SEID cosmic rock – interview
Photo by Andrea Chirulescu
It has been a good amount of years since I discovered this band called SEID and the fact that cosmic pirate rock exists. And while I got to watch them live a couple of times and get news about their seldom releases via their social medias, I never really knew who nor why Seid was out there. Seeing that this year they celebrate 25 years with a concert at Kampen Bistro in Oslo and having had received a promo about the event, I asked if it would be possible to sit down and have a chat with the band, so I could figure out some answers. It was with a lot of joy to be told that there’s time for an interview before the Oslo gig and I’m very thanksful to Janis and Bernt who spent a very good amount of time with me, walking me through each album and helping me understand more about how such an unorthodox mix of sounds can sound so cool and catchy.
You can still catch SEID live in Teondheim on Friday, april 12th at Verkstedhallen&Lobbyen. More info here https://www.facebook.com/events/517579335314507
The chat itself was rather long, so for those of you who don’t like reading so much text, here’s the audio version, while below it you will find the transribed text.
Me: Can you just say who you are, who am I talking to?
I am Janis from Seid. And I am Bernt from Seid
Me: Nice to meet you guys. I was trying to look up some information about Seid but there’s not so much out there on the Internet. So let’s just try to build some sort of history. 25 years of Seid. Have you guys been with the band from the beginning?
J: Yes. We’ve started this band when we started highschool
Me: You don’t look that old
B: We are
Me: There was a question actually "are you feeling old after 25 years?"
B: One foot in the grave. Neah…young at heart.
Me: How did it all start? What triggered it?
J: Good question. We started doing what the other kids were doing. In those days it was stuff like Guns’n’roses, Metallica and the grunge stuff B: It was actually cool to be in a band, for a while J: Then we had some neighbors who were more into psychedelic music and progressive rock and stuff and we started to listen to that kind of music
Me: Like what?
B: There was a psychedelia band in the rehearsal space next to us and they were called "The Smell of Incense", they did a lot of cover songs which we didn’t know at that moment. They covered Hawkwing, Gong, a lot of obscure 60s stuff that we really digged. We kinda befriended them or forced ourselves upon them and got them to spill the beans about what’s the cool equipment, what are the cool records. Back then there was no internet so we couldn’t just google the good bands so we had to befriend the older guys who were like the wise elder ones with secrets to the good stuff. What was in the hitlists back then is just as boring as it is now.
Me: So that was the underground music back then. What caught your attention, what made you change from Guns’n’roses, why was it cooler?
J: That’s a good question too. There’s something about the vibe of this kind of music…it’s very difficult to explain, but I can put on the same records now that I listened to 25 years ago and it still sounds like my kind of vibe. I can’t do that with a lot of other records from the time when I grew up. I now listen to them and they are ‘used’, I am finished with it. But I don’t think I will ever be finished with this kind of music.
Me: A lot of kids back then probably wanted to follow Black Sabbath and such, those were the cool ones. While you found your own cool bands to look up to and went away from the mainstream back then. So this is how it all started. What kept you going for 25 years? You’re not the kind of band to release and album every second year and go on a world wide tour, so?
J: We have never tried to have this band as a job so we don’t need to release an album every second year to support an endless tour, because this is just what we do for fun. We don’t want to make the same song twice and very many bands who release records often they make more or less the same songs every other year and they take forever to change. We could have done that too but it had to turn into a job and we don’t want to fall into that. We want to make new music and when it’s ready, we make a new album. It takes time of course, usually around 5 years between each album but that’s how we like to have it.
Me: Your first album came out more or less 8 years since the band officially started
J: That’s more or less how it is when you start a band in highschool. You have to suck a bit first and then get better and better. A lot of the recordings from those days, we don’t really want to show them
Me: Did you play a lot of gigs in highschool or was it mainly meeting in your garage and jamming and that’s it?
J: Mostly basement stuff but there were some gigs as well
Me: Where were you based back then? Because if somebody reads about you now, it says Oslo, Arendal and Trondheim band.
J: That’s correct. We started it all in Arendal and then we moved to Trondheim because of college and university stuff.
Me: All of you?
