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28 March 2009
The Lene School
Source : Dagbladet
After having sold 2.3 million albums, Lene Marlin (28) believes she has the right to be difficult.

WHERE DID THE good mood go? It was a busy Thursday afternoon in Storgata in Oslo, and a taxi was fighting its way agressively through the traffic. In the backseat Lene Marlin was sitting. In her lap she had a spacious hand bag, and in her hand a paper bag. She was silent. For two hours, she had been happy like a songbird, certainly with a few outbursts, but on the whole, happy. Now she's suddenly had turned, yes, we need to say sulky. Was this the difficult pop star? Was this the demanding Lene Marlin?

- You don't say, she said briefly and indifferently.

- Mmm, she said, almost inaudibly.

- Now you have that angry look again?

- Yes, now, now I just want to be concentrating. The windshield wipers were screaming across the windshield. Lene Marlin was staring vacantly into nothing. Was there time for a banana?

Let us turn back to when everything was convival. For instance, the moment when Lene Marlin came sweepingly, yes she came sweepingly into the brown café Lompa on the eastern side of Oslo. It was her choice to be sitting there. Meeting her at home in her apartment at Oslo West was sky-highly out of the question. Together with the boyfriend "Corey" in London? Out of the question! No, Lompa it got to be, and it's there she now is putting the guitar on the floor. She has a brown jacket, brown sweater, brown sham ankle boots, and tight jeans with the letters L-U-X-U-R-Y across the bottom.

- Now I'm very geared up, says Lene Marlin.

- I'm very much kind of...

She is holding her arms in the air, snapping her fingers. On Monday her fourth album is being released, the expectations are sky high.

- I know that when many are thinking about me, they are thinking abroad. However, for me it's the thing that I'm working in Norway, it's here I've recorded the album, and it's here that I'm releasing it. When I'm hearing the record company speaking about abroad, I'm just saying lalalalala, she says, and covers her ears.

- You don't want to hear about it?

- No, I would rather eventually enjoy things that might possibly happen.

- Due to the pressure of expectations?

- Yes-no. I'm usually calling my first album for the "boyfriend that my parents never forget". Understand? No? You know, parents are comparing every later boyfriends with the first one. They say: "Yes, indeed, but he you were dating ten years ago, he was...", you know? It's the first album of mine that everyone will measure everything else up against.

- You probably need to learn living with that.

- Yes, I know. However, if everything is to measured up against that success, then I just need to quit. Find something else to do. Because I think it will never happen again.

TEN YEARS HAVE passed since Lene Marlin crashed through the international sound barrier. The first album sold 1.6 million.

- I have been thinking a lot on how I'm going to be summing up these ten years, she says, and unwinds her scarf.

- There have been so much feelings, there have been so many trips up and down, there have been so much laughter and crying and yelling and jubilation, she says, and takes a break:

- The nice thing about getting older is that now I can manage looking at it in another view. I'm thinking: "My God, what a scheme, what fuss". Now I've become more good at remembering what was fun.

Everything have not been fun, of course. Abruptly and brutally, the 19-year-old Lene from Tromsø was thrown into a ruthless, commercial pop roundabout. She woke up in Belgium, ate lunch in Germany, and went to bed in Sweden. There were Taiwan, hotel rooms, Japan, airports, TV-shows, interviews, Italy, concerts, the money rolled in, it was an accelerating roundabout.

Until one day she lost her grip, and got hurled into an existencial darkness.

Lene Marlin was gone from three years and 185 days.

- Do you remember the day when you were thinking: "No, this is not going to work anymore"?

- Yes, she says, her breath going in.

- It was in Taiwan. There is a moment that is standing out for me. Clearly. There were many indications before that, but there I reached a limit. I came from, yes, let's say Korea. I don't know, but let's say Korea. I had been food poisoned for many days, had a fever, and wasn't in my best shape. This I wasn't at the outset either, so it was sad stuff. Then I landed on the airport in Taipei, and as I got out of the plane, I got five TV-cameras pulled up to my face. I was totally unprepared, and there were these agressive people, there was nudging, and I got really -

She quickly draws her breath.

- It was like my breathing stopped. I had a small teddy bear, which I had gotten from somebody, and I held it in front of my face, and headed out between all these crazy media people, while I was feeling the tears pushing on. I got out, after God knows how long time, I was getting into the car, and then all the sluices opened. The tears were raging, I hit the seat, and was yelling "get me out of here, get me out". It was straight out a panic attack.

- And then it was over?

- Then I got the message about being allowed to rest at the hotel for two hours. And then we continued.

TWO MONTHS AFTER the breakdown in Taipei, it was definitely over. After the Spellemann awards for 1999, where she won the prize for artist of the year, newcomer, pop solo artist, and song, she disappeared. She has stated this in earlier interviews:

"You may cross a line, you may cross two lines, but..."

