Elephant 9 (Norway) talks to Bernd Ihno Eilts for 60Minuten.net!

The Groningen Report

Wikipedia describes Elephant 9 like this: “This band is a Norwegian progressive/neo-psycheldelic/jazz-rock trio, formed in 2006 in Oslo. The members are Ståle Storløkken (keyboards), Torstein Lofthus (drums) and Nikolai Eilertsen (bass). The trio released their debut album Dodovoodoo in 2008, followed up with Walk the Nile in 2010, both on the label Rune Grammofon. In 2015 they released their album Silver Mountain, with Reiner Fiske on guitar”. This year, Elephant 9 was featured on the Eurosonic Noorderslag Festival (ESNS17) in Groningen / The Netherlands. The festival introduces this band like: “Elephant 9 features pumping drums, mad breaks and free jazz, they are a musical monster from Norway. Their blend of jazz, rock, prog and psychedelich is purest and strongest when it’s set free, allowing the band’s dynamic and ever evolving moods to create spontaneous song structures. Influences range from Tangerine Dream, John Coltrane, Deep Purple, King Crimson and Jimi Hendrix to Soft Machine and Fela Kuti”.

I had the very big pleasure to talk with Ståle Storløkken and Torstein Lofthus on the MS Horizon, part of the Artist Village on the festival. We met at 3 pm, january 12th – 2017.

Bernd Ihno Eilts: Are you also singing in Elephant 9?

Ståle Storløkken and Torstein Lofthus: No, we are not.

Torstein Lofthus: That’s a secret!

Bernd Ihno Eilts: Let’s talk about secrets then!

Ståle Storløkken and Torstein Lofthus: (both laughing!)

We ordered coffee and tea, because Elephant 9 just arrived from Oslo at Amsterdam airport/Schiphol not that long ago. The mangement from Elephant 9 and the crew of the MS Horizon helped us!

Bernd Ihno Eilts: Is it your first time here in Groningen?

Ståle Storløkken: No, we played here once before some years ago, at the Vera during the first SoundsOfMusic festival. That was our dutch debut on november 10th, 2010.

Bernd Ihno Eilts: How did it happen, you came here to the Eurosonic?

Torstein Lofthus: That was because of the good work of our booking agent!

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Bernd Ihno Eilts: So, he arranged that! Sounds perfect!

Ståle Storløkken and Torstein Lofthus: Yes! (both laughing!) We are looking forward to our concert here tonight!

Bernd Ihno Eilts: I have a good friend from Germany, he’s from the same part of northern Germany where I was born, called ‚Ostfriesland‘ or: East Friesland. We have these frisian parts even in Denmark and in Holland. They have their own languages and cultures. My friend, his name is Siebelt actually, is much more into progressive jazz/rock music than myself. He told me already many things about you. Especially about you Ståle and your outstanding work with Supersilent and Arve Henriksen. I even saw Arve Henriksen playing here in Groningen in the Grand Theatre some years ago for introducing his CD „Cartography“, what was in a duo with Jan Bang. So, dear Ståle, you are playing the Hammond organ, the Moog syntheziser, the fender rhodes electric piano and all kind of small toys and effects! You brought all your instruments here?

Ståle Storløkken: No, that’s impossible, it’s too big. It’s rented.

Bernd Ihno Eilts: How is it for you to rent all these instruments in a different country? Can you trust the quality?

Ståle Storløkken: Almost everytime it’s okay. It’s more a bigger issue with the drums I think. Of course, a Hammond organ can sound a bit different, but mostly they are well kept. I never had any bad instruments!

Bernd Ihno Eilts: How is it for you, Torstein, as a drummer?

Torstein Lofthus: Well, it’s difficult when you travel by plane. Then you have to arrange an instrument like Ståle does. Normally I bring my cymbals and my sticks. Of course, I always ask for some specific brand of drums, which suits the music the best. I try to get the rights sort of drum heads, but always everything works out very good. It’s not a big problem.

Bernd Ihno Eilts: Did you ask for a Ludwig drum kit?

Elephant 9 live at ESNS17, in this picture: Torstein Lofthus.

Torstein Lofthus: Oh yes, I did. Because I like that sound of a Ludwig very much, they are my favourite drums. But I’m not that specific on tour. If it’s a jazz kit, I’m already happy.

Bernd Ihno Eilts: Like a small bass drum, one tom-tom and so on?