B: All of you. All of us. All of you?? Hehe. Wasn’t the most obvious place to go because every band from Arendal, if they wanted to take it further, they usually went to Oslo. So we thought to maybe try Trondheim instead. Motorpsycho were from Trondheim so obviously there was an audience for that kind of music. Also the practical issues with the other guys in the band who were a couple of years older than me and had to go to college. I moved as well and did my civil service
Me: Was the Trondheim environment different than Arendal?
J: Yea, a lot more people doing music. Arendal is very small, so this was a very big step up. And now Oslo is even more so. But Trondheim was nice. I stayed there for 10 years, very nice place, lot of cool musicians and bands. B: Lots of students, there was a lot more variety in the musical styles than in Arendal. Come to think of it, Arendal is not that bad either. They had both Smell of Incense, and us playing psychedelic music, but then of yourse you have all these pub rock bands and heavy bands
Me: I wasn’t even aware there’s a scene in Arendal to be honest
J: There’s also a bunch of people throwing a music festival every year and they’ve been going since the early 80s. It’s quite well known in this kind of scene. It’s called Sprø Musikk and it’s not many small cities that have events like that. We even played there a few times with Seid in the 90s. It was out first gig, out in the forest, but now they moved it into the city. Back then it was out in the forest, very fun with tents and carrying the PA speakers in a wheelbarrow.
Me: Anyway, basically moving to Trondheim brought you more fans. So the first album is released back when you were in Trondheim?
J: Yes, it was in the year of 2002 and then we released the second one in 2006 and that was the last thing we did in Trondheim
Image that celebrates SEID’s 25 years as spacerockers, made by artistMarius
Martinussen – A mosaic of almost 1500 old images from the band’s career. The image shows the four band members morphed into two faces
Me: Back to the first album. So after 8 years, how did you decide ‘ok, now it’s time for an album’.
B: Guess it was at a time when we had enough songs that were good enough to make an album that wouldn’t stink.
Me: Based on feedback from…?
B: Based on our collective agreement – we were 4 guys back then, well 5 if you count the organ player – so this was just our agreement that this was going to work. We went to Oslo to a friend’s recording studio and I think we used like 14 days recording and mixing. Later we were supposed to come back and do some more, but suddently the studio was not there anymore so a couple of more years went
Me: I guess the financial situation was not the brightest back then
J: Yeah, we didn’t have a lot of money B: So of course this studio had to prioritize other acts in front of us. So it took some time to get the album ready. Then the next struggle started, getting someone to release it. And boy, that took time. Finally, after a lot of rejections, a friend of ours, who was a fan, made his own record company to get our record released.
Me: So it was not 8 years the amount of time that took you to write the album…
B: Nono, it was also to mix it properly, get the master and then find somebody to release it.
Me: I guess you had no idea about those things back then
J: No, we knew nothing at all.
Me: The name of the first album is "Among the monster flowers again". What are the monster flowers?
B: Very horrible flowers I supposed J: The title is, I guess, a reflection of that cartoon where Mickey gets very small and all the flowers and insects are really huge and those were the mental images we had when jamming.
B: That’s definitely the association that goes from the title. I think the exact phrase is from a poem, that a friend of ours from Arendal wrote. He wrote us a poem and we really liked this phrase and it made us think about this old Mickey Mouse movie
Me: I was thinking to ask you what were you guys smoking but now that you bring up Mickey Mouse, it sounds so innocent..
B: Maybe what was Mickey Mouse smoking
Me: What’s the moral of the Tale of the king on the hills
J: That’s way far back on the memory lane
B: What was the question again?
Me: You have this song, The Tale of The King on the Hills. What is it about?
B: Ooooh, I guess a king on a hill J: Wasn’t that when we had our Monty Python period in those days? B: I think maybe the title could have been inspired by the Fool on the hill by the Beatles. But it was a lot of Monty Python humor going on as it usually is with guys in their early 20s.
Me: Who was doing the lyrics?
