[media stories: 2000: english]

Bred Bent Arroganse

Interview with / article about Bent around LTEC et al
taken from the Norwegian magazine
TERAPI #000 / February 2000.
Picture scans and English translation done by Paul Caspers
with some suggestions by Kristoffer.

  Bent - 2000
Fotos: Stig Roar Johansen

He has a big mouth by nature. Sufficiently self-assured and the frontman of Norway's best band. Marie Antoinettes quote from the French Revolution: "Let them eat cake" appeals to him - actually so much that the new album bears that name. The queen's completely laking sense of reality compares to the art-cocoon that Bent Sæther is in himself - as a happy fulltime rocker. Terapi got two hours with the bassist and songwriter declared genius.
Ladies and gentlemen, an ever so small scoop: "A look at Bent".

Bent Sæther is visited by the legendary rock-writer Willy B. He's going to write a book about Bent and the others from Motorpsycho. He feels the Trondheim band is the most important thing to happen to Norwegian cultural life in the past ten years! The musical oracle remains seated during the interview. More than enough to make someone nervous. Willy B. eagerly listens while the interviews commences. Sits quietly and sucks up the words like flies over the table. Maybe a new chapter is taking shape up there in his head. But I assume he keeps quiet because the new album LTEC was turned on. Both we and Willy B. are very interested in this record. Among the first in the world we three listen and let the songs play with our hearing and imagination. After a while it strikes me that the record might as well have been called "Soothe"...

t r a c k   o n e :

The first song starts and we soon learn that things have happened with MP. There is full orchestrating with both strings and horns.

"Every time we finish a tour and come back to write songs, there always is one song that's different and makes for the center piece in the new vision. 'The Other Fool' was one of those songs that the rest of the album was to be built around. We worked a lot on it. Me and Gehardt practiced for two months just to learn ourselves to play the accompaniment easily enough. We're not used to play fast and easy, or ["pinglåt"] if you will. We're usually much more punkish[?]. The song went through various stages before I was satisfied with the melody and the chord-orchestrating."
(At this point Bent picks up his guitar and explains to me the progression from the first idea with the riff from The 'Other Other Fool' - known by the fans from last year's live album - up to the finished melody and chord progression. I thought that was cool!)

"Finally we greased things up and got Baard Slagsvold to write string arrangements to really take a step away from the power trio concept. For a long time we've had wet dreams of making music with a lot of strings and other orchestrating. We felt the time had come now. We'd been dragging the heavy stuff as far as we could with 'Trust Us' and the live album, so now we could do it. And how we did it! It makes you start writing differently too. The song is almost a pop symphony. Hyper-composed."

Bent is satisfied with the direction the band has gone. Very satisfied.

I can't wait until the work after the record's release. We're doing something completely novel and we're exploring new area's of music. On 'Blissard', "two-guitarism" and contrapunctual pop a la Bach was our main theme. On 'Trust Us' the goal was to see how long we could drag the ground tone and monotony. Now our goal is to sharpen our focus on the songs. Edit ourselves and let the songs come out without much addition. In the past our albums have had a load of songs. Now for the first time we've explored a vision to the outer limits and made the songs totally clean. Everything fits in a world of sound and a world of [stemmningsverden].

Concept album...
When it comes to the lyrics as well?
"We've found some afterwards, hehe, but I'm not interested in giving it away."
You're not particularly interested in talking about the lyrics?
"People have to find out for themselves what the lyrics are about. It's not my job to spoon-feed you with what I was thinking when i wrote them."
Bent frowns his eyebrows and looks at me with hard eyes. If the music has lost much of the hard edges, Bent as a human being hasn't become less tough.

t r a c k   t w o :

The new song silently asks for some attention.

" 'Upstairs-Downstairs'. Snah's song. Very mellow. Grand piano, horn and sax - two accoustic guitars and jazz drums in the background. This one also is central when it comes to the vision we had with LTEC."

