Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Gerben Klazinga, Knight In A Sphere

Prog Sphere's collaborator Nemanja had a short chitchat with Knigh Area mainman, Gerben Klazinga. Check out this FAQ interview.

Nemanja: Hello Gerben! You're the main composer of Knight Area. Can you tell us when you wrote your first song? 

Gerben: Hello Nemanja, I wrote my first song when I was 12 years old, it was in 1980. 

Nemanja: Tell us about your musical influences. Who has inspired you the most?

Gerben: Definitely Genesis, especially the 1975-1980 period, of course Tony Banks is my favorite keyboard player.

Nemanja: Your first album was a solo project. On the second, Knight Area became a band. Are you still the main composer or is do all of the members participate with song creation?

Gerben: I'm still the main composer but the last few years the demo songs get more mature in the rehearsal room with the influence of the other bandmembers.

Nemanja: Who came up with the name Knight Area?

Gerben: It was my brother. He said: “Gerben, you're living in the "Ridderbuurt" which means area of knights street or something ha, ha”. I live above my own recording studio in the Ridderbuurt.

Nemanja: Can you tell us something about the concept of the latest album? Why do you prefer to write concept albums?

Gerben: It's cool to reflect some parts of music in other songs on the same album, for me It's like there is a story not only in the lyrics but also in the music.

Nemanja: All of your albums have great reviews. How does it feel to be so highly respected in the Prog scene?

Gerben: Well of course we are very happy with this reactions and it keeps our spirits fresh and optimistic to go on.

Nemanja: What do you think of the current Dutch Prog scene?

Gerben: It used to be very good, but nowadays it's a little bit poor I think. Bands like 'Aurora Project', 'Mangrove' and 'Leap Day' are doing well.

Nemanja: What are your top five prog albums of all time?

Genesis - Seconds Out
Steve Hacket - Voyage of the Acolyte
Camel – Breathless
IQ - The Wake
Knight Area - Realm of Shadows ;-)

Nemanja: What are your plans for the future? Are you working on something?

Gerben: At this time I have written 5 demo songs, they are in sound a bit more popular, but it's a merge of Neo Prog and Prog again.

Nemanja: Thank you for your time Gerben. Do you have a message for our readers? Perhaps something I forgot to ask?

Gerben: You're welcome Nemanja. Thanks to all our fans and of course to you!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Hans Lundin in the Wake of Evolution

Nick: Hello, Hans! First of all I want to say that I’m very glad you’ve agreed to do this interview for Prog Sphere.

Hans: Hi Nick! Thanks for the invitation, I’m glad that you want to share my thoughts and history.

Nick: Would you tell us something about your musical beginnings? How did you get into composing music? Which bands/artists influenced you back in the 60’s/70’s?

Hans: Before Kaipa started 1973 I played in my first band S:t Michael Sect 1964-1969 and in the later version of the same band San Michael’s 1970-1972.
I think the first 7 years were, except having a lot of fun, like an education learning the basic rules of playing in a band. 1970 I had grown as a musician and I started to write own songs. I think San Michael’s in a way are the basic roots of Kaipa. San Michael’s disbanded early 1972 and for one year I worked as a backing musician behind other artists. During this year I realized that I wanted to form a new band where I could develop my musical ideas.

In the 60’s I was of course impressed by Beatles but also bands like Steppenwolf and Spencer Davies Group with Steve Winwood. They were using Hammond organ with a dirty and distorted sound that I really liked. In 1967 I bought my own Hammond organ. In the early 70’s I remember I was impressed by the band Ekseption and their heavy versions of classical music on Hammond organ and also Swedish organ player Merit Hemmingsson who showed how to play Swedish folk music on the organ. 

Nick: Kaipa formed out of a band called San Michael’s. With this band you had recorded two albums. Please tell us a bit more about San Michael’s as well as these two albums. It’s interesting that San Michael’s second album, “Nattåg” was released last year, after 37 years. Why’s that?

Hans: San Michael’s started as a trio 1970 – Hans Lundin (Hammond organ, Hohner Clavinet & vocal), Tomas Eriksson (bass & vocal) and Gunnar Westbergh (drums & vocal). In 1972 Nane Kvillsäter (guitar & vocal) joined us. We played a lot of own material with Swedish lyrics but like one of our heroes “Vanilla Fudge” we rearranged cover songs to become moodier and heavier. We also jammed a lot on stage.

We recorded two albums with only original material. The first one was recorded and released 1971 and the second one “Nattåg” was recorded 1972 but it was never released. Not until 2009 when Japanese record company Marquee released the album for the first time after 37 years. This album is also released in an European version 2009 by Transubstans records/Record Heaven.

Nick: In 1973, San Michael’s split and later that year you and Tomas Eriksson formed Ura-Kaipa and recorded a single under that name, but later you shortened the name to Kaipa. What does Kaipa mean? It’s a Swedish word, right? Kaipa’s first records, as well as San Michael’s were sung in Swedish, why did you decide to do that?

Hans: The single with Ura Kaipa actually contained two songs from San Michael’s album “Nattåg” but we decided to use the new band name when it was  released simply because San Michael’s didn’t exist anymore.

The name of the band was originally URA KAIPA. It referred to a Swedish Stone Age chieftain and came from the book "Svenskarna och deras hövdingar" by Werner von Heidenstam. In 1975 the name was shortened to KAIPA.

At that time we were only playing in Scandinavia and it felt natural to use our own language.

Nick: Would you tell us something more about the original line-up of the band? Beside you, there were also Thomas Sjöberg and Tomas Eriksson. It was the line-up in the very first days of Kaipa.

