[media stories: 2000: english]
A PROFILE OF MOTORPSYCHO:
Major Players in Europe
Rock's Best Kept Secret in the U.S.
Excellent band feature
Get ready to hear the combined power of King Crimson, Metallica, Pavement, Sonic Youth, Soundgarden, Sun Ra and Neil Young all filtered through the scope of one highly original band. From the medium-sized coastal city of Trondheim in West-Central Norway comes one of rock music's most accomplished and visionary groups, Motorpsycho. This prolific band's recorded output is lofty, heroic stuff with the spirit of Viking sagas, executed with the painstaking care of stoic masters. Bass player/lead singer Bent Sæther, guitarist/singer Hans Magnus "Snah" Ryan and drummer Håkon Gebhardt have developed an expressive vocabulary of musical conversation and they are not afraid to pick up a violin, banjo or mandolin when the mood calls for it. Motorpsycho's lyrics are sung in accentless English with a few European inflections and turns of phrase, which add to the overall charm. Ryan's mellow baritone voice, featured on "Greener" from Blissard (1996) and "Sideway Spiral I" from Angels And Daemons At Play (1997), is a perfect complement to Sæther's highly emotional, endearingly raspy melodic lead vocal lines. Motorpsycho is well respected by the European music press and 1993's Demon Box was nominated for a Norwegian Grammy.
The renowned ponderous giants of rock's early 1970s progressive hay day (such as Peter Gabriel-era Genesis, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and Yes) each mustered a dozen or so extended epics over the course of long careers. Motorpsycho's epic tally is up in the thirties although they still have many good years ahead of them. Long progressive/ psychedelic numbers like "Mountain" and the ultra heavy Jefferson Airplane cover "The House At Pooneil Corners" from Mountain ep (1993), "GiftLand" and "The Wheel" from Timothy's Monster (1994), "S.T.G." from Blissard, "Un Chien d'Espace" from Angels And Daemons At Play, and "Vortex Surfer" and "Radiance Freq." from Trust Us (1998) are all quite impressive in their own right yet they don't reveal the full range of the band's ideas.
The balance of Motorpsycho's sound consists of gentle acoustic ballads, cool jazz/pop, catchy alternative rockers, noise-metal nightmares, and Gebhardt's forays into refracted music hall and warped traditional folk. There are also plenty of fine straight-ahead rock moments. "Flick Of The Wrist" from Starmelt ep (1997) could be vintage electric CSNY, "Motorhead Mama" from Another Ugly ep (1994) out-Lemmys the wild man himself, and "The Other Other Fool" from Roadwork vol. 1 (1999) stomps along on a booming power-trio groove. The band's inspired cover choices include "California Dreamin'" (The Mamas & The Papas), "New Day Rising" (Hüsker Dü), "Up Our Sleeves" (Humble Pie), "Watching You" (Kiss), "Working For MCA" (Lynyrd Skynyrd), and "Young Man Blues" (Mose Allison/The Who). In 1994, Motorpsycho even released a limited edition country album called The Tussler.
From the grunge metal explosions of their 1991 debut Lobotomizer (with Kjell Runar "Killer" Jensen on drums) through the experimental sound collages on parts of Demon Box and Blissard (in collaboration with Helge "Deathprod" Sten) to the sophisticated sheen of the recent album Let Them Eat Cake (given even more texture by the keyboards and horn/string arrangements of Baard Slagsvold), the members of Motorpsycho have always prided themselves on their high levels of musicianship, flexibility and creativity. Although they played a well- received showcase at last year's South by Southwest conference in Austin, TX, the band has not toured the U.S. They would like to play here when the time is right but they are kept extremely busy touring for their legions of devoted European fans.
Motorpsycho has made a career of doing things their own way. Having signed an unfavorable deal soon after becoming a group, they are now in Norwegian court suing Voices Of Wonder Records to regain rights to their early recordings. Since 1994, their albums have been released on the indie label Stickman, a small Hamburg company run by trusted friends Jeannette and Rolf Gustavus, and mostly devoted to the band's catalog. Stickman was voted Best Record Label of the 1990s in a Norwegian poll. During my interview with him, Bent Sæther explained the band's reasons for choosing to work with an independent label rather than a major. "The music business isn't there to help you. It's there to take your money," Sæther told me. "... Fame is basically a hassle and has no value whatsoever if it's not on your own terms. Anyone can be a whore - there's no art to that - and being famous for it ain't too much to be proud of."
Motorpsycho's Stickman releases can be ordered over the Internet at stickman-records.de (although a few of the limited edition titles are available only on vinyl at this point). Much of the pre- Timothy's Monster material can be obtained through CDZone.co.uk. Some of the recent stuff occasionally turns up used at Amoeba. This is music worth seeking out. For a complete transcript of my exclusive interview with Bent Sæther and an annotated discography/career overview, go to FreeCityMedia.com. You can also check out the band's unofficial but endorsed web site at Motorpsycho.fix.no.
(also scheduled to appear in Bay Arts & Music Magazine, Vol 1, No 5)