Torstein Lofthus: Yes. With the good heads, then I’m fine. But I usually prefer a Ludwig (laughing).

Bernd Ihno Eilts: Why do you like Ludwig so much?

Torstein Lofthus: Because they’re good! (Laughing).

Bernd Ihno Eilts: You do not only like them because of Ringo Starr?

Torstein Lofthus: Yes, maybe a little bit! (Laughing). They are just great drums!

Bernd Ihno Eilts: How did you get in contact with Ludwig?

Torstein Lofthus: Through a dealer in Norway, he has the Ludwig agency in Norway.

Bernd Ihno Eilts: You are all living in Oslo?

Ståle Storløkken: Only Nikolai en Torstein are living in Oslo. I’m living in Trondheim.

Bernd Ihno Eilts: That’s very much in the north of Norway!

Ståle Storløkken: Well, it’s more in the middle of Norway.

Bernd Ihno Eilts: How do you arrange to be in contact with each others?

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Ståle Storløkken: Well, it’s possible to make good time arrangements for us. Then we organize like this also our concerts. That’s how it works for most musicians. Because we all play in more than just one band.

Bernd Ihno Eilts: How is the situation in Norway? When I started to listen to Jazz in my early period of life, it was with ECM Records and their music. They were usually recorded in Oslo in the Rainbow Studio by Jan-Erik Kongshaug. Since these early times I’m listening a lot to jazz. Because I was drumming myself I had a special open ear for Jon Christensen. He was for example in the European quartet with Keith Jarrett. Also I loved to listen to Terje Rypdal and all these records were recorded in Oslo! Then I thought, this recording sound is at least for my ears a typical Norwegian sound! But it’s not true, right?

Ståle Storløkken: I think, the ECM sound is mainly made by Manfred Eicher. But probably also in collaboration with Jan-Erik Kongshaug. So they found this sound together.

Torstein Lofthus: The Norwegian musicians recording for ECM have in common not trying to recreate the american idea of sound. But in many other countries they try to do so, imitating the american jazz sound. Not so in Norway. They just found their own sound way to play. And that, I think, maybe can refer to our original sound. But it is not necessarily the sound of ECM, it’s an attitude.

Bernd Ihno Eilts: But then we have the way, Jon Christensen is playing the drums. How he is integrated in the sound, how he makes sound. This is really typical his way.

Torstein Lofthus: He is a big part of the ECM sound.

Bernd Ihno Eilts: I heard, he never studied music, is that true?

Torstein Lofthus: I don’t know actually. But he played and still plays so very much!

Bernd Ihno Eilts: He recently recorded with Jacob Bro, so he is still very active.

Torstein Lofthus: He is one of the greatest drummers in the world! So I guess, he will be very busy! (Laughing).

Bernd Ihno Eilts: You started Elephant 9 with a first recording in 2008. That was Doodoovoodoo.
The second one came out in 2009, Walk the Nile. And you recorded both of them for Rune Grammofon. This label was at least connected with ECM.

Elephant 9 (Norway) talks to 60Minuten at ESNS17, from the left: Bernd Ihno Eilts, Ståle Storløkken and Torstein Lofthus.

Ståle Storløkken: It was a short period, between 2000 and 2005. I think, ECM had the distribution of Rune Grammofon Records, especially in Europe and Germany. That lasted only a few years.

Bernd Ihno Eilts: You also worked together with the group Motorpsycho? How did that start?

Ståle Storløkken: That was a commission piece we did together with Motorpsycho. We wrote some new pieces and me and Motorpsycho singer and bass player Bent Sæther and violinist Ola Kvernberg arranged them for strings and small wind ensemble. That was totally instrumental. After one year we talked again with each others and thought about making a record of it. Then I would write some lyrics and we integrate singing and we called it „The Death Defying Unicorn“ (released 2012 on Record Label Rune Grammofon).

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Bernd Ihno Eilts: My first normal question is about the meaning of Elephant 9. Where is your name coming from?

Ståle Storløkken: When our first record had to come out released we needed a name for the band. First we thought about calling us just TRIO (laughing). I think it was Nicolai, our bass player, who had the idea to call us Elephant. But there are many bands who have this name.

Bernd Ihno Eilts: There are a lot of elephants running on earth, right?

Torstein Lofthus: Right (laughing).

Ståle Storløkken: I was thinking about maybe calling the band „Karn Evil 9“, it is an Emerson, Lake & Palmer tune. But then we thought, we can just smash those two ideas together and call us: Elephant 9! That was a good idea! That’s the story about our name (laughing).