- "...if you cross the third line, the road back becomes incredibly long". And it got to be, she said.

Many have in posterity thought that Lene Marlin became a victim of the market forces.

- Mmm, she says recognizably.

- Are you blaming somebody?

- You know what? I'm really trying to be thinking as little on that as possible. Because then I think I'd become...

She stops, starts anew.

- I was 19 years old, and got pulled out of the safe, firm frame, away from school, friends, family, and "here you are, here are the plane tickets for the next three months. Out you go!"

There became insanely large contrasts, and then you need to be trusting that the people responsible for you are able to take that responsibility. There were some years after that record, when I...No, now I wouldn't have that taking up space in my jolly head. However, there are many who should have...mmm...

- Feel a guilty conscience?

- Who ought to be feeling a bit on it. There are. Really.

So what did she do when she disappeared? Yes, first of all she was sleeping.

- I was lying in the apartment, sleeping, in what felt like several months.

- How long?

- Long! I don't know. It was rest, stillness, darkness. I didn't want to have anything to do with music anymore. I was so sick of it that I couldn't stand seeing a guitar, and there was a sorrow feeling that I had lost what had given me so much pleasure. Even now there are some things I can't manage to be laughing at. Some things I still can't bring myself to think, that "OK, that was then, now I'm 28, life goes on". There are many black holes in my memory, and that it just ought to be.

ON THE NEW ALBUM, the first song is entitled "Everything's Good", and this we could take as a statement that she's doing well?

- No, no. The reason that the song is coming first, is that it's very me. There is guitar, violin, there's a bit of cosiness. The order on a record is incredibly important, and I have spent an inconceivable amount of time to decide. It feels like a correct start, because it's positive and is surprisingly jolly considering it's me.

- There are some minor-tuned chords?

- There are always some minor-tuned chords.

- But you're doing good?

- Yes, yes. This whole album has been just fine, and I'm happy about all the things happening around it. You can't take anything for granted in this industry, and when I see that the single has been heared by 20.000 on MySpace, then I get so happy. Many take that as a matter of course on my behalf, but I don't do that at all. I get so happy about all the hits and feedback on the net, and then I get happy because I appreciate the fact that I get happy.

- You are a bit uncertain deep down?

- Of course I am! It's horribly terrifying presenting something that have only been mine for so long. Now people who haven't been living with this music are suddely going to judge it! Really terrifying! Mortally dangerous! Huff. Therefore it's so wonderful feeling the sincere joy about the tiny, smaller things. To be enjoying things under way, that's the whole point. Being in the moment. It's not getting the album out that is the goal. It's the road leading you there.

Among those having given her feedback on the net are Zuzzy, Danies, Marko, DarKlaus, Pegasus, and Luke.

- Do you know them?

- They have something to do with my Italian fan-club, perhaps?

In Italy there exists the Universe most active and patient Lene Marlin fan-club. Everything she says and does appear on that homepage. Soon, this interview will also be there.

- I'm telling my friends that if they are wondering where I am or where I'm headed, check out www.lene.it. They are incredible about following me, and I'm meeting them everywhere. They were in Sokndal, when I was playing there, they were in Karlstad, and when I did the Døgnvill festival in Tromsø, they by God came there as well. I have no knowledge of how many pictures I've taken together with them.

- I imagine that there must be something ambivalent about having fans that are this eager?

- No, you know what: they are super dedicated, without being pushing. They are keeping a proper distance, and are showing good manners. They are straight out well-mannered, and this makes it much easier behaving in relation to them.

- You have perhaps fans that are not showing the same respect?

- In the beginning, I read all the letters I received, but now I'm not doing this. As one in the record company said: "You ought to be glad you don't read all the letters you get. I think that would've scared you". So I said, "then I'm happy about that, and we'll not talk more about it". There is not everything that's equally cozy, indeed.

IN THE MUSIC INDUSTRY there are rumours about the difficult and demanding Lene Marlin.

- People may very well say that I'm a bit..eh...that is, eh...

- Demanding?

- Yes, and I am. I have been confronted with this that I'm so difficult. I have a lot of opinion on things and what I'm doing, and I'm interested in people around me also know what they're doing. I get very tired of people who are flaring.

- How are you demanding?

- Earlier, I said yes, yes, yes, and was thinking: "I probably need to do everything". Now I want to know what's going on. Instead of being a ball which is rolling along, I'm putting my foot down. If there is something I disagree on, I'm just saying: "I'm hearing you, sir, but I don't want to do it! I just don't!" It works great, as long as I'm clear and honest. And one thing that everyone working with me don't need to be worrying about: At least I'm honest, and we don't need to be circling about the damned porridge.

- Now you got this angry look?

