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Morudes

Two Norwegian boys, brothers on top of it, who happened to get in touch with the blues at a very young age and never let it go. This may sound a bit far fetched, but that’s just what Morudes is: a guitar, drums, a fuzz pedal and lots of blues and rock ‘n’ roll. Does that sound like White Stripes? Henrik and Amund Maarud know that, and Jack and Meg White have definitely served as examples for their band. We talked with them about their love for the blues, what happened on the road with some rough American blues guys and much more. They were pretty talkative, so take a seat and enjoy the interview!

By: Jan-Simon | Archive under bluesrock

Thank you for taking time to answer a few questions. Over here in the Netherlands you are not known at all (although the album is getting good reviews), so I hope you can help us get to know you a bit more. I understood the two of you have been making music together since childhood. Can you tell us about your earliest musical endeavours?
Amund: Hi, and thanks for having us.

Henrik: Yeah, we started pretty early, I think I was about 4 years old when I started hitting on cardboard boxes, buckets and pots, pretending to be Peter Criss.

Amund: Our grandfather made me a Stratocaster out of plywood and fishing-lines, and not much later we started fooling around with real instruments. Our first gig was at the age of six and eight at the local mall, it was great fun and we knew immediately that this was what we wanted to do.

Henrik: “We spent every hour in the basement, jamming just the two of us, trying to sound like a whole band.

Amund: We still do that…haha…

Henrik” Yea, we still try to sound like a band haha.. There were no kids in our area really that were into music, we were the outsiders kind of, everyone else were into sports. like football and stuff…

Your musical roots obviously are in the blues. What made two Norwegian boys turn to that genre? Did your parents play a role in your musical education?
Amund: I saw a clip of Buddy Guy on Swedish television, one of the two channels we had. I think I was around seven or eight years old, He was playing “First time I met the blues”, and that was literarily what happened haha, it totally blew my mind. He put so much energy and nerve into it, so wild and yet soulful. I started to ask around to get cassettes, and that’s when I started to dig into the blues. I listened to everything I could get hold of.John Lee Hooker, Freddie King, Stevie Ray of course… tried to imitate and play along to it, and it really spoke to me as a kid.

Henrik: It was a huge contrast to what we were exposed to at the time… Wow, late 80’s early 90’s music haha… We were trying to navigate through a pretty awkward range of music, our mom used to play accordion, our dad used to play in a 60’s dance band and while we were kids rehearsed with his Neil Young – CSN – band, at the same time awful 80’s pop like Toto and Petshop boys was on the radio constantly. We had one music store 20 minutes away, we saved up money to buy CD’s and cassettes if we couldn’t record what we wanted of the radio.

Amund: You couldn’t just go to Youtube and see a tutorial or a rig run down haha.

Henrik: I remember the guy in record store, a local guitar hero, showed me ‘Live At Leeds’ by The Who, I didn’t get it at all at twelve, when I turned twenty-one I thought it was the best record ever, I still do.

Amund: Yeah, it could have gone in pretty much any direction I guess, but the blues appealed to us as something that felt real and, fairly manageable and interesting to dig into. Our parents backing us up, letting us play every day and night, even when they had people visiting, that really made a difference.

Talking about the blues, what do you prefer: the more classic country blues or the electric (Chicago) blues pioneered by guys like Howlin’ Wolf and Willie Dixon?
Henrik: It is both very wild and organic in its own ways. Country- and delta blues is real storytelling, you really listen to the story and how it is told through the voice and the guitar. It’s like: ‘Hey listen goddamit, this is important…!”

Amund: It’s like you have no choice than to play this song, tell this story” As I think about, that might have been what appealed to me, how we grew up on a farm. I mean, it wasn’t exactly hard living or anything like that haha, but we had the understanding of how hard work in some situations was the only thing that mattered and how some things just needed to be done. Blues is the same way I think, there’s no easy way out or something you can choose not to do, at least I always felt it had to be done somehow..”

Henrik: We were lucky to hang around with some real bad ass legends from the American blues scene as we were part of the house band at Muddy Waters Blues Club in Oslo in our early twenties. That was a great time, we’d get yelled at by people who played with BB King and Buddy Guy, they would go: “do like this, no no… this is how you wanna do it.. haha…”.

Amund: It was a fun time, we did five-six nights every week. I remember we did a gig with a well-known blues artist from New York. One night after the show we were going down town for a drink. I offered him a lift in my ‘87 Mazda pickup. I don’t think he was too impressed when we put his ‘52 Les Paul Gold Top on the back bed of that car in 20 degrees below Celsius hahaha.