Hans: In 1973 I wanted to form a new band and I asked Tomas Eriksson and Thomas Sjöberg to join me. Sadly, Thomas Sjöberg was hit by cancer and couldn't rehearse regularly any more. He was forced to leave the band early 1974, and was replaced by Ingemar Bergman. During the spring of 1974 we felt that the trio format was too limited to express all the dimensions in our compositions. So we started to look around for a guitarist and during the summer of 1974 Roine Stolt joined us.

Nick: Kaipa is one of those bands that sees several different line-ups over the years. In 1974, Roine Stolt and Ingemar Bergman joined you and Tomas Eriksson, and these musicians basically beside you formed the core of Kaipa for the next 5 years or so. I’m not sure, but Roine then was 17 years old when joined the band, and slowly you became one of the leading acts coming from Sweden. How was it then to compose music with these guys and how has your approach to creating music changed since then?

Hans: Roine and I were the main composers in Kaipa. There is only one song from that time that we wrote together “Musiken är ljuset”. The arrangements were mostly made together by the whole band.

The basic roots in my compositions are probably the same but today I have a lot of experience and knowledge that I didn’t have at that time. I suppose that my basic identity today is a mix of all my musical impressions since I started to play in my first band. I’ve been on a long musical journey and it seems that some of the places I’ve visited just continue to stay in my memory but they seem to change in size and form and sometimes they come back with a totally different identity. This is probably the seed to the music I’m writing today.

Nick: 1975 brought us your first album, called “Kaipa”, and with this release you became one of the most important progressive rock groups in Sweden. This album exudes with ambition, refreshment, as well as professionalism even now after 35 years. An explorative release. What are your notes on this album? How do you see now?

Hans: I wish it would’ve been recorded with a better sound especially the drums but I think it contains some really great compositions and beautiful melodies.

Nick: After your selftitled album, the band continued to grow and mature, and as a product of this you created “Inget Nytt Under Solen”. This record contains the epic “Skenet bedrar”. Please, tell us about the songs itself, the titles, and give us technical details about this album. What was it like creating it?

Hans: This was the first time we created a really long song. It was a challenge but I think we succeeded. The song “Skenet bedrar” had several different faces and went through many changes before we found the final version that we recorded for the album. The song is almost 22 minutes long, it couldn't be performed properly as a whole so we recorded it in several sections that were later reassembled in its final form. The album was produced by Kaipa together with Leif Mases who also recorded the San Michael’s albums. Leif managed to reproduce the sound we wanted, as close as possible to that of our live gigs with less reverb and more punch to the drum parts.

Nick: “Inget Nytt Under Solen” includes a slightly jazzy atmosphere. What were your influences for it? I have to say that most beautiful keyboard work is done on this record, in my opinion. Would you mind telling us what instruments you used for this album?

Hans: I don’t recognize your description “jazzy atmosphere” but there are many other influences Swedsih folk music, classic music and rock. I play Hammond organ, Grand piano, Fender Rhodes electric piano, Mellotron, Yamaha & Korg synthesizers, Logan string machine, Hohner Clavinet, vibes, marimba and prepared piano.

Nick: I have an impression that all other songs on this album are under the shadow of “Skenet bedrar”, as this is so great. Would you agree with me?

Hans: Maybe the other songs are overshadowed by “Skenet bedrar” but there are several great songs on this album. The song “Korståg” is considered to be a classic Kaipa song.

Nick: For your next album, Mats Löfgren joined the band to be the lead vocalist and did a very good job. What were some of the influences behind “Solo”? Also, what’s behind the name? It seems like the same as the English word “solo”.

Hans: On the two first album I wrote most of the songs. On this album Roine Stolt was the main composer. I’m not sure we really knew what direction we should choose. But it ended up with shorter and sometimes simpler songs. The artwork for this album is made by a close friend to the band “Lars Holm” I think “Solo” is the name of one of the figures in his painting.

Nick: How much were Roine and the other band members involved in creating the music for Kaipa’s 70’s albums?

Hans: As I mentioned before Roine and I were the main composers in Kaipa. Roine’s involvement increased until he left the band 1979. The arrangements were mostly made the whole band.

Dan: Could you tell us about some of the lyrics on the early Kaipa albums, for all of those people in the world who don’t speak Swedish? I know this is probably a hard one because you guys released quite a few songs that all had lyrics… Just pick something that comes to mind that you think we might enjoy.

Hans: The main message in our lyrics was probably to celebrate the power of love and the beauty of nature.

Dan: Also, who wrote the lyrics for Kaipa in general?

Hans: On the two first albums Roine and I wrote the lyrics but also Ingemar Bergman in some places. When Mats Löfgren joined the band he became the main writer.

Nick: “Händer” introduced many changes to the band’s sound and lineup, and I believe that majority of your fans have been disappointed with this and next album “Nattdjurstid“. Not that I’m trying to blame you or make you feel guilty, but what happened? Did it have anything to do with Roine leaving?

Hans: No I don’t think it had anything to do with Roine leaving. Just listen to what he did with his own group “Fantasia” a few years later. I think it was more a question of what happened in music business generally these years. We wanted to continue our musical journey, not playing the same style over and over again. Many other famous band went in the same direction and symphonic rock was just not in fashion during these years. In a way I think we was progressive anyway, we were looking for new challenges, even if it is the albums from the 70’s that are remembered both regarding Kaipa and other bands.

Nick: And then after “Nattdjurstid” the band disbanded and you continued as a solo artist. In the period of 1984 – 1989 you recorded three solo albums and released them under your label. Tell us something about these records.

