Perfect Pop Records

Perfect Pop Records

The Loch Ness Mouse interview Luna Kafé

Luna KaféFull Moon 31 – 04/30/99

The Loch Ness Mouse
The Mouse that roared!

If you study this moonth’s main courses, you’ll notice a review of the debut album Flair For Darjeeling of Høland’s (Heyland’s) brave sons of The Loch Ness Mouse. Høland is a small community 50-60-something kilometres from Oslo in Norway, and The Mouse consists of Morten Holmqvist (bass), Emil Nikolaisen (drums and vocals), Jørn O. and Ole Johannes Åleskjær (guitars and vocals). We met them somewhere in cyberspace; merry power-pop and freak-beat are the passwords.

First of all: congrats with an excellent album! How do you feel now that the CD finally is out?
Morten: Very happy and satisfied.
Ole: Just very good.
Jørn: And it’s a relief to be able to answer “Yes” to the question that people have been asking for two years now – “Is the CD finished yet?”

The album seems to have been a long time in the making. Can you tell us a little about the recording process?
Ole: The recordings were done on Robert Birdeye’s eight tracks, most of it in his living room. A very nice way to record, when you think about it… Birdeye himself and Clancy B. Grass IV coached us through the sessions, which were spread out in time, from the summer of 96 to the summer of 98.
Jørn: Birdeye was just walking around in the apartment, humming, most of the time satisfied with the first take, while Clancy…
Ole: …due to his more than 20 years in the business, very focused, wanted to bring it to an even higher grade of perfection, yes. Birdeye was also always interrupted in the middle of his seafood meals. By the way, you can read about the sessions in Clancy’s essay The Pepita Sessions, which now is to be found on the Internet, too, actually.

A Picture In My Grandmother’s Book and Vespa 50 were originally recorded for your debut 7 inch EP From The Countryside way back in 1993. The former was also included on the Perfect Pop Compilation CD. Apart from being great songs, why include them for the 3rd and 2nd time?
Ole: It felt natural to do so, since the album sort of sums up the period 92-98, and we wanted it to be as good as possible.

Does the album refer to anything besides the tea drinking mentioned in several of your songs? There are few sitars, tablas or other Indian influences here…
Ole: Yes. Darjeeling up in the Himalayas is India’s most important tea district, known for it’s delicately flavoured tea. But there’s another idea behind the album title Flair for Darjeeling: Most of our lives, Jørn and I have lived just some 50 meters from the so-called “Urskog-Hølandsbanen”‘s old line, a narrow gauge railway line that ran through the Høland-countryside between 1898 and 1960 (56 km long, I think). From our window we could overlook it’s old path (that, since the railway was closed, is a road, significant, of course, amongst other things, for it’s lack of sharp curves … and we could see how it came out of the wood and ran down to where its last station, Skulerud, used to be. The station area (126 m. above the sea level, if I remember right)), with it’s old crane by the lake, is just a couple of hundred meters south. So that narrow gauge railway sort of ran like strands from the past and through our own lives and our beloved Høland-district. Darjeeling in the Himalayas is also the end station of a narrow gauge railway. And that’s the connection. The tea, but most of all the distant geographical point, that makes “the things here stand before us so clear”. So there you have it. Also there’s a short sequence about a box of Tea from Darjeeling in the Swedish author Göran Tunström’s novel Juloratoriet. Interested readers/listeners should check it out.

Speaking of the lyrics, most of the songs seem to fit nicely into a ‘story of my life, so far’ theme, from happy and scary childhood memories (Double Whammy!, A Picture In My …), via the teenager in love (15th Floor, Judy, The Joy Must Never End …) to the more mature homecoming to your beloved Hayland. Was it intended?
Ole: Oh, that’s a nice remark on Hayland, and you’re not all wrong, but from our point of view, well, our reservations to your point are: …
Jørn: But “childhood memories” is a good observation, too.
Ole: … our reservations are as follows: Hayland is perhaps the song that comes closest to being autobiographical of the ones you mention. But, man! Double Whammy!? What kind of kids do you think we were?? To take this song as an example, our own childhood memory was just a vague background for it, the message of that song is something different And the story’s made up, you see. I agree that the three other songs you mention very much deal with feelings connected to being young, if not quite “teenager in love”.

