As promised, below is a transcript of Magne’s Q&A from the Fan Convention in Oslo in October. Many thanks to Chris Fournier for filming at the event, which made this transcript possible.
Also below is a playlist of short clips from Tini’s Q&A at the convention. We will be sharing additional content from the convention along the way – thank you all for your patience, and enjoy!
Photo: Anne-Marie Forker
Dave: How is it different, or the same, or special, working with Tini than other people you have collaborated with?
Magne: Well first of all the way we met was quite unique for me, because I have a very ambivalent relationship with music competitions. I debated back and forth with myself whether I should do it or not. It was actually my son who worked in the production who convinced me to take part.
I thought that if I had a sort of a laid back, negative attitude and think that ‘everything was better in my day’ and no good things could come from these reality shows, I thought that is a kind of bad attitude to have. So what if try to go in and choose the best of the lot, and see if I can make a positive difference. And I went in with the attitude that I was going to meet young artists that I was excited about from a music point of view, and hopefully work with them later on. And Tini was one of them, I have released some records already – Martin Halla, some of you might know, I produced him – and there are a couple of others as well.
What’s the common denominator for all of them is they stood out for their artistic integrity when I heard them, and subsequently when I worked with them. But what I like about working with these artists is that it gives me a kind of a little time machine to go back to a moment of being in the studio for the first time without any baggage, and just a lot of passion for making music.
I think that’s the main thing for me, it’s exciting to be in the studio, to write, to record. They are all extremely talented, I am just trying not to fuck them up, basically [laughs] and do my best to give them my support.
Tini was asked by the castors of The Voice to be in that program. I don’t really think the format was right for her, I don’t think it’s right for anyone – it wasn’t right for Martin, either [laughs]. But luckily for me I found some really talented people that I feel can give something to and hopefully I do that.
Ari: I was wondering, when you sit down to write a song, what are you thinking, how are you proceeding? Can you give me any advice?
Magne: For me there really isn’t a rule as such. But I do try to write for the project I am thinking of. Like when I was writing for Morten’s voice, or in collaboration with Paul in mind, that was the natural way I would write, and also in response to what was coming back from them. What I wrote for Tini was specifically written with her in mind. But of course there is always a personal side to it.
Method-wise, it changes from time to time, every time it is different. But it does help to have an instrument between your hands. I think someone else said that writing is a little bit like working out, that if you don’t do it for a while you get quite rusty. So I really like with my visual practice as well, I do like to have musical projects that allow me – whether it be working with people like Tini or Apparatjik, which I think is a kind of musical project sometimes – and other things. But I have to feel something worth saying.
It was strange with a-ha, because it started out with me kind of writing more motifs and riffs, in close relationship with Paul who would always write the lyrics and I would be a little bit embarrassed to show my words. I didn’t really start writing lyrics seriously until I started singing myself. I think it started on the fourth a-ha record. It was a little sneaky moment there, I snuck it in at the last minute when everyone else had left the studio [laughs].
That was kind of a change, and that meant that I was being led by the words more than by the music. I like to sort of swap around, and write for others, collaborate with people who write only words or people who write only music. For instance, this week, only yesterday I was off in a different part of the country with Apparatjik, working with a wonderful artist called Concha Buika. She writes everything herself anyway, but in this project we’re collaborating on, she is singing and I am writing the words, and we’re kind of all doing the music.
It’s so much more rewarding when it comes from an unexpected place. If I sit down with a piano and I don’t feel anything, I just immediately move to a guitar or some random other instrument, to try to trick my mind into forgetting the things I have done before and start from scratch.
Ari: Do you often start with a melody every time or a chorus?
Magne: It depends, sometimes – it really is different from time to time. Sometimes you can wake up – that sounds like a cliche, but I have nightmares of certain melodies I have put out on record [laughs], also some dreams that are ok. But mostly it’s just starting with putting your fingers down on the piano or an instrument, and immediately you get transported somewhere else. Although you are right, from a personal point of view, you have to leave yourself behind and put yourself in a different place.
Photo: Sain Alizada.
Kjell Magne: I saw the movie ‘Beatles’, and I really loved the score and the music in the movie. It’s brilliant, and I hope you can continue with making music to movies or something like that.
Magne: Let me talk about the ‘Beatles’ thing. I was very excited to do it, it felt like an opportunity to go back to my childhood, and it even bled into my visual practice actually. But I haven’t actually seen the finished movie, I didn’t go to the premiere. The reason being – and funnily enough, I am only hearing good things about the music, although I probably wouldn’t hear the bad things because people generally tend to be nice. But also in reviews I’ve noticed that they have picked up on the music as a positive thing.