After a long intro, Snah enters with his remarkable "downer" voice.
"It's not on purpose. He just sings like that. Sounds like Scott Walker and Nick Drake no matter what he sings. It really fits well to this song."

The music sounds different. Do we see a change in Motopsycho's growth?
"Absolutely. MP makes for a third part of my life, right? I don't listen to the same music as I did when i was 20. There are totally different things that interest me today than for example when we made the first records. I listen to other things, look for other things, want to hear other things ... It doesn't mean anything to me to play hardrock like the song 'Demon Box' (17 minutes long noise epos from the CD of the same name released in 1993 - note of the editorial staff), I have to have new challenges to really get turned on. Lately I've been working on analysing good pop compositions. That's what I want to do now. And I do. Sure we could have played the whole repertoire of the Demon Box-days just as well today, but it wouldn't be interesting for me - and that is what's important. If I don't get a good kick out of what we do and have a really good time, how the fuck could the 200 people that listen to it get anything at all out of a Motorpsycho-concert?"

Did you find anything in your search for the good pop song?
"Yes, a lot. The most striking ones are the few that manage to make the sound elegant, but different pop music that sounds very natural even though it's full of advanced timings and challenging melodies. People like Burt Baccarach, Carole King and later the Beatles were the mentors in this art. Absolutely fantastic songwriting! Shifting timing and dur and moll, plus-chords all the way, and then it sounds totally natural, so that even the dumbest bingo-mom can like it."

t r a c k   t h r e e :

Bent - 2000  
The songwriter's eyes are glowing. He's enjoying himself. He has two interested listeners, a good product to talk about and credibility up to his ears. You don't doubt what he says. 'Let Them Eat Cake' still lies in the background like a pleasant carpet of sound. Snahs calming, almost somniating voice takes the song 'Upstairs-Downstairs' to a pop song's limit of some four minutes. The next song calls for attention like a spoiled child. Classic pop music takes place in the room.

"Another hero when it comes to songwriting was Brian Wilson. During one period he was absolutely fantastic. The song you hear now, 'Big Surprise', is a pastiche in honour of The Beach Boys. An exercise in 'Pet Sounds'-sound. The depth in the sound, the high vocal ... "

Apropos ... where would you place Motorpsycho, retro or avantgarde?
"That depends on who listens to it. All I want is to make the songs the same way I hear them in my head. The critics can call me as retro as they want, or avantgarde. It doesn't matter to me."

But your own intentions ... I mean, you do have a full overview of the history of rock?
"I've heard a lot ... I don't know. Maybe everything I make is the sum of all influences. Maybe it's some new thoughts. I hope so, even though I wouldn't say it. The new things are compiled of the different sources of inspiration. I'm a big thief. I'll gladly admit that. Stravinskij said mediocre composers borrow - brilliant composers steal. If you take it to your heart, there are no limits, sort of. You take what works."

How do you work on songs?
"There's no pattern to the way I write songs. Generally I can say I write a new song every time I learn a chord that I think is cool. Besides, I was thorough enough to put myself in the position of having a manager that takes care of all the dumb things that involve playing in a band. I just walk around 24 hours a day and wait for that cosmic beam of inspiration, to say it in a new-age way. Some songs come out by themselves. If it takes three chords then it's a short road from inspiration to a finished song. If the idea is more unclear, I can sit for a long time and wonder about where this song is going. As I explained to you with 'The Other Fool'. Ok, I heard the sound was good, but the timing was wrong and the chords too lame. So I had to work on it. That's basically the way it works. The lyrics however come in bits and pieces. It comes more to inspired moments there - and not hard work."

t r a c k   f o u r :

Suddenly we heard horns come out of the stereo.

"Gebhardt wrote the song. He made the verse and the bridge, but he felt a chorus was missing. For me it was obvious that the song needed a chorus in the land of soul and that's how Walkin' with J. was conceived. Real teamwork."

