"Creativity is for me always based on expressing what I think and feel at any given moment"
Mental Overdrive is the moniker Norwegian artist and producer Per Martinsen has released most of his electronic music output under, from early industrial techno through legendary Belgian techno label R&S Records back in 1990, through a variation of dancefloor friendly beats on imprints such as Smalltown Supersound, Discfunction, Full Pupp, Ploink, Music Man and his own Love OD Communications.
He is also known for his collaborations with other artists and composers. In addition he has written a number of film scores and worked with projects exploring other areas of the arts through a multitude of mediums.
However, the EP de MUSAR Records from Mental Overdrive is likely the most prominent and distinctive to date, a collaboration between one of Norway's most innovative cosmic house and techno icons alongside musicians Chiwoniso Maraire and Anania Ngoliga. It's a wonderful meeting of worlds and taste, blending the roots between the traditional heritage of Tanzania with experimental electronics. Such a collaboration is unprecedented and is truly indicative of international musical relations and crossover.
Now it's 30 years since their legendary album 1200 AD on R&S Records. We take the opportunity to talk to him about his career, projects and, above all, about music.
Hi Per! Where can we find you right now? How is your day so far?
Hi, I’m at my office, which is in my house. Have gone through a few emails and followed up on some projects I’m involved in. About to walk over to my studio which is located 5 mins down the road.
Has the COVID19 pandemic affected you creatively?
Combined with the longest winter since 1958 here (there’s still lots of snow in the mountains), I’ve found these last few months quite inspiring. Maybe not as much in a good way as in a necessary way. Slowing down on travelling and external distractions has made it possible to go more in depth and contemplate on serious issues, something I see reflected all around the world. Creativity is for me always based on expressing what I think and feel at any given moment, so it’s the same routine but with a different focus I guess.
Can you please share with us how is the situation where you live (Tromso, Norway)? and how it affect the local music industry?
The location I’m at is a bit isolated already, so life has been pretty near normal for me. My daily routine is basically all about my family, the studio and writing. I had some festival gigs planned for May-August that were cancelled, but will fly down to Oslo next weekend to play live as Norway is now opening up for gatherings up to 200 people again.
Your first ever Mental Overdrive release (‘12000 AD’ on R&S Records) turns 30 this year. How do you feel about it ?
Well, I’ve had young followers commenting “You’ve made music longer than I’ve been alive!”, which I find both satisfying and a bit shocking. I guess I feel grateful that I still do what I set out to do as a teenager, and that the journey has taken me through some very interesting experiences.
Ever you thought ‘12000 AD’ be marked as a classic release that will still be played after 30 years and influenced generations?
No, definitely not. It was all about living in the moment when I made those early tracks, and I was more concerned if anyone would play it in the clubs next weekend.
Which sounds were you interested in back then? What inspired you?
I grew up with post-punk, synth pop and industrial music, so musically for me it was about integrating my formative inspiration with what happened in electronic dance music at the time. I was also very preoccupied with the future, as the transition from the late eighties/early nineties presented some technological visions that we take for granted today, like the online world. I read all I could find on relevant sci-fi, fringe science and metaphysical philosophy to try and imagine a new world.
Since then, how much has your sound changed? In which sounds you are interested these days?
I guess my sound has changed with my journey, both through my personal development but also with the different social settings I’ve found myself in. After I moved to Oslo in the early nineties and the bigger rave scenes died out a bit there, we focused on small clubs and warmer and more eclectic sounds. My own output has been a response to this development. Of late my focus has been on more experimental and abstract sounds and less dance music.
What did you learn from working with R&S Records? Is R&S Records has any affects on your sound?
The main thing I learned from R&S was the cooperation aspect that Renaat and Sabine championed, both as a duo running the label, but also in the way that they would throw a few of us young producers into the studio to make tracks together. I learned a lot from those working situations both technically production-wise as well as on the topic of group dynamics. I think all of us artists that were signed to the label early on influenced each other in some way, as did Renaat’s enthusiasm when anyone made a killer track.
Another anniversary celebration, is your label, ‘Love OD Communications’ that turns 25 this year. Does it seem like yesterday you created it?
Yes and no. At times it feels like ages ago, but sometimes when I find myself in similar situations as when I started out, it doesn’t seem that long ago.
What inspired you to create a label?
The label has always been an on and off activity, as I only set it up as a channel for dropping releases that couldn’t find a home elsewhere, including some of my own stuff.
But I also liked the idea of curating music and present it in a certain way, as when I grew up making compilation tapes for my friends.
What’s the most satisfying and unsatisfying thing about running a label?
The most satisfying aspect is taking part in the entire creative process surrounding a release, and the worst part is all the administrative details.
Are there any specific sounds you are interested ‘Love OD Communications’ to represent?
I would like it to be a testimony to my own changing musical taste and a way to present what I find currently interesting, as independent of musical trends as possible but still relevant to the current timeframe.
Since then, how much has the sound of your label changed?
I think it’s kind of going in circles a bit, as some of my planned releases now are moving into more similar landscapes as I started out in; IDM and ambient sounds rather than pure dancefloor food.
What is your opinion and differences between the dance music scene back then and nowadays?
I think it must be that back then we all looked into the future, but now some look into the past.
What are your current favourite music you would recommend us to listen to?
Five random picks from my Bandcamp listening favourites over the last couple of months:
Toyota Vangelis - Vyparit Se
Hydropsyche - Scree EP
Benjamin Mørk - Mechanical Piano
Petter Flaten Eilertsen - Pentagramophone
The Veltron Transmissions - The Veltron Transmissions
What are your future plans?
I’m setting out on a road trip in July with the whole family, combining camping and trekking with playing gigs in small venues around Northern Norway. I also have a track coming on a Full Pupp anniversary release on July 3rd. Apart from that I’m working on an artistic research project that will be finished in the autumn of 2021.