Henrik: Some of those guys could get pretty upset with Amund, they would give him a solo and he would take it seriously, make it count and play like a maniac, like he usually does haha. I mean, the crowds went crazy and of course when that stole someone’s spotlight, it didn’t always play well.

Amund: It might have been one of Muddy’s sons, I don’t remember, that leaned up to me after a solo I did and said; If you do that again I’m gonna fucking shoot you!”

Henrik: We found out later that he did actually did shoot a guy once…

Amund: It was his drummer I think haha. Yeah, those guys weren’t used to not wearing a gun around, so I might have been lucky once or twice.

Henrik: Now, this is real blues talk haha. To answer your question, I listen to a lot of Son House and Lightning Hopkins, Albert King, Johnny Guitar Watson - there’s so much that I used to listen to earlier, that I still go back to, even if what I listen to changes a lot from time to time I still go back to some tracks that really stuck if you know what I mean. I think music is at its most interesting peak when bands try to imitate something and don’t really pull it off or it’s not clear to everybody at the time what they are doing. Like early English blues bands, they came up with their own really interesting mixture, because they were reaching out for something they couldn’t copy a hundred percent, trying to be a Mississippi or Chicago blues combo. It’s the same thing when Earl Palmer invented the backbeat, they were trying to figure out what was going on in this song, he tried something new, and rock ’n’ roll changed after that. Then if you listen to early Fats Domino, when he’s still playing kind of a swing rhythm over a flat four, now that’s really interesting. That mixture of ideas and sounds can make it really interesting, so early electric blues, sure it’s great, it’s really something else.

Amund: That’s what I love about Cream and Stones, it’s their own take on stuff they like, and it’s become their own unique sound.

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The new record ‘Sinister Beat’ is often referred to as your debut. That is correct when looking at you as a duo, but it certainly is not your first record as artists. How does ‘Sinister Beat’ differ from your work with previous bands?
Amund: I guess you’re right, it’s not exactly our first record together, it’s been a few.

Henrik: Ten or eleven?

Amund: We’re not nostalgic, we move forward all the time. This was a very important record to release. To play together, making noise just the two of us is the most meaningful thing we do. In many ways we started as a duo when we were kids, and the two of us have been the backbone of pretty much every musical concept that we’ve done. We have had different bass players and band members through the years, but the two of us have always kept it together.

Henrik: With ‘Sinister Beat’ we were able to capture that sound of the two of us in a room, how it sounds when we play together. We’ve officially started to do gigs as a duo back in 2010 and had ideas for an album back then, but we weren’t quite satisfied with how it translated to tape. It came out as very raw and unpolished garage-ish, and we wanted to be able to have a wider span of dynamics. When we teamed up with Erlend, our producer, we started experimenting with leaving all the leakage and the entire ambience in there, and not filter out the low-end. Stuff you would normally do to make space for all the instruments. This developed a very cool sound where you can hear more layers into the drums and guitars, as if there were more than just the two of us.

Amund: There is almost bass coming out of the guitar amp if you don’t EQ it out, it sounds richer and fuller that way, and with the ambience it gets less aggressive and that way you maybe stand to listen to it more than once, haha.

Henrik: Our studio is pretty much analog and based upon many of the pre-amps and microphones that you would find on a lot of records from the 60-70’s. That reflects our work methods as well. We barely overdub the guitars for instance, we usually track one, with maybe two or three amps and make it fill the specter of bandwidth dedicated to it, instead of overdubbing four five times and every time loose more dynamics and fatness. It is all recorded in one big room, with very little separation. That creates bleed in-between the instruments. You can hear the snare buzz in the guitar intro haha…

Amund: We’re very much used to jamming together, improvising, following and leading each other.

Henrik: Some tracks on this album is based on the two of us playing together for hours and hours, and then taking out the most interesting parts and then building songs from those parts.

Amund: Yeah, and other tracks were more or less finished songs that we already had tried out live before we recorded them. I guess the biggest difference is having a producer that we work well with, that we trust.

Henrik: That helps us focus on our instruments and the playing.

Amund: We are used to produce everything our selves. It can be fun, but it can also be really stressful at times. So it’s a lot different from what I have done with my solo albums for instance, where I would go to the studio, not only with a finished written song, but also with a demo where I play all the instruments. It felt good to play ball with both Erlend and Henrik on this record.

The two of you played in a seven piece band, which must have been quite different from your current, very basic set-up. How does this compare? Do you sometimes miss a bass or a rhythm guitar?
Henrik: I spoke to our old bass player the other day, after I gave him the vinyl. He was joking and saying: "It’s great man, I’m playing along to it all the time haha..”.

