Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Eight questions with Vidar Norheim

(c) Mark McNulty
1. Who is Vidar Norheim? (a short introduction) 

I grew up in Molde, Norway. I went to university in Liverpool and fell in love with the place and stayed. I joined Wave Machines and that kept me busy for a few years whilst also working with Lizzie Nunnery on albums and music for theatre. This project includes everything I love about music - playing live, producing, songwriting, playing vibes, singing…

2. When was the EP recorded and where? If there is an interesting story behind how you and any producers & session players met and started playing together, please do share. 

All the songs on the EP started as home demos. I bumped into Tord Overland Knutsen on a flight back to Norway before Christmas where he asked what Wave Machines were up to. The band were in hiatus mode so I asked if he was up for working on some of my tunes and kick them into shape. Tord is mega busy with other projects such as the Wombats and we met up whenever he had a chance in their studio. We only ever grabbed a day or two but we used them really efficiently. I asked Daniel Woodward in Whitewood studios to mix the tracks. He mixed live soundsfor Wave Machines and worked on an album and EP with Lizzie Nunnery and I. After Tord moved to Norway I wanted to try another producer in Liverpool so I asked Dave Berger of Outfit if he would produce a track for me which became 10 More Miles. Working with him in his studio was brilliant as well. There aren’t many session musicians on the EP but Laura J Martin is guesting on flute on Blind Carbon Copy and Crystalised. We met during Bright Phoenix a play we performed in the Liverpool Everyman and I’ve since played in her band.

3. Under what genre/s do you see yourself as operating? Do you combine multiple sources of rhythmic inspiration when composing your loops or is there a core influence? How does your previous project with Ms Nunnery enter into the latest solo work and how do you find the balance between the two? 

I usually call it alt-pop. It’s hard to be specific about inspiration but generally I love loops that sound home-made and have something organic and unusual about them. I love how brave Sufjan Stevens can be with his beats and how organic The Notwist loops can sound. I include improvisations in my live sets too and I invite guest musicians as much as possible. The project with Lizzie is ongoing and she helps me out lyrically when I’m running on empty.

4. How did you come across the Buyers Club venue in Liverpool? When we discussed shows, you were also looking at some more alternative spaces in Liverpool... Will you be planning gigs in any particularly strange spaces like forests/caves/castles, or the Norwegian churches we see in several locations around the UK?  

I did my first gig with this project in the Buyers Club earlier this year for a refugee benefit. The room has great history as it used to be The Picket, an iconic left wing music venue. Liverpool has some amazing spaces and one I’m currently interested in is the High Park Street Reservoir in Toxteth which is a massive decommissioned Victorian water reservoir. I’ve also always pictured a festival in St James Park - the grounds of the Anglican Cathedral in Liverpool. A tour of Norwegian Seaman’s churches is not a bad idea! The Nordic church in Liverpool is great and gets used quite a lot for gigs these days. I played in the one in New Orleans a few years ago and I’ve got friends who have played most of them across the world…

5. What will 2017 hold for Vidar Norheim: an album perhaps or are we being too eager? 

I’m definitely gonna work hard to follow this EP with an album hopefully in the second half of 2017. I’m currently writing music for a feature film called A World After which should see the light of day in 2017 too. And then there are two theatre projects I’m involved with. Play with songs Narvik by Lizzie Nunnery (produced by Box of Tricks) opened in Liverpool last year and will do a national tour in Feb/March 2017 to theatres in Manchester, Keswick, Shrewsbury, Liverpool, Canterbury, Harrogate and more. There’ll also be another exciting theatre project with dates to be announced soon.

6. Could you describe your experience of working on such a large & complex instrument as the vibraphone? What are the practicalities when it comes to transport and finding spare parts if anything is damaged? We recently worked with Luke Daniels who revived one of the original Polyphon instruments into a gig-worthy state, with funding help from PRS For Music, so we’re fascinated by ancient & complicated instruments and the ways in which they can be regenerated & even enhanced using tech. 

I was drawn to the vibraphone at my music college in Norway. At the time I mostly played classical and jazz pieces so it’s taken me a while to finding a place where I can use it outside those genres. I’ve got an old Trixon set which apparently is from the 50s. The original owner was really sweet and said he used to play it in a dance band in the London area. It is amazingly durable and packs up and down easily. It isn’t much more gear than a drummer or bass player would bring to a gig. There’s a place in Liverpool called Jam Percussion that have helped me out with some spare parts and then there’s always eBay. I’ve heard of people adding pickups to the vibes but I use it acoustically or with effects on the mics, sometimes hitting it with a mic like on the 10540 track. I also have a MalletKat which is a midi vibraphone so I’ll be adding that to the setup soon as well. That will free me up to play any sound and to move between the two instruments easily.

7. Are you planning to experiment with a bigger band sound, an electric sound, an orchestral sound, any time soon? We love the looping you employ - it’s a joy to see one person deftly handle the roles of drumming, vibing, singing and looping - and we’re curious to know how that’ll grow or be replaced by additional performers on stage (or what aspects you’re expecting to keep as they are).  

I’ve got a few musicians in mind that I want to work with when the time is right. At the moment I’m enjoying how uncomplicated it is to organise a rehearsal and to go on tour. But the ambition is definitely to play with more people, either as collaborators or session musicians. I’m also keen to include visuals in the live set and have been talking to artist Scott Spencer about possibilities.

8. What does your dream gig look like?  

Taking over a space with brilliant acts, mini festival, great sound, great visuals. Wave Machines did some brilliant shows called Wave If You’re Really There in collaboration with arts organisation Mercy and it would be fun to be part of something like that again.

Vidar Norheim plays shows for us in July and August, including an EP launch show at Liverpool's Buyers Club on 25th August. Tickets for that show are available here for just £4, and you can see the other dates here!

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