(I Was A) Fan From The Start at least used to be about The Tables, the grandfathers (and -mothers) of the Perfect Pop scene in Oslo. How important has this scene been for your development and the making of the album?
Ole: There’s an acrostic in Fan From The Start that kind of addresses the song (easier to find for those of you who have the lyric-sheet, I guess.). The song was an attempt to capture that feeling of coming home with, and having discovered, The Tables’ Shady Whims & Obstacles. This must have been around 1990. And having discovered TV Personalities and Deep Freeze Mice a little earlier, this was a major inspiration when we started, the whole Beach Boys-love of ours and the 60s pop-psychedelia thing came later on. Jørn happened to bump into Sandy Shore of The Tables. When we played at the Pop Festival at Månefisken in February ’93 (having started the band in the autumn of ’92), we had already achieved more than we ever hoped for at that stage, really, not to mention when we supported another favourite band, The Bartlebees, at Rock All later that year, in fact with The Tables’ Reg Trademark playing the bass for us. So we just felt very grateful (as we still feel grateful about all the things that have happened to us, it’s been a blessing). The Perfect Pop scene has meant a lot to us, and Bartleby incomparably much, in many ways through the years. When it comes to the making of the album, as we’ve already said, we spent all that time in The Tables’ (now) drummer Robert Birdeye’s apartment, using his equipment, talents and time, listening to bits of his record-collection. It’s been a blessing. And our producer, Mr. Clancy B. Grass, is of course also sometimes associated with The Tables’ name (I guess we could reveal his real name, but to put it this way: I prefer not to). Now, on the other hand, it should be emphasised of course, that JUST being associated to a SCENE is in itself not much, what matters is if you have something to BRING.

What came first, the band name or Edgerton Underwater Strobe Camera?
Ole: The band name came from Bryan, way back, while the Edgerton Underwater Strobe Camera is fairly new, actually.
Jørn: The hen came before the egg.
Ole: The story in that song is based upon an incident that happened in Loch Ness in the 70s, described in (later a BBC journalist, I believe) Nicholas Witchell’s book The Loch Ness Story, which I borrowed from Bartleby just a couple of years ago.

How and when did you team up with the brothers, Morten?
Morten: Ole and Jørn are old friends of mine. One day we talked about some songs they had made. I played the bass and suddenly we were a band. This was back in 1992. After a while Bryan wanted to play drums. So Jørn played the guitar instead, and from there The Loch Ness Mouse was born.

Bryan Hayes who was the drummer on most tracks on the album left a couple of years ago and was replaced by Emil Nikolaisen, I believe. But there was a third drummer involved at least at one gig last year, wasn’t there?
Ole: Right, and if you had looked up to the engineer’s balcony, you would have seen a smiling Emil twisting the knobs for us. He had problems with his one hand at that time actually.
Jørn: That third guy was Tommy Akerholdt, a young friend of ours who knew many of the songs anyway, so he stepped in.
Ole: And he’s a brilliant drummer, as well.
Jørn: We also rehearsed with him for another gig in a place called Sørumsand. We came there, carried up our things, but the promised PA and sound engineer just weren’t there, so we had to pack our things again and drive home. Anyhow, Sørumsand used to be the other end, the other last station, of the same narrow gauge railway line mentioned before.
Ole: So it would have fitted in so nicely, but…
Jørn: There’s a little piece of the line left there in Sørumsand, a veteran railway, transporting tourists. I guess we weren’t ready for the museum yet, the story of the LNM didn’t end here. We raised our heads and moved on.
Ole: Back to your question: There have been some curious personell-changes during these 7 years, but at the same time LNM WAS very much Bryan. Morten and us brothers the first 5 years, and HAS now for two and a half years very much BEEN Emil, Morten and us brothers.

I overheard someone at one of your gigs last year saying you seemed to play the same old songs at each gig. Have you written many new songs after the album was recorded?
Morten: That is funny, I used to tell Ole that no one pays any attention to the songs anyway, guess I was wrong.
Jørn: Yes, we’ve written new songs. One each season, and that makes three since the Darjeeling-tapes were completed.
Ole: The narrow gauge railway back then wasn’t fast paced either, but there was a lot to see along the way!

Any plans for the future? When do you start recording the next album?
Morten: It would be cool to play in other parts of Norway and in other countries as well. We really like to play live.
Ole: Yes, we’ve played a lot live, and hope to continue doing so. It’s a blessing. We’re extroverts on that point, I guess. We intend to move on also when it comes to new recordings (and we’re leaving the catalogue of old songs behind, actually, as we’re releasing a cassette of 10 or 15 more songs recorded on 4 tracks between ’95 and ’99).

Well, thanks a lot for all the time and energy you put into this interview! We wish you the best of luck with future projects, whenever, wherever!

Copyright © 1999 JP

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