[media stories: 2001: english]


Interview with Snah after the Darmstadt show / 2001-10-11
originally broadcast on German radio channel
In English. Found at the psychonautin site.

How far do your fans and your audience influence your musical development?
"Practically – on stage they influence us. You know, if it's an concentrating audience it will be generating stuff happening on stage. If the audience is like talkative or drunk or unconcentrated you get distracted. So tonight was a bit of everything, maybe it was a bit of a hard setlist for people to follow because it was very turbulent, it was like whoo... up and down, so maybe it was a bit to challenging for people to dig into. So... but we try the best we could anyway. But a lot of people follow us around on concerts and it's really inspiring because also you have to... if you have people who have seen like 50 or 100 shows you have to be really..."
...you have to be good!
"It motivates you, yeah really, it makes you think about what you're doing. But at least it makes you want to concentrate and push yourself forward into unknown regions..."
I think, a lot of people got problems coming into the phases you have on stage, because if it gets more quiet and more soft they start to talk and whoa whoa and cheers... and often these times are the greatest, the very small and difficile notes, so exciting, and they just don't listen. It's terrible.
Ja, it's too bad for them. In Norway it's even worse. A lot of the places, a lot of the venues are student places and the students want to be entertained. They want to sing along to your song and want to like 'whoa, party party, oh, play, oh...' so they will yell, as favorite song they will yell like 'Nothing To Say, oh... Nothing To Say!'. All the time, you know."

In these difficile parts, in these jam-parts, how do you communicate? With you eyes or do you know each other that good you don't have to communicate?
"Definitely with our ears. But if there's some kind of cute, going into the next part or whatever... if you have a song structure, maybe you have like a huge intersection of jamming: then you have some kind of system for going back to the normal world and playing a song.
Yeah, you have the 'Ah, Bent is playing this bassline, now!' (kinda communication)...
"Yeah, or small small hints like musical 'doo dit doo dit' and then you know: okay, let's go back. But sometimes, it depends on the mood... we never know what happens and that's the treat of it all. Sometimes it's really, really, really... I can understand that people, some people, are getting really tired of all our jamming [laughs]. Definitely, but even though: it's worth that try – that try to dig into something, because after all this frustration on getting nowhere there will eventually be a solution!"

You often change your style, and when you finished a new record, aren't you afraid that your fans couldn't like it?
"Yeah, definitely, always! And also with the last record, because it's so composed and soft and in any way... yeah! Of course!"
Some old metal heads may not like it.
"Definitely. I understand. Yes, yes. (...) It's some kind of softness that is provoking a lot of people. And also a kind of softness that is provoking ourselves as artists or human beings. But maybe it's like the third year's crisis on Motorpsycho or something like that. Anyway, we have to write it out. Take a song like 'The Slow Phaseout' on the last album, it's very much like elevator music, stylish, it's musically making some kind of point, to the lyrics, always, and that goes out for songs like 'Go to California' as well. It's like a 60s prestige with some kind of purpose as far as I'm concerned. There's some kind of friction in the lyrics. It's like playing around with these 60s clichés. (...) But if you don't get across that, you know, if you take it like 'Eh, this sounds like The Doors', then it eventually gets very boring for you, I don't know. Anyway, I'm really happy with the album. Because it turned out a way over anybody's expectations."
It's such a great album...
"Ja, but it's so sad that people are really hunger poor on what we used to be like three years ago or with the 'Demon Box' or 'Timothy's Monster', which all are really great albums in a retrospect and I'm really proud of them but, you know, we change as human beings and we have a responsibility to try to do something new, which way ever it turns out. I'm not too preoccupied in what Motorpsycho were about, no way."

On the new album, are there strong influences from your childhood heroes? Also on the 'Let Them Eat Cake' – there was a song for the Allman Brothers, and?
"The 'Song For A Bro' is a semi-cover. It's not an 100%-cover, but it describes this feeling and we never hide when we get inspired in that way. It's very obvious for everyone. And it's just this kind of feeling, an melodic thing, that we really enjoyed playing. So, it may be not so original but still it's an musically really intensely feel like playing. We just can't hide it. And that goes for the new album as well: if you want to look at it technically, it's a long list of references, obviously to the whole history of rock'n'roll. But the anthropologic aspect is not so important, in no way, because there are songs, there are things,... the whole Phanerothyme album is one complete story, in a way. (...) There are these hints to 60s and 70s music. It's hard for us to censor all these things out. We cannot leave it out because it's all there in just a part of our tools or whatever, how you make a song and how you formulate it. It's not a cautious effort to recreate sounds from the past. It's just how we like things to be."
I think it's not really possible to make a completely new music style because everything was there before.
"Ja, ja, in it's own way. We don't want to be conservative or nostalgic in any way, but we just look..."