Bernd Ihno Eilts: That means, you also love to listen to Emerson, Lake & Palmer?

Ståle Storløkken: Yes! It’s their sound I like. I was listening to them a lot while I studied at the Jazz Academy in Trondheim. Together with Keith Jarrett and other jazz artists (laughing). But I really like the sound of EL&P. They have some really good compositions. When they are good, they are really good and when they are bad, then they still have something.

Bernd Ihno Eilts: They were really experimental!

Ståle Storløkken: They were!

Bernd Ihno Eilts: They had also these very long songs, Tarkus and even Karn Evil 9. Amazing!

Ståle Storløkken: Yes.

Bernd Ihno Eilts: You also play very long songs, you are not afraid.

Ståle Storløkken: No, no, no. We are not afraid.

Torstein Lofthus: We are good in stretching.

Bernd Ihno Eilts: Do you feel more comfortable with playing long songs, is it a natural way?

Ståle Storløkken: In 2005 me, Torstein and Nicolai were asked to be part of a project called Master Studies for Music.

Torstein Lofthus: The only project I wanted to do there was one focusing on the live albums, Miles Davis did after Bitches Brew. Albums like Black Beauty and Live at Fillmore. On these albums it’s interesting to see, how they organiced the music there. That’s based on short riffs and some cues. But all inside very long tunes with a lot of improvisations, especially group improvisations. Based on not really free music, but cue based and really free and open that way. Then we came together, inspired by these Miles records, but wanted to go much further than that. But the way of organising the music I think is a little bit similar. Then they had also very long tunes.

Ståle Storløkken: For me that was also important, to not only have jazz music around, but also rock music, then also from the 70s rock music era.

Bernd Ihno Eilts: A lot of good music came of course from the 70s, from the English side like from Canterbury, groups like The Nice, Collosseum or Caravan, and they all also played very long songs. So, you have a strong connection with this period in music.

Torstein Lofthus: Yes, I would say so. Of course, it’s a mix, not only that music. Everything. Even Deep Purple and Jimi Hendrix are inspiring.

Elephant 9 live at ESNS17, in this picture from the left: Torstein Lofthus and Ståle Storløkken.

Bernd Ihno Eilts: Yes. And now we live in the year 2017, it is a different time to be alive in, also musically.

Ståle Storløkken: Some people said, with Elephant 9 you get this retro feeling. But not only. Some of our tunes also show a more modern sound. But the instrumentation is from the 70s.

Bernd Ihno Eilts: You started as a trio and sometimes you feature other artists as well. Like the guitar player Reine Fiske.

Torstein Lofthus: Yes. We also played and still do have a collaboration with Terje Rypdal.

Bernd Ihno Eilts: Why you like to open your Elephant 9 doors to other instruments?

Ståle Storløkken: It is nice to bring in some other elements. We played quite some gigs with Reine. After all of these collaborations we find ourselves in the trio setting more fresh in sound and music. I think, that is really good.

Bernd Ihno Eilts: You Torstein studied at the State Academy in Oslo? You created a group called Shining in 1999?

Torstein Lofthus: I didn’t create that group, but I was a longtime (1999 – 2014) member of this group, together with Jorgen Munkeby. Me and Aslak Hartberg and Morten Qvenild, but it was Jorgen’s initiative to start a band. But of course, we started Shining all together. It developed from a kind of John Coltrane jazzish quartet to a fifty years later Jazz Metal Band (laughing). We actually played here on Eurosonic in Groningen once.

Bernd Ihno Eilts: It is a very heavy and strong music!

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Wikipedia says: “The release of their fifth album Blackjazz in 2010 saw Shining turn into an extreme avant-garde metal band, with the use of growled vocals”
Torstein Lofthus: Yes, it’s true! (Laughing). But I’m not in the band anymore. I quit two or three years ago. But I stayed 15 years.

Bernd Ihno Eilts: That’s a long time! What did you study at the State Academy?

Torstein Lofthus: It was music. I studied jazz drums and also took education lessons for becoming a teacher.

Bernd Ihno Eilts: When you think back, what did you learn there the most, what you still use today?

Torstein Lofthus: All the bands, that I started to play with from that period teached me all I still use. I had one very good teacher at the State Academy, his name is Jon Eberson. He was a very good teacher and he is a guitar player. We learned a lot in his ensemble classes. But I learned almost everything from playing with other musicians.

