ACHE was formed at the end of the 1960s, read this interview with the brothers Finn and Torsten OLAFSSON, respectively guitarist and bassist, you will discover passionate musicians who have experienced exhilarating moments but also some disappointments. Their music is close to groups such as RARE BIRD and BEGGAR's OPERA to name just a few. In 1970, their first album "De Homine Urbano" was released and critically acclaimed and was followed the next year by "Green Man". Their story is unique and it is told by those who lived it. For those who do not ACHE, you should know that Esoteric Recordings re-released the first two albums in 2012.
Can summarize us the beginnings of the Group?
Finn: Torsten and I had been playing together since we were kids. Torsten on drums and I myself on guitar, with our band ‘Voces’ we often played as support for ‘The Harlows’ – a local cover band whom we admired a lot. Peter Mellin played the bass in that band and Glenn Fischer the drums. In spring 1967, however, Peter left the band and Torsten was asked to join The Harlows to take over the bass. So he did and I myself formed a blues band called ‘The McKenzie Set’. Surprisingly, soon afterwards Peter succeeded in purchasing the Hammond M3 organ which had been used at The Royal Theatre in the play ‘Teenagerlove‘ and in summer 1967 he rejoined The Harlows. However, around New Year 1968, Peter, Glenn and Torsten decided to form a trio in order to create their own music and eventually they asked me to join them less than half a year later.
We practised and rehearsed intensively during the following months and our music began to take shape. We improvised a lot but improvisations were most often based on ideas which one of us had created independently. Some themes or riffs appeared while improvising and we all came up with ideas and suggestions to the compositions and the arrangements. In this period the ACHE sound and group dynamics were invented – it was as a whole a time when we all found an extreme pleasure and personal satisfaction in exploring, creating and expressing ourselves in music – together.
At this time, what were your main musical influences?
Finn: In 1968 and ‘69,
when the music style of ACHE was created, bands like The Nice, The Artwoods, Vanilla Fudge, Procol Harum, Jethro Tull and Swedish Hansson & Carlsson were among our most favoured bands.
Besides, some of the Danish bands with whom we often shared the stage have probably had a certain influence on our music as well.
Your first album "De Homine Urbano", recorded in 1969 (!) and I read on your site that was done in a day. How was going on the record at this time?
Torsten: Yes, today it may be somewhat hard to believe, but ‘De Homine Urbano’ was indeed recorded and mixed in a single day, on 8 tracks, in the Metronome Studio A in Copenhagen. We had been composing, arranging, and rehearsing the music since the beginning of March 1969, so in June we were perfectly ready to record the whole thing live in the studio. Only sometime afterwards it was decided to release ‘De Homine Urbano’ on an LP to be released by Philips, the B side of which was to become the long suite ‘Little Things’ which was (likewise) recorded and mixed in but one day, in October 1969.
I also read that the Copenhagen Danish Royal Ballet company in 1970 (!) gave its first performance to the music of "De Homine Urbano". To fully understand the event, you can explain?
Torsten: Parts of ‘De Homine Urbano’ were first performed at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow in the summer of 1969. Here the choreographer and solo dancer Peter Schaufuss participated in an international ballet competition which he did actually win! Then, half a year later, ‘De Homine Urbano’ was finally staged at The Royal Theatre in Copenhagen, from early January and a number of times throughout Spring, 1970. There, the music was played from tape, not live. That was the decision of the theatre directors at a time when rock music had never before been performed at the high-cultured, quite old-fashioned and conservative theatre. The ballet featured 5 young, classically educated dancers, Peter Schaufuss himself included, as well as an extremely effective psychedelic lightshow performed by the group named Tezcatlipoca Light Show. ‘De Homine Urbano’ should be appreciated as the world’s very first genuine beat, or rock, ballet ever realized, just as the LP ‘De Homine Urbano’ is, as far as we know, the first rock music album ever made with only two long through-composed music suites, one on each side of the record. Both the ballet ‘De Homine Urbano’ and the LP album, released in early February, 1970, received outstanding reviews.
After the album "Green Man" what passed for ACHE?
Finn: We decided to disband because we had an European tour with “The Ache Rock Theatre” cancelled. Our management, who had set up the tour and who also was the concert arranger of all the gigs, went bankrupt. And due to the situation they weren’t able to fulfil their arrangements. It was so disappointing for us, quite young as we were, that we couldn’t see any other possibility than splitting up the band. Thinking about it now it seems like other scenarios could have been possible - like f.i. the possibility of looking out to find another management – but I believe that we were so tired and disillusioned at that time that we simply gave up.
Peter Mellin and Glenn Fischer decided to stop as professional musicians while, in the first place, Torsten and I tried to establish a new band with other musicians - and a little later, in 1972, formed an acoustic trio which didn’t last for more than a few months.
In 1975 Peter Mellin had been writing some new music and he and I formed a new band carrying the band-name ACHE with whom we recorded the album “Pictures from Cyclus 7”, released in 1976 on CBS. One year later Peter left the band in order to have an education and ACHE recorded the album “Blå som altid” (“Blue as always”), with Danish lyrics, with Per Wium as the new Hammond/keyboard player. From 1979 Torsten joined us again on the bass and although we disbanded in late 1980 he has been with the band since then when we have had reunions of the band a couple of times.
