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coverpic flag Norway - Full Moon 112 - 11/16/05

The Loch Ness Mouse
An interview with...

It's what we do! - A cyber kafé interview with The Loch Ness Mouse

It's been quite a while since last The Loch Ness Mouse roared in the general direction of the Luna Kafé headquarters. The Mouse scaresly avoided the trap some time ago, as we shall see, and the band has changed substantially in the latter years, both personell- and musicwise. We got in touch with Ole Åleskjær (vocals, guitars, keyboards, bass, percussion, younameit...) the only remaining full time original member of the group. Though Ole's brother Jørn (vocals and guitars) is still involved. Ole was kind enough to answer several questions I sent him on e-mail, in between live commitments. Since the questions came first, what follows is unfortunately not as cohesive as a face to face conversation round the café table would have induced. Maybe next time...

LK: It's already more than seven years since last we interviewed you for Luna Kafé, in connection with your debut album Flair For Darjeeling. Time's passing really quickly... Since then you have by now released two more albums and a few EPs, thirtysomething songs in all to my account. I guess songwriting is a time-consuming process... or does other aspects of your lives take the focus away from the music in between; jobs, family, children, horses...?
LNM: Music is what we do, we write constantly, but we are strict about what we find is quality at the time we're writing. There must be no weak tracks on there, and every song, solo, melody line, each aspect of arrangement, it's all taken as far as we can into making all tracks on an album equally strong and equally fully realized. But one more reason it's taken a while between the last two albums is that we gave up on the whole Loch Ness Mouse at one point. Not at all gave up on music, but on The Loch Ness Mouse. Actually, giving up on The Loch Ness Mouse at one point seemed to me to be the only way of doing music as much as I wanted.

LK: Since your last album Key West, there has been several personell changes in the group. Emil Nicolaisen left to concentrate on Silver and eventually his own group Serena Maneesh. He is obviously part of a large family... What happened to bassist Morten Holmquist? Can you present the new members Helga Trømborg and Håvard Krogedal; and tell something about Henriette Akerholt and Hilma Nikolaisen who left a year or two ago?
LNM: Emil is still on here in the sense that he played drums, guitars, mixed & co-ordinated things for 11-22, but his vision is Serena Maneesh and we all of course realize that that is what he must & should do. I think Serena Maneesh's first album will stand out as a landmark and the most important rock album of 2005. When he left, his sister Hilma took over the drums, Helga 'Latino' Trømborg , who we knew from childhood on, joined in on keyboards in 2002, while we were still touring the Key West album. Our first bass player Morten quit to join hardcore band Benea Reach. At this point, there were changes, yes, but it all still felt natural in a way. We found a very natural way through it. But when Hilma needed to take a break because she gave birth to her son Miika, and my brother eventually needed to stop playing shows because of family stuff, we thought, ok, this is it.

Henriette from Hilma's band Umbrella (and the sister of Amy and Kimberly in Silver) played drums for a while (2003-2004). Hilma came back on the bass instead of the drums. She sort of never "left" the band, but we all just saw that she couldn't play live full time and be participating extensively for obvious reasons. Same thing with my brother, so we just decided at some point that: "Ok, it's over, let's do a farewell show. We need to end The Loch Ness Mouse, it doesn't feel like a natural fellowship if we try to bring in other people."

We had also changed radically as far as musical tastes goes and wanted to break away from a lot of things in our past. So me and Helga started playing with Håvard, who came from Serena Maneesh, but then at the end of 2004 my brother and I had written a full new album together and we decided to do it as The Loch Ness Mouse since it was a brother written record and since we saw extensive possibilities of working with a lot of the old members in the studio, with Håvard, Helga and the brothers as the (studio) band. Hilma played & sang in the studio, but is now occupied with Emil and Serena Maneesh, which is a completely fantastic thing to see.

The Loch Ness Mouse touring band today is Henriette on drums, me and Benjamin Pyke on guitars, Helga on keys and Håvard on bass. My brother has become a songwriter instead of a live musician. And we just hope we can come across on a completely different level with this new record, but still be The Loch Ness Mouse. And it sure seems like it, by judging from the amazing reception the record has gotten!

