Bror Forsgren (The Lionheart Brothers, Jaga Jazzist, Silence The Foe) is making his solo debut at the age of thirty-four and he doesn’t go easy on anything. As the title on the great art deco-inspired cover indicates at first sight, Narcissus is a grandiose and uncompromising piece of pop music.
The album’s theme is centered on the big questions. Lost love, innocence and faith in God are all important elements in the universe Bror Forsgren has created for Narcissus. The arrangements are grandiose and intricate. Despite its “wall of sound” approach and several prominent musical guests (Lars Horntveth, Mathias Eick, Marte Eberson and others), the album still comes across as an intensely personal affair.
RockShot has been given an exclusive photo diary from Bror, charting the recording process and first solo performance of the Norwegian artist – and an in depth interview, giving an insight to the creative process, his future plans, and what being an artist in Norway is really like…
You come from Trondheim, what was the world like when you were growing up there?
I come from a small place called Klæbu (Klaebu) right outside of Trondheim in the middle of Norway. Trondheim is the third biggest city in Norway and is know for its magnificent cathedral which is the biggest one in Scandinavia. Growing up in Klæbu was actually great. My childhood was very protected and I was allowed to keep my childishness for a long time. Its a place with a lot of woods and nature around so I spent a lot my time running around in the woods. As many people from small places you have a lot of spare time with nothing much to do, so me and Fred (the drummer in Bror Forsgren) started playing music together and ended up forming The Lionheart Brothers.
What is the music scene like in Norway today. Is Oslo at the centre of it?
I think so yes. Well, there is a lot of stuff going on. I dont know how is today, but a couple of years back I know we had more concerts and shows in Oslo than Copenhagen and Stockholm combined. So it’s really a vibrant cultural city for its size. And there is a lot of bands and artists here. 90% of the music business is also located in Oslo, so many of the artists that have ambitions tend to move here. One of the reasons I chose to move to Oslo was that I felt like the whole music scene here in Oslo is backing each other. In Trondheim, when I was growing up, the music scene was really segregated. Rockers kept to themselves, metalheads to themselves, the alternative scene to themselves etc. I could never understand that, because I have never been a one kind of music guy. And also I work as a producer and run a studio, and Oslo is a good place for that because there is a lot of artists here.
You’re signed to the Jansen Plateproduksjon record label and management company. What did you have to do to get there and was it a difficult journey to get signed?
To be honest it was not difficult to get signed. It resolved itself quite naturally I think. Around 2011 I played with a duo called Mona & Maria whom Erik released on Jansen Plateproduksjon. I think it was the Øya Festival in 2011, and I played there with Mona & Maria. I met Erik backstage and I mentioned to him that I was working on a solo project and that I had been considering his label as a good home for my record. After that he kept in touch. I’ve always had a lot of respect for Erik Jansen how he puts out music he really likes and still makes the company run. There is not many of labels like that here in little Norway. And he also have some impact outside of Norway which is important to me. But at the same time I really appreciate to have a label I can just take a ten minute bus trip to meet. I’ve worked with a lot of bands with labels in other countries and I know the difficulties that can bring. I enjoy the benefits of having a label in the same city as I live in.
What era would you say your music is most influenced by?
I have to say the sixties. To me the sixties is the creative peak in pop/rock history. I think a lot of formulas and how to make good music productions got defined then. Just listen to The Beatles, Beach Boys, Carpenters etc. and you will hear how much of what they did still applies to pop music today. I also have a thing for the aesthetics of the sixties. I like the clothes, the furniture and colours etc…
Narcissus is a beautiful and complex record. What are the main themes that inspired some the songwriting, and do you have a personal favourite song of yours?
Well, the main theme is me (thereby the title Narcissus). My approach to this was that if I am really going to make a solo album, I should really try to dig into myself. And this is the approach to everything about the project. I was going to write everything myself, record everything myself, produce everything myself etc. Everything on the record was going to be on my own terms. You know, when I started to work on this project I had just recently quit The Lionheart Brothers (which had always been the band where I could do my own music) because I felt that I couldn’t do things my way anymore, and that was a big decision! So this time I was going to do it my way. I’ve always dreamed of writing a more classical album with big orchestrations. So that was also one of the main themes and I wanted the orchestral element to be one of the pillars in the music.
What current music are you listening to?
I have just recently had a Cocteau Twins revival. I listened a lot to them when I was younger but now I’ve really fallen in love with them again. I love the voice of Elisabeth Fraser and her melodies. It’s a band that will stay with me my whole life I think.
And finally, do you have any plans to tour in the future, and will this include a UK stopover?
Well, I’m doing a small Norway tour now, playing in Bergen and Trondheim this weekend. I’m also planning to do a bigger tour in Norway early next year together with a band called Band Of Gold. They also just released a record on Jansen Plateproduksjon. I really like their record!
There is not any shows booked in the UK yet, but Narcissus will be out in the UK in late October, so I really hope we can make it happen once the album is out. I’ve toured a lot in the UK before with both The Lionheart Brothers and Jaga Jazzist and I’ve always loved playing there. We always eat the best Indian food in Brick Lane when we play in London! I will actually play in London with Jaga Jazzist in November. I think we play at Electric Brixton on the 5th of November with Jaga Jazzist.
Photography supplied by Bror Forsgren. Interview with RockShot October 2015.
Here is the link to the album Narcissus http://www.jansenplateproduksjon.no/bror-forsgren-narcissus-digitallpcdmc/