Berg makes music under two guises. He and his school friend Nils Krogh are Genius Of Time, a popular live act and production duo best-known for their infectious house bangers. Working solo as Dorisburg, he makes some of the most irresistible 4/4 music out there. Dorisburg has released eight club-ready EPs in five years, mostly through local labels like Bossmusik, Abdulla Rashim's Northern Electronics and Aniara Recordings, the label he's been closely affiliated with since its inception in 2010.
Across those eight records, Berg hasn't put a foot wrong. I'd go as far as to say that he's one of the most consistent producers in contemporary club music. Seven of his records have been reviewed by six different writers at Resident Advisor and the scores have, for the most part, been 4 or above. The variety, too, is remarkable. From the bright, melody-driven tracks of his early Aniara releases to the desolate landscapes of last year's Splade, Berg is an experimenter, that rare producer who's unafraid to flip his own script.
Berg's open-minded approach has always been there. Born into a musical family—dad a guitarist, mum a percussionist in the local orchestra—he was messing around with toy synthesizers from age seven or eight, preferring to "do this rather than play video games." In his early teens he played drums in various bands with school friends, and at home he made hip-hop beats using the General MIDI soundcard in his family computer. Later, he discovered Photek and Source Direct and fell in love with jungle and drum & bass, until his older brother, a big musical influence on him, passed him a couple of Svek records. It was 2001, and the iconic Swedish techno and house label was still active.
"With a lot of the tracks I just felt this same feeling," Berg says. "I don't know how to describe it, but I had also been feeling it with some of the drum & bass stuff. I could feel that there was the same... I don't know... It's very hard for me to explain in words. But it's very deep; it's kind of more spiritual. That inspired me to do music in that tempo, and I was already playing around with making music, but it was really only hip-hop beats that I made for friends and stuff, but I was really inspired to learn more. I don't even know if I knew what the genre was called or anything, and I didn't know the history of house or techno."
Around the same time, Berg stumbled across Metro Area at a festival and fell similarly under their spell. He tracked down their 2002 self-titled album, devoured the sleeve notes and discovered a raft of new artists through them. He cites these two—Svek and Metro Area—as paving the way for his lifelong obsession with dance music. Rifle through Dorisburg's back catalogue and it's plain to see. The functional, rolling beauty of Svek is at the heart of tracks like "Devotion" on Trust, or "Smuts" on Bossmusik 001, while Metro Area's warm basslines and ear for a tune are there on "Tundra" and across his work as Genius Of Time.
By the time Berg was at college, electronic music was his main pursuit. He met Krogh, and they began making music together (though Genius Of Time came many years later). Berg went out most weekends and threw his own parties around Gothenburg with Krogh and other friends, DJing and booking mostly local acts. When it comes to music, Berg's approach has always been hands-on. Listening and dancing weren't enough: he needed an active role.
Berg is 28 now, and he's been able to make a living from performing and producing for the past three years. Before that, he juggled making music with a stream of odd jobs. He composed sound bites for websites, which he hated because it sapped his creativity. He also worked as a janitor, which he loved. Maintaining the outdoor areas at a block of flats in Gothenburg, the work would tire him out physically, but he'd still have enough brainpower to compose beats when he got home.
Berg has always made music. It's how he likes to spend his spare time. He estimates that he writes over 100 tracks a year, though only a tiny fraction of them see the light of day. If making music weren't his job, he'd be doing it anyway, though he's not sure anything would get finished. For him, the production process can be divided into two stages: the initial creative outpour, which is fun and free-flowing, and the later legwork, which is tedious and time-consuming. The first process is the "factory where you produce the raw materials" he says, before "you need to refine them into something that makes sense." Berg will usually leave a track unfinished and unmastered for several months, returning to it after he's given it some distance.
"One process that's quite common, for me at least, is I build a track around a certain element (a bassline, for example) and then once I've left it for half a year I realise, 'OK, it's really the weakest part here.' It doesn't necessarily mean that I should keep it, just because it used to be the foundation, because now it's not anymore. Then it's like, 'OK, I'm getting rid of that one, and adding stuff!'" When he revisits these shells, he makes a snap decision: flesh out the project or toss it on the pile. Some bits might end up as loops for his live set. Physically releasing music is only a small part of the picture.
"In a way I don't think that a track is finished just because it's released. I usually think about a track as being some kind of moment of a night. So releasing it on a record is just going to help to make that song create that moment somewhere. I don't think the song is finished until it's had that kind of impact. Of course, this is something I want to experience first-hand, maybe as the DJ playing the song, or just being out hearing it somewhere. It could also be that I never get to experience that moment. That said, a lot of tracks that I've made I've never released, but I still play them in my sets. Sometimes if that moment happens, that could be enough for me."
When I saw Berg play live at Dance Tunnel back in February, his set was full of these moments. His setup was one of the most extensive I'd ever seen, with two drum machines, a sampler, two sequencers and a modular synth. There was no laptop. He was a blur while he was performing, working furiously on a 90° axis. He'd make the kicks on the fly, bashing the sample pads with drumsticks. Depending on the audience reaction, he'd extend certain passages, getting the most out of his trippy melodies. The whole thing was meticulously composed, but it also had a fluid and spontaneous energy. It felt truly live—and the crowd buzzed off it.
It's only after years of seeing his music work on dance floors that Berg feels confident in the studio. Like a lot of new producers, he lacked confidence in his abilities and was afraid to test the waters of his own talents. "The more secure you get about your own taste, the easier it is to make decisions. I feel much more free to do a bit of silly stuff as well. I remember maybe ten years ago, I think I made a lot of quite cool ideas, but then didn't really… I felt a bit insecure you know, like, 'Can I really do it like this?'"
