Interview Jan Henrik Ohme
Gazpacho - Souped Up

Tastes will always differ, opinions will always vary, but what can be said with reasonable objectivity is that in the year 2010, Gazpacho finally got the recognition they deserve. Missa Atropos (see review), released only one year after their former masterpiece, Tick Tock, was mentioned in so many yearlists, websites, magazines and social networks. Jerry Ewing, editor of the glossy Classic Rock presents Prog magazine, flagged it too. With an upcoming tour ahead, we had some questions for singer Jan Henrik Ohme about the new album. While he couldn't unfortunately reveal anything about the tour, he could tell me that the old material has been souped up to be bigger, better and bolder!!!

(January 2011, text by Janke Rijpkema, pictures Miranda Bril & Arthur Haggenburg)

Missa Atropos

During the time they started working on the new album, Thomas Andersen (keyboards) was reading the book “Solitude” by Anthony Storr. This made quite an impression and formed the basic idea for the story of Missa Atropos. The protagonist is a man living in a lighthouse (beautiful album cover by Antonio Seijas, by the way). Having cut all ties with the outside world, he's writing a mass for Atropos, goddess of fate and destiny. The comparison is that Atropos also ended the life of each mortal by cutting their thread to life with her "abhorred shears”.

Jan Henrik explains that usually the ideas grow out of the music they make. “It is Tom and I who write most of the lyrics together. In the case of  Missa Atropos we listened to the demo and tried to imagine what this song could be about. Also we like to discuss the ideas that form over time to see if they still sound as good two or three weeks after the rush of the original idea”. Of course I wanted to know all about how exactly the words come up, but I guess I just have to read the book. It seems highly interesting to me. In fact it is a pledge for solitude and packed with examples of writers, composers, and philosophers who illustrate   the connection between solitude and creativity.

Jan Henrik Ohme

Film without pictures

Missa Atropos is another album in the series 'films without pictures'. The listener makes up his own mind and story. According to Gazpacho, we all feel the need to be alone sometimes. I asked Jan Henrik if it was hard to sing songs like these. In my opinion, songs like these are best heard in the darkness, with eyes closed. He agreed, saying, “ Singing these songs is hard work and takes me far away when I sing them. I literally feel as if I am "there" when I perform them. Especially on the demos where it is a constant struggle to keep the song feeling fresh until the final version is recorded with proper lyrics.”

The film may be without pictures, but it certainly isn't without words! If you read the lyrics, but especially listen to them, it strikes me that they are very poetic and in well-written English. That's extraordinary I think, for a band from Norway. “Jon Arne and Tom met in Kuwait where Jon Arne had moved from Japan. So as he didn't speak any Norwegian at all, they spoke English to each other when they first met and do so to this day. The rest of us have been taught English since 3rd grade, so we're pretty much fluent,” Jan Henrik clarifies.

Apart from the lyrics, it is mainly the music and atmosphere, the voice of Jan, that makes Gazpacho so special. Somehow I think the members must have had a thorough training. I learnt that Tom (keys), Lars Erik Asp (drums), Mikael Kromer (violin/mandolin) and Kristian Torp (bass) are indeed all music school or classically trained. Lars Erik and Kristian are professors of each of their instruments, and Kristian is writing a Masters thesis on polyrythms. Jan Henrik: “I have no idea what they are but the groove on the second verse of River from Missa Atropos features polyrythms. Jon (guitar) and I are self taught.”

Different music

On Gazpacho's own website, they refer to what they make as 'different music'. I asked Jan if he is happy with the term progband. “ I really prefer the term different music as prog has so many negative connotations, and most of our music doesn't fit the genre too well. In my opinion, there are a few prog albums that stand among the best albums ever made, such as Kate Bush's Hounds of Love or Roger Waters' Amused to Death, but there are a lot of them that leave me cold.”

Yet Gazpacho's music was not always appreciated by prog reviewers. Missa Atropos was a giant leap forward for the band and this has been reflected in most of the reviews that the band has seen. “I think that everyone involved in creating something as personal as an album like this voraciously reads all reviews they come across. I am pleased to say that there have been no roasts yet. There might have been a few complaints about some of the shorter songs that feature between the long ones but in general most reviewers seem to get it,” said Jan Henrick.

Gazpacho (6-Feb-2010)
Left to right: Mikael Krømer, Lars Erik Asp, Kristian Torp, Jan Henrik Ohme, Jon Arne Vilbo, Thomas Andersen.

The audience

About their fans, Jan Henrik continues: “Obviously the initial core of the fan base heard of us through the Marillion connection but this has changed, and now they seem to have heard of us through all kinds of places - the Internet, friends, radio or magazines. I've lately also noticed we have a lot of younger fans. A lot more than in our first years. The internet is still very important for us. It allows us to stay in touch with our hardcore fans through our website and our mailing list.”

I asked Jan Henrik if he thinks Gazpacho fans are more intelligent to like music like this? After all, Missa Atropos is not only a deep album by concept, but also the music takes up a lot of time and long-term dedication. He answered: “Ha ha! I wouldn't use the word intelligent but perhaps MA has a special audience. Maybe a better word is "sensitive". The concept is a little heavy but I believe that we are all basically the same and MA, which is about the need to get away from everything and sever all ties to everyone and everything you know, is a universal feeling which most people will be able to recognise at some point in their lives. I would agree that it is an adult album and an album for people who use music actively to charge or release their emotions.”


Recently Gazpacho signed with Kscope, a big post-progressive label, which has Blackfield and Anathema amongst others in their pocket too. “The guys at Kscope are a great bunch and they help us promote and, through sales, finance the future tours. We do have a tour manager to tell us where the towels are and make sure we have water for stage and beer for afters...,” according to Jan Henrik. “We will still be bringing our close friends Corne and Gerianne Brenters for general fun and mayhem as well as merchandise.” And may I add that they are Dutch? 

In the past Gazpacho offered their music for free on the Internet. But luckily that is no longer necessary. “We do not give away music for free anymore as we want to tour as much as possible. Seeing a Gazpacho gig is very different from listening to an album and we like to think it is a fun experience for whoever attends. More oomph... In order to tour we need to raise the money to cover the high costs involved. Album sales make sure we can safely book a tour without risking our own money which would be unacceptable for most of us.”

Mikael Krømer


Some of the Gazpacho members are already involved full-time in music. Tom is a successful composer for films and advertising. Kristian and Lars Erik are professional musicians, but the rest of them have "normal" jobs. Jan Henrik: “In some ways it is a dream to make a living from the music but at the same time I think it is good that we live as normal lives as possible. I think it is a lot more interesting to hear the stories of someone in the same situation as me. It keeps the music as true as possible. Not making a living off this also leaves us great freedom, as we can make whatever we want without worrying about how commercially viable the music is.”

Plans and ideas for the next album are already in place. Jan: “ At the moment we have over an hour of new music and it will be one long piece. The working title is March Of Ghosts and it is some of the best stuff we have ever done. Moody long soundscapes with a Hopper feel to them. I can't wait to get working on it.”

To the last question, my dream - will Missa ever get played in a church? - Jan Henrik answered: “Maybe one day. There has been talk of setting up a gig with an orchestra and some dancers in a church in Italy but it is still just talk. Maybe one day the mass will be performed in a church. Let's hope we don't start Armageddon....”


More info about Gazpacho on the Internet:
       Gazpacho Website
       review 'Missa Antropos'

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