Magnus is of a formidable stature, looming over the average man with the striking features of a modern day Viking. His red bushy beard hides a friendly personality and unless you’ve had the opportunity to meet him, his soft-spoken demeanour makes it difficult to glimpse what lies beneath the rough exterior. Born and bred in Oslo, Magnus Sheenan grew up sharing a classroom with the infamous criminal, David Tosca – the man responsible fro stealing Munch’s Scream in 2005. “He was the president of the Chess club while I was there.” Magnus delivers the anecdote with a hearty laugh as he takes a sip of his beer. We’re sitting outside Blå, where he is about to play a warm up set as the first rays of the summer season start filling the Norwegian skyline. “That school is kinda of known for its criminals. They moved the bad kids to other schools, to try and save the school’s reputation.” But while his classmates were honing their skills for a life of criminal intent, Magnus set his sites on that most notorious institution of nocturnal activity, the nightclub. Through the music of Kenny Larkin, Carl Craig and DJ Harvey, Magnus found an affinity with club music, and sought career guidance from the turntables. Instead of following in the footsteps of his fellow delinquent scholars, Magnus Sheenan found an affinity with dance music and set out on a path as a DJ in the wake of the demise of club culture in his hometown.
Disco courses through his veins
At the end of the nineties, the authorities in Oslo had come to the conclusion that the club was nothing but a den of inequity for drug culture, and had made a concerted and successful effort to eradicate it completely from the face of the city. “We had to push the reset button. The people had to find their way again and inspiration came from many places.” What eventually rose from the ashes and drew on as many influences as possible was Disco. “Disco is the Blueprint. It has affected a lot of electronic music styles and everything is connected to it.” It suited the context of Norway where music was still an essential part of nightlife but couldn’t operate on the grand stage anymore. Try as they may, the authorities could never silence the music however and Disco became the outlet for many like Magnus, who lived and breathed the art form. It could be enjoyed in the context of everything from a bar to a venue and be approached by any generation, always instilling the same level of veneration by any audience with a love for a beat and a melody. “Disco has a time-less feel” and it soon became the essence of the music Magnus was to produce too. Alongside Danny “BlackBelt” Andersen and Kalle Risaan Sandaas, Magnus took his first steps into production with Kriss Mitt Hjerte as one third of Magnus, Kalle and Daniel. It featured on Prins Thomas’ precursor to Full Pupp, Tamburin, and made one of the very first impressions on Oslo’s newly established “space disco” scene. Alongside the aforementioned “Prins” Thomas Moen Hermansen and Blackbelt Andersen, Magnus carved out a very unique era for electronic music in Oslo, one that has stood the test of time. “If I can hop into my Delorean and punch in a destination, five years from now, I want my music to have the same effect.” Cue Magnus, Kalle and Daniel today, a mere skip and a hop for the Delorean, and you’ll be confronted with music that is ageless in the true sense of the word. Lo-Fi electronic machines banging out pop-friendly melodies in disco arrangements have been with us since the seventies and although the sonic elements do often contemporise, the underlining appeal is always universal. Staying true to this ideal Magnus eventually embarked on a solo career brandishing the International moniker with Komstisk. One of the first releases on Thomas’ then newly established Full Pupp label, it brims with the same disco eccentricities of Magnus, Kalle and Daniel, with Lo-Fi synths and syncopated hi-hats taking the reigns, but at the same time, there’s something more mature about his first solo 12”. There’s more of an evident focus on the club, with simple melodic refrains doing well not to distract from the infectious rhythms pulsing through the beat and bass. Magnus’ sonic textures lie in the gritty adventurous end of disco where the likes Black Devil Disco Club and Luke Vibert’s Kerrier District have taken up residence, and amongst the other producers from his hometown it has made Magnus a unique voice on the scene.
The musical auteur
Back at Blå, Magnus takes up his position behind the decks for his regular Full Pupp residency. Øyvind Morken’s Junglerotikk is playing on one deck while he cues up some obscure Dutch artist whose name now escapes me. Magnus’ eclectic taste shines through his record collection, but it’s when we turn to his upcoming record that I get to know more of the diverse selections which influence the artist. Keeping much under his hat while he is still prepping the album, Magnus tells me that it’s heavily influenced by the music of his youth. “I went back to the techno from my early days.” Returning to the music that had encouraged his career path in the first place, Magnus takes his inspiration from the likes of LFO and Warp for an album that’s been two years in the making. But “a leopard can’t change its spots“ and Magnus has taken these early inspirations and “synergised” it with Disco in something of a new sonic palette for the artist. It’s nu-disco as new disco. “Disco is the red thread that runs through it all” and while the early influences will be evidently clear on the release, the album will still carry Magnus’ distinct nod to disco pioneers like Gino Soccio. It’s in their spirit that he has put his efforts into a live show. I catch him a few weeks earlier as Magnus International, live performer, in front of a dedicated crowd at Musikkfest Oslo. The air is electric at Jæger with Magnus rinsing everything out of the two midi controllers, intertwining nuggets from his musical discography with some new material to feature on the album. The end of the set comes to soon with a live remix of fellow discoteer Sex Judas and shows some of Magnus’ spots adapting once again to the people that remain the strongest influence in his music and career, his peers.
With friends like these
There’s a sense of community in and around the space disco scene that is quite evident from the moment you step into it. Magnus’ beginnings have their roots firmly in the ground alongside people like Prins Thomas and Blackbelt Andersen as fundamental parts of the Full Pupp family. But these are not mere loose acquaintances, they are close friendships forged in the context of a crumbling nightlife culture and a shared passion for music. We’re back at Jæger a few weeks later, and Magnus is under some pressure to come up with a solid name for his new album, but it rarely shows as he eases back into the swinging seat with a beer in hand. He’s enlisted the help of ex-bandmate Kalle, but it soon becomes evident that they won’t get anything done as something of a drinking session ensues. Magnus’ reedy chuckle is often the instigator for a rapturous uproar from the table as friend, and Jæger resident Kaman Leung, disrupts the serious focus with one ridiculous proposal after the next. It’s with friends like these that the disco community takes ages to get anything done in Oslo, but also the reason it’s still very much alive. This spirit is what makes it the success it’s been over the years and there’s no finer example of it than Magnus International.
*Magnus International will be playing this Friday at 55