Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Gullwing Posted by Picasa

Shopping cart with engine Posted by Picasa
OK, so I am perfectly aware that my blogging hasn't quite been up to my usual standards the last few days, but I really have had no free time lately. But here's some stuff that's been moving through my head. (And don't worry, I'll get to the Mercedeses soon.)

A: It's hard to be trying to do stuff when you're a family man. Not like, it's hard to GET stuff done - well, there's that too, too little time, too many ambitions. But mostly, I just feel bad for all the time I have to spend away from home. I practice with my band twice a week. On those days I'm away pretty much all day, 'cause I work the first half of the day, play the second. Then I try to dedicate two days a week to songwriting and arranging, and some guitar practice. That's four days already. Oftentimes other music stuff comes up during the week too. So that's most of the week gone. Then there's just normal social stuff, catching up with friends - hell, I can just forget about that. Because I can't stand being away so much. My son really misses me during the day, and it tears me up. And I miss him too. Besides, I feel bad for my wife having to shoulder the load for the better half of most of the days of the week. Now I'm going to be busy for almost two months with recording an album. God knows when I'll have time for, well, quality time with my family. Now I'm first gonna be off to Denmark for 5 days or so, and everytime I think about my boy saying goodbye, and then every day saying "Daddy?" to my wife and walking to the door where he expects me to come in any moment... Well, it breaks my heart. How do touring musicians do it if they have families? How do you stand spending most of the year off while your loved ones are waiting at home? Well, I guess I'm just mushy and over-sensitive. Not rock star material.

B: The other day we were watching TV, and there was a commercial on for one of those silly little inner-city Mercedeses, like a housewife-go-shopping kind of Mercedes. So I ask out loud, why do Mercedes make those stupid tiny cars? (You might think this is extremely peripheral to anything you might imagine this blog to be about, but cars are like my main interest in life besides music and obscure religions.) Whatever happened to Mercedes being exclusively compact-and-above? Why do they have to make cars that look like some dinky Japanese toy? And then my wife, sagely, says: We're living in the age where the customer controls the market, not the other way around. Companies don't make cars according to their own ideals or standards anymore, they make the cars the market wants, or the cars they think the market wants, or the cars the market thinks it wants - whatever. And this is so true. The marketplace has really turned into a complete democracy, where market research, analysis of what the public wants, is what dictates the products that are being made for us. There was a time when Mercedes simply told their engineers and designers: Make a great car, make a dream car, and they would come up with something like the Gullwing or the 350 SL, something truly innovative or beautiful. These days, they tell the same people: Make something cheap, find out what people want, and make it cheap. So they come up with these ugly, insubstantial shopping carts with engines. That's not Mercedes! I don't like it. But it's the same with music. There was a time when record executives were in the business at least partly for the betterment and advancement of music. They would sign someone like Miles Davis or Yes not because they were easy going, fun-loving fellas that would sell a truckload of records and never give their bosses a hard time. They were signed because at least a few people in the corridors of music power actually believed that spending some time and money, showing some patience and understanding towards the needs of the artist, might result in better music, and that contributing to improving music was actually a worthy goal in and of itself. And by extension that exposing the audience to better music might improve the audience as well. Do you think that anyone in Sony or BMG thinks like that today? I don't. And I don't want to be the grumpy type that thinks that everything was better before. It wasn't, and music is still as good as ever - only not on the major labels. The problem is that this idea that the marketplace should dictate everything is simply not good. To get back to the car issue: An engineer in Mercedes has spent decades learning what constitutes a good car, and figuring out how the automotive industry can move forward. So what good is it letting the customer decide what that engineer should do?: Does the average Mercedes buyer know more about a good car than the engineer? No! And the average music buyer does not know more about good music than a seasoned producer or an experienced songwriter. Those people are there to expand our horizons. Without them we'd only go out and by the same records and the same cars over and over again. Like my wife said, it's like trying to converse with someone that only ever tells you what you want to hear and what you already know - it's not going to be a very fruitful conversation.

I know, this wasn't very profound stuff after Allen Ginsberg, but some things you just need to get off your chest.

That said, I'll go back to watching my Shania Twain DVDs. All this is not said to slight anyone, or to elevate myself. I have never done anything to advance modern music, and I voraciously devour vacuous pop music every day, because I simply love the craft involved in pop production. But I do believe there has to be a balance. Popular music is of course dependent on the populace, but not without the input of the musicians themselves. Letting the audience dictate what the musicians play is what they do down the pub - and that's why they're still playing the same jig they did 300 years ago...

Signing off.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

More busy days, sorry. But there's always poetry. Here's one of my favorite Allen Ginsberg poems. You don't often think of beat poets as making downright beautiful, mystical poetry, but Ginsberg frequently did - after all he was a Blake fan. Here's "Song"

The weight of the world
is love.
Under the burden
of solitude,
under the burden
of dissatisfaction

the weight,
the weight we carry
is love.

Who can deny?
In dreams
it touches
the body,
in thought
a miracle,
in the imagination
till born
in human--

Looks out of the heart
burning with purity--
for the burden of life
is love,

but we carry the weight
and so must rest
in the arms of love
at last,
must rest in arms
of love.