Hans: During the 80’s I recorded three solo albums “Tales” 1984, “Visions of circles of sounds” 1985 and “Houses” 1989 (listen at: The music on these albums was a melodic progressive music, mostly instrumental and would probably attract prog rock fans. When these albums were recorded many musicians recorded solo albums playing almost everything themselves. So did I, but I had a few guest musicians (Roine Stolt – guitar, Ulf Wallander – saxophone among others) playing on a few tracks. When I listen to theses albums today I wish I had used more real musicians for the recordings but now this is history. The two first albums were released on LP and the last on CD.

Nick: There’s an interesting detail for me. I found recently that you’ve collaborated with former Yugoslavian musician Blagoj Stojanov. I come from Serbia, so that’s why I mention this. How did you get in touch with him? Tell us a bit more about it.

Hans: At that time I collaborated with “Boris Petrovski” who worked with theatre in Uppsala and I wrote music to some of their performances. Blagoj was in Sweden at that time, he was a friend of Boris son Viktor and they asked me to record two songs with Blagoj. I don’t remember all the details but the songs were released as a single.

Nick: Hagen is another project you’ve been involved with, and an album “Corridors of Time” was released in 2001. What about this? I’d say that Swedish folk music has become your sphere of interest. Am I right?

Hans: I’ve always liked the special feeling in Swedish folk music tunes. They often contains both a melancholy and merry feeling at the same time that goes directly into my heart. There were some folk influences already on the first Kaipa album 1975 but today I feel it’s a more integral and natural part of the compositions and the Kaipa landscape.

In the late 90’s I was invited to play in a musical project called Hagen, mixing traditional Swedish folk music and progressive metal. We recorded an album “Corridors of time” that was released 2001. Another member of Hagen was Per Nilsson who is now the guitar player in Kaipa.

I think working with Hagen gave me a lot new inspiration. I had written a lot of songs, I just didn’t know what to do with them but in 2000 I decided to record an album (KAIPA: Notes from the past) which was the beginning of Kaipa part two.

Nick: The new millennium brought us the return of “Kaipa”, but with a different lineup. Who initiated this idea? Also, why was the name “Kaipa” reused? 

Hans: The album “Notes from the past” started as solo project. I asked Roine if he would like to play guitar on the album and help me to get back into the recording process again after my long hiatus. I didn’t have any intention to release it under the name Kaipa. Per Nordin who made the artwork for the album told me when he heard the music: “this is exactly how Kaipa should sound today so why don’t you use the old band name?”  I asked Roine if he thought it was a good idea. He said yes and suddenly Kaipa was reborn.

Nick: This new turn brought us a different Kaipa. Roine rejoined you and as a product of this collaboration, we were given “Notes from the Past”. From the title, it sounds like this album is very retrospective, would you say so? Also, why did you decide that this album would be done in English, along with all other future Kaipa albums (as far as we know).

Hans: With “Notes from the past” I wanted to record an album with brand new music but with a lot of inspiration in the song writing and sound structures from my own history. If you listen carefully to the last minutes of the album you can hear fragments of several melodies from the old 70’s Kaipa albums.

In the 70’s there was a market for progressive rock in Sweden making it possible to act and tour in our own country and it was most natural to sing in Swedish. Today the situation is totally different, the market for our music is now the whole world so it’s most natural to use the English language.

Nick: New Kaipa kinda brought forth a new sound. Was that natural growth or did you want to start something different? How would you describe your musical status now? The fact is that with this reincarnated Kaipa you’re more closely to the fans of bands like Karmakanic, The Flower Kings, Transatlantic, etc. and that’s fine with me, hehe.

Hans: The unique sound of Kaipa is the sum of the original compositions and the personality and high quality of the individual musicians playing in the band.

Nick: Do you think that re-forming with Roine brought a surge of popularity to Kaipa?

Hans: Of course it did. Even though many people maybe had heard about the old band most of them didn’t know how we sounded. Many people discovered Flower Kings because Roine played with Transatlantic. In the same way many people discovered Kaipa because Roine was playing with the band.

Nick: Was that hard to find a vocalist for the new Kaipa? Patrik Lundström did great job, and I have to say that his vocals, especially on “Notes from the Past” remind me of Goran Edman’s vocals of Karmakanic. In fact, when I first heard it I thought that Edman had sung on that record! How did you get in touch with Patrik, as well as Aleena?

Hans: From the beginning I worked with “Mikael Olsson” from Hagen as singer but we soon realized it wasn’t a good idea. Roine mentioned Patrik as a potential singer, I had heard him on a Ritual album and thought it was a good idea. I contacted him and the rest is history.

I had written one song “A road in my mind” for the album “Notes from the past” where I wanted female vocal. I asked  Patrik if he knew someone who could perform the song with both energy and passion. Aleena Gibson and Patrik  are old friends and he thought Aleena could try to sing this song. She came to my studio and from the first note she sang I immediately knew that this was exactly what I wanted. Today she’s a very important part of the Kaipa sound. Aleena is not only a brilliant singer she is also a famous songwriter. Listen to her music at:

Nick: Some critics say that Roine sort of “paved the path” for Kaipa on Notes from the Past, Keyholder and Mindrevolutions, and you were sort of in his shadow, but I (and many other critics) would disagree with them. Aside from the fact that Roine is a great musician and talent, as well as friend of yours, it seems to most that you were the main man behind Kaipa. Am I right?

Hans: Kaipa (part 2) has always been my project but Roine had a lot of influence to the final result especially on the album “Keyholder”.

