Bent Saether (Motorpsycho): 25 years in Psycho-Land
Май 28, 2015
Камиль Шараподинов (2 статей)

Bent Saether (Motorpsycho): 25 years in Psycho-Land

Norwegian band Motorpsycho might be not so well-known in Russia yet, however it being started 25 years ago, achieved cult status wordwide and become kind of cultural institution in hometown Trondheim.

Band founder and leader Bent Saether never cared about styles — he started from listening 60’s psychedelica, then felt in love with alterno-metal, became interested in jazz, prog, pop and folklore…

The band was formed in year 1989 and the name came from Russ Meyer’s horror movie about gang of killer-bikers. Classic lineup included guitar player Hans Magnus Ryan aka Snah and drummer Hakan Gebhardt. The latter quit in 2005, being replaced two years later by Kennet Kapstadt. If there is a need to pick some most significant works in huge (>15 albums) discography, it will be «Demon Box» (1993), which opened Europe for the band, and «Blissard», that brought Motorpsycho Norway version of «Grammy». The biggest hit — «Vortex Surfer» — is on «Trust Us» (1998). This song was aired at some popular Norway radio during Millenium night, year 2000. From the more recent works it’s worth to mention «The Death Defying Unicorn» (2012), recorded with Trondheim symphony orchestra. With this programme, the band sold out Oslo Opera Theater for two nights in the row!
The main reason to love Motorpsycho — they are unpredictable. You never know what will hear on the next album! And this freedom attracts more and more fans to the band. Hope that reading this article you become interested too.

Hello Bent! Thank you very much for this interview. I guess that this is the first time you are speaking with the Russian audience, am I right? Hope it feels good to discover new territories. Please some words about Russia, what do you know / heard about the country, it’s people, culture or anything else?
I’m a child of the cold war and will always think of Russia as ‘the big scary neighbour in the east’. It used to be communist scary and a defined entity from a Norwegian perspective, but these days it seems rather like a ultra capitalist dream state, with little central control – almost to the point of anarchy – and suffering from major corruption and total money-rule. I am terrified about the whole Crimea-situation and the Ukraina/Russia dispute, and I’m afraid that Putin’s macho bullshit will throw us all into another major war.
This sounds pretty negative, but it’s all about current politics and not about neither the country nor about the majority of its people! I’m sure most Russians are good people and that it’s a fantastic country – being that big it must be full of wonder and mystery still!
I remember the Makarov/Krutov/Larionov/Fetisov/Kasatonov hockey team and the 1986 football world cup team, have read books about the revolution, about Stalin, about both Napoleon and Hilter’s defeats in Russia and find it a facinating country from a historical perspective. Stravinsky and Shostakovich are among my favourite 20th century composers, and I’ve been looking for a decent copy of the 1973 The Golden Horns movie for years. Can you hook me up? It’s a psychedelic masterpiece!

Tell us please about your childhood and adolescence. How did you find your way to the music. Started as a metalhead, then into grunge, then discovered Coltrane (as we all know from The Nerve Tattoo video :-)) More funny details and stories please!
Well, I grew up in and around Oslo in the 70s, and through older cousins and friends I got into rock muic at 5 or 6. Bought my first album (Kiss Alive 2) when I was 8 and never looked back really! stated playin the drums a year or so later, switched to bass a few years after that when we had 2 drummers and no bass players/singer for our school band, and got stuck with it. Moved to Trondheim in 1988. Joined local college radio station and started Motorpsycho while studying at university. Quit studies in 1993 due to workload and rock star ambitions, and have done Motorpsycho full time ever since!
Started out a true metal head, but got more into psych and other more eotheric stuff when I was around 15-16ys old. The 80s were shit for music, so I dove back to the 60/70s untill I heard Husker Du, Black Flag and stuff like that in 87 or so, and realized that there was this whole underground rock world ripe for discovery. Reconnected with my own musical era and later got into both jazz and more avantgarde stuff as well as country and folk stuff, and today consider myself an openminded, curious listener: I’ll not condemn anything before I’ve listened properly, no matter how unhip it may come across!