LK: LNM is the only band I can think of who've dared to challenge the songwriting of Brian Wilson properly. I remember you played the not very well known Beach Boys' song "Girl Don't Tell Me" off the album Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!) several years ago. How did you get triggered to write his kind of characteristic melodies and harmonies as can be heard on quite a few songs around the time of Key West?
LNM: We never thought of it that way. What we wanted for the production of that album was an overall feel of lots of space and air for every instrument to speak, and we wanted the songs to be simple at one level, but also complex, harmonically, in the arrangements and also in the lyrics. The Beach Boys' Friends-album was definitely something that inspired it, because it's an album that has this simple-complex theme in every aspect of the record, from the production to the instrumentation, to the songs themselves. But I would say that Steely Dan, Todd Rundgren and that kind of stuff was an equally big inspiration for our musical thinking around that time. I think, to us, the Key West album was just an important step forward, as far as playing and songwriting goes, but also as far as musical freedom goes, breaking away from a limited thinking and finding our own voice in the lyrics & chord structures. To me now it feels we were unfocused in the 90s, then started for real in the 00s.

LK: Moving on to your new album 11-22... it's a long way from the British (and Norwegian) inspired garage-pop of your earlier songs to the soul-, funk- and jazz-tinged songs of the new album... Have the new members influenced your musical direction substantially, or is the music of LNM mainly a result of the Åleskjśr brothers' musical orientation?
LNM: Yes, the direction is a result of the brothers' orientation, but new member Håvard Krogedal, like a lot of the same stuff that we like, and has played a major role in finding synth/keyboard sounds, in building the chords, in funking up the bass tracks and eventually he's also been involved in songwriting, which is great. Helga's keyboard playing is also such an important element in our music. The whole 11-22 thing is a very produced piece of music. It's a studio thing, and basically, the four of us just pulled in every musician we wanted to work with and who could carry out our musical ideas for the album. It's not a band thing with songs being played on the road for a while etc. first. It's a studio album, emphasis on studio, with a core of people in the band and the rest are session musicians.

LK: 11-22 made me dig out my old Steely Dan LPs from the 70s. How did you get across them, Doobie Brothers, Fleetwood Mac, ...? Was it part of a soft rock revival for you?
LNM: We actually called Key West soft rock in 2002, but then two years later this revival thing was going on in Norway, and what came out of that? One good band, Euroboys, and the rest just made you want to put on your Stooges albums. We loved Todd Rundgren, Fleetwood Mac, but we never listened to Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and that kind of thing. As as far as what influenced the musical thinking behind 11-22, I'd say yeah, we like a lot of slick 70s/80s well produced stuff like Steely Dan, Donald Fagen, Doobie Brothers with Michael McDonald, Larry Carlton, Anita Baker, Sade, Pointer Sisters. That's one important element in the musical mixture on 11-22.

I've seen one writer saying the album is a new Steely Dan record. Although it's kinda flattering, it also shows an unwillingness to go past the first track. Yes, the element is there, yes, there's a Steely Dan guitarist playing on one song, and yes, it's an easy journalistic statement. But no, it's not true, and if you actually listen to the record, you will hear hip hop hints in there, Stones-y rock elements and most of all a soul element. It's a mixture of a lot of things, but I'm very glad that a lot of people have noticed the soul, or blue eyed soul, element, musically and thematically. We're very fascinated by Stevie Wonder, the direct emotional quality of his songs, lyrics, rhythmic structures and keyboard/synthesizer sounds, by Lauryn Hill, Marvin Gaye, Philly soul, but yes, also by the elegance of Steely Dan and Doobies, slick guitars, saxophone harmonies, jazzy groove and syncopation.

