel at home. The night is run by a couple of smart guys with great taste for music who are doing a lot for their local scene.
You launched your new label Kulør last year and, in October, released Kulør 001, which Resident Advisor described as ‘an excellent primer on Copenhagen’s fast techno scene’. Was this your intention for the compilation?
Yes, I definitely wanted to show this particular part of the Copenhagen scene on Kulør 001, because what these guys are doing is really special. However, the label will feature music of various genres and tempos in the future.
How did you select the artists that appear on Kulør 001? Do you know them personally?
Yes, it’s people I know personally. I would actually never sign someone that I didn’t know in real life. Most of the artists on Kulør 001 were first featured on my old label Ectotherm, except for Sugar and Funeral Future, but these are both acts that I’ve wanted to work with for ages.
Was it challenging to go from the Ectotherm label, which you co-ran with Mama Snake, to launching a new label by yourself?
The biggest challenge, but also biggest reward, has been to trust myself in my creative decisions. It definitely felt less risky to spread the responsibility out over two people, but starting this new project on my own, I realized how liberating it is to trust myself and be allowed to pursue all these ideas I’ve been sitting on for ages.
The fast techno scene seems to be keen to introduce elements of trance back into dance music. How do you think trance fits in with techno today?
For some time now, it’s been hard to find interesting techno with a splash of colour, and I honestly just think people have been craving smart drum programming with big bold melodies, which they’re getting from Copenhagen.
If we were to visit Copenhagen, where are the best clubs and parties we should experience?
The record store Percy hosts events, featuring a lot of interesting stuff in the more challenging, non-140 bpm side of club music. Otherwise, the Fast Forward Productions warehouse parties are an obvious choice for getting the full-on Copenhagen techno experience.
Finally, what are your plans for 2019?
My main focus for 2019 is Kulør. I have a number of different art projects which I will use that platform to execute. Besides that, I’m excited about what is looking like a really busy year of DJing and going back to school to start a BA in psychology this summer.
Courtesy & Silver Dollar Club, The Berkeley Suite, Glasgow, 18 Jan