Rise and shine! It’s time for a bit of chat over breakfast with rockabilly trio Hot Rod Double.
If it’s not broke, then don’t fix it, more a case of tinkering when it comes to Norway’s Hot Rod Double and latest album, ‘Hotel Breakfast’.
Continuing similar themes of previous works, yet with a noticeable penchant for country music this time out, back for a third outing is rockabilly trio HOT ROD DOUBLE. Having interviewed the band back in 2016, the three-piece from Norway has remained intact and ever present on the rockin’ circuit when it comes to their home country.
With a brand new long player by the name of ‘Hotel Breakfast’ released to the world only recently, Hot Rod Double show no signs of fatigue as they continue the rich vein of quality of their previous two albums, ‘Last Call For Alcohol’ and their eponymously titled debut, with numerous rockin’ tracks but with a hefty slice of country thrown in for good measure on latest ‘Hotel Breakfast’. In fact, it wouldn’t be completely inaccurate to suggest that ‘Hotel Breakfast’ is far more country than the original blueprint of rockabilly set out by the band all those years ago when they decided to get serious about their ambitions for this band.
“Yes, you are right,” confirms lead singer and guitarist Terje Kinn of Hot Rod Double regarding the strong influence of country music when it comes to the band’s new album. “There is a lot of country influences here, this is not a rockabilly album. This is our country/americana album with influences from the old country stars and bluegrass musicians that we love and listen to.”
So, with rockabilly taking a backseat for the moment in relation to ‘Hotel Breakfast’, Hot Rod Double must have been listening to some rather different sources of material than the usual staples from the house that is SUN Records when it came to piecing together the ideas for album number three?
“It’s hard to pick just one or two,” says Terje before continuing, “but I am fascinated by Dwight Yoakam and Johnny Cash as well as newer guys like Jason Isbell and bluegrass musicians like Billy Strings and, of course, Flatt and Scruggs and Bela Fleck, Jerry Douglas and, I guess, I could name a hundred fabulous bluegrass bands (Terje’s other main output when it comes to music is bluegrass). Also, I think that my guitar playing turned out to be very countryfied, and that coloured the songs in that way. Furthermore, I just love some chicken pickin’ and the sound of the Telecaster!”
Was the Telecaster the preferred choice of instrument for most songs when it came to the making of ‘Hotel Breakfast’?
“I ended up using a Telecaster on many of the songs even though the old Gretsch guitars were used as backing tracks,” explains Terje. “The solos were mainly Telecaster, or at least used more often than I used to do on previous records. One of the other reasons was that the nature of the songs was also more country than rockabilly and, I guess, we were in a more laidback groove than we had been before.”
It’s been a few years since HOT ROD DOUBLE’s second album, ‘Last Call For Alcohol’, what were the reasons to go into the recording studio, once more, and record your latest album ‘Hotel Breakfast’?
“We decided to record new songs because I was in a very productive mood, writing stuff every day and introducing songs at every rehearsal we had. The tunes seemed different in some way, and we agreed on letting them stay the way they came out, not trying to make them into rockabilly or rock or anything else than what they were born to be.”
FLW is curious about the title for your new record, ‘Hotel Breakfast’, care to shed some light on this decision?
“I had been working on this song called ‘Hotel Breakfast’ and we had all been on tour. We had all been out on the town late at night, and we had all been sleeping late, missing breakfast, feeling lousy, having a hot dog solution at the nearest gas station instead of free food at the hotel. We had all been through this so many times, and we have never learned our lesson. Therefore, it seemed appropriate to choose the song as a title for the record because we could all relate to it!”
When and where was the new album recorded?
“I believe the date was April 13th last year, and the sun was shining through the window, recollects Terje. “We had a little talk with Magnus Gulbrandsen at Jeløy Sound, and he wanted to give us a free example of what he could do. So, he rigged a portable studio in a wonderful cafe room in Moss. The room had great acoustics and we set up our instruments and recorded the track ‘Time Keeps Movin’ On’ during that day. I also recorded the two solos on guitar and that was it.
“A couple of days later I went to his studio and sang the lead vocals again in order to try and make it as good as possible, Magnus did a great job on mixing the thing and we were so pleased that we booked time to record some more songs immediately.
“The rest of the songs were recorded at Jeløy Sound throughout a weekend that spring in 2019, and all the backing tracks were done in two days. More correctly, the backing tracks were done in one day and I sang everything the day after. We also did some backup singing and solos, but most of the solos were recorded in my own studio and sent to Magnus for mixing.
“The whole thing that weekend was a fun creative process. Bjørn on drums, and Alexander on bass, knew some of the songs, but a couple of them were new to us all. I wrote some songs the day before, and we finished some tracks that same day. The boys in the band provided some nice grooves, and it all came to be something that we liked.”
Is there one track that stands out from the album recording sessions in terms of being a favourite?
“This is very hard, but I think my favourite is ‘A Feeling Called The Blues’. The reason for that is that my daughter, Eirin Kinn, is singing backup; she sings better than I could ever dream of doing myself, and she has a good taste in picking out harmonies for a song. I also like the song because it’s so different from the rest. We first recorded it with a full backing the whole way but ended up with my old Martin guitar and some tremolo Gretsch. The band gets credibility for being patient and for coming in halfway through the story. The song is also one of the saddest songs I’ve written, and it sounds like my woman left me, that isn’t so, but it’s as close as I can come to imagine what it would be like! Adding to that, and for a completely different reason because it was a funny moment, is the song, ‘I Got A Gal’. We played the song, and it stopped after one verse and one chorus. Alexander didn’t know about this, so he was taken by surprise, and you can hear his comment on the record!”