Today, he has the self-belief to let loose behind the controls. "I've noticed there's a certain state of mind for working on music, where you're completely lost in doing it, and the moment you analyse what you're doing is when the magic is broken somehow. So the idea, and this is something I've got better and better at, is to prolong this state where you are almost like a child—not caring about what's cool, or what stuff is supposed to sound like. I realised, the moment you begin to question or analyse it, it's almost like being high and then coming down. Now I'm getting better and better at prolonging that mindset, to an extended period of time—that's when a lot of the interesting stuff happens."
Sometimes as ideas start to form during these intense studio sessions, tracks become a world unto themselves, conjuring images of dreamlike landscapes in Berg's mind. "Sinai Hypnosis," the title cut from his first Dorisburg release, was produced in Berlin around 2009, but rather than call on the city's gloomy industrial backdrops, Berg envisioned the sun setting over a desert in space. Listening back to the track, with its ethereal melodies and dusky warmth, a palette of pinks, blues and greens clouds my thoughts. It sounds and feels otherworldly.
Once the landscape has formed in Berg's mind, it's a case of finding the right sounds to match the atmosphere. Splade, which came out in November on Northern Electronics, is Dorisburg's murkiest record to date. Its three tracks vary in tempo, but they share a dark, hazy energy conveyed through cold synths and heavy delay. As with much of Dorisburg's music, the magic is in the details. "I think a lot about the framework for the track. For example, if you just have silence and you're putting a sound in there, then that sound will be 100% of the spectrum of sounds. So a lot of the time, I try to create the illusion of silence, but with actual sounds. Creating a physical space for the sounds, for the song to live in."
"So if I create that room," he continues, "there can be a soft or muddled kick drum but it can still feel like an expanding sound, you know. A lot of time I'm working with making sounds that you won't think are part of the song, it's more like how the room sounds like right now when you're listening to it. I like that way of working because it's all about balance. With Splade, I was always imagining travelling through a weird dimension, throwing laser frisbees around or something. Some weird dimension that we will never experience, but still I could try to imagine how these sounds would sound in there. And when I create this space and put new sounds in, and they don't fit, you can hear it instantly—'No, they don't fit in this kind of world!'"
Berg feels he makes his best work when he's in this mindset, so he's working out how to prolong it. I'd love to be able to divulge some creative secret of his, but it seems like it's just a case of him not feeling stressed. His new setup in Stockholm has helped a lot with that. He loved his time in Berlin, and still visits the city frequently for work and pleasure, but he never felt settled there as an artist. "I mean, you have access to all these great clubs, which is super great and inspiring, but you also get a kind of reality check all the time. Sometimes for me it can be inspiring to not experience that, and you get more like a romantic idea."
Whenever Berg visited Stockholm, he felt a greater sense of belonging. "That was something I was missing when I was living in Berlin: I wanted to be part of the local community. There's so much stuff happening there that I felt like I couldn't. I mean, we were doing label nights and stuff, and it was really cool, but there was also some kind of feeling that this may be more needed in Stockholm, because it makes more of a difference somehow." Berg is now an active part of the city's scene, which he says is going through a particularly vibrant and open-minded period. He plays in Stockholm roughly once a month, mostly at Under Bron, where he has an unofficial residency during the winter. He likes it because he gets to DJ, which is rare for him.
Since living in Stockholm, Berg has put out two records as Dorisburg: the fifth release on Bossmusik, Computer Drumming, and Dimension Sculpture. The latter, on Lando and Baron Castle's Myth Music, is the first 12-inch he's released on a label that's not Swedish. He'll follow that later this year with an EP on John Talabot's Hivern Discs. The Spaniard has been playing Berg's productions for years, and they've become good friends. In advance of the record, Dorisburg has been touring with Talabot and the crew, playing Nuits Sonores in Lyon and Rex Club in Paris. The rest of his summer is looking busy, but not exhaustingly so. After some heavy touring with Genius Of Time, Berg realised that he didn't want to live his life constantly on the road. He's playing most weekends at the moment, which he loves, but he also plans to take plenty of time off. In his mind, there's no need to rush. "It's not super important to me to get a lot of recognition quickly, because I think I will want to be active in this scene for a long time."
Given how happy he is with his new situation, it's likely Berg will spend the majority of that time in Stockholm. The building his studio is in is mostly residential, except for the bottom two floors, which house six or seven studios, including his own, and the offices of Goldenbest, a lively record label that specialises in local pop and hip-hop. Johanna Schneider, who runs Bossmusik and is a close friend of Berg's, works at Goldenbest, and runs her label out of there. Berg's friend and Aniara affiliate Henrik Bergqvist also rents one of the studios. The first time I Skyped Berg, the gang were in the middle of their first clean-up of the communal areas. When they finished, they rewarded themselves with beers. I could tell Berg was itching to join them.
"With the studio I've moved into, where a lot of nice people hang out, it really has changed my life quite a bit to have this workspace that I'm really happy with. Especially, there was a time where we had a bit of success with Genius Of Time, and everything was going really well, but at the same time it was kind of a hard time, because I had a lot of ideas, but I didn't really have a proper setup to execute all of them. Trying to work a bit from home, and having some stuff in Gothenburg, and some stuff in Berlin… now I just have this really nice workspace. It's not like the most professional studio you could ever find, but it's a nice room. Just having a space where you can just have your things, and you can leave it, you know, and then come back to it, without thinking too much about it. You can make your creative mess."