To many people Jens Haugan will be totally unknown.
But if you think of Thule (the northern Norwegian prog kings),
I think some people at least would raise their eyebrows a little.
Personally, to me Thule is one of my life's absolutely most favourite
bands and I can never get enough of the music of these strange
northlanders. Jens was the drummer on the band's debut and has
after that been active in some kind of roller coaster groove.
But now he has released a little curious thing and it is about
time to investigate the mind of Mr. Haugan.
Naturally, we will also be talking about Thule
in this interview. Is this something you are used to and does
it possibly bother you?
"Why should it bother me to talk about Thule?
Even though it is almost twenty years since I quit, I still feel
like a part of the band in many ways. The last three years I have
tried to market Thule internationally and I am frequently contacted
by fans from all over the world. Therefore it is more than natural
for me to talk about the band. The time in Thule has formed me
and it is still a part of my musical identity. It's almost like
with the first big love ..."
This "tribute" thing you have made
for Thule, how did the idea arise?
"I have written quite many new lyrics the recent
year. Actually I have lyrics for at least two more CDs that I
might get finished this year. After Monagamy from the beginning of
2004, where I worked myself through feelings in connection with
a hard break up, and Da eg vakna ('When I woke up'),
where I put music to lyrics of Randi Oppedal, I felt an intentense
desire to write about things that weren't that closely tied to
my personal inter-human relations.
I always wrote and write lyrics that in some way
are about meetings with people that have played an important part
in my life. But it was important to get out something of "the
other stuff" that I had inside me. It is almost twenty years
ago since I lived in Honningsvag, and Ultima Thule was
the beginning of something I never got the chance to continue
together with the others in Thule. I have, in many respects,
been living with a musical and personal loss since I moved from
Honningsvag and the band. It's a big hole that never got filled
Apart from that, it was perhaps the last song on
Da eg vakna, named Tankesprang, that musically seen inspired me
to go back to a more ethno-prog style. Additionally it might perhaps
also have been the constant "hassling" by the fans asking
me when there will be a new album from Thule. :) I actually do
think it was a good idea to launch an album as a thanks to the
guys at the same time as the new Thule album came out. You never
know how many years it will take till the next album might come."
You have always made songs even though you have
layn low. Is this because you are tied up with other things and
only do the music part on a hobby basis? And do you wish to reach
out to a special audience?
"I have been writing music and lyrics since
I was 11-12 years old, I think. I have incredibly many songs that
have never been use for anything concrete. I have gone to musical
highschool (secondary school) in Mosjoen, then studied music in
Bodo, and then I moved to Trondheim in 1990. I thought I came
to the rock capital of Norway and was looking forward to
giving my touch to the musical life in town. But it turned out
to be (for my part) that rock was dead in Trondheim. I had this
incredibly huge drum kit with 18 drums and 14 cymbals and nobody
"wanted" me... I joined some cover bands, but that is
nothing for me. Where do all these cover bands come from??? It's
almost like many musicians get scared when you tell them that
you write your own songs.
After fifteen years in Trondheim I have almost given
up finding people like Peer and Steve. Maybe I have too
high standards after having been a part of Thule? You know, the
first love... :) Peer, Steve and me really worked incredibly
well together when it came to developing musical ideas just by
improvising/jamming together. We could play like this for hours.
I have been working as a researcher at NTNU
in Trondheim after I got my doctor's degree in Old Norse (hehe,
you never had guessed that...). So in that respect the music is
only a hobby for me. But many fans might remember the article
in 1986: Musikken er vårt liv ('Music is our life').
Music is my life, and I wouldn't survuve very long without an
instrument and the possibility to compose songs. I would like
to reach out to everyone who is interested in my music, and I
believe I have something to tell. But it is up to everyone to
find out whether this is something for him or her.