How was it with the music in Norway in the early 90s, I guess black metal was omnipresent? Did you have any incidents with aggressive wooden church haters? :-) It’s nice to get the information from the first hands.
Well, back then you had a few different ‘tribes’ that were doing pretty much their own thing: the hair metal crowd, the punks (my crowd!), the straight mainstream crowd, etc. There was no interaction between these groups, and you didn’t really have much contact with people from the other circles. The black metal crowd was really miniscule – we’re talking a handful of people in each of the 5 biggest cities in Norway, a few more in Oslo probably, but still – a very very small scene. You hardly noticed them untill the whole church burning fad seemed to catch on and the media had a field day. To us who’d heard early Swans, Throbbing Gristle, Einsteurtzende Neubauten and other extreme music, it held no musical interest. The corpse paint and all that stuff just felt like silly childrens games to us, so we didn’t take it seriously at all. But I gotta admit that a few of those records have some kind of outsider art appeal today, and I can listen to it as a rewarding musical experience if I close my eyes and ignore the iconography. «A Blaze in the Northern Sky» is a stone classic no matter what!

In Russia we are surrounded by the stories about foreign band being sponsored and supported by the governments, municipalities and communes of their countries. How about you? Did you get any help and respect from authorities during all the years?
Not a lot, but some. In the beginning we were on student loans/grants and later on welfare untill we could actually live off the music, but we pretty much payed our own way as a band. These days the seems to be all kinds of public grants and stuff you can apply for to get your projects rolling, but there was money you could apply for in the 90s as well. They were harder to get and it always felt like you were being co-opted by the state if you applied for that money, though, and we wanted none of that! These days it doesn’t have that vibe, and the money is there for the spending, so why not, you know? It’ll only go to some lesser deserving crap band if we don’t apply!
These days Motorpsycho is kinda regarded as a cultural institution in Norway, and we are constantly asked to do this or partake in that and cooperate with anything from theatres to ballets to churches etc, and we seem to ever so slowly become a part of the cultural, or art mainstream. There it’s different – more or less all public culture is government funded, and we’re getting a little share of that when we do projects. I think this is a good thing, because you don’t have to limit your musical (or whatever) imagination to thing that will absolutly garanteed make money. That means that you can take more chances and go further without having to think about the finances first. It makes for more exciting art!

What I like the most about Motorpsycho is the fact that all your releases sound so different, the diversity of music styles you are using to express yourself is mind-blowing! It’s always fresh for me and I am never bored or disappointed with any of your albums / live records / singles collection whatever. What’s the story behind band’s evolution and genre-bending? Are you the only one in charge of it (as the main composer) or it was totally mutual decision of the whole band? «Hey guys, here is the song I wrote and it’s called «Have Fun» but let’s also try this «Lighthouse Girl» one (which was totally different from the then-current MP style)». Was it like this?
I credit this to a genuine fear of being pidgeonholed. I hate it when I feel like people think they have us figured and think they finally can slap a label on what it is we do before they forget about us. That is one thing – we never joined anyones army or fought under any other flag than our own, and are intent on our own independence and our right to do as we fuckin’ well please!
The other side of this is logical: when you make an album you do the best you can. Hopefully you will have exorciced a few of your musical demons underway, right? That would mean that the next time you make music, you’re not concerned with the same stuff as you were last time, right? that means that the music will change naturally and all by itself. That’s what has been happening in Psycho-land for 25 years. It’s all one long natural musical development. Musical genres are for journalists and uninterested listeners, not for musicians.

Do you have any particular favorite Motorpsycho album from the 90s era? Which one was the most easy / pleasant for you to make?
No particular favourites – they’re all pretty unique and different. The easiest one was the first Tussler album. That took two days all in all.
Most fun? All of them in their own way!

Playing together with Snah for such a long time do you still have something to tell each other? What is the secret of these long-term relationships? I just hope it will last forever (smiles).
Yeah, there’s still new stuff to bring to the table, and our discussion is not done yet! It is pretty special and pretty neat, though, and we are fully aware of it. I think the reason is still works is the fact that we are so different as people and players that we don’t have to fight for territory: he brings stuff I never would’ve though of and I try to do the same, so there is never any fighting or such for neither supremacy or power or anything. We both have a great respect for each other and this thing we have, so we don’t rock the boat unnecessarilly.