Ståle Storløkken: The same for me actually. I studied at the Jazz Academy in Trondheim. There I met Arve Henriksen. We founded a trio in 1977 called the Veslefrekk and that became later the group Supersilent. (Wikipedia: This band attracted attention with their aggressive combination of improvised jazz, frirock and noise blowouts. They are known for making only improvised music and for the distinctive uniformity of their album covers). That are the names of bands, from whom I learned all I needed mostly in my career so far. Meeting people and forming bands is the most important learning activity a musician can have.

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Bernd Ihno Eilts: You mentioned Jon Ebersen as a mentor?

Torstein Lofthus: Yes, he was a very good teacher. I think, every student who went to the State Academy in that period and had classes with him has been influenced by him. Not by his actual playing, but by his thoughts on playing in ensembles. He is also a great musician, but first of all a great teacher.

Bernd Ihno Eilts: Can you tell me, how you became a professional drummer?

Torstein Lofthus: Well, the answer should be ’no‘ on your question. Because it just happened. (Laughing). I didn’t have any idea about this all. I really didn’t know how it is to be a professional musician. That all sounded very strange and very uncertain. I didn’t understand where I had to come from and then I just played a little bit more here and there and then I founded myself earning money and start a living from that. Of course, it started with the bands. I earned money during my study through playing in pop bands in Norway. Those pop bands were a good start for me as a professional musician. But it is kind of a mystery. I don’t understand it at all, it’s just strange.

Ståle Storløkken: For me it was kind of slightly different. I remember I was nine years old, I told my mother I wanted to become a musician. It was more like that. But it’s special you can say that in that young age. That’s how it started for me. I think, I never had any kind of straight ways to get forward in music. The church organ was an active instrument for me in my home town during my school and study period. But yes, it was always clear in my mind that I would become one day a professional musician. And here I am! (Laughing).

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Bernd Ihno Eilts: I saw, you already played with many artists. On the Discogs site there are at least three pages with records you played on. What kind of music does interest you at this moment the most?

Torstein Lofthus: This is also a difficult question. Because music is music. It’s a saying, if it’s nice, you play. It is also a fact, I never was able to play just one style of music. It speaks for itself that Elephant 9 is the main project. But I couldn’t be only involved in that band. You have to have influences of other things too. I think, that all the members of this band understand music like this. That also makes Elephant 9 sound like it does sound. In addition to this music I like good pop tunes, Paul Simon for example. I like his music very much. Then I like also kind of music, that can really break free like our Elephant 9 music. I think, we all do many different things. Also Nicolai and Ståle. I don’t think, it’s just music that defines our lives.

Bernd Ihno Eilts: What are you searching for in music?

Torstein Lofthus: Can you answer that, Ståle?

Ståle Storløkken: That’s a question for talking many hours about this topic. I played a lot with all kinds of different bands inside jazz. I play for example with Terje Rypdal since 1995. Sometimes I kind get lost when people ask me to play some Hammond organ and keyboard stuff on their pop tunes. But after all, when I listen to them carefully, I like it. I am open to broad new horizons.

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Bernd Ihno Eilts: Well, we are now here on the MS Horizon, here in the Artist Village of ESNS17. (We are all laughing).

Ståle Storløkken: I try to find new influences and try to keep up with music that’s happening today and that’s not an easy talk. Then I have my sons! With them, it’s even better to evolve.

Torstein Lofthus: Yes, that’s a mind thing.

Ståle Storløkken: I also like, even if it is pop music, if there is some sort of weirdness in the music. I like that a lot (laughing).


Bernd Ihno Eilts: What kind of weird way in music are you thinking about?

Ståle Storløkken: Just maybe some kind of weird ordinary sound. If you get this feeling, I’m happy (laughing).

Torstein Lofthus: That’s true. Some things I found out now, a search for, when I play, in the actual settings are these moments, when you are not thinking and things flow, when you get this very good feeling. When you are not thinking about anything in music, you are just free in your mind. Those moments are not there every time but they are the best moments in any kind of performance.

Ståle Storløkken: That’s also true. I try to be as much as possible intuitive, you don’t think, you just do, you just perform. If you like this, you shouldn’t think. That’s cool.

