PROFESSOR TIP TOP
Professor Tiptop are regarded as one of premier progressive rock bands in all of Scandinavia. Following a series of classic albums, this critically-acclaimed Norwegian rock band are still highly regarded and they fuel the fires of our shared interests with their 2020 album called Tomorrow Is Delayed. Long term Professor Tip Top fans continue to delight in the band’s musical evolution, with all incarnations consistently shining a light on the band’s lead guitarist and main songwriter-composer, Sam Fossbakk. That continued development of PTT’s music was delightfully but surprisingly interrupted owing to the recent addition of the band’s new lead vocalist Sonja Otto, replacing singer Svein Magnar Hansen. Not only is Ms. Otto a fine lead vocalist and she, as well, brings in her own keyboard approach. In essence, the broad scope and definitive sound of the eight-track, 46 minutes Tomorrow Is Delayed makes it possibly the most effective Professor Tip Top album yet. Lead off track “Erebus” speaks of a 'king of darkness' being back on the stage, a thought that seems to fit in well, in light of the 2020 pandemic that has brought so much harm to 21st century man. “Inside The Mirror” slows things down somewhat yet Sonja wraps her adept vocals around the lyrics that speaks of screaming at the black void, while the chorus and refrain speaks of tearing down the mirror and living the dream of creating a new possible reality. The contrast of the rock energy and the psychedelic-ness of PTT is accurately depicted in this moving song. From those first two tracks, Tomorrow Is Delayed just gets better from there. Every track is filled with thoughtful lyrics and a driving, melodic mix of pop, rock and electronic flavored psychedelic music. Even with each of the stellar tracks on side one, Tomorrow Is Delayed reaches its zenith on the title track, which appears as track 5 on the CD. Perhaps no song that came to light in 2020 packs a more powerful and lyrical punch than “Tomorrow Is Delayed”. Just the entire of craziness of 2020 is encapsulated in this song’s lyrics and driving riffs. Perhaps the schizoid nature of 2020 is captured and revealed by the darkness of the song’s lyrics. As on earlier PTT albums, instrumental music does play its part on Tomorrow Is Delayed and one track here “Beneath The Silence” can be best described as a kind of prog-rock meets gospel instrumental. If this track fails to elicit a smile of deep concern, you should check your pulse. Sam Fossback’s guitars intertwines with Sonja’s spiritual sounding Hammond organ while the expert rhythm section of Stein Høgseth (bass) and Charles Wise (drums) drives to song to its spiritual conclusion. Another mostly instrumental track with the curious title “Objet petit a” is a dreamy instrumental that also features Sonja’s wordless, ethereal vocals that makes it another highlight of Tomorrow Is Delayed. The album finishes with a tribute song to our planet, appropriately called “Earth”, that, while rather sedate in nature contains wonderful words that mixes the ethereal with the practical side of living on the only planet in our solar system that supports the only life as we know it. The lyric “your soil is my soul” sums up the majesty of this magical album. As a fan of 21st century progressive rock, if you have one album on your 2020 wish list, make it Tomorrow Is Delayed by the ever magical Professor Tip Top.
mwe3.com presents a new interview with
mwe3: The music of Professor Tip Top has always had a kind radical prog-rock edge to it. How does the new album, Tomorrow Is Delayed fit into the Professor Tip Top canon of music? Being that the title is quite prophetic, was the music recorded prior to the 2020 pandemic? Did you plan it that way?
Sam Fossbakk: I think it’s a natural progression in the music… we try to develop our style from album to album. The music was recorded in December 2019 - January 2020 before the pandemic. The title was also made at this time, so it was by coincidence quite prophetic.
mwe3: How does the addition of Sonja Otto change or add to the Professor Tip Top? She’s a very gifted singer. Did she contribute to the music and arrangements? Tell us about Sonja’s work on the Memotron m2k and how it differs from the Mellotron.
