Down a cobbled street in the heart of Copenhagen’s Nørrebro district lies Æter Records. Its proud owner, Mikkel, trawls through piles of vinyl hunting out the next track to play.
As we climb down the steps of this music shrine, heavy percussion spins on a record player – ‘Raids On The Unspeakable’ by Kumiko Takara, Massimo Pupillo and Pills Nilssen-Love. Since it was recorded in a tiny club in Copenhagen and only 300 copies were made (each vinyl cover screen printed by hand), it’s unlikely you’ll hear it anywhere else. This isn’t music you’ll hear on the radio, nor is it easily downloadable. And it’s all the better for it. Retro arcade games beam a heady orange glow towards the back of the shop, another nostalgic reminder of a time when personal computers weren’t the primary means of entertainment. We chatted with Mikkel to find out what it’s like running such a place.
What’s so important about independent record stores?
A record store shouldn’t just be somewhere you go to buy music. It’s somewhere you should be able to hang out and drink coffee – like being in someone’s living room. You can just come down here, play some computer games and talk about music for a long time. It would be a great shame if this kind of thing dies.
I don’t really like the music industry – I think the music industry sucks – a lot of people talking shit about each other. But when you do it on this level, everybody is really nice and really friendly.
Why did you open Æter Records?
I like electronic experimental music and for a while in Copenhagen you couldn’t get that. I thought I couldn’t live in a city where there wasn’t a record store that would sell that type of music.
I’m not against the Internet or anything new, but I think it’s important that there are still places where you can meet up in person. Æter Records provides a space to listen and discuss music at a personal level.
How do you discover new music?
I find out about different music mostly through reading reviews. A lot of local people come down with their records asking me to sell them and sometimes I take them on.
What do you think about the Danish music scene?
It seems like the Copenhagen independent scene is doing really well right now – it’s really nice to be part of that too because 10 years ago everybody in Denmark wanted to sound like some famous English or American band. Now it seems like people have a lot more of a personal approach to it and do their own thing. Sometimes it’s really dark and Scandinavian and sometimes it’s really silly and crazy…but they have their own approach.
What’s the best gig you’ve ever been to?
That’s a very hard one to answer. I love going to see bands and live music in small intimate venues. I saw Animal Collective play here a long time ago and it was great – seeing them play the big venues they play at now ruins their music for me.
What about your favorite record?
Again, that’s very tricky. Sometimes I’ll be listening to this really good record but the next day I won’t be in the mood for it and I’ll think it’s bad. Then a few months or years later a friend will play it and it will seem incredible again.
Mikkel’s top two album choices and why:
Japan – Exorcising Ghosts (Virgin Records)
A greatest hits record with all tracks from 1980-1983. Their late 1970s stuff is pretty shitty, very glam-rock, but then they moved into a more romantic almost post-punk style. I love music from the early 80s because it’s a little bit romantic. That was when music was still innocent. Nowadays, music is much more calculated.
Eleanoora Rosenholm – Vainajan muotokuva (Fonal Records)
Folk music in Denmark is often inspired by American folk, but this record seems more inspired by Nordic folklore and Scandinavian nomads. There’s a mystique to it – it’s touching. The Finnish language is also a little bit exotic. It sounds almost Japanese. It’s Royksopp if you took away all the nice sounds and replaced them with industrial sounds. It’s avante garde music that still sounds nice.