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coverpic flag Norway - Full Moon 180 - 05/17/11

Famlende Forsøk
Still trying - An interview with
the three-headed monster

We've included Famlende Forsøk a couple of times earlier in our menus. First time way back in 1996, when we described the band in this way: One of Norway's strangest bands, mixing experiments and humour, is back. The name means something like "Staggering Attempt". The trio started out as the dark side of A-ha (the Norwegian teenage pop heroes) in the early 80s and won a reputation in the latter half of the decade for their experiments with acoustic instruments in combination with electronic and industrial sounds including lots of metal percussives from run down industrial sites. They released about three complete and two sides of two split cassettes on their own SHiT Tapes label in the middle of the 80s, some compilations abroad, numerous contributions to compilation tapes and the LP Ars Transmutatoria in 1990.

coverpic Their own description runs like this: a Marxist Buddhist group inspired by the wind and the weather! Since 1990 they have released some more cassettes and the magnum opus One Night I Had A Frightful Dream, A Tribute To H.P. Lovecraft (1890-1937) on LP and CD. In addition vocalist and occasional synth player Brt released a collection of poems Nakenlys (Naked light, Publica 2008), his first collection in about 35 years, whereas sax, bass, guitar, percussion, keyboard etc. player Chrisph put on disguise as Exit Kanon for his sole solo album (so far) Plays Jazz For Alien Individuals in 2002. Cornet, guitar, percussion, sitar, keyboard etc. player Lumpy Davy has been featured more often here at our Kafé, as member of the psychedelic, folk-progressive outfit The Smell of Incense.

But now, let's concentrate on the soon 30 years old trio that's laying their timbre fingers on the final mix of their new album right now.

The early years

Can you say something about the origins of the band?

Brt: It grew. First we tried "Vil Du Dø For Meg", on a borrowed Roland synth that did nort want to make noise. We forced it, summer 81.

Lumpy Davy: For me, it was the need to do something different from my other band, (The New Incredible) Headcleaners. FF was a cry for freedom to do whatever we wanted, without any ambitions at all.

And how did Chrisph get involved the year after?

Brt: He was on some backing tapes, and played sax on one track at our first concert, late summer 82.

Lump: It was just natural to include Chrisph, as he was part of our musical gang and he shared the adventurous spirit of FF.

Chrisph: I really don't remember these details. I guess the process was a bit gradual as Lump and I also were playing together in the neo-no-wave band Headcleaners. We did some work together there only the two of us if I am not remembering wrong. The tune "Anarki In Silicon City" was perhaps a bit FF'ish in style, only without the priestly voice of Brt, of course.

You participated with the 1983-recording (or thereabouts) "Tror Nok Jeg Levde En Gang" on the Norwegian synthesizer double CD compilation Maskindans - Norsk Synth 1980-1988 released by Hommage Records a couple of years ago. What did you think about that? You - along with several others involved - were not an average 1980s synth band...

Brt: In 82 we had quite a few synth songs done on Korg MS-20. "Tror Nok ..." is one of the catchiest.

Lump: I was very into the British underground scene at the time. I listened to Cabaret Voltaire, Human League and hundreds of obscure K7 bands. Many of whom had discarded guitars for cheap synthesizers. And I liked that idea. But FF never wanted to be a pure synth-pop band. We are far too eclectic to be able to concentrate on just one thing.

Chrisph: Maybe I am not the best to comment on this as I am not contributing on this tune. This may point to a conclusion that Lump is the synth-popish man of the band. I think so. Brt's contribution in this direction is rather synth-noisish when it comes to his instrumental efforts. I think.

A little later there were rumours that your 1986 cassette Døve Munker Ut Av Norsk Industri was to be released as an LP by Hommage Rec.s? What happened?

Brt: They broke their financial balls...

Chrisph: Well. We are still here... I think Hommage ended up with some economical problems. This is really sad because the enthusiasm and the quality of the label was so good. We hope Mr. Moe is able to bring his label back on track!

Lump: Døve Munker... was our most highly praised album at the time, but this was certainly not reflected in sales numbers. It remains our most underexposed album. So when Hommage wanted to re-release it on vinyl we thought great, this is a chance to pay the album the attention it surely deserves. So was not to be. The Hommage story just shows how hard it is to be an idealist in this harsh world.

What is it with you and the jazz divas of the old school like Ella (Fitzgerald) and Karin (Krog)?