Sam Fossbakk: Sonja is a great singer, she is also a classically trained piano teacher, her contribution to the group is tremendous. Her Hammond playing is stunning. We feel we have a much broader canvas to work on. She blends in both socially and musically in a perfect way. The Memotron Mk 2 is a digital reshape of the classic analog Mellotron. It has a wide bank of sounds containing all the earlier models. The keys / touch feel the same.
mwe3: Tomorrow Is Delayed starts off with “Erbus”. Is the song political in nature? Isn’t Erbus a Greek deity representing darkness? We are in a kind of dark period so the ‘King of darkness’ is well-represented these days. It has an unsettling lyric indeed.
Sam Fossbakk: Yes, it is political. Darkness in the form of greediness has good conditions these days. The consequences are that the chosen few get richer, political apathy, weakening democracy, inhumanity where everything is calculated into profit and a consumerism that kills the planet.
mwe3: “Inside The Mirror” is a very haunting track. Is the song about the world of illusion we live in these days? Is the song about the internet? We’ve been screaming at the black screen, either the TV or the computer screen. Why do you think the mirror was created in the first place? I think the first mirror was pre-history. Is there a deeper meaning of the mirror?
Sam Fossbakk: It is inspired by the writings of the French philosopher / psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan. It’s about how we construct our conception of ourselves, establishing an ego early on as reflection/mirror of the social symbols and the cultural codex. In the language and by “the others”, we are like a mirror of the surrounding culture in a broad aspect. The feeling of being a “self”, a unique person, is an illusion. Like how you see yourself in the mirror, and thinking it’s not the “real” you. Mirrors have a strong symbolic value. We think of images that they are not the “real” world , but the real world is just an image as well, constructed by the language and symbols in an anthropomorphic way. Also, science is our image of how the world is, using symbols and language colored by human conception. Reality is beyond that, an impossible task to reach, like going inside the mirror.
mwe3: “Under Crystal Stars” is one of the Tomorrow Is Delayed highlights. From mirrors to crystals. Is the song a tribute to nature? It takes us through the four seasons.
Sam Fossbakk: Last summer I was in the southern part of England. I rented a house from the 15th century. I had just read a book of pastoral poetry… it was a beautiful summer day. In the evening I took my guitar and the song came by itself. So, life can be so good. Like the opposite of the “Erebus” world.
mwe3: “The Ghost Within” is haunting indeed. You mention Shakespeare and “Hamlet” in the song lyrics. Do you believe human beings are guided by ghosts that we inherit through our genes or “soul genetics”? What roles do ghosts play in our world? Do we comprehend reality more when we are asleep or awake? Sonja’s Hammond work on that song is great. The song has some great chord changes in it. Is that the last song on side 1 of the vinyl pressing of Tomorrow Is Delayed?
Sam Fossbakk: Yes, I absolutely believe in “soul genetics”. I think our mental world is very influenced by inherited preferences and thoughts. Your father’s and mother’s attitudes have a strong influence, whether you like it or not. The interesting thing is that they are as well affected by their parents and so on, way back. We tend to think of mental attributes as less deterministic than physical genes, but twin studies shows that even growing up separately from each other after birth, twins show an uncanny similarity in preferences, choices in life and taste. The stream of consciousness is never stopping, when we sleep the stream is unfiltered by reason, awake we have a kind of control and think it more in accordance with reality, but both states are a mental perception. Shakespeare’s wisdom cannot be overestimated. He shows us that hatred and revenge can be inherited, in Hamlet it is in the blood, in Romeo and Juliet it is in the families names. These kinds of ghosts are overlooked. The song was a product of one of those magic moments when the song comes to you. I played an electric Gibson twin neck 12 string, and that made for some interesting chord changes and open chords with a capo. Sonja’s Hammond work on a Hammond A100 is tremendous. It is the last song on the first side of the vinyl.
mwe3: The title track “Tomorrow Is Delayed” will surely be a highlight of the entire album. It sounds like the song is about the 2020 pandemic or did you have something else in mind when you wrote it? Does the song also speak about the duality of human existence? Words that only exist in our heads, the others spoken? It’s a fearful time indeed when people are afraid to speak at all anymore. (another metaphor for our new masked world?) Either way, it’s truly one of the great Professor Tiptop songs. And again, Sonja’s keyboards add so much to the arrangement.