Not rest
without love,
no sleep
without dreams
of love--
be mad or chill
obsessed with angels
or machines,
the final wish
is love
cannot be bitter,
cannot deny.
Cannot withhold
if denied:

the weight is too heavy

--must give
for no return
as thought
is given
in solitude
in all the excellence
of its excess.

The warm bodies
shine together
in the darkness,
the hand moves
to the center
of the flesh,
the skin trembles
in happiness
and the soul comes
joyful to the eye--

Yes. Yes
that's what
I wanted
I always wanted,
I always wanted,
to return
to the body
where I was born.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

My diving buddy Posted by Picasa
So I was puzzled, mystified, nonplussed and bewildered today. I step into the shower, and in the revealing light of the fluorescent tube in the bathroom I see a huge wound on my leg. (My wife will laugh when she reads this, appearantly it's not huge at all - or a wound, more like a scratch, well that's what SHE says, but to me, who rarely has scratches OR wounds, it's a huge wound, a puncture in my precious flesh, end of story.) And I realize I have no idea how I got it. It's a bloody gash on the front of my calf, and I don't know why it's there. It didn't hurt, to alert me of it's presence, but once I see it, it hurts BAD, and I complain to my wife and ask if something might be wrong since it hurts, like maybe some dangerous infection, and she just cracks up... Even worse than the other day when I was feeling really cold and asked her if I might have hypothermia... The laughter resounded through the house... Well, how the fuck should I know, I'm no doctor. I just know if you have hypothermia you feel cold - and I felt cold... but OK, it turned out I wasn't hypothermic. Appearantly it's something that mostly happens to arctic explorers and drowning ice-fishers. Again, in my defense, how am I supposed to know all these things. I know who replaced Rick Wakeman in Yes, isn't that enough? So anyway, here I am with a throbbing wound on my leg that appeared out of nowhere like some frigging stigmata or maybe an alien tissue-theft. It's like the goddam X-Files. I know, you don't care. But then I bet you don't have a gold membership in Hypocondriacs Hanonymous either. Loser.

I wonder what it's going to be like recording in Denmark, with Tommy Hansen. Some people think he's an odd choice for us. He's mostly associated with melodic hard rock and power metal. Well, it's strange. I'm very interested in production - and I've meddled in it a few times myself - and in the early days of my band we dreamed of getting someone like Tim Friese-Greene to produce us. One of those hyper-tasteful, understated producer guys. But that's sort of a place we've already been. I'm real interested to see what happens when a band like mine joins forces with a guy like Tommy, whose philosophy is definitely more of a more-is-more kind of thing. See, that to me is where interesting stuff happens, in the juxtaposition of appearant opposites. Nothing is more satisfying than a musical oxymoron. Plus, we are ALSO a more-is-more band, as WELL as being a restrained, low-key band, and we've never worked with anyone with the guts to bring out the hubris, the extravagant side of us. So I'm excited. I think it will be good. We'll both learn from each other, producer and band.

On top of this entry is someone who doesn't have a gash in her leg, who dives with barely any clothes without going all hypothermic - god, how admirable.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

My mind is a little preoccupied with practical things regarding our impending departure to Denmark to start recording our new album. So even though I had sort of written an entry in my head that was all about deconstructing the term "classical music", I think I have to let it wait until I've sorted some other stuff out first. Meanwhile I'll leave you with the lyrics to a song whose praise I've sung previously on this blog, "Passenger seat" . Later.

i roll the window down
and then begin to breathe in
the darkest country road
and the strong scent of evergreen
from the passenger seat
as you are driving me home.

then looking upwards
i strain my eyes and try
to tell the difference between
shooting stars and satellites
from the passenger seat
as you are driving me home.

"do they collide?"
i ask and you smile.
with my feet on the dash
the world doesn't matter.
when you feel embarrassed then i'll be your pride
when you need directions then i'll be the guide
for all time.
for all time.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Raison d'blogging. Why blog, and why read a blog? I talked to someone today who suggested that reading blogs is simultaneously tempting and disturbing - that getting insight into a private sphere is unsettling, and that maybe it's better not to. Well, it's up to you. A blog is simply something that's out there, and you can ignore it or explore it as you please. This is how I see it: Mine isn't a particularly private blog - it's primarily a music blog - but it is interspersed with private stuff because I believe that the whole point here is that you get one guy's perspective, no pretensions to objectivity or anything, just one opinionated person's musings. So getting an insight into who I am, and the life I lead, gives a picture of the perspective I have, the angle I'm coming from. That's one side of it. Also, to me this is as much a place to muse about music as it is to track my own life to a certain degree, a sort of mild, reader's digest version of a diary. If I have stuff happening in my life that I have a need to sort out or talk about, then writing about it here serves two purposes: One, it's therapeutic. Two: I figure that any challenges we face in life are basically common to humanity, so reading about fellow human beings' responses to certain challenges is helpful.

And here we are at the core of what blogging is really all about, underneath it all. It's about knowing yourself. We like to read about other people's lives because it helps us understand our own lives. People talk about voyeurism so much these days, whether it's about blogging or reality-TV or gossip magazines... like voyeurism is in and of itself a bad thing. It really isn't. Voyeurism is a very basic human compulsion. The need to peek into other existences, other lives, is truly fundamental. Life is a riddle, a challenge, a huge, complex knot. We spend our time untying it, figuring out how it's all connected, where the ends lead to.