Bernd Ihno Eilts: When I’m listening to a concert I have moments, I’m totally gone. Like, I am not available anymore, for nothing and nobody. When the sound is cool it grabs you. And you can’t escape. It attracts me in a way I don’t even understand, but inside this connection I am able to be wherever I wish to be. Then it is this WOW feeling. You don’t expect this to happen, but is is possible. How is it for you, while you perform in front of an audience, sometimes a huge audience, you share the same air, the vibration, please explain your feelings when you play together. Where are you then? Of course, you have to follow a structure, the composition, but inside you have improvisation, you have long parts of freedom inside.

Torstein Lofthus: Beautiful is that everyone is in that state sometimes during a concert. It even doesn’t need to be all at the same time actually. Either the audience or you. Sometimes you have a bad feeling and then the audience might have a good feeling. It’s very different with all these moods. I think, if you get this uplifted feeling, when you play and you are not thinking, then you are in this state you described very well. But, like I said already, it is not like that every time.

Ståle Storløkken: Maybe that’s the main goal to reach. You want to get to that point again and again.

Bernd Ihno Eilts: You are all from Norway and you also play a lot with other musicians from Norway. Why do you choose so often for a Norwegian setting?

Ståle Storløkken: We also had some projects with Swedish musicians. Then we had even a project with an Indonesian gamelan orchestra, what was really amazing to do in many ways. They are very nice people and fantastic players. That is really a new inspiration to open the musically horizon.

Elephant 9 talks to 60 Minuten.net at ESNS17, from the left: Ståle Storløkken and Torstein Lofthus.

Bernd Ihno Eilts: You are also touring a lot. You play in Japan and, I think, you played almost everywhere on this planet already. I saw excellent movies of concerts on Youtube, really fantastic documents in the best quality you can imagine. How do you organize all those activities?

Ståle Storløkken: That performance in Japan was from the Tokio Jazz Festival, that was a film made by a professional filmmaker.

Torstein Lofthus: That was Mezzo TV. A french channel, they wanted to do it. We have also a nice video from Night Jazz in Bergen, Norway. There we hired a video guy. But in Tokio it was just that TV channel. And for answering your question about the organizing, it is mostly our manager Per-Kristian Rekdal, who does a lot of it. You met him already!

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Bernd Ihno Eilts: When you travel that much, then you always rent the instruments in the country, right? Do you have some nice stories from traveling? I will take a tea and give you the time to think about that (we all are laughing).

Torstein Lofthus: We have to think about it.

Ståle Storløkken: What’s appropriate.

Bernd Ihno Eilts: This morning I had an interview with a singer from Portugal. He told me a story about a guy he met after a concert. And this person gave him a gift, a small package with some pills to enjoy. He enjoyed them later in London after another concert and he loved them.

Torstein Lofthus and Ståle Storløkken are laughing!

Bernd Ihno Eilts: We have to take a short break now, because Zoltan has to leave. Let’s take some more pictures with your bass player, if he is not too sick. Or just one nice picture together with me.

Torstein Lofthus and Ståle Storløkken: Yes, you can be our new bass player!

Elephant 9 with their new bass player (only for one picture), from the left: Torstein Lofthus, Bernd Ihno Eilts and Ståle Storløkken.

Torstein Lofthus: Well, to tell you stories from tour I’m afraid to say, we are kind of boring, story-wise.

Ståle Storløkken: I remember one moment. A friend of mine in Trondheim told me once this joke: Hey Stale, your Lesley amplifier is on fire! It was kind of a joke. But then some day it really happened, when I was playing in a place called Haugesund in Norway. There we were really playing our hearts out. But then suddenly a little panic came up and a guy came towards me saying: „Excuse me sir, excuse me sir, there is smoke coming from your Lesley“! That was truly happening and it was really funny. And then the Lesley was actually on fire! (Laughing).

Bernd Ihno Eilts: Also a nice title for a song maybe! (Laughing).

Torstein Lofthus: We also had another nice story, when we messed up with the plane when we were going to Lisboa. We had a connection in Frankfurt and we had to wait one hour for the next plane. Then we went to the Lounge and had a coffee and some bisquits and we sat there relaxing. Then we thought we had to go. But we were late! And we had to wait seven more hours for the next plane!

Bernd Ihno Eilts: Then you had time to relax even more! (We all were laughing).

Torstein Lofthus: So, that’s it about stories from us (laughing).

Elephant 9 talks to Bernd Ihno Eilts (60Minuten.net) at ESNS17, in this picture: Torstein Lofthus.

Bernd Ihno Eilts: How does your life look like in Norway? How is the music scene in Oslo and around? I saw, you Torstein are also teaching, right?