Sam Fossbakk: No, it was recorded in January before the pandemic, it is more an existential theme. There are bigger forces than the humans behind it all. What we do is to believe ourselves to be masters of the universe, but actually we are vulnerable beings trying to get a grip over our lives and to find a meaning. There will always be a tomorrow where things will be sorted out for the better, but it is chronically delayed. It also speaks of the human duality, alone we are unsure, when we sing: “two people in this room, one is you, the other one too” it means how fragile and changeable we are. Also, “two words in your head, one is hidden the other one said” is the volatility of our minds. I agree with you; to speak freely is not easy under these times. But yes, in retrospect the song is an uncanny allusion about what was to come a couple of months later. Sonja’s playing understates the song excellently.
mwe3: “Beneath The Silence” is interesting. It has a great arrangement with the guitar offsetting the lyrics. It has a kind of “still waters, run deep” kind of vibe to it. It’s a dark song without any anger and a very guitar-centric vibe. What guitars are you playing on that track? It has a lot interesting chord / key changes to it. The second half of the track is mostly instrumental. The instrumental half is quite interesting and one of the more hopeful parts of the album. Does the instrumental part have a kind of modern-day gospel feel? With the kind of slide sounding guitar work, I was thinking it also has a kind of Beatles like sound to it! Is the guitar work, slide influenced? “Beneath The Silence” is also the longest track on Tomorrow Is Delayed.
Sam Fossbakk: Yes it is a “still waters run deep” theme. It is about how beneath the silence, behind the language, beneath the overflowing life there is a point, still and out of space and time. A kind of point like the Buddhist “nirvana”. I play my 1966 Stratocaster exclusively through a Binson echo and a fuzz pedal into a vintage Vox AC15 amplifier. Yes, you could say a gospel feel, because it is a hopeful and maybe a religious feel to it. It’s a heartfelt melody… very melodic. The guitar is not slide influenced, it is both finger vibrato and use of the vibrato arm on the Stratocaster. I am glad if it has a kind of Beatles-like sound!
mwe3: Tell us about track seven “Objet petit a”. What can you tell us about the title? Is it French? That’s the only instrumental on the album, even though it features some splendid wordless vocals by Sonja. Amazing how diverse and resourceful she is as a musician.
Sam Fossbakk: “Objet petit a” is a term used by Jacques Lacan. It is a pre-established state of being a “person” or a self. As an infant, it still has not made a distinction between itself and the outer world, it lives in a symbiotic relation with its mother. Everything is harmony and the world is not a divided outside. Sonja’s improvised singing makes it a real gem. At the end of the song the world makes its appearance.
mwe3: Is the album-closing “Earth” a tribute to our planet home? What do you make of the cosmos? On one hand “your soil is in my soul” yet the planets and our solar system seems so remote and distant, as if they don’t really exist. I may have asked you this before, yet can you contrast the soil that grows vegetables with the moon dust and distant planetary phenomenon that seems to pervade our very existence?
Sam Fossbakk: The song “Earth” is an homage to the beautiful world we live in. We should be humble and show respect for nature’s caring and healing. It is full of mysteries, poetic beauty, and a system of intricate cycles where everything is life-caring. We are in a symbiotic relation to Earth… we are in every way customized children of the Earth. In a bigger picture, it is part of the Universe, but we are unique. We are adapted to this planet.
mwe3: So how is the planet going to survive this year? If there is hope over the horizon, something to live for and look forward to, how long must we wait to return to normal? I can’t wait for 2023 as they said it is to be the start of the Aquarian era, following the Capricorn era that started on November 27, 2008. A topic for another possible concept album from Professor Tip Top?
Sam Fossbakk: I think it will take a while before life goes on like before… if ever. I think the impact of the pandemic will change the world in many ways. Before the pandemic, we were facing political instability, environmental issues, climate change, and so on. There are a lot of challenges waiting. But we must hope for a better future. Yes, let’s hope the Aquarian age brings solutions and a better, more ‘just and fair’ world. Stay tuned for the future!