But each and every one of us is all alone in this attempt to untie the life-knot. It's not like that poem, "No man is an island" - no dude, it's the opposite, we ARE islands, we are all alone, entire unto ourselves, whatever. And life doesn't come with an instruction manual, we have no clue, we LIVE by the seats of our pants, all of us. So we need reference, we need perspective, we need to see how other people figure it out. Why do you think so many people read those gossip magazines, like the ones I write for? Is it really just to get a gleeful, tantalizing peek into the high life, the glitz and the glory? No, we read to learn, and celebrities are, like it or not, our heroes, our models, that's where our society is at.

In ancient Greece the heroes were the people of myths, and myths were archetypes of the human condition, the human drama. People read the myths, identified with the heroes, lived with them through tragedy and triumph, comedy and confusion. Through the myths they learned to understand their own lives, existence, the cosmos, the basic patterns underlying everything. This is so true that it's actually a cliche, any pre-grad knows it, but it needs to be said. Celebrities are the heroes of the modern age, and their lives are the models for our lives. It sucks, but it's true.

So, come the blogosphere, and suddenly people are reading about the lives of completely ordinary people, and learning from THAT instead. We are reading the REAL myths of humanity, the real life-stories of our brothers and sisters, real comedies, real tragedies. It's the democratization of the archetypal, it's turning the mundane into the transcendent, it's reaping gnosis from the bitter or sweet harvests of Jane and John Doe. I think it's wonderful. And that is basically why I write - and read blogs. In the belief that human knowledge and experience is the most valuable commodity that we have, and that, as in any market, the market of human gnosis is kept alive by passing it around as often and as much as possible. Whether it's how I feel about music, whether it's about how you feel about your government, whether it's about how he feels about anchovies on his pizza, whether it's about how she feels about God. It's all valid, it's all worthwhile.


Saturday, February 18, 2006

Fairly typical spacesynth cover Posted by Picasa
I suddenly made this connection in my head between M83, Air and Daft Punk on the one hand and what we used to call spacesynth in the olden days. Looking at the Blade Runner-ish cover photo on "Before the Dawn Heals Us", and also remembering the retro-futuristic illustration on Air's "10.000 hz legend", it came to me where I last saw architectural sci-fi imagery on record covers (outside of prog and Roger Dean, of course). Back in the 80's, Italo Disco was a genre that was shunned by all harbingers of good taste, and I was supposedly one of them, even at such a young age. Even so, me and my proggy friends had a definite soft spot for Giorgio Moroder - I remember the soundtrack for "Electric Dreams" being as much a soundtrack to our teenage lives as "Supper's Ready" or "Close to the Edge". Towards the mid-80's, the instrumental side of Italo Disco sort of crystalized into this strange subgenre of electronic music called spacesynth. It took the simplistic melodic synth hooks of Italo Disco (esp. Moroder) and fused them with the more grandiose, semi-orchestral backings of J-J Jarre or Vangelis, but always against a backdrop of a solid 4-to-the-floor drum machine beat. Harmonically it was as simple as anything, melodically it was laughable (think "Popcorn"), rhytmically it was, well, danceable, but all the same the music had a strange, evocative power that came probably as much from the spacey timbres of the synths as from the cover art, which usually depicted futuristic cityscapes and vehicles, as well as space opera type scenes. The whole thing was totally kitschy, and I can't say I ever really liked the music much (from a songwriting or performing point of view it really was quite pointless), but I was definitely fascinated by it. And in retrospect I see how spacesynth provided a similar ideological refuge from the earnest mundaneness of so much 80's pop and rock as prog did. Being a spacesynth fan must have been a similar social experience in the 80's to being, say, a Marillion fan.

Interestingly, spacesynth lives on on the continent. It was largely an Italian and Dutch phenomenon, and today there is appearantly a renaissance in the same areas for this type of music. More relevant for me, though, is the fact that it also echoes through the Paris electronica scene I love so much. In Air I guess mostly as an aesthetic idea, but in Daft Punk musically as well. Especially "Discovery" and "Human After All" has quite a few references to spacesynth - and of course their image - and the imagery conveyed in their videos - reveals the same fascination with sci-fi and japanese pop culture as their 80's forefathers.

So now I have to go back and listen to some of this stuff. Remember Koto? That tune "Visitors". Were they Italian? I think so. Or what about Laserdance...? Nah, I'm probably the only one who remembers.

Be that as it may. Last night I watched "Into the Blue", which I got solely because it has Jessica Alba in it. A movie about modern day treasure hunters on the Bahamas doesn't really strike me as anything potentially good. But when I got it, and read the blurb, it turned out it was made by the same guy who made "Blue Crush", John Stockwell (does this guy have a color fixation?). " Blue Crush" was a genuinely good movie, as real sociological document of the surfer mentality, so I managed to get my hopes up just a bit about this new one - in spite of the treasure hunter theme. Now, let it first be said that a movie can be as bad as it wants to if it has Jessica in it. And in a bikini most of the time? You just can't go wrong. I'm that simple. But it was a fairly enjoyable flick even outside of those lingering shots of Alba, and again Stockwell manages to paint a believable if stereotyped portrait of another aspect of the beach bum universe. Incredibly well cast, solidly acted and quite beautifully shot in a very unpretentious and un-artsy way. Nice underwater shots, friendly sharks, the works.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Snow, snow, snow. We're snowbound, snowed in, snowed down, snowblind. I haven't seen this much snow since back in the 70's and early 80's, when we still had "real" winters. In fact they're telling me there hasn't been this much snow since 1968!

