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VISIONS 350: Bent about "Blissard"

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  • Started 4 weeks ago by Guybrush Threepwood
  • Latest reply from Johnny_Heartfield


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  1. Guybrush Threepwood

    The anniversary issue of VISIONS 350 will soon be published, celebrating the history of the magazine with the 350 records of the month so far. You can get a taste of it online in advance, including: Bent Sæther about the Motorpsycho album "Blissard".

    Visions 350: Motorpsycho

    Or as a translation:

    "When we did "Blissard" in the winter of 95/96, Motorpsycho had already recorded five albums before, two of them multi-disc affairs and one a country & western soundtrack parody. We had experienced failure (with the first two, harder albums), but also already a bit of success (with the two after that). The latter had been a somewhat schizoid affair, recorded by a band more concerned with 'doing the song justice' than establishing a sonic identity or stylistic coherence. So it seemed logical to us to now attempt an album that was more focused and contained songs that were all more 'of a piece'.

    By gradually phasing out the remaining screamo vocals and going in a kind of post-Sonic Youth avant-pop direction, the new songs that emerged were all more or less born out of experiments with alternative guitar tunings. And they evolved into numbers that indulged in double guitar attacks and overall led to a more guitar-centric approach than we had before. We were looking for a way to keep the intensity but avoid the cartoonishness of 'alternative rock' in its heavier moments: We wanted it weird and gnarly, not chest-thumping macho gymnast rock. This felt more real to us.

    Our lighting engineer Morten Fagervik had tentatively filled the void left by his predecessor on keyboards, Lars Lien, in early '95. And although he was primarily a drummer, he also took over second guitar when we went to Stockholm's legendary Atlantis Studios for a two-week stay in October '95. Our ambitious goal was to record and mix eleven new songs in that short time. Therefore, in addition to our usual producer Deathprod, we also brought along our live sound mixer Pieter 'Pidah' Kloos, because shift work seemed indicated.

    Because time was short and we knew what we wanted, we had carefully rehearsed and arranged the songs (for the first time) in our rehearsal room beforehand, so it was more or less a 'paint by numbers' process to record them. This created tension, soon the session felt a bit frustrating: Without the usual creative fun and with a strict schedule, the energy suffered, the mood suffered and it was all about work, work, work.

    And how we worked! Or did I already write that? We got up at 9am for a truly crappy hotel breakfast and then delivered 14- to 17-hour days to get the whole thing to the finish line on time. Tough act to follow, but we did it. Somehow.

    Seduced by the fantastic vintage equipment and the opulent sound that this - for us - new studio offered, it quickly became clear when we returned home that we had made a pretty but comparatively sloppy record. It was also clear that parts of the guitar work weren't good enough, and two or three songs simply weren't the bomb. So after a bit of a crisis, we decided to re-record some stuff at Rodeløkka Studio in Oslo and go through the tapes and see what was good enough and what kind of album we could salvage from the Stockholm sessions.

    In the end it was enough for eight out of eleven Stockholm songs, partly in the form of a complete upside down ('The Nerve Tattoo' only kept its drums, the rest was re-recorded, in a different key!), partly with only minor adjustments, and of those eight 'Manmower' is the only surviving original mix.

    Inspired presumably by Dinosaur Jr's 'Poledo' on 'You're Living All Over Me' (1987), we put a recording from a portable four-track at the end of the album, along with Deathprod's salute to the creator of danelectro guitar - to add another touch of otherness to the album, putting the over-arranged rockers in proportion. All these songs were then mixed by Ulf Holand at Rainbow Studio in Oslo.

    'Blissard' was our first album for Sony/Columbia in Norway and got a big promotional push. I don't remember if it went to number 1 in the charts, but we got the 'Norwegian Grammy' Spellemannsprisen for it that year and it was a solid success everywhere, even Australian and Swedish pressings were released. It also spawned two top 10 singles/videos/ten-inches, and established Motorpsycho as a touring band. It's a good album, and we still play songs from it occasionally to this day."

    Posted 4 weeks ago #
  2. Vegard B. Havdal

    I'm trying to think of what he means by "cartoonishness of 'alternative rock' in its heavier moments", is it Weezer and Pumpkins and stuff like that...

    Posted 3 weeks ago #
  3. marc

    I read it in the way that a big musical gesture is often a thin line. Not funny music in a "haha-funny" kind of way, but larger-than-life stuff less subtle stuff like the Nothing to Say riff/video for instance.

    Posted 3 weeks ago #
  4. Johnny_Heartfield

    "cartoonishness of 'alternative rock' in its heavier moments"

    A word from the old (not necessarily wise): When you grew up with other musical stuff, probably 70s heavy rock or early 80s metal, alternative rock was something new to you in the early 90s, something you didn't automatically take to like a fish to water but first noted from the outside, an older musical background. From that perspective a lot of the new "alternative" stuff sounded rather similiar and pretty cartoonish too, especially with the less inspired representants of the genre. That changend the more you got into it, but still the feeling of "cartoonishnes" might prevail.
    In fact every musical genre or trend since the early 70s classic rock became more and more self-indulgent, mainstreamed in its own stylistical limitations, more stylish and marketable, more labelable and more labeled, and only the strongest or most influential (or egotistic) representants managed to develop an individual, special sound. Funny that these days "classic rock" has even more so become a marketable lable in that vein.
    Probably that development is as old as post-war pop music, but you don't notice when you're born into one of these "waves", only later on. Being as old as Bent (or even a little older, my god...) I can only guess that's what he meant.

    Btw: in this respect at only 33 years of existence (haha) Motorpsycho do appear like dinosaurs of the pop age - and still extremely modern, because they have retained (or very cleverly created?) that uniqueness that so many musicians seek in vain these days.

    (To end that little lecture in an adequate way I might call it "The problem of the musical box")

    Posted 3 weeks ago #

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