I am the huge fan of all cover artworks (and videos as well) Kim Hiorthøy made for Motorpsycho. Can you please describe the process of working with him. You send him the songs and the album title and he comes with the concept? Or you already have he vivid vision of how the album cover should look like?
If you work with an artist and you want him to make art and not commercial product, you basicall just stay out of the way once you have given him/her a title or a few songtitles or an mp3 with a key song or some such. That way the artist will make art and not just a cover. Our relationship with Kim is like that – he has visualized Motorpsycho for 20 years with almost no missteps, so we trust him to keep doing that. He is after all a lot better at this visual stuff than we are!

After 15 years together with Gebhardt, was his departure from the band a surprise for you? How was it – playing drums for «Black Hole / Blank Canvas» yourself? Any good memories about that hard period?
Geb leaving was in the air for a couple of years. At the end of his period in the band he’d lost all interest in rock music and drums, and wasn’t really all there anyway, so him leaving was neither a surprise nor much of a loss in musical terms, as much as a relief! It was weird, of course – 14 years is a long time – but also provoked kind of a ‘we’ll show them’ attitude in Snah and I, and we never worked harder I think. Drumming was a new challenge, and although I didn’t excell at it, I got the job done!
It was challenging to make BH/BC, but also a joyful process that gave us plenty of new energy and ultimately was a lot of fun!

Next interesting release for me personally is your second album with Kenneth – «Child Of The Future». Why America, why Albini? How was it working with such a man? How was that particular american tour? I couldn’t find any decent and detailed information about this recording in the internet.
We got in touch with a booking company that would do a tour for us in the midwest, and to make sure we made the most of our time there we booked 3 or 4 days with Albini in Electrical Audio in Chicago at the end of the tour. It was a great studio and the man is an excellent engineer, so it was a good experience for us. The material wasn’t fully developed by the time we got there though, so quite a lot of work went into the post-recording phase of that record. Both the Ozzylot and Riding the tiger are songs composed after drums/bass and guitar was recorded so you can imagine how extensive the editing work is! It was kinda assbackwards from the normal way you do these things, but it was also therefore a new challenge and a very interesting process to go through!
If you want someone to record your band exactly the way you sound, Albini is the man. Period.

Your latest compilation of singles «The Motorpnakotic Manuscripts» along with «Behind The Sun» are among my favorite albums of 2014! Thank you for this! Where did these singles come from? Are they leftovers from 2013-2014 albums or were written especially for this occasion?
Thanks! As a songwriter you always write songs. When projects like the Death Defying Unicorn come up, some of the stuff you write won’t fit the current context you’re working in and gets put on the backburner. By the time of the «Still life»/»Behind the sun» sessions in 2012-1014, we had so much material that we just had a thorough ‘spring cleaning’ and aired out all the cupboards by recording all the songs that had accumulated over the last few years. Some went on «Still Life», some on «Behind the sun» and some on «Motorpnakotic Fragments» and other, new ones came along during the last couple of years as well. It’s all one big mishmash of eras and dates, but I’m very happy with the way all of it turned out – with how Reine fitted in with the band, and how the songs found their homes in the greater scheme of things!

It seems that during the band’s lifetime you haven’t played much overseas. Few times in the US, once in Japan, once in China (not overseas but still kinda exotic). What’s the reason? There are no proper offerings? Cos reading MP fan boards it’s clear that the band is known all over the whole world
Well, what you like the most about us (question #5) is not what promotors and agents like – they want a one dimentional product they can sell to the masses – so we have not had much luck in some territories. But there are also weirdos that like us seemingly everywhere, so it is a bit of a conundrum. It’s just that the perceived business in doing Motorpsycho is miniscule, I guess. I dunno what kind of pull we have in the states, but it is probably kinda like in France or in of those other countries where we haven’t really succeeded. It would be nice to go more often and do more stuff, but this is also a money issue for us so it has to be relatively together and financially sound for us to do. We’ll see – maybe something comes up? It usually does, and we’re not going away anytime soon, so there’s still plenty of time to go just about everywhere!

