PRINS THOMAS with ANDREW ALLSGOOD , ANDYCAPP , ROD SKIMMINS at the Social (1100 Queen West), tonight (Thursday, September 27). $10. 416-532-4474. Rating: NNNNN
Oslo-based cosmic disco specialist Prins Thomas (aka Thomas Hermansen) makes grooves that most would describe as odd and unusual. This isn't the result of any kind of deliberately rebellious mindset, though. As he explains, the isolation of the Norway dance scene provided a creative environment that made it hard to fit into "normal" house music even if he wanted to.
"It's funny -- some of the most conservative DJs in Norway would be considered left-field anywhere else in the world," laughs Hermansen over the phone from Oslo while his children giggle and chatter in the background.
"We never had any real focus on the DJ scene in Oslo in the mid-90s, and there wasn't any pressure on us to develop in any particular direction, so the sound just evolved naturally. Now that there is a focus on us, nobody wants to be tied to any particular sound either, so everyone is going off in their own direction."
Hermansen got his start DJing when he was just a kid, inspired by 80s breakdancing culture. The 90s brought him into punk rock, and playing in bands led him back into DJing when house blew up huge in Europe. Over the years, he found a unique sound rooted in outsider disco and psychedelic rock. Not many people will play Deep Purple in the same set as the newest minimal techno tracks, but these days Hermansen doesn't feel so isolated.
"A lot of people complain about how things have changed and that the young people who dominate the scene now have no knowledge, but I find it really exciting nowadays. The audience in clubs now grew up listening to Daft Punk and the Strokes, and to them it's all the same -- it's just cool music. That reminds me more of the late 80s, whereas the late 90s seemed like it was just about scenes."
Hermansen plays various "real" instruments on many of his productions, but despite his background as a musician, he still feels most at home mixing records. Even in the studio, it took some time before he was comfortable playing instruments while other people were in the room.
"I'm used to DJing in front of people -- that's what I do. To play guitar in front of a crowd that probably has 3,000 guitarists who are better than me in the audience -- I kind of feel like a hoax."