Serious Fun – An interview with Rave-Enka

The first time I met Ravi Brunsvik – coincidentally at the first 55 event – he laid down a challenge: “Can you write a review without using the letter ‘e’.” Quite an impossible task considering that in just two sentences I’ve used the letter eighteen times, but I keep it in the back of my mind when I sit down with the artist for a chat, hoping for some of that light-hearted banter to make it’s way into the interview. I find my wish comes true when Ravi opts for a liquid lunch and two beers are dispatched as we start talking about Rave-Enka, his new solo project.

There’s an innocent sense of humour behind everything Ravi approaches. His open personality and perpetual grin suggests there’s a joke or a pun always just around the corner, and it’s only natural that it should find its way into the moniker he picks for himself. “It’s a really stupid pun on an old folktale, the fox’s widow.” Brought to life during a ‘vorspiel’ (Norwegian for pre-party), Rave-Enka has obvious connotations with the artist’s given name, but more than that, it relays the inherent playful intent behind the artist and his new solo project. “I stuck with the name, because it doesn’t take itself too seriously and that’s kind of the foundation of the project – having fun with dance music.” Having fun with dance music is not an alien concept to Ravi and he’s had the most success from this point of view with the duo, De Fantastiske To.” We have a lot of fun too.” Ravi‘s creative outlet doesn’t feature an off switch however and when Marius Sommerfeldt is not available, the Oslo native makes busy work from idle hands, turning to his solo projects, the latest of which has taken the form of Rave-Enka precisely. “Most of the Rave-Enka stuff started with Marius being occupied with work and me not having to do anything during the day, except make music.” The hardware focussed project sees the producer have an opportunity to indulge a more of the experimental side of his personality, making music while getting to know some new pieces of equipment in his home studio. “I’m trying to figure out how to manipulate them and use it to make new sounds and soundscapes.

Two sides of his musical personality suddenly reveal itself, as a serious intent lurks behind the entertaining cloak, a wizard of Oz of sorts manipulating the jokes and the puns from his impressively industrial console. These two elements first came together on Rave-Enka’s debut EP Påfulgen, with a sound that drew on diverse influences through a personal concept, executed for the dance floor. “The concept was to make tracks that represented really great experiences I’ve had, playing in clubs. There was one that for me represents the eighties electro movement and there’s one that’s more geared towards acid house, while another is disco not taking itself too seriously.“ Hiding behind the humour again we find a serious intent behind the title track, drawing on Ravi’s adventurous aptitude as he forced a drum machine through a vocoder, an idea initially inspired by Herbie Hancock’s Rockit. “The vocoder can only play monophonic playback so it glitches out. I had a really fun time with that one.“ Fun derived from a serious experimental investment, which doesn’t necessarily come across in the catchy executions that they deliver. He’s turned all his focus away from the computer screen for this particular project and moved towards a series of machines, referred to as the dark trinity. Ravi carries the manuals with him on his phone at all times, immersed in the technology as he explores the boundaries of the machine and man in the context of electronic music. “Hopefully I’m using them in my own way but they also have their limitations and that’s influencing me too. It’s probably a give and take.”

Whether it’s as Rave-Enka or with De Fantastiske To, Ravi manages to infect the machine music with a distinct human personality and it’s something that stems from Ravi’s early musical development behind the piano. “It’s a great compositional tool. That’s where all my musical ideas come from and develop.” Playing the piano from a young age has certainly made a big impression on Ravi and I can hear his skill come through on a song like Folk og Ferie, the latest track to billow it’s way into the charts from De Fantastiske To. His skill has its roots in early Jazz influences handed down to him by his father and informed by an artist like Horris Silver. “He grooves, that’s what I like.” Influences like those are transported through to the machine age where Ravi launches into a groove from different starting points, through a drum machine, synthesiser and sampler, where his work as Rave-Enka has manifested its roots. “It’s more about the boxes these days.” He finds that he has to strip things down as Ravi the musician goes off on a tangent, but all of it comes down to energy, the energy that naturally occurs in club music and that’s the crux of what Rave-Enka is trying to be: “Something that gets me riled up in what I’m doing. It’s more of an emotional thing than the conceptual thing.“ In between discovering new technology and indulging his instincts as a musician, Ravi manages to find a balance that’s efficiently creative, and incredible accessible, all thanks to the cheery disposition he has at the heart of everything he approaches.

Two more beers come our way and after we both indulge our inner geek with the intricate features of his machines, I find Ravi the DJ is just as much a part of his personality as the artist. At fourteen he played his first gig for a soda and it’s something that has been a constant in his life ever since, as he often accommodates the DJ side of his personality when creative inspiration is distant. “For me they uphold the balance that makes me enjoy music.” The two even found a mutual outlet in the form of Armand Fra Halden, a dormant edit project. Ravi is an exceptionally efficient artist if anything and often mentions a new project during our talk. “I once had an idea where all the tracks would represent different illnesses. The whole idea was that I would have that particular illness while I was making the track.” That particular idea never left the conceptual realm, with the type investment required from the artist having some striking similarities to an idea like writing a review without the letter “e”.

It’s all in the spirit of fun for Ravi and it’s something he will hope to bring to life with his debut live show at 55 this week as Rave-Enka. There’s also a new EP that’s waiting for a record label to expose it to the world. “Most of it comes from acid house. I draw a lot of inspiration from what I perceive as the movement from that time.” Rave-Enka is not by any means a project that should deflect Ravi’s attention away from the success that is De Fantastiske To and “as long as there’s a home for it to exist in the world” he’ll pursue it. It’s just another outlet for Ravi to express himself, and he hopes that it keeps the element of fun at its core as he delves deeper into his machines. ”It’s pretty open-ended. Isn’t all music equal or something?”