Apollon Records has several albums out by prog-rockers Professor
Tiptop and you can count the 2017 CD release of Life Is
No Matter as the best yet from this diverse band. Guitarist
Sam Fossbakk rises to occasion, penning all the music with
lyrics added by vocalist Svein Magnar Hansen. Assisted by the
rhythm section of Stein Høgseth (bass) and Charles
Wise (drums), Professor Tiptop has created a kind of new form
of modern prog with Life Is No Matter. Some will cite Dark
Side era Floyd and the sound of Alan Parsons Project and UK bands
such as Camel, yet Life Is No Matter is modern prog-rock with
a view towards the future and takes the whole genre well beyond the
sound of the 1970s. The album was mastered by Frank Arkwright at
Abbey Road studios in London so theres another Floyd / Parsons
connection for music fans to mull over. Speaking about the mixed messages
on the album's title track, Sam explains, "It can mean two
one, being that matter alone does not make life. Maybe
life is a force outside matter. Think of it like the Hindus, that
life is a nonmaterial reality, pure consciousness. And that there
is a universal consciousness and we have the illusion of being a self,
an ego, which needs matter and a body to live. Also our concept of
matter is quite rude from a quantum perspective, as the deeper you
get into the world of atoms the more bizarre matter and
physics appear. The other perspective is that life is easy if you
see that it is not you that keeps life going on a day-to-day basis,
but that life itself lives through you." Sam Fossbakk has
proven himself to be an eclectic advocate for the modern day prog-rock
movement mixing instrumental tracks backed up by a mostly vocal pallet
of all things progressive. Not only does Sam compose all the music
on Life Is No Matter, but he also adds in a diverse range of
musical sounds he coaxes from his wide range of electric and acoustic
guitars and a range of synths and mellotrons. If there was ever a
modern day band to carry the torch of progressive rock, its
Professor Tiptop. www.bandcamp.com
mwe3.com presents an interview with
Sam Fossbakk of Professor Tiptop
Where are you from originally and where do you live now? Where have
you lived or other favorite cities, countries and have you been to
Sam Fossbakk: Originally Im from Bergen, Norway where
I live now. Actually close to the place I was born. When I grew up
we moved a little around, I lived some childhood years in India. My
favorite city, besides Bergen, is Canterbury in England. Ive
spent lots of summers there. I have never been to the US, just to
mwe3: When did you start playing and recording as Professor
Tiptop and how many albums have you made with the band? Does the band
have a mode of operation or mission purpose? How would you compare
the Professor Tiptop albums?
Sam Fossbakk: We started playing and recording as Professor
TipTop in 2010. Until now we have done four albums. We dont
have a specific mission purpose, just a feel for what moods and sounds
we like. The first Are You Empirical? was done in 2011. I think
the purpose was to make something that could catch up with a 1970s
prog / experimental feel. Most of the tracks, drums, bass, guitars
and keys, except the vocals, were recorded straight on and live in
my studio on vintage equipment. The final mix and vocals were done
at Regnbyen studio by Inge Solsvik. We had a producer, a well-known
Norwegian named Hans Petter Gundersen. It was a relaxed recording
and lots of laughs. Gundersen also came up with the name for the group
during a conversation about far out topics. The album have some good
moments, we threw in songs I had lying around.
The next album Aoum had more variation between the songs. We
explored different styles and sounds. On these two first albums the
American saxophone player Jon Irabagon attended and gave a jazzy feel
to some of the songs. It was recorded and mixed in Regnbyen Studio.
The third Exobiology was a big step toward our identity sound
wise. Its a retro-futuristic project that makes good use of
the EMS synth to give a science-fiction mood. Our last album Life
Is No Matter is a further step on that path, with a focus on the
melodic character of the songs.
Who is in the Professor Tiptop band with you and what do they play
and add to the sound? Tell us about your song writing with lead singer
Svein Magnar Hansen. Does the music or lyrics come first and tell
us about balancing vocal and instrumental tracks?
Sam Fossbakk: With me in the band apart from Svein on vocal,
are Stein Høgseth on bass and Charles Wise on drums. The rhythm
section is a big contributor to the outcome. They have a splendid
feel for the mood and dynamics of the compositions. When it comes
to song writing, I write the songs, usually a roughly demo is given
to Svein, we discuss a topic or a feel for what the lyrics should
be about and then Svein works out the lyrics.
mwe3: How did the production take place with Daniel Birkeland
and how did you co-produce Life Is No Matter with him?
Sam Fossbakk: Daniel Birkeland, who runs Havnelageret Studio,
is very dedicated sound-wise. He has an understanding and good taste
for the aesthetics as well as the technical side of sound engineering.
He is, like me, a connoisseur of vintage equipment. As an example,
one of the vintage compressors we used was originally used for the
public Polish Broadcasting Service, custom made, one or two of the
kind. It was also his idea to use a Leslie 145 on some of the guitar
tracks to give a dreamlike effect. We recorded the basic tracks at
Havnelageret, Daniel made a rough stereo mix, I imported the stereo
mix to my studio, laid down the synthesizers, mellotron and guitar
solos. Daniel added my tracks and mixed it all together. Then the
vocal tracks were done at Havnelageret Studio.
mwe3: What guitars did you play on the Life Is No Matter
album and how do you balance your guitar parts with the keyboards
you play too? Wow there must be a lot of overdubbing, yet your rhythm
section carries the sounds quite well!
