Saturday, September 3, 2011

This Is Norway: An interview with Rene Og Sa Videre (Baesj 74)

I first encountered Rene Og Sa Videre, and his musical project, “Baesj 74”, a few years back via the Knock Knock Records message board. Most of the people online seemed to think that a person claiming to be from Norway, who idolized Blink-182, and produced (or lack there of) weird minimalist songs, consisting of Norwegian accented vocals, choppy guitar, and pots and pans for drums, was a fake persona. But as time went on Rene produced too much circumstantial evidence against being an America playing pretend behind a keyboard, and was indeed a Norwegian creating what I would best describe as outsider music that combines elements of punk, noise, and acoustic folk, under the moniker Baesj 74.

I initially contacted him when Screeching Weasel announced the tracklisting for their last album “First World Manifesto”, with the idea that he write and record songs off of the same titles, before hearing the original versions, and release his version of the album the same day. Rene nixed the idea, but later agreed to do the same concept for the songs of bands playing the 2011 Insubordination Fest, in an effort to release a free album that would be found via a url listed in the Insubordination Fest Zine (look for it at the at the end of the interview).

After combing through song titles we settled on ten songs, “Black Friday” (originally by Iron Chic), “Brain Scrambling Device” (originally by Kepi Ghoulie), “Feels Like Dying” (originally by The Jetty Boys), “French Perfume” (originally by New Creases), “Navigation Point” (originally by The Dopamines), “Pentagrams” (originally by The Copyrights), “Regan McNeil” (originally by Emily’s Army), “Tour Boyfriends” (originally by Karmella’s Game), “Punk Rock Boy” (originally by The Potatomen), and “Robot Girl” (originally by The Quarantines), with the latter two song titles being combined into “Punk Rock Boy, Robot Girl”.

As warped fate would have it, a lot of the album, including songs like Black Friday and Feels Like Dying, was recorded on Friday July 22, during the terrorist attacks on Norway. Parts of the recordings came out very dark, and it was split into two versions. I called one “The Black Friday EP”, which I remixed (in true poor production Baesj 74 spirit), and cut up not to include some of the less serious songs. The other was called “The White Thursday EP” which is the original version Rene recorded.

The following is the interview I did with Rene after the EPs were finished:

D: What does Baesj 74 mean?

R: Shit 74. It actually is a pretty embarrassing name. I think a lot of people remember it though.

D: Does the number 74 have any significance?

R: No, but I don't think Bæsj 75 would have sounded as good.

D: Have their ever been other members besides you?

R: It's always been a one-man project. Though on one song called "Different Frame" I have guest performers.

D: Were you ever in a band?

R: I'm in a band, but we don't practice much and we haven’t written many songs.

D: They don’t play Baesj 74 songs?

R: We have tried playing some, but we haven't practiced since 2008.

D: Wow you weren’t kidding you don’t practice much. Are the others still aware you consider the band active?

R: Yeah.

D: When was your last show?

R: We haven't even played shows.

D: What do you use to record Baesj74 songs?

R: I use pro-tools and a soundcard on most of the songs. Sometimes I just make an EP on the laptop mic and ironically they usually sound better.

D: Didn’t you once use pots and pans for drums?

R: I mostly use candy and cookie boxes and I still do even on the new song “Navigation Point”. I got he candy box when I was four years old and started beating on it so it's always been kind of a nostalgic thing.

D: Is there any artist you could compare your music to? I feel like your sort of doing a Wesley Willis thing, in that it’s uncharted territory.

R: I don't think there is much I usually compare myself to, I'm not very good at recording so that and the fact that I use the unusual percussion makes it sound weird. I do enjoy what I've heard of Wesley Willis.

D: Do you have a page where all your stuff can be downloaded?

R: Not all of it, but I think the best stuff is on the Baesj 74 myspace and bandcamp pages.

D: Has anyone ever offered to put out a physical copy of your stuff?

R: I haven't got actual offers, but people have mentioned it ever since 2004, I don't think they are being 100% serious.

D: Was your new song “Black Friday”, or the tone of it, based on the Norwegian terrorist attacks?

