New Interview w/Bent – Da Music website 22 Aug 2020

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    Punj Lizard

        Google translation:

        When a new Motorpsycho record arrives, we always hold our breath. Of expectation, that is. And those expectations are almost always exceeded. You can read in the review soon whether that is the case this time. But until then we heard vocalist-bassist Bent Sæther about all kinds of things. You get the fallout in two pieces. In this first part he goes deeper into the new record.

        The release of the new album was delayed. Did that affect the music? Would the music have sounded different if the album hadn't been delayed?

        Bent Sæther: The album was already in the mixing stage when the pandemic broke out. So the songs have not been affected by it at all. The postponement did make it possible to further scrutinize all ingredients. Because we suddenly got a few more weeks to let the content sink in and to better understand all perspectives, we did make some minor adjustments.

        Hard to say how the songs would have sounded if they had been written later – or after the virus outbreak -, but the lyrics would probably have touched on those developments. I mean, it's a new world from which we can't get any wiser than anyone else, but it's so all-encompassing that it's always somewhere on our minds.

        Could you (want to?) Explain how the albums in the "Gullvåg Trilogy" are connected? Why are they in exactly this order? What does Gullvåg stand for? And how did you ever come up with such an idea?

        Håkon Gullvåg is perhaps the most famous living painter in Trondheim, where we live. His work is known worldwide and it has been an incredible honor for us to use some of his paintings as covers for the last three albums. We never thought possible that he wanted to paint the cover of 'The All is One' for us.

        Using his artwork on the covers of those albums made a lot of sense. An oil painting has a very different texture, feel or weight and evokes very different associations than a photo or a pen drawing. And both the medium and the way he approaches that medium felt very recognizable with regard to the way we work and how our work "looks at us".

        The three albums; for which he provided the artwork; are all loosely connected, both thematically and musically, and can be called a trilogy to some extent. But there is no linear ground plan, no connecting story or that kind of dramaturgical artifice. Only the lyrics are all more or less about politics and how we humans behave towards others. So in that respect there is broadly a theme that binds the albums.

        That that coincided with the last US presidency is probably no coincidence, but we can't blame Mr. Trump for everything either. At the moment there are also mini-Trumps in Brazil, Hungary, Turkey, Russia (rather macro actually) and other countries. And, as liberal Democrats, we fear that people are resorting to those kinds of neo-fascist forms of government. Mr. Gullvåg agrees with us on this wholeheartedly and for us his work echoes very much in what we try to do musically. Hence, to make it easy: the "Gullvåg trilogy".

        "The All Is One" seems to us to be based on Hermeticism. Can you elaborate on that? Is there some "religious" undertone? Is Life More Than What We Can See? How does that relate to your music and this record in particular? And do you think the title of this record covers the entire album?

        These are not little questions, my friend. Yes, there is indeed an idea at play here that connects with various religious and esoteric thoughts, but the title also recognizes the fact that we all live in a globalized society where everything has an impact on everything, and that you, by harming others, ends up hurting yourself.

        My personal beliefs are in the way I deal with the world: it shines through in how I write music and lyrics. And these particular texts are, in all probability, the most concise condensation of these ideas that I will ever be able to give. They are pretty obvious to me, but … I should also know what I'm talking about, not!

        The current crisis seems to be described in the title song. We found it refreshing to witness that economic interests suddenly (and for once) became less important. How did you experience that?

        It was a real pleasure to suddenly have so much time on hand. Suddenly someone pulled the handbrake and the pace slowed to something we haven't seen in the last thirty years. That was delicious and actually long overdue. We've been working way too hard over the years and would have crashed if this hadn't happened. It's tragic, of course, for anyone who was directly affected and faced deaths, but for me personally, it was good to take that distance. Strange actually.

        But the title track has nothing to do with covid-19 whatsoever. It was written a year earlier, all out of a sense of resentment and disgust at the turn of events. It's the most literal thing I've written in twenty-five years, and yet I still say the same thing I said in Demon Box in 1993, "You've got nothing to say to me."

        Magic and myths (like Sisyphus) apparently play a big part on this (and the previous) album (s). Refers N.O.X. to the Roman goddess? And if not, what does it stand for? Something with alchemy?

        These things are for me to know and for you to find out. But those things are in there and are part of the psychic landscape of the album. If I wanted to be very clear, I would be literal and direct in what I want to convey. But how you sing about something also says a lot about what you want to convey. Listen with your heart and you will understand.

        N.O.X., more than forty minutes of music spread over five tracks. How the hell do you start something like that? And how do you decide that it is finished, perfect, finished?

