Kjell Braaten is a 35 year old musician who lives in Sarpsborg, Norway. He’s a performer of several genres and many accomplishments. In his own words, “I make music that I think is missing from my collection.”
Me: Kjell, sometime when you get a chance, and we’re both on here at the same time, I’d like to ‘interview’ you for my blog. It would be on both my Facebook blog and my WordPress blog.
Kjell: Of course! I guess I can be here late tonight:)
Me: That would be great. I wouldn’t mind if we had to do it in stages to fit your schedule.
Kjell: Thanx:) I’m “home alone” at the moment, Rina and the kids are in Denmark with my mom… so time comes my way:)
Me: I’m sure it’s the typical sort of interview you’ve done before. When did you first become a musician? How long have you been playing the various instruments you play? How do you decide when you sit down in which genre you’re going to write? Or have you already decided? Are you one of those musicians who hears parts of songs in your head and then has to wait for a song in which it will fit or do you use that bit as the basis for a new song? That sort of thing. I hope to have questions you haven’t been asked before. Honestly, I have some curiosity of my own. I understand that Sverdet is meant to honor King Olaf, but I have some Norwegian friends who do not see him as a hero of the people. I’m wondering what you think about that. If you don’t want to address that, okay. I do plan to promote your album, Sverdet, and anything else you want attention drawn to.
Kjell: Here are some answers to the interview….If you wonder about anything, just ask:)
1: When did you first become a musician?
Well… I started out playing organ at the age of… eh… seven? But that didn’t captivate me, so I started playing tuba in the local school band when I was eight. At the age of eighteen, I
was playing in several school bands and other classical related projects. I was working as a teacher in some school bands, and already then, I had papers as both instructor (teacher) and conductor.
Then, I applied for a sound engineering school in Oslo (Norsk lydskole, now NISS (Nordic Institution for Scene and Studio).
But back to the question… I guess I was a musician already before I saw the earthly light. My mom used to play music and sing for me while she still was carrying me, and I always used anything I could to make sounds, all from the start.
2: How long have you been playing the various instruments you play?
Hmm… It’s a bit hard to remember with all these weird instruments I play, but as I said earlier, I started playing tuba at the age of eight. My grandparents gave me a guitar for Christmas when I was about ten.
When I was eighteen, I had a total breakdown musically. One of the big bands in Norway called me, and asked if I was interested in moving to Oslo to play with them. My reaction was probably very wrong, but I suddenly got the thought: “If you put a note cheat in front of me, I can play almost anything, but if you take it away, I don’t know what to do.” So I quit the classical stuff, and bought a four track tape recorder, a drum machine, a reverb unit and a microphone and started out making noise, ambient soundscapes and other sounds as far away from regular note cheats as I could get. I took back my childhood attitude, “I can make music with anything!” That was the start of what I am doing these days. My weird stuff got me in touch with the Origami network for underground artists, and THANK YOU ORIGAMI REPUBLIKA, I started to build a new way into the music scene (probably the hardest way you can find). I started to work with electronics (mainly self-made or edited), and I started to produce my own music (and some for friends). I did all I came over. Theatre music, music for exhibitions, lots of improvisation, loads of different projects, releases and gigs all the time. I actually have no clue how many albums I’m on or how many gigs I’ve done (I missed out after about twenty- five or thirty releases and about a hundred gigs). It all came to be what I call “the black hole of Oslo”, but after a whole lot of time in there, I came out the other end with loads and loads of experience, a whole lot of instruments from around the world and many ideas….
3: How do you decide when you sit down in which genre you’re going to write? Or have you already decided? Are you one of those musicians who hears parts of songs in your head and then has to wait for a song in which it will fit, or do you use that bit as the basis for a new song?
I guess… All of the above… Except that I ruined my memory during my time in Oslo, so I never remember all those melodies in my head. If I’m not able to record them at once – they’re gone. It’s a matter of what state of mind I’m in.
