ØRESUND SPACE COLLECTIVE
“Space is the place” – it’s something declared by an Alabama-bred musician born nearly one-hundred years ago, and something we’ve accepted as fact – which may be one reason we feel so immediately linked to the cosmic compositions of Øresund Space Collective.
Even without a telescope, it’s been hard to miss Øresund Space Collective. Since their formation in 2005, their name has appeared on ten full-length albums – including four in 2011 alone, highlighted by the recent release of “Sleeping With the Sunworm.” Like all of their releases, “Sleeping With the Sunworm” is the space-rock result of improvisational explorations made by a collective of musicians from Denmark and Sweden (on occasion including members of such bands as Siena Root, Causa Sui and Carpet Knights). And like all of their releases, the results are mesmerizing, given patience and the proper, vanguard state of mind – hypnotic rhythms strike across the chest while guitars and synth-lines paint the mind like a solar flare. Outer space without a map – it’s the ultimate psychedelic road trip.
Certainly the influence of the interstellar rises like a rocket throughout the music we love – from the aforementioned Sun Ra’s impact on the Motor-City Five to those space-ritual holding favorites of Johnny Rotten, the unforgettable astral adventures of Voivod, and even more recent signals sent to bend against the most distant, dying stars. Øresund Space Collective fits nicely in this universe.
For those paying attention, over the last few weeks we’ve had the pleasure of exploring earth (Hills), wind, (uhhhh … Wind) and fire (Magdalena Solis). We could not be more excited to now explore outer space, in the form of this Øresund Space Collective interview with the group’s synth-master-general, the appropriately named Dr. Space.
Where does the connection between outer space and music – two outrageously broad categories, we admit – begin for you? Can you recall when it was that you first began your fascinations with both? Who are the artists that you consider pioneers in this realm and what is it (if anything) about their music that captures your imagination?
In the late 70s I was a huge Pink Floyd fan and was collecting up all their records and bootleg vinyl records as well. This was my first interest in spacey music. I did not really get into Hawkwind until the late 80s, after my “heavy metal” phase when I was putting out a heavy metal fanzine from 1984-1988. These two bands as well as my old friend Doug Walker’s (RIP) band Alien Planetscapes set the stage for me as far as musical influences and space rock. I also got into the 80-90s UK scene with all the great bands like Mandragora, Ozric Tentacles, Omnia Opera, Paperhouse, Dead Flowers, etc. As far as space, it is only in the past 5 years or so that cosmology and the physics of the universe has become extremely fascinating for me. Perhaps it is all the discoveries we have today and the amazing telescopes that can see so far back into time and the events that happened millions of years ago, that it is all coming together. Clearly, Hawkwind with the “In Search of Space” record and fold out and booklet and “Space Ritual” – this was the first real band connecting rock music with space and sci-fi fantasy, largely due to Robert Calvert, Barney Bubbles and Nik Turner in Hawkwind. I can’t see how any young person today who picks up these records would not be pretty blown away at the details and imagination put into it. Clearly pioneers …
What do you consider your earliest musical memory? Can you recall what your first true musical obsession was, during your adolescent years? What made that music so important to your own personal musical evolution? How has your opinion of that music changed over the years?
My earliest musical memories are my dad playing Chuck Berry. He told me when he was in college before I was born, he saw Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis in concert. When I was about 9 I bought one of my first records, when my grandfather took me to the military base where he could buy food discounted because he was a war veteran, and I bought Chuck Berry’s “Live in London” and my grandmother made us return the record when she heard him play the song “My Ding-a-Ling” (she was very religious). In the 70s I was really into Aerosmith, CCR, Ted Nugent, and Chuck Berry. I for sure became obsessed with music in the late 70s and we had this great record store in New Mexico called Merlin’s Record Workshop and we would go there and buy records every week when we got paid from our jobs. I met one guy named John, a older guy who was into live bootlegs and he turned me on to live recordings and soon I was getting some recordings from him, recording concerts myself and buying some from a guy in Arizona named Sam, who illegally sold live recordings but it was a way to build up a collection. In a few years I had 200-300 cassettes and eventually through 20 years of tape trading I ended up with over 5000 tapes!
I still really love most all of the music that I have liked over the years. I never really liked death and thrash metal that much but I ended up with a lot of it over the years (mostly 80s stuff) from writing about music, so that is probably the only music that I am not so fond of today that I may have liked a lot more back then. But I still love Chuck berry, CCR, Aerosmith (old), Pink Floyd and most all of the music I collected. I have broad tastes in music. I just don’t like mainstream commercial music. I prefer instrumental music in some way and this is also maybe one reason why my band plays instrumental music.
Where did the idea to create Øresund Space Collective originate from? What were the determining factors when considering who would be asked to join the new venture? Was it part of the ambition from the beginning to make the band purely improvisational?
