Juno Plus Podcast 132: Rivet

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The ever-evolving Rivet hands in his Kess Kill Manifesto for his edition to our podcast series.

It’s pleasing to say the name Rivet has been gracing the pages of Juno Plus since 2011, however the Swedish DJ and producer whose real name is Mika Hallbäck has been involved in techno for much longer. Since the Malmö-based Hallbäck first emerged as Grovskopa around 2003, his artistic identity, be it through sound, name or appearance, has continuously evolved and right now he finds himself pushing new wave sounds through his newly launched label Kess Kill. Largely inspired by Neue Deutsche Welle band Laisons Dangereuses, whom the label’s name references, Hallbäck also cites music by Tommi Stumpff, Xao Seffcheque and Geile Tier as a driving force behind Kess Kill, a label he says, “has been in my mind for over a decade.”

Before reaching this point however, Hallbäck’s musical journey began with releases on hardened techno labels like Oscar Mulero’s Warm Up Recordings and Belgium’s Token to London’s Sect, with his track “Elements” included on Surgeon’s This Is For You Shits mix CD Warp released in 2007. Following a life changing motorcycle accident, Hallbäck ended his time as Grovskopa and took on a new masked identity as Adam Rivet, something Hallbäck self-effacingly remembers as a “failed strategy”, before doing away with the veil of anonymity altogether to settle on Rivet.

As simply Rivet, the music Hallbäck has released on Kontra-Musik and S.E.L.F has metamorphosed into something more oblique for the dancefloor than the aesthetic which first surfaced on Frozen Border sub-label Naked Index and Skudge Presents. As we found out in the interview below, there’s good reason for this continued transition. Hallbäck’s mix for Juno Plus, which he’s labelled a Kess Kill Manifesto, highlights the Swede’s evolutionary ways with his dedication to digging and trawling for music wherever it’s to be found taking precedence over his known dexterity behind the decks.

Hello Rivet, how are things?

I’m well thanks, keeping busy with Kess Kill. I had forgotten how much work it is to run a label. Or maybe it’s just become there’s a lot more work now in the age of constant connection. I’m very pleased as the first three releases are done and ready to hit plant on schedule! Still DJing obviously, as it’s my calling in life. Going to tour Asia in March/April which I’m equally excited and worried about. Other than that just try to spend as much time as possible with my partner and the dogs. We just moved to a new home by the sea, which is really lovely and calm.

Thanks for taking the time to put a podcast together for us! What was your motivation behind this particular selection of tracks?

It’s pretty different from my normal Rivet sets or podcasts as I approached it as a label statement or manifesto. It’s more about the tracklist and style than about mixing and technique, which is quite an unusual approach for me.

Where and how was it put together?

The first two takes were done traditionally, but I wasn’t happy about them. Though the spirit and vibe of the tracks are really coherent, the productions vary vastly. Some of the music is from late-‘70s DIY cassette releases while other is 2016 digital super productions.

When mixed it just didn’t translate that well into the label sound. So I ripped all the vinyl/tape stuff and made tweaks both on sound and arrangement in the studio. Then played it all on CDJs and Xone:92. I’ve also done some post-editing, which is normally a no-no. But yeah, this is more about the label than my DJing.

We’ve become fans of the Rivet Selects site, what was your motivation for starting that?

Thanks! Well I spend ridiculous time just digging for records, something that most people don’t have the possibility to do even if they wanted to. I get a huge kick out of sharing it, which I guess is also one of the drives of DJing.

I don’t really know what made me start the blog though. I’m quite impulse driven so I just thought of it and did it real quick. Didn’t really think anyone but my friends would read it, and that’s kind of enough incentive for me still.

Do you feel like there is an audience willing to hear DJs and producers discuss the music they play and collect in greater detail?

Generally I try to shut up about this as I don’t want to be a grumpy nostalgist, but since you ask I feel there’s some mutuality to the feeling.

