country of Norway is well regarded for its rich diversity of musical
genres. Norway has produced some excellent guitarists and a range
of great progressive rock bands. One genre always in motion in Norway
is the blues, a musical style fully explored on Nights At The
Surf Motel, from guitarist and singer-songwriter Håkon
Høye. For non-Scandinavians, the name may be hard to pronounce,
(try: Hóe-khan Héh-yeh) but the music is open and honest
and the whole album will blow away fans of the blues and blues-rock.
Contrary to the humorous title of the album, and its Surf Motel name,
the ten-track set is pure blues. One instant reference would be to
the early 1970s sound of The Band, with guitarist Robbie Robertson
and blues fans will note that Håkons vocal delivery
(in English of course) sounds a lot like blue-eyed soulster Steve
Miller. For the songwriting, Håkon has joined forces with songwriter
and co-producer William R. Troiani (electric bass, backing
vocals) while the core band featured backing up Håkons
vocals and electric guitars includes Per Tobro (electric bass),
Vetle Larsen (drums, percussion) and on a few tracks, Kasper
Skullerud Vaernes (sax) plus, a number of players add in various
sonic seasonings. Recorded during the summer of 2019, Nights At
The Surf Motel sounds excellent and was superbly engineered and
co-produced by Kim E. Bergseth (organ, backing vocals, acoustic
guitars, loops) with mastering by Paul Grundman of Bernie
Grundman mastering in L.A. giving the sound a rich, clean depth. Additionally
the CD packaging is first rate and seals the deal on one of the most
appealing and diverse blues-rock albums of the past year. www.bighrec.com
mwe3.com presents an interview with
Can you tell us about growing up in Norway and what city are you from
originally? Have you done much traveling in other countries in Scandinavia
and Europe and have you traveled to the US yet?
Håkon Høye: I was born in Oslo but grew up in
the countryside. I was early fascinated by Rock n Roll
and remember seeing Elvis 68 Comeback Special Show in
the late 1970s on TV. It led me to the Rolling Stones, Chuck
Berry, Tom Petty, BB King, The Vaughan brothers and so on, excavating
deeper into the history of blues, soul, jazz and R&B. Today I
listen to a lot of different types of music, but the blues is the
corner stone... the foundation!
I started playing guitar at the age of 14 and was deep into AC/DC,
Jimi Hendrix, Chuck Berry and Muddy Waters. Moving to Oslo in the
late 90s I became part of the scene around the now closed Muddy
Waters Club in downtown Oslo. It was a great venue with a great crowd,
killer atmosphere and live music 7 nights a week. Chris Kid
Andersen was the first house guitar player (now with Rick Estrin &
The Nightcats) and Bill Troiani was the bass player. I played in several
bands growing out of that fertile environment - The Billy T Band,
being one of them.
The lead singer and bass player are originally from New York and used
to play with Eddie Kirkland and Tom Russel. With Billy T band Ive
been to the US several times and Ive toured in several countries
in Europe with different bands
from Russia to Spain.
The music scene in general is pretty good in Norway and Oslo is one
of the top cities in Europe for live music - classical to blues. The
blues scene has been pretty good and Norway has a lot of festivals
and Blues Societies all over the country. So for a country with approx.
5 million people we cant complain, except of the weather. (lol)
How did you become introduced to the blues? You cite Lightnin
Hopkins as a blues influence while the Rolling Stones and AC/DC are
also influential for your music. What other influences are important
to you? I hear some Stax and even some Motown in your music. Your
music mixes blues, soul and rock music into one red hot sound.
Håkon Høye: Yes, I grew up listening to Chuck
Berry, Rolling Stones, AC/DC, Tom Petty, John Mellencamp, Johnny Winter,
The Vaughan Brothers etc
. and kind of dug my way back into the
history of Afro-american music. BB King, T-Bone Walker, Magic Sam,
. the list goes on. Today I listen to a lot of different
kinds of music. One of my favorite bands are Los Lobos, and Im
a big fan of music from New Orleans
like the Meters, Allan Toussaint
and Memphis soul music! But, the blues has always been there!
mwe3: I was also thinking Robert Cray must have been a huge
influence on your music and also Robbie Robertson and The Band. I
guess when it comes to musical influences the list is truly endless.
Håkon Høye: Yeah, sure. I love The Band and what
you might label Americana today. Anything with the Staple Singers
and Im a big fan of the West Coast scene. Junior Watson, Rick
Holmstrom. Actually, I have Robert Crays Strong Persuader
on LP so Ive always been a fan of his clean soulful sound. When
I was younger I was more focused on the guitar and guitar players
I guess but, as the years go by Im more and more into the song!
Good song writing is an art. I guess Im more into the song than
ten rounds of guitar solos these days.
mwe3: How does Nights At The Surf Motel move your music
forward following your first solo album and were there differences
in the way you approached the song writing, production and recording?