ØSC was not really formed as a band to begin with and it is still not a band but a collective of musicians. It all started because the band I used to play in, Gas Giant, decided that they did not want any spacey synthesizers anymore and asked me to leave. I was also the band manager and so afterwards, the group slowly died, sadly. Anyway, I still wanted to play music so I asked my friends in Mantric Muse (Copenhagen) and Bland Bladen (Malmö), if they might want to just have some jam sessions. We agreed and Magnus (Mantric Muse) and I took off over the Øresund bridge to Sweden and had the first jam session in April 2004 in Malmö. It was so much fun and the music was actually really good (since these guys are all such good musicians and listeners), that we started to do this on a regular basis with them coming over here or Magnus and I and the others in Mantric Muse also started to join, going to Malmö. In February 2005, we decided to try to play our first live concert and we needed a name, etc. That was the real start. Because everyone in the collective except myself has other bands they play in and write music for, this group has always been improvised. I am not a real musician so I can’t compose music that others could learn or anything like that. We will stay an improvised unit as far as I can see.
Improvisation holds the perhaps dubious distinction of being a musical approach that is widely practiced but seldom well understood. What is it about improvisation that appeals to your nature and to the other members of Øresund Space Collective? Do you feel that you must be willing to give up a certain degree of the cohesiveness of your sound in order to gain the wide range of exploration that improvisation allows?
Nearly all the people in the collective come from bands that have done a lot of jamming and improvising in their rehearsal rooms but also in their live concerts so they are quite experienced with live musical experimentation. Also, Gas Giant, the band I played in, were known as the Grateful Dead of stoner rock because we changed the set all the time and did a lot of long spaced out jamming at times. As for the appeal of improvisation, I find it very exciting that I can bring all kinds of musicians together and we can create something new, fresh and exciting. I listen to a lot of music, perhaps 6 hours a day and when I go see a band live, I am not really interested in hearing them play the songs just as on the record. I want something extra, something special, so I pray and hope that a band will jam or improvise. This is what is exciting about live music. A band like Iron Maiden, Metallica, any mainstream metal band, or Porcupine Tree (where it all tied to the visuals and almost like a movie, with a band playing its record along), etc., is not interesting to me, even though I might like their record very much. I recently saw a triple bill of all new young Danish bands (Hedgehogs, Troldmand, Papir) and all three really experimented and jammed and really played. It was one of the best concerts I went to this year!!!
As for cohesiveness, we are pretty experienced now so this is usually only evident when we start or finish a jam, but we are all really good listeners and once we get the groove going, we really hold it together well now and everyone has a chance to express themselves musically. We are not the kind of improvised band like Acid Mothers Temple or Seven That Spells that freaks out and gets really noisy and wild and crazy with our instruments and loses the melodic and musical element completely. It is always playing with the elements of melody and groove and myself adding the space sounds.
We find the song titles attached to the Øresund Space Collective compositions to enhance our enjoyment of the sounds – titles like “Reintroduce the Snakes to Ireland,” “Dead Man In Space,” and “My Heel Has A Beard.” To whom does the job of titling a particular piece fall to? Is there anything in particular you like to see ØSC capture in the titles? Would it be possible for a ØSC title to be too comical or too silly?
The song titles are sometimes a challenge and sometimes fun and more thought out. “Reintroduce the Snakes to Ireland” came about that the day after we played at Roadburn. There were some Irish guys staying at the same hotel and one guy was a real talker and some how we hit upon that there were no snakes left in Ireland … a song title is born. “Dead Man in Space” and “My heel Has a Beard” were made by my creative daughter. She saw the back cover for the “Dead Man in Space” LP, which at that time did not have a title and she said, “Dead man in space”. It was after this that I also did the spoken word piece in my home studio. The titles should be something interesting, fun and maybe be related to an event that occurred at the concert or studio session that we can make a title around or when we are on tour. We try to make a list sometimes of what could be funny titles based on our experiences on the tour. Sure, a few of the titles are perhaps a bit too silly, especially if you don’t know the inside story like “Mogen’s Mini-Pussi Cheese Balls”! Most of the time it’s fun to come up with the titles, but sometimes, I just want to get the concert up on the net and come up with the titles over a few minutes.
Would you care to comment on the rumor (the rumor that we are attempting to start right now) that curious listeners can sync-up any ØSC release to a screening of the 1996 semi-animated film “Space Jam” … and that the result is a sonically improved experience that makes the film almost watchable?
OK … I don’t know this movie but perhaps we should try it sometime!
What music have you been listening to lately? If push comes to shove, what is your favorite Zolar-X song?