I wanted to make a much more radical score than what ended up. There was a kind of a struggle and fight between me and the director, who came in a little bit late to the process, to make him understand what I was trying to do. To my mind, the last version that I heard was a compromise where they had used my music in a way that I wasn’t 100% satisfied with. I am not able to give you a percentage because I haven’t seen the finished one. The only reason I refused to go to the premiere was that I said I have to see the final edit before I get asked questions what I thought about the movie. They said they could only do that if they hire a movie theater, and I said ok, I can invite friends, I am happy to go and see it on my own, and they didn’t want to do that. So I said I am not coming.
The album is different because I made the album afterwards a little bit more like I wanted the movie to sound. In the movie I wanted it to be a bit more extreme, a sort of 60s dogma of having the drums far left and the bass far right, and be very clear about the sound image of the 60s that I grew up with. On the record, I extended some parts that aren’t really in the film, and took out some parts that I felt they had used poorly. Because it’s not as if I didn’t see the film, it’s only the very last edit, months and months after I had given them the final mixes and said ‘This is what you should use’. And of course they didn’t listen, and kind of started riding things up and down, and they tried, to my mind, to illustrate the feelings rather than giving the central character a musical narrative. That was what I was trying to do, I was trying to give him a musical universe that would, to my mind, give the film a stronger resonance.
Martina: Last evening I saw Tini for the first time at Morten’s concert, and I was very surprised to hear your song, ‘Running Out Of Reasons.’ So who chose this song?
Magne: Well it certainly wasn’t me [laughs]. [To Tini] It was actually you and Martin, wasn’t it, that really wanted to record that song?
We were trying out different things in the studio with Tini about a year and a half ago, or two years ago, we started in London. Very few songs had been written, and we were just trying to find out feet, trying to see what Tini was comfortable with. So we were doing some songs that we had kind of written before, just trying out that song. And Tini really liked it. Martin also really thought it fit the album well. Of course she sings it so much better than me that I didn’t want to show the world what a crappy singer I am [laughs] so I was trying to hide it. But things don’t go my way always, only 99% of the time [laughs].
Eve: I am American, I live here in Oslo. I just want to say first of all thank you for a lot of the workshops and stuff you did with Lowell that was very experimental at the gallery, that was really refreshing. I lived in LA before I moved here, and we did that a lot there, and it’s something that’s kind of lacking here, and I hope you will consider doing more of those kind of things. I am just curious, are you still working with her?
Magne: We are in touch with her, she’s moved back to Canada. Well actually she has more or less kind of moved in with the girls from Icona Pop. And she is writing with them and touring with them.
She’s going to be a big star, I am totally certain. She is an amazing writer, and she is totally fearless. I mean her first performance ever was with Apparatjik in front of 40-50,000 people at Roskilde and she nailed it, she killed it. But she also got a little spoiled, so after that she wanted to do the art thing and not worry about success. I think the art thing I introduced her to probably screwed her up a bit [laughs]. We’ve had a lot of fun with her and we would welcome the chance to work together again. We’re hoping that at one point we can piggy-back on her, and she can bring Apparatjik to the world [laughs].
(a fan from France – it was difficult to hear your name on the recording, if it was you, comment here and we can add your name!) I wanted to ask you how important are words to your work, both art and music?
Magne: Extremely important, I would say. Well a friend of mine, you might know of him, he wrote a book about a-ha very early on. We almost became unfriendly over it. It was Henning Kramer Dahl, the Norwegian poet. He wrote a book with Haakon, Morten’s brother, maybe some of you are old enough to remember.
Henning said to me quite recently, ‘You are doing exactly the same thing you were doing as a 15 year old school kid when we met. You’re drawing, you’re making music, you’re writing poetry, and then you mix it all up and who knows what comes out.’ I think that is the case, for me words have been central to my visual practice for a long time. Probably from when I started back in the late 80s, early 90s, when I started exhibiting and turning a hobby into a profession. And of course with music.
So I like to try to subject what I do to different mediums, and the words are always a kind of leading light. I have about 6,000 unpublished poems on my computer that one day may see the light in one shape or form. Some of them are fragments of something, I am always writing lyrics that find their way into an artwork, and may later be changed and come back into something else. So I would say that without words I would be pretty lost.
Here are several short video clips from Tini’s Q&A at the convention: