[media stories: 2000: english]
heroes of the month MAY 2000
Interview with Bent
On this side you can find an interview with Bent Saether.
I was given the chance to talk to him on the 1st of april this year after a 2h 20 min gig in the Markthalle - Hamburg, Germany.
LOOFTPAGE: First of all, it was a really amazing gig tonight. Iíd like to know if youíve lost your fear to play in Hamburg.
Bent: Oh yeah, it was the most difficult city for us for a while. The three or four first times we played we only had about 20 to 50 people, it was really going slow while we were getting big in around Bielefeld, Bremen and in the Ruhrgebiet. Hamburg was always behind, so we stopped playing here for a couple of years and went up north to a little Dorf called Bad Segeberg and played there for a while and then we came back and filled the Hamburg Logo-Club. That was pretty cool a couple of years ago, and then we did the Hurricane-Festival after that, and that was really packed. So it seems like we have sort of broken the spell, you know, the bad Ąjujuď that Hamburg had.
L: I saw you last year at the Hurricane where about 3000 people went mad in the tent when you played.
B: That was really amazing, that was a real fun experience.
L: At the side of the stage were standing members of Pavement and Blumfeld and didnít quite understand what was going on there with you and this crowd.
B: Itís fun to be the underdog. You know, weíre on a little independent label that we started with some friends. And weíve just been doing our own little thing for about ten years and it feels like itís sort of paying off. The masses are starting to enjoy what we are doing.
L: They more than just recognize you.
B: Oh yeah, accepting us, and itís fun to be able to do that without having to be a part of the big major machine, you know, the major labels and all that bullshit, because there are such a lot of hassles that go into that. Itís real fun to do it on your own terms, it feels so ... you know, this is our thing - we did it! And nobody can say that weíve paid our way or anything like that.
L: A few weeks ago you hit the German charts on #83, I think. What do you think, will there be a "commercial breakthrough" for Motorpsycho?
B: I donít know. Itís hard to tell. You know, you can never count on stuff like this. I mean, weíre just playing music, and if people like it thatís fine. We never really think about how to sell it or anything like that, itís ... weíre really egoistical, we really have to please ourselves and if it happens that we like the same the same stuff as a lot of all the people do, then weíll sell some more records. But what we did this time around was that we got a little bigger advance out of Indigo, which is the distributor, and we hired some promotion company and did a lot of promotion for this record, and it seems to have paid off.
L: You did this one months interview tour through Germany and filled a lot of magazines and were on some covers.
B: In the music industry as well as in any other money making industry you have to put a lot of money in to get it some money out, and if you can actually afford it to spend a lot of money to promote the stuff, then youíll get it back somehow. So it seems like weíve sort of risen a little level commercially at least. The music has also changed from the last record by the way. Weíve done this for ten years and we still find little types of music or styles of music or stuff that we really donít know yet. So weíre still working out secrets of the magic. Itís a scientific little approach we have. What do these people do? What is it about this music that I like? Why do I relate to it? And then we start to dig into it, try to figure out what it is and sort of adapt it and learn a lot and have a lot of fun while doing it.
L: There was a lot of magic, an amazing feeling in me tonight, especially when I heard songs like "The Wheel" or "Plan #1", those you havenít played (like this) for so long. Yesterday in Bremen it was a little bit different, it seemed like a little fun gig for me for a while, you made a lot of jokes and stuff on stage.
B: Yes, it was really, really, really different. I mean, that was the mood of yesterday and today it was something else and we decided, probably a lot of the same people are going to come, so weíre going to change the set around as much as we can. And it worked. Itís really hard to tell in which way itís going to go, because you know the songs, youíve played them a shitload of times, but itís the "Dramaturgy" of the set - really - it sets the mood. And when we got through "The Wheel" and "Plan #1" today, it was so fuckinī magic up there. It was like so intense, and that was like "woo..."
L: I think the crowd felt that.