Brt: Nostalgia? Mystic Sisters do Sinatra... (The Sisters are Brt's and Lump's duo that interprets doughnuts from the world of popular music translated into Norwegian that also includes Cliff, The Seeds, Beach Boys and several others on the agenda.) The Karin Krogh was an accidental loop on the other side of a loop done for Døve Munker...

Lump: Like Brt said, our relationship to these jazz numbers is just accidental. We don't even like them much.

Chrisph: I guess these jazz-endeavours of ours represent the tunes mostly inspired by a Monty Python-like attitude. Some of us (cough, cough) liked/likes jazz more than others. This hopefully made/makes things even more entertaining.

At the mountains of madness

HP Lovecraft and his Cthulhu-myth has been a vital part of your agenda almost since the start, culminating with the album One Night I Had A Frightful Dream (2003). Did you close his books, so to speak, in the band context that is, after releasing the album?

Brt: So far. I feel there should have been a Norwegian version.

Chrisph: I think it was after the "Børre Knutsen Svinger Pisken" ("Børre Knutsen Swings The Wip")-hit that Lump told Brt not to write more lyrics on Christianity. No one told anyone not to read or write anything of/on H.P. Lovecraft. The effect is similar though. It seems.

Lump: These days I am more concerned about Lovecraftiania than ever. I almost cried my heart out when Del Toro's plan to make the movie "The Mountains of Madness" fell through. But as FF are concerned, we have paid our dues to Lovecraft and that's enough for now.

One Night ... stands out compared to your other works, not only because of the language and lyrics used, taken from HP's original texts. The music also seems a bit different, at times more old-fashioned with several acoustic instruments and more discreet use of electronics. Why?

Brt: We had loose atmosphere in the background, wanting to arrange came from Lump. We wanted a Third Ear Band-feel, or Univers Zero.

Chrisph: We wanted initially the music to be directly inspired by our subjective understanding of the meaning of the words... This would possibly make it even more like effect-fuelled film music than earlier works. Next, on the other hand, there was also an effort to make more traditional tunes in there. This I guess is much due to the fact that the years before this release, Lump was much into his other band The Smell Of Incense, which was/is very much folk/psych oriented. At the start the soundscapes were much more ambient and lacking themes based on regular harmonies. So in the end One Night ... probably is a bit of this and that. Some radio-theatrical, some film-like and some like the Third Ear Band. I think though that there is a larger part of trying to musically interpret the atmosphere of the texts than many other bands have done, especially in earlier years. I would here like to quote Brian Voth who contributed with bass and guitar on "The Ancient Track" from the book The Strange Sound of Cthulhu: Music Inspired by the Writings of H. P. Lovecraft? by Gary Hill: 'Since many people into metal appreciate nihilistic themes I think that metal and Lovecraft is a natural fit, but new-age style music can be adapted to horror effectively as well, as Famlende Forsøk have shown.'

Lump: The Lovecraft project started out in a far more extreme direction than the album finally turned out to be. We spent a long time making it and it changed along the way. We got a bit tired of the old sounds and felt a need to make it a bit more musical. At least I did. So we included a few elements from my psychedelic band, The Smell Of Incense; the mellotron, the glissando guitar etc.

Most of your lyrics are in Norwegian, but some are English. Any conscious strategy behind this apart from on One Night ...?

Chrisph: This is of course much Brts corner of the table. We do discuss this topic now and then, and are very well aware of the problems of using Norwegian language as very few outside Norway understands it. But all through the bands history we have emphasized that the vocal should be heard as if being a "rock singer", meaning that you don't always hear the voice as clear as if reading a poem in a traditional way. This attitude may be seen as "a bad excuse" for not letting the ignorants to the Brt'ish mother tongue not understand too much. In our latest project, though, I on my part am in fact planning to ask Don Johanna Cleto himself to make a very thorough scientific translation of the Brt'ish words along with proper foot nuts and all into English!

Lump: One Night... was aimed at the Lovecraft community around the world, and as the words on this particular project are essential, we just had to present it in the English language. But we hope one day to be able to make a small re-release in Norwegian. Normally the lyrics are Brt's departement, as the music is Chrisph's and mine.

Brt: I jamma wot I jamma sayeth popeye the tailor man.

Sent to the Orient

You have a new album in progress, supposed to be called Broken China, I've heard. The music/sounds seem to be based in drones. Is this what started the entire process?

Brt: Washing China, I think. One song is about a washing machine. And we honour Tibet; China needs to wash its hands.

Ah, yes, sorry! The breaking comes after you put the china into the washing machine instead of the dish-washer...

