Norwegian progressive rock band Needlepoint released a superb, masterfully recorded album titled Aimless Mary in 2015. We talked to guitarist, vocalist, composer and lyricist Bjørn Klakegg about his band.
How and when was Needlepoint formed?
I had a meeting with Thomas Strønen that resulted in a DAT-tape with a lot of improvisation on it. Some years later I asked him if we should start a band, and then he suggested Nikolai Eilertsen as the bass player. Our first recording was as a trio; some of the tunes based on Thomas and me improvising.
Next album David Wallumrød joined us, and then, on our third and last album, Aimless Mary, Olaf Olsen is playing drums.
What does the band name Needlepoint mean?
In the end, Needlepoint is just a name! But there is a story about how I ended up with that name. A little desperate, after a long search, I turned to my own last name to try to find something within it. “Klakegg” means “the frozen peak of a mountain”, and it led me towards the word “point”. This has to do with focus, and to me, in music, honesty towards who you really want to be as a musician is maybe the most important focus you can have….but I have to repeat…it’s only a name…..When I later found out that Needlepoint also meant embroidery, I had to laugh a little bit, before I thought: That’s cool! Embroidery is art too!
What do you consider as the essential elements of your music?
Maybe melodies? I always just improvise them…as my way of composing…singing strange English words on the go…just trying to let the song go astray without me guiding it! I never give myself a goal in those moments of improvising songs…sometimes, I mean, very often they are very boring…and when they work out, I almost always use the whole improvised melody…
Who can you cite as your main musical influences?
In the old days, before jazz took me away from it: ELP was my favorite band!! Then I started to listen to Keith Jarrett a lot…loved the album he made with Gary Burton. And I loved, of course, Wes Montgomery, Mahavishnu, then Pat Metheny. And I always loved Joni Mitchell….Paul Simon. Nowadays, as I have started to sing myself, I listen mostly to vocal music. Townes van Zandt, Ry Cooder and many more…
The band has been around since 2010. Tell us about your first recordings and your musical evolution.
Our first record is an instrumental. “The Woods Are Not What They Seem” is an album with a lot of improvisation in it, and me having dug up all my fuzz-boxes from the past! I never thought of prog rock when we made it. I guess that record maybe is more likely to be called “jazz rock.”
In the second album, “Outside The Screen”, David Wallumrød joined us in the end of the recording process. My “career” as a singer also started at the end of this process! The album was meant to be another instrumental, but since I almost only listened to vocal music, it was sort of strange not to have vocal elements in my music at all. So I started to sing! For me to start singing was a huge step, and Nikolai was a part of this process. Then I started to make space for vocal melodies into our recorded music, I wrote my first lyrics, not a very common way of making an album, but it worked out.
When we started to record Aimless Mary, this time, all the melodies were ready. The lyrics too. We went to my place in Sweden, on the countryside, stayed there and recorded a week. Wonderful days!
Your sound has elements of psychedelia, especially the organ. What musical instruments do you use?
Me personally? Only guitar, but I have invented a lot of things to go with the guitar: A fishing reel mounted on the guitar, fingerrests for each finger as a slide, a vibe arm pickup picking up one string at a time. Difficult to explain…but all the things I’ve made are meant to make my music better…not meant for fun, even though it may look strange!! I also built a cello-guitar, but I don’t use it so much any longer.
And what effects do you use?
My regular effects, that never leaves my pedalboard are: A klon, a Moog Drive, a Tube Zipper (Electro Harmonix) an old shin-ei fuzz…from now on a Fairfield drive and a Fairfield Echo. And the beautiful quite new cassette-tape delay made by T-Rex….
How’s the current progressive music scene in Norway?
I don’t know so much about it. But I know there are young bands influenced by. I really didn’t know that progressive music was what I was playing until the response of Aimless Mary. I kind of left the back door of the jazz scene and suddenly some of my old influence seeped into my music…starting to sing had something to do with it…the cooperation with Nikolai also was turning our music towards progressive rock… and I had to smile when at last I found myself in magazines with a lot of tattooed guys with big muscles!!
If you could gather any musicians or musical groups to collaborate with, whom would that be?
To be honest; the musicians I play with are such great, musical musicians, so I wouldn’t change them with anyone! But Ry Cooder could join us….but then I would sit down and listen to him!
Do you have any upcoming projects to share with us?
Yes! I’m working with a new Needlepoint-album. I have many new songs, but still some work to do before recording it.
I also have another group with three young guys. We are rehearsing new songs, a little more quiet than Needlepoint…more towards pop! No, not really. Just more quiet. Maybe this band would be more suitable for Ry Cooder to sit in with. We’ll try to make an album in the end of this year I hope…the same with Needlepoint.