Høye: On my first album Bout Time I was more
focused on making it into a blues record and focused more on the guitar
playing I guess. This time its been more about the songs. Some
of the ideas had been there for a few years and I just tried to finish
as many of them as possible. I do most of the song writing together
with Bill Troiani, from Billy T Band. I usually bring my sketches
to him and throw a lot of these ideas up in the air - and he helps
me with the lyrics. I like co-writing, its always nice to have
somebody to throw ideas at and see what sticks!
When it comes to recording Ive done a lot of it myself during
the last 10-15 years but this time we went into Kitchen Studio in
Oslo and recorded the backing tracks. Ive done a lot of the
overdubs here and there and Bill Troiani was a co-producer giving
me feedback and helped me get the vocals as good as possible.
Its always a bit stressful finishing a record and you really
never get done or satisfied, you just have to draw a line in the sand
and send it to print.
mwe3: I know the blues is very popular in Europe but would
you say Norway is still a hot spot for the blues? Tell us about some
of the other blues artists in Norway that influenced you such as the
Billy T Band, Joakim Tinderholt among other artists from Norway.
Håkon Høye: Yeah, the blues scene in Norway has
been pretty good for years and it seems like its always new
talent out there, like the Jelly Roll Men playing IBC this year
they made it to the semis. Knut Reiersrud is a Norwegian legend
who started out with now deceased Swedish Blues ace Sven Zetterberg.
Knut is still around and hes fantastic. Im a big fan of
Sven Zetterberg and its a great loss for blues in Scandinavia
and Europe that hes not around anymore. I actually had the chance
to play with him on several occasions
one of the times being
a nice festival in Sweden a few years back with him and Tad Robinson,
both great singers!
Back in the days of the Muddy Waters Club in Oslo I met Bill Troiani
who was running the house band. That was a great time and we got to
back up a lot of international artists like Tad Robinson, Nappy Brown,
Mitch Kashmar, Sven Zetterberg, Louisiana Red and the Billy T Band
grew out of that scene the same with Joakim Tinderholt, Kid
Andersens cousin. So, Ive played regularly with those
bands the last 15 years. Joakim is great singer and hes grown
to be a real entertainer.
How long have you worked with your co-writer William R. Troiani and
how did you set out to compose the music for Nights At The Surf
Motel for example did you both contribute to the music
and lyrics and arrangements?
Håkon Høye: I met Bill 15-20 years ago and we
started co-writing in the Billy T Band. So for every new Billy T record
weve written more songs. Weve done a few for Joakim Tinderholts
records and few others. Ive always had these ideas for my own
songs but the hard part for me has always been finishing the lyrics
I dont want just a bunch of words that rhyme but something that
kind of make sense
if not, I might as well do instrumental music.
(lol) So most of the songs for Nights At The Surf Motel started
out as my ideas that I presented to Bill. Some of them close to finished
and some just ideas, then we finished them together.
I do most of the arrangements myself and we do adjustments here and
there, sometimes the original idea turns out as something quite different
sometimes you just have to stick with the original idea and work until
you get as close as possible
sometimes deadlines are a good
mwe3: Tell us about your band with bassist Per Tobro and drummer
Vetle Larsen. How long have you played with them? What did Kim E.
Bergseth and Bill Troiani bring to the album as a co
producers of the Nights At The Surf Motel album? Were
there various discussions about the song writing, arrangements and
Håkon Høye: Per Tobro is a great bass player.
Ive known him for close to 20 years and weve been playing
on and off for almost just as long. We used to hang out at Muddy Waters
in Oslo and we played together in Erich Bergen Band back in 2003 with
Alex Pettersen on drums. That was pure blues, mostly old school Chicago
stuff! We did a fun tour with Mitch Kashmar too, in Russia in 2004,
I think. My own band Håkon Høye & The HoneyTones
has always been kind of a side project and Ive never really
had time to do it as much as I want to. It started back in the late
1990s as a trio with Anders Damås on drums and Tommy Dalbakk
on bass. Robban Skoglund played drums around the time of my first
album and Vetle has been with the band the last 4-5 years. Both Vetle
and Per are great players and a privilege to play with. Ive
been busy playing and recording with Billy T Band and Joakim Tinderholt
the last 5-6 years so we havent done that much Håkon Høye
gigs, except of a few local ones. Hopefully this record will generate
some more work with my band
How did you come up with the Nights At The Surf Motel concept
and the key lyrics in that songs meaning and why did you close
the album with that track?
Håkon Høye: The title has been there for years
and kind of a left over from my first album. It never really evolved
into a song before I got this idea of a slow blues in the tradition
of Peter Green and Otis Spann. So, we just tried to write a lyric
around that idea its more about the mood than anything
else. It just felt like it would fit as a closing number.
mwe3: Junkyard Of Dreams is a great way to start
of Nights At The Surf Motel. Does that track signify the upbeat
and downbeat themes on the album?
