BJØRN NØRSTERUD – A Dive…
Diving in the record collection to people is something many have done before us, but we want to give it a try anyway. We’ve picked a nice collection of well known actors within what we may call the metal press, and we took a second look at their favorite bands and discs. We have already been messed up a little in the collections of Gunnar Sauermann and Jonathan Selzer and this time is time for one of Norways most experienced metal journalists; BJØRN NØRSTERUD from Scream Magazine.
Foto: Marion Nørsterud
Are you a vinyl freak or more of the modern CD type?
I used to be a vinyl-frak, when there wasn’t anything else around. I mean, I never really liked the cassettes, except for copying albums for friends. It’s funny, I was always the one that had to copy everything for them, I rarely got anything back. That might have had something to do with the fact that I bought everything before they did, so they never did get a chance did they? But yeah, when the CD-s arrived, I was kinda hooked. I said goodbye to scratches, fingermarks and the record player, and sold every damn LP I had. Which of course was a very silly move, but what can you do? It was the eighties, and I got caught up with the new technology; almost like the bands that I loved, who turned very synthetic. Who could blame them? Not me, that’s for sure…
Do you have a record player? If so – do you use it?
No sir, I haven’t had one for years…
Do you remember the very first record you bought?
I sure do. The first single that I bought was Black Sabbath’s "Evil Woman". I still remember that green cover, with Ozzy looking just as young as me, and I was eight at the time. So he was a bit of hero back then, and still is I guess. I didn’t care that much for the song "Evil Woman", I played the other song much more. "Wicked World" was my kinda thing, I loved the time changes, the playing and the melody on that one. Damn nearly progressive! Now the first album I bought was "Let It Be" by The Beatles. Of course it’s a classic, but I did really want something more exciting, and never really liked it that much. My brother didn’t accompany me that day, so I was left alone to my decisions, which took like hours. I guess it was hell for my mother, and I sweated like a pig myself, and wasn’t really comfortable when I left the shop either. Ah, the agony of choice…
What is the rarest album you’ve got?
Good question, I have to think about that one. I have never been a serious collector – I mean I love bands like Jethro Tull and Manowar, but I never went to the other side of the world to find that particular picture disc, or the Chinese version of some song. I was never the guy who would follow a band on tour; I need diversity, so I guess it was a good thing that we started Scream back in the days, it suits me perfect. Back to those rare albums; I do have a few rare promos by Dimmu Borgir, Dissection and Dark Tranquility, does that count? I do think they’re worth a bit, especially "The Gallery" by Dark Tranquility, since it has a completely different cover than what appeared on the final album. Other than that, not much…
Does Bjørn’s record collection consist of metal only? What else can one find that Bjørn highly appreciates?
Not all, as you probably know, I’m a huge fan of progressive rock as well, so it’s 50/50 as far as metal and prog goes. Like I mentioned earlier, I need variation in my music. After listening to extreme death metal for hours, it’s nice to listen to some progressive extravaganza, in the form of long and complex songs, drenched in mellotron and filled with moog and flute. I also like artists like Bob Dylan, The Byrds, James Taylor, Cat Stevens and so on, I guess it’s because this music was a big part of my youth. And even a Swedish "Singer/Songwriter" from the early part of the last century, called Evert Taube. My father filled my head with that music, singing and playing those songs for me when I was just a kid.
How do you preserve your collection? Is it categorized or is it just helter skelter?
It is indeed alphabetically categorized, I wouldn’t find anything if it wasn’t. I do have thousands of CD-s, and it’s hell to put in a new one starting with A, because then you have to move all the others as well, he he. So I tend to wait a few months between each "clear up", I have my own little cupboard of news, like in an old record-shop. I have also separated the "prog/seventies-stuff" from the metal, which makes it a bit easier. These days we do get more and more promotion-material via mp3, which is fine by me actually. It saves space, and I can wake up one Sunday morning with a new death metal-masterpiece on my computer, how bad can that be? It’s the music that counts right, and it’s so easy to put it in your iPhone, and listen to it while preparing those damn eggs every Sunday morning
Your favorite band is Jethro Tull, a band that actually has been around for almost 44 years; a decent amount of years for an active band. When did this love affair between the two of you start? How did it all begin? And why?
Well, it’s a long story. It actually started when my brother brought home a single by this band called Jethro Tull, and the songs on it were called "Teacher" and "The Witch’s Promise". I fell in love immediately, the songs were great, I loved the flute, and I also loved the long hair, the beards (!) and what seemed so new, so fresh. Not that I was a musical expert at the time, I was eight or nine, but for me this was like heaven. I started growing my hair, much to my parent’s disgust, but I managed to get the longest hair in the class, which of course drew all the girl’s attention (just kidding). Then my brother bought "Living In The Past", "Benefit", "Aqualung" and "Thick As A Brick", and I was I more hooked than a fish who just swallowed a wobbler. To my amazement NRK aired a program dealing with Jethro Tull (which has recently been released on DVD), way back in the old days, and I was delighted. Still am actually. From then on I had to buy the albums myself (or ask my parents for money) so I could get my hands on "A Passion Play" and "War Child". It actually took some time before I heard the two first ones, "This Was" and "Stand Up", because my brother never bought those, strangely enough. (He didn’t buy Led Zeppelin "II" either, just the debut and "III". Weird huh? I had to get that one much later)
What is it with Jethro Tull that makes you hold on to them as your favorite band? What do they have that no other band has?