Fossbakk: The guitars I used were a 1965 Stratocaster, a 1968
Stratocaster, Rickenbacker 12 string, model 620, Rickenbacker Rose
Morris model with three pickups and a 1966 Telecaster. I also used
Gibson acoustics. I try not to overdo things, if you give space there
is room for overdubs. There were plenty overdubs, in the down mix
Daniel has made a broad room where panning and depth has made place
for everything. The rhythm section carries well because they play
dynamic and inside the songs, the mix-down contributes equalization
that keeps instruments apart.
mwe3: You have a nice mix of instrumentals and vocal tracks
on Life Is No Matter. Do you have a fondness for both or are
you trying more to create a surround sound experience that takes on
all forms of prog? How does Entrophy create the intro
mood? I heard of Entropy but not Entrophy.
Sam Fossbakk: I have a fondness for both. Entrophy
is the balance between Entropy the law of randomization and
a possible negative outcome and Extropy the law of steady incline
at a reoccurring increment. It is the balance between light and dark
of which we all reside.
mwe3: What does Pieta Europa signify? Is it a plea
or social statement? What do you make of the refugee crises and how
has it affected Norway?
I would say it is both a plea and a social statement. It has a little
feeling of doomsday following up the intro track. The laws of thermodynamics
in physics says that chaos/disorder increase entropy, everything in
nature seeks a static balance. I think the same law goes for society.
Empires, like the Roman or the Persian reached a peak, went into a
chaotic period, then became something else. Maybe this is our time.
The plea is to keep the human dignity. The refugee crisis affected
Norway and politics became more polarized.
mwe3: Friend Or Foe has some nice Euro touches
and that strong mellotron. What are some of the guitar effects that
you use on that track? What does the track say to you?
Sam Fossbakk: The guitar effects are Tone Bender with germanium
transistor, Colorsound overdrive, Fulltone Deja Vibe and Binson Echorec.
The solo at the end is the Rose Morris Rickenbacker through a Marshall
JMP 50 watt, the rest of the guitars are Fender Stratocasters/Gibson
acoustic. The song has a touch of melancholy, but in a good way.
mwe3: Lullaby For Grownups has that very dramatic
intro which comes back after a couple verses. How did you and Svein
work on that song? Is it mythological?
Sam Fossbakk: The dramatic intro is to emphasize the topic.
Rather than being about the mythological world, it says that we are
mentally imprisoned in our myths. Non spiritual religious dogmas and
inherited false beliefs make us unfree and fearful for life. It is
in a way the nihilistic perspective of Nietzsche. But then again what
to put in the vacant position?
Is Phoenix about reincarnation or some futuristic scientific
cloning abilities? Can you image modern medicine technology in 2117?
The guitar solo is quite melodic. What does the song speak about futuristically?
Do you remember the whole beam me up Scotty thing? Thats one
hundred years away at least! (lol)
Sam Fossbakk: All in the band are readers, we talked about
the book Homo Deus - A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah
Harari. He describes what the future will be: genetic engineering,
enormous life spans, nanotechnology and so on. So yes, theoretically
you can be your own clone. We also read an article about Boston Robotics
that future soldiers and Police will be robots. It was this which
inspired Phoenix. The mythic bird that rises up from its
own ashes, can be a collective unconscious prediction. Who knows?
mwe3: Is Im A Dreamer Too a tribute to John
Lennon? Seems like Svein really covered the bases on the state of
current events. Too bad we seem to be talking everywhere about terrorists
and refugees. I dont see an end to the madness anytime soon.
Sam Fossbakk: I agree
there seems to be no end to these
dark times and in many ways and a fear for the future. But without
being naive we can dream or hope for brighter times to come. One cant
be cynical or overly pessimistic. Its mind over matter.
mwe3: Is Morning Fog a metaphor for the fog of
life so to speak? Its a great song with a driving melody and
guitar sound. Is that tribute to Rick Wright synths sound on Dark
Fossbakk: Yes it is a metaphor for not seeing the possibilities
in following your own thoughts and wanting to be free. The guitar
sound is a Stratocaster through a Tone Bender and Binson Echorec,
played through a 1960s VOX AC 30. Yes it is a tribute to Pink
Floyd, which we admire a lot. Rick Wright was a genius sound shaper.
Die Böse is quite menacing sounding with the German
lyrics. Is that a reference to Trump in the first chorus? I imagine
like you say rise and fall
time is moving
Are you predicting even more evil?
Sam Fossbakk: Yes its about Donald in the first chorus.
The mood is a little worst case scenario. Nations dissolve,
civilization as we know it ends, a full tilt towards entropy
mwe3: The title track Life Is No Matter. How did
you decide on that title? No matter as in chemistry? Alien life forms?
Future obsolescence? Where does technology end?
Sam Fossbakk: It can mean two things
one, being that
matter alone does not make life. Maybe life is a force outside matter.
Think of it like the Hindus, that life is a nonmaterial reality, pure
consciousness. And that there is a universal consciousness and we
have the illusion of being a self, an ego, which needs
matter and a body to live. Also our concept of matter is quite rude
from a quantum perspective, as the deeper you get into the world of
atoms the more bizarre matter and physics appear. The
other perspective is that life is easy if you see that it is not you
that keeps life going on a day-to-day basis, but that life itself
lives through you.
mwe3: I guess the internet will go down as our generations
advancement of evolution of the 20th century. So where does Professor
Tiptop go to from here? What are your plans in Norway and other countries
in Europe? New shows, music writing, new recordings?
Fossbakk: Yes the internet is the zeitgeist of our
time. Next century could be the revolution of nanotechnology, some
day teleportation will be the preferred traveling method. And you
can order hamburgers that materialize through the PC screen. Professor
Tip Top has new songs on the way and we plan to start new recordings
in January. Our next concert is a prog-festival in December. We hope
to get gigs in England, and to be on some of the European festivals