This album sounds very worked-on when it comes to dynamics and orchestrating.
"Oh yes. There are two guitar solos on the entire record. The rest is composed down to the smallest note. Besides, this is the first Motorpsycho-record with good vocals. Everything that's sung really was tried out 15 times to get it down properly. The mix is on purpose done as hi-fi as possible because everything is so clear and fine ... We haven't done any beautiful records before, but I think we have now. Part of the goal when we started the process of 'Let Them Eat Cake' was to make a record that I would put on myself. All of my favourite records work in all ways. They can be enjoyed in full concentration with headphones, or like muzak when you're doing the dishes. I've had 'Let Them Eat Cake' at home for a month now and I really feel we've achieved that goal. I've completely gone into the songs, to the heart of the song and could feel the feelings behind what I wrote. Really completely concentrated throughout. The day after it was on while I was cleaning my house. I think that's a good sign."

What do the fans think about this [avslipte ?] form of MP music? Don't you have a load of die-hard-fans down at the continent?
"No, I don't think that will be a problem. The fans in Europe are people that are interested in music and that surely will buy the new concept. The ones that discovered us through the live album last year won't understand a thing, but those who have followed us longer will understand that this is a natural progression. Maybe some [forstokka ?] 17 year old will drop out, but some [forstokka] 45 year old might come along thinking it's great dishwashing music instead. We've done our thing when the record is out. We can do interviews so that more people get to hear about it, but when we've got exactly what we wanted, we don't care what people think."

Do you have the same feeling now as with previous releases?
"A bit different. I used to be very nervous because so much was at stake. If this record goes well, the rest of my life will be alright, sort of. It doesn't feel that way now. We took a necesarry vacation in October and haven't practiced since, so now I haven't been as excited as this for years. I can't wait to start touring again."

t r a c k   f i v e :

The stereo takes a break. The display shows that number five is ready. This one kicks off with a really swinging groove, and timing shifting.

"This is Gebhardt singing. His first vocal job on a Motorpsycho-album. 'Never Let You Out' is his own song too. Damn good. Sounds a little like Ray Davies ... this [ngøøøøh ?]-voice. Really good."

Your earlier songs have had an attracting force close to being physical. You can't withstand a 12-minutes-drone riff. Now you're floating over the surface as far as I can hear. How are you going to attract the audience?
"Let's hope the song catches you. The art of songwriting, or whatever you call it."

You've said that self-transcending is important to you when playing live. How can you transcend on a 3-minute pop song?
"There are parts in every song that will evolve to amazing heights live. The next song, 'Whip that Ghost', is typically one of them. It's very obvious how we're going to freak out. It's our experience that the songs that come out differently every time become favourites in the band. When we play 'Un Chien d'Espace' for example, there's always some unimaginable thing that happens with it that makes me forget everything around me. Just live in the now. You're alive like you haven't been before. It's better than sex. No doubt!"

  Bent - 2000

Can you point out the best live experience you've ever had?
"I've cried so many times on stage I don't recall any special ones ... I don't remember single gigs. After a tour, everything is just one big mass of venues and highways."

t r a c k   s i x :

A playful guitar melody underlined by a repeating bass riff quickly gets us out of our sentimental mood. 'Whip that Ghost' will surely become a classic Motorpsycho song.

"The first worked-on instrumental song. It used to have vocals, but we found out that it was more fun to play it on two guitars. That's how it got this Allman Brothers-feeling over it. It's 6 minutes on the album and will be 20 minutes live. Cool song to start gigs with. Listen to Baard Slagsvold here! A total Bill Evans or Miles Davis-[utfoldelse ?]. This kind of thing is so inspiring to hear. When we're a powertrio I have to glue everything, with Baard along I can go into the background and just have a good time. Incredibly cool."

