|15 January 2004
|Lene Marlin: Back in class again.
|Source : Spirit magazine (October 2003)
KNOCKOUT IN FIRST ROUND...but now Lene Marlin is up again. Many experiences gained. And a private life poorer.
If Spirit was to take off internationally, and this in one way or another should make us who are working here several tens of millions richer, you could take poision on that we would have allocated ourselves three straight years off immediately. Possibly, we would also have ignored the people's cry for more Spirit, and just closed down the whole thing.
We would have taken it with a stoic calmness, despite all the commotion following that the nation's only brilliant magazine was not a part of the public anymore. The debate in the media would have been an ego-boost of significant proportions. When will Spirit come out again? Will Spirit ever come out again at all? How are they really doing, they who used to offer us the magical reading matter we could recognize ourselves in, laugh of, cry of, and become engaged of and confounded at?
And while the editors kept silent like oyster, the owner would have to frequently answer questions from eager journalists. 'The Spirit editors are doing well', the owners would've said. 'They're sitting at home, devising new, ingenious ideas for reportages'. But, when will there be more Spirit? 'The editors are taking the time they need. Spirit will be out again when they're finished'.
In the midst of all this, we would mainly stayed at home, eating snacks, and be watching TV, and everything would have been sorely well. If it hadn't been for that god damned photographer in the scrub outside.
- I have been thinking a lot about what happened, and I still have problems comprehending it, Lene Marlin tells Spirit.
- When I attempt imagining all those who went out to buy the album...you aren't even able to picture it, there are so incredibly many. And my ambitions were not there at all.
It's a delicious, sunny late-summer's afternoon, Friday, soon weekend. We are finding ourselves in a ca. 40 square meters cozy apartment on the eastern side of Oslo, together with Lene Marlin, which one never does. It's not Lene's little shed, but one of the record company employee's place. We are agreeing on that it's not that clever going to a café with the country's greatest solo popstar ever; she doesn't exactly tower in the terrain, but attention she undoubtedly rises. Even though that is not necessarily what she is wishing for.
Attention came in large amounts when Lene finally opened her mouth again on July 31st. And since most people long since had understood she had been struggling psychically, the mouth was just the more sensational on this day: The charming coin slit she had between her front teeth wasn't there anymore.
- I was originally to have braces long time ago, but I was thinking I could use it as an explanation on why I was gone for so long, Lene chuckles.
What is your attitude towards doing surgical operations on the body?
- If well-known people are doing it, and the media puts it up and says 'this is a bad example for the young', I'm thinking that if they hadn't been writing about it, nobody would have known.
I heard someone say that 'if it had been another country than Norway, she would have returned with silicon breasts as well'. Lene cackles, perhaps somewhat forced.
- One thing that it's hard being prepared for, is how you get measured up and down, forward and backward; things you do, things you say, how you look suddenly is a matter of conversation. And that has taken me a long, long time getting used to.
As a matter of form:
Is it correct to state that you were in a depression?
- It's correct to state that...For me it's just...yes, I did take a hit, you might say!
Lene laughs. Luckily. And gets herself together.
- To get that attention about yourself and your own person... It gets to be so massive, and so out of your control. The joy in music - to make a song, create something - disappeared.
And Lene remembers very well just when the last piece was squeezed out of the small, somewhat masculine body.
- I recall I was traveling to Korea, and got food poisoning, incredibly sick, and then I had to go to Taiwan. On the way to the airport I got a teddy bear from someone working in the company, and I had no more space in my suitcase, so I carried it. And when I got out of the plane in Taiwan, there were suddenly seven-eight TV teams appearing with big cameras right in my face. I then held the teddy bear in front of my face, and headed my way through. And I remember I was sitting in the car afterwards, thinking that now it's about time to withdraw.
This summer, before it became known that Lene was ready for round two, an artist showed up who clearly made use of the empty void: Venke Knutson, who has been able to take note of a certain success with the single Panic, an embarrassing Unforgivable Sinner derivative. Lene hesitates when we ask about it.
- Now, I haven't heard it that much to make up an opinion about it, she says diplomatically. A bit chicken, now?
- Here I'm a bit disqualified, since it's the people who participated on my first record that have made it.
What do you think about that there are artists popping up in your wake?
- It's a bit strange. It has occured that I get fan letters from people saying that they have started to write songs because of me, and that's very sweet! However - there were girls with classical guitars before me, so I'm not going to take any credit for that.