        Just. You start with it and you work and work and work until it all comes together logically and then it is finished! It is an instinctual affair: shape and outlines gradually reveal themselves, if you sit correctly. So you have to trust your instinct that the process will reveal what is true and true, what is enough and what is not, and when it is finished. This may be metaphysical blah blah, but so is the process of figuring it all out. E And I cannot describe that truth in better words than that.

        Some song lyrics ideas come up large in some way. The work allows itself to be revealed.

        It is said that this album, along with the previous two, encompasses in a way everything you have done musically in the last decades. Is that right? And can you elaborate on how you write an album?

        Music first. Always! Usually the chords and the melody at the same time and then arrange everything until it's done. The lyrics are added when longer passages of musical or philosophical themes that we involved in the creative process reveal themselves in the music.

        I have no idea if these last three records sum up anything at all or if they are the first chapter of something to follow. But I love them all and think we've made three really good albums. Of course some of the older albums were really nice too, but I'm not really objective either.

        Can you tell us something about who contributed to which number? And why did you approach those musicians?

        Well, Ole (Paus, with whom Motorpsycho previously collaborated, ed.) And Lars (Horntveth, from Jaga Jazzist, ed.) Play on N.O.X., because they were both at the cradle of that project. Reine (Fiske, guitarist who previously went on tour with Motorspycho, ed.) Plays on all the other songs, simply because he belongs to those songs.

        But these are mainly practical choices: Ola (Kvernbnerg, also played on 'The Death Defying Unicorn', ed.) Plays the violin. So when you need a violin like Ola plays, you ask him. Reine plays “Reine guitar” like no one in the universe can. So when you want a Reine guitar, you call on him and so on. They are all fantastic musicians with their own sound and their own vision on music and they all bring something different to the songs in which we want them to play.

        Great people, incredible musicians, fresh ideas and a new perspective. Some songs need a little bit of Reine to excel, others a portion of Ola.

        "You have to earn it." The slogan, once used by a supermarket, also applies superlatively to Motorpsycho. Surprising over and over again for 30 years is not evident. Then of course you also have some other questions than just about that most recent record. You will get that in part two of the big Motorpsycho interview.

        Your music has always been said to be demanding, but there really seems to be a clear need for it. Can you explain in some way why that is? And do you feel that your music also answers that need?

        I personally enjoy listening to music (or reading books or watching art) that in any way shifts the parameters of my thinking and helps me understand somewhat better what it is to be a human. Hans-Magnus (Ryan, guitar and vocals, ed.) And Tomas (Järmyr, drums, ed.) Are also like this, so that we strive to create music that affects the listener in a similar way. Some people label this as “difficult”, for others it means only “interesting” music, but perhaps “demanding” is still a good generalization.

        The need for new impulses is a human characteristic: we all have an inherent need to broaden horizons, visit unknown places, gain new experiences, … For us it is so natural that music can and maybe even should. to do. Why else would you listen to music anyway? Perhaps as a consolation, but that is only almost microscopic from boredom. And why would you look for that ?! We don't have a plan of attack or proven formulas to do anything. We just follow our instincts. We enjoy ourselves much better trying out ideas that are not obvious and often opt for slightly stranger solutions.

        That may explain why we are sometimes labeled as a challenge. If the end result is that the listener feels like they have experienced something profound and / or feel reborn, then we have succeeded. We sometimes miss the ball, but now and then …

        While singles are pretty much the industry standard these days, Motorpsycho has always opted for albums. Is the concept of a single too one-sided for you? Would it be quite a task to "stuff" your music into a three-minute song?

        The concept of pop song, as laid down by The Beatles and others of that generation in the early 1960s, has become so ubiquitous and milked commonplace that it is almost impossible to surprise or excite a listener with it. The music world has spent the last fifty years extensively dissecting, interpreting and ultimately defining what makes a song a good pop song. And so we all know the codes and everything has already been redone in abundance. That is why, as a rule, we try to expand formally and seek areas beyond the over-tested parameters.

        You listen to music in a different way when it transcends the usual four-minute-verse-chorus structure. And we ourselves find it more interesting to both write and listen to music that is not transparent after ten seconds.

        That said, few things surpass a really good "song". So if at some point we think we have a contender, we don't make the number unnecessarily longer or keep messing with it just because we can. I think our ears are well trained to know what works and what doesn't. Or at least we assume that!

        You have a very dedicated fan base that is virtually open to a lot of different types of music. Do you think those fans in turn influence your music? If yes, how? And if not, would you consider it?

