Tag Archives: Norway

Interview with Acclaimed Norwegian Band Wobbler

Norwegian act Wobbler is one of the greatest progressive symphonic rock bands that came out of northern Europe in recent years. Wobbler recently released a superb album titled From Silence to Somewhere. The current lineup includes Lars Fredrik Frøislie on keyboards; Kristian Karl Hultgren on bass; Martin Nordrum Kneppen on drums and percussion; Andreas Wettergreen Strømman Prestmo on vocals and guitar; and Geir Marius Bergom Halleland on lead guitar. Two members of Wobbler discussed with us the new recording and their background.

What do you consider as the essential elements of your music?

Andreas: The sound of Wobbler is not a constant one, but there are some elements that probably could be called essential. We’re very fond of vintage gear, because we think it sounds better and more «natural». It’s not always a perfect sound in terms of modern hi-fi standards, but it is an honest and soulful sound, almost with an otherworldly presence.

When a sound is very slick or perfect with no flaws, it becomes artificial and flat in our opinion. We try our best to create some magical moods and moments within our songs, and the right gear helps us achieve that.

Another essential element is the way we think about progressive music. We will never make a difficult song or structure just for the sake of pushing the envelope in terms of doing something completely new. We strive to create compositions that touches both the brain and the heart.

Seven different parts piled on top of each other does not necessarily make a good song. If we manage to make music that speaks directly to the listeners, that bypasses genres and analytical examination, then I believe we have done something right. And the song may be complex, but not for the sake of it. It has to fit with the greater whole. Our aesthetics are rooted in the golden age of prog, but we’re no strangers to incorporating newer elements if it suits the music. And we love a good melody.

Who can you cite as your main musical influences?

Lars: Mainly progressive rock from the golden age 1969-1974. British bands such as King Crimson, ELP, Genesis, Yes, Egg, Hatfield and the North, Gentle Giant. Loads of Italian bands: PFM, Banco del Mutuo Soccorso, Marxophone, Museo Rosenbach, Il balletto di bronzo, etc. Also baroque music, classical, jazz, 60s psychedelia and pop, 90s black metal and folk can be traced.

When it comes to sound, I’m fond of the sound of early 70s, Neil Young, Dolly Parton, Fleetwood Mac, Pink Floyd to name a few.

Tell us about your first recordings and your musical evolution.

Lars: Hinterland (2005): we were very young, and this was probably the first time most of us had ever been in a real studio. The process was long and filled with pain and ups and downs. I did a remix of Hinterland which was released last year, which I’m quite proud of. Finally got the sound we aimed for.

 

Wobbler – Hinterland

 

Afterglow (2009): We had almost broken up as a band, and i started recording the old songs we made when we were in our teens. Like a document. Also the painting of the front cover is from the same period (late 90s), so Afterglow seemed like a appropriate title for the album. It’s quite short (30-something minutes), but it’s so full of ideas and stuff, that it would have been too much info for the ear to have it longer – at least in my opinion. Anyway, the album made us hang in there as a band, even though it was recorded in a very primitive manner on my parents farm. Didn’t really have that good recording equipment, just a few ok preamps and half decent microphones.

I did a remix of that one as well a few years back, and it really helped to send the signal thru my analog TG1 limiter and germanium eq. Basically the same equipment as they had in Abbey Road in the early 70s.

 

wobbler – Afterglow

 

Rites at Dawn (2011): With Andreas on vocals everything finally got together in my opinion. Such a great vocalist and he also writes lyrics and is full of ideas. He came in rather late in the recording process, but his vocals is like it had always been there.

 

Wobbler – Rites at Dawn

 

From Silence to Somewhere (2017): After Morten, the guitarist, left the band in 2011, we went into a sort of depression or something. I think that’s why it took so long before this one came out. When Geir Marius joined the band on guitar, everything became easier, and now we have a steady line up, and everything is going great.

 

Wobbler – From Silence to Somewhere

 

When it comes to instrument philosophy I try to keep it as old school as possible. I avoid modern equipment as much as i can. What you hear on the albums are the real deal – only vintage analog keys, etc.

Making a living from progressive rock is not easy, more like a passion. Are you full-time musicians or do you have daytime jobs?

Lars: I was a full-time musician (mainly in the studio) for a few years, but I hated having music as a job. It killed the thrill, and it became a …umm.. job, instead of a hobby. If you have to think about money and stuff it’s no fun. So now I’m working as an curator/art historian in the City of Oslo’s art collection, and it’s great to combine the two passions.

You can easily grow tired of something if you only do one thing, at least that’s how it is for me. So in the evening and weekends it’s all about music. Just for fun as well as an outlet for whatever is on my mind. Music can be therapeutic (of course if you’re stuck on a piece it’s hell).

Andreas: For all of us music is a passion, and not a job. But after almost 20 years of playing in a band you think and feel like a full time musician all the time.

For me it’s a part of who I am as a person, how I express myself and interpret the world around me. It’s like an ongoing and never ending journey. If it gets too focused around the coin and paying the bills, I loose sight of the creative track and start doing things for the wrong reasons. But I believe that doing other stuff than just music can be a good thing and actually enhance the moments you work with your creativity. Gurdijeff and his ideas about «The Work» is interesting in this context.

 

 

On your new album From Silence to Somewhere you use mellotron, synths and other keyboard sounds. Are these real vintage instruments or emulators?

Lars: Yes. No emulation.

Where did you find the keyboards and how do you maintain them?

