(Interview) Interview by Charles Van De Kree and Scott Heller
From Aural Innovations #36 (May 2007)
Tangle Edge is an amazing band who hail from the north of Norway in a small town called Narvik. Way back in 1998, Carl Anderson and I visited the band and stayed the night at the bass player, Hasse's house and did an interview with Hasse and Ronald that was published in Chrohinga Well magazine. . The band have released their first new studio effort since that trip and Charles and I sent off some questions for dig into the past as well as the future of the band. Check this issue of Aural Innovations for Charles and my review of their latest amazing record!
Which artists and bands have influenced your approach to music?
Well, I`ll try to answer for the band primarily, but to some degree the answer
will be influenced by the outlook from my own seat, I guess..... The thing that
is undeniable, is that Ronald and I would never have started writing our own
material if it hadn`t been for Amon Duul 2`s work between 1969-72. In 1978,
although listening to everything we could find, we considered most other rock-related
areas as being taken to an end. We wanted, if possible, to find new moods, incorporating
elements of jazz, indian scales and electronic sounds. After we got together
with Tom Steinberg in 1980, the music we made the first part of the eighthies
was also inspired by Hendrix, Can, Carla Bley, Soft Machine, King Crimson, Can,
Matching Mole, Miles Davis, Ornette Coleman and Henry Cow. But all those improvisations
with Tom shaped a new way of playing that we could not have predicted. It was
scary, on the edge and created some doubts among ourselves. We considered some
of it to be basic ideas for further work, but gradually found that the «in
the moment energy» would produce valid things that could not be pre-arranged
or maybe even repeated. Aknowledging this fact has been a process which lasted
long into the 1990`s and maybe into this decade also. When we succeded «on
the edge», we let go of control and an element of what I then considered
as unprecisness – I do not have this point of view today, though –
sparked off an energy we could not find elsewhere.
In the last half of the eighties, when we recorded «In Search Of A New Dawn» with Rune Forselv on drums, we were not able to use the kind of improvisations like we did with Tom, but went back to composing material, mainly with a lot of solo space for Ronald. Only half of that album contains drums, so Ronald and me were able to also draw on other influences like Incredible String Band, Popol Vuh, Jefferson Airplane and Family in addition to a basically very strong Amon Duul 2-influence. It came off as a psychedelic-progressive album with both electric and acoustic material.
From 1988-90, when were were a quartet, with Kjell Oluf Johansen on drums and Svein Hugo Bergvik on woodwinds, we tried out everything we could inside a progressive rock concept, both electric and accoustic. Most of the basic ideas here, though, we already had started to try out during sessions with Rune when completing «In Search». When you are four people, it is easier to get together material and make it work, and you don`t have to search so hard in certain areas. On the negative side, you might miss out searching more harder-achieved directions. But Kjell and Svein, were more open to broader influences and had broader skills than Rune, so they really contributed to Ronald`s and my own main Tangle Edge vision.
During the period from from 1991-1997, the Amon Duul 2-influence was not so obvious. When becoming a trio in early 1991, I search for other influences, and it would be fair to say that Soft Machine, Matching Mole, Magma, King Crimson, Gong, Charlie Mingus, Masqualero(norwegian jazz group) and Tangle Edge`s own 1982-84 activities were strong influences. The period 1998-2000, we were trying new directions again and the influence was free-jazz. We tried to let go off totally fixed scales and time signatures. I do not know how succesful this was at that time, but we were on our way to a different approach.
From 2002, with Tom back in the drum seat, we brought with us this free-jazz influence, - the last ten years all uf us have listened more than ever to both free-jazz and ethnic music - mixed it with what we had done in 1982-84 and any other useful ideas or influences we could put in the pot, and here we then are today. So when we push the recording button these days, we do not really know exactly what is the main influence, but I would like to state that I consider our style to be more in the Canterbury rock direction with an element of Can – considering how we play and what the musical fundaments are, as opposed to the majority of reviewers who more or less put us into the space-rock box.
Where does the name «Tangle Edge» come from and what does it mean?
In mid-1982, we were long overdue in putting a name on this project or concept that had been going on for four years at that moment. But with the blues-band «Sentralvaskeriet», that also contained Ronald, Tom and me, then disbanded, there suddenly was a need to get us going towards the public. It happened during the period we had Rune Forselv replacing Tom for a couple of months. We needed a name that had some relevance to our music and also was of a kind you would not suddenly find out that some another European or American band also had taken. «Tangle Edge» does not necessarily mean someting combined, but can mean a «fringed edge», like on a jacket or table cloth. Separately, «Tangle» means a mess of notes and «Edge» means «being on the edge». Both of them could, at the time and also now, mean both an adequate and a self-ironic – from how it would sound in a non-converted`s ear - description of our music. It would think it is fair to say that the name probably have served its purpose.