Amund: No, I don’t miss it right now musically, not really, I feel like this duo is standing on its own feet and has its own characteristic sound. There are so many opportunities in the limitations of being just the two of us. Every note counts, and we have to pay attention to how we build the songs in ways of playing so that you don’t feel like there is something missing. Socially it’s a whole different thing. To travel around with six-seven wildly entertaining guys in the van like we used to, that sure was fun as hell, and we miss that.

Henrik: Somehow a lot of the safety net is missing when you go on to play a huge festival stage, only two people. You’ll have to trust each other and relay on what you're doing and that no matter what it’ll be all right.

Amund: At the same time you’ll have to take the risk, really put the energy into it, go for it and be willing to fuck up, if not your just not pushing it enough.

Henrik: I heard a ski jumper once say that it doesn’t matter if you fall if you do the longest jump.

Amund: I couldn’t agree more, and the funny thing is that even when we go in totally different directions when we’re jamming, it rarely sounds like a fuckup, most of the time it just gets interesting somehow haha. Wild and untamed…

The question or remark you probably get (too) often, must be if you do not get tired of the inevitable comparison with other duos like White Stripes or the Black Keys. Was it something you anticipated when starting out with Morudes?
Henrik: If we get tired of being compared to some of the best bands in the world? Not really haha. Sure we’ve listened to anything that Jack White has ever done, he’s a huge inspiration when it comes to fusing old school thinking with a modern approach, not to mention Dan Auerback. Their both tone masters.

Amund: For sure, we’ve actually shared stage with Black Keys twice and I had the privilege of meeting Dan, what a great guy, truly dedicated to what his doing.

Henrik: I think a lot of duos take advantage of being a duo, if you get me. They play more or less like they would do if they were playing in a band, but it’s only two people. That makes it very feral and untamed, somehow risky, and it’s easy to compare it to early blues bands with no bass player. Our idea is more to try to sound like a whole band, fill out the parts and the sonic spectre.

Amund: It’s a way of playing that we’re used to, it goes back to when we were rehearsing songs as a duo when we were kids. You play the rhythm AND the riffs haha…

Henrik: Again, this is what we’re trying to do, and I guess it’s up to the listener to decide if it really works.

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Another similarity with White Stripes is that I see many pictures of you guys wearing some sort of uniform. At least dressing in the same working cloths. Is it a way to identify yourself as a working class band?
Henrik: The idea was to wear something on stage that you don’t usually wear, so that the feeling of putting on that suit would be like an Elvis Cape, the suit is on, now it’s happening haha.

Amund: Haha, yeah, we didn’t find the right Elvis capes on Ebay haha. We grew up on a farm and spent a lot of our childhood in matching suits, we have a lot of pictures, so we figured that it would be the most natural thing to wear matching suits on stage. It’s a work mentality to it, and the suit fulfils that illusion somehow.

When we think of music from Norway, (garage) blues rock is not the first thing that pops up. For us Norway is synonymous with extreme metal like Darkthrone and Enslaved or other bands that are not considered mainstream such as Motorpsycho and Turbonegro. Are they considered out of the mainstream in Norway as well and how do you see yourself in comparison with such bands?
Amund: Kvelertak is another example of great musicians touring the world right now, building an audience, it is truly exciting times in the Norwegian music scene. I’ve more or less lost track of what is mainstream or not, it seems like mainstream trying not to be mainstream, right? More aggressive rock and different styles of metal has become a huge thing here, at the same time you don’t hear bands like that on the radio every day.

Henrik: I wouldn’t say that the bands you mentioned are mainstream in a Norwegian context, I mean, I think they appeal to a lot of people, but I still think it’s a dedicated fan group that follows them. I love Motorpsycho and I really admire how they show true dedication and persistency to what they do, year after year, and that really affects the audience.

Amund: It seems like Jazzfestivals actually are into what we do these days, and I think that kind of shows that our music speaks to a broader audience now, but I think it takes time to dig into our music and because of that it might not be mainstream. I don’t know.

Henrik: I agree, and there’s the comparison I guess, I believe the bands you mentioned, especially Motorpsycho, play music you have to really dig into, and I think our music also require some of that digging maybe.

You play at large festivals in Norway, are awarded prizes. Are you considered mainstream in Norway?
Amund: I don’t know, but I guess not. It’s not pop music and it’s not a classic rock act, it’s a mixture of different stuff, so people don’t come to our shows because of some hype, they come because they’ve listened to the album or they might have been interested in our other projects earlier and followed us for several years”.