Nick: Roine departed before the recording of Angling Feelings, but you quickly found a new guitarist in the form of Per Nilsson. Many people know him as a guitarist of Swedish melodic death metal band Scar Symmetry, but I would bet very few fans of that band would imagine he’s a guitarist for a band like Kaipa. How did you find him? No doubt he’s a great guitarist; so how would you compare his style with Roine’s? They both grew up in different times, listening different artists, what is it that Per brought to the band?

Hans: I first met Per Nilsson when we both played in Hagen. I immediately realized that he is a very diverse and gifted musician able to play any styles in his own personal way. I actually asked him already in 2002 if he wanted to be the guitar player in Kaipa some time in the future. I had a feeling that the collaboration with Roine Stolt shouldn’t last forever.

Both Roine and Per are great musicians but they have different styles and starting points. When I formed Kaipa in 1973, Per wasn’t even born. So he grew up in a totally different musical environment. I know that one of his heroes is Alan Holdsworth,

Nick: How is it to work with Jonas Reingold? He’s probably one of the most renowned bass players around today and personally one of my favorite musicians.

Hans: A real pleasure.

Nick: “In the Wake of Evolution” is your newest album, and it is, well… it’s evolution. An emotional record, if I can say like that. What’s your experience on making this album?

Hans: I think “In the wake of evolution” is a logic development and continuation of the previous album “Angling feelings”. I never decide in advance what to do or in what direction I shall take the music. It was like if the inspiration took me on an unpredictable ride when I wrote the songs for this album.

Nick: I personally feel like In the Wake of Evolution is Kaipa’s greatest album since Solo. How would you compare Kaipa’s albums, looking back at all of what has been released under that name?

Hans: Yes I think “In the wake of evolution” is our best album but every album is like a separate story and they all have their highlights.

Nick: The elements which adorn your new album are great guitar solos, originality in the structure of melodies and their imaginative blend with excellent vocals. From the distance of few months since this album has been released, do you consider it a worthy effort? I truly do.

Hans: Yes definitely.

Dan: Speaking of the vocals… how do I say this… some people had problems with Aleena’s voice on Angling Feelings. I will admit she was very “emotional” on that album. She seems to have been toned down a bit on “In the Wake…” What do you think about this?

Hans: I think she’s always been truly emotional and I don’t think she will change her way of singing just because some people have “problems” with her voice.

Nick: What about live shows? Do you have in plan doing them? Maybe a few venues? I have to admit that I’d like to see a live DVD of Kaipa where you would perform two sets, one based on the 70’s albums and the other one based on the post-millenium era. What do you think?

Hans: I’m probably a bit like the bull Ferdinand who would rather smell flowers than fight in bullfights. I’ve always considered this second edition of Kaipa to be strictly a recording project.  I’ve spent eighteen years of my life (1964 – 1982) sleeping in a bus, eating cheap food, taking care of all my equipment, doing all the booking and all other things you have to do when you’re poor and play in a band trying to be famous. I don’t regret a single day but that is history and I just don’t want to do it once again under the same conditions. If the conditions were different today and we could just concentrate on playing our instruments and always have the chance to do a proper sound check maybe I could reconsider this decision but the prog market is very small that’s just a fact.

It would also be very difficult to play the Kaipa music live without including several extra musicians. If you listen carefully to our albums you can notice that sometimes there are up to four or more different guitar or keyboard lines playing simultaneously.

Nick: Would you tell us about your favorite bands/albums of all time? What/who are your influences? Also, what gear/equipment you use?

Hans: I don’t like rating music and after all the taste changes from one day to another.  Maybe you expect that I spend my time listening to a lot of progressive rock but that’s not the case. I like all types of music (including progressive rock) as long as it contains good melodies and performance.
There was a time when everything was “real” instruments and you could turn real knobs to change the sound. Sometimes I miss that time and I still own some of these instrument like my Hammond organ and Yamaha CS-60 Synthesizer but I seldom use them when I record nowadays.
I use a Studio Logic master keyboard to control a lot of different plugin instruments in my computer. Several different self programmed electric piano and clavinet sounds together with organ and different mellotron sounds are the basic foundations in the recordings. The only real synthesizer I use for solos and melodies is a Nord Lead 3 synthesizer which I mostly connect to a guitar amplifier and wah-wah pedal to produce my typical distorted sounds. I also play Melodion and Grand Piano.  

Nick: What plans do you have for the future? Are you planning on releasing any more solo material? Are you perhaps working on a new Kaipa album? Are you planning on collaborating with someone else for to do something?

Hans: My future plans are still written in the stars, but I’m very curious to find out what message they’ll come up with.

Nick: Do you have any messages for the visitors of Prog Sphere?


It’s time, we’re closer to the edge than yesterday

We must break this circle find another way

Let our children’s children celebrate this day

When we found our way

Nick: Thanks for the interview, Hans. I hope you enjoyed in answering our questions. All the best! 

Friday, June 11, 2010

Nicklas Barker, My Brother the Wind

Nicklas Barker is a well-known name in Swedish progressive rock circles. He’s been working with the highly appreciated Anekdoten since 1991, but also he’s involved in other projects and bands. The last, but not least of them is My Brother The Wind, a psychedelic rock oriented project that came up as an improvisational journey. Find out what Nicklas says about it, but also do not miss the chance to find out what’s going on with Anekdoten. Enjoy!

Nick: Hey Nick, Nick is speaking. Thanks for the interview. So, the newest info coming from you is that there are only a few days left before My Brother The Wind’s album called “Twilight in the Crystal Cabinet” is released. Tell us, please, what can we expect? Who initiated the idea about starting this new band?