B: So it was, really, you know, this total outpouring of something different that we didnít have yesterday. But yesterday was a good show, too - but in a different way, and tomorrow weíll probably be different again. So itís up to the four people on stage and the communication that we get with the crowd and whatever the logic of the set is that day.
L: Do you know today what you will play tomorrow?
B: No. We sit down approx. 1 hour before the show and decide what songs we feel like playing, and thatís basically because we have a guitar technician that needs to know the tunings of the songs, because theyíre written in so many different tunings. So we donít really know. There are a couple of songs that we really know quite well that we havenít played in Germany so far. So we probably do them tomorrow..., but except for that we donít know.
L: Listening to "Now ItíS Time To Skate" was just great for me. I never have heard it live before.
B: Weíve never been able to do it before, because we need the piano part to make it sort of dancy.
-- Baard is entering the room for a moment --
L: This is the new man? "Heinrich" youíve called him yesterday? So whatís his real name? Baard?
B: Yes, Baard Slagsvold. Heinrich is his, how do you call it, in-between name? Itís Baard Henrik Slagsvold, and Henrik in Norwegian will be Heinrich in German.
L: He fits quite well into the band.
B: Heís a fan. He has been watching us and liking us since forever, and so, when we needed somebody to do the arrangements for the last record, he came in and he also did some piano stuff on the record. And then we found out that, okay, if we need another guy to be able to do the other stuff, that he was the perfect choice. And he has such a huge empathy for our music, itís really natural and we donít really have to work too much. He feels his way through it and he is really - itís fun. The power-trio format that we had for a long time, it really worked, but it sort of got stale. We needed some extra input and some new intentions to bring in some new colours in the sounds.
L: The sound is now fuller, you can say: FAT!
B: Yeah, I mean, what has happened is that I have to play less and Snah has to play less and the drummer has to play a little less.
L: Yes, and you have to do less footwork.
B: That too, you have to leave a little more room to him, and the stuff that he does, it sort of fits in frequency wise between the bass and the guitar... and the drums, it fills out a little hole that might has been there before. It really feels good and itís a lot of fun to play with him because he knows a lot of stuff that we donít know. Heís a total jazz-head.
L: Did he study music?
B: Yes, he did. And today you could hear it, in some of the jams he was pretending that he was Thelonius Monk and he just did his Ąouiek - now play against that, you fuckers!ď And this is real fun because there is something else happening.
L: Do you know for how long youíll be working together with him or is he a full new member of the band?
B: You cannot really add anybody, three of us still write the songs, but heíll probably come to the studio the next time, sure. If he has the time he will also join the next tour. His real band is called ĄThree Little Chineseď, itís a pop band, an acoustic pop band, and he plays bass! So I think he really likes to go on the road and play a lot of piano, because thatís what he really does. Heíll probably be up for it as long as heís got the time.
L: Can you tell me something about plans for festival-gigs this summer?
B: We had requests from a lot of different festivals, but weíve said "No" to most of them already, because Snah, heís together with a woman from Iceland and they have a son and they always go to Iceland in the summer and he wants to have as much time out there as possible and - the only thing that weíve said that we will do is Lowlands in Holland and Pukkelpop, because theyíre at the same weekend and thatís the end of August. So if we can fix something else in there as well, then probably, but nothing before that. But Gebhardt is going on a little tour with one of his hobby-bands, itís a trio, two of them guitar players and they play country and western stuff. Itís basically him just having fun, playing the banjo and getting drunk every day. Theyíll play some festivals but I donít know if theyíre doing anything in Germany, but theyíre doing something in Holland.
L: On the Stickman-Records webpage you get the possibility of downloading two songs from Gebhardt that are not included in his solo 10"-album "Gebhardt Plays With Himself". Itís all really weird stuff. Where did he do most of the recordings? Backstage? In hotel rooms?
B: Yes. Heís always been like that. He always makes all these little - you know - children songs - almost. Itís sort of fucked up Residents style or whatever you want to call it. And so I think he has a huge back load of stuff that he just wants to put out. Most of the songs that he writes arenít really compatible with the rock format. He thinks a bit differently of these songs, but the two songs that he wrote on the last album were really good, so hopefully heíll start to include the others in the band as well when he writes songs, because there is a lot of good stuff in his head.