When the record company released the news about Lene's return, it was accompanied by a handful of press photos taken by one of the most admired (and expensive) artist photographer of all times: Anton Corbijn, who has also photographed the cover of Lene's new album, Another Day, which is produced by another big shot, Mike Hedges.
To employ such names signalizes grave industry seriousness. However, both visually and musically, Lene signalizes seriousness on another level. Here it's all about sadness.
Why do you wish to have this apparition?
- Well, the songs that I write aren't exactly seriously happy! And it's not that I'm a specially sad person. However, the last thing on my mind when I'm insanely, insanely happy is sitting down writing a song about it. This is not quite how it works. But it could happen that I'm happy, and then I suddenly start thinking about an event or things that are disturbing me - and then it usually turns out somewhat minor tuned. I do get super happy every time I manage to write a song that is...upbeat.
Has the songwriting been therapeutic for you?
She thinks about it.
- I'm writing about my surroundings. I'm writing a lot about myself as well, but it's stuff that people can relate to in one way or another. They might make the songs their own. However, of course - I've lived for twenty-three years. I then have to write a bit about that.
Could one say that the last three years of your life is reflected on the album?
- It would have been impossible avoiding including something from the time that I have put behind me. However, it's about want and love and hope and deceit and all those things that everyone has a relation to.
However, how easy will it actually become for Lene's audience to make the new songs 'their own'? It wasn't hard in the early cases like Unforgivable Sinner and Sitting Down Here, written and sung as they were by a barely of age Tromsø girl nobody knew anything about. But since that time Lene Marlin has become a name, a person, a story at least every Norwegian has a relation to in one way or another, one opinion or another.
Recently, the news came that the relationship with the likeable TV-face Stian Barsnes Simonsen is over. About on the hour simultanously with You Weren't There starting to whirl on the radio, and Lene starting to talk again. One does start wondering.
And with the minor tuned music on Another Day, it's easy to interpret the lyrics' 'I' and 'she' as Lene herself, while 'you' and 'he' is the ex-boyfriend. Or?
- People will analyze it both here and there, and that's in a way all right, but still they won't know a hundred percent for sure which songs are about me. And that is somewhat wonderful. You do give much off yourself when you're writing, and then it's important to keep something back as well, not to cut every secret loose.
The secrets, on the other hand, are lying in Lene's bottom drawer.
- I have written songs which I knew were only for my own part, which I will never be playing for anybody else, which I wrote just because I had to get it out. 'OK, that was it, now I put it away'.
Is it difficult managing celebrity and artist job simultanously with a love affair?
- Hahaha, there it was! I was wondering when it should pop up...
Lene is straightening her back, triumphantly, before she embarks on a longer monologue, which in its brevity says that if you are very occupied with something, it will necessarily have to put other things in one's existence in the background. And that is something she by all means is correct in saying.
- Now I'm getting a bit digressive, as you may understand. However, love affairs are not something that I talk about. I noticed, by the way, that I had found a new boyfriend in Spirit!
To those not following: In the previous issue, we dared to launch some new love possibilities for Lene. Among others Mia Hundvin. Well knowing that high-class people could cancel interview appointments for less.
- Haha, that was really funny!
We got the tune. We're laughing together. We're having fun together with Lene Marlin! This interview is starting to feel wonderfully exclusive.
Enough of the laughter. It's time to start talking about sad things again.
It is perhaps not that sad for Lene Marlin, but for Lene Nystrøm the last few months must have been hard, at least if she cares about what is being written in the Norwegian press, and I'm sure she does. The main theme is 'Lene M = able, Lene N = bimbo'. We ask what Lene M thinks about being elected the winner of this fictitous duel.
- Such matters I don't care about. However, one should take care in attacking single individuals. People do have feelings. You do observe what's being written about yourself in the press, and clearly, much of it could very well make an horrible impression.
Lene gets low-voiced. She knows what she's talking about. When Lene was at her most silent, the politicans of Tromsø decided on giving her an honorary prize, for having put the home city on the map, as one say. This got a bit of attention in the media.
The time went on. Lene never showed up to pick up the prize. This got a lot of attention in the media. The media got really angry. And the elected people of her home city made their complains known to everybody who called. Hainn tykje! But Lene stayed silent.
- It would perhaps had been smarter to just pick up the prize, to keep the peace?
- To me, it wasn't really any choice. Just that was very sore - I actually had all the time in the world, and all the desire in the world. It wasn't any fun.
Lene is sighing heavily. Looks extremely tormented.