Nicklas: The idea was that Me, Mathias, Ronny and Tomas would meet up in a studio and just improvise for a couple of hours. We had never played together before so we didn’t know what to expect. We talked about it for some months and decided to take the train to Ronnys hometown Åmål where his friend Love has a analog studio. We wanted to stay true to our aim and inpirations so we needed a computer free and totally analog studio. We had 3 michropones on the drums three other on our amps. So it’s recorded live on 6 tracks. The sound you get is so natural and homogenic. The tracks on the cd are in the same order as we recorded them. We just started playing and let things happen. The mixing was done in real time the day after and we only used a tape echo, a reverb, a flanger and one compressor. I’m very pleased of the result.

Nick: I had an opportunity to hear the preview of “Twilight in the Crystal Cabinet” on the band’s official MySpace page and I have to admit that this sounds really promising. The sound is pretty raw. It’s evident that in the basis of this band lies psychedelic sounds, so would you tell us where did you get from such influence?

Nicklas: Well we all comes from different backrounds but and we never discussed anything about how it was suppose to sound or anything. I think the first notes on the album set the feeling and we just continued from that.

Nick: The cover art of the album is pretty interesting and I am sure it fits well with the music presented on this piece. Who made it?

Nicklas: Anna Sofi from Anekdoten made the sleeve. She also does all the Anekdoten sleeves.

Nick: Are there any plans for a tour with MBTW? I saw an official announcement on the band’s Facebook profile that you will be “probably opening for U2 or Madonna”, haha.

Nicklas: Well we have some gigs coming up and we are very willing to tour. I hope things will kick of when the album is out.

Nick: How did you come to an idea for the name My Brother The Wind? Pretty interesting name. For some reason it reminds me of a psychedelic band from the 70’s called Socrates Drank The Conium. Have you listened to them?

Nicklas: No I haven’t heard them. I took the name from a Sun Ra record which I love and suggested that. We had many suggestions but we found this suiting us well.

Nick: So what’s going on with Anekdoten? A retrospective-compilation has been released by Kscope in 2009, consisted of 2 discs with completely remastered tracks. Are there any plans for Anekdoten in the near future? I have to say that I would love for you guys to release a new album.

Nicklas: Anekdoten are currently recording demos and writing. We have a lot of material but since we aren’t in any real hurry we want to be well prepared this time before recording. We are going to record analog this time and and try to record as much as possible live in the studio. We will have something out in late 2010 or early 2011.

Nick: You had an interesting experience in 2008 playing on Melloboat together with Opeth, Comus, Bo Hansson, Katatonia, among others. How was it? I envy all the lucky bastards who got to see that.

Nicklas: It was great to finally share the stage with our friends from Opeth and Katatonia. The event was great fun and I was totally blown away by Comus. An amazing trip!

Nick: In less than a month we lost two great musicians who have each influenced many, many musicians. Of course, I am talking about Bo Hansson and Ronnie James Dio. Could you tell us about about how they influenced you? I would imagine Hansson influenced you more than Dio, but I felt it would be nice to mention him.

Nicklas: Well I’m a big fan of both and I guess they have both influenced us in one way or another. When I was a teenager Black Sabbath’s Mob Rules and Live Evil made an big impact on me and still does. I love Dio’s voice. I ususally borrow words from Dio when I working on songs before Jan Erik delivers the real lyrics. For some reason they suit Anekdoten very much.
Bo Hansson was one of the greatest and unique composers of all time. His influence is on me is hugh. He had a this very personal touch that was instantly recognizable. In my world he is up there with Hendrix and Coltrane when it comes orginality. I miss them both.

Nick: Anekdoten’s first album is surely one of the best albums of the genre in 90’s. I would say this album is one of the best in my collection. How did working on this album then?

Nicklas: Well it was traumatic experience. We really did’t get the sound right and was in a hurry. The songs were great but we were unexperienced. I v’e been listening to lately when we remastered the tapes for the exclusive vinyl edition that will be out soon and I kinda enjoyed it. The new vinyl edition will be the best sounding Vemod release so far. It comes with a bonus 12" with Sad Rain.

Nick: I don’t want to disturb your privacy, but on the first releases of Anekdoten you appear as Nicklas Berg, and on “Gravity” it says you’re Nicklas Barker. How come?

Nicklas: Got married.

Nick: I’ve always thought Nucleus has a lot of influence taken from King Crimson’s Red era, with addition of some Starless elements, but in a new, innovative way. How did this blend of old and new occur?

Nicklas: Well actually the idea was to blend Black Sabbath with Univers Zero. It doesn’t really sound like that but the result was good. Of course we where under influence of the current music scene in the 90s like Nirvana, Sonic Youth and Portishead and I think that is obvious in some parts

Nick: Is “From Within” an album which got you on the level of musical independence, leaving the past, when you were a cover band playing King Crimson songs?

Nicklas: Well maybe we parted from the obvious KC influence here. Two important influences here was Motorpsycho and Landberk.

Nick: “Hole” is a song which is probably one of the largest band’s trademarks, and I cannot avoid comparing it to King Crimson’s “Epitaph”. Not that I’m trying to ask you for differences or similarities, but can we consider “Hole” as an homage to the KC song I mentioned?

Nicklas: No not really. I have no memories that Hole had something to do with Epitaph. As I said before we were very influenced by Motorpsycho and Sonic Youth at the time. I guess the mellotron makes it similar to Epitaph.

Nick: A song “Seljak” from Gravity in my native language (Serbian) means “a peasant, nomad”. Was that intentional, or does that word mean something in Swedish? What’s the story behind it?

Nicklas: Hmm I think Jan Erik was dating a a woman from Serbia at the time and maybe he got the title from her but I’m not sure.

Nick: “A Time of Day” is so far your latest studio album, released in 2007. And I have to praise the vocals on this release, as in my opinion they sound excellent. The albums is a bit more rocky. Do you think that you’ve made a turn with this album?