L: What do you think of the new ways of the Internet and the possibility of distribution via the net?
B: I donít know too much about it, so itís really hard to say anything, but what I like about it is that the world has shrunk even more, and the unofficial fan page that we have is fucking amazing. There are people from all over the world posting messages and talking together and - you know - just doing it. So that stuff I like. They havenít quite figured out how to do the sales ways yet. Iím a little scared, because what I live off are my royalties from record sales. And if everything just gets posted on the net and gets downloaded for free, which would be an ideal thing - I think itís a really good idea - then I would have to get a job on the side. I cannot do that and still be as full into the music as I need to be. So thatís a bit scary, if you know what I mean. But I really like the possibilities as long as they figure out somehow and someway to do it.
L: You now somehow started to do right this - putting songs on the net that can be downloaded for free. Do you think this method will increase in the next years?
B: Probably, probably. I donít know. Iím so old fashioned. I like to go into a record store and see what Iím buying and looking at the covers. So I really like having the thing, the thing that an album is. Iím not too keen on just downloading the music and having it sort of virtually. I like the physicality - you know - the vinyl thing! Thatís what I grew up with. I like the big chunky - boom - vinyl stuff that smells, that thing. Itís almost erotic, thatís what I like.
L: A lot of fans of Motorpsycho not just buy the CD or vinyl edition of an MP-Album; they want to have both of it. The CD to listen to and the LP to just have it!?
B: Itís not something that we do on purpose or just to milk the fans or anything like that. Itís just - I have to say that: until I donít get the vinyl Iím not sort of finished with the album. The CD is - thatís just, hm, whatever. But once I get the vinyl, itís like Ąaahh, a new album!ď this is the real thing. Maybe Iím old fashioned but it feels different.
L: So you canít imagine putting out an album without the vinyl edition of it?
B: No, no, no!
L: Do you often have a look at the "g-35" MP-mailing list?
B: No, Iíve never been there before.
L: Theyíre posting every little bit of information there: setlists, reports, news, stories, photos...
B: I heard something weird today. This one Norwegian guy was in Bremen yesterday and then he drove back, itís about 700km! And by 8:00 oíclock this morning he posted something on the Ąg-35ď. I give up! Thatís - itís incredible because if it means that much to people then - I mean - what can I say?
L: It really does!
B: Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Itís strange, because itís the most - single most - important thing in my life, and it seems like it feels that way for a lot of other people, too. So itís a very intense relationship thatís on people bound up with our music, which is good.
L: Did you listen to Norwegian radio on the 31st of December 1999?
B: Yeah, I was in there a couple of times just to check if they were actually doing it.
L: That was just another "g-35" thing...
B: That was amazing, youíre so humble, what a bunch of fans.
L: And quite a lot of them are following you on your tours.
B: The Grateful Dead used to have fans like that. And so it seems like a lot of people have picked up on that sort of waving our stuff as well. Itís a very romantic thing. Itís like Ąoh, letís go on the road with this band and just watch all these shows.ď The last fairytale ...
L: I think this is a sort of feedback that lets you know why youíre doing it.
B: It really makes it worthwhile and really keeps us on our toes, because you know there are at least 25 or maybe 50 of the same people tonight as last night, and so you have to make it worthwhile for them to go through all these hassles of getting a hitch hike over there, finding somewhere to sleep, dragging their backpacks around. So itís really - we have to put everything we can into the music every night, because if we were too bullshit it wouldnít be fair. It keeps us thinking about who we are and what we should be and what we should do. It really does!
L: But there are also days that donít work.
B: Yeah, sure, sometimes, some evening we fall flat on our faces, a lot of the times we did, but itís a chance weíre taking, I think, because when it really works itís magic! But then again sometimes, when we really feel that weíve played shitty gigs, all people come and say that this was the most amazing thing we ever did - and the other way around. So thereís no logic to it. The way we feel on stage doesnít really relate to the way it seems when you look at it.
