In conversation with co-founder Anders and DJ, producer and Fast Forward agency member Peachlyfe
Photography by Clara Tatjana
Notoriously fast, the distinct sound of Copenhagen lies at the intersection of trance and techno. While the popularity of these genres and high-BPM sets has risen throughout Europe, it can be said the Danish city is one of the original pioneers of the sound. The roots of speed-infused techno characteristics in Copenhagen can be traced to the mid-90s, during which sub-genres like goa, psy, tribal and progressive trance became particularly poignant in the country. The concentrated popularity of these genres is visible through the unique high density of local labels that centre around these sounds, such as Iboga, Parvati, and Triptonite records. Small in size, Copenhagen is home to just over 600,000 people, which, in comparison to cities like Berlin (3.5M) or Amsterdam (800,000) highlights how the key to growing an authentically recognisable sound is rooted in community; individuals inspiring, influencing and ultimately strengthening each other to spark an environment of creativity.
Founded in 2015 on a DIY basis, Fast Forward quickly grew into one of Denmark’s biggest grass-root parties. Attracting international recognition and an acclaimed sonic identity, the collective and agency host a meticulously curated roster. While the artists emit a sound pertinent to the high-frequency techno Fast Forward grew from, a spectrum of individuality and experimentation keeps the sound unequivocally fresh. A resident and agency member that is continually fluid with their sound is Peachlyfe. Stemming from an instrumental background of both contemporary and rhythmical, Peachlyfe, also known as Petra, describes having a whirlpool of inspiration “I carry so much from all the jazz I played, improvisational music, pop and rock. But, there’s a really cool trance scene in Copenhagen I am influenced by – my sound is constantly evolving and I try to infuse everything with some sort of weirdness and Queerness.”
As well as being a resident and member of the Fast Forward agency, Petra has become a pillar in Endurance, a smaller party collective with more of a community focus and drive. Glamcult speaks to Petra and Anders, who runs the agency and label at Fast Forward, to learn more about their current endeavours, perspectives and motivations.
Since Fast Forward began, to what extent have you seen the collective change?
A: When Fast Forward started, we held parties almost every month at different locations. It has changed from being a regular community thing to the focus mainly being on developing the agency and throwing one or two bigger events a year. When we moved into developing fewer events at home and more showcases abroad, Endurance quickly filled the gap and need for another community-focused party.
You say Endurance ‘filled the gap’, with this, what makes Fast Forward and Endurance separate entities?
A: As Fast Forward started to grow into 1000 people per night, 1-2 times a year, Endurance was an ambition from one of our artists, they wanted to throw more regular parties that were for a smaller crowd. It started as a monthly event for around 300 people. Fast Forward is focused on awareness and safer spaces, but we also want to have a big audience and make the events broadly accessible. Endurance is really focused on a community aspect and regular parties, that’s how I’d see a big difference.
Petra, can you talk us through your involvement with both Fast Forward and Endurance?
P: At the time I started going to raves in CPH, the awareness conversation had only just begun and I felt there were some things that the parties were lacking so I came up with a few suggestions and sent it to Endurance. Later I became a resident there and joined the Fast Forward agency. Now I also have more responsibility with Endurance, helping out with the organizational side of things with showcases. It was all very DIY, and now Fast Forward and Endurance have become a little bit more institutionalised. I’m not saying it is a bad thing, it’s just the evolution that’s been going on for the past eight years.
Do you think the sound of Fast Forward and Endurance has evolved alongside this institutional growth?
A: When we started out it was like: let’s have some parties together, and later on, why don’t we start an agency as well? Now with new people on the agency, other than the original cast who are not only from Copenhagen, I think the sound has developed, which is good. The electronic music scene in Copenhagen is growing and developing a lot, and genres other than techno, for example, garage, hard techno and scandi-trance are quickly gaining international recognition as well.
Artists in the agency are continuously developing new sounds. They are not just replicating the fast, techno of Copenhagen; they are constantly trying to push new kinds of ideas and directions.
