Lasse Marhaug has been a central figure in the free music scene of Norway for over a decade. As a solo artist, member of Jazkamer, and countless other groups and collaborations, Marhaug is never at a loss for sound. His music is often raw and unyielding, but it is this aspect that makes him so good at what he does. This year has already seen him put out a handful of releases (The Skull Defekts, Two Limited, etc) with no end in site. Marhaug will continue to search for the perfect sound and we are all along for the ride. This interview was conducted in March and April 2006, just after his recent tour of Asia.
Actually it's more like 16-17 years. What keeps me going is my interest and enthusiasm for music. I simply love loud distorted intense free music. I always find new areas and combinations of it to explore. Or you could say I like doing the same thing over and over again. I also like the communicative aspect of it. Because of my interest in this music I now have close friends at all corners of the world.
Yes, sure, I could probably quit tomorrow without much regret or loss. As long as I could still listen to music and have other creative outlets I could do well without making the music myself. I've already released some 40-50 albums at the age of 31, perhaps it's time to retire.
I have done two shows with The Skull Defekts, and one of them was released as a CD on Aa Records. My involvement is just that I turn up whenever they ask me to. They are such charming and handsome Swedes, I can never turn them down.
Me and Mr. Nordwall traded records some years ago and he asked me if I would be keen on taking part in a project with him and Heldén. I finished my tracks in 2002 and sort of forgot the project until the record came out on Firework Edition now in 2006. It turned out well I think, and I must say I'm quite pleased with being on Firework Edition, my favorite Swedish sound art label.
Playing with Paal is easy. He's such an accomplished and versatile musician, it's hard for me to screw it up too much. His high energy and unpredictable approach makes it exciting to perform with him.
We have a studio album coming out on PNL Records shortly. It will be different from "Personal Hygiene", which was a live recording. The studio album is called "Stalk" and was recorded and produced by Hild Sofie Tafjord, one half of Fe-Mail. I think people will be quite surprised when they hear it. She did a lot of studio trickery on it. It's as much her album as ours. What's interesting is that all of Paal's output up till now has been live recordings. This will be the first time he's been overdubbed and processed to such a high degree.
Not sure what you mean with tension. Musically, to create tension in the music? Or personally, as making music as an outlet for tension? Musically it means a lot - I want to create intense music, to keep people alert and convey some feeling of abstract narrative. Even on my more ambient and lowercase recordings I push for this. If I succeed, I don't know. On the personal level I don't really make music to exorcise personal demons or as an outlet of negative energy. I'm not an especially angry or tense person. Music is more a celebration for me.
Yes there is a strong sense of community. It seems everywhere you go there is someone interested, setting up shows and playing music. It's natural. Music is a way of communicating and interacting with other people, and if you like obscure and rare music you are in a way forced to network with people from other places. I also think the nature of 'free' music attracts people with an openness and curiousness to investigate 'what's out there'.
I don't think the Internet built it; before, there was real mail and fax. I remember spending a fortune on postage every week in the first half of the ‘90s, sending letters to all parts of the globe. But certainly the Internet has helped - it has made communication and exchange of information a lot faster and more efficient. It's all for the better, but I must say I miss the fanzines. The art of xeroxing is getting lost.
It was a very nice time. Many good moments, hard to pick any specific. I was happy to finally play in China. Also it was nice to find such a vibrant audience in Bangkok.
I've never played in Africa or the Middle East, but I wish to go there one day.
I think there are two reasons for there being quite a healthy scene for free music in Norway right now - one is that Norway is fairly small and isolated; few people crammed together in a part of the world where not much is going on, which has forced people interested in different fields of music to work together. The second is because a few key people have been very inspiring, and their work and enthusiasm has lead to growth. For the noise and experimental scene I will say that Tore Boe's work in the ‘90s was very important. Without him there would be no so-called Norwegian noise scene today.
I've been asked this before. I guess everyone is influenced to some degree by the environment they are in. I grew up in a very remote part in the northern part of Norway, above the Arctic Circle, but what influenced me was the music from America, England and Japan I was hearing, much more than the bloody northern lights or midnight sun. I'm a bit sick of this 'arctic cool' that some Norwegian black metal and jazz music plays upon. There are fjords and snow and mighty mountains in all parts of the world, it is not exclusive to Norway. Yet they use this as an 'exotica' element to sell records. The winters in Moscow or Chicago are as brutal as those in Norway, yet I don't see musicians from those places using it to create a gimmick.
Some albums that made a big impact on me when I was about 15 to 17:
Carcass: first two albums
Napalm Death: first two albums
Godflesh: everything up to Pure
Entombed: Left Hand Path
Autopsy: first two albums
Darkthrone: A Blaze in the Northern Sky
Death: first two albums
Goblin: Suspiria soundtrack
Throbbing Gristle: Heathen Earth
Coil: Scatology + Horse Rotorvator
Famlende Forsök: Ars Transmutatoria
Munch: self-titled first album
Swans: Filth and Greed
Einsturzende Neubauten: Kollaps and Halber Mensch
Laibach: Opus Dei
Nothing too surprising I guess, but these had a big impact on me, more than the heavy and thrash metal of my early teens, or the noise and electro-acoustic music of my late teens.
Vinyl crackle. Tape hiss. Water boiling. A river. A waterfall. Fish touching the surface in a still lake. Walking on crisp snow in really cold weather. Strong wind against a wooden house. The purr of a cat. Old trains. Glass breaking. Birds outside your window when you wake up in the summer. My girlfriend sleeping next to me. A fireplace. The hum of electrical appliances in an apartment. Sachiko M's "Sine Wave Solo" CD.
This month I'm working on three collaboration albums that are in various stages of completion. I probably will record my new solo album for Smalltown Supersound this summer. Perhaps also a Jazkamer grindcore album. Have a handful of albums already finished just waiting to be released. Festival gigs around Norway and Europe throughout the year. Going to the US in August, September and October; two separate visits, which includes a West Coast tour. Possibly Puerto Rico in December. Design work in between all this. Was hoping to take it easy more this year, but am failing miserably.
Can't think of anything clever, just thank you for the interview.
-- Brad Rose (2 July, 2006)