Nicklas: Well maybe but we don’t think in terms of doing changes in our direction. The songs just popped up. I think we can hear some Cantebury influences and maybe some Amon Duul and Popol Vuh in some parts.

Nick: Considering you have been releasing Anekdoten albums every four years, maybe we should expect another album in 2011? :)

Nicklas: Yes or late 2010.

Nick: Together with your fellow Swedes Peter Nordins, Stefan Dimle and Reine Fiske, you’ve started a project back in 1998, called Morte Macabre, an homage to horror soundtracks. And so far you have an album called “Symphonic Holocaust”. Whose idea was it to start a project like this? What are your favorite 70’s horror movies? Were you inspired mostly by Popol Vuh or Goblin?

Nicklas: None actually. This was a spontaneous thing and we improvised over the themes. I guess you can hear influences from those bands but at the time I had not heard Popol Vuh or Goblin that much. The recordings were done in a day and much of it was spontaneous. The idea came up when Landberk was asked to do a horror movie soundtrack cover for a italian compilation. Only Stefan and Reine was interested so they asked me and Peter if we were interested.

Nick: Are there plans for recording a new Morte Macabre album?

Nicklas: Not at this point. We had some plans a year ago but I really don’t have eny energy or inspiration for Morte Macabre at the moment. But you never know.

Nick: What are your all-time favorite bands/artists? Could you mention some of the albums that wholesomely influenced on your musical shape? Give us a few names from the deep underground, I think that everybody already know of King Crimson or VDGG, hehe.

Nicklas: Black Sabbath, Pink Floyd, Magma, Univers Zero, Talk Talk, Trettioåriga Kriget, May Blitz, Roy Harper, Bo Hansson, Iron Maiden, Mercyful Fate, Beatles, Amon Duul, Can, Sun Ra...

Hmm that was not so deep underground but I’ll continue. Children Of One, Anne Briggs, Frumious Bandersnatch, Cressida, The Advancement, Flower Travelln Band, Spring, Hairy Chapter, il Baletto Di Bronzo, Gracious...

Nick: What kind of gear do you own? Also, how many instruments do you know to play and which are they?

Nicklas: Guitars: Gibson SG, '61-reissue,Ibanez Artist, Gibson Les Paul Standard, Ibanez Concorde 12 string and a Ibanez 6 string
Amps: Hi-Watt modified by Marcus Resch
Peavey Classic 50
Cabinet: Marshall JCM 900, Lead-1960
Effects: Fuzzface, Line 6 DL4 Delay modeler, Octavia, Wah, Univibe and volume pedal custom  made by Marcus Resch, MXR compressor, A/B switch, Big Muff
Mellotron M 400S
Fender Rhodes

Nick: Do you have any hobbies? Also, do you have a full daytime job or are you completely involved in music?

Nicklas: I work as a record dealer buying and selling vintage vinyls. That is my full time job and hobby. Playing music is my therapy.

Nick: Thank you for the interview, Nicklas. All the best with your new band, hope to hear much more from you.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Martin Horntveth, A Gentle Giant

No, Martin Hornveth is not a member of Gentle Giant if the title of this interview made you think so. Martin Hornveth is actually the drummer of Jaga Jazzist, a Norwegian jazz band with more than 10 musicians. They have recently released a new album this year called “One-Armed Bandit”. I talked with Martin about new album, other projects, their connection with progressive rock, etc.

Nick: Hello Martin. How have you been?

Martin: I’ve been working like a dog and I miss touring again!

Nick: So, it’s been 5 years since you’ve released What We Must and this year you’re back in the game with a brand new album called One-Armed Bandit. Why that long break? What happened with the band during that break? Some of band members have quit. Tell us a bit more.

Martin: Between 2002-2005 we toured constantly and we thought we should take a break before we started going on each other’s nerves. It was supposed to sbe a few months but it ended up being almost two years before we started to rehearse for a new album.

Many of the members started their own solo carriers or joined other bands. At one point we were all so busy with composing, world tours, producing that we were a bit worried about the future of Jaga.

Many of the members that quit around 2005 were original members that wanted to do other things. Two of them are soon to become doctors, others has totally different jobs. The main thing is that we’re all still close friends and the new members inspires the “old” ones J

Nick: Let’s talk about your new album. One-Armed Bandit received very good reviews. Are you satisfied with how it turned out? How long did you work on this album? Would you compare the way it was made with the process that made the previous one?

Martin: Yes, we’re very satisfied with the album. It’s so much rehearsing, quarrelling, discussing, organizing, arranging etc. with Jaga Jazzist but when the album finally was out it felt extremely good. We started to rehearse with the new members Øystein Moen and Stian Westerhus from the Norwegian noise/jazz band, Puma some time in 2007. The first song we tried was ”Prognissekongen” and people were quite shocked in a positive way of which direction Lars was leading the band into.

On What We Must we wanted to rehearse more like a rock band and we were jamming a lot with the arrangements but this time Lars had written 80% of the music and it was quite complex with written scores for all instruments. There were others that wrote music for the album but we ended up using 99,99% of Lars’ music.

Nick: I wonder have you ever been in a situation that after you had an idea for an album and you start working on that led by that idea, in the end the result turns out to be quite the opposite from what you intended?

Martin: Many times! On the ”A Living Room Hush” album it was like that for at least 50% of the album. But after we learned more about studio technique and possibilities with arranging we know a bit more about what we try to find. But sometimes we play the same song over and over for hours to get somewhere we haven’t been before

Nick: My opinion is that with this new album you made a turnout to more prog rock sound in comparison with previous works. This time there are more electronics and programming, more dynamics, I’d say. Was that just intentional or was it a logical sequence of circumstances?