Is there a song from you heroes which still makes you feel special emotions – which makes you cry or something that way? Maybe one you listened to when you were 18 / 19 years old?
"It's a very hard question, because it could be various things. But yesterday we listened to The Who. The new release of the 'Live at Leeds' album. And the whole 'Tommy', the rock-opera. I don't know how long it is... With all these small small themes, that are interconnected with the 'Tommy' story. And it's so beautiful when you get these goosebumps. But, when I was 18 / 19? ... I don't know. When I was 16 / 17 years old, I was into heavy metal. Everybody was into heavy metal. Boys don't cry and woah... [laughs]"

When you write your songs, do you compose them? Do you sit down and write down the notes or do they come out while jamming? How do the songs...
"How do they happen? It's just an acoustic guitar and you play some chords that you like and you say 'lalalalala' and you go to the rehearsal studio..."
What's first, the lyrics or the music?
"Maybe sometimes the lyrics are first, maybe you should ask Bent, because he's the main lyric writer. I write a couple of songs, Gebhardt does as well, but with me it's always the music first. But I know a lot of writers that have like a definite feeling of the lyrics and they content on a story first. But I haven't experienced it yet. It starts with an acoustic guitar and just humming a melody basically. It doesn't get out of the head. That's the annoying thing, you can't suppress it, it's there and you take it to the rehearsal room, or you go to Bent's or Gebhardt's place and play around with it. And then maybe we record it on some kind of four-track or eight-track recorder and just experiment (...) and see what happens if we do this and sometimes it's just... maybe you have one verse or a refrain, it doesn't really make it. Maybe you add something else from a complete different idea and then it will turn out completely different. It's basically just a little experiment. But you have to be available to go to the rehearsal room or be together and just throw balls. And that's where it starts. And of course in the end it comes out as some kind of... for the last album everything is really arranged, a lot of instruments, a lot of violins and horns, our keyboard player, he can read notes and..."
Do you play by ear or by eyes and notes?
"I can't read notes. So, when we cooperate with him we have very definite sketches and ideas of how to make it and we can say like 'da da da' and not like 'da da doa'. This way we can guide him along, so he can take along to the process and formulate it technically and write it down. I would like to get into that 'Fach' or how do you call it, but you know [laughs]. The starting point is always very simple, it's this little melodic structure. It's not as hard as it turns out to be in the end. It's just putting the magnifying glass on. [...]
We have some kind of chemistry, and we're also able to work with each other over tremendous amounts of time with extreme pressure while touring, while recording... It's some kind of mutual respect. I think that is a very important foundation or cooperation that you really get along with your fellow men."

Did you change personally as much as your music did?
"I think we're changing more personally than our music. Yes. That's what we're trying to do. Make the music change more."
Is the music showing: 'That's how I live'?
"It should be. When it's most satisfying it's some kind of film. And I know Bent keeps on saying that from his – you know, he has written like a hundred songs or something, hundred lyrics – he says, it becomes like a diary for him and I can really understand it. Going back to 1993 and discovering what was going on way back then. I very seldom listen to the back catalogue. I haven't got that feeling yet [laughs]. But ehm... I especially go for the setlists and the improvisational parts. It really reflects your mood before that evening. Sometimes you don't feel good and then it doesn't sound much – but for the times it just flows. It's very strange because everything happens automatically, you get into some kind of soul. It's like a pure instinct thing – and that's a good work for it. At the same time I think that aspect for Motorpsycho has made us able to keep on, keep on, keep on, because the reservoir of music is endless, theoretically, especially when it comes to the improvisation stuff."

Did you take many drugs when you were jamming?
"Never, never. Maybe a glass of wine or a couple of beers... one or two times I've been smoking and playing and that was maybe '92 or '93. I was not able, physically, to play, to do anything with it. So, I think, maybe a lot of people think that we're into any kind of drugs, hallucinogenics or whatever but that is technically not the case... Of course we smoke some weed now and then, but we were never into hard drugs or hallucinogenics."
Yeah, but, I don't know, you call your album...
"It's Phanerothyme as an psychedelic age and not as... of course it could be, if people want to read it out of that title. It could easily be that. So, you know, it's ambivalent.
I have never eaten LSD or ecstasy or any kind of chemical drug, no mushrooms, anyway, I feel pretty fucked up – without it [laughs]. (...)
We are no alcoholics at all it's just... maybe becoming very disappointing for a lot of people [laughs]. But I think, that has been also an aspect of playing and playing and playing and developing the stuff, developing the music... it was an imperative to be sober in order to formulate, to blast out subconscious music outbursts, you need to be really concentrated or it really easy gets out of control [laughs]."

Is there anything in your band history you would like to undo, to change?
"Ah... I don't know... it's probably a lot of things. If I could go back and change my own mood, you know, then I would be more... enthusiastic! Then I would attend not being an pompous ass making music but to be open and listening all the time... ach... [laughs] ... because a lot of times music doesn't happen because the people don't get along. It's really frustrating because you have your own... like game to play. I would have gone back and readjusted some of that stuff. But it's a bit hard."

