Jan Henrik Kongstein video part + interview
Video part filmed/edited by Pekka Løvås
Interview by Eirik Ballo
Last spring I was really broke, so Janno said I could come work with him a couple of days at the moving company he works for. The first job was to help a couple move from their fifth-floor apartment to a house outside the city. The job took fourteen hours, it snowed and we even had to put chains on the truck’s tires. I was wrecked afterwards. Janno does jobs like this regularly, and then goes out and gets a clip after. I have no idea how he manages, but like he says himself ‘he makes it work’, without complaining. Maybe it is true that his fluffy slippers actually keep his feet healthy? Somehow he still describes himself as lazy, while working a full-time job and filming two parts a year. In an attempt to figure out his ways I invited him to the park to discuss smooth fabrics, questing and why he enjoys living in Oslo’s certified skate house despite his cleaning obsession.
For the past few years you’ve been living in Osten, which has become the go-to hang out and party spot for many of the skaters in Oslo. Can you describe what it is?
Jan Henrik Kongstein: Basically it’s the small four bedroom apartment I live in with Fartein (Bjørge), P-Jew (Petter Fredriksen) and Vittorio (Brisigotti). We don’t have a living room so everyone just hangs out in the kitchen. We have probably managed to squeeze in like 40–50 people there before, so we make good use of the space in that kitchen, ha ha. It has an anarchy sort of vibe, where everyone does what he or she likes.
How did it end up as the hub for many of the Oslo skaters?
My friends moved into the apartment two years ago, I wasn’t living there at first. They just loved that it was in the middle of downtown Oslo – and most important of all – really close to all the clubs. All our group of friends would just naturally end up there before and after skate sessions, as it’s located in the middle of the city. There would always be someone hanging around, so it just evolved into the go-to place to chill.
And then you just moved in…
I was living with a couple in a really nice apartment before and didn’t want to deal with the hassle of finding a new place when we had to move out. At first I just slept on the couch at my friends’ place, and then gradually I just ended up in Osten staying in Vittorio’s room since he was always at his girlfriend’s place. I got lazy, so I’ve just been staying ever since.
I spoke to Oskar (Galewicz), who you used to live with, about your need to keep the space around you clean at all times. How does that work now, living in a skate house?
I’m actually a huge fan of staying in nicer apartments. So I have this view of how I ultimately want to be living. But right now I’m content with trading that need in so I can keep having all my best friends around the house all the time. I like to think of it as a period where I can let my cleaning obsessions go and just chill with the homies. Plus, my girlfriend Ane just bought a really nice apartment with a friend so I stay there a lot of the time.
Oskar also said you find it uncomfortable not using slippers on hard flooring, is that also because you wanna keep your feet clean?
I can’t, under any circumstances, not use slippers indoors. It has to do with getting heel bruises so many times though. My feet really hurt walking on hard flooring without my slippers. Right now I have three pairs: a fluffy pair that were actually quite expensive, a pair of Birkenstocks and a pair of standard Nike beach slippers.
Can you explain what Herotic is?
Herotic is just a group of boys that are too fond of each other, ha ha. It really started many years ago with a group on Facebook a bunch of us had where we would share photos, videos, and just generally shoot the shit. Then we figured it would be fun to do something more. It’s still just naturally taking form, but at least now we have some t-shirts and sweaters with dolphins on them!
Why did we put dolphins on there?
I have no idea where the dolphins came from. We’re more of a horse-loving group of people actually…
Yeah, should probably do some clothes with horses on them.
Definitely need some horse-related gear. I also want to do some stuff with smooth fabrics, maybe silk. I just really like clothing with smooth fabrics; I’m a smooth fabric kind of guy. I was with Ane at this sample sale for a clothing designer the other day and that place had some amazing fabrics, expensive as fuck though.
One should never underestimate smooth fabric. What was the motivation behind doing Herotic?
I think these days a lot of the skate scenes in cities like Copenhagen and Paris are really based around crews. The skate scene in Oslo really merged together around four years ago and it’s just been a growing group ever since. Everyone just really likes hanging out with each other, on and off the board. From that it just felt natural to establish the crew a bit in Oslo as well and just say ‘this is us’.