R: When I saw the title, I googled it and found out it meant Friday the 13th, and could also mean Fridays that are related to tragedies. I found examples so the song had each verse about different days known as "Black Friday", each seen from the point of view of someone experiencing it. It was recorded a few hours before the terrorist attack. Having recorded it did creep me out afterwards, and a part of me wanted to delete it, but I think the message in the song is stronger than ever.

D: Was it recorded before the tragedy, or just written beforehand?

R: It was written and recorded before the tragedy.

D: Wow. What about the other songs, were they written and recorded before it took place?

R: I was recording "Feels Like Dying" when I heard about the bomb and I wasn't sure about how serious it was. I just kept recording the songs and I felt like I was in a state of denial, and when I heard about the shootings I went into a shock and stopped recording. and saved the rest for later. I felt weird about finishing the two last songs the next day, which were “French Perfume” and “Navigation Point” as the themes were light-hearted.

D: I think the recordings as a whole mark a turning point for you, like when your favorite band Blink-182 did their self-titled album; it was darker and more mature.

R: I tried to write a lot of acoustic tracks as I've always felt that I sounded more mature doing them. I think the lyrics go from serious (“Black Friday”) to not that serious (“Tour Boyfriends”). Your mix of navigation point actually reminded me of the style of Blink’s self-titled album

D: Yeah, Navigation Point was sort of like the Blink-182 song “Violence”, with the drum beat at least. And Black Friday, thematically, reminded me of The Clash song “Straight to Hell” in the way it interweaves all those historical moments. One of them in your song was about the Nazi attack on Norway during WWII right?

R: What I gathered from it was it was an attack from the allies on German boats, but they missed and hit Norwegian boats, and the Germans could continue to move their attacks. The narrator in the song is someone who has lost his boat and understands that the Germans should be fought, but the fact that they missed, and boats are sinking, and people getting hurt, just showed the meaningless of war.

D: Content wise that’s a lot different from what was being sung about on the past Baesj 74 songs, how do you think people will react to this?

R: The song “.... And The Tale Continues” from my EP "The Masterpeas" is a similar song, but it's not based on real events. I've always had some serious songs and some not so serious songs. I think I’m most known for the not so serious ones so it might surprise people.

D: Any other comments on your new recordings?

R: I'd just like to say I wonder if the bands that have the same titles will check out the song and how they will feel about them.

D: Well next year I’ll try to get them to write songs based on your titles.

D: Do you vote Labour party (the party targeted in the terror attacks)?

R: I did vote for them in the last election. I'm kind of all over the place politically, I've always felt centrist (though other places might consider a Norwegian centrist very leftist), but to me it was more important to not get a conservative government.

D: Is it a parliamentary system?

R: Yeah, there’s a seven party parliament. Technically it's a monarchy, but the King is more for tradition, similar to how it is in Britain.

D: What do you think about Glenn beck's comments?

R: His recent comments?

D: Yeah, about the kids killed in the Labour Party being like the Hitler Youth.

R: I read an article about it. I wouldn't even expect someone like him to say that, it's a pretty disgusting thing.

D: Yeah Glenn Beck’s an irrationally paranoid person, he’s actually a former addict, and it’s pretty clear he’s burnt out. He’s been parading as a newsman, but even Fox News seems to have gotten sick of his act. Do people like that exist in Norway?

R: Not one that is famous or that appears regularly, but there are definitely people that share his opinions who write in newspapers and blogs.

D: But they don’t get the platform of a major TV or radio station?

R: Definitely not. They would probably get to speak, but I don't think TV or radio channels would hire them or want anything to do with them.

D: Are most of the channels owned by the same parent companies like they are in America, or is the media more diverse?

R: Well we don't have that many TV channels. While a lot of them are owned by the same company, some are sent from other countries and are owned by companies in those countries, however the biggest ones are owned by the state, similar to PBS in America, but from what I understand way bigger. A lot of people are against paying extra taxes for it, but I think it's good to have a commercial free alternative.

