Truancy Volume 204: Olof Dreijer

For our 204th Truancy Volume, we welcome a producer and DJ whose work we’ve seen bridge genres with pop influences over two decades under a multitude of aliases and projects. With his sister Karin, Olof Dreijer has released a plethora of music as The Knife, forming in 1999 from their then-home-studio in Stockholm, before going on to release their self-titled album on their own record label, Rabid Records, in 2001. Countless tours and a Jose Gonzalez cover later, The Knife had propelled themselves onto the worldwide stage and cemented themselves in pop history. Both eventually turning to their own solo projects, Olof went on to release a series of record as Oni Ahyun from 2008-2010, a project he had worked and self-released without much fanfare, yet were met with rave reviews. The third instalment provided a mesmerising 11-minute melodic masterpiece, that was unlike anything the producer had put together before, yet had all the elements of a Dreijer production. Very much like his remix of Kuar by Emmanuel Jal, OAR003 spiralled into sets all over.

In more recent times, he’s taken to recording and production for other artists, working with Houwaida Hedfi (after meeting in Tunisia), as well as music for Planningtorock and Zhala. We caught up with Olof to discuss the role of art and creativity in his childhood, his work with Paula Temple for her Decon/Recon project and his forthcoming album work with Houwaida Hedfi and the band Hiya wal alam. His Truancy Volume, filled with his own edits and mashups of Janet Jackson and Beyonce, is a straight-up fun 60-minute dance affair. Olof, who has previously exclaimed his love for dancing in past interviews, works through a multitude of genres aiming to cause that effect, ranging from artists such as DJ Mujava, DJ Lilocox, Paul Johnson, La Materialista, and of course, The Knife.

Hey Olof, we’re all long time fans here and have followed your music closely over the years, so it’s a real pleasure. Just going back a little, you’ve always seemed to prefer, be it as your music as The Knife or Olof, to illustrate your music through performance-based art pieces and videos on occasions, putting great thought into the visuals and how the audience may experience your work. This is a broad question, but can you tell us a little bit about the role of art (and possibly theatre) in your childhood? “I was building a lot out of wood from an early age, from like three or four. I think I started carving things out of bark and then I was building chairs and shelves and stuff already by the age of 10. My parents gave me a saw and a hammer when I was three. I thought I was gonna become a carpenter and was going to go to a carpenter high school, but ended up choosing a normal high school because it was closer to home. I still have this with me, I build stands and stuff in the studio. And then yeah I was also painting a lot at home also.”

You’ve been a DJ since the late nineties, DJing under DJ Coolof, your own name or Oni Ayhun. Your sets have always been described as pretty eclectic, but your taste may change over the years. What sort of music have you been enjoying playing out at the moment? “I’m really enjoying DJing again. I started making more edits and quick remixes I do for the DJ sets I’m playing. It makes it more fun. Also the DJing fills a purpose in the projects I’m working with, when I get a well paid gig it helps with funding the music lessons and band rehearsals I’m organising for refugees in Berlin.”

You’ve mentioned migration activism in the past. It seems it is still something you feel strongly about when I saw you were auctioning off three of the one of a kind instruments/art pieces used on stage, to raise money for The No One is Illegal Network charity. Do you find there have been any developments? The last time you were asked it seems no political parties in Sweden had it as a key issue. “The asylum rights system in Sweden is being dismantled and the borders are closing. It’s a super scary development. The migration board in Sweden is now using a teeth and knee bone age assessment method to determine the age of minors. It’s insane. They say it’s a security measure to not have adults amongst the minors. There has been a small amount of young adults who say they are under 18 in order to prevent deportation. But the outcome of this is that many young boys from Afghanistan are being deported to Kabul where they’re never been and don’t know anybody. It’s a very unsafe situation of course. This method of determining age is criticised by lawyers and doctors, saying its not at all a safe method but the authorities still use it.”

