Motorpsycho: Interview With Bent Sæther
In reply to my recent review for new album Kingdom Of Oblivion, released 16th April through Stickman Records, Motorpsycho invited me to submit an interview. I did so several weeks ago loaded with quite a few thought provoking questions for them to mull over. Thanks to the guys in the band here it is now published with some honest and thoughtful answers offered up.
The opportunity to discover first-hand what motivates the band to still make records, their take on the Scandinavian music scene plus Brexit, The Beatles, what they call, ‘The Process’ and much more. Please read on and enjoy the wisdom, honesty and integrity of Motorpsycho.
With the UK leaving the European Union this year (Brexit) does this have any effect on Motorpsycho and your touring plans for the future?
We’ll see! The UK has always been a money-losing proposition for us if we do it as a part of a regular tour (night liner & ferries vs earnings), so we usually just do the token London gig before we go back to Europe. If Brexit means reimplementation of hours of border checks etc, it probably means we can’t afford the extra time it takes to actually get there and back and will have to drop going. So in one sense, not much of a difference I guess, but …one is 100% more than none, and it would be a bummer to do nothing.
I think Brexit in general terms will make Britain more insular and closed to us foreigners…
We would obviously be up for flying in and doing a week or two in a van if anybody would set that up, though: it’s not for the lack of will! Right now we have no UK booking agents or representation so it isn’t likely. It really is one of those chicken and egg scenarios: no agent – no gigs, no gigs – no agent etc.
But we will just have to wait and see, won’t we? I think Brexit in general terms will make Britain more insular and closed to us foreigners though, so there will be less cultural exchange between Britain and Europe. For better or worse.
What is there left for Motorpsycho to achieve after so many years writing, recording and playing live?
We don’t really see this as a means to achieve anything: it is the doing of the thing itself that we love, feed off and keep coming back to. You know: ‘The Process’. We think of this as an art-form and are quite content exploring this universe without it leading to anything other than deeper insight, personal growth and hopefully even more exciting music! That we are able to do this as a profession is still somewhat mind-blowing to us, and we only ever hope to make the enough money to be able to do it all again next year! Pigs in shit etc!
What qualities does it take for a 3-piece band to stay friends but also to allow equal contributions to the music?
An ability to see the music itself as the most important thing, and to be willing to make yourself subservient to the vision of the composers and the needs of the music. Understanding you often have to let personal issues play second fiddle to the total of the musical expression is vital. To us it’s not about who does what or any such ego stuff, it’s about sharing the tasks and getting the team to pull together. It’s like any other commando operation in that respect 🙂 Even if I write most of the material, I love nothing more than getting my hands on something new Snah wrote, or starting to knead and tweak new ideas from Tomas. Sharing a certain sense of humour helps a lot too!
We know we are lucky to be able to do this, so we treat it with respect and rarely let whatever personal differences we might have get into the picture or threaten the set-up. It’s just not worth it!
you often have to let personal issues play second fiddle to the total of the musical expression is vital…
Are there any other exciting new Scandinavian bands we may not know that you would care to recommend to The Sleeping Shaman?
I am not really up on how well versed you are in Norwegian music, but …probably better than me! Anyway, some of my current faves are Needlepoint, Ola Kvernberg’s Steamdome, Krokofant, Astrosaur, Elephant9, Atlanter and Goat the Head. As for Swedish or Finnish music I’m very much out of the loop, but I think Svart records in Finland are doing some great stuff, and obviously any/everything Reine Fiske over in Stockholm is involved in is usually mindblowing. I like Casa Sui and others of that latter day Danish kraut’y stoner ilk too, Papir and those guys, so Denmark is quite good at the moment.
I like a lot of the stuff that comes out of the jazz scene here these days. Atomic are prob my all time fave group, but anything from Lassen to I Like To Sleep and all points between do stuff that is worthwhile giving a listen.
Has rock music lost or gained importance in people’s lives in the last 30 years?
To me it seems like rock music got formatted and stale enough to lose its mainstream appeal some time during the last 20 years. These days it’s not The Music as it was in the 70s/80s. It’s like jazz: that was the main thing in the 50s but kinda got formatted and used itself up to the point where it didn’t feel relevant to the mainstream any more at a certain point.
By now the compositional ground rules for pop and rock music laid down by The Beatles in the 60s are so well known that we all parse it in a heartbeat and judge it before the 2nd chorus. It’s all too well known to keep us interested for long, and kids find their heroes elsewhere. So, yeah – I think so.
that is why Motorpsycho like the longer song forms and the challenge of trying to make these bigger (‘proggy’) structures work…
Then again: that is why Motorpsycho like the longer song forms and the challenge of trying to make these bigger (‘proggy’) structures work: once you throw in a 3rd, 4th or 5th theme in there, people get lost and either remain so or get really interested. We play to a listening audience (we’re not lookers or showmen, so it must be that!), so it’s our duty to keep it unpredictable. This thesis seems to be more or less correct, because we are a niche band in a niche containing just us, and that is fine by us 🙂
Are there too many bands around these days? Choice is everywhere. Is this a good or a bad thing?
