Music Interviews

Interview: Madrugada

Legend has it that when a young misfit called James Osterberg went to seean early Doors show, he adopted the monikerIggy Pop and set about putting together The Stooges, a bandthat would pillage rock, psychedelia and punk in a way that has not been matched since.

Taking a leaf from Osterberg’s book are Madrugada, four Norwegians who live so far North that they are in the Arctic Circle. This afternoon, thankfully, the band are in Manchester on a whistle stop tour in support of their debutUK album, Grit. Naturally, musicOMH was there too…

Frode Jacobson (bassist, co-founder) climbs a flight of stairs to the rightof the Academy 3 venue’s claustrophobic stage. Standing a good six foot pluswith slender build, his blue suit, white loafers, and pinstripe shirtcontrast strongly against his pale skin.

Before we can get started it’s offto the book sale round the corner. Ten minutes later, Jacobsen is happilyclutching a Conrad novel and Steinbeck’s classic Of Mice And Men.

Into the dressing room and Sivert Hoyem is standing with his hands on hiships. Clad in black blazer, black jeans and boots with a message T-Shirt,the singer has an intimidating presence. Roughly the same height asJacobson, the shorn headed frontman is well built and a dead ringer forColdplay‘s Chris Martin. Drummer Simen Vangen is glued to his laptopand a handshake and a hello is the most OMH will get out of him. Staring outof the window and looking like a cross between Doctor Who and Willy Wonka,is Robert Buras (guitar) with his wild hair, purple cravat and gold handjewellery.

“When you’re on a major and you’re not Robbie Williams, they would rather be working with a lot of other things than a small band.” – Madrugada bemoan their lack of promotion in the UK prior to last year.

Madrugada have come quite a way from their last visit to these shores.Their last show in Manchester saw just nine people show up. Last night theylayed waste to a brimming 100 Club in London, with the well received releaseof Grit and hyped shows finally starting to crack the nut outside mainlandEurope.

“It’s only now that we have a record company supporting us in the UK.When you’re on a major and you’re not Robbie Williams, they would rather be working with a lot of other things than a small band.”

After forming in 1993 the band cut their teeth part-time for six solidyears. While Jacobson gave up photography and opened a bar, Hoyem studiedhistory and worked summers as a lumberjack. Buras humped constantly from onejob to another. From a mail sorter to digging holes in the ground (whichonly lasted a day), the burly guitarist defies all prejudices. Onstagelater, his guitar playing is inexplicably magical. It’s amazing to hear aninvisible ensemble of Krieger, Hendrix and Page airing out of one Marshall.This is a man who know his pedals.

“We were really working hard on the music. There was no doubt in ourminds that one day it would be full-time. We were rehearsingat least five days a week,” recalls Jacobsen.

“Being a guitar player was the first thing I wanted to do,” adds Buras,playing with a pack of Marley reds.

With Grit released two years ago, their single Majesty was winninghearts and minds across the Continent for a long time before being recently released in the UK.

“It’s a funny thing the record industry. Very strange…” quips Hoyem in a semi-Nordic, semi-Americanaccent.

“There’s always been a strong link between Britain and Norway.” – Madrugada liken Britain to their homeland. Well, we do both score nil points in Eurovision…

After releasing their debut Industrial Silence in 1999, Madrugadaestablished themselves as Norway’s premier rock outfit, canvassing Europewith successive releases. With their sophmore effort The Nightly Diseasereceiving a lukewarm response, the band ditched New York and opted forBerlin in the sessions for Grit.

“Berlin is very experimental. I think people there are curious to checkout new things. It doesn’t have to be in the papers before you go and checkit out. There’s a lot of exciting things happening in Berlin,” explainsJacobsen.

“Staying in Berlin definitely influenced the album,” adds Hoyem.

“This one – we managed to play it live (mostly in two takes). We got thatfeeling that it was closer to the music we’ve been influenced by. It’s moreatmospheric, more quiet, has more soul and is more of a psychedelic butdirect album,” continues Jacobsen.

“It’s been good,” he says of the response in Europe. “The one recordthat’s selling the most is the first one.”

Despite being from Euroland, the group feel a certain kinship with theUK.

“There’s always been a strong link between Britain and Norway. We werevery influenced by music from Britain. I think what we didn’t see clearlywhen we were younger, was how much The Jam and the RollingStones were really making music from the blues.

“Something we want to do some day is to make our own interpretation of theblues. We’ve been listening to so much different music, like reggae and dub.Elvis Presley was very important for me. The same with The VelvetUnderground. When I heard the banana album for the first time it changedmy view on rock music.”

While some bands would gladly take 400,000 record sales the band feelthey still have to achieve.

“The first record of The White Stripes was amazing.” – Madrugada are signed-up members of the Jack & Meg fan club.

“We still have a lot of potential. We just want to keep making albums andmake that one album that’s as great as any of the other albums we’velistened to,” says Hoyem.

“We see that with many bands who just play and eventually reach thatrecord. The Stones are unique ‘cos they did it with five records,” saysJacobsen.

With Madrugada pushing for their Exile On Main Street, they see fewothers who have even reached Second Street. “The first record ofThe White Stripes was amazing. I think Xtrmntr by Primal Screamwas as well,” he adds.

Our time is up and the band have a photo shoot. The photographer wantsthem outside, much to the disdain of Hoyem who wants it onstage. ForMadrugada this is where it matters most and where the band truly speak forthemselves.

Later at the show in deep shadow, they open with a stunning psychedelicnumber which had me and my cohort both mumbling The Doors to each other.Incredibly tight, perfect acoustics, and effortless stage presence. Beneaththe spotlight Hoyem cavorted and captivated. It was breathtaking stuff, andfor once the hype was justified. If Mr Osterberg had been here he would havebeen very impressed.

“It’s not a new type of music, but it’s our way of doing it,” saysJacobsen. “Some people need things to be really clear. There’s adifference.”

Boy, ain’t it true.

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Madrugada – Grit