My musical style is normally more popular with the
guys, while the girls like my lyrics... Besides, some of my CDs
have called candy bags since there can be different styles
on the same album. Tales from Thule is in many respects more complete
than the other CDs, even though I get carried away on this album,
too, and play around a little with different styles. If there
suddenly should show up a gang of musicians I don't think I would
play hard to get... :)"
Do you miss living up north? Because you resident
"Yes, I miss living in the north! I almost
managed to get back to Bodo in 1999, but I didn't get the position
I had applied for because the chose an internal applicant even
thought I was number 1 on the list. And I got a position at the
Tromso in 2000, but couldn't move because of family issues.
I kept my norther Norwegian accent and identity and I guess I
will never become a tronder..."
Which bands do inspire you?
"I don't know whether I can say that any band
inspires me; Thule does in a way. I have my musical roots in 70s,
80s and 90s rock. When I played the drums in Thule, it was without
any doubt Rush that was the big thing for me. Later I have
been listening more to Van Halen, David Lee Roth, Helloween,
Gamma Ray, Extreme, Firehouse, TNT, Iron Maiden, Masterplan, Jorn
Lande and others.
Two years ago I discovered the Swedish band A.C.T.
That was a great experience! Generally, one could say that I like
"happy" heavyrock with drive. From where the rain
grows with Helloween, for instance, always gets me into a
good mood, and there was much more good stuff on the last Helloween
album Rabbit don’t come easy than I had expected. Apart
from that, I have really enjoyed the two Masterplan albums
and the new TNT album. Actually, I have some friends who
use to make fun of me because they can make me smile just by putting
on some heavyrock (there's nobody else among my friends who listens
to such music anymore). Maybe I should find myself some new friends
This being said, I must add that I also listen a
lot to classical music and flamenco (Paco de Lucia, Gerardo
Nunez, Tomatito and others). To the degree one could speak
of inspiration, one would, for instance, find it on Monagamy
: Once upon a time, which is a self-made flamenco.
By the way, it is a funny coincidence that Thule has a song named
Once upon a time on the new album."
Do you find it difficult to promote yourself?
I am thinking about the fact that you put out your stuff in small
editions and pay for it yourself...
"I guess it is not that easy to promote yourself
when you don't have a band and when you don't have the money to
go into a studio. I get some positive feeback on my music, especially
on Tales from Thule. But unfortunately the sound quality
on my CDs is not good enough to be played on the radio. I cannot
really claim that I work very much with the songs when I more
or less only record them for myself. Normally I spend only one
or two evenings on recording a song, and I don't rehearse much
before recording. Guitar solos and things like that are only improvised.
Since these are no studio recordings I don't worry
about small "mistakes" here and there. I prefer looking
at these recordings as a kind of live documentation of a song
potential that I want to share with others. Most of my songs are
a little different and more complicated in my head. But I am not
able to transfer everything to the eight tracks on my recorder.
I don't have the patience to do that either. I am way too creative
for that. Usually I have already started thinking about something
new before I have finished what I am doing.
I should definitely have other people to collaborate
with. Most of all I could need a sound technician who would feel
it to be his mission to work with the tracks. I just want to compose
and play... :) Apart from that, the last three albums are completely
available on the net as mp3 files and there are quite many people
who have listened to my music. But when the songs end up on some
private home computer nothing more happens... It can also be mentioned
that it can be rather annoying sometimes that "everybody"
expects to get my CDs for free since they know me. I take 50.-
NOK (or 5.- €/$) for a CD and I have printed and cut out
the cover myself. So far, I have not earned anything through my
music - on the contrary... Apart from that, I have actually spent
more time and energy on promoting Thule instead of myself
the recent years. Maybe it's about time to be more selfish?"
Is the Internet a good medium for you?
"Yes, the Internet is a good medium for me.
I don't have to "palm" my CDs off on people (especially
since many people don't want to pay anyway). I can just send out
a link and people can decided themselves whether they want to
listen to my music and give feedback. Besides, the Internet has
given me the opportunity to keep in touch with Thule fans all
over the world. I really appreciate that. I got to know a lot
of nice people through this work.
Last year an African living in Belgium contacted
me because he wanted to sing one of my songs (Chasing Dreams
and he wanted to collaborate accross borders through the Internet.
There are obviously many possibilities in the new technologies.
But as a musician I prefer sitting together with people and play.
There is something special about playing in a band."
Which Thule song/album is your favourite?
"I guess I am forced to answer Ultima Thule
where Kolonisasjon is the ultimate song! Apart from
that Graks would be my favourite album. There you can find
incredibly many interesting things. The most incredible thing
is the fact that Thule managed to play "Graks" live.
I have heard them myself playing on Veita scene in Trondheim,
and I have seen a bootleg DVD with them. If Thule really had chosen
to go for it, I think they would have achieved a lot as a live
band. I have tried to give them a lot of good advice for many
years, but Thule has to find out of this themselves..."
The job in Thule is available; would you take
"I have asked Peer many times whether Thule
could think of moving to Trondheim... :) I wouldn't mind playing
in Thule again. Thule is my only real "love story" in
the context of bands. Vi really fit well together as musicians
when we were in our twenties. But I don't think Peer and me would
go that well together anymore. We are good friends on a private
basis, but I have so much music inside myself that is so different
from what Peer would want that we wouldn't hold out with each
other very long, I think. :-)"
Can you give us a short verion of you biography?
From the midt 80s till today?
"I have told you a little already. I moved
from Hamburg in Germany to Hovden in Setesdal, and
then to Honningsvag in Finnmark, then to Hemnesberg
in Nordland. I quit working as a baker and went to music highschool
in Mosjoen, continued with music at the teacher's college
in Bodo (classical guitar) and studied German and Norwegian
in Trondheim and took a doctor's degree by writing about word
order in Old Norwegian. I thought I would only study in Trondheim
and move back north. But it didn't go like that. I have played
in some cover bands in Trondheim, played guitar at dance classes
in Flamenco Trondheim and played solo at the folk club Maja some
times since I also write and play Norwegian folk / folk rock.
I spent my time on studies and later on dealing
with broke marriages and relationships... :) I do a lot of travelling
in connection with my job and get a lot of inspiration on my journeys.
The lyrics I writet are therefore usually very biographic. On
Tales from Thule you can find thoughts about how I experienced
coming to Honningsvag being 19/20 years old. Who’s to blame
is actually a true story about what happened to me the first
time I lived in Honningsvag. Borgy really took good care
of me since the first day I lived in the same house with her.
Unfortunately she died last year and is now immortalized through
the music. Brother is also about a very important person
that is dead, but who I would have liked to have known. The
Vision is about following your inner guiding star. I have
had strong forces inside myself that have led me, both geografically
and in other respects. As I express it in Who's to blame: "I
came all alone, I went far away from home. I left everything behind,
a future I wanted to find."; or in Ultima Thule:
"Far up in the north, there lies a land. For some reason, it was
the choice of one man. He wasn’t rich, but he had dreams. He searched
for his paradise and went against the stream." I guess
I am always going against the stream somewhere... :)"
Incredibly nice guy, Jens. I would like to encourage
those who are a little open for floating prog to try the songs
that can be downloaded from the net. The production is a little
weak, but they grow after having been played some times. :) Thank
you for your time, Jens, and good luck with the things you do.
Feel free to end this interview with some words about things that
you might have on your heart.
"I would like to thank for the opportunity
to reach out to a bigger audience by being interviewed by you.
You are one of the people I got to know through my work for Thule.
Regarding the production of my songs, I have, unfortunately, only
an eight-track digital recorder. But maybe it will happen some
day that I have the money to go to a studio or somebody finds
out that he wants to buy me some studio time. Notwithstanding,
I am happy for each and everyone who chooses to listen to my music
and maybe even give me some feedback.
To those of you in Trondheim who need a song writer,
drummer, guitar or bass player or possibly a singer, feel free
to contact me ;-)"
from Thule (review)
with Thule (in Norwegian only)
Norwegian interview by:
Yngve M. Jakobsen