Torstein Lofthus: Yes, I do. I teach jazz drums and playing in ensembles in Tromsö two days every other week at the Music Conservatorium. I like it very much to teach there, it’s a great school. And life in Oslo is a good life. But actually, when I’m home in Oslo, I am just at home.

Bernd Ihno Eilts: You don’t go out?

Torstein Lofthus: I have a big family with kids. I’m kind of a family guy.

Bernd Ihno Eilts: Okay, that’s good to know!

Torstein Lofthus: Yes! (Laughing).

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Bernd Ihno Eilts: How are your students, this new generation?

Torstein Lofthus: That’s true, they are a new generation. People and music, all is growing new in Norway. It’s really nice to be there.

Bernd Ihno Eilts: Here in Groningen they also have a Conservatorium and they have a program called ‚New York Comes To Groningen‘. Many teachers are coming from New York.

Torstein Lofthus: Ahh, that’s cool!

Bernd Ihno Eilts: Every week a new teacher is coming here. That’s how I met Matt Wilson and Adam Nussbaum for example.

Torstein Lofthus: That’s very good!

Bernd Ihno Eilts: They teach here twice a year and then I can come, meet them and talk with them.

Torstein Lofthus: That’s great!

Bernd Ihno Eilts: You came here for only one show, and that one is tonight and tomorrow you are heading back to Norway?

Torstein Lofthus: We see this concert here on Eurosonic as an investment. If we have to be totally honest, it’s also because of the Norwegian cultural support (Arts Council Norway). They support us. This is also one reason, why much of good music is coming from Norway. They have very good conditions for musicians. You can apply for their program and projects. This situation was always a very good one in Norway. I heard, that the governments in Belgium and Holland have been also very good for supporting Arts.

Bernd Ihno Eilts: It’s not that easy anymore, many things changed in Holland. But in the past the Arts and Culture had a rich life in Holland.

Torstein Lofthus: Even in Norway this has changed, but it’s just a little bit less than before. They don’t have that big concerns about their cultural life.

Bernd Ihno Eilts: How much more time do we have?

Torstein Lofthus and Ståle Storløkken: Five to ten more minutes are okay.

Bernd Ihno Eilts: Otherwise I’ll buy 2 more minutes from the Norwegian Government! How big is the difference for you being in the studio and having a concert? What do you like more?

Ståle Storløkken: We never recorded with an audience in the studio. But we like to be as close as possible in our setup in the studio as we are on stage. Sometimes of course it is a difference between playing in a studio or live. For me it’s not that critical actually. But it’s very nice to hear the acoustic sound of the instruments. That’s the most challenging in a studio, together with the sound engineers. Until now we are lucky with them, they are able to understand very well, what we want soundwise.

Bernd Ihno Eilts: How do you compose with Elephant 9?

Torstein Lofthus: We mainly have compositions from each of us and in some we just jam together.
Ståle Storløkken: It’s fun, evolving together.

Bernd Ihno Eilts: Do you always record all, when you rehears together?

Ståle Storløkken: Yes, we try. Sometimes we use some moments from a rearsal, but then I also bring kind of a composition construction inside. That’s more like a skeleton, more or less complex. But then also Torstein and Nicolai can come with suggestions. Then we try one beat before another and so on. Even if it’s my composition, it is always the group, the collective, that organizes the whole song.

Bernd Ihno Eilts: Do you have any kind of ritual, before you go on stage? How do you prepare yourself? You stay in the dressing room and drink a coffee or a beer or you meditate?

Torstein Lofthus: I used to do some easy warm-up with my drumsticks. That’s the only thing I can say.

Elephant 9 live at ESNS17, in this picture: Ståle Storløkken.

Ståle Storløkken: I just get really stressed. Looking forward to get to the stage, then I’m almost lost. Fifteen minutes before a concert starts I’m in that vibe. Then I ask myself: Why do I have to wait now? That’s really stressful for me. Maybe I drink a coffee before, but that’s all. And maybe half a glass of red wine. We are not so much in Rock and Roll.

Bernd Ihno Eilts: But you look like a Rock and Roll star!

Torstein Lofthus: It could be, that would be more fun! Just panicking everytime! But we are not like that.

Bernd Ihno Eilts: Can you tell me, what kind of stories you want to tell with your music? Is there something? If your music had a singer, what would be the lyrics about?

