Partytime in Interzone: Axel Boman at Huntleys & Palmers

Axel Boman joins a long list of esteemed international guests hosted by Huntleys & Palmers over their seven year run. Ahead of his appearance as Talaboman alongside John Talabot, the Swede shares experiences from his extensive travels

Feature by Xavier Boucherat | 05 Dec 2014
  • Axel Boman

In 1981, Bollywood composer Charanjit Singh picked up the newly released TB-303 Bassline. The Roland Corporation’s iconic monosynth was originally marketed to studios and session players as an accompaniment tool, designed to reproduce the sound of a bass guitar. Singh was one of the first to repurpose the machine, producing what some argue are the earliest examples of acid house. Released in 1982, 10 Ragas to a Disco Beat predates Phuture’s Acid Trax by five years and Chip E’s Jack Trax by three.

Although well received, the record was a commercial failure, and would likely have drifted into obscurity were it not for a chance discovery that led to a re-release in 2010. Singh’s name rang out, and in 2012 he was brought to the UK to perform.

The resulting club night was a truly surreal and magnificent experience. Picture yourself in a sweaty basement in Glasgow. At the centre of the room stands an elderly man, impeccably dressed, behind a table of vintage synths. He calmly refers to a battered Moleskin, and tinkers with his machines. Around him, some hundred roaring kids are losing their shit, hanging on every thud of the 808.

Such scenes were only made possible by the Glasgow born Huntleys & Palmers Audio Club, who brought Singh to the UK as part of their global themed residency Highlife, now sadly departed to London. The label and promoter are now approaching their seventh birthday, and in that time they’ve brought us Mexico’s Rebolledo, Raoul K from the Ivory Coast, Chile’s Matias Aguayo, and a host of forward-thinking homegrown talent too.

They celebrate their birthday this month at the Art School, with a line-up featuring perhaps the happiest man in house and techno, Axel Boman. Axel’s been DJing in Stockholm for years where he runs his ‘sideways house’ label Studio Barnhus with Kornel Kovacs and Petter (“We release very nice records by ourselves and friends!” says a little note on the Soundcloud. Cute, no?)

“I’m super excited to see the Art School!” he squeals down the phone from his native Sweden. “I was an art student once! I really can’t wait to see the building. I heard there was a fire?!”

Axel’s no stranger to Glasgow. He insists Scots and Swedes understand each other perfectly – underdogs together, far from the centres of power and free to do what they like. Scottish people, he feels, share an understanding of the Law of Jante, which for the uninformed is the feel-good notion that individual success is basically a load of crap, and nothing to be particularly proud of. “That’s the Swedish way,” he explains laughing; “a gold medal winner telling you ‘Who, me? No no, I’m not so great.’ We can always do better. It’s really dark.”

Playing for foreign crowds does throw the odd curveball however. Sweden’s zero-tolerance approach to drug use means Axel occasionally finding himself at a loss when dealing with a room full of wide-eyed ravers. “Coming from Sweden, it’s like, ‘Great, what do I do now?’” he asks. “How do you please these gurners? What the hell do you guys want from me?!” 

Like his hosts at Huntleys and Palmers though, Axel’s well-travelled, having played as far afield as Japan. The guy knows all about switching it up for different audiences.

“I remember Adam Breyer, a legendary Swedish techno DJ, telling me once, ‘If you ever play in Holland, never, ever play a song with a break more than thirty seconds long,’ and it’s so true! They need that kick drum continuously – that doof-doof-doof, or they just all leave the floor!”

This goes on. Italian clubs are still home to a super macho culture. Paris clubs are full of angry young men. “You’ve got all these dudes on the floor,” he exclaims, “and when you come from super-gender equal Sweden it can be a little shocking! It’s like, you guys are still in the 1940s! That’s great!”

What’s behind these variations in the social dynamic of the club? Simple, says Axel. Material conditions. Specifically, eccies, and how many people are on them. “A lot of this music is essentially a reaction to drugs. I’ve noticed a few ketamine tracks out there for example! Ketamine! You can see how it’s been introduced.”

This intense desire to involve himself internationally makes Axel a fitting headliner for the Huntleys & Palmers party, whose curiosity and open mindedness will with any luck continue to provide us with gems from all corners of the planet. Cheers guys, happy birthday! 

Axel performs with John Talabot as Talaboman at the Art School, 19 December, with support from Auntie Flo and Esa