Today we are joined by Norwegian author Thomas Enger to celebrate not the release of a book but of an album called Pure and Simple Vol 1. The album features Thomas playing the piano. Thomas hopes that everyone will find the music soothing and that it brings some peace in these testing times with many of us in lock down, socially distancing and dealing with the results of the Covid 19 pandemic. This release has been a dream come true for Thomas so I decided to ask him a few questions it and his musical background:
Can you tell me a little about your background in music? Is your family musical?
I started taking piano lessons at the age of seven or thereabouts, really not getting into it that much. I took classes until I was 13, but the last few years I never really practised, only when I was with the teacher. Needless to say, progress was slow, if any, and when I entered my teens, football and school and, ahem, girls became much more important. But I picked it up again when I was about 18-19, realising that I had a good ear for playing songs that I knew and had listened to. I never learned how to read notes, but discovering that my ears and hands were a good match … that was a true eye-opener for me. I started trying to put different and new chords and sequences together, realising that I could actually do that as well, which made me enjoy playing even more. I spent all the money I made one summer when I was 21, to buy myself a digital piano. It’s still the one I use today. Even if it cost a fortune back then, it was hands down the best investment I’ve ever made.
Neither of my parents are musicians or play any instruments, but I come from a household where music always has been very important. My mother used to tape recordings from the radio, for instance, making cassettes that we would listen to over and over. My parents also took me to musicals when I was at an age where it really wasn’t cool to like musicals, but I loved them and wasn’t ashamed of that at all among my mates. So I’ve grown up listening to all kinds of music.
What instruments do you play?
Piano, primarily. If forced I can also put together some chords on the guitar, but the good thing about technology, which I discovered throughout the years, is that you can access and play all kinds of instruments as long as your primary one can be connected to a computer. So I’ve done quite a bit of that as well, trying to orchestrate my songs and add beats and vocals and what-not. It’s a lot of fun, and very rewarding when it all comes together and it sounds quite nice.
What are your musical influences? What have you been listening to recently?
Oh, I listen to all kinds. When I’m exercising, for instance, I like to listen to something with energy. Right now The Weeknd’s latest album is on a lot. Just a few days ago I listened to Julio Iglesias. No, I’m not making that up. He has/had such a buttery voice, and some of his songs are just so melodic and beautiful. What I listen to mostly, though, is instrumental music. Hollywood scores. Composers like Hans Zimmer, James Newton Howard and Thomas Newman have been lifetime idols of mine. I’m constantly on the lookout for new artists as well. Yesterday I listened to Nils Frahm’s latest release, called Empty. Beautiful stuff.
Have you ever collaborated with anyone musically?
Yes, I have. In 2018 I released an EP with a wonderfully talented violinist here in Norway. Ingrid Berg Mehus is her name. Our collaboration is called Moods from Norway. You can find that as well on Spotify and Apple Music and all over, basically. I’d love to do that some more.
Do you have any musical ambitions?
I would love to compose for film and TV, for instance. That has been a dream of mine since God only knows when. I’ve also had this idea for a musical for many, many years, which I’ve made about two and a half hours worth of music for, but it’s a difficult and very expensive, not to mention time consuming project, to complete. This release, though, is something that I’m primarily doing for fun, although I’ve spent a lot of time tweaking and polishing it, to make it sound as beautiful as possible. But yes, composing is definitely something that is growing more and more important in my life, and I think I have a pretty good talent for it. And I do think people need some quiet, contemplative music in their hectic, sometimes stressful lives. I hope that I can contribute to that, if only in a small way. The title of the album, Pure & Simple, vol. 1, suggests that there will be a volume 2 somewhere along the line as well, and that I can promise right here and now.
What role does music play in your life now while we are in lock down? What is the situation like in Oslo and Norway?
I listen to and play music all the time, even when I write. I don’t know what I would do without it. I listen to music at least 6-10 hours a day. The lock down here is affecting everybody, of course, as we’re not supposed to be outside or in contact with neighbours and friends. Thankfully our country hasn’t been hit too hard so far, but it’s quite horrific to watch the news these days. I wish we could push the fast forward button and find ourselves at the other end of this.
Do you have any favourite musical memories?
Easy. Seeing Phantom of the Opera on West End in 1989. Changed my life. I’ve also seen Pink Floyd live in Oslo. That’s something I will never forget.
Why did you decide to release this album now as the world is experiencing this pandemic? Can you tell us a bit about the process of making this album and the hopes you have for it.
First of all, this album has been 25 years in the making, so to speak, as I’ve been composing since I was about 20. It’s something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time, even though the songs on Pure & Simple, vol.1 are quite recently composed. I think it’s more important than ever to have an escape from our every day lives, and music can help people achieve that. It can transport you somewhere, to a memory, a wish, a dream or a state of mind which may calm you down or elate you. I hope that Pure & Simple, vol. 1 can be a tiny contribution to help people stress down. That you can sit down and relax with a glass of something nice in your hand, and just close your eyes for half an hour and drift away. That sounds rather nice, doesn’t it?
Pure & Simple Vol 1 is available at these sites:
The album cover is designed by Linn de Lange.
Pure & Simple
The Dark Lands panel at Bloody Scotland. Lin Anderson, Miriam Owen, Ragnar Jonasson, Thomas Enger (on piano) Sept 2017, photo M.Wood