Anyway, as a way of weening myself off my current indie obsession, I've been listening to "In a Silent Way" by Miles Davis - and also by way of re-educating myself in the roots of fusion, which I've been pushing on my band lately. "In a Silent Way", along with "Bitches Brew", was of course the genesis of jazz-rock - later called fusion. It is a record of stark beauty, minimalism and invincible grooves. Part one, which is basically a 15 minute one-chord vamp, never did that much for me, but the rest is stunning. And one of the nicest things about the record is that for once, to me at least, it's not Miles Davis who is the star of the record, but Wayne Shorter, whose melodious and emotional lines give warmth and fluidity to what could otherwise have become a somewhat dry experiment in ambient jazz. All this in 1969, if memory serves me right.

The remaster I recently bought is extremely hissy, but I've realized that this must be a conscious decision on the part of the mastering engineer, to retain the very fragile crispness in the top end, which makes the electric piano and guitar notes sound like icicles and frail crystals... I'm sure they could've dehissed a bit without losing much of that crispness, but they probably though "Why tamper with it" - and I'm glad. Crispness is a quality that is usually lacking in 60's jazz recordings.

Apart from that - uh-oh, back into indie hell: Pixies. When you feel frustrated after having spent forever digging your car out of a mountain of snow, scraping ice off the windows and getting into its icebox interior and getting it going, sluggishly, jumpingly, into lethal, ice-slippery traffic that moves at turtle pace and you're already an hour late for whatever... When that's where you're at, nothing makes being in a shitty mood for fun and inspiring than cranking up "Debaser" on the car stereo.

I'm also reading this fascinating book right now: "Perdido Street Station" by China Miéville. It's very rare these days that I read a new book that is actually - new... Like, not just a retelling of something you've read a million times before. "Perdido" is a truly original story, set in a truly original world. A city, like a steamdriven version of "Dhalgren"'s Bellona, peopled by the most bizzarre creatures I've ever encountered, and described with an efficient poeticism that is so rare these days outside of William Gibson's books. If a crossbreeding of Mervyn Peake's "Ghormenghast" and Samuel Delany's "Dhalgren" sounds like your kind of thing, I can wholeheartedly reccommend this book. But it is really not like either...


Wednesday, February 15, 2006

So one of my more esoteric interests - which peaked sometime in the mid-nineties, but I'm still keeping up with it occasionaly - is all those World Serpent artists - don't think the company even exists anymore, but that's how I think of them. David Tibet/Current 93 is one of them - he's one of my heroes since he's the only other musican I know of who has managed to combine and transform his interests in Gnosticism, British folk-rock and Blue Öyster Cult into his own musical expression. Now I've read about his forthcoming album, "Black Ships Ate the Sky", and I thought it was sort of interesting:

"Tibet recruited crooners Antony and Will "Bonnie 'Prince' Billy" Oldham to sing on the forthcoming Current 93 disc, Black Ships Ate the Sky. The 76-minute opus arrives this May via Tibet's Durtro Jnana label and also features contributions from Soft Cell's Marc Almond, Colin Meloy-approved folk princess Shirley Collins, Mellow Candle's Clodagh Simonds, Cosey Fanni Tutti, and Durtro labelmates Baby Dee and Pantaleimon." I'm quoting from Pitchfork.

The fact that he's featuring Clodagh Simonds is awesome - Mellow Candle will always be the best folk-prog band ever to have existed, and this woman is a legend and a genius. Shirley Collins, well, that's old news in the Tibet camp but always nice to hear. Will Oldham - interesting - my wife likes him. I guess they're both (Tibet and Oldham) equally depressed. Antony!!?? This is horrendous. I hate this guy. Why would my beloved Tibet taint himself with this ridiculous figure. And it's not a gay thing, but this Antony person is 100% annoying, writes horrible songs and has a horrible voice. It's so stupid with the hype - if people were allowed to react naturally to someone like Antony and his bloody Johnsons, they'd go, jeez, who let that guy into a studio. But because sensation hyngry and politically über-korrekt media decide Antony is the flavour of the month, everyone goes - oh, what a darling, oh what a talent... Nah, if David Tibet was REALLY cool, he'd get Buck Dharma or Eric Bloom to sing on one of his records. All the same, I look forward to the record.


Tuesday, February 14, 2006

It seems blogs are where you find your old acquaintances these days. I was very happy to find Terje Dahl Bergersen's blog, and it seems he's found mine. Lookahere: http://weblog.bergersen.net/terje/archives/001166.html

Let it be said that Terje is The Man in terms of Gnosticism, I have nothing on him. My knowledge is a puny sliver of a fragment of what he knows. Gnostics all over the world respect Terje for his vaults of information and insight into anything Gnostic. Check out his libraries - they're the most comprehensive on the Net.

Anyway, we'll have to hook up one of these days. Me and Teresa keep talking about it, but then another half year rushes by and we don't even know it...

Pax Pleroma, Terje.

