NMR Interview: Sondre from 'Det Skandaløse Orkester'
It's almost time to start forcing our lists of favourite Singles and Albums of 2020 on to you all. It's a reminder of some of the amazing albums we've covered over the last 7 years, and a particular favourite in 2018 was "Tenk om noen ser deg", by the unique Bergen project 'Det Skandaløse Orkester', an 8 piece progressive, jazz and rock inspired ensemble led by Sondre Jørgensen. Watching their outlandish streamed performances has been a highlight of 'lockdown', and we've speaking to him about the band and their future plans.
NMR: So, how are you today?
Sondre: "I'm very fine today, thanks for asking. In Norway we say: “Går det bra?” which means “Are you okay?” and I always feel that they think I am hurt and have a problem when they ask me that. “How are you?” is much better and you Englishmen seems to be not so retarded as us when it comes to politeness. When that is said I have to add that I am thankful for all this social stupidity because it is one of my main inspirations for starting this band and writing all of my songs.
NMR: Occasionally people in England still use the phrase ‘How Do You Do?’ and when someone introduces themselves like that over the phone I imagine they are wearing a large top hat and working from an office straight out of a Charles Dickens novel. Anyway I thought England were 'world leaders' in just one thing, that being social stupidity? Fawlty Towers and a good proportion of Monty Python sketches are based around this fact surely?
Sondre: "I guess you're right, I was just trying to be polite."
NMR: Ah, very appropriate. If it’s ok I’d like to go back to the beginning…. Det Skandaløse Orkester are an incredible mix of styles and musicians, did you start with the intention of creating something so diverse and unusual? Or did it all just fall together by accident?
Sondre: "I still remember the first seconds of our debut gig in 2011 and I felt that this was something very special that had never happened here before. At that time we sounded nothing like we do today, but we had the same spirit. I had been listening a lot to Frank Zappa for some years then and I believe that was what influenced my taste in that direction. I have a great love for a lot of different musical styles, but regular stuff that doesn't stand out bores me very easily. I like diversity and the unusual.
"I still remember the first seconds of our debut gig in 2011 and I felt that this was something very special that had never happened here before. "
NMR: We’ve come across guitarist Øystein previously, because of his unfortunate association with Major Parkinson. Can you introduce the rest of the band please?
Sondre: I am the charismatic band leader, composer and keyboardist Sondre Jørgensen himself. In 2011 I started Det Skandaløse Orkester along with my childhood friend Mats Erik Zen on lead vocals. Øystein joined on guitar later the same year. Sister Pling was our drummer the first two years, but now she is in front of the stage doing vocals, percussion and inappropriate acts. During the first years we were a quintet, but then Morten Norheim joined us on sax in 2014 and William Grøv Skramsett on trumpet in 2017. The same year we got a new bass player in Jørgen Haugland and Gjert Hermansen on drums. These are the 8 members of the band and sometimes we also bring along Nataniel Hjønnevåg on Xylophone and orchestral percussion to the stage.
NMR: How have you guys coped with lockdown. I know you’ve managed the occasional gig, but has it really restricted your rehearsing, writing and recording?
Sondre: "The plague hasn't affected us as much as it has for many others. Our plans this year were mainly to work with the pre-production for our next album and we had not planned many concerts anyway. We have done three gigs with restrictions on the number of audiences and it was a lot of fun, but we truly miss to play in front of a full house who goes crazy in front of the stage. In N ovember we had booked a studio to start recording our next album, but then came the second lockdown in Bergen so that was delayed. But we still hope to record and release our next album in 2021 - the year of our 10 years anniversary."
NMR: We loved your 1st album ‘Tenk om noen ser deg’. how are the plans for the 2nd album progressing?
Sondre: “Tenk om noen ser deg” was actually our second album following our debut “No har de laget skandale igjen!” from 2014. As mentioned above we are currently working on number three right now and it will definitely be our worst so far."
NMR: Ah of course, you’ve released 2 albums, I’d be embarrassed but I pride myself on my hapless incompetence. So you said earlier that you sound nothing like when you 1st started, but do you think the style of songs will have developed much between the 2nd and 3rd album, or will it be more of the same?
Sondre: "The songs we are about to record for our next album was actually written before all the music on the previous two. It contains some of the first music that I ever wrote and I really hope that my songwriting has developed since then. We also have a lot of new songs that are very different from everything else we have done before, but right now we want to record the old stuff."