B: I think I did it. But I was like 15 when I wrote it. That’s a really old one, it was in another song. I think it was back when Jørgen, our singer, wa in Dominican Republic for a year when we were in highschool. We tried to do some trio stuff without him and I think we started making that song then and I think I wrote the lyrics, but I can’t remember what it is about.
Me: What about the instruments that you guys used back then? Do you still have them and use them?
J: I still have my first electric guitar, but it’s hanging on the wall.
Me: Actually I was thinking how easy it was for you back then to get ahold of instruments. You were maybe not so picky back then, whatever made sound was a good thing.
J: I am a lefty and that’s an extra challenge. In Arendal there was only one electric guitar that was lefty and I bought that one for 3000 Norwegian krone. I was very happy with it, it was a really cool guitar. Very good guitar as well. I was just super lucky that I could get such a good guitar and it was the only left handed guitar in Arendal
Me: So the sound of Seid back then was condition by the fact that there was this one guitar
SEID live@Kampen Bistro 2019
Photo by Andrea Chirulescu
Me: Then 8 more years until The Creatures of the Underworld. Why so many years?
J: It’s actually wrong, it was actually released in 2006 but it’s on platforms like Spotify where it shows as 2010. Something went wrong when it was registered in the digital world. But in 2006 I had a child and I moved from Trondheim and we decided to take a break with the band so we released an album that year just to get out all the material that we have been writing since the firt album. We had kind of a last tour before the break, I guess that’s how it went.
Me: Between these two albums, were you very active with the band, touring and such?
B: Yeah. Actually after we released Among the monster flowers…the original drummer quit and we got a new one, and also our keyboard played he had joined during the recording sessions of Among the monster flowers. So many of the keyboard parts are made up in the studio. We continued to play some of these songs but also started writing new material together with him and the new drummer. I would say around 2005 we have been around in Europe playing in Denmark, Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, doing a lot of touring with the new songs and we wanted to record them. We did it, in Trondheim, in 2006 and that was like the end of that era. You can say that Creatures of the Underworld is the most Trondheim album for us. All the songs were written in Trondheim.
Me: Then there’s the Magic Handshake. At least for me that’s the album through which I found out about Seid. So what’s the Space Pirates, where do they come from? What cartoons were you looking at?
B: The Space Pirates….mmm…that’s from Futurama. It’s stolen from Futurama.
Me: It’s not stolen, it’s inspired by.
B: I remember watching that episode from Futurama with Space Pirates and I thought it was hilarious. We were playing more space rock, less prog by then.
J: We even had a thee eyed skull on a flag when we were playing back then
B: Yep. That was also from Futurama.
J: We came back together again in 2009 and we wanted to play together again, with our new drummer. As I said, I had moved to Arendal and these guys visited me in the summer, jammed a bit just to see what happens. Everybody really enjoyed so we thought that maybe we should try to make a new record, cause now the break was long enough
B: You forget that we had a new drummer again. During the break, Jørgen and Lars, the keyboard player, had started jamming with Martin, out current drummer, in another project called NOIA which was experimental dance and sounds. Verty artsy. We wanted to try to play together and play again, but with Martin on drums.
Me: So a lucky visit. Does this mean that a lot of the Magic Handshake comes from this jamming session?
J: Some of the ideas are actually from the Trondheim period but were never finished. Something like a third or a quarter.
Me: But does this mean that all of you naturally went into this psychedelic direction and you were all on the same wavelength in a musical way?
B: I guess we were
J: We are a little bit different though. Bernt is leaning towards the 60s, I am more 70s. I dig 60s stuff too though, but we are not exactly the same taste and I think you can hear it in the music too. Everyone brings something to the table, which makes it sound like it does.
Me: But there must also be stuff that you guys have encountered along the way. Or you’re strictly stuck in the 60s and 70s?
J: No, no. I listed to stuff, even that is made these days and released now and get inspired by that B: Horrible contemporary music
Me: Hey, what are you then?
B: I’m mostly just listening to the stuff from 60s and 70s.
Me: No, I was thinking more that Seid is contemporary music
B: No, we?
Me: No, you’re just spacey
B: We’re from the future. J: We’re actually just coming back with these records. They’ve all actually been written after the year 3000.
