By: Saria Wail
What if we turned Trondheim into a big music festival for three days? If the idea sounds exciting, you’ll love Trondheim Calling! This February, the city opens up its many arenas to host 70 concerts with up-and-coming bands and artists of all genres, attracting a number of international A&R reps. With a festival ticket in-hand you’re free to explore a city full of new music! Trondheim Calling emphasises young artists about to break-through, and pride themselves on their many previous discoveries, such as Highasakite, Unge Ferrari, and Combos.
Saria from The List caught up with Trondheim Calling’s founder Thomas Ryjord to get his take on what we need to do to support young musicians and the growing music industry in Trondheim and their need for support.
Saria Wail: Thomas, word on the street is that you’re a pretty significant driver in professionalising the music industry in Trondheim. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Foto: Thomas Ryjord
Thomas: Music has always been a big part of my life. When I was like 15, 16 I started my first band. When I became an adult, I moved out and our band started booking our own shows and then eventually our own tours. We first started in Germany and then expanded across Europe. We were on a mission to start our own company. So, I started a degree master’s degree in music and then in 2006, I got caught up in projects when I was six months away from delivering my thesis, I thought: ‘screw it, I’m not delivering!’
Saria Wail: It sounds like you’ve been in the scene for a good many years, what kind of changes have you witnessed?
Thomas: Trondheim has always been a city that has a lot of very strong, and big alternative, but divided, pockets of music scenes. There was a sort of idealism in music, as you can see with groups like UFFA. Trondheim has really always been a place where you can start your own thing. And that’s what we did! Subculture has dominated the music industry, and while that has an appeal, it offered very little room for professionalism. During the past years musicians and related businesses have been working together, popping up, generally becoming more professional.
Saria Wail: How do we keep these young artists, like you feature in Trondheim Calling, in Trondheim?
Thomas: We lose a lot of the people who come to Trondheim to study. If we have all these people who come to study and everything from jazz tuba to classical piano, we have that great art school, and other universities in Northern Trøndelag, and folkehøyskoler. These have educated so many musicians. I think it is healthy that people born and raised here go and travel, experience, network, but we have a problem when people never want to move back. All these talented people, in different creative ways, engineers and architects also, if people only want to stay here for limited amount of time, we have failed. We have not tapped into the full potential. If everyone making decisions on top, like the politicians and businesses working with city development and housing, if they don’t understand that importance, then you get quite flat society. This is bad for diversity and bad for genre diversity. Trondheim is big for rock and jazz. We suck for hip-hop and electronica. At Trondheim Calling, we try to do our part, but we have such a big job and it is possible. If we manage to let all those different musical, creative communities bloom, it would be a more interesting town. You don’t have to use a lot of marketing money for it, because word-of-mouth spread. Trondheim Calling, playing in a band or doing music in Trøndelag, we haven’t managed to include immigrants in that sense. All these big festivals are quite white, for lack of a better word. Trondheim Calling does not recognize the city for the all the forces that is. Hip-hop is meant to be in opposition to a lot of things. It becomes popular and then becomes a business. Rock and pop development – the aim from day one is business.
Foto: Reb Moe
Saria: A lot of people who come to Trondheim Calling are young. You see only a few older people who are hard rock fans who have been there since day one since this is the new rock scene but everyone is younger, so it is nice to see that Trondheim Calling has grown. I have been once. It was beautiful for me, I thought there were not a lot of foreigners on-stage.
Thomas: Or women.
Saria Wail: Exactly! My next question is - the female artistry in Trondheim – no one is like here I am and this is what I am doing! Where are the women, why do you think that is?
Thomas: We have had that discussion a lot of times and the general opinion in the music industry or amongst festivals on gender balance in programs... Our take is that to get a strong, vibrant community of female artists in Trondheim, you need someone to look up to and break down doors. It is our job to help break down those doors. The #metoo movement has pushed something too, it is a positive start. If you want to survive the future as a festival or business, you can’t be like that, it isn’t acceptable. It is the same as including different immigrant communities. You have to open the door before you see the results, you can’t see the results first. One question I get a lot about Trondheim Calling is why do you open up for bands from outside Trøndelag? The reason is because Trondheim Calling is a platform, and it is a starting platform. As an artist, you have to interact with your audience, with other artists, and with a lot of other businesses. This goes for several of the biggest hits in the last ten years, they were written by teams. You have to collaborate. You can’t keep it here and one day you will be famous.
Saria Wail: That is what Trondheim Calling is in a lot of ways. They get to meet up together and talk and discuss tracks and collaborating. And you have the press passes so journalists can interact too. Everybody from different areas that are all interested in this particular thing are all there and feed off of each other’s energies. When you started Trondheim Calling, what was your goal and do you feel like you have reached your goal?
Thomas: When we started Trondheim Calling, I had been working with Trondheim music for some years. The other guys involved was the same. We had the problem that music from Trondheim wasn’t cool from an outsider perspective. A lot of bands would hide that they were from Trondheim because it was negative. That was a reason for a main initiative. It wasn’t cool to work in the music industry or to be an artist. That is not a problem anymore. You have one of the coolest bands, Pom Poko, they are now on a British label, they have one of the best agents in Europe and are really outspoken about Trondheim... I am glad to see that we on our 10-year anniversary have a lot of the same audience that we had the first year that are still supporting the idea to see new music. A lot are still playing too, but with different bands. We have a lot of new audience, younger audience. That gives me hope that we can keep doing this. I think it is still a necessity to work on the platform. That can be our contribution to this, to make this platform that can be a career changer for some bands. When we get so many people to come in and present them in the right environment. Our region gets a lot back, it is an effective use of money. I still see that we have some things from the last years – gender balance, being aware that some genres are under-represented and need to work on how to include them, and being young at heart even though I am on my way to not being young anymore. The first thing we have to remember is, to listen.
Murder Maids, Foto: Lasse Amundsen
"My idea of Trondheim Calling is just a mirror of everything that is happening and to amplify. That is what has made us succeed in the terms we have. I don’t have an agenda in this or want to push forward any one genre or prove anything, I just want to amplify."
Pop-out conclusion: If you want to dive deeper into the music industry, the day program features talks and panels with artists, producers and culture-organizers of all sorts. Learn what Covid was like for musicians, get a better understanding of stage lighting design, or learn to build your own guitar pedals (and bring your new creation home to play with!).
Take a chance on young music and make sure you have a unique and intense festival experience to look forward to in 2023! Remember the dates: February 9 – 11!