Lars: it took ages and a lot of work and money. Much of it is from ebay and such, before the instruments became way too expensive like they are today. Many of the instruments I maintain myself if it’s an easy fix, but for the more tricky stuff I hire technicians (like for the cembalo, Hammond organ, mellotron, chamberlin and some of the synths). Also I take very good care of them in a stable climate, with an annual maintenance plan. Also it’s very important to just use them. I’ve sold everything i don’t use, simply because if you don’t use an old keyboard it will wither and die.

What other musical instruments do you use?

Lars: lots of old string instruments, like the Marxopone, Tremoloa, autoharp, etc.

Andreas: Apart from the vast array of keyboards, we also use recorders, glockenspiel, different percussion, bass clarinet, steel flute, crumhorn and more conventional instruments like Rickenbacker 4001, Fender Jazzbass, Fender Stratocaster, Telecaster, Les Paul Standard, Gibson Firebird, Gibson SG double neck and different acoustic guitars.

On the amp side we summon the power of Sunno, Sound City, Music Man, WEM, Fender Twin, Vox AC15 and such.

 

 

And what effects do you use?

Lars: Roland Space echo re 201 and 150, vox and snarling dog wah wah, various vintage fuzz pedals and an old flanger.

How’s the current progressive rock scene in Norway?

Lars: right now it’s quite exciting, with bands like Tusmørke, Jordsjø, Weserbergland, Alwanzatar, Arabs in Aspic, Suburban Savages and of course good old White Willow. We played at a progfestival in Bergen, west in Norway, and there were lots of exciting young bands, so i think the prog-scene in Norway is up and coming.

Andreas: The progressive scene in Norway is thriving and a lot of new bands are emerging. more and more people are attending concerts and supporting the scene. During the last couple of years several Norwegian contemporary jazz acts has even released albums inspired by classic progressive rock. It raises the awareness of the progressive music to a greater audience, which is a good thing.

Your neighbors in Sweden had an association dedicated to the promotion of progressive rock. Is there something similar in Norway?

Lars: Yes, there are several small prog-societies around. In Stavanger, up north, Larvik, Hurum, etc.

If you could gather any musicians or musical groups to collaborate with, whom would that be?

Andreas: I think it would be interesting to collaborate with some Norwegian folk musicians. People like Hallvard T. Bjørgum, Kirsten Bråten Berg and the like. They are bearers of an old tradition of Norwegian folk music and masters at what they do. Also it would be exciting to work with a classical composer and a choir sometime.

Do you have any additional upcoming projects to share with us?

Andreas: It’s been six years since our last release, so naturally the focus now is on the new album. We very much look forward to release it, but also to share it from the stage as we plan several concerts in the near future. The last weekend of September we’ll do a show in a church in Oslo with Tusmørke, Jordsjø and Alwanzatar. That’ll be fun.

We’re also playing in Chicago in October and then some gigs in Norway before Christmas. We have more planned for early next year, so it’s looking good!

Masterful Norwegian Progressive Rock Alchemy

Wobbler – From Silence to Somewhere (Karisma Records, 2017)

Wobbler is the Norwegian progressive rock powerhouse. It’s a band deeply influenced by some of the finest classic progressive rock bands of the 1970s. Unlike other progressive acts that draw their influences exclusively from British bands, Wobbler’s music is also inspired by the great Italian bands of the 1970s.

In Wobbler’s new album, From Silence to Somewhere, you’ll find Gentle Giant-style early music influences as well as passages inspired rooted in progressive rock-era Yes, King Crimson and Genesis. On the Italian influence side, Wobbler pays tribute to masters such as Museo Rosenbach, PFM and Banco.

For music fans, this is symphonic progressive rock at its best. From Silence to Somewhere contains four extensive musical pieces loaded with captivating mellotron, distorted organ a la Canterbury and other classic keyboard sounds along with beautifully-constructed vocals derived from Renaissance music, superb dual guitars, bass and percussion work.

The lineup on From Silence to Somewhere includes Lars Fredrik Frøislie on keyboards, backing vocals; Kristian Karl Hultgren on bass, bass clarinet, bass pedals; Martin Nordrum Kneppen on drums, percussion, recorder; Andreas Wettergreen Strømman Prestmo on vocals, guitar, glockenspiel, percussion; and Geir Marius Bergom Halleland on lead guitar, backing vocals.

From Silence to Somewhere is one of the best prog rock releases so far this year. It’s scheduled for release on October 20, 2017.

Interview with Bjørn Klakegg of Norwegian Progressive Band Needlepoint

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!!

Needlepoint – Aimless Mary

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.

Discography

The Woods Are Not What They Seem (BJK Music, 2010)
Outside The Screen (BJK Music, 2012)
Aimless Mary (BJK Music, 2015)

Aimless Mary

Needlepoint – Aimless Mary (BJK Music, 2015)

Needlepoint is yet another superb progressive music band from Norway. The Oslo-based group plays a mix of progressive psychedelic rock and jazz-rock with Canterbury influences.

Some of the songs have a well-structured form, featuring charming folk-rock-style lead and harmony vocals, memorable electric organ work and remarkable bluesy/psychedelic guitar solos. Other times, the band goes into jazz-rock territory with exquisite Canterbury leanings and some jam moments.

The lineup on Aimless Mary includes Bjørn Klakegg on guitar, vocals and additional bass; David Wallumrød on clavinet, organ, Prophet 5, percussion and background vocals; Nikolai Hoengsle Eilertsen on bass, additional guitars, background vocals and percussion; and Olaf Olsen on drums.

Needlepoint was formed in 2010 as a trio. Earlier albums include The Woods Are Not What They Seem (BJK Music, 2010) and Outside The Screen (BJK Music, 2012).

buy Aimless Mary