And who would ‘us’ be?
That’s really difficult question to answer. Our group of friends are really open to meeting new people, skaters or non-skaters alike. As long as you’re a kind person and can chill and play enspretten (One Touch, One Bounce football game that’s been a staple in the Oslo skate scene for years), you’re more than welcome in my eyes.
I agree. I think anyone who follows any of the skaters from Oslo on Instagram have seen Mølla pop up again and again. From the outside it must seem strange why we spend so much time there.
Mølla has been there for so long; I skated there for the first time like ten years ago. At that time the concrete was really rugged with a bunch of crusty wooden obstacles. Then around two years ago the city refurbished it by adding a new layer of fresh concrete plus some ledges. It’s probably the biggest thing to happen to the Oslo skate scene in recent years.
Which is kind of ironic seeing as it’s just a 45 × 5 metre piece of flat concrete.
It’s so small. I hated it at first. I honestly think one of the biggest reasons why we always end up hanging there is that we can do whatever we want. We can skate and do our second favourite hobby: play enspretten… and barbecue and drink beer. Plus, all our non-skater friends can chill with us at the same time. It just makes it the best place to go, especially in the summer. I don’t think anyone has ever gotten a complaint or had the cops come there. It feels like home.
As a skate city in Scandinavia, Oslo has always been in the shadow compared to, say Malmö and Copenhagen. Why do you think that is?
First of all I think Oslo is just a bit further away from everything. And there haven’t been too many skaters that have blown up outside of Norway. It’s also more expensive than a lot of the other Scandinavian cities. I feel like Oslo is being put more on the map these days, which probably also has a lot to do with Instagram and stuff.
Do you think it will be put more on the map now with Karsten (Kleppan) bringing more international skaters to town?
Absolutely. Magnus (Bordewick) also does a great job of it, as he’s always been great at finding spots that look insanely dope. Pekka of course deserves a lot of cred’ for continuously putting out footage mainly from Oslo.
In all of your latest parts you have been skating to electronic music. Was that a conscious decision?
It’s probably not more than a couple of years ago since I started getting really into more House, Techno and other electronic music. For my part, I think I was initially just following the trend at the time as it was really growing in Norway, and then got stoked on that. I feel like that branch of music really lives and you can really get into it, and it just gets you up.
Which tracks get rotation these days?
After watching this documentary on the emergence of Norwegian electronic music that came out last year, Nordic Disco Lights, I’ve been listening to a lot of older Norwegian tracks by Erot like ‘Song for Annie’, some Bjørn Torske releases and also the guys that I skate to in my part in Firetre, Those Norwegians.
You weren’t always a big fan of electronic music, though? I distinctly remember your tie-dye and Bob Dylan days.
Growing up in the small town where I’m from all the skaters were into seventies stuff like Hendrix, Bowie, Pink Floyd and then later I got really into Radiohead. I think I first got really inspired by that French skate video called Megamix. There were a bunch of different tracks in there that I got really hyped on. Coming from listening to a lot of gloomy Radiohead tracks it was really refreshing to listen to more electronic music that got you hyped.
I remember we were all really into that Brodinski track ‘Nobody Rules the Streets’.
That was like 2013 or something. I also feel like that was around the time that our group of friends in Oslo got really merged and connected. Before that a lot of the crews in Oslo were sort of based on which city you grew up skating, there was the Hamar crew, Asker crew and Larvik crew to name a few. But then all that sort of merged into one big crew and the energy from that was just really ‘aaaaaaaah!’
The parts you put out before Firetre were really different from how your Firetre, Tigerstaden and Karsto and Janno parts were. From mostly doing tech ledge tricks, big stairs and rails to mostly focusing on funky street lines is quite the transformation.
My attitude towards filming completely changed filming for Firetre. When I was younger I didn’t think too much about what I filmed, I just wanted to film the best possible tricks. Looking back, I wasn’t having a lot of fun filming like that.