Monday, February 13, 2006

I just thought this was kinda funny since I've been writing so much about them:

"The next record is seeming kind of weird. [Laughs.] There's no songs yet, there's nothing, but I'm dying to see what happens next. I think the next record's going to be the prog-rock record. [Laughs.] I think it's going to turn into Close To The Edge. It's going to be a whole bunch of little pieces of pop songs dropped into three tracks that are each 15 minutes long. [Laughs.] Yeah, I think it's going to be interesting. [Laughs.] Ben's been spending a lot of time with Dark Side Of The Moon—thank God for that. Jason and I are super prog-rock geeks, and Nick has this big theatrical metal sort of side to him, and Ben, he's pretty traditionally been the only sort of musical moderate or even semi-conservative in the band. And getting him to—I mean, all you would have to do is just tap the rest of us, and we would totally go over the edge. If we get the tiniest hint that we can crack something open and do something ridiculous, we'll totally do it. I'm pretty excited about it. I'm very encouraged by the conversations we've had so far."

- Chris Walla of Death Cab for Cutie on the record they're going to make after "Plans".

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Sorrow drips into your heart through a pinhole
Just like a faucet that leaks and there is comfort in the sound
But while you debate half-empty or half-full
It slowly rises: your love is gonna drown

Which means that I finally got "Plans" by Death Cab for Cutie. At the first hearing I thought that this was less immediate than "Transatlanticism", since there wasn't a line I immediately obsessed about, like that opening line "So this is the new year/and I don't feel any different", which was stuck in the heads of this household for weeks after hearing it. But of course it turns out that "Plans" has plenty to obsess about, like the above-rendered stanza. This is a somewhat more emotionally profound album, and the music is somewhat more subdued, more of an acoustic emphasis in the arrangements and an almost folksy profile to many of the melodies. Big Star meets Sigur Ros meets Codeine, I guess would be our conclusion here. And the melodies might be their most beautiful so far. And the lyrics are something else, love and death of course, but so intense in their quietness. I surrender to this band. DCFC express more in one verse than The Mars Volta do in two entire albums - if there's any debate as to who matters in Noughties earnest guy rock.

So I got through this weekend. I left you on a bit of a cliffhanger. And learnt that you make a right decision, and you immediately reap the benefits. I metaphorically, and I guess sort of literally, left the phone off the hook this weekend, and totally recuperated. I went on a walk Saturday, through a winter wonderland, six feet of snow around me, frost-covered trees, sparkling sun in an azure sky. And I noticed that it's been months since I've even seen my surroundings. So, eyes re-opened, I walked through some lucky events. I found a store selling an OEM copy of Amplitube, which I've desperately needed since my cracked version stopped working. It goes for 4000 NOK here, and here was this OEM copy for 995 NOK, all legit and stuff. I was so happy. I also got my hands on a DI box for half of what I expected to pay. I was stocking up on stuff I need for the forthcoming recording, see. I also ate a mountain of Chinese and Indian food, till my belly ached like crazy and my jeans ripped. I decided to not give a fuck about a single obligation, no music work, no work work, no phone calls, no e-mails, no nothing. I played with my son, I talked to my wife, I looked after myself and my pulse. It only takes a couple of days of that, and suddenly, you come alive. Or I did, anyway. It's weird how it happened, though. It's not like I lost my mind or plunged into depression or freaked out or anything before this weekend. I just felt tired like a million years of toil hit me in the face all at once, my mind reeled in exhaustion, my body ached and I just couldn't stand another day of that.

Anyway, I feel better. Now all that remains is to see if people around me start making sense again.

I guess others see it differently. I guess I don't make much sense to them. Like, why do I keep doing this band thing, now I'm all grown up and a family man and stuff. Lots of people don't get it. If I was real successful, and it was a living or gave some sort of measurable degree of glory or something, maybe. But here I am, pouring my heart and brains over one obscure prog album after the other. Moderately successful in the small pond wherein we swim, I guess, but in the big scheme of things we are plancton. How can I keep doing it, when it's so hard to keep it up, and the rewards are microscopic to the point of non-existent to the outside observer. Well, I have an ingrained scepticism towards success. See, my dad taught me the importance of success - and all that left him with was a divorce and an alienated son. And my mum laid the burden of expectations on me. But I've seen that success amounts to absolutely nothing. In the long run, it leaves you with nothing but the pang of the realization that one day it's all gone. I cannot measure what I do based on other people's expectations of what success might mean for me, of what a proper realization and fruition of ambition really is. I can only do what makes sense to me. And what makes sense to me, eludes almost everyone else. I follow a vision, of sorts, of a musical response to particular emotional triggers that are set off when you truly seem to be experiencing life. That's one thing, the "deep" thing. The shallow thing is that I take perverse pleasure in wrong-footing anyone's expectations of what would be tasteful or correct for me to do next. People look at one of our records and go, yeah, it would make sense to throw in some chamber-rock elements there or, I see how this could turn into an interesting update on the Canterbury sound or, their next album could really be a restrained masterpiece of retro-Scandi-folk. But then we don't turn into something predictable and hip like Dungen. Instead I realize that Blue Oyster Cult and late 70's Scorpions have a lot to offer a modern melange of mock-goth prog and chick friendly hard rock. And then we make an album so that some people go "What the hell were you thinking, Jacob? You should've just done another "Sacramant", whereas other people tell me the record changed their lives and the lyrics made them cry. Well, I'll listen to the cry-babies. You make someone cry with a song, that's all the success you could ever ask for, right there.
Now I'm gonna thwart everyones expectations again with an album even my band doesn't understand. Part 80s synthrock and arena rock, part sympho, part perverse fusion and part powerpop, we'll see what people think. Yeah, expectations suck. I was a wunderkind in University. Best grades, teachers all geared up, my family urging me into full-fledged academia. But I got my degree and ran. Educated in Comparative Religion, unique expertise on gnosticism and modern esoterica, and I settle for hacking a journo role for a bunch of gossip rags. And my family reels. Why are you writing about Jessica Alba's boobs, why do you waste your talent, your intelligence? I make no bones about it, I am the most intelligent person I know. I'll outsmart you anyday. But it also counts for nothing. I am also half-crazy. And the thing is, sure, I love talking about gnosticism, I ADORE discussing the finer points of Persian concepts of linear time with someone in the know. But: Maybe I like Jessica Albas boobs even more. Some people might think that makes a lot of sense. Those people would know why I do what I do. Anyway, I'll never do anything anyone expects of me. Never anything sensible or career savvy. Nah, I'll just write my blog and keep writing songs crammed with references no-one knows and hand in the occasional report on Jessica's single-or-married status. That's a good life to me.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