Torstein Lofthus: That’s an interesting question!

Bernd Ihno Eilts: And of course, your songs also have titles. Why you choose titles then for music without lyrics?

Ståle Storløkken: It’s kind of a try to just describe the overall mode in the music. Then the listener can find out their own idea about it. It’s sometimes kind of aggressive music, but I like to think about its positive energy, because it’s a lot of it (laughing). I’m a big fan of this outer space stuff. I’m a science fiction fan actually. Within this influence you can think in a different way. Some of my tunes and some of my sounds come from my ideas of some science fiction stuff.

Bernd Ihno Eilts: But in general there is no basic message about what the music is about?

Torstein Lofthus: No, I don’t think so. Actually, I don’t try to tell a story. Don’t think about anything, just listen and have a good time. That is my message.

Bernd Ihno Eilts: On your last record you played a Stevie Wonder cover, „You are The Sunshine Of My Life“.

Torstein Lofthus: Right.

Bernd Ihno Eilts : How much Stevie Wonder is still in there?

Ståle Storløkken: Not much. (We all laugh loud)!!

Elephant 9 in an interview with Bernd Ihno Eilts (60Minuten.net) at ESNS17, from the left: Ståle Storløkken and Torstein Lofthus.

Ståle Storløkken: Because if it’s, well, I shouldn’t say that.

Bernd Ihno Eilts: Is it more a funny situation?

Ståle Storløkken: The story about that is, we played on this Tokio Jazz Festival in Japan and they had a really long tv show there. It’s a program about travelling and that time it was about Norway. There we were invited to play a couple of tunes and also every band that was playing there, had to play their own version of a Stevie Wonder tune. So that was why. First we thought, we cannot do that. Then I tried and I made an arrangement for a melody. It’s there somewhere but it’s really a weird situation. So, you can’t hear Stevie’s original in our song anymore. But this song is really a good song, so we decided to do something with that specific song.

Bernd Ihno Eilts: Do you also cover other songs from other artists? That you use a title and organise a totally different structure inside?

Ståle Storløkken: No. We only played some of the Miles Davis tunes.

Torstein Lofthus: Yes, On the DodoVoodoo record. There is actually a version of ‚Directions‘, a Joe Zawinul composition.

Ståle Storløkken: I have also become someone else, while studying at the Jazz Academy. So, I listened not only to Keith Jarrett.

Bernd Ihno Eilts: What are your future plans with Elephant 9?

Ståle Storløkken: This year we try to play as many concerts as possible in the period that we have together. I’m trying to write some new material and then we will dive again into the studio in autumn and record a new album. Hopefully we ‚ll get it out in spring 2018. That’s the plan.

Elephant 9 talks to Bernd Ihno Eilts (www.60Minuten.net) at ESNS17, in this picture: Ståle Storløkken.

Bernd Ihno Eilts: And you will come back here to Groningen? For another interview? Be careful!

Torstein Lofthus: Yes, we want! We actually would like very much to come back here, of course! That’s what we do!

Bernd Ihno Eilts: My last question is, how are you in private?

Ståle Storløkken: I’m really a kind of fan of electronics. I love to explore electronics since my early lifetime. I work on my own keyboards and I do also a lot of studio equipment myself. Like compressors and so on. That’s my other passion.

Torstein Lofthus: I think Nicolai is very interested in working out, like running. At the moment I don’t have any big hobbies. I had periods in my life, that also have been into running and I hope, I can get back into it one more time.

Ståle Storløkken: We are all old and we all have families. My kids, my two sons are actually kind of the new generation of musicians. They are both eighteen years old. One of them is playing vibraphone, he’s starting to get really good. He is very interested in jazz, the other one plays guitar.

Bernd Ihno Eilts: Then you are a big influence for your children?

Ståle Storløkken: Yes, probably. It’s really nice, to have kids, who are interested in life with very much music and even sports. We shared really nice moments in the past, when we played guitar together and we were talking half an hour about guitar amplifiers and effects. That was the moment when I realized, they are really growing up! That was really nice!

Bernd Ihno Eilts: Thank you very much for this very nice and interesting talk!

Ståle Storløkken: Thank you! It was nice talking to you!

Bernd Ihno Eilts: I hope, next time we have two hours!

Torstein Lofthus: Let’s hope we can come back and talk more another time!

For more information, please check: www.facebook.com/elephant9music/

Interview: Bernd Ihno Eilts
Photography: Zoltan Acs