I listened to the bootleg from Oslo Teknisk Museum numerous times and I totally fell in love with it! How did the whole event happen? You have plans to record this music properly in the studio later this year, do you? Even on the audience-live recording the sound is so clear and nice and the music itself has such a nice Scandinavian flavor (which I personally adore) so I am sure it will be a blast!
Well, we just finished recording the basic tracks in the studio yesterday! Ståle doesn’t have time to do it this year, so we’re going ahead without him, but it feels like it’s gonna be a pretty cool and weird album if it sounds as good tomorrow as it did yesterday. Obviously it’ll be quite different without Ståle, but I think it will work fine as a ‘pure’ Motorpsycho album anyway.
We hope to focus it a bit and make it a little less noodly, and to have it out by the end of the year.
The concert was a commissioned piece for the 100th anniversary of the Norwegian Technical Museum in Oslo, and is just another one of these cultural projects we get asked to do a lot these days. But it’s nice – it pays decently, it has a few confines that you need to stick within that gives it direction, and you get to play different places than the normal rock venue. It also makes you write differently, which is really cool when you’ve done it for a s long as we have!

Another thing every MP fan is waiting for is that recording from the cathedral you made earlier in 2014. How was it for you? Playing in such a special venue, singing in native language, surrounded by the choir. I read that it’s already mixed and due to release during the spring? What else should we know?
All you need to know is that it will be out in April. Details will follow soon!

Right now, while writing this I am listening to second Spidergawd album and I find it’s very nice. Can you please guide us briefly through all you projects (including playing with Sugarfoot, Spidergawd, producing The South etc) and also about most interesting ones of Kenneth, Snah, Reine and Stale.
Оh… that’s a tall order! Well, I play bass for Spidergawd and Sugarfoot. Both are Trondheim based groups, but whereas Spidergawd is a hard rock quartet lead by Per Borten, Sugarfoot is a country-rock / psychedelia inspired sextet leas by songwriters Øyvind Holm and Hogne Galåen. Both bands are signed to Crispin Glover Records, and we play when we can – neither are professional bands, but both are starting to pick up steam and reach an audence.
In addition to this, I have over the last few years produced three albums for the South – a musical relative of Sugarfoot – as well as for Imperial Moose (using Sugarfoot as a backing band. Out later this year), as well as albums by Ryanbanden and Norwegian rock legends DumDum Boys and deLillos.
Snah plays with Ståle storløkken in Bol and with Møster!, and also writes theatre music in Tromsø right now. Kenneth plays in Spidergawd, Monolithic, Møster! and his own band Grand General, as well as also having sub’ed in various bands over the last few years. We like to keep busy!

It seems that there is something special in the air in Trondheim, there are already so many world-class bands and new names keep on appearing every year! I just discovered Black Moon Circle and The Pink Moon (both include word Moon (smiles)). Not Oslo, not Lillehammer, not Bergen but Trondheim! Any ideas of this phenomenon?
Not really, but having Crispin Glover Records release all the stuff makes it easier to be heard and to reach out. I’m sure that has a lot to do with it. A lot of the other local bands are made up of students and have usually gone to Oslo based labels (Highasakite is a prime example) the last decade or so, so it seems like more stuff comes from Oslo that actually does. I dunno – the vibes and the scene in Trondheim is great these days, and I’m sure it inspires even more new music!

Any nice recent music discoveries you want to share?
As in new, local bands? Well… not really, but I’ve been so busy with my own stuff lately to pay much attention to new band and artist. Once I’ve sent this mail, i bet I’ll remembar a couple though!

Thank you very much for the interview one more time and the last question: is it true that you once have canceled MP show and went to see Grateful Dead in Stockholm? (Read it somewhere, though I’m not sure that Dead visited Sweden after 1990)
I don’t think we cancelled, but we might have said ‘no, we have more important things to do’ before going to see the Dead in Stockholm, yeah! What could I do? It was the Dead, come on!

Interview: Kamille SHARAPODINOV
Photos: band official promo.

Камиль Шараподинов

Камиль Шараподинов