En ulykke kommer sjelden alene - or so we say in Norwegian. An accident is rarely an isolated incident, or more succinctly, when the shit hits the fan - duck for cover!

Today was one of those days. I've been working too much, worrying too much - about finances, about my band, about my strained relationship with my parents, I've been sleeping too little and been on edge with practically everyone around me. And today everything just stopped, shut down, I'd gone beyond exhaustion into the breakdown zone - I had to pull over and let the world run its course without me for a while. I had to tell people that they just had to count me out for a few days (certain people get furious) until I catch my breath. So far so good. Just doing that made me feel better - admitting to myself that I couldn't keep pushing myself. So I get home, and think, well, now I can chill. I'm having dinner, feeling my pulse go down a fraction, and then suddenly there's someone at the door. This dude shows up for this meeting I'd scheduled but forgotten, relating to my company. The house was a mess, my kid was running around and I was certainly not in a state to think biz. But he was there, and I couldn't turn him away since I was the one who had made the appointment anyway, so I had to go through the motions, and at the same time have the presence of mind not to get conned into some costly scheme he might be trying to sell me. I did it. He leaves. Then I hear this huge crash from the kitchen. A massive glass container fell down from a shelf, splattering the entire kitchen with fine shards of glass, everywhere, in the dishes, on the floor, on the table... Minor thing, but weird following the preceding incidents. Then it's finally cleaned up, we have to go out for half an hour. We come back, my wife goes to the bathroom and... screams. The bathroom is flooded, like completely. A tap was running, the sink was clogged, and there's like three inches of water on the floor, stuff floating, everything soaked and I'm thinking lawsuit, water dripping into the apartment underneath, houseowner furious... So we get out a bucket and start scooping water desperately - over and over and over... and finally the level is going down, we put towels all over to floor to soak up the remains, and pray to god the damage is minimal.

And I'm like, God, I ask for a break, a tiny little break, and this is what you hand me? I know He has other things to worry about now, what with people killing each other in the Middle East and stuff, but, hey, a little courtesy never hurt anyone, gods or men, right?

As for the Middle East, which I wrote about last time around, I think it's gotten a bit ridiculous now. I mean, we are all the people of the Book, right, Christians, Jews and Muslims, we are all spiritually speaking the sons and daughters of Abraham, and whether we call the big guy Allah or El Al or Our Father who art in Heaven, it's still the same hypothetical figure we're talking about, and wouldn't he, hypothetically speaking, rather that we, his theoretical offspring, hugged and made up rather than poke fun at each other and shoot each other? Am I silly for thinking that? Actually, I'm not usually silly, which is why I don't usually think that, but on a day like this I regress a bit to infantile perspectives, and hugging just seems like the universal solution.

Later - with music geek talk, I promise.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

