[media stories: 2002: english]
IT'S OKAY TO PAY HOMAGE TO OTHER MUSIC
Band feature / interview on occassion of the IALC release
The incredible Motorpsycho has returned once again with a new and superb album, called It's A Love Cult. Being the most productive rockband in more than ten years, we thought it was time to sent our editor Bas a true psychonaut out to talk to them about the new album, their influences, their fascination for seventies music and jazz, the connection between Burt Bacharach and Motley Crue, and how they manage to keep both quality and quantity on such an idiotic high level.
Not only did they just release their new 'regular' album, for the people who know the band more than just a little bit, it has to come as no surprise that they are already working on some new project. "Indeed", Hakon Gebhardt says "besides being on a fairly short festival tour in which we play at festivals like Pukkelpop and Lowlands, we're also here in Amsterdam to record a session for 'In The Fishtank'". The latter is the series of EPs which are released by Konkurrent, the Amsterdam based label and distributor. Earlier editions covered bands like The Ex, Tortoise and Low, and an EP with Sonic Youth is due to be released in the near future. Motorpsycho's session should see the light of day some time early next year. "We don't know how it's going to work out. We have complete freedom to whatever we want for two days, and we'll probably improvise a lot. One thing that is sure is the fact that we have three horn-players with us, who normally play in Jaga Jazzist. It's a good thing for all of us to be able to document the music we play together, it's quite different from our regular line-up. The Jaga Jazzist musicians are much better than us: They are all skilled instrumentalists who went to music schools for years, and they can play anything, and we're just auto-didactic players who happen to like them and their music very much. They've written some stuff that isn't exactly suitable for Jaga Jazzist, and we'll definitely going to try out some of their material, and play it in a Motorpsycho way."
The Fishtank recordings won't be the first time for the Norwegian threesome to play with experienced jazz musicians. In 1995 they played with freejazzers The Source, on what have to be their first steps into jazz territory. The recordings of that gig were released last year as part two of their Roadworks live-album series. The difference between Motorpsycho back then and right now is huge. "Of course", Hans 'Snah' Magnus Ryan says "we learned a lot over the last couple of years. We listened to a lot of jazz among to maybe even more other stuff and we just absorp all those influences. We are much more experienced nowadays, we are able to improvise a lot better, and it's also important to understand that we were a whole different band back in 1995, more restricted by the rules of rock, indie and metal. The gig with The Source really taught us a lesson, really opened our eyes." Gebhardt steps in "We didn't even rehearse with them before, we just went on stage and played together. Apart from the fact that it was difficult enough for us, we also felt that we had a lot in common, we had the same kind of intuition for what is good music. After this experience, playing with much better musicians wasn't that scary anymore for us." Although they listen to a lot of jazz, it hasn't had more influence on their music than other kinds of music. "We're not unlike sponges", Gebhardt says "We just pick the things we like a hook here, a texture there and from that we create our own little thing." Snah says "Sometimes you play in a certain kind of mode, everything goes well, and when you listen back to it you realise it resembles something else quite much. But that's not really a problem for us, we think it's ok to pay some kind of homage to other music and musicians."
The connection with The Source is still present on this very day, although it is not probable things will lead to a new full collaboration in the near future, as both bands are very busy with their own things. Only on What If, a new Gebhardt composition on It's A Love Cult, the trombone player for The Source plays a short but wild solopiece. It fits the song just right. "I remember writing the song, and someone heard it and said it resembled Nick Low, and I didn't even know his music, I thought. After we rearranged it with the whole band, the resemblance was gone, but it was quite cool to discover that even if you don't listen consciously to some music, when you hear it on a subconscious level, which has to be the case with me, it still can be a major influence on your music." "It becomes like a tool for you to use", Snah says. Gebhardt continuous "Burt Bacharach once said that the only thing you need for the perfect pop song, is to have a small, simple and catchy theme and let that return every minute and a half. In between you can do whatever you want. I very much like that idea. That even works for Mötley Crue. Last night in our bus, our manager put on a video from them, and there was a song that no one remembered, until the chorus kicked in, and everybody suddenly knew which song it was." Gebhardt, Snah and yours truly talked a lot more about themes and hooks in music, and finally come to the conclusion that even classical music from Mozart and contemporary music from Schönberg is restricted to a certain bunch of rules and themes, and that all, in their own way, can be observed as popmusic. "Even if it sounds like total chaos, it's really just the opposite."