I think it’s called "it". First of all, Ian Anderson is a musical genius. He started out taking inspiration from the blues, but developed his musical universe into what became one of the most original and exciting bands ever. Just look at the lyrics; on "Aqualung" he confronts religion, and mocks it quite rightfully. He doesn’t look down on people’s personal beliefs, he states that "organized" religion is a bad thing, but unfortunately the Christians didn’t get the message, and burned copies of the album. Very strange, when you consider the fact that he was actually defending them. And as far as the music goes, I have like 50 CD-s by the band, which doesn’t include a minute of lousy music. What’s not to love?
Jethro Tull has released over 40 albums during the years. Is it hard to stay in touch and make sure you get every release? Is it important for you to that you have everything?
As mentioned earlier, I’ve never been that maniac type of collector, but I do have to get all the important releases, including live-albums, re-masters, DVD-s and collections (up to a point). It’s been very easy the last years though, since the last studio-album was released 12 years ago, not counting the "Christmas Album". Endless touring instead of recording albums is a bitch, if you ask me.
What is your relationship with the band members of Jethro Tull?
I have talked to Ian Anderson twice, and shook the hand of Martin Barre as well. You’re not allowed to shake hands with Ian Anderson though, just the elbow-ritual. Must be a fear of bacterial infection, which is fine with me. The first conversation was a telephone-interview though, and I was nervous as hell. It didn’t really help me much when this annoying neighbor-lady called like five minutes before Anderson was supposed to call. She just went on and on gabbing, and I had to put the phone on the hook to stop her mouth. She didn’t talk to me for months, he he. But it was worth it, as the interview turned out great. The second time was in a hotel-lobby in Oslo, where we sat down and had a nice, quiet conversation.
Your favorite album is "A Passion Play" from 1973. What is it with this album that makes it number one, when were you first introduced to this masterpiece and how many versions of it do you have in your collection?
Well, first of all I gotta say that I like all the albums, and both "Aqualung" and "Thick As A Brick" are huge favorites as well. But "A Passion Play" was the first one that I bought myself, so that was quite important. Having said that, the album is also their most progressive, it has the most difficult music, and the best concept. Some say it’s too serious, some can’t stand the craziness of "The Hare Who Lost His Spectacles", but to me it’s the perfect combination of weirdness and musical extravaganza. I bought it on vinyl the day it was released, today I only have the newest CD-version, which is re-mastered, and contains a hilarious video, made about "The Hare…"
There are several different versions of this album. Some have one song, other 2 and there is even a CD where the whole album is divided into not less than 16 sequences or songs. Do you have any opinions on this?
The original vinyl had two sides of course, and that’s how it was meant to be. "A Passion Play" has two long pieces of music, possibly three, if you count "The Hare…" as a track as well. That idea of it having 16 sequences is bullshit, and just something that people have created in their twisted minds…
Is there any other album that has the potential to take over the place as a favorite album or are there too many memories and too much history behind the choice of " A Passion Play"?
I think you nailed it right there, there are many memories and much history behind that choice. It was as mentioned, the first album I bought from my favorite band, so it will always have a special place in my heart. Having said that, I do have other favorites, too many to mention here, but I have always loved Manowar, believe it or not. The voice of Eric Adams and the great music that Joey DeMaio has written, puts them right on top as far as heavy metal goes. So to answer your question; "Kings Of Metal" is a strong contender for number one. Possibly also Vintersorg’s "Till Fjälls", that’s one helluvan album!
You are home after a long day’s work and want to relax with some music. What do you, most likely, want to listen to?
Good question, I guess it all depends on my mood that day. Not that I have had a job the last six years, I work from home, if indeed you can call it work, doing the dishes, writing for Scream, arguing with my children and opening doors for the cats. So it’s either or; Obituary’s "Slowly We Rot" one day, and Camel’s "Mirage" the other. Just two examples from the top of my head, but you see what I mean…
Where do you stand when it comes to original albums? Do you want a first press or are you pleased with re-mastered re-publications?
I couldn’t care less about first pressings, or original albums. I prefer the re-masters, the sound and the bonus-tracks are all that matters.
There are split opinions about live albums. Where do you stand and what’s your ultimate live album? What’s so special about this record?
I find live-albums boring, most of the time. Of course there are some great ones out there, like Jethro Tull’s "Bursting Out", Led Zeppelin’s "The Song Remains The Same", and Deep Purple’s "Made In Japan". Not that I play any of them very often, but if I do, they still sound great.
What about the gender distribution in your collection; how is that coming along?
Too many male bands I guess, can’t really think of others, apart from the odd Nightwish-album, and some from Epica. Metal is a male thing, he he.
The vinyl tax collector is standing at your doorstep and demanding one – 1 – vinyl record as an instant charge. What record do you choose to give away?
After I started answering these questions a couple of days ago, I was down in the basement, and it actually turns out that I have two vinyls. One by Type O Negative, and Jon Anderson’s "Olias Of Sunhillow". That’s one of the strangest albums ever made, and I have both fond and negative thoughts about it when I see the cover and listen to the music. I’d give him that one, hoping that it would screw his head up, if he dared to listen it.