SEID live@Kampen Bistro 2019
Photo by Andrea Chirulescu
Me: You have a really really awesome song on this album, "Decode the Glow", with Stina Stjern. You don’t have many female vocals in your songs though. How did you end up with this collaboration?
J: She has been singing with us earlier as well…
Me: On the albums or?
B: Actually she was on one single which was well, how to explain that. We were hired to play in the cinema in Trondheim for the world premiere of Lord of the Rings. All 3 actually. We thought it was really nice after the first one, also to get to see the movie without having to buy a ticket. And we were asked to come back to play at the premiere of Two Towers as well. We couldn’t play at the full volume in the cinema, so we had to make some music that was a bit more down, a little more fantasy kinda music. We looked a lot at Bo Hansen’s stuff from the 70s to get that vibe. We recorded 3 songs and made this 7inch vinyl called Mines of Moria. We were living in a collective in Trondheim back then and she had moved in at the first floor. So we got to know her, we knew who she was cause she was singing in this really great band Quintrophenia, folk prog band. We asked her if she wanted to sing some part on the outro of Mines of Moria. It worked really well and she was really nice to work with so we kinda kept her in the back of our minds and whenever we needed a female vocal, we would ask her. She was having her own career, making music, getting better and better. She can be heard both on Magic Handshake and our newest album as well.
Me: Now, about my favorite song. I need to know the story: what’s the Merry Poppers all about?
B: Oh yeah, that one. J: It was, not a bachelor’s party, but a 40 years old celebration party when we went to Glasgow, in Scotland with a bunch of people from the Trondheim area. B: It was almost like a bachelor party but without the wedding afterwards.
J: It was with the first in our group of people that turned 40. We decided that now we’re going to do something special, we went to Glasgow for a whole weekend of partying and we ended up calling the gang The True Merry Poppers.
Me: So the song is about your group
J: We twisted it a bit and thought why not view it as about vikings who come over the North sea and invade the British islands. That’s never been done before, you know. B: And there was a lot of partying and weird stuff that happened, you know…
Me: It is a weird song, it is a party song. I found the line about the devil and 667, so witty. That was my catch phrase for the song
B: I think Jørgen has to get credit for that. One step ahead of the devil. I have to give him credit on how he made our crazy trip to become even more of a crazy story.
Me: Before we talk about the last album, for somebody who doesn’t really know your music, can you shortly present these 3 albums, how do perceive them, what people can expect from listening to them?
J: That’s always been a challenge for us.
Me: For the listener as well
J: We have actually been somewhat conscious with that we don’t want to be this kind of band or that kind of band
Me: I’m not looking for a label, but more how you’d summarize it. Because if I want tell somebody to listen to Seid, it’s like ‘weird stuff’, listen to it and make up your mind.
J: I guess it’s just a long psychedelic rock journey B: With humor J: Yea, you don’t have to take it too seriously. B: That’s very important. Especially on the second album that has a lot of 70s prog and synth, most of it was made up to joke with the genre and make more like parody. The weird/fun thing. If you listen to the first album, it’s like 60’s psychedelic, maybe 70s influences. If I was going get into something with my band back then, that’s where it would have been and see where it went from there. But the funny thing is that our next album was released by a guy who really digged Among the monster flowers, but he didn’t care too much for Creaturs of the Underworld, because he probably expected to get the same album again, or well, same same but different, so he could release it again. Instead he got Creatures of the Underworld and I don’t think he got the joke and what we made fun of. But an Italian records company, Black Widow records, they wrote me a message on Myspace or something like that, they thought it was a masterpiece and they’re the one to release this next album. Then we had a long break, then recorded Magic Handshake and got to release it, but I don’t think they got what they expected because they looked for some dark progressive stuff and instead they got magic handshake, a double album with more space, psychedelia rock stuff. Eventually Sullatron/Dave liked that one so he got to release our newest album, which I think he really likes. Maybe finally something he wanted to release. But now I like to joke with him and ask ‘Hey man, why don’t you make a vinyl version of the Creatures of the Underworld?’ And he’s like ‘No, thanks’. That’s the only album we don’t have on vinyl yet and I would really like to have that, but sadly it’s not gonna happen through this label.
SEID live@Kampen Bistro 2019
Photo by Andrea Chirulescu
Me: Before we speak about the newest release, I had a question earlier asking "How will it all end?" I mean, you have a new abum, followed by some shows, but are you going to continue after that?
B: Forgive us but we don’t know
Me: So you don’t really have any…
J: Of course we have been to year 3000 so we know exactly what’s going to happen, but I can’t tell you of course. I can give you a few hints. Right now, Jørgen has very small kids so he’s going to spend a lot of time with them, and then in a few years we’re going to start working on the next album
Me: Jamming session?
J: Some jamming sessions maybe, and then we’ll be like ‘Hmm, let’s make an album’. And then maybe in 2022, we don’t want to say an exact date yet, but then we’re gonna have a new album and we’re gonna play new concerts.
Me: You should all have made kids at the same time
B: I actually heard of a band who did that. They really enjoyed playing in a band together and making music and all their girlfriends wanted kids. So they decided it’s better that all of them make kids at the same time and then they could actually keep up the band in like 4-5 years. I can’t remember what band that was J: We were never that organized, with anything. It’s actually a miracle we have put together 5 albums. There’s not a single thread of marketing skills or organizational skills here in this band.
Me: It’s obvious on the other side as well. That’s why I told you, it feels like nobody knows anything about this band, you have concerts, you manage to tour every now and then but there’s nothing else
J: We had a friend of ours who tried to work as a booking agent for us. For a while B: Yep. He gave up
Me: Because of…you guys?
J: Probably too abstract for him. He was maybe expecting people who wanted this as a job, who would jump at any opportunity to do concerts and interviews and such. But we were just all over the place with all kind of projects so that didn’t work too well.
B: Hopefully he’s gotten his hair back by now
Me: All these shows that you’re doing now you’ve booked yourselves.
J: Yes, we know the people here, in Arendal and the people in Trondheim
Me: So you’re playing safe, just the 3 cities. Not trying harder than that
J: We have of course played other places before and we could do that again, but the end result is usually that it doesn’t even cover the plane tickets. So this time around we just skipped all that.
Me: Now you have an album in Norwegian. Somehow you switched from English
B: That was actually Jørgen’s decision, the singer. He wrote most of the lyrics for this new album and he really wanted to sing in Norwegian. Don’t ask me why.
J: I think it sounds very cool.
B: I also think it sounds very cool but we were just skeptical at the thought. Most bands I know that sing in Norwegian, especially from the 80s or 90s, is like, ugh…I have to be honest and say I don’t really like it. But I think he made it work really well. Also we were lucky enough to stumble upon some really old radio interviews in Norwegian, by Christian people saying insane stuff. The lady on ‘Trollmanens hytte’, that’s actually from one of these old interviews. I think people from the radio show knew how crazy she was, and they called her and asked her questions politely, just to get her going. And somebody handed us a tape and I started editing it, taking away the interviewer from the radio station and only leaving her making her phrases into this crazy monologue, like sitting and talking to herself saying all this crazy stuff, really horrible. Also on the B side we have this Norwegian preacher, I think. He had this radio sermon on NRK in the 50s, but after that even NRK had to set a standard fro what was ok. He was so far out. So I did the same thing to this radio sermon, since it was really long. I cut it up and made him sound even more crazy basically.
Me: So these worked really well with the Norwegian lyrics then, as it wouldn’t have made much sense with English text
B: I think it worked really well with all the lyrics, the theme on the whole record
Me: What’s the theme then?
B: I don’t know, the world is going to hell so let’s party
Me: Actually how do you say the title, it’s a German word
B: <pronnouncing Weltschmerz> Weltschmerz is like an international expression for like world pain, world angst. It’s like a collective angst since everything is going downhill.
Me: And to make things even more confusing, the last song has a Swedish title.
B: It does. It is an instrumental, well, it was an instrumental until Jørgen has added some lyrics that Stina is singing.
Me: But Why?