So, you've become four?
"Yes. Baard came along after the Roskilde-gig. The new songs were so composed and difficult that we would have gone insane with pressing pedals. It would have been more work than music. We needed a new guy, basically. When we tried him out last fall, it was like a new start. Old songs that we'd given up playing became like new. 'Kill Some Day' and 'Plan #1' for example. On 'Let Them Eat Cake', he's unmissable. We couldn't have played these songs without him. Neither live nor in the studio."

t r a c k   s e v e n ,   e i g h t   a n d   n i n e :

A sour accoustic guitar song is the next song on the record. Stained Glass sounds a lot like a Bent-ballad, and the songwriter admits a tiny little secret of the trade.

"When nothing else works and I'm completely blocked, I have a special tuning on the guitar that almost always makes a song. 'S.T.G.' is written in the same tuning, and several other songs. This time it's 'Stained Glass'. A last option, but hell. The song came out good. That's what matters."

'Let Them Eat Cake' calms down completely towards the end. The mood gets [avdempet ?]. It's time for confessions. Like marathon at NRK. When you're in the same room long enough, the person behind the masks finally will come through. Accompanied by 'My Best Friend', a song written about / for one of Bent's best friends [oh, really?! - translator's note], I try to get a little closer to Bent.

"I've been reflecting a lot on the situation I'm in right now, and I'm very grateful for it. I had to move out of my [kommunale ?] appartment and got 200.000 NOK that way that I'd been saving. I sat down and thought about what I should spend the money on. Then it hit me that I had it all like I wanted it. I don't want anything. Everything is ok. A funny feeling. A new feeling. It made me understand that I shouldn't waste it. As soon as being a musician feels like a job, I've ruined everything I love. I can't do that."

The last song is called '30-30', and you don't have to be Einstein to understand that a certain personal change in time lies underneath.

"Not really. It's more about the 30 year olds I see around me. Friends that are more 30 than I am. Wife and child. Maybe not as much in love with their wife anymore. I don't know. It's a sort of feeling that things haven't gone as you wanted them to. Plans that didn't come through."

Finally, why is the album called 'Let Them Eat Cake'?
"Don't you know French history?"

Again, that harsh look.

No, apparantly not?
"The French queen Marie Antoinette had the entire French Revolution force at the door. They complained about people starving. 'The people have no bread'. Then the legendary words came from her mouth: 'Then let them eat cake...'.
Such arrogance! So totally out of contact with the world. For some reason I have a feeling for such an arrogance. I hope the record also has a bit of that attitude. Besides - another explanation for the choice of the title is that we've made a real sweet cake of an album."

Are you arrogant?
"Yes! I've always had a big mouth. Can't keep myself from smacking my lips. It's better to apologize afterwards than to not make a good comment."

Don't people walk on rubber boots around you then?
"Yes, but I don't like that. I have no respect for arselickers. I easily lose respect for people that don't stand for what they do or say. And then they never get it back."

Terapi leaves the appartment at La'mon in a tough pose on army boots and hopes for the best.

C O O L   a c c o r d i n g   t o   b e n t :

Music: Cool jazz
Album: "Gerry Mulligan featuring Chet Baker"
Vocalist: Chet Baker and Frank Sinatra.
Literature: 50's American noir-literature, for example James Elroy.
Art: 60's art nouveau-poster art and Munch
Film: "Performance" by Nicolas Roeg
Magazine: Mojo
Contemporary bands: Mercury Rev, Sun Ra and Turboneger
TV: Erik Tandberg
Football players: Joe Jordan, George Best and Eric Cantona
Country: Italy
Food: Veggie pizza at Maliks
Drink: Armagnac
Place to go out: Credo

Short definition of cool from Bent Sæther:
"You have to have self-assurance to be cool. Everyone who wants to be cool, isn't cool. Coolness doesn't have to be being distanced. Cool is more of a feeling other people get from you - either they buy your image, or they don't. Most cool people are dead."

Stian Wallum

[translator's note:
Note that Stian Wallum
is the frontman in the
awesome band Tugboat,
of whom Motorpsycho
reportedly are admirers ...]