Since I do a lot of reviewing of music for Aural Innovations, my blog and other places. I hear a lot of music. The latest things I have been playing are: Papir- Stundum, Gösta Berlings Saga “Glue Works,” Johnfish Sparkle “Flow,” Primus “Green Naugahyde,” Titan “Pacific Living” cassette, Ozric Tentacles “Paper Monkey,” Gnod “Chaudelande Vol. 1” LP, Premonition 13 LP, Candlemass “Doomology” box set, Causa Sui “Pewt’r Sessions Vol. 2” LP, Rotor “Festsaal Kruesberg” CD, and Hawkwind “Parallel Universe” 3CD compilation. My daughter is into Bob Marley at the moment so we hear a lot of Bob as well. I have also been listening a lot to the last concerts by local bands, Troldmand, Hedgehogs and Papir that I multitrack recorded and mixed in my home studio. As for Zolar-X … never really heard them. They were some Hollywood cult band, right?
Our understanding is that ØSC operates in live performance much like it operates in the studio – essentially, instant composition. What are the attributes that make performing live a thrill for you? Who are the improvisational musicians that you have seen perform live which ended up making the biggest impact on you?
That is correct, the only difference between the studio and the live concert is an audience as we set up a PA in the studio so everyone can hear the synthesizers without wearing headphones so it is more like a live concert with friends. As for the thrill and challenge of playing live, we are quite affected by the audience. Some places we play the people are dead and stoned (our local concerts) and when we play in Finland, the place is really into it and this gives you a totally different energy and we tend to get into better grooves and when the audience is more spaced out or just talking and not paying much attention, we my explore a more spaced out realm. Here in Denmark, there were not many bands that did a lot of jamming but being in and playing with Gas Giant had a huge effect on me to see the potential and magic that we could create with an incredible jam and how I would feel very euphoric and blown away when we really took off to another realm. Guitarist Stefan Krey could blow me away on a nightly basis with his amazing and inventive guitar work. He still can! When Morten Aron was in the band On Trial, they used to do a lot of jamming and spacing out as well. Ozric Tentacles when I used to see them in the mid 90s also totally blew me away and the two GONG shows I saw in 1996 as well. When I lived in Boston, their was a local act called Das Ludicroix lead by a cool guy named Larry (RIP) and they also were very spaced out and a cool jamming band. We also had Architectural Metaphor who I was friends with and saw play some amazing jamming shows as well. Greg Kozlowski was a very creative guitar player. He now plays in Secret Saucer.
Sun Ra was quoted as having said the following: “In tomorrow’s world, men will not need artificial instruments such as jets and space ships. In the world of tomorrow, the new man will ‘think’ the place he wants to go, then his mind will take him there.” What does this quote mean to you? To what extent do you use music as a vehicle for your mind to take you places?
Sun Ra will always have a special place in the musical world. He was a man from another world for sure and he used his craziness for very positive experiments in music, which was great! The mind is a very powerful biological energy and, when focused through meditation or THC or drugs, can allow you to go other places. I try to host monthly music nights at my place where my best friends Nils, Magnus, Tom and sometimes others join us to spend an evening really listening to music. Have some good food, beers, etc., and really hear some of the new records and also old and just absorb the music and the adventure that the bands have prepared for you. One of the most intense new musical experiences that I highly recommend is the new CD by the UK band, the Higher Craft! It is called “The Quest Into the Stepping Stone Age” and it is one 70-minute trip to another world, with all the spoken word spacey pieces carefully pieced together with the psychedelic rock music. Quite a masterpiece but sadly, few people in this day and age will ever sit down and just listen and experience the record. I have done it four times. I think the new Omnia Opera double CD is also really amazing and very well thought out. I put aside a lot of my time to really hear and enjoy music. I don’t watch TV and do not use the mobile phone very much or spend much time on places like Facebook (I do have a page though).
What’s next for Øresund Space Collective?
Dr. Space: We have our 11th release coming out on our own Space Rock productions on Nov 21st in a limited edition digipack in 500 hand numbered copies. We have another vinyl record planned for 2012 but are not sure if we will release it or another label at this time. It is from the same recording session as the “Entering Into the Space Country” LP. We also have another CD from the 3rd day of the studio session from 2010, which features 3 tracks with KG from Siena Root playing sitar and Mattias Danielsson from My Brother the Wind on pedal steel and guitar, as well as Claus Bøhling from Secret Oyster/Hurdy Gurdy fame. We may get a chance to go play in India in 2012 and I would like to go back and play in Finland, one of my favorite places to play as the audiences are so into it and the people very cool. If we can come up with the money, I will schedule another studio session and try to get some of the old players and some new blood in as well, like Nicklas from Papir! We will see. Thanks for this chance to chat … This Zolar-X is pretty cool … I found it on the net while finishing this interview … thanks!