        We got lucky. Our big breakthrough was the 1993 album 'Demon Box', which actually sounds like a jukebox with fourteen different bands on it. For some that probably felt very schizophrenic, but for others this diversity and multitude of musical styles was precisely the appeal of Motorpsycho. This group of listeners is still the foundation and core of our audience. In that way, "commercial" to us actually means bold and challenging, and not safe, repetitive, and easy to digest. Our audience really only has one basic demand: "Surprise us!". We realize all too well that in order to achieve this, we must be enthusiastic about what we are doing and that we must try to remain resolutely curious on slippery ice. That is our lifeblood.

        It's a strange and atypical logic, but it has worked very well for us and may continue to work. Thanks for that, psychonauts!

        How the hell do you survive thirty years in an industry that is constantly changing? And can you explain how important music (and your own music) is in your life?

        Uh … I don't have a conclusive answer to this question. Actually, I don't know any more than you do, but I've already mentioned an important aspect about this: that as long as there is a need for a band like Motorpsycho, Motorpsycho will survive and play that role. We are very aware that we are a niche group, but as long as no other group is doing what we do the way we can, I think we will survive.

        This is our job. We work for the group as permanent employees and work long periods from ten o'clock in the morning until Hans-Magnus has to pick up his children from school or from the crèche. This is what we have been doing for over thirty years. So it is now just who we are. Whether we like it or not.

        At one point, it turned from what we thought was a career as a rock artist to a kind of lifelong art project that we've treasured ever since. We greatly respect this evolution and are grateful that it has given us so many opportunities. But how we ended up from one thing to the other and how that exactly happened, I really guess. A good portion of luck certainly had to do with it!

        In one way or another, the audience seems to differ between countries such as Italy, the Netherlands and Germany, where you have actually achieved cult status, and other countries (such as Belgium) where this is much less the case and where especially the fanatical fans invariably attend your concerts. Does that make it easier to act in those countries? Is there any difference at all between the concerts themselves? Do they feel different from each other?

        I have to contradict the statement that only die-hard fans come to our concerts. We see new faces at just about every performance, from sixteen to seventy-six years old, so it's a very diverse and multi-colored crowd. More than ever, actually. That many of them remain loyal to us and come and watch our performances over and over again is a different story. That just means that we do our job well! But it is not something we can explain, let alone change.

        In the three countries you mentioned, we had mainstream success in the 1990s. At the time, we were bigger there than, for example, in Belgium and we have a more visible profile there. So more people come to the gigs. We are actually much more of a cult affair in Belgium, because we had less impact there at the time. And so we attract more people there who are big fans of our music at that time.

        We do our best to make every show different. So all performances are ideally very different from each other no matter where we play. Our Belgian audience has always been a very listening and attentive audience. We are just as grateful and love them as much as anyone else who comes to see us.

        Is it important for musicians to convey a message to the audience? And then what is the message you are trying to convey?

        You can only be who you are and do what you do. People will read in it themselves what they want to read. And it is up to them to get meaning and message from it themselves. Music is an art form where the performers are able to express things that words and images cannot. Sometimes there is a message or external meaning behind it, but it is up to the artist to decide whether he wants to or not. We don't have a comprehensive message that we want to convey or impose on the listener. We sometimes think out loud and take a stand, but that's not why we wrote that one song or anything.

        What music do you listen to yourself and which artists are you looking forward to? And how much influence does that have, both on this album and on your music in general?

        Oh, we listen to a lot of different things. That goes from new to old, from one music style to another. And the inspiration is there for the taking in each of those music forms. For 'The All Is One' Mahler is relevant to the build-up and there is probably more Beatles in it than in the previous two albums. Voila, the secret has been revealed!

        I'm looking forward to the new Lemon Twigs album and recently discovered Green Seagull. I really like Damien Jurado's 'Brothers And Sisters Of The Eternal Sun', and I shed a tear when Peter Green passed away. I also like the original choreography of 'The Rite Of Spring' (Stravinsky, ed.) And I just bought the box set of The Mothers (Frank Zappa's band, ed.) From 1970. All those things must be possible.


          Interesting interview – Not so sure about that Ole Paus reference though. No mention of him in the album credits. Bent is probably talking about Ola Kvernberg

          Punj Lizard

            @ ThorEgil – I had the same thought, but I expect it's the interviewer rather than Bent who got mixed up.


              I guess people who have been out to pick up their children from the crèche for 30 years now might be slightly confused at times ;-) Motorpsycho sure keeps young!

              And yes – they're not the best at what they do…


                Hahahah, Johnny, I thought exactly the same the moment I read that Snah is picking up his Kids from school for 30 years now :D

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              …hanging on to the trip you're on since 1994