- I was very, very happy about the prize, but sometimes you have to think about yourself. And then it was of course nasty to get the matter on the frontpage of VG. I can feel that this is still sore, because it felt very unjust - like they were trying to smoke me out; 'now she HAS to say something'.
Lene underscores that time and desire is not always enough. Her sentences get to be more and more staccato the more we're talking about this.
- And I got very surprised about that it became such a huge thing, because I thought they were informed about why I didn't came. It was a shock to me, because I had the interpretation that they knew.
We're trying to pump Lene about what is the most far out event she's experienced due to her celebrity.
- Look, there are people having crossed way over the line in regards to me and my family, she says strictly.
- And I'm thinking: It's just music! That doesn't mean you can just throw all civility out of the window, no matter what you're occupied with. People say I have to learn to live with it, and I could very well do that, but that doesn't mean I have to accept it. I don't think it's much pleasant with a certain journalism that's being performed, where people think it's acceptable hiding behind dark windows for catching a picture of you when you come out of your home.
There are every reason to take Lene seriously here. A magazine which was among the few who gets to talk to her, got their interview cancelled when it was clear that the journalist assigned to the task had a background in 'Se og Hør'.
Sometimes it's easy to forget that Lene Marlin isn't just a 'celebrity'. She is an artist, that's why we're sitting here. She has a new album to promote, and there has been a certain pressure of expectations attached to this one.
- I'm not that afraid of the critics, because it wasn't like the exultation reached the ceiling due to the previous record...
Good to hear that Lene remembers the 'three' Playing My Game received in Spirit better than the 'six' in VG.
- ...but I'm thinking more about whether I will disappoint those who were really, really fans of the previous one. And I hope I'm not.
Lene admits that there have been some noise in the chambers with the record company; they thought that some of the songs she refrained from including on Another Day were good single candidates.
- To me, it was important to include what I wanted, wanted, wanted people to hear. I'm not sure what expectations there are out there, but I'm hoping to at least being able to meet some of it.
Yes, what expectations are really out there? Most people have, strictly spoken, been wandering about wondering how Lene Marlin have been doing, and not exactly been lying in sleepless excitement about how the new album was to sound. Now that we have gotten it ascertained that Lene is in OK shape again, there is some excitement about whether she will touch the success from last time, with almost two million albums sold. Because, with the danger of kicking in wide-open doors: Lene Marlin's reliable guitar pop is really not much to work oneself up about, neither in one direction nor another. It is honest, without risk, and partly including - not totally unlike the impression we're getting of the artist herself. There is nothing 'wrong' in this, but it's not conspicuously sexy either. Another Day sounds like a professional big bucks continuation of an artist, who, before she got so heavily 'discovered', had the music as an unceremonious pastime.
- The music was a hobby, she tells us.
- I was really shy, was just sitting at home, playing cautiously. It could happen I played a bit for girl friends, out on the porch, in the midnight sun!
Lene could probably very well be interested in playing on the porch, in the midnight sun, together with U2-vocalist Bono, her pronounced musical dream partner. One should always praise people who doesn't care to be a snob when they're name dropping, and here Lene is scoring a full pot. Instead of, say, Justin Timberlake, Jack White, or Neptunes, she thus chooses Bono - the very most obvious common pop cultural reference point in the western world the last twenty years. Friends seems almost radically in comparison.
With the knife on her throat, Lene mentions Travis, Coldplay, and Jeff Buckley as artists she could be envious of when it comes to songwriting. We're trying to find out what else she has on the shelves, but are meeting the wall.
- You could very well say that my CD collection is diverse, or variably, heh! However, when I grew up, it was just radio, whatever what was on. Actually, I don't think I got a CD player until the ninth grade. And then I started to write when I was fourteen.
Musicians and songwriters tend to have great record collections, and ditto detail knowledge?
- Can't say I belong to that group, says Lene, and opens up her door of laughter.
Lene was not the one that had posters in the girl's room either. There hang medals and diplomas as evidence of the presence of someone skillful at skiing and soccer. However, that time is over.
- I have never been fond of being in the searchlight of attention, she says.
- Never liked getting pictures of me taken. Very many says to me that 'you are a very poorly known person!'. And it would perhaps had been easier if I just hadn't given a damned, but I can't manage to do that either.
How much happiness could you get for money?
- What are they saying? Money don't make you happy, but it does make it hell of a lot easier. Of course. It would have been moronic to state otherwise. It's an extreme privilege being able to have financial safety.
Lene breathes out.
- However, it would have been boring to have all the money in the world, and nobody to share it with.
Translation by Tef Johs