L: How can?
B: You can never tell, you just have to try and try and try and then if youíre lucky everybodyís happy. Sometimes, sometimes everybody is happy.
L: Your roots are bands of the 60īs and early 70īs like The Who or MC5, arenít they?
B: Yeah, I mean, after a while it became that at least, we grew up with the fuckinī Scorpions, the late 70īs, early 80īs Heavy Metal thing with stuff like Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Saxon, Kiss, Van Halen, MotŲrhead, all these bands. Thatís what the three of us really grew up with. Then we grew a little more and discovered bands like HŁsker DŁ, discovered Punk Rock, discovered the New Wave thing, The Swans, Sonic Youth and stuff like that. Weíve just been listening to music and caring about it for so long. But thereís a lot of that late 60īs wipe Ė really Ė I donít know, I can really feel what theyíve been trying to do, because the ambition of it is really inspiring. Like "Good VibrationsĒ, you know, just making a single like THAT in 1966, thatís fucking madness! How could you do that and think that is was going to be a #1? And the fact that it actually worked, on top of that, you know, making a song that is like a mini opera. Four minutes of all this weird stuff and actually making it work like a song. That sort of ambition I relate to. Thereís so much empathy in me, when I write songs Ė that stuff I want to do. And there are a lot of good sounds there, thereís a lot of good musician membership. Rock got really stale in the mid 70īs before the Punk thing, and the Punk thing was so fuckinī basic thatÖ sort of, itís all right, but thereís not a lot of vision to it, itís just Rock, and then the 80īs came and that was just bullshit, and the 90īs weíve been a part of. So to find inspiration in Rock-Music you have to go back there anyway.
L: What do you think of electronic music?
B: I havenít really gotten too much out of that. I like organic music, music that has some sort of hypnotic pulse; it has to do with heartbeat. A John Coltrane record has got a different kind of heartbeat, itís so organic, and itís alive in a different sense than all this techno stuff is. It really just makes me freak out, because itís too static, it doesnít relate to my pulse. So thereís not a lot of that stuff that I really enjoy, so far. But the theory of it and using all these machines to do music, thatís fine, I mean: Go ahead! As long as you can express something through it. What I really find lightly about a lot of the techno stuff is, that it seems like theyíre making all these weird noises because they can, theyíve got the equipment, and itís just jerking off with a little computer instead of making something that relates to people.
L: Youíve worked together with Deathprod. a lot.
B: Yeah, but heís one of the guys that actually can do it, heís really aware of this human factor and stuff. Heís fucking amazing.
L: Can you imagine what the future might bring? Are you going to write Symphonies, Rock Operas (like Tommy) or something like that?
B: (laughing) I donít know yet. Weíve written something like 10 or 15 songs already since the last record and theyíre all different. Thereís really no big red thread through the whole thing. Itís just a bunch of songs, and we havenít really got the time to work on them too much either, so we just have to wait and see.
L: Are there persons or bands you would like to work with?
B: Not reallyÖ
L: Britney Spears?
B: No! I donít know, I sort of feel that what we do relates a little bit to bands like Mercury Rev or The Flaming Lips or Spiritualised, this neo-psychedelic thing. In one way it sort of does, but we have this other thing, too. And thereís not really this ONE band that I can say, that this is my ultimate favourite thing and this is what I want to do work with. So there is still one or two good records every year that come that make me say, ďYES!Ē But I donít really listen too much to music, itís Ė I donít know Ė somehow it feels like competition, thatís not good. You donít Ė ahh Ė they are Ė ahh Ė no, theyíre not good, no. You just sit there and sort of analyse it, I know itís stupid, but itís just this mechanism. So itís better to relate to ďdeadĒ people like Charles Manson, John Coltrane, the MC5 or whatever, because thatís not happening anymore, itís very definite what it is.
L: Just tonight, I think about two or three songs were about Jesus and God. Are you a religious band?
