Just before Gazpacho walked on stage of the O2 Academy Islington on November 1, 2015, I had the pleasure to sit down with Thomas Andersen for an enlightening chat on music, quantum physics and the end of the Universe. Here’s the full transcript of our conversation.
G: How do you choose the setlist for the concerts?
T: In this case we’ve chosen only 4 tracks off the new album as we know the album was released quite close to the tour and Gazpacho’s album tend to be the kind of stuff you need to listen to a few times before you get it. And nothing is worse than coming to a gig and having to stand for twenty minutes and listen to new complicated music. So we try to keep it to the very important songs from the new album, Molok with a mixture of all the old stuff, people are hopefully more into them, they are more in love with and we haven’t done for a while. At least we try to keep it a mix, because some of the songs are slow and moody, so we’ll try to get some rock and roll in there as well, to keep people awake (laughs).
G: I know this is the first tour you’re playing the whole song Death Room live. What are the difficulties of playing this song live? I read that you didn’t do it last year because it was too complicated.
T: It was too complicated for the same reason this year songs, because Demon was so new, and it’s such a complicated song melodically and musically so we thought I might bore a lot of people who came along to check us out for the first time. It was hell on earth to rehearse, but it’s been working out quite well live and in the middle of Death Room there’s a folk music section which is supposed to be in the street, during that piece our bass player plays the tuba, Mikael plays the ukulele and I play the melodica. I think that will break in the middle of what could become this long boring track. It’s hell on earth, but it works.
G: Is there any specific song that you love playing live more than others?
T: At this moment it’s the song Molok Rising, which is the last song on the album, Molok. And the song contains the code that can destroy the universe and when we do it live it builds a lot better live then it does on the album and when we play it together live it creates something which is different from what’s on the album. It’s my favourite song, both on the album and playing live.
Q: I love the final part with all the bells and stones.
A: Yes, and it’s an amazing moment on the stage as well.
G: Where did you take the idea of Molok, when did you come up with this specific idea?
T: I saw the Islamic patterns on the wall in the Alhambra Palace in Granada, and I wanted to create an album, a piece of music and then add to it, add to it and add to it, in order to create something more and more complicated for about an hour’s time into this grand building of music. The patterns made me think of all these big stone buildings that were made in the name God and the only thing that never appears on these is God himself. And then I started thinking that if we live in a Godless universe then it has to follow a mechanistic universe of rules and physics and if that was true, then the morals would just be wrong ideals and you and me would just be chemical reactions really talking to each other. To me that’s a very depressing look at life and then when I watched a documentary on quantum physics and understood what happens when you measure the universe, you change the universe by measuring it, and that made me think of the story of Adam and Eve in the garden when they eat from the Tree of Knowledge and how maybe we can take technology so far that we did into artificial intelligence and all these problems that we’ll be facing in the next 50 years and I though would it be possible to actually try to destroy the universe on an album? Because, if there is no God, would that be actually a morally wrong thing to do? Cause there would be no morals, except for human morals, but what the hell are they? Humans are just a chemical reaction like the bacteria on the wall, so basically how it all grew into Molok, started with the Islamic patterns.
G: How is Gazpacho’s music evolving. From the beginning, how has it changed so far?
T: I’ve never know it was going to evolve, but I do know that we are less and less scared of experimenting, because we feel very safe, because when we think it’s good other people will think it’s good, cause we’re all basically the same I think. And Gazpacho is a perfect musical vehicle that you can throw any idea into, because we are not a rock band, we don’t have to make rock music, we’re not a blues band, we’re not a folk band. We don’t have any defined style, and I think the sign of our sound is the voice and the way we make melodies is instantly recognisable, which means we can do anything we like, that also means that we can keep on experimenting in a way that we can take music to other places that not many other go, because with twenty million bands in the world at the moment. It’s great that we can try and take music to new places.
G: What does it take to keep on doing great music, album by album, year by year? I see lots of bands that start greatly and then go down, they lose the sparkle.
T: I think as long as it is something that is the main focus of your head and as well as there’s nothing hurting it like bad relationships with band members and as long as there is a flame inside, then I think it’s possible to continue. And in my day job I make music for commercials, jingles and tv commercials and documentaries, and stuff, so with my day job I make a lot of cheer poppy music. I think it’s a great other place where I can put other stuff that I can’t do in my work. That means that there are always musical ideas that keep on flowing around the head, there’s a lot of music being made all time, that’s what we do cut out 50-60% of the stuff we make because we don’t think it’s good enough. So we keep a high level of production going all time, I think it’s another secret. If you work on something and it doesn’t work out and grows cold, you can never put the heat back into it. Either it comes now or you have to let it go.
G: Where do you see Gazpacho in 10 years?
T: I think exactly the same situation that we’re in now. We’ll continue to make albums, I think our reputation will grow, hopefully, I think a lot of the older albums will be discovered by new people who hear about us when new ones come along; but basically I think everything will be exactly the same that is now. And I hope that we’ll be sitting here in ten years.
G: I really hope, cause I believe people need to start listening to great music, I mean speaking about mainstream.
T: I think it will happen because at some point the public has to become bored and saturated with stuff that is made only for just selling albums. There will always be a need for people doing other things, and there will always be subcultures. This market that we are in will always be there, there’s nothing that can ever damage it and it can only grow. So I think the future looks very bright, as long as we don’t have to make a living from it, cause obviously album sales now with downloading, with spotify albums available, there’s no living in it. As long as we have cash, it’s a great situation. If we had to make money from it I think we would be very scared, we would wonder “is this gonna sell?”. Something like Death Room, or Molok Rising, those two songs are probably the most important achievements for Gazpacho, and I sincerely believe that we couldn’t have made them if we had to think if people were gonna buy it or not. Cause every time we make an album, we say, that’s the end of us, we think it sounds strange and difficult, and we say this is a complete suicide, but let’s do it, what the hell. And usually the difficult things that we’ve done, like the album Night, we though this is going to be the end, let’s go out with a bang. And Night was the biggest success we had. And I think every time we’re scared, that’s when we do something good. If we had to make a living from it, we would never do anything cause we’d be scared, because we’d have people employed and responsibilities. So I think another secret is not having to make lots of money from it.
G: Are you recording any of the shows for a DVD release?
A: We did the last year, but none of these are being recorded, but April 2017 we hope to be back on the road with a new album. I make no promises as we haven’t started the new album, but that’s the master plan.
Q: Anything else you’d like to add for our readers?
T: We’d like to thank all the people who listen to us and buy the albums, we love to get the feedback from the folks, and we see us as one big happy family. And we actually do love them all, seriously. It’s very important to me. That’s the applause we get, we don’t get money but we do get a lot of feedback on how’s the impact on people’s lives, which is of course a great honour.