Of course we also want hear something more about the new album, for instance how it relates to their last two studio albums Let Them Eat Cake and Phanerothyme. Both albums are stuffed with huge brass and string arrangements. Gebhardt: "It's A Love Cult was a whole different thing to make. On the last two albums we were so much into song structure and perfect arrangements, a Big Plan so to speak, it's almost a typical Motorpsycho reaction to try to do something different after such things. This album is not structured at all. The whole process was much more spontaneous. For example, for the last two albums we rehearsed to death, but for the recordings for this one, I just got off the plane after some German gigs with HGH, and the next day I was in the studio, already recording." Snah adds "Of course we learned quite a lot from the sessions of the last two albums, therefore this time we were able to make more snappy decisions on the spot. It's A Love Cult is more of an instinctual thing, and also much more sonically upfront. More direct, and more acutely releasing and relieving. We didn't have to wait two months for adding the string overdubs and such. The recordings for those two albums were quite scary, we went home after a day of recording, listened back to the tapes, and realised the songs weren't as we planned them. It was only after the added arrangements things fell into place. This time, luckily, we had instant gratification." The pleasantly talkative Gebhardt agrees. "It's more of a live album, with just the three of us playing together, and afterwards adding a small overdub here of there. It wasn't really planned to be an album either. We took a few leftovers from the last record, wrote a couple of new tracks, and suddenly we had a new album. Just like that."
Over the last years, Motorpsycho is the only band that was consistent in both great quality and great quantity. "We're not sure were that's coming from, probably from the absence of stimuli that diverts you from your original intention, namely making music. After a tour, we go home and write some more music" Gebhardt says. "We have no pressure in producing another album for the next spring, we don't work with five-year plans. It just happens this way."
There are not only brandnew songs on new Motorpsycho releases. The Serpentine EP, released almost together with It's A Love Cult, has among its five songs a certain tune called Fade To Gray. Almost five years old, never released before, and certainly a song that the psychonauts around the world are very familiar with because of the live gigs where the song was played on more than one occasion. Snah: "The song originates from the Trust Us sessions, but we were never really happy with versions we recorded in the studio. We reworked it many times, but only now we're satisfied with the outcome. It has a long build-up, a long solo on the end, and it's just more easy to get in the right mood when you play it before a crowd of people." "It's an easy song to just play" Gebhardt admits "but it's an extremely difficult tune to play in a right way."
Time to talk about yet another album, namely Roadwork volume 3. Last year they played two completely improvised gigs at showings of a movie by NYC-based photographer / artist Joe Coleman, an improvised soundtrack so to speak. Rumour said that those recordings were meant to become the next edition in the luxurious Roadwork series. Gebhardt explaines: "We just haven't had the time to send our tapes to Joe Coleman, and make all the plannings. We heard he had plans to make a DVD out of it, with his movie, and then you could choose between our improvised music and that of The Delgados, because he did the same show in London, with The Delgados covering the musical part. We don't really know what will happen to our recordings, I have the cd with the music standing in my cd-rack and for me it definitely sounds great." Snah: "Apart from the Coleman show, we have more than hundred hours of live recordings in our archives, all on eight-track digital. The hardcore fans, who tape almost every gig themselves, sometimes ask us if we are able to release last year's Groningen show or the gig in Paradiso, Amsterdam from last year. We'll see, we first have to find the time listen all of the tapes, and then make a selection. A difficult process which probably takes a lot of our time."
Maybe the band is going to visit Coleman when they play in New York in October. "That would be a nice thing to do, and we'll see what happens." "Playing in the US is something completely new and different for us, the people don't know us, and we play some relatively short gigs on festivals in New York and Boston, with bands like the Bevis Frond. We have to prove ourselves in a way we didn't need to do for years."
And then, our time is almost up. On my question if they like doing interviews, Gebhardt responds: "Normally they're quite ok, but this time I was a bit worried. I mean, it's only been a year since we were here for interviews as well, and we were kind of scared if the people weren't a little bit fed up with us. Not much has changed in our situation, so it feels almost a bit ridiculous to answer the same questions. We don't have any political statements to make, we just make music, and let the music do the talking instead." And that, they do well. Very well.
pictures by Alfred Jansen, used with kind permission from http://www.spex.de/