Sometimes (with the more “serious” stuff) I know what to do, and sometimes I just dig down to my well of sounds to see what’s there for me.
4: I understand that Sverdet is meant to honor King Olaf, but I have some Norwegian friends who do not see him as a hero of the people. I’m wondering what you think about that.
Well, Sverdet is a play based on King Olav and Baesing (the sword) written by a local writer from Sarpsborg. Olav founded sarpsBORG back in 1016, and this was his capital city. I got the job to write the music based on my knowledge about music in the Viking and medieval times, and my experience from working with theatre and soundscapes. I think Olav (St. Olav) was a blood thirsty bastard that used Christianity and paganism to rule. He wanted to be the great king of the north no matter what, and he spared no means. He killed, plundered and forced people into his beliefs, but if you see the way he worked, I do wonder how deep his Christian belief did go. He didn’t actually follow the ten commandments!
The play Sverdet is meant to honor him, but during the three years I’ve had the music, we have made it show more of what he probably really was, a man with a plan, and almost the force to realize it. If he hadn’t killed his allies in anger, he would probably have fulfilled his quest of one big Christian nation, but he used all the force of heathen gods to do so.
Me: Wonderful replies! I’m not going to ask you to elaborate on how you ruined your memory. 5. How many instruments do you make, and how did you get into doing that portion of creating music? 6. I’ve noticed that you’ve posted a request on FB for folks to listen to one of your songs in progress for suggestions about how to make the ending better (I’ve already put in my two cents worth.) Is that something you’ve done before, and if so does it actually help?
Kjell: ?: I’m not going to ask you to elaborate on how you ruined your memory.
I have no problems with that (except from the memory). I’ve made some bad choices. It never went really bad, but still it ruined my memory…. But it’s done, and now I have learned from it. That’s the most important part to me. We all go down some dark pathways, but it’s up to every single one of us if we choose to learn from them or not.
“We can learn from reading, but wisdom comes with experience and reflection.” (Wonderful quote from Kjell.)
5: How many instruments do you make, and how did you get into doing that portion of creating music?
… … … I have made lots…
Mainly, my thing is frame drums, but I have also made other drum, flutes, blow horns and lyres, and a well of weird things like “steel ruler chimes”, “firewood marimba”, “Angelica didgeridoo” and “installation pipe flute”. It came when I had my musical “breakdown” when I was about eighteen. I needed new sounds and was all broke…. After I entered the viking- scene, I started to do it more “serious” , and I started to make copies of “real” instruments.
6. I’ve noticed that you’ve posted a request on FB for folks to listen to one of your songs in progress for suggestions about how to make the ending better (I’ve already put in my two cents worth.) Is that something you’ve done before, and if so does it actually help?
Kjell: Yes, I have another “work in progress” at my profile, but no replies…
But this time you had a good idea, and I’m going to try it later today -Thank you☺
From my point of view this is a way of including my fans in what I do, and at the same time, it can help me to learn new ways of thinking when I compose. I don’t know everything about my music, but together with my fans, I can learn much, much more.☺
You don’t have to know lots about music to help. If you have an idea, come with it – Even if I don’t use it, it helps me to learn. You don’t need to know all the difficult words and rules about music. I work in pictures…I paint music…I make rooms, atmospheres and moods, not scheduled mathematical calculations. To me “You need more earth in there.”, or “The sky should be brighter.” gives meaning musically. That’s how I make my landscapes…. A reverbed flute can easily represent fog. A deep moving, but steady bass-sound can be the mountain, but if it comes and goes, it could be thunder….
Me: As for not asking you to elaborate on your memory problem, I meant I wasn’t going to pry into that part of your business. Thank you for answering anyway. ♥
Me: And now my phone is playing obnoxious country music at me to wake up to start my day! By the way, it wouldn’t matter if it were Mozart. Any music used to wake me up gets dubbed as “obnoxious”. LOL
Me: 7. You spoke of the “viking-scene”, what have you done, musically and personally, that is “viking”? I mean besides Sverdet?
