Name: Even Helte Hermansen
Current Release: As part of Red Kite, a quartet with Bernt A Moen, Trond Frønes, and Torstein Lofthus, Even Helte Hermansen has just released Apophenian Bliss available via Rarenoise.
1. Gavin Bryars - Jesus Blood Never Failed Me Yet - the 1993 version with Tom Waits. Fantastic.
2. Jan Johansson - Jazz På Svenska. Equally fantastic.
[Read our Bernt A Moen interview]
[Read our Trond Frønes interview]
[Read our Torstein Lofthus interview]
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
Early on. We had a couple of acoustic guitars in the house. I didn't know any songs, so I would make up little ditties to have something to play.
The big one for me was Kiss. A friend's older brother would play and make me mixtapes. I was 2. Kiss was everything from that point on. I got some money for my birthday when I turned 4, went into the record store by myself for the first time, and bought Love Gun and Ace Frehley's solo album. The latter is on my top 10 list to this very day. The store owner was apparently laughing his ass off as I exited.
The same older brother would later introduce me to things like Ozzy, Black Sabbath, Faith No More, Sepultura and Morbid Angel - which are all some of my favourites today. There was also always music playing in the house. Dad would listen to stuff like The Beatles, The Kinks, Louis Prima and Little Richard, and I loved that stuff too. And I discovered Frank Zappa and Coltrane through a friend when I was around 12, and so we were off to the races!
For most artists, originality is preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you: How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice?
I would play along to records all the time. Kiss was perfect for that, and Sabbath, and Alice in Chains and Soundgarden etc. That's how I learned.
Then later on when we played in bands, I would always just try to play what I heard. Same thing now. I wouldn't always succeed (again, same thing now!), but it would be me hearing it, and that would be me. So for myself, I've never worried too much about it. You are the sum of everything you've heard, your tastes, your abilities and your limitations. And the more people listen to you, the more they're gonna know it's you. That applies to yourself too - the more you listen to yourself, the more you're gonna know what's you.
How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity?
I don't worry about it, but I know my own ideas. Sometimes too well. I recognize the composer, the player, the logic that I was hopefully going for. But the mirror isn't always your friend.
What were your main creative challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
I would say the craft itself. Still is, but over time a new challenge has become to not bore myself, especially with composing. I know my own ideas, I know what they are, I hear them all the time.
But that also means that it runs the risk of becoming predictable, at least to me. The challenge is to widen your horizons to avoid it.
As creative goals and technical abilities change, so does the need for different tools of expression, be it instruments, software tools or recording equipment. Can you describe this path for you, starting from your first studio/first instrument? What motivated some of the choices you made in terms of instruments/tools/equipment over the years?
I've always tried to reproduce the sounds I'm hearing in my head. Over time that has changed. I'm also easily bored, so I think I've more less tried everything under the sun at one point or another. And over time I've come to learn what does what in terms of guitar, to the point where most of what I'm using is stuff that I've put together myself. Many a butchered guitar in my wake!
Also, I got bored hearing the same open strings all the time, so I started tuning down. D was my standard for many years. But then one band was in Eb, another in C#, and eventually it got a bit impractical. So these days I'm mainly playing a baritone - one guitar to rule them all. It slows me down, but I enjoy the fighting.
Have there been technologies or instruments which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?
I'm always looking for ways to improve, but I'm old school and old fashioned, so no.
Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?
For me, collaboration is essential. Others are fine working by themselves, I am not. I might have an idea for something, but that idea is very often triggered by someone else. And others might think or respond differently than me. That is a good thing. It gives whatever it is more legs to stand on. It doesn't mean that it's always easy though.
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please. Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
If I'm at home - I get up usually somewhere between 4-7am (5-8 in the winter). There is no alarm clock, unless I have somewhere to be.
I make a cup of tea, usually green, check the news, pick up my guitar and start practicing. At that point it's usually something that doesn't require too much brain power, maybe technique, often while watching something unexiting on my laptop. With headphones, to keep everybody happy. That might last 30 minutes - 3 hours, depending on the day's schedule.
