(Nordic Records)


Groups like Pink Floyd and Genesis made a huge impact in the progressive music world back in the early 1970s and even today young bands from all of the world espouse the free form musical thinking these legends brought to 20th century music. One group from Oslo Norway bringing back that progressive rock ethos is Kosmoratik. The group’s 9 track 2012 CD, Gravitation offers a 21st century update on state of the art symphonic pop in the best spirit of the early 1970s. Featuring the vocals of Eivind Johansen and Lise Lotte Ågedal backed up by the soaring electric guitars of Odd Gunnar Frøysland, the group sound of Kosmoratik is further fleshed out by a number of players here. Speaking to mwe3.com about the Kosmoratik sound, the group's guiding light, Eivind Johansen adds, “I do consider us part of the prog-rock scene, in the sense that we experiment with structures and have an open mind towards what we do. We do not easily fit into any genres.” The sound of Kosmoratik's Gravitation CD is full bodied and always captivating while the songs are filled with lush prog-rock soundscapes and memorable melodic twists and turns. If you like well done progressive rock with new ideas and fresh sonic vistas give Gravitation by Kosmoratik a spin. Word has it Kosmoratik are readying a much anticipated second release planned for later in 2013. www.kosmoratik.com

mwe3.com presents an interview with
Eivind Johansen of KOSMORATIK

mwe3.com: How did the members of Kosmoratik meet, what brought you together and what is the background and history of the band?

EIVIND JOHANSEN: I met Lise in autumn 2009 while playing in a band that really wasn’t going anywhere. At the time I had written some new songs that seemed to fit perfectly with our voices, which was a total revelation. And that spurred me on to writing more songs for her and me to sing, as well as clearly deciding to make an album with this new music. We did some demos in 2010 and met Odd during Easter the following year (2011), when we started the recordings of what eventually became the Gravitation album. But just before summer that year we decided we wanted to re-record the album, and that became the starting point for Odd and me working closely together in the writing and recording process.

mwe3.com: What was it like growing up in Norway and at what age did you start being a fan of rock and roll and also English progressive rock? I know progressive music, rock and jazz, was always popular in Scandinavia. What other musical influences and cultural influences are important to you and the other musicians in the group?

EIVIND JOHANSEN: I became hooked on rock music at an early age when being introduced to the wonderful world of Sgt. Pepper.

There was a record store in the small town where I was growing up where you could buy singles that were considered old or just strange for very reasonable prices. And that’s what I used my weekly allowances on for a long time. So in addition to the sounds of Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath I also discovered bands like early Fleetwood Mac, Jefferson Airplane and Grateful Dead. This led to a lifelong love relationship with the muse of music.

The first progressive rock I listened to was the Moody Blues, of which I was a big fan. But then all changed when I discovered YES and the Close To The Edge album. I thought that was the greatest music ever made! And of course bands like Jethro Tull, Traffic, Van Der Graf, Focus and Frank Zappa & The Mothers also made strong impressions. The seventies was such a great decade for music, with all this exiting, powerful and fresh new music blasting out of loudspeakers and radios everywhere. And it was a way of life too, I guess. I could not think of any thing better to do or be involved in!

I’m still a big fan of seventies music all sorts really; progressive, reggae, punk as well as pop artists like Sparks, David Bowie or Queen.

I also like the words to carry some meaning, so I am fond of singer/songwriters like Leonard Cohen, Richard Thompson, Roy Harper, Peter Blegvad and the Finn brothers, to name a few, as well.

With Odd I share a strong interest in Pink Floyd and Genesis, but he has also studied the music of Kate Bush which is one of his major influences.

mwe3.com: Can you say something about the various guitars and other instruments featured on the Kosmoratik Gravitation CD? Also can you explain the chemistry between your vocals and the guitarist Odd, whose electric guitar playing is quite brilliant throughout the CD as well. You guys and the other singer Lise sound quite excellent almost bordering on ESP!

EIVIND JOHANSEN: Well, thank you! We enjoy working together and most of the time we do this in a trio format, which really brings us closer to the heart and the core in what we do.

Odd is both a great guitar player and arranger whom I’m very happy to be working with. We share some of the same musical influences, but I think most importantly we have found a way to complement each other.

On the album Odd played the guitars, bass and some of the keyboard parts. In addition we used a Fender Rhodes, mini moog, grand piano and the mighty mellotron, all analog instruments. We also had a string quartet and oboe on some of the songs, which has become part of our sound.

mwe3.com: How do you think Kosmoratik fits in the big world of prog-rock in 2013 and what’s more important to you these days, print mags or the internet? Do you think the internet will eventually take over as the main source for music information. What do you think about Facebook and the other social media? Where will this computer thing end? When will we be able to transport matter via the web? lol

EIVIND JOHANSEN: I do consider us part of the prog-rock scene, in the sense that we experiment with structures and have an open mind towards what we do. We do not easily fit into any genres.

But we are song-based and it’s important for us that the melodies are strong. We aim for a sound that is warm and embracing, sharing a musical space together with the listener.

Personally, I still buy the music magazines and have pleasure in reading these, but I also use the internet frequently as a source for music information.

The internet, including Facebook, has been very important to us in terms of being a meeting point to share our music with a worldwide audience. This way we have fans all over the world, in the US as well as in Spain, Italy, Portugal, France, Brazil, Argentina and Egypt to name some countries.

mwe3.com: One of the highlights on the Kosmoratik Gravitation album is the track “Nothing Is Static”, is it really a kind of poignant love song? There’s some great guitar interplay by Odd on that track. Tell us more about that song. “Be free of Mayas Illusory web”...