- But, this is my fourth album, and I have sold approximately 2.3 - 2.4 million albums. You do get a bit demanding after that. Because, in the end, she says, beating her index finger onto the table.

- In the end, I'm standing there alone. It's my name who's getting all the torment. People could just as well say that I'm demanding and difficult, but you know what: I'm actually going to survive in this industry.

Ten years, four albums. For a young, advancing, pop artist in a hyper commercial market, this is no large production.

- I may actually allow myself to be spending the time I need. I can wait until I'm feeling that now, now I have the wish to create a new album. I can be conscious on what I want to do.

- You are economically privileged?

- Mmm. That I am.

- However, the big question is: What on earth are you doing when you don't happen to be releasing albums?

- No, what I'm doing? I'm writing, thinking, reading...

- But, how is an ordinary day in your life?

- No, that's impossible to answer.

- For us who are working eight to four it seems scary having this much spare time?

- Yes, but I'm also going crazy by not having anything to do. It must not slide over the edge, then I don't get anything done. There is rarely coming anything good out of me before eleven in the morning, but then I'm writing songs or smaller stories, or I do photography. These latter weeks, I've been kind of a business woman, because you need to be that as well. Answering mails, making decisions, those kind of things.

- You are not bored?

- Very rarely. I don't think I have that gene. However, I'm that kind of person who believes that relaxing, that is not a waste of time.

- What do you spend all the money on?

- I'm actually shockingly reasonable. I'm thinking about the future, and that these money are going to last a while. I don't think you'd see me in a Lamborghini or a big, fancy boat. I have never had a flight on first class, for instance. The things I'm spending money on, are travels and going out for meals.

NOW, WE'RE GOING to watch ourselves in doing deeply searching text analysis, because if there's one thing Lene Marlin dislikes, it is when people want her to explain her lyrics.

However, if we return to the already mentioned lyrics of "Everything's Good", yes then she is singing something like: "You kiss my lips then say goodnight You take my hand, turn off the light I hear you breathe I love that sound I feel so safe with you around".

- When I'm hearing this, I do indeed immediately think of him in London?

She laughs loudly, a bit too long.

- As I'm usually saying...

- I know what you're usually saying. But is it...

- Listen to what I'm saying now, she says, and the index finger is bumping into the table. She's talking about specific events, about general events, which is often combined into new events. She's talking about sitting in a bar in New York and looking at people, and how the stories are starting to spin in her head. Then we're talking about text analysis, which immediately should be removed from the curriculum in high school.

- I don't want to interpret the lyrics for those who are listening to them. And if every lyrics should be about myself, I wouldn't have dared releasing albums, she says.

When all this is said, we must be allowed to add it was quite sensational when it got known that the very private Lene Marlin suddenly got together with the very private "Corey", better known as Kåre Conradi.

- You understood this was a good item?

- A good item, yes. Mmm. We have well-known names, so we knew that this wouldn't stay a secret for too long.

- How did you meet?

- I won't answer that, of course, he-he. No, what should I say...He is my boyfriend, and it's cozy. We are doing well. Mmm. He-he. I'm a very private person. Do you have any questions?

- No, not really, besides how you met. You have perhaps known eachother for a long time?

- No, no. We know of eachother, and then we met, and both noticed there was something in the air. People around me were almost dying of laughter when they found out. It was like: "What in God's name are you doing? Is this supposed to be a joke?" However, you can't really control these things. At least I'm not built that way. So this is how it turned out.

LENE MARLIN IS going to a rehearsal. She orders a taxi, and she remembers that she has forgotten to eat, and we are driving by a place where she's buying a chicken salad. It's now she's starting to get sulky. The conversation is going slowly. She's responding briefly and avoidingly. The windshield wipers are screaming across the windshield, and it gets as embarrassing as it can get, when two strangers are sitting together in a backseat without saying anything.

Finally, the taxi is stopping outside some old fabric buildings by the Aker river. Lene Marlin is taking the guitar on her back, and disappears into a building. She's passing a carpentry shop, down an iron stairway. There are dust everywhere. Plaster wallboards, sand plastics, Glava isolation, mortar, and down there in a studio the musicians are waiting. Lene Marlin greets them, and is sitting down in a deep sham chair, pulling up the chicken salad from the paper bag - and is chewing silently. Slowly, she's thawing up again. She's starts talking about travels, tours, and crazy drivers. Between ten and fifteen times she has been to Paris, and all she's seen is the Eiffel Tower.

- I ran for five minutes. I got to see it, at least.

- Now you are jolly again?

- What?

- You were a bit sulky.

- I was a bit low on my blood sugar, she says.

- I usually tell everyone I'm working with: "If I get sour and dull, they have to remind me to eat".

- You don't get offended?

- No. If they are hinting carefully that I need to have a banana, I don't get offended.

Translated by Tef Johs of lene-marlin.info


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