You contributed to the first instalment in Paula Temple’s ‘Decon/Recon’ series back in 2015, teaming up with samples contributed to you by Rroxymore, PlanningToRock and Temple herself. Can you tell us a little bit about how that came about? You’ve produced music for PlanningToRock before, but were you and Paula already friends, or were you just interested in her idea and approach to collaborating? “Well, me and Paula were roommates in Berlin. She had this great idea of creating this pool of sound to make tracks and present them in a way where you didn’t know who has done what, to play around with expectations and hierarchies. And then we did a small tour with it in Europe and also Mexico. It was really fun. We all made lots of new stuff for that tour and we jammed together, it turned out really well. It was like a soundsystem type of gig. We all had our computers and some outboard gear synced up and we could all play something anytime.”

What advice would you give to people who are trying to get into production in this day and age? What tools would you advise them to use? “I recommend using whatever instrument or gear you feel comfortable using and what ever you can afford. There is nothing right or wrong. You can make great music with free stuff. I use Ableton Live. But I started with Fruity Loops and Reason. Today you basically only need a computer and a mic. I recommend recording random stuff around you to create your own sounds. It’s a lot of fun.”

I’m interested in your work with Houwaida Hedfi and the band Hiya wal Âalam. From what I understand you two met through an organisation called ‘Media in Cooperation and Transition’. Can you tell us about that?  “Yeah, we’re working on finishing her album at the moment and it’s almost done. We worked together since 2012. I went to Tunis to help out with recording and production because a friend worked at MICT, an NGO that does cultural projects in North Africa. They were doing a record with female musicians in the region at the time. There I met Houwaida Hedfi, she needed some help producing her tracks. She does beautiful instrumental melodic and percussive music. She has a six piece band where I play also. We did a tour in Sweden and the US in 2015. Here’s a clip from our first gig together.”

What can you tell us about what went into doing this mix for us? “I basically tried to capture the different styles I play when I DJ. It has a few of the edits/quick remixes i did. Not sure what to call them.”

What can we expect from you in 2018 be it solo or in collaboration with anyone else? Any new music on the horizon that you can tell us about? “I’m working on that Houwaida/Hiya wal Âalam’s album and we’ll hopefully start touring that as soon as we release the album. Then I’m working on a few tracks for Swedish pop singer Zhala’s new album. And now I’m also doing a remix for Fever ray.”

Lastly, when was the last time you danced and what was the last thing to put a big smile on your face? “To be honest I dance a lot when working in the studio, I have a stand up table that is good for that. But I’ve been clubbing too little lately, it’s maybe been a month or two since I’ve been I’d say. I think that’s when a friend of mine played the remix of Dua Lipa and I heard that for the first time, that really put a smile on my face. That track is in the mix too.”

Tracklist:

Janet Jackson – Broken hearts heal (Olof’s 808+cuica edit)
Jammin’ The House Gerald – Black women (Club)
Fanga Maalem Abdallah Guinea – Dounya (Olof’s 808+JV1080 edit)
DJ Mujava – Mugwanti / Sgwejegweje
Alex Guesta – Voodoo (Tribal Mix)
La Materialista – Booty De Goma
DJ Safari – Tempo Do Xakazulu
Anti-G – Freak it out
DJ Lilocox – La Party
The Knife – Pass this on (Shaken up version)
DJ Lycox – Ferrero
Bleaker – Hype (Funk)
Paul Johnson -Feel My M.F. Bass
Beyonce – Formation + Dj Harlow Waxwork (Olof’s mashup)
Imaabs – Voy + Paul Marmota – Aire
Dj Slink & Sinjin Hawke – Raw
Dua Lipa – New Rules (Omulu remix)
MM – 9th Ritual (Lechuga Zafiro Remix)
Azalea Banks – Fuck up the fun
Ata Kak – Obaa Sima
CDM – Laranjas
Hadi – Jnno Ntto

Olof Dreijer: Facebook, Soundcloud, Resident Advisor

Photo by  Louise Enhörning

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