There are terrorists in your backyard. Suicide bombers in your bathwater. Poisoned fragments of the Quran are mixed into your breakfast cereal. Before you know it you'll be down on your knees, desperately staring at the compass trying to figure out the direction of Mecca while praising the great Allah for his goodness, mercy and wisdom. Thanking him and the divine foresight of Muhammed for saving your life from evil Jews and Americans and Norwegians. Islam is taking over the world.
Terrorism is a strange thing. Terror means fear, right? The aim of the terrorist is not in and of itself to kill, or to spread Islam, or criticize the Bush administration. Terrorism is simply a political strategy to spread fear, thereby destabilizing the structure of whatever society it works within. Terrorism is like a degenerative disease that certain groups let loose on a society they are displeased with. The terrorists we hear about in the news these days are very successful. Our culture IS weakened by their attacks and their threats. Confrontations mount, cultures and worldviews stand pitted against each other. People are fearful. So, yeah, it works.
The politics of terror are as old as politics themselves. Any ruler must employ a certain amount of terrorism to stay in power. Nazi Germany was extreme: Be a good German or die in the gas chamber. Sheer terrorism. Norway is subtle, but you simply cannot avoid the politics of terror if you are at all interested in controlling a society, so we are no exception. If you do drugs, you'll go to jail - for instance. If you don't go to school you'll end up a loser. It's all a fear game.
So, these terrorists. They are part of a movement within Islam that is concerned about preserving the identity of Islam. In the West we call that kind of attitude conservatism, if we're talking about politics. With religion it often falls under the category of fundamentalism. Religious people who believe that certain texts contain the fundamental, perfect teachings of their religion. To deviate from what the text dictates, is a deterioration, degeneration of the core of their belief. It's a universal struggle: Religious source texts were generally written centuries or millennia ago. The world changes, people change. Should we stick with what the book tells us, even though it's strange and archaic, because we believe it to be the absolute truth, or shoud we instead try to find the more general truth and message behind the text and not get hung up on particulars that might change with time?
Should we be liberal in our relationship to our religious texts, or fundamental?
It has to be said that Islam has been through several periods of extreme liberalism. The golden age of Islam was characterized by tolerance, syncretism, great advancements in politics and science. During our middle ages, the muslims represented one of the most advanced cultures in the world. And if it wasn't for Arabs basically importing knowledge and ideas into the West, it's doubtful we would've gotten out the dark ages very soon. The whole Renaissance, the rebirth of an enlightened Europe, rested partly on the Arab reintroduction of Classical science and thought to Europe. They were the ones who reminded us of Aristotle and Plato and Plotinus, and re-educated us in maths and physics and so forth. It's a historical fact. But any liberal period has its backlash, because extreme tolerance often leads to a dissolution, or a thinning out of fundamental cultural characteristics. Fundamentalism in Islam began as a struggle to conserve the identity of the religion. But it has developed into a politicized, extremist view - just as Jewish orthodoxy and Christian fundamentalism has gradually become politicized.
So that's where it stands. Now Muslim fundamentalists are upset at Christian fundamentalists for making demeaning pictures of the prophet Muhammed. Predictably. Any dummy understands that unflattering depictions of the prophet is gonna upset orthodox Muslims. The Christians who did it, knew. They WANT conflict. It's part of the Armageddon count-down that the Christian right is so attached to. And basically I think it's fine if extremists of this and that colour and creed wanna fight it out between them. The problem is of course that it turns into something huge. Europeans go, oh those Muslims are crazy, they're all the same, they all hate us. Even though most Muslims could care less about some silly-ass Christian newspaper. And in the Arab world the whole affair becomes fuel to the general fire of discontent - poverty, unemployment, oppressive politics - all of Europe becomes a great canvas for the projection of the frustrations of the Middle East. Fundamentalist leaders eager for conflict go: Look at those Westerners, they're not only decadent, but disrespectful too. Which we are, really. But hey, that's our way. But anyway: Then the politicians in the Middle East sees the passion of their people and go, hey, this is a great way to remove attention from our domestic troubles, so they add even more fuel to the fire. Just like Bush uses the threat of terrorism to divert attention from the fact that the US economy is crumbling. You know the drill. And then the Europeans go: We should've never let the Muslims in here in the first place (I'm actually quoting my drummer), and now they're undermining the greatest thing Western democracy has to offer: Freedom of speech. Like the Muslims could ever do anything about that, even if they cared about it, which they don't. Bush takes away the freedom of speech, but I don't see any Arabs coming here and dragging our asses off to jail because we said something wrong. No. But they do use terrorism to try to control us just a tiny bit. And that's what I was really going to write about, but now I'm too tired. I was gonna give you a brief guide to the history of terrorism. Like the Assassins, or Hashishim. The Hash Eaters. They were one of the first freelance terror organizations with any degree of success. They were an Ishmailite branch of Persian muslims, meaning they recognize the seventh Imam, Ishmael, as the last proper keeper of Muhammed's wisdom. Persian Ishmaelites are invariably a little gnosticized and zoroastrianized, so you know their philosophy is going to be a little weird and cool. So were the Assassins. But they were also a little scary, and they specialized in a kind of guerilla warfare, sneaking up on opponents in the middle of the night and quietly killing them. I guess they had some sort of political agenda, but they probably smoked (or ate, rather) so much that it wasn't too clear, even to them. Anyway, the Assassins are sort of the fathers of modern terrorism. And interestingly enough, they are also the forefathers of Aga Khan and his dynasty - upholders of modern Muslim humanist values. Ironic.
This is just me rambling. It's the middle of the night, it's been a long day, I've quarrelled with my father, decided my band is a bunch of no-good losers (although I am, in fact, wrong about that), then changed my mind about that because all humanity is basically a bunch of no-good losers so it's unfair to single out my band, then changed my mind again and decided that I love everyone instead. Now I have to go to bed.
This is what I'm listening to/watching at the time:

The Police, The Synchronicity tour DVD
Journey, Live in Houston 1981 DVD, from the Escape tour
Death Cab for Cutie - Transatlanticism (because I haven't had the money to buy Plans yet)
M83 - Before the Dawn Heals Us (naturally)
UK - Night after Night (if only prog had continued down that path)
Shania Twain - UP! (our daily soundtrack, it's my son's favorite record)
Wigwam - Lucky Golden Stripes and Starpose (I love Wigwam! And I love Love for remastering all those great albums)
Kayak - Kayak (the whole Euro-rock with indigenous names thing I guess, cf. Wigwam)
Survivor - Too Hot to Sleep (ah, that '88 drum sound...)