How is the new album «Serpentary Quarters» different from previous Tangle Edge albums?
The basic method is exactly like the «Improvised Drop Outs»-cassette
we released in 1983, save from using a few overdubs, but the style of playing
is far developed from then. Apart from that one, all of our other albums contains
composed music mostly with solo-space for Ronald and varying degrees of improvising
parts for the drummer and myself inside the music. The music on the new album
is improvised out from nothing, only with more musically advanced skills and
rhythmic funaments aquired over the last twenty years of playing. It has an
extremely dynamic and everchanging bass and drum work combined with an abondonment
of repetitious or easy to identify guitar themes. Today, Tom and me can change,
add or withdraw notes and beats while playing with a control that was not possible
in the early days of Tangle Edge. On the tonal side, Ronald and me can go more
free along the way and make it work to a greater extent than earlier. Ronald
seems to be able to play upon most things Tom and I do, no matter how strange.
I did not know how the new album would be received and was quite curious – or was it anxious - about this, because I find the music very intense and uncompromising – if we ever were anything other than that – and maybe very uncanny. But I find that people listen to the main spirit of the music and do not concern themselves about how it is played, they just like it. We have gotten mainly rave and ecstatic reviews so far.
How do you come up with such extraordinarily imaginative song titles?
Thank you for that! I don`t really know if I find them so extraordinary. Maybe that`s because it is me who is getting them together. When you have new composition ready, it has to have a name. Sometimes a concept comes from a working title, if not that, it comes from an attempt to ratinonalize what you are doing from the point of view where your head is at the moment when having to do this. This means of course that ten years later, one might find the verbal description on a certain tune irrelevant. Maybe the titles people find most strange are those that comes from Sanskrit. I have been practising yoga and meditation since 1991, which has led me to read Vedic scriptures, so some titles along the way are taken from that. Else, I have of course during the years read a lot of the world`s philosophies, so there are a lot of images and concepts floating around that I find possible to associate with our music.
What do you think of the current explosion of neo-psychedelic music in Northern Europe, particulary Norway and Denmark?
It think it is great! A pleasant surprise, I would say. In today`s musical climate there is really a need for a kind of music to both find some unusual sounds as opposed to the mainstream and to have an open space for taking off instrumentally if possible. The psychedelic/space-rock formula is a vehicle for musicians both accomplished and unaccomplished to do exactly that and hopefully create something valid. It also heavily needed as opposed to all those bands today that intensively do every single thing they can to disgrace the legacy after bands like Yes, Genesis and ELP.
How do you account for such an explosion in such an isolated part of the world?
It is hard to say, really. I guess today you can get records anywhere or download from the internet, so it is possible to be inspired by what you want – if you really want – no matter what the current commercial trends are. And that concept I myself REALLY subscribe to! I would guess that maybe the work of bands like The Spacious Mind in the 1990`s carved the way for today`s bands. It is also incredible for me to watch it happen in my part of the world, of all places!
Explain the origins of Tangle Edge. How, for instance, did it all come about?
In autumn 1977 Ronald and me considered that we should move from only listening to records and drinking coffee to also include trying to play instruments. I had just started in high-school, and found my world extremely uninteresting and very gloomy. A classmate showed me how to improvise a scale over a chord-sequence and then we suddenly found ourselves on the way. Ronald showed immedate talents on the guitar and I finally bought a bass guitar in Easter 1978. We rehearsed mostly blues chord-progressions and a few rock songs. By August 1978 we had our own themes to play on and started to record sound on sound on a tape recorder. I do remember, though, that in December 1977 we already had a very Gong influenced theme in that we were trying to work on. It was probaly quite horrible. Although our skills came basically from studying the blues, we took a decision in mid-1978 to only compose in an experimental rock direction where Amon Duul 2 was the main influence. We just wanted to do this, maybe record an album, even if it never was to be released on anything, save for privately copied cassettes. We didn`t know any drummers or other musicians in our home town either, and frankly we didn`t care. We were having fun and probably filling our lives with a substance they originally were meant to have. We never let ourselves be directed by the narrowmindedness of the local musicians at the time, not even in autumn 1979, when we started to become aquainted with some of them. We had a direction and a passion which still continues to this day. In autumn 1979 we met on the positive side of aquaintances, drummers Tom, Rune and Øystein Vøyle, who all in different periods and to different extents would help shape the history of Tangle Edge. The first drummer we effectively had on our own material was Børre Bjørklund from fall 1979 to spring 1980. He was unwilling to also play blues standards and was replaced by Tom in the same spring and then things started to happen. At that time we took the name «Sentralvaskeriet», which for the blues-section of the band which performed in public. But whenever the slide-guitarist Kjartan Edvardsen was not present at rehearsals, we took off in our own entangled landscape.
