Hybrid Hymns
(Apollon Records)


Norwegian prog-rockers Professor Tiptop are back in the spotlight again with their early 2019 CD called Hybrid Hymns. In the spirit of the band’s 2017 album, Life Is No Matter, their 2019 album Hybrid Hymns contains a well done mix of progressive rock that spans both vocal and instrumental music genres. The four piece band features the music and guitars of Sam Fossbakk, Svein Magnar Hansen (vocals), Stein Høgseth (bass) and Charles Wise (drums). For the fifth Professor Tiptop album, the winning formula of Sam’s electric guitars and melodic ideas combine with Svein’s lyrics and vocals to create another modern day progressive rock masterpiece by this acclaimed Norwegian rock band. Speaking about the concept of Hybrid Hymns, Sam tells "The title reflects an idea about how technology and biology will melt together in the future. With AI, DNA-modification, medical progress, nanotechnology and what not, a future hybrid mankind, or robots will probably have some kind of free will in a Kantian sense; “what shall I do”, ethics and self reflecting questions which leads to existential and religious beliefs. What churches will the robots go to? Which Gods do they believe in? If they shall be like humans, spirituality and irrationality must be part of the gear." Music fans have compared Professor Tiptop to progressive music icons like Camel and Alan Parsons Project with other influences from the early 1970s Canturbury, England school of music and even ‘70s Pink Floyd. Professor Tiptop's finest album yet, Hybrid Hymns is one of the most intriguing European prog-rock albums of 2019. / presents an interview with
SAM FOSSBAKK of Professor TipTop
The Hybrid Hymns interview

: Tell us why you call the new Professor Tip Top album Hybrid Hymns. Seems like that title has a dual meaning. Of course Hybrid means a variety of and Hymns is a kind of religious connotation. It’s not easy to make sense of religion in these dogmatic times! Is mankind on the precipice of something bigger and is there something spiritual about the title?

Sam Fossbakk: The title reflects an idea about how technology and biology will melt together in the future. With AI, DNA-modification, medical progress, nanotechnology and what not, a future hybrid mankind, or robots will probably have some kind of free will in a Kantian sense; “what shall I do”, ethics and self reflecting questions which leads to existential and religious beliefs. What churches will the robots go to? Which Gods do they believe in? If they shall be like humans spirituality and irrationality must be part of the gear.

mwe3: Is Hybrid Hymns a continuation of the ideas explored on the Life Is No Matter album? Even the cover art is kind of continuous looking. I forgot to ask about the cool cover art for Life Is No Matter. But it seems you combined some of the ideas from that album on Hybrid Hymns. Although, one difference is there is a religious symbol of church on the cover for Hybrid Hymns.

Sam Fossbakk: Yes it is a continuation. On the Life Is No Matter cover, the futuristic being… the octopus is flying high over its habitat. On Hybrid Hymns it is down on the sea level sorting out earthly matters, like the new church for robot fishes. Both covers are made by graphic designer Øyvind Lothe.

mwe3: What do the two “Black Holes” Pt. 1 and 2 tracks signify. Do you have the lyrics and can you provide some background on them? It sounds very futuristic and scientific, but in a scientific way of course. Is there a message in this track and who is doing the narration?

Sam Fossbakk: The idea was to put a university like lecture about black holes which could be a radio program you listen to and sort of fall into slumber and free associations and wake up during part 2, the end of the record. Charles Wise, the drummer is the voice talking. The lyrics is just facts about black holes and gravitational waves… interesting indeed.

mwe3: “An Awkward Choice” brings us back to Earth so to speak. “The world will not contain us all”… is a sobering thought but alas of course you’re right. Every day all we hear about are these incredibly tragic storms, floods, murders… what is the breaking point? Scary times indeed.

Sam Fossbakk: Yes, too much. I think honestly the media is to blame for much of the global angst. Of course we have challenges, the environment issues, the plastic, the pollution, poverty, digital dictatorship and more. But there are many facts and statistics that show that the world is a much better place than it ever was. We have to believe and have hope in humanity and reason. I highly recommend, as a relief from daily dooms day news, Enlightenment Now- The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism and Progress by Steven Pinker.

mwe3: The other side is explored in “Machine Emotions”. Man can’t handle the load or the work and trusts the machines to act and think like him. I’m thinking of Hal 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey. I guess that was the first time we were warned about computers taking over.

Sam Fossbakk: This is a very important question about AI, will they outdo us? Reproduce themselves, kill us, or enslave us? Will there be a futuristic horror state led by computers?

mwe3: The instrumentals on Hybrid Hymns are very cool sounding. What can you tell us about “The Dogs Are Coming” and is it a play on words? Was it kind of inspired by the Pink Floyd Animals era?