Martin: Well, it’s absolutely more prog-ish than before, but if you listen to ”The Stix” you might think that it’s way more electronic/programmed than this one. Anyway, we wanted ”the best from both worlds” this time. In the early song writing process I remember Lars experimented with a ”Justice” (French band) type ”House” beat in all the songs. We talked about mixing the “uber-electronic” sounds with a more prog-rock or even jazz-rock sound. Justice meets Mahavishnu Orchestra or The Knife meets Zappa. The process is all though much more interesting than if the result ends up like planned.

Nick: How did you get in touch with John McEntire of Tortoise? I see mixing of Jaga Jazzist album as something really hard and have to praise John for the work he did on One-Armed Bandit. What did he bring to the album?

Martin: We originally wanted Jørgen Træen to both produce and mix the album. For Jaga he’s become a very important person for our sound and development. But a couple of months before we had planned to mix he got ill and couldn’t work for a very long time, so we had to find another person to help us finish the album. Lars and I were discussing different solutions and persons we’d like to work with and one of them was John McEntire, whom we obviously have been inspired by for years. Jørgen hadn’t really got the chance to start his brilliant way of transforming the material into something new so we thought that the rough mixes of the album sounded to vintage or old school and wanted John to help us get a more modern or fresh sound. In addition to have pretty much the same taste in music and sound as us he also bring in a lot of “playing around with effects and synthesizer” that eventually gave the electronic feel that we felt were missing.

Nick: As a successful indicator of the new album’s quality, I would like to point out that the album has entered top 10 of the Norwegian national record sales charts in the first week. Seems like you did a good thing in enabling two of the tracks from the album to be available for free on the Internet. Do you think that Internet should be used in such a way by all bands? Or is it more of a detriment in general?

Martin: A few years ago it felt corny and sometimes wrong to give away songs for free, but the way the whole industry has become it’s much more of a necessity in the whole release plan and way of promoting the album. I personally don’t like how people feel that music should be “for free” and I don’t think they have a clue about how much work and money there is behind an album. This change in the whole music scene made it almost impossible to make our last album and we had to find totally new ways of getting the money for studio, producer, mixer etc. For Jaga it’s always been a non-profit band, but this time it was harder than ever to make it happen. That said, we use Internet and all it’s possibilities for all it’s worth all the time, and have been doing that since 1996.

Nick: JJ is an orchestra band, as your line-up is consisted of approx. ten musicians. Would you tell us how the current line-up of the band looks, besides you, Lars and Line? I have to admit that it seems hard to follow all those changes, so let’s make it clear :)

Martin: The current line-up besides Lars (Guitar, saxes and clarinets), Line (Tuba, glockenspiel and vocals) and me (Drums and drum-machines) consist of Mathias Eick (Trumpet, upright bass, keyboards and vibraphone), Øystein Moen (Keyboards), Erik Johannessen (Trombone), Andreas Mjøs (Vibraphone and guitars), Even Ormestad (Bass and keyboards) and our newest member, Marcus Forsgren (Guitars and FX)

Stian Westerhus (Puma, Nils Petter Molvær, Monolithic) played on the album and a few gigs but he was too busy with other bands and has been replaced by Marcus Forsgren from The Lionheart Brothers.

Nick: During all these years you’ve been involved in other projects beside JJ. Solo work is probably the best way to satisfy your own ego so to speak, do you find it to be helpful for Jaga Jazzist to release your own material on the side? Please introduce us to some of your other projects and contributions.

Martin: In the beginning all the side projects and other bands were struggling with JJ’s busy calendar and plans but after a while we all understood that these bands helped the members to try out other ideas and genres that wouldn’t fit into Jaga’s music. So instead of quarrelling about peoples focus, we started encouraging people to start own projects and solo carriers.

In the early 2000’s I was making a lot of electronic music and were touring a lot with my solo show but after a while I quit because I didn’t like traveling alone. Being part of a huge band with two family members close all the time I often felt lonesome in an empty hotel room or backstage. So besides of a pop group called “The National Bank” I been mostly composing music for TV dramas, radio theatre, short films, dance performances, children’s television etc. It’s too much to go through all of it but it’s all presented on my myspace site:

Nick: Let’s make a retrospective of your albums, starting from Jævla Jazzist Grete Stitz to One-Armed Bandit. How would you describe every of these albums?

Martin: “Jævla Jazzist Grete Stitz - 1996” was actually a best of album. Our debut album was supposed to be our last. Ha-ha! It’s full of various styles, genres, humoristic ideas but still a lot of serious music. It’s fun, but still a bit embarrassing.

“Magazine EP - 1998” was just an EP that later was released on Smalltown Supersound as full-length release. Also this one is extremely varied and the only red thread is the melodies and harmonies that always has been our trademark. It’s two songs recorded in two different studios and a third song that’s recorded live. It’s also a really quiet, folky song with vocals and a drum&bass remix..

“A Living Room Hush - 2001” is the album that chanced JJ and has always felt like our “real” debut. It’s our first album with Jørgen Træen and he really opened our eyes but musically and sound/recording wise. We came to Jørgen with a lot of songs and ideas but came out with something completely different and we felt that we’d “seen the light”

“The Stix - 2002” is many of the member’s favorite album; because we think we made something unique with this album. We’d been experimenting with sounds, genres and electronics for a while but on this album we felt that we’d made it into our own style.