I don’t really know if there is that much of that right now, which is also why I feel alienated with the current scene. I find that, especially techno, has become less about the music and more about the lifestyle and persona. DJs posting about airports and hotels instead of releases or gear and followers not reaching further than what is force fed through marketing.

I don’t know if it’s the fault of DJs/artists or about the way we connect today. I mean when I got into this I barely knew what my idols looked like, but that could also be circumstantial of the era. But we’ve been at this stage before, and like then it will fall back into its original form eventually.

!podcast coverYou had what seemed to be quite a serious motor cycle accident some years ago. How does something like that effect your life?

We could do this whole interview about this, and I would still not have told half of it. It was very serious, I spent over a year and half in hospital and six years later I still struggle with it daily. Literally everything changed over a day. A lot of things got a lot harder, like living with chronic pain as well as both physical and cognitive disabilities. It does force me to live at a much slower pace than a “normal” person, which is a strain on myself and the people around me, but I think and hope that I make up for being a better and more empathic person. I used to be a bit of a cunt if I’m honest. Now I’m a cherub.

Are you riding again?

Out of care and respect for my family – no. If I was alone – in a heartbeat.

Could you tell us about the years you made music as Grovskopa; what’s the story behind the project, the style of music you used to make under that alias, and why did it come to an end?

I started using the name Grovskopa in 1998, just two years after I started DJing. I was 16 at the time, so there wasn’t really any thought behind it. It was all very passion driven and DIY. Never really understood or even acknowledged the business/strategy aspect of it, which coupled with my slightly noisy and self-entitled personality was a somewhat successful character. But it came with a lot of unnecessary drama and negative energy.

The music was just the result of my influences: industrial music and Birmingham techno. I ended it after the accident, because I just felt it wasn’t who I was anymore. Especially not as a person. I wanted to do something different, not so much musically as presentation wise.

How do you feel about the music of Grovskopa now?

I think there were a few good records, but I think a lot of the stuff was just too DIY for its own good. Many nice tracks were lost to no or improper mastering and mixing. I am still proud of it though! It’s a very just representation of who I was. Honest ruckus from a frustrated kid.

And the mask you first wore as Rivet is now gone, how come?

Ha! That was a failed strategy. I thought it would be a way for me to do a restart without playing on my past accomplishments, but it was interpreted as a sales gimmick. In hindsight I don’t think it was necessary, but it’s also nothing I regret. I’m quite spotlight shy so it did feel nice having that “shield” on stage.

We recently highlighted the forming of your new label Kess Kill, what’s the reaction been like so far?

Very varied! Which I think is a very good sign. There’s nothing as worrying as indifference. A clique of people seem really really excited about it, which makes me all fuzzy! I’ve felt quite lonely about this passion for a very long time, but am slowly realizing there are peers. I know it’s going to be a struggle to present this music to some people, like the club crowd, but in the end I’m just trying to do something that I can dig up in 20 years and still be proud about doing.

Are your DJ sets and productions starting to move in line with the industrial, pre-techno aesthetic the label is reaching for?

Well in my opinion my music always had an industrial foundation. Maybe it’s not that apparent on the listener’s end, but for me it’s always felt like my native tongue. I can’t really see that my own music has moved towards the label sound though, and I’ve never made a track and thought “this could go on Kess Kill.” I can’t really tell a difference on my DJ sets either… But this label, or at least the concept of the label, has been in my mind for over a decade so maybe it’s always been there?

There hasn’t been much in the way of new material from you in the past year or so. Can we expect to hear more music emanating from your studio this year?

When my dad died very unexpectedly in 2014 I made Surun Aika EP and fell quite deep into a depression that rendered me rather useless for a long time. I feel better now, but unfortunately (?) I’m still a very emotion driven producer so when I felt out of sync with techno scene I also stopped making techno. In the last year and a half I’ve done mostly music built around melody/harmony instead of rhythm. Being a techno DJ that’s quite unfortunate, so I didn’t really feel it was anything I should present to labels.

