Bjørn Lynne is a multi-instrumentalist I discovered at MP3.com. And what a happy discovery it was!
Bjørn’s genre reminds me of that of a young Mike Oldfield. Very talented, with his music saying all that needs to be said. A great musician and composer, BjÃ¸rn is certainly an artist you will want to know.
In our exclusive interview with him, he tells us more about his career and direction. Don’t forget to visit his site at www.lynnemusic.com.
Guitar Noise: Could you tell us a little about your background, influences?
Bjørn Lynne: I guess I was influenced first of all by the fact that my dad was a music fan who always bought records and introduced me to 70’s bands like ELO, Genesis and many others. The music fascinated me and I would often spend entire afternoons just listening to this stuff. When I grew up I got into sympho-rock bands like Genesis (obviously), Yes, Rush, Marillion, King Crimson, Gentle Giant, etc. I used all my money on buying CDs and I had hundreds and hundreds of CDs with both super famous bands and acts like Queen, Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, Prince etc., but also a lot of quite unknown stuff like Rupert Hine (a major influence on me), Eloy, and dozens of other bands. Then I had a big jazzy period when I bought tons of jazz CDs, but it was a passing phase. :-) In the later years I have been listening to a lot progressive rock and I guess right now my favorite bands would be Dream Theater, Spocks Beard, Flower Kings, Discipline, Liquid Tension Experiment etc.
GN: Has the move to the UK made it easier for you, career-wise?
BL: Yes, I think so. There aren’t a lot of people in Norway, and everything is on a small scale. If nothing else, being in the UK has made it easier for me to get in touch with record labels and network with other musicians.
GN: You seem to be very productive, yet one would think that the sort of concepts you produce would take time. How long do you work on preparing an album?
BL: Well, I do it full time. And I don’t mean like some full time bands who record their album in 6 weeks, then go on tour for 3 months, and then spend 2 years playing golf before they get together again. It usually takes me about 12-18 months to do an album, although some of my projects overlap – i.e. I can sometimes start on a new, unrelated project before I’ve finished the previous one. So when my latest electronica CD was released, my next sympho-rock album was already well underway. And so on.
You can actually get quite a lot done if you work on it 8-12 hours every day and only take a couple of weeks off every year. Don’t believe the hype when the guys from Yes (or whoever) try to tell you that it took them 5 years to make an album. In actual fact, they spent 4 1/2 years fannying about with their expensive cars and walking around art museums, and then 6 months – max! – to do the album.
GN: Do your songs end up being different once recorded than the way you had originally written them?
BL: Not really. When I write a song I usually have a pretty good idea what I want it to sound like, and although I experiment along the way, it’s very rare that I end up with something completely different. However, there are times when I don’t even write a song first, I just start recording. I may tinker with the guitar and come up with a little intro. Then I’ll record that intro, right then and there. And while listening to it, it may trigger some new ideas, which I again try to record straight away. This becomes the “sketch” of the song, and if necessary I’ll go back and re-record some parts, but the majority of it will stay. In these cases, the writing and recording is one seamless process. However, most of the time, I write the piece first, and then start recording it without experimenting too much.
GN: The Timura Trilogy. Could you tell us why you set out to record this trilogy?
BL: The Timura Trilogy is a series of 3 CDs of “fantasy” style symhonic rock, a bit medieval inspired. The idea first came to me when I was reading the fantasy novel “Wizard of the Winds” many years ago, and I got really inspired to write some music for some of the characters and events in the story. Having done that, I kinda kept going because I enjoyed it. 5 years later I had finished a trilogy of albums featuring all my best music, and it felt like a great personal achievement. The 3 CDs in the Timura Trilogy are “Wizard of the Winds”, “Wolves of the Gods” and “The Gods Awaken”, and together they represent about 5 years of work on my part. It feels great to have finished it, and I’m not afraid to say I’m very proud of the end result.
GN: Was it difficult to get the author’s aproval?
BL: No, it wasn’t. I contacted the author Allan Cole personally and sent him some of the first music I did for the project. He loved the music and was as enthusiastic as I was throughout the whole thing. He became a big fan, and is probably my only famous fan. (laugh)
GN: Being multi-talented the way you are (guitars, bass, keyboards, percussion), > I imagine that by the time you bring in more musicians, the tracks must be quite complete?