P: In the beginning, before I joined Endurance, it was strict in terms of music. It needed to be fast, fast groovy techno. Now, it’s much broader as we want to have more diverse lineups, and this means accepting that it’s going to be a more diverse sound. I think that’s been essential to how the sound is now.
As mentioned, the Copenhagen sound has been described as hard and fast, do you agree and where do you think this came from?
A: I think when the hype around Fast Forward and fast techno began, it happened at a point when the established techno scene was not moving so much in terms of different sounds and bpm. The Fast Forward artists and raves were filling a gap to experience new sounds and ways to come together than what was possible at established venues at that point. There was a need for something fresh. Now it has spread across Europe, and what was playing fast and hard back then is more the norm now.
P: As Anders says, I mean, it’s actually kind of funny to call the Copenhagen sound ‘hard’ now, because when I go out to play in Europe, I kind of feel like a softy.
We briefly spoke about awareness within nightlife. In what ways are Fast Forward and Endurance important for local communities in Copenhagen?
P: It’s a space for freedom of expression. For me personally, Fast Forward, Endurance, and a lot of the other events and clubs in Copenhagen have been such an important space for my own personal growth. When I moved back the first time, from Berlin to Copenhagen, there weren’t many places to go. I found a Queer community in Berlin, so there I was able to be a Queer person more freely. When I came back to Copenhagen, it started happening there also. They’re an important space to connect with like-minded people, to be free and to express yourself.
Obviously, when you create a space where people can freely express themselves, it needs to be safe. How do you feel you can best maintain this space?
P: I think it’s about continuous conversation more so than enforcing rules. Of course, rules are important. But, I think it’s more important to keep conversations going about the current problems communities face because these will continue to change.
A: Another way Fast Forward has changed is through developing its awareness ambition. From the founding of FF the values of the DIY scene and youth house we embed in our safer spaces policy with which kind of behaviour we didn’t want at our events. Now the policies and practices are more focused on which kind of behaviour we do encourage and how we want people to take care of each other. Now, in general, the scene in Copenhagen has developed by being active with awareness policies and most electronic music events and venues have one. In the Københavns Frie Promotere union that both Fast Forward and Endurance are a part of, we are using a lot of our time to develop these policies by doing surveys in both the DIY techno scene and commercial nightlife to see how some of the best practices we have can be used in other places.
Photography by Cameron Pagett
Do you feel it’s become more difficult to create safer spaces as Fast Forward has grown?
A: When there were only 100 people it was easier to be aware of our guests’ behaviour. Now, it’s different work. But, we have always focused on using a security team that also understands these policies. We have the same security team for Fast Forward and Endurance – they have been part of the activist environment for longer than there has been a techno scene in Copenhagen.
You’ve shared your struggles with finding a venue, how has this impacted you as an organisation?
A: There are still a few venues available, but after Covid, consistent noise complaints around different spaces have made them unavailable for future electronic music events, meanwhile the rent for such spaces has also increased drastically. If we want to have a party with 700 people, you have to charge between 50 and 60 euros for entry. This doesn’t make sense for us, because people can instead go to one of the established clubs and pay 20 euros to get in. So, we stagnated. Over the last couple of years, we talked to almost every venue within the Copenhagen area, and unless we want to go commercial or rely on government grants to make our parties I don’t see it possible to do Fast Forward events without having to charge entry fees that our target audience are not able to pay.
P: It’s also about making the parties accessible to a crowd. If it gets too expensive, then it’s only rich people can afford to party, that’s not what this is about.
So, what do you think the impact would be if parties in Copenhagen were restricted to established venues?
A: I think that kills the whole creativity of nightlife because we have our own sound crew, light crew, decorations and security team that are not dependent on any other cultural institution. I think this is a nice way to experiment with different formats, if you can only party at an established venue with a strict framework, there’s not much room for experimentation to develop new concepts of artistic expression or partying together.
Fast Forward is one of the big techno parties that has an awareness policy. As we have been growing, we have been able to influence a very broad audience with these values.
P: Yeah, I agree very much with what Anders says. With Endurance, we’re just a bunch of people who want to throw a party. We’re not party professionals. We just want to express ourselves creatively and make a space for Queer and POC people.