Henrik: It’s funny actually, a lot of people that used to be really into The Grand, are slowly coming back to us through the duo now, and I think that is great thing.

Amund: Festivals seem to have a broader audience than a typical club, and I guess that’s why we will play both, Blues – Rock and Jazz-festivals this summer.

You have been quoted as describing your music as psycho desert rock. What should we understand by that?
Amund: As mentioned earlier, it’s all a mixture of different things we like. The psychedelic influences are based on Jimi Hendrix, early 13.th floor elevators and Dungen (SE) among others. The desert part, well, it’s merely a way of empathizing the groove element of the album, which comes from being inspired by amazing artists like Bombino and Ali Farka.

Henrik: Those rhythmic melody patterns that almost feels hypnotic, it’s so cool.

Amund: We don’t have much desert in Norway, maybe we should call it «plow furrows-rock» or something haha. We try to make it our own and we’re inspired by our rural surroundings. A lot of music from Norway takes in the silence and chaos existing in our nature, I guess.

Are there other Norwegian bands you have more affinity with?
Henrik: There are so many great bands right now, and we’re lucky to know a lot of them. We did a show together with Bushmans Revenge earlier this winter. They do impro jazz-rock, and they’re just mind blowing players. We decided to play together again, and maybe do some recording together. In February we’ve invited a desert blues band from Finland to come over and play with us, that will be very interesting. They play real hypnotic trance blues and sing in their own language, just great stuff.

What do you think of current rock trends? Do you think Morudes fits in with the hip music scene?
Amund: It seems like what used to be addressed as rock, now leans more towards metal, and a softer more Americana thing is dominating what’s not pop-music here right now. I wish there could be a new punk wave, because we need some young voices with more temperature and anger I think, it’s all so comfortable and soft now.

Henrik: I don’t think we’ll ever be hip haha, but hopefully we contribute to the antidote of electronic music and sing-back bullshit and appeal to people who really likes drums and guitar music.

Amund: People who can really appreciate a good fuzz pedal haha.

Is listening to music as important to you as making music? In other words are you guys record collectors?
Amund: I just got my turntable all hooked up now, so I will start collecting I think. I listen to music as much as I can when I’m not in the middle of a studio project or something. But it’s usually streaming.

Henrik: I’m not a collector, I’ve bought a few vinyls through the years but I don’t have the room or the persistency to extend that hobby. Some periods I listen to a lot of music, and then some days after long studio hours I just can’t, my ears get warm haha. I usually don’t listen to music when I’m creating something, either writing or producing in the studio, because that makes it harder to grab onto your own ideas. It’s so easy to spin off and loose track of your idea.

Amund: When I am in a process of writing, I don’t listen to music, but usually the inspiration comes from a period of listening a lot.

Suppose that you were allowed to keep only five records, what would be the music you absolutely cannot throw away?
The Who – Live At Leeds
Jack White - Blunderbuss
Queens Of the Stone Age – Songs For The Deaf
John Lee Hooker – Boom Boom
BB King – Live At The Regal

From what I read, I understand that you are well known in Norway only and that ‘Sinister Beat’ is the first effort that got attention outside your home country. Have you never tried to reach beyond Norway before, or is it something that just happened?
Amund: 'The Grand' had some attention abroad, and we have toured some countries through the years, but the difference now was that we got a lot of feedback on this record, especially from the press in Germany.

Henrik: Yeah, we had the possibility to release this record in Germany and Benelux this time, with our earlier records we did not have the same contacts we have now.

Amund: So this time it all started with the record, and hopefully we get to come and play live for you any time soon.

How likely is it that we get to see the two of you in Europe this year?
Henrik: Hopefully it will be possible later this year.

Amund: Yes, we just started working with a booking agency now, and if all goes well, we’ll be coming over this year.

Is there anything – apart from good music – you cannot do without? Or things you’d like to get rid of immediately? Does this in any way affect the music you create?
Henrik: We’re both blessed with great families, and of course we couldn’t do without them.

Amund: We’re just lucky to be able to do what we love to do, and the rest is just stuff like cooking dinner, taking out the trash. You gotta do that too.

Henrik: Basically the life you live will in one way or another affect what you create, and ironically bad experiences potentially leads to great songs and stories. You’ve had a few Amund?

Amund: Haha.. I don’t know if they were great songs, but it was real life I tell you.

Thank you for your time. Any final words or wise thoughts you would like to share with our readers?
Henrik: I can’t think of anything special... Just be kind to each other and don’t support Trump!

Amund: That, and thanks again for reaching out to us, we really appreciate it.

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