SubScene is one of Oslo’s only all ages concert alternatives; for young people, run by young people on a volunteer basis. They have moved to a new locations this year and plan to continue as a permanent fixture in the Oslo underground music scene. Bad Sounds spoke to Frode Helland at SubScene about the past, the future, and their new location in Rosenkrantzgate 17:
First, what is the story behind you losing your last location?
It was one of the nicest old theaters in Oslo …
We’re not a commercial venue, and we could never afford market rent. Our lease in Kirkegata was extended with a few months regularly, awaiting the construction of some business enterprise. We were there on borrowed time, and knew that at some point we would have to find a new home. We’d been on the lookout for a while, and when the notice came that we had to move, we intensified the search.
It took some time to find the right place, but our new location in Rosenkrantzgate 17 fullfilled all our requirements: great location, affordable rent, enough space to do what we wanted to – albeit a bit smaller than what we initially hoped for.
What are some of your fondest memories of the old location?
(Personally, I really enjoyed Damien Jurado’s last gig there.)
Damien Jurado is dear to our hearts. Also, Spectrum in 2010 was an awesome experience (expect more big-name bookings in the future), but the coolest thing is putting our “home-grown” acts on stage: Maria Solheim, Pica Pica, Serena Maneesh, Loch Ness Mouse, The Harts Naïve, Oslo Oscillator, Ava, Frivil, Leonov, Extol, Antestor … the list goes on.
How long has Sub Scene been around as an entity?
We’re counting twelve years now.
Is it run entirely by volunteers? What kind of support are you getting from the community?
Being one of the few all-age venues with a Manga library, a board game club, a weekly band workshop, a Magic-wielding, foul-smelling gang of lovable lacklusters in the darkest corner, and affordable decent food for your everyday anemic emo vegan, that also happens to blast crooked noisy alternative rock, we naturally attract freaks and geeks from all across Oslo.
The city and the government are helping us pay the few part time positions that work with PR, booking & organization. Also, part of the support we get from the City of Oslo goes towards social work among the teenagers, including work practice.
Tell us about the new location, do you have enough space for the same type of events?
Our new home in Rosenkrantzgata is quite a bit smaller than the previous one. In effect, everything will be serving double duty, which has forced us to look for smart solutions.
The custom-built stage, for instance, hides hatches that house all the various bits and pieces you need for a concert, like drum riser, cables, mics, microphone racks, etc. Its façade and interior is built to absorb bass frequencies, and we’re hanging the PA from the roof above. The stage area is filled with tables and chairs during daytime. They’re all stackable so we can clear the room for concerts during nighttime. You can dangle your feet from the stage through the full-height windows that open towards the street. Curtains will enclose the stage to form a black-box theatre or intimate cinema, opening outwards for window exhibitions, or towards the café for concerts. The entire place is going to be filled with multi-purpose solutions like that. So, even though we have less space, we’re making much better use of it.
Are you planning on booking as many shows as before?
Tell us a little about some of your upcoming events.
We are booking like crazy this autumn to fill our quota. Pål-Hallstein, our booking manager seems completely unaffected by the pressure though, serving us gold like Dumbo Gets Mad (IT), Star Horse (SE), Space Witch (UK), Heldado Negro (US), Proper Ornaments (UK) and the likes. It’s shaping up to become an awesome year. We are also working hard to pick up interesting young local bands (like Ukas Urørt winners Frivil and Palmface) and couple them with more seasoned artists as supporting acts.
There seems to be very few all ages concert locations in town.
What do you think needs to be done to provide more evening offers for young people, especially when it comes to music, art and related events in Oslo?
It is extremely important to let them in on the action: Put young artists on stage, let them help out with booking, PR, design, organization, sound, lights etc. Teach them what you know, and give them more responsibility and challenges as they grow.
What are SubScene’s plans for the future, short and long term?
As funding and application goes through, the coming months will be spent building our new place and putting on shows in the middle of the construction site. We’re on a 10-year lease now, and hope to stay even longer.
The Sub crowd has evolved a lot during the years, and although music is still the most important part of what we do, there’s a growing interest in food culture (we’re building a proper kitchen to serve our café), social responsibility, visual arts and preforming arts. Our bi-annual festival, SÅ, looks like it’s here to stay.
What would you say to someone looking for an alternative (and in this case, alcohol free) venue to see live shows? How can people get involved?
I think our program says enough. We’re booking quality acts, and providing a place to discover new music – especially for the under-age who can’t get in other places. If you don’t like music in the first place, though, we certainly don’t mind you going somewhere else to get loaded…
Check out what’s happening at SubScene here.