B: I donít know, "My Best Friend" Ė I wrote that one, and itís about this character that I know, itís a friend of mine, but I didnít want to use his name, and I thought, ďWhat name should I use?Ē Itís such a stupid thing, a Norwegian name in English, or an English name, because we are Norwegian. So I just thought, ďOkay, what kind of name can I use?Ē And Ė aha Ė why not? Itís a name. And it gives the whole lyrics another aspect; it can, if people want to interpret it religiously, theyíre fixed dudes. So, thatís the one song and ďWalkinīWith J.Ē is Gebhardtīs lyrics, and that was, I think he had an encounter with a Jehovaīs witness one day, when he was really hangover, and it really pissed him off. So he needed to write something about that, so thatís the song. I donít really know what itís all about even, so itísÖ
L: Can you tell me how songs normally are fixed together? Does one of you come along with a complete song or with just fragments, or do you create new songs while jamming?
B: It can be that, it can be everything from a totally finished song like "The One Who Went Away", I wrote on an acoustic guitar and taught it to the guys and said, ďThis is way it should be, no more, no less, just Ė boom.Ē But then again a lot of the other songs are just, somebody has some sort of idea for a little verse or a little chorus or a little riff, and then we just try to play on it and see what itís all about. So thereís everything from pure, rude improvisation like "The Wheel", that song was written on a soundcheck in Cologne. Snah was soundchecking his guitar, and he just started playing ďduh de duh duh de duh de duh duh de deĒ, and I said, ďEy! Remember this! We have to play that tonight!Ē And then we didnít really know what to do, so I started to bark on top of that and it became "The Wheel", seventeen minutes of this huge fuckinī thing. Thatís like one extreme, and the other one is like this totally compact finished thing and just, ďThis is the way it should be. I know exactly how it should be.Ē So everything in-between is possible. And the same with the lyrics as well, some things are really concrete and they really are about this one thing, and other lyrics can be just painting with words, just to sort of add to whatever atmosphere the music gives. So itís everything from Ė to, we donít really have any rules.
L: Are there members of your family or friends that donít like your music or what youíre doing?
B: No, but my Grandma, every time we make a new record she says, ďOh, Iím so glad that you got rid of that Ė you know Ė the first record, I didnít understand that, Iím so glad about what youíre making right now.Ē I think she tried to listen to that and really tried to get something out of that, but she couldnít. So now she actually can. But my Mum was there in Norway, my Dad will come and see us, my sister is always there, and I mean, we even had Snahīs mother sing on one song once. Itís a tribute to a Norwegian child group from the 70īs called ďKnutsen Og LudvigsenĒ. Two guys that made five really amazing records, and some people made a tribute to them, and we did a song called ďsykĒ, and we got his Ma to sing on it. So that was a lot of fun.
L: How is this sampler called?
B: Itís called ďEllediller & KrokofanterĒ. But, I mean, Gebhardtīs mother is always there, his Dad is, heís a physics professor, and he always comes along, and he wants to be in the mosh pit, just to get all this bear all over and have this noise come over. Heís not too much into the music, but just being in the pit and just feeling it, thatís great. So we donít really have any problems. My Dad didnít understand anything until the biggest national conservative paper interviewed us. When he saw that they thought, what we were doing was good, he was sort of good with it.
L: And before that he wanted you to do a ďnormalĒ job?
B: Yes, stuff like that. ďBe a bank executive like me, get a real job!Ē Then he mellowed out, and he understood that this is actually good stuff and that we can live of it.
L: A little change. On the Stickmanís Ruin release we will find quite different stuff from the last record?
B: Yeah! The two first songs that we played yesterday ("Heartbreaker" & "High Time"), very Rock and Roll are on it. There are 7 songs all together, and itís basically the Hard Rock stuff, that we took off ďLet Them Eat CakeĒ. What we normally would do, would be to mix it all up, to make this a whole mess. But we figured out, okay, letís try to do the shorter thing, and it was really good that we, we were brave enough to actually do that. We were so scared when the record came out, because we thought, ďOh, is it too mellow? Will people get anything out of this?Ē
L: You have to listen to it more than once!
