[media stories: english: 1998]

Motorpsycho: Between Rock And Jazz

Article / Interview taken from
a Dutch magazine,
in 1998.
English translation and picture scans done by Roel.

On the album Angels And Daemons At Play by Motorpsycho we find the song Starmelt/ Lovelight. Before that album the EP Lovelight came out, of which Starmelt/Lovelight was the title-track. And recently there was the Starmelt EP, of which Starmelt/ Lovelight is the title- track. Confusing? Welcome to Motorpsycho's own little universe.

  Motorpsycho in 1998

That band is kind of into magic-tricks with new and old songs. For instance there was a strangling version of Step Inside on Demon Box, because the band wasn't satisfied about the metal-version on Soothe. And the song Timothy's Monster is not on the album Timothy's Monster but on Angels And Daemons At Play. Confusing. Singer/guitarist Bent Saether: "It happens to be confusing. Because we make our own little universe and we set the rules. And if you want to investigate it, you can make your own version of it. We're happy when people see something good in it, but first of all we want to entertain ourselves. Because if you don't do that, you become a circus act, and that hasn't got anything to do with music anymore. This confusion makes the marketing a lot more fun too. And all these EP's take you back to the vinyl era, where you have a concrete break in between songs."

Avantgarde Jazz

That break you need to recover from not only the quantity, but also the quality of Motorpsycho's music. Because after the two horrible metal-albums Saether, together with Snah Ryan and Gebhardt Haakon, produced a few records that come evermore closer to brilliant. And a diversity of styles that knocks your socks off. Name any band, and Motorpsycho has a song in that category. The most recent attempt to make brilliant popmusic is Angels And Daemons At Play, with an old English a in the devil. Not without reason. "We actually stole the title from an old Sun Ra record. So to be sure that it would be our record, we wrote it with an 'a'. It's also sort of a joke, it looks a bit more magic. An other reason is that we have aleady made a record with the word 'demon' in the title." That record is Demon Box, the first album of the band that's worth listening to, and a forebode of the Motorpsycho sound. Quiet and sweet songs as well as hard explosion and other noise. "It was the first record on which we really used our full potential. We tried that before, but weren't mature enough. It's a very diverse album, when it comes to musical styles. But as a whole it works out right, so I think it's a good album. Eversince that record we were fed up with metal. Once we've perfectioned something, when we know we're good at it, we move on. Otherwise making music becomes annoying and boring. We definitely don't want to be labeled as something we are not. We are a schizophrene band when it comes to music, but music is music and it doesn't matter very much how it's done as long as it talks to you. Music has to communicate, and if it does that it can be country as well as metal. That's also sort of what we mean with 'demon', a recognition of the balance in yourself. You need to have angels and demons, quite and loud things. There has to be a balance, that's the most important when we make music. We want to balance it until it represents a whole, we don't want to get stuck in one thing." That goes also for the lo-fi sound the band produces a lot of the time. "Lo-fi is interesting to use for a while as some kind of tool, but it has a very narrow reach. Some guitars sound very crappy, while other guitars are distorted. It has no soundquality of its own., but it can work for some things."
Saether himself listens mainly to avant-garde jazz from the sixties, and Sun Ra and John Coltrane. "Eversince I started listening to jazz, I'm not interested in most rock-music anymore. After all, it isn't interesting to hear other people do the same things you can do yourself. You know how it works, and you know how they think. When you hear the first part of a song, you can predict the other part. Except with a few bands that have the ability to surprise, like Mercury Rev and Slint. It also has to do with phases in your mood are there it doesn't have to be recorded perfectly or produced perfectly. I listen more to the overall picture and the mood we want to create with a piece of music. But some of the vocals are a bit too much out of tune. It annoys a lot of people but I don't mind it very much. Snah sings better then I do, but he feels uncomfortable with it, though he manages easier now. That's good for me, because it takes the focus off the frontman. It also gives a different view on the music when you change the singer."

113th Version

Motorpsycho in 1998  

Jazz isn't restricted to being the music Saether listens to, Bent Saether thinks that Motorpyscho moves more and more to the terrain of jazz. "Of course we don't make jazz, but the relationship between band and audience is the same. Our audience has become quieter and quieter, during the last three or four tours you didn't hear a thing. It's about the ideas behind it, the freedom within the discipline. Jazz has a set of rules that differs from those of rockmusic. Once you know these rules, you can use them in a rock context, that's what we try to do. On the one hand you can really let yourself go, on the other hand that way of playing is very strict. You can't get from underneath, but it's also very relaxed and you can go with the flow, to make the mood of that day. It's very challenging for us as musicians. Take for instance Chien d'Espace, we played that song for 25 minutes yesterday. The opening and ending are the same as on the record, but everything in the middle is freeform jamming. That way some songs are in their 133th version by now." Good for the audience to get confused again...

Erik Paul van Klaveren