Today you still make the music?
Finn: Oh yeahJ I have been writing and producing music and playing guitars throughout all the years. In 1976 my first solo-album “Savannah” was released, an album on which I play, the acoustic guitar as much as the electric guitar. Thereafter I have been releasing instrumental solo-albums and duo-albums besides working with ACHE and a lot of different Scandinavian solo-artists and bands. For many years I have mainly been focusing on the acoustic guitar. My latest solo-album “Music From North Sealand” was released in 2011 and a new single, “Hamlet’s Castle”, will be released outside Denmark January 2013.
Peter Mellin is still writing music and he is still an active keyboard- and piano player. His music has been used for various recorded projects. Unfortunately Glenn Fischer stopped playing the drums some time after we disbanded but recently he has begun to play again a little when he is off duty – in different constellations
Torsten: Oh, yes. For the time being, I do perform various music on the acoustic bass guitar, Indian tablas, percussion and the Japanese bamboo flute ‘shakuhachi’.
The fact that Esoteric Recording re-released "De Homine Urbano" and "Green Man" is that you would have interest in a return to the active stage?
Finn: Quite often we are talking about the possibility of returning, as ACHE, to the stage. I believe that all of the four of us are looking back at the time when we played together as something very special – something unique. We kind of educated each other and found a way together of letting music appear in the rehearsing room as well as on stage. I, for my sake, haven’t experienced something like that since then. I cannot tell if this would be the same now, forty years later, but it would for sure be worth trying.
In your opinion, what are the differences between the progressive music of the 1970s and today?
Torsten: To be a little more precise, we, in ACHE, began our ‘progressive music experiments’ already in January 1968. In fact, the term ‘progressive’ didn’t really exist at that time, in our world. Both while practicing and during live performances we did a lot of improvising over specific bass&drum grooves, chord changes and themes. Vocals with or without lyrics were added ad lib. every now and then, here and there. Although our ‘compositions’ began to take more and more shape with time, we enjoyed - and were expected by the audiences! - to invent something new and surprising at every gig, while improvising. This tended to change when first the music had been released on a record. Then the audiences became more likely to want to hear the music as it had been actually recorded. And the band lost some of its musical freedom, you might say.
I may be wrong – you hardly hear any real progressive rock being played on Danish stages these days, you know – but I believe (am a little afraid) that a lot of the original spontaneity, freshness and ‘pioneer-ship’ of early prog-rock has now vanished from the music scene. Also, the sound quality of much modern prog-rock appears to have become more sterile, because of the digitalization, the keyboards especially. That is, for instance compared with that great growling sound of a real Hammond M3 organ and a classical Leslie amp/speaker. Not to speak of that disastrous change from vinyl to CD, from analogue to digitalJ
For today's progressive music you're listening to? If yes, what are the artists or groups that you prefer?
Finn: To tell the truth: I don’t listen specifically to the progressive music of todayJ
Torsten: The same goes for me. But I do occasionally check up on various prog-rock artists on Youtube.com when I get interesting links.
You must have some good memories; you may talk to us of the one who will always remain in your memory?
Torsten: It was, indeed, really great to be present when ‘De Homine Urbano’ was first performed, at the Royal Theatre premiere in Copenhagen, Denmark, in early January, 1970.
It had really been rather a heavy fight for all of us to finally succeed with that project, and – why not be honest and straight about this?: My brother Finn’s and my mum and dad were both so very much moved, proud of us and happy on our behalf –know what I mean? Also, I do clearly recall the recording of ‘Shadow of a Gipsy’, in July 1970. Until then, my role as the ‘lead singer’ of ACHE had only been kind’a ‘secondary’ to my playing the bass, but that day, singin’ that beautiful ballad to the tape runnin’ steadily in the control room, producer, technician and fellow musicians watching and listening – that was really a unique experience.
Finn: First of all I’m recalling the great time I had together with the guys in the band. The experience of creating music together with Peter, Glenn and Torsten has influenced the music I have made since then a lot. Also, our live appearances were so intense. I still remember the eagerness that I felt when we were going on stage. And even though we didn’t spend much time in the studio when recording our albums I still remember how exciting it was working in the studio: Like f.i. the intensity I felt when I recorded the guitar solo of ´The Invasion’ on the “Green Man” album - which I recorded in an extremely heated modeJ
Today, what kind of music do you listen?
Finn: Mostly, I listen to the music that I’m working with in the studio or as the music publisher I also am. And the genres I have been working with are very different: It’s roots, world, acoustic, pop, rock, heavy rock and also progressive.
Torsten: I like many kinds of music especially when performed extraordinarily “well”. Here, again, Youtube.com presents a wealth of possibilities for good music experiences. By the way: Quite recently, I attended a Steve Vai concert in Copenhagen.
You have the final word, if you want to add something.
Finn and Torsten in unison: Thanks for your interest and enthusiasmJ
This interview was conducted by Richard Hawey (30-12-12)