Håkon Høye: I got that title from a book years
ago, and it stuck as an idea for years. Finally we got to write something
around it. We tried out different ideas and ended up on this Faces
/ Stones Exile on Main Street kind of vibe. Sometimes youre
just better off doing your daily dirt instead of chasing these cyber
imposed fake realities
Does that make any sense?
mwe3: What inspired the cover of the Curtis Mayfield track
You Must Believe Me? How was Curtis a big influence on
your music and what do you like best about his music and guitar work?
Høye: Ive always been a huge fan of Curtis Mayfield
and soul music in general. And his guitar playing is really cool.
I guess his chord work inspired Hendrix a lot on Little Wing,
Castles Made Of Sand etc... The hard part was to pull
off the vocal part! I had this song in the back of my mind and we
were kind of in a hurry to record the tracks so we just did a couple
of takes of You Must Believe Me and Sweet Sugar
You, the other cover, in case we needed more songs for the album.
I didnt have time to record or finish any more original material
so I just had to use these too! The hard part was singing it, but
I got some good help from the Sons of The Soul Revivers who recorded
the backing vocals in Kid Andersens Greaseland Studios in San
Jose in California.
mwe3: The cover art and packaging of Nights At The Surf
Motel is also excellent. Tell us about the packaging and who designed
Håkon Høye: Gito Lima did the cover art. Hes
a great designer and he did a great job on the album. Ive used
him a couple of times before on Joakim Tinderholts albums. We
got that contact through Rhythm Bomb Records in Germany, who released
both of Joakim Tinderholts records for the international market.
mwe3: Is Big H your company? When did you set the label up
and are there other releases or artists on Big H Records?
Håkon Høye: Yes, Big H Records is my label and
it was started mainly to release the first Billy T Band album back
in 2007. The last ten years Ive released one to four albums
a year with different Norwegian artists, mostly blues related stuff
and mainly projects Ive been involved in myself like Joakim
Tinderholt and Billy T Band. Ive said no to a lot of projects
because theres hardly any money in records anymore. Its
a vehicle for booking gigs and getting your original music out there.
The most expensive business card around.
mwe3: Also what guitars are you playing on Nights At The
Surf Motel both electric and acoustic and also do
you remember your first guitar? Are you somewhat of a gear collector
and how many guitars do you have? What amps and pedals are used on
Høye: I used to be more of a gear geek but these days Im
more into using whatever works for the song or situation. I mainly
play a parts Tele and a old Harmony Stratotone (H-44). I have a Gold
Top Les Paul I used on Nights At The Surf Motel and a white
SG are used on a couple of songs. But these days the Tele is my tool.
The main amp for the records was my old beat up 57 Tweed Deluxe.
It started making a lot of noises at the end of the recording. I guess
it needs some TLC, but a little noise just adds to the sound. (lol)
Except of tremolo and reverb there isnt a lot of pedals on this
album except of a distortion pedal on Wastin Time With
its mostly plug and play.
mwe3: How do you stay in shape as a guitarist? Do you practice
or do you spend most of your time composing? And how do you stay in
shape as a composer of music?
Håkon Høye: We just had another girl in October,
just a month before the release of the album. Not exactly good timing
to have another baby and releasing an album at the same time. But,
sometimes you just have to do it! So, its a challenge to find
time to rehearse and write songs these days! I try to play a little
every day but sometimes, everyday life gets to you. So, in periods
of less gigs, I feel more out of shape. In periods of more gigs its
easier to keep a certain level or standard of musicianship and sometimes
you have some spare time to practice too when youre out there
traveling and playing gigs.
mwe3: What albums or artists are you currently listening too?
What are five of your favorite albums?
Håkon Høye: I always listen to some blues and
soul mixed with more contemporary music. Its always hard to
pick certain albums but Ive been listening to a lot Dan Auerbach
productions lately and Jason Isbell. Hes a great songwriter,
more Americana stuff. Mavis Staples last record is great, and
Im a fan of Rick Holmstroms guitar playing. Los Lobos,
The Neighborhood; Otis Rushs Mourning In the Morning
and Kenny Burrell are albums I play on a regular basis
and a lot over other stuff.
Tell us some of your upcoming plans for 2020. I really hope more people
get to hear Nights At The Surf Motel
Håkon Høye: Hopefully were gonna get some
more festivals and decent gigs this year. Another gig another dollar
Yeah, its always nice when people come up to you and tell you
that theyve listened to the album and it meant something to
them. So, I hope more people get to hear the album. And Im working
on an album with a woman named Anita Schärer, she writes good
songs. Its more Americana than blues but I really think its
gonna be good! I might start writing songs for a new Billy T Band
album, yeah, whenever Bill is ready...
Håkon Høye-FB: https://www.facebook.com/hakonhoye/