With the new album done and dusted, in hindsight, is there anything that you would like to change now?
“There’s always things I would change on our recordings, but one has to stop being picky at some point and just release the thing so it can live its own life. I do believe it’s my favourite among our three albums, I like the sound that Magnus created in the studio and I like the feel in the band. I even think I had a pretty good day singing the stuff (and that isn’t often). I could have worked more on the songs but I like it when it’s happening in the studio, when three guys get together and play songs in the same room at the same time, some things happen, and if one can get that on tape, then it’s worth more to me than perfection.”
We must talk about the artwork for the new record! There seems to be an ongoing theme when it comes to album covers and Hot Rod Double would you agree?
“Yes, the first record is a picture from the sofa [recording studio],” replies Terje. “Album number two is from a sofa, and this one is from the sofa in my living room. So, it’s a trilogy, and we thought we should do it this way to wrap up this concept with ‘Hotel Breakfast’.”
It sounds like Hot Rod Double may decide to go in a different direction when the time comes to record the next record?
“We will not stop recording or change the band, but we will make the next record with guests, maybe an extra guitar player, maybe piano, maybe even fiddles. It may end up a rock record, maybe more bluesy, you know, there’s so many ways to go, so many things to do and so many songs to write.”
With ‘Hotel Breakfast’ released, what were the reasons for the album to be made available via streaming/download platforms only? Is this because of a lack of demand for CDs and vinyl in Norway?
“We have no CD stores in Norway anymore,” answers Terje. “We have stores in the big cities like Oslo, who sell vinyl. I’m a vinyl freak myself. Our first and second albums are available on CDs, but we decided to just put this one out on streaming platforms, just to try it. I guess we will end up pressing some vinyl at some point this year (Sounds like a wise plan! FLW) just to have something to sell at concerts. I can tell from most of our audience that they buy vinyl, and we love them for it!”
How do you feel about the music scene in Norway right now? Is it in a healthy place or are things changing for the worse?
“This is a tough question,” Terje begins. “I think it’s hard to be a musician in Norway. As you mention, the record stores have closed. We [musicians in general] don’t sell records, one doesn’t make money on streaming, we have to play concerts, which we love to do, but the establishments will only let you play for the door [income] if you don’t have a name or a hit record or an audience guaranteed to come. I feel like the only arrangers that pay a decent fee are the blues clubs; they have an audience and they show up every time because they like blues music and because they like to dance. That said, we also have the culture houses; they have nice stages, great equipment and some of them are willing to put their money on unknown artists or up and coming artists or concert series like, Americana with different bands, jazz with different bands, rock ‘n’ roll and so on.”
Considering what you have said here, have there been any live dates to promote the new album with Hot Rod Double and, if so, how have these gigs been received?
“We did not put up any release shows for this album, we just put it out there. We have all been so incredibly busy with all sorts of other projects and our lives, but we have started to talk about booking gigs for later this year.”
What’s next for Hot Rod Double in 2020?
“We have been working on a straight bluegrass set, where I play banjo, the drummer plays guitar and Alexander plays the upright bass. We do some three-part harmony singing, and it feels good. But working on our own songs and finding the time to be together and gig around is always the main goal.”
Any final thoughts of the day before we bid each other farewell for the moment?
“For those of you who still buy records, CDs, and go to concerts, keep it up! We are depending on you to keep us alive, and it’s because of you people that we spend hours every day working to improve our playing and transform this to the live setting. Also, thank you FLW for showing interest. Bjørn and Alexander says hello! (“Takk skal dere ha!” FLW).
If you fancy some original and genuine countrified tunes in your life right now, then Hot Rod Double’s ‘Hotel Breakfast’ is more than likely to be the perfect tonic to meet any such requirements.
(Photography courtesy of Hot Rod Double)
The album ‘Hotel Breakfast’ is available digitally via all good streaming platforms
There’s always things I would change on our recordings, but one has to stop being picky at some point and just release the thing so it can live its own life."
Terje Kinn, Hot Rod Double
FLW - From the Tapes
A few songs explained from the words of Terje Kinn from Hot Rod Double’s ‘Hotel Breakfast’.
‘Hangin’ On To This Dream’
“Is a bluegrass song that I wrote a couple of days before we went into the studio, it’s also a song about being left and not being able to let go. I get to play some banjo and what could sound like an acoustic guitar is a Gretsch White Falcon. The solos are of course played on a Telecaster.”
‘For As Long As I Remember’
“This is a song I wrote because I have a friend who became very ill and I came to think about how much a friendship really means to me, and probably to all of us. It’s been said many times in many songs but this time it was my turn to talk about it and this is what came out. The melody reminds me of some old jazz song, but I don’t know if I have stolen some lines or if it’s my own creation. I choose to think that music is based on repetition. Our friend Tore Blestrud played steel guitar on this one, and I try to play as sweet as I can on my Gretsch.”
‘The Only Thing That’s Wrong With You, Is Him’
“Is a story about a guy who thinks he is god’s gift to women, and he can’t take no for an answer. I guess it tells a story about a stalker and I wrote it before I was gonna do a show with this Norwegian blues guitarist and singer Amund Maarud. We had a gig in Hønefoss, and we brought a couple of new songs to the table to play that night. I wrote it thinking it was more of a funky blues/country song that he would like to play some solos on, and he did. It was great fun, and the song came to be part of Hot Rod Double’s setlist.”