B: Sure, it is this little Ė I mean Ė the further that we get away from it, I can really appreciate what the record is all about, because itís this little universe that we have never made before. And I donít think anybody has made that sort of thing before, so it has its own little place in there somewhere. Weíre really happy that we were brave enough to take out all the Rock stuff. But then again the Manís Ruin thing will be the ultimate ďVodka-AlbumĒ probably. Itís just like boom, boom, boom, seven rockers! But thatís good, too. We know our Rock anyway as well.
L: Will we find "Dr. Hoffman's Bicycle" on the E.P.?
B: Yes, thatís on it, and also a song called "Glow" that we did quite a bit on the last tour. Thereís a demo song on ďThe Other FoolĒÖ
L: Is it "Star, Star, Star"?
B: Thatís also there in a totally different arrangement. The two songs that we did yesterday, a song called "Rattlesnake" and another one called "The Vanishing Point", which has got a car on it. It sounds like a Kiss song, so it should have a car on it! Itís basically stupid rock, but itís good, I mean, there are no ballads on it. Itís just boom, boom, boom.
L: Is this E.P. maybe longer than ďLTECĒ?
B: I think itís 33 minutes, a mini album.
L: So there are no longer space trips?
B: Well, "Hoffman" is 7 min long and "Glow" almost 8 min. Those are the spacier ones, but theyíre pretty together. We didnít really feel the need to mellow out, to space out too much this time, next time maybe, we will see. Probably a little jazzier with horns on it, doing that kind of stuff.
L: Like the last song on ďLTECĒ?
B: This is just one of these songs, that was originally written on a guitar, and that didnít really work. It became just one of these "lalilala-songs", these lighters on power ballads. So we took off everything and made it this Ė I don't know Ė psychodrama. I really like what the guys did arrangement wise with the horns and all that. It was really good to have that song as a sort of ending, because everything else is very mellow, and this is just paranoid.
L: Could you imagine doing anything else than music? Or does anybody of the band sometimes think, that he does not want to do that anymore?
B: As long as we can keep it fresh and improvise as much as we do, and just feel like every night is as important as any other, then I think weíll keep on. But as soon as it starts to feel like a job, then I think it will sort of end up. Weíre very paranoid about that as well and try to keep it as fresh as we can. So, I donít know. Gebhardt is going deaf. How long will he be able to do it? I donít know. But itís been very nice for ten years. If you asked me ten years ago if I thought, that we would still be playing in the year 2000, Iíd have said, ďFuck! No!Ē So if you ask me today Ė I donít know. We might stop just after this tour for all and ever, but I donít think so, whatever. As long as itís as important as it used to be, then I think weíll keep on.
L: Do you think it would change you in person, when you would get a Top 10 hit?
B: No, I donít think so, because weíve been at this for so long. We know all the bullshit of the record industry, so weíre not going to be fooled by anything. What I really like about the way weíve handled our career in a commercial sense is, that every record has been a little bit bigger. Weíve always been able to control it, and always been able to handle the extra amount of people and the bigger venues. So it has been growing quite naturally. Itís not really a problem for us to play in front of 1,000 people, I mean, five years ago, ah, ah, no!
L: At some venues hundreds of people have to stay outside and go home, because your concerts are sold out.
B: Really? The thing is, houses like these (the Hamburg Markthalle with an capacity of approx. 1,200 people) are the biggest that you get before you have to move into the 5,000 people thing. I donít think we would be very happy there, or anybody would be. Our music is sort of Ė you have to see the people that youíre playing for, and you have to have this intimacy. We can handle 1,000 people, but 5,000? That would be too much! But if it happens, weíll have to deal with it.
L: So you would do it then?
B: I hope that we donít have to do that. I really prefer to play two nights here instead of playing in an arena. We just have to wait and see if it becomes a problem. You can never know. We might have reached the peak of our career. We might become a smaller band again, who knows? Iím not going to think about it, until I really have to.
L: Okay, Thank you very much for your time! My deepest respect for your work and: Have fun!