Where do you see yourself in ten years? Can you say anything about it?
"Maybe we are still touring and making fools out of ourselves. It's hard to tell. We never really thought about the future. That's the thing. We have like half year-plans to do. It's like we know that 'Now we have ten songs, now we have fifteen songs: let's record them – it may be the last thing we do'. We have always had some kind of things like that. This may be the last tour we ever do, you never know. But it's been like that for ten years [laughs]. But you get into this habit. It can be too comfortable to have, like a record company and a tour bus, a huge tour bus, a nice touring schedule... we're not earning too much money, but anyway, we survive and it's very easy to get comfortable in this kind of game."

Can you imagine a life without Motorpsycho?
"I don't know... it would be very strange. And it will probably happen somewhere in the future but it's gonna be mighty strange, because I guess I am so much more addicted to Motorpsycho, even more than I dare to admit. And if we quit it would be an extreme emotional break up, because it's been one third of my lifetime and... I can't imagine. It would be devastating in any way. I would probably be completely broken in a couple of years and try to formulate a new personality or something. It's pretty weird."

Is there any band that really impressed you recently? A new band maybe?
"New bands? There are a couple of good bands around these days... A couple of really good contemporary groups and you probably heard them all... like Sigur Rós >from Island, completely mind-blowing. That's music... whoohoo. And also some of the Canadian bands [Snah's referring to Godspeed You Black Emperor! and the Constellation universe here – ann. of the layouter] and I think Mogwai has a lot of this really explosive stuff. And none of those groups are too preoccupied with the writing of pop songs and I find that really interesting, because now we are in a phase of really writing pop songs and really try to formulate stuff and you have this complete other approach in those bands. (...)"
The voice [of the Sigur Rós vocalist] is really strange, but great...
"Yes, yes! He's not embarrassed. Some people really hate his voice 'Whoa, you can't sing like that...' ... but it's... awesome! Yes, because it's so pure, it's music."
They don't care about...
"No, why should they? It's 100% inspiration. It's not like tagging along to any kind of trend or anything."

Will there be another video like 'This is Motorpsycho'? A second one?
"Yeah, we've been thinking about it and we were talking with the guy who made the first video but it's a slow progress. We have a lot of videos, made for albums, maybe 8 or 10 videos and really good video clips, lying stuff, and something should happen. But we don't really have the time to do it ourselves, we need outside help to get it together and we didn't really pull it off yet but maybe in a couple of years."
You said you got a lot of video clips but I never see any video clip, just 'The Slow Phaseout'. Do you control which clip is thrown into the market? Or is it just the business, and if the audience says 'We don't like to see Motorpsycho' they don't broadcast it?
"We don't really know what happens, but on every album we make a video and it's the same guy who makes the cover art, Kim Hiorthøy, he made the last five videos, so since The Nerve Tattoo, which is included in the 'This is Motorpsycho' video, I guess, he made videos for 'Hey, Jane' and 'Starmelt / Lovelight', for 'The Other Fool', maybe a couple more as well. Really great stuff, it's all there, it's brilliant stuff. You really gave me a good idea, I just have to say it to the other people in the organization, that this should happen, because it would really be a very nice compilation."

I just wondered where the tattoo is from?
"I think Bent had it in San Francisco at '88 or '89... maybe it was a bit later as well... But what is it? It's very powerful... I think it's some kind of tribal, Celtic maybe, related to that style. Definitely. It has any kind of meaning that you want to put in. It's really balanced and some kind of duality there, which is really strong. (...) It has grown to be an immensely important symbol for us and for everybody else."

Are you real superstars in Norway?
"No, not really... everybody knows who we are and that we're making trouble. Of course we get this music prices for our albums, yes, on the television and 'tataa – 'Motorpsycho, you get the prize for the best rock album – Let Them Eat Cake – tataa' – and we go there on the television 'tataa' and 'Yes, thank you', what can you say? It's only appearance, it's bullshit, but, like I say, you have to try to behave [laughs], because you can use the record business and mechanisms if you are clever. And that is how it's working, because they don't have anything to say with our work, we just give them the masters and they do the rest. But in Norway, if you are a big star in Norway you sell like 200.000 copies and you sing in Norwegian... but we sell – the last album – maybe 15.000..."

What is it like to live in Norway?
"It's important for us to stay in Trondheim. In the early 90s we thought,... when we toured Germany for the first time, and Italy and 'Yeah, wow, this is great, let's move to Eindhoven, let's move down hear somewhere!' But now I can't imagine any other place to stay because when you go home from tour, when you go home from the studio, it's so nice to have a place that is not happening."
Do you like the countryside and the nature?
"Yeah, definitely, I'm really addicted to it and I'm really suffering from being on tour and not being able to go out and get lost in the woods. (...) We don't have a television at home. Anyway, it's so much going on, so many impulses, and so little time to think about how you feel. And it's not comfortable for us. We need the silence and the non-happening environment to create something. That's so important for us.
And now, I will have to go."