EIVIND JOHANSEN: Yes, it’s a love song with a twist, I guess. And I really dig Odd’s guitar playing on that track. It’s a song referencing George Harrison as well as Hafez, the great poet from Iran. It was actually the last song we completed during the recording sessions, and it was not originally intended to be on the album. But we made a last minute change in the sequence, taking out one song and replacing it with “Nothing Is Static”.

mwe3.com: What about the song “Cosmorama”. It has a Pink Floyd kind of effect but there’s a Kevin Ayers kind of vocal sound. Is there a mellotron on that track?

EIVIND JOHANSEN: The Kevin Ayers connection is a very interesting observation. I was very sad to learn that he had died recently. I had been a fan of his for a long time, loved his music, and his way of “talking tunefully”, always appealed to me.

So, to me that’s a very good thing combining Pink Floyd and Kevin Ayers influences. But we did not do that intentionally. I think Kevin must have sneaked into my way of singing when I was not noticing. Yes, it’s a real mellotron on that track. It was played by our friend Jo Wang.

mwe3.com: How about “Years Ago Miles Apart”? Now that’s a great example of prog-rock at its best. The drum sound of Bjarte J
ørgenson is another highlight of the entire Gravitation CD.

EIVIND JOHANSEN: Thank you! I think that’s my favorite track on the album. I like the way the rhythm is moving forward relentlessly with this heavy riff, towards the chorus that is both kind of desperate and sweet. And then there’s the tension provided by the strings and the mini moog leading up to a release with Odd’s short, but fabulous guitar solo.

We worked hard to get the drums right, and I think we did succeed on this track in particular.

mwe3.com: How about the song “Don Quixote”? Nice blend of your vocal with Lise. “We’re human beings, animals and machines”...

EIVIND JOHANSEN: It’s a song about opposites; darkness and light, movement or stillness and so forth. This is a song we always do live, and people really seem to like this song.

The Rhodes piano solo played by Odd is the only bit on the album that we kept from the first recordings, which meant we had to maintain the structure, but replacing all musical and rhythm elements. This was quite hard as it was recorded live without using click track.

mwe3.com: “In Spite Of All (Life Was Grand)” sounds like a wistful kind of song, with a solid hook. What inspired that song?

EIVIND JOHANSEN: It was inspired by seeing old friends and noticing both how much and how little we have changed. It’s also a tribute to what I like to think of as the courage of youth.

There is a music video of this song on you tube which we are very happy with, that both includes some original footage from a youth club in the late seventies as well as us actually recording the song.

mwe3.com: “Lilac Smile” seems to be one of the big production tracks from the Gravitation CD. Just brilliant. Where did that one come from? “tick, tock, I’m waiting on the night nurse”... Odd’s guitar is just great on that song.

EIVIND JOHANSEN: Yes, it sounds great and the mixing engineer Manfred Faust did a very good job on that one, and Odd’s playing is really shining too. I also like the Rhodes on this track, which was played by Arthur Piene.

I was spending some time in hospital a couple of years back, and I wrote the lyrics inspired by hospital life, opiates and painkillers while partly being in this dreamlike existence. A friend of mine used to say “time is not passing, time arrives” which I used in the song, as I found this a very nice way of looking at the concept of time. Also the lilac flower blooms intensely for a very short period here, just like the Norwegian summer itself.

We’re putting together a new live band these days and we will be playing this in the new set, which we haven’t done earlier.

mwe3.com: Do you practice playing music and/or vocal practice and how much time is involved in rehearsing and what is the songwriting process for you? Do you write the lyrics or the music first?

EIVIND JOHANSEN: I tend to write and practice all the time actually. I am always working on songs at different stages. I basically develop the music and lyrics at the same time. The process is usually quite slow, with the elements gradually coming together. On occasion I write faster, with the songs emerging almost fully formed.

When Odd and I write together I usually have the melody, chords and lyrics, as well as the basic structure for the song in place when we meet. Odd then adds riffs, contrapuntal elements and instrumental passages and arranging the song for the instruments we feel will work best.

mwe3.com: What do you like to do to relax in Norway and what you do for fun over there? Not only music related if you can elaborate.

EIVIND JOHANSEN: Well, we do have snow, and quite a lot of it too, almost half of the year, so skiing is popular during the winter. During the summer we tend to stay outdoors, enjoying the brief summer months and not looking forward to the coming winter.

Personally I am very fond of the springtime when everything suddenly is exploding into green all around you.

I am also more of an urban type of person so I enjoy city life; movies, going to book and record stores and meeting people.

mwe3.com: Tell the readers more about what the future has for Kosmoratik as far as new music and performances. I hope you plan to add some new big production numbers (in the spirit of “Lilac Time”) on the next album and you keep the melodies strong too.

EIVIND JOHANSEN: We are putting together an electric band for gigs during the summer and autumn. But most importantly we have just finished mixing our 2nd album, which will be called Bridges And Boats.

The melodies we believe are strong. And we are using a string quartet and some big production this time around too. But there are differences to Gravitation as well. Lise Lotte and Odd are singing more, and there are several acoustic numbers, which I hope you’ll like. This time we have done most of the album “in house” with Odd also doing the mixing. Poor chap, he really has carried the weight on this one. But it has been an interesting learning experience doing it all by ourselves.

Thanks to Eivind Johansen @ Kosmoratik.com


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