I dunno. To me new music is anything I haven’t heard before, whether it’s from the 1800s or from last week. I’m still not quite used to the fact that everything ever recorded is available right now, so I can’t really tell if there are too many bands or not. Thinking about it, it does seem that the major trend is away from the band collective and towards the solo artist, and …yes, there are way too many of them! (I’m sorry – bands have always had a bigger appeal to me!). But that might have as much to do with broader cultural issues as the musical kids are spending more time alone these days etc.. But it is up to you: if you can keep your focus, you can go deep. If not, there is plenty of superficial pleasures to be had. As long as there is room for the first, we’ll all be fine.
Is the average Norwegian’s lifestyle as idyllic as portrayed here in the UK? Please explain the best and the worst things about being Norwegian?
I dunno how idyllic they paint it, so it’s hard for me to tell! But this whole social democrat way of doing things that we have been doing since the war, really works here. Of course, being a population no more than 5 million all counted helps, and finding a shitload of oil in the sea in the late 60s made us to a large extent a financially independent nation, so we got lucky with that one. Right now we have money to burn, and luckily for us some of that has been invested in culture and the arts, so it has helped Motorpsycho survive in lean times.
Norway is a safe society with lots of room and great stability. Which are good things to most people. It is a boringly safe society, though, so it sometimes feels really bland and dull, and the distances between anywhere are ridiculous and …well, nothing ever happens here, does it?
I imagine it’s like a slower, wetter and much larger version of Scotland with less people and more money in the bank. Is that how we’re being portrayed?
There are a lot of good musicians out there it’d be fun to play with…
Is there anybody you would like to work with in the world either in a production capacity or musical?
Well, most of my heroes are dead, so… I can’t really think of anybody right now! Getting Andrew Scheps to do our mixes was a boon – that really solved a lot of our probs. Producer-wise, we have tried working with several and they have all made a difference on how the music turns out, but I can’t say that anyone in particular comes to mind as a dream collaborator when I think of producers right now – it all depends on the project, you know?
There are a lot of good musicians out there it’d be fun to play with, but the right ones usually show up when the time is right anyway, so we don’t really go looking. It’d be fun to get Reine more involved on the production side someday, but we’ll see how long it takes for the plague to go away and all that. Stockholm is a long way away right now.
Who changed music through their influence and music the most in the last 50 years?
Hard to say! but if The Beatles were at the vanguard of rock’s Big Bang in the 60s, the next 50 years saw many strands of that explosion grow into art-forms of their own, it saw the whole electric music thing being monetized and turned into a business, even to become perhaps the most important cultural signifier of the last 50 years: into an era defining thing.
Music was never that at any earlier time in history, so, I tend to think of it as the whole thing being more important than any specific people in it, and that it’s all valid. Just more or less interesting.
Does the ignorance of the UK music press towards Motorpsycho frustrate you and do you think the reason your fame hasn’t grown is simply down to marketing?
Oh … there are so many aspects to this, that it’s hard to give a short answer, but … yes, and no!
Back in the day, when we were a mainstream proposition in Norway and on the covers of magazines, the lack of attention from the UK press felt a bit unjust and …maybe not ‘racist’, but like it was a protective policy organiSed by UK music biz interests. It didn’t feel like it was about the music, but about some populist image or business thing, so we weren’t even invited in to play the game, you know? But any exasperation we might’ve felt has on one hand dulled – cuz the world is different, they don’t matter as much and we are who we are anyway – and on the other actually changed: we’ve had reviews in Mojo and suchlike for the last 15 years or so and have been treated respectfully, so we can’t really complain.
It is what it is: we are a bunch of weirdos from nowhere with long hair that play too long songs and sing in an American accent – what can we really expect from a general UK audience, you know?
the lack of attention from the UK press felt a bit unjust…
So, our lack of mainstream success is to a large extent self-inflicted I guess: What keeps us interested and hopefully an interesting band, is the opposite of the things that make you a commercially viable product. We thrive on unpredictability in every respect, we are inspired by the unknown and we are so musically curious and impatient that we never remain in the same spot for long enough to be explainable, much less an asset to invest money in or sell as a marketable entity.
We know this and have accepted the fact that to be any good we need to do it like this, and that ultimately we’re more concerned with the quality and integrity of what we’re doing than the popularity of it. We’re also aware that the nature of this thing is on the side of what most people want out of their listening, that we’ll never be a mainstream concern. At the same time, we also recognize that without us there would be a Motorpsycho shaped hole in the musical universe, and…well, we can’t have that, can we?
It would be fun to tour the UK with someone though, so please give us a ring if you need a support band for your tour!
We’d obviously love to sell shitloads of records and all of that too, but… not if we in our own eyes have to be a mediocre version of ourselves to do so. Quality will prevail.
Please us this space for any final words…
Thanks for your kind words and your interest in all things Motorpsychodelic, Tim – we are grateful for your championing of our band and hope we’ll get to come back to the UK sooner rather than later. See you then! In the mean time, keep listening and caring.
Peace & love! Bent.
Label: Stickman Records
Band Links: Official | Facebook | Bandcamp | Twitter | Instagram
Interviewed by: Tim Keppie