Interview – Major Parkinson
The band Major Parkinson has undergone a transformation. Members have joined, others have quit. The band’s new violinist Claudia Cox meets us outside Duper Studios premises, where the band has been mixing its latest single.
Inside the premises vocalist Jon Ivar Kollbotn also sits along with pianist Lars Christian Bjørknes.
Bjørknes says that the new single will be released digitally on October seventh. Before that it will be available exclusively for fans at concerts in Bergen (Hulen) and Oslo.
– This single is more orchestrated than our previous works, says Kollbotn. It has several layers and is more dynamic, more like a filmic experience. That’s the biggest difference. However, it is a challenge, as it is easy to make the songs sound cheesy when orchestrating them. Therefore it is important that we have a production that makes everything sound somewhat analogous and timeless. We still have the same instruments, but …
– … There are new influences in the sound now because we changed half the band, Bjørknes says.
– … And a girl, says Cox.
– … And a girl. A girl on a violin, says Kollbotn.
The reason why the single released earlier for concert-goers, says Kollbotn, is because it takes longer to make it available digitally.
– Besides, it is a nice little bonus for fans who come to the concerts, says Bjørknes.
Bjørknes points out that they get a good portion of their revenues from Spotify, and as such do not mind streaming platforms.
– We actually have our own label and cut out the middleman. The single is also more pop-oriented. We have not stopped with progressive-rock, but the single is in a more pop-oriented landscape, says Bjørknes.
Major Parkinson has no tour planned for this fall, but has recently played at John Dee in Oslo and the Climate Festival in Trondheim.
– Our main focus now is on completing the album, and then we go on tour in the spring.
– Maybe to Australia, Cox says. I have some friends in the right places, so maybe we can play at some festivals and the like.
– We had about a year of downtime, after half the band left, says Bjørknes. We had to try to figure out which direction to go in.
Vocalist Kollbotn says they had two choices.
– We could lay down and just give up or continue. We chose to continue.
– And were extremely lucky with the new members, adds Bjørknes. The band is healthier than it has been for as long as I’ve been a member.
First of all, says Kollbotn, they got a new drummer from the Grieg Academy.
– His name is Sondre Veland and comes from a jazz background, it is very different from our style, so it makes a big difference. He plays in the band Doppelganger, and can play the same rhythm in thirty different ways. In addition, we have two new guitarists. Both are very alternative in their approaches. The first one, Øystein Bech-Eriksen has played in The Scandalous Orchestra, and has a jazz background, says Kollbotn.
– The second, Sondre Skollevoll, is behind the band Moron Police. Then there is Claudia, you can introduce yourself, says Bjørknes.
– I come from Australia, and moved here to study classical violin at the Grieg Academy. I just finished my master’s thesis. I have worked for Borealis, an experimental music festival here. I have a circus orchestra in Vienna and I’ve played many weird things that I guess Jon Ivar and Lars Christian appreciated. I used to be a gymnast, so that’s why I have a circus orchestra. For some reason, Australians are really attracted to Europe. My original plan was to be here for one year to study music, but then I found out that Bergen is a very creative city. When I came here I really just wanted to be an orchestral musician, but then I started to experiment with all sorts of other types of music. I like classical music, but this is so much more liberating, says Cox.
– I think there are classic elements in the music, says Kollbotn.
– I’m amazed that so many of the old melodies worked on violin, admits Cox.
– In fact, many of the old melodies were made on digital instruments and converted to guitar afterwards. Our process is such that we come up with a melody and then we play it digitally, before converting it into a guitar melody. Or we can for example create a guitar melody, and then it becomes a violin melody, says Kollbotn.
Works part time
Kollbotn concede that all of them work outside of the band. It is something you have to do when working with music, he explains.
– But we always find time, and are in the studio almost every day, he says.
– I work part-time. There is very little money coming in from the band. Or, that’s not entirely true – there’s a lot of money coming in, but we never see them, because they go towards recording the music, says Bjørknes.
Inspired by everything
When asked what inspires them as musicians Kollbotn and Cox says that it is an impossible question to answer.
– I try to listen to everything, but get a lot of inspiration from film. In my opinion the band Cardiac was one of the best bands in history, actually. They combine elements of progressive music with orchestrated, symphonic music. They were very popular in the early eighties, but never got a proper record deal. Therefore, they never got the recognition they deserved. When listening to their albums, the production is not so good, but the songs have so many interesting items. A song may have more ideas in it than a typical band has during its life. It’s actually quite insane, says Kollbotn.
– And the cult series, Twin Peaks, Cox points out.
Both Cox and Kollbotn have very clear ideas about what you should do if you study music or want to become a musician.
– You have to experiment and try new things all the time!
– It is very important to have other influences, no matter what you do. For example, I studied literature. You’ll get mad if you do the same thing all the time and hang out with the same people, says Kollbotn.
The experimental element
As a musician in a progressive band, Kollbotn is still concerned that there is no point in being progressive just because.
– I think you should always follow the song. We’re not consciously thinking that “now we’ll do something crazy, now we’ll do something wild,” but the experimental element is always there. If we ourselves into a box, one cannot make the song come to life, so you have to have all options open. It is a process that takes a lot of time, but if you are willing to sacrifice time it is worth it, says Kollbotn.