Robin Mortensen – CLOSE TO THE RAIN festival – interview
GOING SLIGHTLY PROG? A SHORT FEATURE ON THE 2019 EDITION OF THE CLOSE TO THE RAIN FESTIVAL
Now in its third year, the Close to the Rain festival, which takes place in early June in the beautiful city of Bergen, is a must for all lovers of progressive music and this year’s line-up is arguably the most impressive one yet. Naturally, we had to a have a small chat with the mastermind behind it all, i.e. Robin Mortensen. Read on and make sure that this festival does not pass you by as it is a haven for those who cherish wildly exciting and original music from the fringes of rock and metal.
Greetings Robin, I want to start this little feature off by saying thank you for agreeing to do this interview – much appreciated. How are you? I can imagine that you are extremely busy these days now that the Close to the Rain festival is only a few weeks away.
Robin: My pleasure, Jens 🙂 All good and very busy as always. I am on my way to We Låve Rock (outside of Oslo) to see Wobbler, Saluki, The Windmill, and Pymlico amongst others before I then travel to Barcelona for a week on Monday and the wonderful Primavera festival.
I am curious as to how and when you decided to launch a prog rock festival of your own and where the idea came from? On top of that, I would love it if you could tell us about your first encounter with prog rock and how/when you became a devoted fan of the genre? Were there any bands in particular that changed your perspective on music and turned you into a fan?
Robin: I launched the festival because I wanted to 🙂 But it started because I was trying to book gigs for two of my Karisma bands, namely Airbag and Magic Pie. Then I decided that I wanted to invite Wobbler over as well (because I love them and wanted to sign them, which I eventually did). My first encounter with prog (light) were Mike Oldfield and Peter Gabriel in the mid-eighties and a few years later I found "Close to the Rain" by YES, and the that was love at first sight.
Close to the Rain has moved to a larger venue this year (USF Verftet) with some great facilities to it. Did you consider other options as well or were you set on USF Verftet following the closure of Garage? USF is one of my favorite venues and I personally think that it will be quite suitable for bands such as Airbag and The Windmill whose music is epic and large in scope. Would you agree?
Robin: No, we didn’t really, we were planning to move onwards to the USF Verftet anyway. But still, we do really miss Garage. We are really looking forward to hosting the festival at a bigger stage and venue this year.
The line-up this year is amazing and there is a lot to be excited about with respect to Norwegian prog acts such as Leprous and Oak and of course a couple of thrilling International ones such Lucy in Blue and the legendary Soft Machine. I take it that it is extremely important for you to help promote and further the careers of talented Norwegian bands and that this is something that it is close to your heart? One could also argue that that ties in with the aim of Apollon Prog Records who have released some magnificent Norwegian albums these past few years.
Robin: Thanks, we are really happy with it. Our aim will always be to support the amazing Norwegian prog scene, but we are also very much looking forward to the legendary Soft Machine as well as the up-and-coming Lucy In Blue.
The fact that you got Soft Machine to grace the stage of the USF on Saturday is mind-blowingly awesome. How on earth did you manage to do that? But they will kick off the festivities on Saturday and actually be the first band on stage that night, right?
Robin: That is correct; they will be on stage at 1900 hours. We simply just e-mailed them and asked if they would like to come to Bergen, and they accepted.
What band/bands are you personally looking forward to witnessing on stage the most? Personally, I cannot wait to experience Airbag in a live setting.
Robin: I cannot answer that really as there are too close ties with so many of them, so I am looking forward to seeing all of them really. But okay, if I had to pick one, I would probably agree with you: watching Airbag play their first album "Identity" from start to finish would be really special for me too.
Looking back on previous editions of your exceptionally cool festival, what are some of your most cherished memories? Any particular performances that truly blew you away and still linger in the back of your head and bring a smile to your face?
Robin: Same as above really, but Arabs In Aspic last year was simply amazing!
Thanks once again for taking the time to answer this short interview, Robin. Any final comments or words to the prog-loving readers out there?
Robin: Please buy tickets and support our festival! See you all there 🙂