Loke Rahbek is a beast of a man in the greatest sense. Founder of Danish label Posh Isolation—home of some of the most emotional cosmic nihilism to ever grace our ears—and performing with gut-wrenching noise duo Damien Dubrovnik, the more introspective Croatian Amor, post-punk popstars Lust For Youth and myriad other monikers, he’s on the front line of sonic disturbance. In an exclusive first look at what’s inside the upcoming issue of interdisciplinary culture magazine Nero Journal, founder Sophie Rotas conversed with Rahbek about the changing face of rave culture, the importance of adaptability and that most elusive of human emotions—happiness.
Sophia Rotas: Are you happy?
Loke Rahbek: Sometimes. I would say I’m doing very well on that account. I am good at being happy. It’s something you can train.
SR: Interesting. How do you do that for yourself? Just a decision?
LR: It’s a decision, yes. And it’s also about creating a platform. And it’s about focus. I mean, I don’t say I’m always happy. But my percentage is pretty good.
SR: But what things do you focus on?
LR: Well that depends on where I am. Right now it’s easy ‘cause it’s so bright and the flowers are in bloom. I sit in my studio. It’s not very big, but I feel I have it decorated nicely. I drink sparkling water because it creates a sensation in your mouth and nose.
I read a few pages of the book I am reading. I text my lover compliments that I know she’ll read when she wakes up. I see a few friends and sit outside for a while, and I hear them laugh. I know that I have to work first before I can enjoy other things, so I make sure to always do that early in the day. If I do it the other way around I become antsy.
I very much enjoy when not all is said.
SR: Restraint has to be apparent in our lives, even if we are free to do anything.
LR: Restraint is important. And discipline is important. And love is important. And beauty. If we want to be happy.
SR: Honestly, happiness was never my priority.
LR: What greater goal is there?
SR: Knowledge, definitely. And excitement.
LR:I think I have much bigger capacity for both if I am happy, though. That’s the thing. These are things that are generally frowned upon for some odd reason. People talk about their depressions all the time.
SR: You mean just enjoying moments isn’t perceived as being productive enough? Well, being jaded is fashionable, depression is not.
LR: Well, of course we are not interested in being circus clowns. But being high spirited…I think it makes you capable of seeing more of the world.
SR: And more capable of loving humans.
LR:Yes, that’s the key point. Then we can get some really good stuff going. I’d argue that working on art is never a waste of time. I argue that out of necessity, because maybe I’m afraid it’s not true. I would say it’s the refinement of the senses and the emotions.
LR: Yes, exactly. Our history of the world has been authored by selfish artists. It’s time to share the stage with some new voices.
SR: And so it cannot be solely about perpetuating social envy.
LR: Or maybe it won’t disappear but change. The audience is getting too clever.
SR: This means you are trusting people.
LR: Yes, trust is a key. I did a project years ago called Wild Palms that was about trust. And it continues with this new work in a different form. Share the stage, that’s what we need.
The performance for Berlin Atonal is what I see the project to be now. It’s work I have played with for a while presented in different forms. I think it’s as done as I imagine it can be right now. But these things change. The record was finished last year, and there is still a month until the release.
What I perform now is still the same record, but it’s a new version. What it sounds like today evolved a lot.
I want the things to be adaptable—to keep moving. I dream that we can have a sphere where we work with living things. It’s still being formulated, but making music only to be released physically, putting out records and buying them, is like trophy hunting too often. Like, when you finally get them, they are dead and you hang them on your wall, like the head of a rare animal. Is there a way to keep the music in the wild, where the wild things are? I think so, the Internet is a great place for a safari.
I remember reading an interview with Tobias Whybe from when he did his first EP. I remember he said something like, “It didn’t feel important until then to become physical.” That had been my work method always. Make a piece, design a cover, come up with the frame. Release, go, action.
It’s there. It’s easy to weigh and measure. And you feel like you’ve done something. But he got me thinking. Maybe there are other ways to think about these things and go about the process. This is not me saying that we shouldn’t make records anymore, but I do find the whole online mixtape culture wildly appealing. All of a sudden it’s not so important who is behind what and what their angle is. It’s about a sum, a collection, an experience and one that is collective in its presentation and its consumption. More like a rave than a rock show.
SR: You could decentralize the stage as a space itself.
LR: Yes, but we still want the art to be good.
SR: It could be an abstract form of stage diving. I mean the question is about letting go of control.
LR: That’s a good analogy. But people who are entirely out of control are so vulgar. I like grotesque, but I don’t like vulgarity.
Nothing is wrong with spending a night dancing in a club. But can that change the world? I think it could if it was combined with a higher level of participation.
It’s important in my current work that I’m basically just presenting these questions that I ask myself. And I think that is a healthier way to debate.—
Under Croatian Amor, Loke Rahbek will perform this Saturday August 27th at Berlin’s Atonal Festival. Don’t miss it—it will turn you inside out.
Photo: Ira Chernova. Art direction: Christine Kohler.