NMR: This might be an impossible question, but given the complexity, how do you guys write a Skandaløse song? Where does it start, and how does it finish?
Sondre: "I always write the lyrics first and then I try to make melodies and harmonies that fit the theme or moods of the lyrics. Often I feel that the lyric demands a specific genre and that is another reason we mix so many different styles. Sometimes I make instrumental themes or melodies when I'm out walking in nature and sometimes when I'm home in front of the piano. I write down or record all my ideas and go through old ideas regularly to see if I find inspiration to continue. Sometimes it takes me many years from the first idea of a song until I finish it. Right now I am trying to write a song about Terje ``Vandreren'' Larsen - the legendary wanderer and criminal who was convicted for 664 cabin burglaries when he wandered through the mountains in Norway. If I ever finish that song it will be a folk-inspired tune."
NMR: Actually on the lyrics, we have a slight issue in the UK because most of us don’t quite understand them… what type of subject matters do you like to write about?
Sondre: "The lyrics on our two albums are conceptual and they both deal with the ongoing conflict between the normal people and the outcasts in our society. This is a subject that I am deeply interested in and it is something I feel on my body everyday. The title of our first album “No har de laget skandale igjen!” (2014) is based on a typical catchphrase in the norwegian media and can be translated to “Yet another scandal”. The lyrics tell about various public figures that in some way or another have been scandalized in the media. It makes a point on how easily we transform a small and seemingly insignificant event into a scandal of epic proportions. “Tenk om noen ser deg” (2018) is more personal. The title can be translated to “what if someone saw you” and that is the main underlying theme of all the lyrics; the self-conscious fear of what others may think about your behaviour and appearance.
On our web site www.skandalose.no you can find direct translations of the lyrics."
"The lyrics on our two albums are conceptual and they both deal with the ongoing conflict between the normal people and the outcasts in our society."
NMR: I particularly loved new track Regelrytteren (15:37 into the following video) in the streamed performances you did. Can you tell us more about it please?
Sondre: "I'm glad you loved it and it is also one of my own favorites. A “Regelrytter” (rule rider) is what we in Norway call a person who follows the rules without thinking. In this song the “Regelrytter” is a woman who follows her orders to hunt you down. She is riding on a horseback like a cowgirl with the book of law in her hand and nothing can stop her. This is an example of a song where the lyric demanded a specific genre as I mentioned earlier. When I wrote the lyric I soon understood that this had to become a country and western song."
NMR: Clearly I have to ask about the stage outfits you wear live, as they are sometimes fairly extraordinary. Who comes up with these ideas and how drunk were they at the time?
Sondre: "The truth is that we just want to dress up in our finest clothes when we enter a stage. Our taste may be a bit different from the norm though. I feel very uncomfortable in a suit for example. When we played at Zappanale last year I wore a girls dress and my father was really disappointed in me."
NMR: So you feel uncomfortable in a suit, but not standing naked in a field covered in mud? Incidentally I think it’s the most inspired band photo I’ve ever seen. Where did that idea come from, and how was this all organised on the day?
Sondre: When I am standing naked in a field covered in mud I am in my ace. The idea for the photo came out of my head and I wanted to show that we are a band who fears nothing, on the warpath (as we say in Norway) and ready to conquer the world. The others were told we were just going for a quiet walk in the woods until we stood there in front of the mud hole.
NMR: So what music have you been listening to in 2020? Any recommendations?
Sondre: "It is very rare that I find new music that interests me a lot, but when I do I get really enthusiastic about it. Like when I discovered the band “Venner'' from Trondheim, Norway some years ago. I think they are the closest thing you get to Det Skandaløse Orkester."
NMR: Obviously organising some kind of tour for so many musicians must take some doing, but do you have any crazy gig plans for post Covid and later on next year?
Sondre: "We will play at the “We Låve Rock Festival” on the east side of Norway in May 2021. Hopefully the plague is under control by then. But we find it difficult to make plans right now when everything is so insecure. We want to play as much as possible and we would love to tour the whole world if we got the chance. If there are anybody out there who can help us make it happen we would be really grateful."
NMR: Hopefully someone is reading this that can make it happen. Thanks for your time today!
Sondre: "No problem!"