Chrisph: Well... Droning was a starting point, but also elements of prog-riffs in the vein of Hawkwind/Gong. The latter themes went their own ways during the process. Too much practicing I guess. Wrong! We found them theoretically unfitting! Ahem. In the end, which is closing in at the time, it seems that some prog sneaks in back again as we in one tune make use of a slightly adapted King Crimson theme on top of the live recording.

Lunp: The starting point was when we said yes to do the concert for the 2009 Nødutgang festival in Bodø. We decided 2 things from the start: We would not do old material, and we would do it without tapes (tape backing was employed on all previous FF concerts). I had just got a couple of old audio generators, and Chrisph had brought a scruti box home from India, and we had a theremin. So we thought; let's do a drone project in just one key and with no breaks between the songs!

You started Washing China as a live show. How did you get going?

Lump: Without the commitment to the Nødutgang festival, we would never had the discipline to do the project. We would have met a couple of times, drunk a lot of beer, quarreled quite a bit and made very little music.

Brt: We rehearsed and worked it out using Indian technology and old noise, like theremin and oscillators. Indian like Hindu.

Chrisph: Logistics. Phonecalls. Filling up the car with half my instruments set for Spang! Virr!! Studio in Arendal. Then trying and error and a lot of beer. And some hard discussing and good laughs along the way. Three nice old chaps with far too little ego and too much zen. Bop!

At the gig at Nødutgang, you had quite serious technical problems. What happened?

Brt: All our preset computer instruments fell out. I've never played so much synth in my life.

coverpic Chrisph: In short. That pesky stiff firewire 400 cable slipped out of my MacBook. This is a shitty connection indeed. You are warned! Don't rely on this in a bumpy live setting. This simply prevented several vital rhythm-loops from being tapped into the main mix. This again forced us to improvise and make a more dronish performance than planned! The good part is that after the initial shock it made us aware that we were able to make noise without playback. FF has, as mentioned by Lump, always relied on more or less heavy use of playback on performances as we are few performers on stage wanting often to make a huge and complex soundscape. Yes. It also has other advantages.

Lump: Everything that could go wrong, went wrong. 10 minutes into the show I had no idea what I should do for the next 40 minutes. Immediately after the show I was about to fall into the rabbit-hole of my darkest thoughts. Then I realised that people had liked the show, and when I finally listened to a recording of the set, it wasn't so bad at all.

A couple of guys from the legendary Krautrock band Faust was supposed to join you on stage towards the end of that show, but couldn't find out when to enter...

Brt: One from Faust, and one other. They played on one song. And thanks to modern technology this is synced into our new recording.

Lump: Jean Hervé Peron from Faust and a trumpet player (if anyone know his name please tell us!) from the French band La STPO joined us onstage. They were supposed to enter when they heard the sound of Balinese gamelan music. But of course, that was just one of the many things that failed to appear. Finally they came onstage anyway and did a great job.

Chrisph: Well. At this point along the fiasco we were performing like fullblown impro-stars and suddenly the two trumpets fell in beautifully! Art is error as Hervé Peron says. He couldn't be more right at the time! Well, maybe someone would object to the term art. Apart from that. Just perfect! Not Lump?

The recording process of the album also started with the live show. Quite a different angle compared to most that aren't pure live albums. Why?

Brt: Based on the recording of the following live show, at Høvikodden.

coverpic Chrisph: The start of this whole show is thanks to the invitation from Nødutgang in Bodø. Great! They smoked us out of our holes into action together, the first for a long time. The show was the goal. When we also were invited to perform the show later at Sprø Musikk in Arendal, and then at Høvikodden in Oslo we also were so lucky that Cato Langnes, sound engineer and long-time member of the exclusive threeman FF-fanclub, would mix the show. He also offered to tape it on many high-tech tracks, and well, then it was set! Like Zappa (almost...), we brought the raw material to studio for processing and add-ons. The idea is to make as good a sound-production as possible, still keeping the live-feeling, then adding things that we were too few to perform on stage. Of course things also evolve in new directions as we are given even more time and tracks...

Lump: Our good friend and soundman Cato was trying out a new multi-track system on his computer. And the result was so good there was no need to record it all over from scratch. So the basic instruments and the vocals are live, but it's no longer the live show that people may remember from Høvikodden.

I seem to spot some occasional Sun Ra-flavoured horns and electronics in Washing China. Am I right?

Chrisph: Quite so. He is FF's sole common agreement when it comes near to appreciating jazz.

Brt: Oh yes. Also some King Crimson. We steal!

Lump: Brt and I don't like pure jazz very much, but we all like Sun Ra for his total weirdness and originality. But we don't try to sound like him. If we do, the reason may be a bit more embarrassing: We are lousy horn players. Whenever we try to play a nice tune, it sounds like noisy avant-garde.

