You think of rappers and more often than not you think of swagger; a certain bravado and spectacle that oozes confidence and self-belief both in their personalities and their music. Rarely do you encounter someone who was a “complete nerd”, cripplingly shy and grew up in a nature-immersed town in Norway whilst going to Christian summer camp each year. However, this is one of many reasons that makes 24 year-old Pen Gutt such an original an artist.
As a result of an upbringing atypical to most rappers, Pen Gutt’s music is similarly atypical – existing in its own unique world in terms of tone, groove, flow and production. This Norwegian language music is even something the creator struggles to define himself. “I usually say it's a mixture of rap and folk music,” he says. “But the thing about genres is that as an artist I find it claustrophobic to work in a set of rules.”
The project combines the musical tastes of Pen Gutt along with his producer Samkopf, - “everything from Death Grips to Aphex Twin to 1950 Scandinavian musicals to Jpegmafia to Charlotte dos Santos” - and also owes a great deal to the Japenese anime series “Neon Genesis Evangelion”. Whilst you’ll need to speak Norwegian to understand the lyrics, they come from a period of real soul searching and when the character of Pen Gutt was created. “In my subconscious I think I had the idea of the whole album before I even started making it,” he says. “I’ve been a musician, model, actor and visual body performer and Pen Gutt is a character combined of all these professions and hobbies I've had until now. That's the reason why I really love music, because I get to combine everything I already love, and morph it into one project. The character is based on my experiences, but put in another universe. The same concepts and natural laws don’t apply to this universe. I like over-exaggerating situations and thoughts to make you feel something, rather than having it to be realistic.”
The album is also an exploration of death that came from Pen Gutt’s delve into philosophy. Reading works such as “Staring at the Sun: Overcoming the Fear of Death”. This concept has been weaved into the album he says. “To stare at the sun simply means to face death head on and let your fears become a part of you. You realise that you can't escape death, but you can learn to live side by side with it.” However, whilst philosophy and long hours spent thinking about the meaning of life have informed this album, so to has the much more physical experience of death in his life. “Late last year I lost somebody really close, and it hit me like a train. I had never in my life experienced this much pain,” he says. And when he did begin to return to normal he found that “The darkness had become a part of me.”
In many ways, despite the shimmering melodies, infectious grooves, unshakable hooks and silk-smooth flows, the album is an extension of Pen Gutt’s soul searching and he hopes that the final result may help others along the way too. “I hope I can help some people to get through their problems. All those days and nights I’ve listened to songs that have made me feel like I’m not alone in my struggles, to realise that somebody else is also going through some shit, those moments are the realest.”