There`s usually a very long time gap between the release of Tangle Edge albums. Is this primarily because of your committment to «get it right»?
I would say; yes, and only because of that. A more specific way to describe it, is to say that if we do not think that we have progressed, developed or changed adequately compared to the last one or to the current back-catalgue, we find no reason what so ever for putting anything out. We do not rely on Tangle Edge as an income - we would starve then - but are concerned about that the band should be only about making music. As long as we believe we have something new to say, we`ll do it. There`s enough of unnecessary releases out there, and we would not like consciously contributing to those. If we manage to impress ourselves, then it is also possible that others will be impressed by our music. So we will continue until the well is dry. And unfortunately, you have no guaranties for how long you are able to come up with something valid at all.
How does the landscape of Norway (for instance, the beautiful auroras, the fjords, etc.) influence your music and your musical ideas?
That`s a hard one. We have had this question or speculation earlier and I am ashamed to admit that I have arrogantly laughed at it. When you have lived here all your life, you tend to take all this for granted and consider anything elsewhere as exotic, while the rest of the world find Norway exotic. I was nearly forty before becoming aware how much I valued my physical surroundings. Today, however, I do acknowledge that this is a relevant question, but one I find impossible to rationalize about. Primarily I have always thought that music comes from another dimension than time, space and casuality, but I am quite sure that growing up and living here with the view of nature that is here, has shaped parts of us. In Narvik we both have the light, mountains and fjords, and of course the Aurora Borealis. It probably has contributed a lot to the type of moods we are searching to communicate through the music. And to the focus on strong moods, even if the surface of the mood can be inspired by other cultures.
What can you tell us about the Delerium deal and when will the Avyayah album be released?
It is really horrible that Avyayah – the extended Improvised Drop Outs – is not out yet. Delerium was supposed to release it in 2000, but we have taken the mastertapes back now. Mellow was supposed to release it in autumn 2006, but I do not think that will happen. They seem to be laying low right now. I want – and will see - it out on double-CD and triple – LP soner or later. That album really means a lot to us. We will find a way. Those recordings are very important in the Tangle Edge history, and are also extremely relevant to the current line-up`s spiritual fundament. Maybe we will do it all ourselves or at least the vinyl version of it. For me vinyl versions are of the outermost importance. If money were available all we`ve ever released would be out on vinyl now.
Do you listen to any current bands or mostly older music?
Well, my favourite period of rock is 1965-1975, so what can I say? I listen to new bands if somebody gives me anything. At the time I am enjoying the reformations of Van Der Graaf Generator and Magma, who play their new and old stuff in a division of their own. They are in my opinion the only reformed progressive bands that ever have come up with new material in the same league as they did in the seventies. Yes have tried many times, but did not really get there. Else I listen to Keith Tippett and Jorma Kaukonen/Hot Tuna, who has been there all the way and still are top notch. Of current music, I also listen to ethnic music, whenever I find something that haven`t not been given a pop-touch. There is also an interesting norwegian jazz-group called Jupiter I think is very good. Their guitar player hail from Narvik. The last couple of months I have been completing Roland Kirk, Charlie Mingus and Nina Simone for my own record collection, so that`s probably what`s most frequently on my turntable these days.
What`s up next in the near future for Tangle Edge?
There will be a new album out in 2008 with the current line-up. All is new
material, already recorded. Maybe a few minor over-dubs will be required. I
suppose we will start the mixing sometime during the autumn. Else, we are recording
all the time now and we are also trying to develop more arranged stuff, if you
can describe it like that. Stuff that is probably to advanced in its foundation
to improvise totally freely around. We`re still learning, hopefully. We have
to find a suitable record-label and we will also do a limited vinyl release
of this. During this year we will also put out a new CD-R through our web-site,
containing vintage material.