Wednesday, 14 November 2012

EXCLUSIVE: Erik Norlander interview

I am very fond of Erik Norlander. Not only is her a very talented musician and composer, but he is a damn nice guy as well. It is always a pleasure to chat to him, because we can talk for hours on a variety of musical and philosophical subjects such as curry (for example). My dear wife removed our long discussion about Vindaloo from the current interview on the grounds that it was completely off topic and not interesting to anyone apart from me and Erik, and as she is the poor dear who has to transcribe these chats, I have to do what I am told...

JON: So how have things being going in the last couple of months.  What have you been doing?

ERIK: Things have been going really well.  Just a great reception of the Galactic Collective releases and as you’ve seen and reported we’ve just been sent a lot of just wonderful reviews and everyone really seems to get the concept which is important.  It’s this re-imagining of this vast collection of material presented both live and in the studio on the various releases, and I was a little bit concerned that with such a grand release of what the reviewers have pointed out is 6 discs and something like 8 hours of music if you combine all the discs together that a lot of people might be put off by it, but the reality of it is that the fans really get it and seem to appreciate all the depth and the detail with all the interviews and photos, videos everything from the videos themselves to the booklet , which we put a lot of time putting together – the two booklets – and it’s just been really neat seeing the whole thing unfold and get out into the world.

JON: I think it is a particularly attractive set of packages.

ERIK: Thank you, I appreciate that.  We’ve probably talked about this before, but when you and I were growing up we had these beautiful vinyl albums and the gatefold sleeves and this just amazing artwork, and of course Roger Dean was very iconic just as an example, but there are a thousand other artists, the Pink Floyd Hypnosis cover and all of that.  And I remember of course liner notes and photos of the sessions, I remember one particularly vivid set of liner notes was Days of Future Past by the Moody Blues where they talked about in very literary poetic style what it was like when the Moody Blues would come into the studio and set up all these wonderful strange instruments and combine pop ensemble with orchestral instruments and create this magic and something that hadn’t been done before.  And it made music more special back then.  And maybe not quite as immediate and available as it is now, it was something that you had to use your imagination to get involved in a bit more, but now of course we have mp3s that you can download almost instantly, and you have Facebook where you can get in touch with the artist almost instantly,  and videos and…so in some sense I think the magic has gotten lost a little bit, the arcane nature of music.  And while I really like being in touch with the listeners, I also think it is incumbent upon me to try to preserve that magic and that mystique and that kind of arcane feature of music, especially this art rock progressive music that we all love so much, in fact I put a lot of time into every aspect of the production, even down to the booklets.  I want to make sure that we got every credit exactly right, every date documented correctly, you know, really nice photos.  I have a team of wonderful  graphic designers who kind of help me keep all that together.   So that’s been my approach and I’m really glad there are kindred spirits out there who appreciate that stuff as much as I do.

JON: Well it’s almost like, these days, it’s almost like there’s too much music.  I know that sounds a weird thing to say, but because everything is so immediate… I’m not putting this so well.  When I was a kid I was ‘Wow, the new Yes album’ or the new Genesis album, or the new Pink Floyd album and it was an event.

ERIK: That’s right.

JON: Now, each month I look in the list of new albums coming out and there’s usually  about 15 that I want to hear, two or three that I would have bought, but all I have to do is send of some emails to somebody and I’d get an mp3 of this, a sort of review copy of that, and so I think it’s important that you are sort of retaining the magic, both magic in the showbusiness way, and also the magic in the …..because I still believe in the music as a sort of alchemical power and it does change people’s heads – that’s why music is important.

ERIK:  Absolutely, that’s very true.   I remember a quote that I read – I think it was in Keyboard magazine;  this is from 20 years ago even, from Wendy Carlos you know the electronic music pioneer, and she gave a quote that was unbelievably inflammatory and so many people got upset by it, the quote was:  “Far too many people are able to record these days.”

JON: I know exactly what she means. 

ERIK: Yes, and she was accused of being elitist and snobby and all of that, and that was not her intention at all. It was that back in the day, if we can say that as grumpy old men, that going into the studio  was a very special and revered experience. You had to prepare obviously musically, but physically and emotionally and intellectually,  we didn’t have cell phones, we didn’t have email and all that interrupting us.  It was a very, and again to use this word, arcane kind of experience.  And that’s become so much less nowadays that anyone with a computer, or even an Iphone can make an album these days, and I think that is certainly nice for a personal entertainment, like using an x-box or any kind of video game if you just want to play around with music, or you just want to learn about music, that’s wonderful, but somehow the line between personal entertainment and professional artists has become horribly blurred, and I see on Facebook for example you’ll see some young kids just starting out, or businessmen who have a band on the side as a hobby, their releases seem to get as much attention as say something by Emerson Lake and Palmer, who are like the gurus of their craft, and I don’t think it’s elitist to criticise that, but how do we separate, you know, the masters from the punters so to speak? <laughs>

And so we break off for today, and will pick up where we left off tomorrow
And check out the dedicated Gonzo artist page for Asia featuring John Payne, and for Erik solo

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