Kjell: 7: You spoke of the “viking-scene”…What have you done, musically and personally, that is “viking”? I mean besides Sverdet?
I started doing “Viking” back in 2000, when there were just a few of us traveling around. Since then, I have performed music, lectured about music in the ancient north and made copies of instruments from that time. When I lecture, I make it as a performance with stories and humor to make it interesting for the children (and of course their parents).
Unfortunately, It’s quite time-demanding and expensive to make good instruments, and people would rather buy cheaper machine made stuff than expensive handcrafts. For the performances: the audience pays to get in, so they shouldn’t have to pay extra for the show, but the markets never pay the artists based on what they deserve. So…I have to make other priorities now.☹
Me: 8. That’s quite understandable! What sorts of things (jobs) do you do to make ends meet? 9. How did you develop your merchandise design, and how did it wind up tatted on your arm? Which came first? The use for your merchandise or the tat on your arm?
10. Has having merchandise through a support service like ReverbNation helped you earn money for your personal financial bottom line? You have some nice looking things in your “store”, and I must admit, I’ve very much enjoyed the hoodie I ordered. (There’s a silly vid of me ‘modeling’ my hoodie on my profile.) Kjell Braaten’s ReverbNation Store
Kjell: 8. That’s quite understandable! What sorts of things (jobs) do you do to make ends meet?
Well, I work with disadvantaged youngsters, mostly teenagers. We take care of and help those that the child welfare doesn’t want. We try to give them a pathway back into the society, so they can be a part of it, not a burden for it, for the world around them. If you just stock them away, they will shrink down to a little ball that swallows our tax money, but with a little help, they can come back to the society to live a normal quality life like the rest of us.
9. How did you develop your merchandise design, and how did it wind up tatted on your arm? Which came first? The use for your merchandise or the tat on your arm?
Well, I’m not a designer, but I did make it myself. The tat is a drawing I made of Pan, the guardian of the forest, a long time ago. I started to use it as my personal mark about fifteen years ago, but it didn’t get to my arm before three years ago with the help of Tic at Phi Phi island in Thailand. He was ticked into my arm with a bamboo stick, a method worthy of Pan. 😉
10. Has having merchandise through a support service like ReverbNation helped you earn money for your personal financial bottom line? You have some nice looking things in your “store”, and I must admit, I’ve very much enjoyed the hoodie I ordered.
No, not really. It’s there, but people don’t buy things that way. When I have a live set and time for a tour, I will bring some with me, and then maybe I sell some….
Me: 11. I know I’ve concentrated on your career. I must admit to being hesitant to bring up your personal life. We’ve spoken as friends on and off for awhile now, so I know some. Is there anything about your personal life you’d like to add about how it has brought you to this point in your life?
Kjell: 11: I know I’ve concentrated on your career. I must admit to being hesitant to bring up your personal life. We’ve spoken as friends on and off for awhile now, so I know some. Is there anything about your personal life you’d like to add about how it has brought you to this point in your life?
Well, THAT’s a big topic…
Of course, that’s a whole lot. It would take pages up and down to explain. Every thing you experience takes you to a new level in the circle of life. That is, if you´re open for it….
Every little step you take brings you further. Some are big and some are small, but you need them all just as much to get the puzzle together.
Me: Your answer to question 11. is very true. I guess we should leave that subject alone.
Me: Thank you, Kjell, for spending this time with me. I do truly appreciate it. *HUGS!*
Kjell: You’re welcome:)
PS: My last question actually came some hours after the interview was over. Actually, there were two questions, but I just wanted to verify a fact with the other one.
Me: I saw on your profile a pic of a write up with your picture on it. How does it feel when you see something about you and your work?
Kjell: It always feels good to see those coming. 🙂
I’ll bet it does, Hon. I’ll bet it does!