At the same time, we would see you doing all this amazing stuff off-camera just dorking around. Did you make a conscious decision to change it up, or did Pekka persuade you?
Pekka should definitely get a lot of credit for pushing me in the right direction. He’s been really good with helping a lot of the skaters he films with coming up with spicy ideas for lines. Pekka is amazing in that way.
I like that he takes the role as the director sometimes.
For sure, as a skater you need that sometimes. It helps to have someone to bounce ideas off with. Sometimes he’ll suggest something I should do that I had never thought of and then it ends up working out really well. I try to keep it more fun now. These days I’d rather backside flip indy a six-stair than backside flip a twelve-stair.
You can still skate stairs and rails, I’ve seen you cabflip a ten-stair first try.
You don’t forget how to ride a bike, right? Ha ha!
How do you approach filming and getting photos, do you have a list or do you just go out and wing it?
Usually I like to have a certain trick in mind before going to a spot. I can’t scroll through photos of spots on my phone and then just go there without having thought of a trick. For me, it’s best if I can prepare and get hyped up on a trick beforehand. I spend a lot of time thinking about tricks I want to do.
Do you watch a lot of skateboard videos to get inspired?
I’m not the biggest skate nerd, but I follow a lot of Instagram videos.
So what inspires you the most?
Honestly I mostly get inspired and hyped by watching my friends skate and get footage. That’s definitely the most inspiring for me.
What about when you’re not skating?
I don’t really have anything else that I’m really into apart from skating a little bit.
A little bit…
I really just like to spend time with my friends; we usually end up doing something fun anyways. Just quest really; I’m always down for a quest. If anyone tells me about a project or something they got going I’m always down. Questing is good.
Questing is extremely important.
A lot of your friends in Oslo are students or have been students at the University. You also enrolled last fall, can you tell us a bit about that?
I think it is really easy for skaters to just get caught up in the now and not think about what you will do when you get older. Last fall I entered a Bachelor in Cultural History course at the University of Oslo to see what it was like studying at the University.
But then you dropped out.
The programme I was admitted to wasn’t my top choice when I applied, and then I didn’t end up getting to take the courses that I wanted to. On top of that I noticed that it required a lot of self-discipline as there was no one pushing you to hand in anything. So after two months or something I chose to drop out.
Are you tempted to give it another go on a different programme?
I’m going to work for a while and try to focus more on what I want to be doing in the future, just check out the different possibilities. Lately I’ve been thinking that working as an ambulance driver seems really interesting.
I didn’t know that you had been looking into that.
I love driving and that fine line between life and death where you as a driver really matter is intriguing. But we’ll see. I sort of wish I had focused more on stuff like this when I was younger.
Do you think that matters though?
I don’t know, maybe not. We’re quite lucky to be living in Norway where education is free so those possibilities are still open. I definitely want to do some sort of higher education in the future.
How did you end up on Nike?
After Firetre, Karsten sent my part to Colin (Kennedy) at Nike and they wanted to start giving me shoes… I was obviously stoked on that.
Do they pay you?
They don’t pay me at the moment. I don’t spend too much energy thinking about that. I don’t feel like getting money from skating should be a motivation to skate.
But you have to make ends meet somehow.
I work in the moving company now.
So how would roughly a day in Janno’s life go?
Get up between six and eight in the morning then go to work not knowing when you’ll be done, ha ha. The job just needs to get done, so sometimes I have to work overtime and sometimes I’ll get off early, it all depends on how big the job is.
When we go skating after your work, you almost seem unaffected by that amount of manual labour.
It can be tough to go skate after carrying refrigerators, pianos and boxes to the fourth floor for twelve hours…You just need to plan a little bit ahead. But I make it work.
Anyone you’d like to thank?
I would like to thank my family, my girlfriend Ane and her family, all my friends, Session Skateshop, Anders Sollie at (Spitfire & Thunder Norway), Vaughan and Colin at Nike, Mike and Pontus (Polar Skateboards), my chiropractor Eirik Skarholt, Herotic, Tunco for the best food, Karsten for all the help. All the people I’ve met and everyone I forgot.