BL: That’s right. By the time I bring in the guest musicians, the whole basic structure of the song is already there, and most of it is recorded. There are “gaps” where I want the guest musicians to play, and they fill these gaps. But unless the guest musician has asked for it, I try not to tell them what to play. I ask them to put their own style on their solos, to play what they feel is right. However the violinist and flautist are exceptions to this, because they ask me for the score and simply play, note for note, what I’ve written down for them.
GN: How old were you when you first started playing the guitar?
BL: I was very old! I guess about 26. I have only played guitar for about 4 years. Before that, I only played keys and drums, and used other musicians for all guitar work.
GN: Did you find it difficult to learn?
BL: No, I wouldn’t say it was difficult. But it would be wrong of me to assume that I “know” how to play guitar. I will always consider myself a beginner on the guitar, but I get by. I’m a long, long way from being a great guitarist.
GN: Which model guitars do you play and why? (What do you like about those specific models?)
BL: My first guitar was a Squier Fender Strat. I just walked into a guitar shop and said “I’d like to buy a cheap guitar, and some kind of “guitar for absolute beginners book”, please!”, and they gave me the Squier. I still have it, and use it occasionally. Actually, despite being cheap, it’s not that bad. My other guitar is a Gibson Les Paul, which has a warmer, rounder sound. I also have a Crafter acoustic with a “jumbo” size body, and my bass is a Yamaha active 5-string.
GN: Could you tell us more about your sound? (Effects, etc)
BL: I record everything straight to harddisk using Cakwalk SONAR software. I have a Wavecenter sound card with 10 digital outputs connected to a digital mixing desk, and another analog mixing desk that I use as a submixer for all synth- and related stuff. Even though I record to harddisk instead of tape, I try to keep things as “live” as possible. I deliberately stay away from too much “tweaking” inside the software. If there are minor glitches or timing problems, I leave them like they are. And if there are more serious problems, I hit “delete” and record again. I program the drum patterns when I write, but these are replaced by real played drums later. I bring in the drummer, and we do a marathon session where we record all the drums for a whole album, in a few days. I also try to add a lot of live percussion, I’ve got stacks of percussive things like shakers, tamborines, congas, bongos, djembe drum, sticks, bells, etc.
GN: About the future. What are your current plans for upcoming albums?
BL: I’m not sure yet. I’m writing some new material with a more “spacey” or “sci-fi” feel to it, but on the other hand, I’m also still writing some nature-inspired, acoustic fantasy sympho-rock stuff. The two types of songs probably won’t fit together on the same album. So I don’t know yet, what my next one will be. I’ll just keep writing and recording for a few months and see how it goes. For the last 5 years I have always known exactly what was needed, I had to write this-and-that for so-and-so project. So now it feels good to just write without preconceptions, just let the music go where it wants to, and see what happens.
GN: Have you found that moving to Proximity Records has been beneficial for your career?
BL: It’s hard to say. Both Proximity and my previous label Cyclops are small labels. It probably doesn’t make a whole lot of difference sales-wise. But I went to Proximity Records now, because the guy who runs it is a good personal friend of mine, and I know he works very hard and is very enthusiastic. I’m still on very good terms with Cyclops Records, the split was completely amicable. They are carrying my new CD as a distributor, and we are good friends.
GN: Does your MP3 site help a lot toward having your music better known?
BL: Yes, I think it does. It doesn’t lead to many direct sales (I’ve never seen an artist on mp3.com who actually sell a lot of CDs through that site), but I like to think that it leads to new fans and helps to add to the long-term fan base.
GN: Any plans for live shows?
BL: Not at this time. With me playing 90% of the stuff myself, the only way this could be done live would be (a) to set up a sequencer or backing tape, and just play along with it, or (b) put a big band together. The first option definitely a no-no for me, because I’ve seen those kinds of gigs where some guy sits and plays along with a tape, and I think it’s really really sad and embarrassing. So that’s definitely off. The other option is a possibility, and I’ve played in bands in the past, but I’m thinking it would take a lot of time and energy to get a band together, learn all the songs (and most musicians are probably not too keen on just joining a band and playing somebody else’s songs, without having any writing influence), and rehearse until everybody knows everything. The amount of sheer work that would go into this would mean that I would have to sacrifice other things, like writing new music, trying to promote the music, record new ideas, connect with the guest musicians, and so on. So anyway, for the time being, I don’t have any plans to do any live gigs.
GN: Any plans for Soundtracks?
BL: I would always be interested in soundtrack work. I have done some small bits and pieces, but nothing major. Should the opportunity come along, I would welcome it.