Big Daddy Karsten and Bryce Quartz share their experiences after Oslo Pride attack

This year, Oslo Pride definitely took a terrible turn that none of us were expecting after a mass shooting at three LGBTQ spaces left two people killed, ten injured and Pride cancelled.

In the United States, as sad as it is to admit, mass shootings feel like almost a weekly occurrence. And the numbers are not going down. This week, The Guardian wrote that shootings in America are becoming deadlier and more prevalent than ever. Much can be said about this issue in America. However, these are not the types of things that people associate with a country like Norway.

For many, certain country’s in Europe, such as Norway and Sweden, are seen as very progressive and safe places to live by many, especially people in the U.S. This is why it has been very difficult for many people to understand. But, it’s actually quite simple — The hate for the LGBTQ community, and any other community that is considered marginalized, disenfranchised and/or “minority” is a worldwide problem regardless of where you live.

And, for us at Bear World Magazine, the incident hit close to home. Big Daddy Karsten, rapper, native of Norway and a friend of the magazine, and Bryce Quartz, rapper and staff contributor with our magazine, were both in Oslo for Pride, and had just gotten home after a performance when guns started firing just an hour after they left the stage.

We had a chat with them to discuss their feelings after the horrible incident, and how they think this will affect the LGBTQ community in Oslo and around the world going forward.

Kyle Jackson: Where were you guys performing at Oslo Pride?

Big Daddy Karsten: We performed at “bamsescenen” — Translated, it means “the bear stage”. It was the biggest crowd ever at “Bamsescenen”, 5500 in total

KJ: Bryce, can you talk about the experience and how you felt being in Oslo for the first time AND performing in Pride with your mentor for the first time before the shooting took place?

Bryce Quartz: This was my first time traveling to Europe, and also my first time meeting Karsten face to face, so it was a very surreal experience for me. Karsten is not only my mentor, but he’s my best friend, and family to me. Going from chatting on FaceTime and online daily to doing it in person really solidified the love and bond that we have. I felt so naturally at home in his presence, as if we had already met years ago.

The entire trip from start to finish really reminded me that home is wherever your heart is. Performing in front of thousands of people at Pride to warm up the audience for Karsten was also a dream-come-true moment. I got to share so much of my new unreleased music with a crowd that vibed with me and cheered loudly for me after each track.

At the end of my set, I got to welcome Karsten onto the stage and give him the sweatiest hug ever. (laughs) I’ll never forget those moments for the rest of my life.

KJ: Karsten, was this your first time performing in Oslo Pride?

BDK: No, I have performed at Oslo pride several times, at “Bamsescenen” and “main stage” twice.

KJ: Where were you two when the shooting took place?

BDK: Since I was struggling with my voice a little bit after touring pretty hard in June, we decided to go home pretty early because I had a full set on the main stage booked for the day after. So, I had just gotten into bed and was about to go to sleep when I got the first text message about the shooting. We had just gotten off the stage about one hour before it happened.

BQ: Luckily, I was laying in bed at Karsten and his partner Øyvind’s apartment where I was staying. None of us could’ve predicted this horrific attack on the LGBTQ+ community of Norway would have happened. To get home with Karsten and his partner Øyvind after this insane high moment of my life performing in front of thousands of people at Oslo Pride, and then read what happened just minutes away from where we just were made my heart sink into my chest.

I honestly couldn’t believe it at first, especially because I travelled to a country where mass shootings are so far from the normal, compared to the United States where I’m from. I felt so safe walking in the streets of Oslo just minutes before this tragic terrorist attack happened, and it absolutely broke my heart and shocked me a bit.

KJ: How did the attack make you both feel when you heard the news?

BDK: I was in shock, and I think I still am to some extent. Things like this very rarely happen in Norway, and there has never been an attack solemnly directed at the LGBTQ+ community like this before over here. My phone was overflowing with messages and phone calls by people asking me if I was safe.

My DJ, manager and guest performer Pats Nichols was at another gay club less then a 100 metres down the street from “London pub”. My DJ, Are, was the first person to tell me that it was happening. The club he was at, “Elsker”, had closed the doors and the guards had told them that they had to stay inside, since a guy was shooting in the streets. To be honest, I wasn’t really reacting. I was just kind of frozen and in disbelief that it was happening in the first place.

BQ: It honestly made me feel powerless and afraid. It hurt my chest to hear the worry and concern in Karsten and Øyvind’s voice. Listening to them pick up calls left and right after it all happened gave me an even more highly emotional perspective.

It hurt in my soul seeing this community go through this right in front of my eyes, and to those I love and care so deeply about. Just because shootings are an unfortunate normal occurrence in my country doesn’t mean it gets any easier to speak on something that costs the lives of those around us, especially within the LGBTQ+ community.

KJ: Has it changed or altered your perception of the experience?

BQ: It definitely had me intimidated to go out by myself, but I knew as long as I was in Karsten’s presence, we would protect each other with our lives because we love each other. I am just lucky to have been with Karsten at all when it happened. I am still proud of what I did on the Bear stage before this all occurred, and I won’t let the terrorist steal that moment from us.

BDK: I feel like the shooting has messed up everything. Not in a sense that nothing feels good, but it’s mos def put a damper on everything. This was an attack on us, that’s an attack on my partner, me, my chosen family and friends, and my head can’t seem to get away from that

KJ: Karsten, how do you think the incident has or will influence Pride and the LGBTQ community in Oslo moving forward?

BDK: We are more skeptic to the police than ever since they forced Oslo Pride to cancel the parade and events happening the next day, and then also cancelling the memorial on the Monday after too. I think for us who are a part of the community, a fire has been lit under our asses at this point that will make us go even harder with our activism going forward. The debate regarding sexuality and gender is even more polarized after this. Hate crimes have risen significantly after the shooting, so the climate has definitely changed.

KJ: Bryce, as an American in another country for Pride, how has the shooting made you think about the violence in America and all over the world?

BQ: I shouldn’t be scared to get on my train to go to work every day, but I do because of gun violence. I shouldn’t be scared to go to a gay establishment with fear that I might die, but I do because of gun violence. I shouldn’t be scared to go to school, or scared to go to the movies, but I do because of gun violence.

It’s despicable that my country cannot implement more bipartisan legislation that would save countless lives. I find it quite disgusting and embarrassing on an international level, actually. The violence has to stop. Not just in the US, but worldwide.

KJ: What message would you both want to send to the LGBTQ community and across the world in these troubling times?

BDK: This proves how important pride still is; It proves how important it is that we never back down and keep being our selves unapologetically. It also proves that we can’t exclude to be included, because we need every representative, for every single letter under the LGBTQIA+ umbrella to stick together. We are and always have been, stronger together.

BQ: It’s important to remember that nobody anywhere should feel unsafe to go out in public and be who they are freely. Remember the reasons why we have Pride in the first place. Hold those you love close to you and tell them you love them. Be there for them. The time to come together is now, and it’s so important that we keep each other close in times like these and the times we face ahead.

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Kyle Jackson

Kyle Jackson (He/Him) is Senior Staff Writer at Gray Jones Media, and additionally works as a writer, editor and theatre artist/actor. A native of New Orleans, Louisiana, he studied at Dillard University, received a BA in Theatre from Morgan State University, an MS in Arts Administration from Drexel University, and completed the British American Drama Academy’s Midsummer in Oxford Programme in 2017. Having lived in Baltimore, the Washington, DC area, Philadelphia and New York City, he now resides and works in London, United Kingdom.