LK: Lyrically you've also developed substantially, from 'Narrow-Gauge Railways' of the first two albums to highways and airports now, or from quirky stories to mature relasionship situations, to make two easy comparisons. Any comments?
LNM: I see it as an album by album kind of writing. No matter how I look upon Flair for Darjeeling today, I can sort of see it as a part of the building, if not so much musically. The first album was centered around a field of association connected to our home Hayland, around the narrow-gauge railway 'Tertitten' and the geographical lines out in the big world. Key West dealt with images of the sea and boat building, the fact that our family had been boat builders for generations, but that our "product" was the music, and also geographical lines out in the big world. Those first two records were thematically about roots, family, belonging or renewing personal and historical cargo to fit today's world.

On this new album I would say that relationships seen in a time aspect is the thematic content. It is perhaps more mature, yeah, and it's also a very much more close, direct and emotional, sore and troubled album lyrically. But with that soul element, not singing the blues, more singing relationship, fellowship. And there are a lot of musical references in the lyrics, and a lot about the spirituality of music and music's ability to help and bring people together, which is also something we learned from soul; Lauryn Hill. I think the album reflects two things more than anything: One is relationship to other people and the significance of it in our lives. The other is that we had to go through our motives for making music again, because of the changes in our band structure. I hope it shines through how we came out of it with a completely renewed spirit!

LK: It will soon be the 22nd of November. I guess the title track has nothing to do with that day. Can you explain what 11-22-33-44-55 means?
LNM: Like I said, I've tried to write about relationship in a time aspect, so the 11-22-33-44-55 line is part of that imagery connected to time passing. That particular song is about someone who stays by your side when all the others around you have left, so it's an attempt to describe faithfulness.

LK: Georg Wadenius and Maria Solheim are probably the most profiled guest musicians outside the LNM/Silver/Serena Maneesh-circuit on 11-22. How did you get in touch with them?
LNM: We contacted Wadenius because we were fans of his work and knew that he lives in Oslo, at least parts of the year. Maria is a friend of The Loch Ness Mouse.

LK: The beautiful little ballad "For You" finishes the new album. It fades after only about 1†minute and 45 seconds in the middle of the singing. Why?
LNM: Because it is what it says, a couple chords, a little piece. A way of saying that music is our way of communicating. It's all we have, but it's also enough!

LK: You haven't played that many gigs lately, do you wish to play more live?
LNM: I know we've only done 10 or 11 shows this year, but this is because of the recording situation. We have a band that is ready to tour the record now.

LK: How do you handle the golden trumpets and silver saxophones live these days without any permanent saxophone or trumpet players in the band?
LNM: We've had saxophone player Torstein Krogedal playing with us on two of the shows we've done since the record came out, and a golden voice on stage as well, Elvira Nikolaisen, Emil's and Hilma's sister, who also sings on several tracks on the record. She will have her solo album out on Sony/BMG next year. The name for 2006, definitely! But we are five people who travel.

LK: You've released records in the USA and Japan. Have you ever played live abroad?
LNM: Yeah, we've been three times in Sweden, and in the UK. Apart from that, me, and also Håvard, have been involved in touring in Europe as a part of (US based) The Ladybug Transistor.

LK: You've been faithful to Perfect Pop concerning your releases in Norway and Europe. Have you ever been tempted to look for a bigger company that can market your albums with more financial backing?
LNM: We are very open with Perfect Pop on this. They know that we are looking for a major label to release The Loch Ness Mouse at this point. There are no more indie aspirations in our music, of course. But we will continue this punk rock rat life if we have to. You can interview me in 6 years again and I will talk about our 6th or 7th album. It's what we do!

"It's what we got, It's what we wear, It's what you see, It must be me, It's what I am!" as the saying goes... Thank you for your time, Ole, and best of luck with the ongoing promotion of the new album, and also with the mouse & the music in the future! We'll look you up in 6-11-22-33 ... years, eager to know what you're up to!

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You may also want to check out our Loch Ness Mouse articles/reviews: 11-22", Bamboo (Love Is Not Cool), Flair For Darjeeling, Flair for Dardjeeling - Deluxe Edition, Friends And Fenders EP, Key West, New Graffiti, Overnite, The Mouse that roared!.

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