You've used an old rhythm track off the Døve Munker ... project from the mid 1980s on the new album and recycled another rhythm track off the same project earlier ("Børre Svinger"). Why this recycling? Are you environmentalists?

Brt: Loopboxes, so called moog fuckers.

Chrisph: This is candyfeeding for hardcore fans. How did you reveal this? Of course we are environmentalists, and minimalists as well. The last we are working very hard on!

Lump: On "Børre Svinger" we used a left-over rhythmic track from the Døve Munker session, so that's no recycling. On the last song for the new album, we started out with gamelan music as a rhythmic element and ended up with the backing track from "Munker Myter Mekanikk". I don't remember why. Because it sounds good, I guess.

The lyrics of Washing China seem to some extent to be based on travels in Asia. Is that correct?

Brt: I have been to Tibet. All three of us to India.

Chrisph: Brt's ball. I put my Asian travel impressions through the synth-flute and finger-cymbals and Lump has strung up his old hippie-time tambura.

Lump: It started as an oriental influenced project, so naturally Brt followed up with lyrics on the same theme.

Where do you stand in the Tibet issue? Is Famlende Forsøk a political band?

Brt: I am very pro Tibet, having been there. And I enjoy the books of Dalai Lama, being a Buddhist light.

Chrisph: Brt is an agnostic Buddhist, Lump a classical Indian materialist and I am minding the gap. Quite simple really. China breaks China. Now they have closed Tibet for visitors, again...

Lump: We are not a political band. But of course we support the Tibetans in their struggle to regain their own country.

Well then, in times like this with democratic rebellion in most of Northern Africa and the Middle East... is Famlende Forsøk a democratic band?

Chrisph: Yes. We have three bosses.

Lump: Certainly not. Our rehearsals and recording sessions are total war and chaos!

Brt: That is why records take ages. Anarchists, I guess.

Does humour belong in music anymore?

Brt: Zappa is dead. Modern rock is dead boring. Of course it does!

Chrisph: If it doesn't smell it's probably not!

Lump: The day humour leaves FF is the day we die!

The future, now and then

You started as one of the greatest flagships of the independent Norwegian cassette movement in the 1980s. Some of your cassette albums back then have been re-launched as CDs. Is your entire back-catalogue available today?

Brt: Shoot me another! Embarrassed yelps.....

Chrisph: Next question please! There are plans. Planning is politics. Politics makes things possible. They say.

Lump: Brt & I are waiting for Chrisph to remaster and digitalize the whole back catalogue. We have a feeling that he is about to complete the job, so the back catalogue may be available on CD well before the next century...

Have you achieved what you were aiming at when you started up?

Brt: We wanted to make music. We do, we do, we do!

Chrisph: Music has kept us out of trouble since the early eighties! Sometimes one wishes maybe that one should have played more.

Lump: I never had any aim so I guess we have more than reached it. I never dreamed that we would still be at it 30 years after we started up.

One question for Lump: There are some rumours concerning The Smell Of Incense's future; that you're considering breaking up. Is that correct?

Brt: With our own studio they will always record.

Lump: There are no such rumours, as you well know. But in any band's history there are times when you wonder why you are doing this. Right now we have only one aim: To complete a new studio album.

What about the future of Famlende Forsøk beyond Washing China?

Brt: A hit record with Pet Shop Boys, "Burning Bush".

Chrisph: Being at Nødutgang in Bodø, we one day had a jolly good trip to Saltstraumen. In the car back from this rather refreshing amount of clean salty northern air we spontaneously started singing sailor's tunes. Amazingly all of us knew all the lyrics of famous tunes like "Genser'n Te'n Johansen" (The Sweater Of Johansen, a massive national hit in the late 1950s) and so forth. This I think was no mere coincidence. Ever new horizons!

Lump: The job at Nødutgang made us productive again. I can only hope for a new job that makes us work on other projects.

Well, if we are lucky, Washing China might see the light of day in a mere year or two from now. Wait for it!

Copyright © First and last photo by Signe Line Lundstrøm.

Copyright © 2011 JP e-mail address

You may also want to check out our Famlende Forsøk articles/reviews: Døve Munker Ut Av Norsk Industri, Lost In Laos, Vol. 1, One Night I Had A Frightful Dream, A Tribute To H.P. Lovecraft (1890-1937), Return Of Monster Attack, The Tao Tapes, Vol. II, Washing China.

© 2011 Luna Kafé