Then it's time for breakfast, usually two loves of bread, and more tea. Then I might be off to a rehearsal, or have to go somewhere. If not, this is when the real "work" starts. I'll work whatever I need to work on. Practice something hard, learn new music, compose etc. - things that requier concentration.
Then lunch somewhere around 13:00-15:00, more tea, and half an hour's break. Maybe check some emails. Maybe a workout. Maybe watch or listen to some British comedy. Maybe a trip to the shops.
Even more tea, and then back to work.
This time it might be more of the same, or switch from practicing to writing, or since this generally is when I do the most boring parts, maybe plane old paper work of some variety.
Then maybe dinner at 17:00-21:00. Be social. Or maybe soundcheck, a gig, or another rehearsal. If on my own, then typically some more practicing, writing, or some such 'til I'm beat.
Then maybe supper, maybe a beer, some more tea, maybe read something, watch something, listen to something. Then bed, get up, and do it all over again. Pretty boring really, but I like it.
I put my pants on like the rest of you, one leg at the time, except when I'm done. I don't make any gold records.
Can you talk about a breakthrough work, event or performance in your career? Why does it feel special to you? When, why and how did you start working on it, what were some of the motivations and ideas behind it?
Sorry, I can't. I have had none. Some good intentions yes, some slight successes yes, but no breakthroughs.
There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
The ideal state for me is when everything just flows. I'm connected to the other players, having a dialog. Tense, but relaxed. Playing hard, but not too hard. Not thinking too much. Not being too self-critical. Not being too self-aware. Just listening. Hearing everybody. Hearing everything. Reacting. Playing whatever comes to mind.
Music and sounds can heal, but they can also hurt. Do you personally have experiences with either or both of these? Where do you personally see the biggest need and potential for music as a tool for healing?
Sure. Music helps a party. Music helps a funeral. Music helps a chore. A scary movie without music, isn't scary. Music has helped me all my life in all sorts of ways. It's how I've met most of my friends. It makes me feel alive.
In fact, I went to a Motorpsycho show yesterday. They're of course really loud, and they both healed and hurt me!
There is a fine line between cultural exchange and appropriation. What are your thoughts on the limits of copying, using cultural signs and symbols and the cultural/social/gender specificity of art?
Knowing or learning about a culture can only be a good thing. Knowledge and learning is worthwhile for it's own sake, but can also help to put your own reality into perspective, which is another good thing. What you then do, or where the line is, I don't know. But at the very least it helps to go forth with good intentions.
Our sense of hearing shares intriguing connections to other senses. From your experience, what are some of the most inspiring overlaps between different senses - and what do they tell us about the way our senses work?
I don't know. They all pull together, don't they? I know there have been records that have been completely ruined for me because the cover was so bad, even though the music it self was fine.
I find it very interesting that there are some foods that smell awful, but taste great, like certain cheeses. I can't think of similar thing in regards to music or sound. Maybe a big, tall, butch guy with a high pitched voice, or a small, sweet, young woman with a low, gruff voice. I haven't seen many Disney movies for I while. It would be interesting to see what would happen were they to replace all their soundtracks with Slayer or Cannibal Corpse. I know I would probably enjoy them much more.
I love the fact that my given field, music, can't be touched. You can touch an instrument. You can see and touch the sheet music. You can read the waveforms. You can buy the CD or vinyl LP. You can feel the vibrations and hear the sounds, but that's it touching you. And then it's gone, poof! (laughs)
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?
Art can absolutely be purposeful in that regard. I enjoy and relate to a lot of that kind of art, but that's not what I do. I am socially and politically aware, but my art isn't, beyond the fact that I'm not that into people taking themselves too seriously, and I like to have a little fun at their expense from time to time.
What can music express about life and death which words alone may not?
The joys and sadnesses of life? What it is to be human?