D: Other than what just happened is there much depression over there? It’s always ranked at the top of the happiest countries.

R: Well I think seeing a psychiatrist is more taboo in Norway. I think that we’re a spoiled country that in many ways suffers from boredom. We make lots of money on oil, but there isn't much going on.

D: But the government is giving the people a lot right? Like education, health care, etc…

R; Yeah, the problems we are facing with all those are lines to get into them, but I'm glad that we get that. I've never been into any kind of national pride, but I think the way that the leaders have dealt with what happened on Friday has been good, and I agree a lot with the "Norwegian ideals" related to the case and how people are handling it.

D: How long is the wait for those services?

R: I'm not sure on the exact statistics, but there is a lot of critique especially when it comes to old people. Society has gotten healthier so people live longer, and old age is increasing. I'm sure it’s similar in most countries.

D: Yeah that’s true here as well. Is there much poverty in Norway?

R: It might be a guess, but I'd say less than in other countries. I don't think there are a lot of filthy rich people here, and there aren't as many under the poverty line. Norway isn’t considered the richest country, but I think its number one in how good people have it.

D: What’s is your impression of America?

R: 90% of interesting things are from America: rock n roll music, movies, food and drinks, it makes me want to visit and I think if I did it would be a good trip. I also like the "rags to riches" idea and a lot of the values when it comes to freedom, but there are a lot of political aspects I disagree with. I do think a lot of Europeans have an unhealthy view and wrong stereotypes of Americans.

D: What sort of stereotypes?

Q: I think a lot of Europeans think Americans are rednecks who know nothing about the rest of the world, which is ironic because I don't think Europeans know much about the rest of the world either.

D: Do they differentiate between the North and South?

R: Some stereotype everyone; others view the southern states differently from the northern. Yet they still watch movies from America and listen to music from there.

D: Will you ever come over to America?

R: I've always wanted to, it'd be a trip that would take lots of planning though and I don't think I have time now, as I am still a student. I'd like to experience first hand how it's like and how the people are like, I have met a lot of Americans in Norway.

D: What parts of the country would you want to see?

R: I'd like to see New York, even though I've heard a lot about their pizza lately that I've found weird. I'd also like to see the Midwest, places like Minnesota where there are a lot of Norwegian-Americans, the southern states where rock n roll first started, and California.

D: What part of New York pizza is weird?

R: It seems to be less common to put on toppings other than cheese and sauce on the pizza.

D: I guess the whole idea is that the slice should be long and thinly crusted so you can taste the cheese and sauce, but you can still get toppings on it. Do you like Chicago style pizza better?

R: I haven't had it. I've had Pizza Hut and I like that style of pizza the best, but I love all pizza. I just find it weird to not have toppings on it. The fact that it's a concept with crust, cheese and sauce and you can put about anything on it has always been my favorite part of pizza. The fact that a lot of Americans and Germans don't like ketchup on hot dogs is also something that I've found weird

D: I think that’s a Midwest thing. The Chicago style hotdog is sort of weird.

R: I first heard about it on Weasel Radio.

D: Yeah it’s a regional thing. Do you think the Northeast or Midwest has better punk bands?

R: Musically, I think that there have been a lot of good bands lately from all around the world. When it comes to pop punk I've always enjoyed the 90's style the best, but I also do enjoy a lot of the newer styles. I think that when there is so many bands few stick, but I think The Steinways and The Ergs! have stood out as the best bands of the last ten years, so I'll have to say the Northeast. Though I still think the best bands from the U.S. have come from California.

D: Is it common for Norwegians to speak English well?

R: It's pretty common to at least know a normal amount of English. We start learning English at age six or seven. There's a theory that countries like Norway and Sweden that never had a plan to become a leading empire, don't find it insulting to have English as a common world language.

D: Ok final question and I’ll let you go, do they show the Maury Povich and Steve Wilkos shows in Norway?

R: I don't think so; I haven't seen them at least. They might air on satellite channels.

D: Ok thanks for your time.

The Black Friday EP can be downloaded at,1

The White Thursday EP can be downloaded at,1