“What We Must - 2005” was as the album title describes a must for the band to make. We had to go someplace completely different and get rid of most of the things we’d been doing over the last five years. The album is guitar oriented for the first time, it has a lot of “rock band” feel instead of “jazz band” or “electronica” feel. There’s no programming or drum machines and was very inspired by bands like “My Bloody Valentine” and “Sonic Youth”. It also has some early fooling around with prog-rock and “quasi world“.

“One-Armed Bandit – 2010” was sort of a comeback album for Jaga. On this album we wanted to continue what we’d started on “What We Must” but take it to a new level. We also wanted to bring in the electronic sounds from “The Stix” and the madness from “A Living Room Hush”. You can track some parts from early albums but the most important was to have fun while playing the music. We wanted to play complex, sometimes corny, sometimes beautiful but most of all fun-to-play music. 

Nick: Is making music for Jaga a tough task? Where do you find new elements for new tunes? I guess that you and Lars are the most focused members of the band when it comes to creating new songs, but how much are the others in on that process?

Martin: Making music for JJ is extremely difficult, and it’s seldom other than Lars that manages to do it. We all try but it doesn’t go through the needle eye. We don’t want Jaga’s music to sound like anything else and that in addition to writing for 9-10 members makes it very, very hard.

For “One-Armed Bandit” Lars worked really hard and set a goal to write a new song for each rehearsal. It ended up being 99,99% of Lars’ music on the new album and that’s basically because he managed to write enough music and create a “universe” for the whole album.

The other members are very involved in shaping the music into what it becomes but that’s only “done in advance”, meaning that Lars writes music that fits the musicians well. He knows what we all stand for and except for the drum parts the whole new album was composed with written scores. In the rehearsal process we’re all involved in jamming on the riffs with different instruments, rhythm parts, instruments playing the melody, percussion, arrangements, drum programming etc. We’ve never rehearsed as much as for this album and that’s a BIG part of the song writing process as well as the actual composition.

Nick: What does Prognissekongen mean? I’ve tried to translate that using a Google translate tool, and it showed me “Prog elf king”, Is that correct?

Martin: Ha-ha! Yes, for us it’s more like King Of Prog Nerds, but the exact translation would be something like Prog elf king. The title is describing both the music and our love/hate approach to the genre. We like a lot of it very much but something of it is just hilarious and comic, but still we like it because it’s funny… Hard to describe in English, but hopefully the title speaks for itself.

Nick: How much of Jaga’s sound is based around progressive rock? Which bands are your favorites, as well as influences?

Martin: Very little. People have been calling us a prog band for a few years now, but we never understood why. I’m not saying that we weren’t a prog-band, but we didn’t know because we’d never listened to it. We started to check out some Progressive around 2004/2005… Well, over the years we’ve been introduced to some bands but we never liked it, and most of the time we thought the music was really ugly and dull. Around the making of What We Must we heard some bands like “Yes” and “Mahavishnu Orchestra” and for the first time we wanted to dig into this genre. We’re interested in songs and melodies and not so much riffs and jamming so maybe that’s why it took so many years for Jaga to feel the connection with Prog? On the last album we’ve “fooled around” with this genre a bit more and are very happy about being called a prog-band. I guess the influences haven’t been that many prog bands except for the ones already mentioned and a few others like “Robert Wyatt” and “Genesis”. It’s more the way of thinking and the “open mind” that has inspired us. “Over the top” arrangements, sudden key and time changes, corny fanfares, pompous church organ, complex melodies and time signatures etc. Actually, Lars was very inspired by slot machines or One-Armed Bandits when he wrote the songs and that inspired to a lot of the stuff mentioned above plus the title of the album.

Nick: Would you tell us about some funny situations from the tour? Being in a band with so many members probably leads to a lot of interesting situations, such as someone being left behind when the band goes on tour, or something.

Martin: This recent tour has been so far quite calm and under control. Probably because we have some new members, a new crew and just had a fantastic time together. On previous tours we were sharing the same bus for 7-8 weeks and since we’d lived on top of each other for years it became a lot of tension, some aggression, quarreling, leave-behinds etc, but this time it’s been pretty calm. That said, for us the friendship and music is very important, so too much “sex, drugs & rock n’ roll” wouldn’t be acceptable.

Nick: I guess you will probably know why do I ask this, but are you a gentle giant? :D

Martin: I’m a very gentle giant :-) I think the man on the “Gentle Giant” album could be the “Prognissekongen” that Lars thinks of.

Lately I’ve been thinking about that band and the resemblances with our band. We were watching a live concert with Gentle Giant in John McEntire’s studio and I didn’t know that the members were SO good instrumentalist. It was really cool to see them change instruments all the time and play them all so brilliantly. We have a couple of members doing the same thing and it was truly inspiring to see.

Nick: Besides being a musician in an eminent band, you also have a serious role in your life, that of a father. How do you find time to balance between these “two worlds”, if I may?

Martin: Being a father has been a fantastic change in my life. I’ve been used to work 14 hours a day, 7 days a week except two-three weeks holidays and it was absolutely about time to prioritize my son and girlfriend. I love touring and living in a bus for weeks, but nowadays I miss my family after two weeks. I think that’s a good thing.

Nick: Is there anything you’d like to add now that I’ve run out of questions?

Martin: I’d like to add that if it was up to the band we would have traveled all over Europe including you country, the states, Australia, Africa and all the other places we haven’t been before. I hope the most eager JJ fans will travel to the nearest cities to see us all though it can be a bit far away. Traveling with this band is very expensive and promoters struggle hard to make it work so it’s not that we don’t want to come to all the places we’re invited.

Nick: Thanks for the interview, Martin. We wish you and your family all the best.

Martin: Thanks and hope to see you some time in the future!