J: It started with a very important place for us, called Mir. It’s a place where we first started to play our own concerts in Oslo. They have this flag in the window, flag that said this Swedish text "Drogarna börjar värka" and we said ‘that was a cool thoguht’. But the Swedes say this is totally wrong, you don’t say it like that in Swedish, but we don’t care because it was on the flag in this favorite place of ours
SEID live@Kampen Bistro 2019
Photo by Andrea Chirulescu
Me: So far you have presented yourselves as a really really unorganized bunch of guys. After 20+years of making music, have you made any progress, are you able to make an album faster and in a more structured manner now?
B: Yea, I would say so because our new album was finished in under 2 years J: We started recording it in May and all the voice was recorded by December and it was even mixed by New Year. That’s a huge step for us. And we actually did the editing and mixing ourselves for the first time.
Me: And now you probably all have your own studios, everybody’s recording at home and you just send files around.
J: In the old days, we were stacking 8 tracks of digital recording in the first studio we were in. B: It was not very portable back then. Everything had to be burn on CDs, send them by mail
Me: Do you work on getting some of the old sounds through modern technology?
B: Guess we’ve always been playing with old junk. Old amplifiers, old keyboards. When recording, we had to have some help from a guy called Rune Minde who has a lot of vintage microphone and stuff, so it sounds very vintage. Martin’s drum kit is from like 1937 I think, it’s like ancient.
Me: Seriously? He’s using it on stage as well?
B: Yea. As he said, it was made back when they didn’t use all the good metal for guns. And then all other instruments, like I said, we’ve always been using old crap cause I guess it was cheap to buy it in the 80s.
Me: And now it’s expensive.
Me: How has the album been received so far?
J: We have got a lot of good feedback from different magazines around Europe mostly. Not much here in Norway. but internationally there have been lots of good reviews.
B: I was really baffled that Shindig actually really liked it. I’m thinking it’s maybe because we didn’t sing in English. They are an English magazines
J: They had to imagine it’s some kind of elvish or something
Me: But now everybody is based in Oslo
J: I am still living in Arendal, but it’s not too far, so not much of a problem.
Me: So besides these concerts and preparing for them, do you meet up and jam often or?
B: Not as much as we used to
Me: Do you guys have other projects?
B: I have a couple of bands that I play with, mostly for fun. But I have to work a lot and that’s more and more what life is about. Working, getting the money to be able to live here I guess. Oslo is like the only place where I can get this kind of jobs – I am a sound technician – but then again, it’s expensive to live here so I have to get a lot of gigs and all is just a vicious circle. So we don’t really get all that free time to just play, sit down and write songs. Usually at nights I am mixing other people’s music at concert venues. But I don’t write as much stuff as I used to back in the days.
Wettlaufers Enke screening@Kampen Bistro 2019
Photo by Andrea Chirulescu
Me: What about your other album, this soundtrack
B: The Wettlaufers Enke? It’s a soundtrack and we are going to show the whole movie before our concert tomorrow in Oslo. We are not going to actually perform them
Me: So how is it to make sounds for a movie then? How did it start?
J: It was a a fun project but I don’t think I would do more of those myself
Me: Why do you say that? What’s inconvenient about it?
J: I guess it’s not convenient to be a band working together to get songs and then you have to get feedback all the time from the film director who turns the music into what they want. I think it’s more a one person job. It actually ended up with our own film music record, it ended up being Bert doing very much of the job. I had a bit of input in the beginning, but then I was less and less involved as time went by. It’s just a natural thing that happens when you communicate with the film directors, you can’t really be a band and write music together in that situation. It just doesn’t work.
B: It was a lot of work. More than I expected
Me: You get to see the music and you are told where the music should come in or you decide that?
B: The director showed us an early version with just dialog and hardly any music at all, we analyzed it and tried to find out what kind of moods should the music have in different places, tried to find out how many minutes and seconds is that scene and that kind of stuff. It was a wonderful chaos. We ended up with some kind of map, but suddenly the director changed the stuff a lot and also he used a lot of time changing the soundtrack as well. Some of the themes that are in some scenes were written for other scenes, but he’s the director, so…
Me: I’m out of questions, so if you have more answers
J: The answer is 42