Sam Fossbakk: It is the “dogs” in Boston Dynamics, there are some demo videos where they open doors and walk around. A bit “unheimlich”. The instruments are a basic loop on EMS synth with bass and drums. Then adding different colors/sounds and “barking” on EMS synth. On top there’s the guitar; Stratocaster, tonebender, Klon overdrive, Binsonechorec and Vox AC 15. There’s also layers of Mellotron female choir.

mwe3: “Data Mining” gets back to the problems kind of expressed in “Machine Emotions”, in that we gain our technology but lose our control over our own lives. Is it all part of the loss of control over our own lives? I like the YES like guitar solo ending.

Sam Fossbakk: Exactly! The technology is developing faster than politicians or lawmakers can hold on to, but we are still in the beginning of the digital age. People will be sick and tired of the digital surveillance. There will be reactions and rebellions. The YES-like mood smoothes things out… there is always a better solution.

mwe3: “Light Generator” is kind of an experimental track? It’s only 1:14 time-wise so it’s kind of an interlude? Any insights on the track title?

Sam Fossbakk: Yes, it is an interlude, turn of the page, at the same time the ultimate machine, not by any other energy, to create photons/light.

mwe3: I had not known of Allan Turing before. Who brought “Turing Machines” to the table and what is his significance as it applies to the PTT track? There’s the recurring question of machines controlling man or serving man to the utmost capacity.

Sam Fossbakk: Svein wrote the lyrics. Allan Turing is the Biblical Moses of digital technology/computers, the Ur-father so to speak. He worked for MI5 during the world war, managing to crack the “unbreakable” enigma code system used by the Germans. He was a genius mathematician. This year there are several lectures celebrating his birth 150 years ago.

mwe3: Being an old-time fusion fan I just have to single out track 8, “Passion”. It’s great to hear a well-done rock instrumental with a very Euro-flavored beat and rhythm. I was thinking Jan Akkerman would like this track and it’s also got a kind of Hank Marvin influence in the sound and style. Tell us the guitars, amps and effects you used in that track? Does Svein play keys on stage? I know you play all the keyboards as well as guitars on the Hybrid Hymns album.

Sam Fossbakk: Yes, long way back Hank is an influence. I think Hank is in the DNA of all guitar players from my generation. The guitar on the main theme is a 1966 Stratocaster, a Binson Echorec II, Klon overdrive and a Norwegian amp, quite popular in the 60’s, from Telrad. In the middle part where the guitar and bass plays alone, there is a Rickenbacker, a Rose Morris reissue. The Rickenbacker also doubles the mellotron/cello theme. I play all the keyboard/synths and guitar parts on the records. Svein uses the mellotron on stage.

mwe3: Is “Hybrid Minds” related to the album title? It’s a track in the Canterbury style. Are you saying that some people have chips implanted in their brain? I know animals sometimes have some chips implants but is that possible for humans?

Sam Fossbakk: Yes it is possible very soon. That can be a fast development.

mwe3: Another instrumental “…Closer” doesn’t actually close the album and it too has a kind of Caravan like vibe to its complexity. It has an interesting chord pattern. Can you say something about the chord pattern in that track? Would you consider an all-instrumental Professor TipTop album at some point?

Sam Fossbakk: The title “...Closer” is connected to “The Dogs Are Coming” It is in the same vein as the dogs, like a rolling snowball, something that is growing and goes on for itself. The rhythm is 7/4 so the chords follow the beats, 3+4. The chord patterns are ascending; one step, one and a half step, one and a half step, one step, one and half step, one step, ending in IV. Easier said; E7-F#7-A7-C7-D7-F7-G7-A7. Minor sevenths all the way. I used an old Telecaster and a MXR phase 90 to get a 1970s low-fi sound for the riff. Then there are Mellotron flutes, English horn, male choir and cello. No plans for an all-instrumental album. That would be a solo project. We like to put a couple of instrumentals on the records.

mwe3: How about “The Final Night”? It sounds pretty final to me… Is it a love song or a kind of epitaph?

Sam Fossbakk: It is both a love song and an epitaph. We like melodic songs.

mwe3: The Apollon label is doing amazing things for music these days. What are some of the artists on Apollon you enjoy?

Sam Fossbakk: Apollon is doing great things and they have been major in revitalizing the prog scene. Robin Mortensen, the manager of the company, is very dedicated, I like all the artists on the label in some way or another.

mwe3: How about on the world stage? Do you travel sometimes to other European countries, like Sweden, Finland or England? Have you had some exposure for Professor Tip Top in other countries too?

Sam Fossbakk: We get exposure through radio, streaming and record sales all over Europe. We haven’t traveled, but we hope to do so.

mwe3: What else do you like to do for fun and relaxation? Do you have hobbies or outside interests or is it music 24/7?

Sam Fossbakk: It’s mostly music related, but I like to read and I often walk in the mountains surrounding our city. There is beautiful nature nearly just outside my door.

mwe3: How many albums has Professor Tip Top done so far and are planning any live DVD in the future? How about writing, recording new music and possible live concerts in 2019?

Sam Fossbakk: We have done five albums so far. There are no concrete plans for a live DVD, but we have just now started cooperating with a very good live sound/film maker. We are writing new material, and will probably start recording in October. There will be a couple of concerts planned in August and September.


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