Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Why Must They All Move On?



When William Hartnell landed the role of Doctor Who Number One in 1962, he was experienced enough to have learned that when you get a good, steady well-paying gig in an otherwise shaky industry, an industry where more people fail than succeed, you don’t trade that Good Thing in on the vague promise of doing “something different.” It was for this reason that he was so disappointed in his co-star, Carole Anne Ford, when she decided to leave the show at the beginning of its second season. Why throw away a good thing? And he was right. To this day, Carole Anne Ford is remembered for being Susan on Doctor Who, not for anything she did later. Fifty Years down the road, the youngest Doctor ever — Matt Smith — pitched his high-profile, steady, well-paying gig so that he could go off and play bit parts in bad movies that nobody will remember. Young people never seem to learn.

The same thing is true, and perhaps even more true, in the music business: and so I was dismayed, upset, and even hurt earlier this year when musician Marianne Sveen announced that she would be leaving my favorite band, the Nordic all-gal group Katzenjammer, in order to pursue her solo career.

Previous to this, she had already taken time off to work as a producer and as the solo act Dandylion; I bought a few of her solo EPs myself. But did she ever reflect that maybe people were only interested in her solo career because of her association with Katzenjammer? 

I ask the question because it's evident now now that her selfish decision has killed the group. In the wake of Sveen's announcement, fellow band-member Anne Marit Bergheim yesterday posted on Facebook that she is moving on as well: leaving no doubt that my favorite band was an “all for one and one for all” outfit: rather than replace Sveen on tours with a new musician, Katzenjammer has decided to fold the tents for good.

Does Sveen know that her decision to kill Katzenjammer could make her the most reviled woman in rock history outside of Yoko Ono? Does she know that the polite interest in her solo career will probably evaporate now that she’s burned down the only reason that anyone outside of Norway ever even heard of her?

And so the history of Katzenjammer seems now to be written: just another really talented almost was. They never became a household name in the USA, but they could have done. They could have done so much more, together. Ten years, three genius albums that grew in accomplishment from release to release (last year’s Rockland seemed to make the specific statement that the women of Katzenjammer had the substance, the experience, the raw power and the songwriting skills to go toe-to-toe with the best in the business) … all now dissolved, gone the way of that other Fab Four, The Beatles. 

All because Marianne Sveen doesn’t know a god-damn good thing when she sees it, and wants to chuck it all so that she can do “other things.” Specifically, “other things” that will never amount to half of what she has already accomplished working with Anne Marit Bergheim, Turid Jorgensen and Solveig Heilo as part of Katzenjammer.

We didn’t know when David Bowie released his last album that it would be his last album, and the same is true about Katzenjammer and Rockland. It turns out that the lovely title ballad, penned by Anne Marit, didn’t just close out the album: it was the swan song for the band’s entire history. You can listen to it in the video above this post. I don’t suppose that any other group ever said goodbye more beautifully.

— Frede.

3 comments:

  1. Dear Sir,
    as a passionate, long-time fan of Katzenjammer, I can certainly feel your pain after hearing about the band's break-up. But I think you are doing Miss Sveen very wrong.
    I read you are an artist, too, so you will undoubtedly understand the urge to express oneself in an artistic way and to explore freely what's inside you. Like she says herself about her decision to leave the band: „Now, every tone inside me is telling me that I need to let go of Katzenjammer to fully embrace the music that is playing inside me, and has been playing for so long. It's a matter of dedication, you see. Music is located in every inch of my body. And now, this music requires all of my time. It wouldn't feel fair to anyone to continue doing something else. Kinda like cheating.“
    This should resonate strongly with you as an artist and you should not only accept her decision - which (despite our shared disappointment that something so unique and wonderful like this band has ended) is so not ours to judge and certainly wasn't an easy one to make -, but honour her courage to stay true to herself, follow her vision and her dreams and strife for artistic freedom.
    You wonder why the band didn't just replace Miss Sveen. To me, she (or any member of the band for that matter) was irreplaceable. It would not have been the same thing, and they probably knew that very well. You mentioned the Beatles: Can you seriously image them being John, Steve, George and Ringo?
    Then you go so far as to angrily blame Miss Sveen for „having killed the group“. I realise this is just your disappointment speaking, but it's verifiably not true: More than a month before she announced her departure, the band had announced they were going on an indefinite break after the anniversary tour with Turid saying she would give yoga teaching a serious try (http://www.nrk.no/telemark/katzenjammer-tek-pause-pa-ubestemt-tid-1.12675523).
    This fact aside, has it ever crossed your mind that after ten years of being together in this band, personalities evolving and circumstances changing (having kids for example), maybe all of them were looking for something new?
    You say they could have become household names in the US. Katzenjammer existed for ten years. Don't you think that within this time span, they haven't tried everything in their power to become as big in the US (and in the UK) as they were in Germany, for example?
    As fans, this situation for us is a bit like your lover breaking up with you. But you know the saying „If you love someone, set them free.“ Referring to your Yoko Ono comparison, reviling Miss Sveen for her decision – now THAT would be a very selfish thing to do indeed. Instead of mourning the end of Katzenjammer, we should be excited about the beginning of new beautiful things brought to us by Marianne, Anne-Marit and Solveig (who, as you probably know, has joined a trio with two other female Norwegian artists a while ago).
    But somehow you seem to be sure that whatever Miss Sveen will do, it „will never amount to half of what she has already accomplished working with“ Katzenjammer - although you admit at the same time that all of them have „the substance, the experience, the raw power and the songwriting skills to go toe-to-toe with the best in the business“.
    I sincerely hope that you, when your heart has started healing a bit, will be able to give her a fair chance and see if you like the path she is taking as a solo artist. Personally, I have total faith in her immense talents and can't wait to join her on the next step of her journey.

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  2. It's incredibly sad all round, fantastic musicians and performers, their energy was a site to behold, how the band never amounted to so much more is a mystery (poor management ?) everything was there , sadly people have made careers out of much less and will continue to do so ��

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  3. I too understand the hurt expressed above as I discovered Katzenjammer in May2017, explored their albums, fell totally under the spell of Rockland in particular (alongside my wife), loved their live performances found on YouTube and resolved to see them live asap. Only to discover I was already too late...I still feel the disappointment on a daily basis
    But as many others have commented in this and other forums, the modern world is really not good at understanding such colossal and genuine talent.
    However, they can't stay together just because we want them to (so much...). Not in the face of constant struggle for the recognition they deserve vs the bland manufactured nonsense that fills the TV schedules, the internet and the airwaves.
    Ah, what a legacy they have left us!! I will continue to try and convert anyone that will listen to the magic of Katzenjammer's songwriting and performance (my 17 year old daughter loaded their music to her phone without any prompting from me whatsoever). I will continue to hear them in my headphones on the long daily train commute and smile at the end of a bad day in the office. I will continue to play them loud and proud in the car - and sing along tunelessly. I will continue to play them at home at every opportunity (and try to find the energy to "dance when my dear wife asks"). So long ladies, you were a true force of nature, a true one off. Thank you so much for "something completely different" and wonderful.

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