Techno wise I did a few remixes and released some really old (1999-2008) material on Ritual Malmö Records. I’ve got more of that stuff coming soon.

I also do have some of that non techno music coming out, which just kind of happened out of nowhere. One tape release on my friend’s new label Nordisk Samtidsmusik, which is just me improvising with an arp and a sampler for 30 minutes on an October day. Also some really old industrial music (also from the late-‘90s) that a label contacted me about. I still don’t know where they heard it, or how they got the WAVs but I’m glad they do as I don’t! So 2016 will probably be the year Rivet starts Kess Kill and releases some weird tapes.

I don’t worry about that though, techno never left me, it’s just another healthy break.

kess kill white logo on black bg

Have you given much consideration to the idea of a Rivet album?

It’s been requested in the past, but it’s something that I’ve always shied away from as I still feel so far away from ready to present something so substantial. That’s all mind ghosts though, and I really really want to do it. Just need to grow the nads.

Having released on Skudge, Kontra-Musik and S.E.L.F. in recent years, how do you think the Swedish techno scene has been progressing lately?

As Grovskopa I always cursed Sweden for being “lagom”. It’s our national motto and can’t really be translated to English, it basically means “not much nor little, the appropriate”. That was what I felt our scene was like, and what it was doomed to never surpass. We had some parties, but the music was nearly always watered down light variations of the good stuff.

I was wrong, it did change! In the last few years it’s become so much more. Right now it feels vibrant, and I can go out weekly to hear something interesting. I’ve been playing here quite a bit in the last years, and I always have such a great time! The crowd is very polite/calm compared to most other countries, which would normally mean it’s boring, but it’s got a super strong presence that is magic. Love it.

Are there any rising producers or labels from Sweden you recommend we keep an eye out for?

I really like some of the current Swedish industrial/synth rooted acts such as Vanligt Folk, Celldöd, Dungeon Acid, Facit, Nimam Spregleda and Moon Wheel. Also like some of the rock and pop rooted music by This Is Head and anything by Dreijer siblings.The Swedish techno gang is also strong of course. Especially my mates (yeah a bit biased) Sev Dah, MRSK, Johanna Knutsson and Börft posse.

Your Bear Bile release for Kontra Musik helped raise awareness of Bear Bile Farming. Are we any closer to see that ghastly industry shut down?

I’d like to think so! I do follow the progress, but obviously I can’t be sure that what is reported represents the reality on the other side of the planet. I know doing an EP, wearing some t-shirt or whatever isn’t really “doing” something, but I think it makes a lot more sense than just doing another “Space The Darkside Beep” or “Look at me, book at me” EP. If I make one person stand up for the cause, I am proud! I plan to do more collaborations with WAP (f.k.a. WSPA) in the future.

Would you consider yourself an animal activist?

Can’t really take that credit. A shitty one if at all.

I try to look at it less black or white now, which I think a lot of “activists” tend not to. Doing one right is not as good as doing all things right, but it’s far better than doing no rights at all. Like with veganism a lot of people just say “I couldn’t live without meat”. Yeah OK, but what about eating every second meal without meat? Or just try eating organic meat. Most people could do that, and it would make a substantial change. We’re taught by society that we have no power of influence, but that’s bs.

Finally, we feel a bit bad your two puppers missed out on the best pets of 2015 list we ran, so can you introduce them for our readers?

Lilo is a five year old frenchie and quite the little diva, a teasing domina that takes no shit from anyone. She was my lifeline during my hardest periods of recovery which I think is why we’ve basically become one. There aren’t really words potent enough to describe how much she means to me… Which also scares the hell out of me.

Elna is only six months old and an English cocker. Her personality is quite the opposite of Lilo, overly friendly and happy go lucky. It’s early still so I am very excited to get to know her better. Lilo and Elna surprisingly make a great team,  they balance each other.

Dogs are people too, just a better kind.

No tracklisting was provided

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