Saturday, February 04, 2006

I remember being scared. It's not a good feeling.
I can't remember the last time I was scared, but I remember how it was back when I was often scared. When I was a child. I remember when the babysitter would arrive at our house, and my mother would be all dressed up and ready to go someplace. She would put on her coat, grab her car keys, give the babysitter some instructions, kneel down and kiss me, and then leave. I remember hearing the engine of her VW Bug revving up, the tires on the gravel, the car pulling out of our driveway. And I remember being scared - so scared that she would end up in an accident, that her car would be wrecked, she would be killed - and never come back for me. I remember wondering if the people who found her would know that I was her son, if they would know to find me and let me know that she was gone. Were they gonna take care of me? Would my babysitter take care of me? Would she know which songs she had to sing for me at night? Could she love me like my mother did? Yeah, I was scared - even before that Bug had left our street.

I remember being in huge malls with my dad. In London. With millions, or so it seemed, of people. Parents, kids, big people, strange people. I held on to my dad's hand so tight. I was so afraid to lose my grip on him. To be separated, to drift into the throngs of strangers, lose my dad. Could I ever find him again in that place? It seemed as big as the universe - what if he looked for me forever - and still couldn't find me? So I held on even tighter, put both my hands on his. I didn't want to be an orphan in London. How was I gonna feed myself? Where was I gonna sleep at night? And who was gonna put me on a plane back to Norway, back to my mommy and my grandparents?

And later, when I was in school, I was scared of the road back from school. It went through a little forest, and I had to walk there all alone. Sometimes the school bullies would be waiting in that forest, waiting to jump on me when I was on my way home. They'd take my backpack, grab my hat, then grab me, tackle me, grind my face into the snow so it felt like I couldn't breathe. It seems so barbaric now, but that was life. I wasn't the only one - it was just the old schoolyard dynamic, the law of the blackboard jungle, be a bully or get bullied. So I didn't complain, didn't protest, didn't tell. But I was scared. Full of fear. Was I gonna make it home today? Were they just gonna tease me and steal my books, or were they gonna bury me in a mound of snow and leave me to freeze to death. No, when you're a kid rational thought is not your forte... Everything looms large, things are either divinely promising or pitch black and hopeless.

Anyway, I thought about this today. My son has been sick a lot this winter, nothing serious, just constant little colds and stuff, he's only one and a half and this is a Norwegian winter - it can be tough on kids. So, Gabriel, he's usually insanely happy, like, we want to find the chemical that tickles his funnybone so much and bottle it and sell it. He laughs and squeals and runs and jumps. But being sick is hard on the morale, so the last few days he's been a little under the weather. And then he gets scared. His mother leaves the room, and he is obviously scared she's gonna leave for ever. And I think it was only today I really understood and remembered what a serious and painful feeling that is. His mom went to take a shower, and Gabe just kept running towards the bathroom door, banging at it and crying. I picked him up, carried him around, soothed him, like I always do when that happens. But he just screamed more and more. I was really tired, sort of at the end of my ropes after a long, complicated day. Suddenly I just ran out of patience. I thought, "this is ridiculous, his mom is five feet away, and he can't take care of himself for three minutes". So I put him down on the floor, among his toys, screaming and kicking, and said "play, Gabe", and then went into the kitchen. And then, as if whole new reserves of miserability had been bestowed upon him by the gods of tearfulness, his screaming and crying quadrupled, and he just sat there on the floor, snot running like the Niagara, face red, fists clenched, tears spurting. And suddenly it all flashed back on me. The fear, the panic, the utmost terror of potential abandonment. The horrifying prospect of love being withdrawn, the cessation of care, the absence of warmth. So I picked him up again, held him tight, told him it was alright and took him into the bathroom. Slowly he calmed down.

I'm just saying this to whomever because it's so easy to forget how hard it is to be little and not know a thing, not understand, not have perspective, not know like we do now that everything always works out in the end. Being scared is something most of us stop being as we grow up. Life is too full of challenges to be scared, we just wouldn't function. We'd break down. And eventually you see that there is in fact very little to be afraid of. You could be scared of terrorists, I guess, but what's the point. What are you gonna do about it? Should I be scared of not being able to pay the rent? I'm always broke. But it doesn't scare me. It just keeps me awake at night, thinking about how to make the extra bucks. And then it works out eventually. It always does. If it doesn't kill you, it'll work out. That's adulthood. But catching a glimpse of that little mirrorworld that kids live in gave me that OTHER sense of perspective. Where you're the speck of dust, and the universe is a big swirling tangle of chaos and excitement and horror all rolled into one. It can be wonderful. It can be terrible. And I realize that that's true too.

Yes, this is supposedly a music blog, but man does not live on syncopations alone.


Thursday, February 02, 2006

I'll just share some poetry with you today - 'cause I feel like it. T.S. Eliot's "The Hollow Men" has been a favorite of mine since I was a teenager - it never ceases to amaze me with its potency and fullness of meaning, as well as its strangeness... Here's the end.

Here we go round the prickly pear
Prickly pear prickly pear
Here we go round the prickly pear
At five o'clock in the morning.

Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow

For Thine is the Kingdom

Between the conception
And the creation
Between the emotion
And the response
Falls the Shadow

Life is very long

Between the desire
And the spasm
Between the potency
And the existence
Between the essence
And the descent
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom

For Thine is
Life is
For Thine is the

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.
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