Steel your face

Traces in steel. Vinyl and fetishism. Motorpsycho`s Soothe is about more than the music.

A version of this article was printed in ENO – Norsk tidsskrift om musikk # 18, 2014.

Motorpsycho`s second vinyl release was Soothe, and roughly one hundred copies were available in a custom made steel case. Although this is not a remarkably low number by collector`s standards, it has very rarely been seen for sale. In his book Blissard, author and fan Johan Harstad writes that he heard tell of the steel cover for many years, but was never able to track down someone who actually owned a copy. For a long time he only had to imagine what the casing actually looked like.

The mini-LP was released in the spring of 1992 – a year that saw vinyl editions more or less disappear as it`s own category in the major label sales numbers. The vinyl record was almost considered extinct. Motorpsycho, however, having referred to themselves as record collectors in interviews, plead allegiance to the vinyl disc. Their first albums clearly express a love of the format. In addition to spectacular sleeves, we find details such as the album sides printed to be played at different speeds, parallel engraving of tracks, and written messages between the inner most grooves.1) Other artists have also used effects like parallel engraving, but it is quite rare in Norwegian music. Soothe was released on CD in the fall of 1992, alongside tracks from the follow-up 3 Songs for Rut.

ROCK2259.002
The special edition album cover for Motorpsycho`s mini-LP Soothe from 1992 was made by processed steel. The band logo is painted on. Engraved on the back is “13/100”, as this is the thirteenth copy of one hundred. The pattern embossed in the steel almost creates a three dimensional effect.

«Take good care of our baby, and it’ll pay you back each time you play it». This is the message written in the signed and numbered certificate of authenticity that accompanies the steel editions of Soothe. Of course, the steel encased record didn`t become a collector’s edition for it`s music alone. The original idea was a steel case for every copy, but the record company found this too expensive. The one hundred special editions were indeed a compromise between the band and the label.2) Sæther believes there were 101 copies made, in addition to the prototype – and that each one was signed by the band. Other sources indicate between 70 and 80 signed and numbered copies. According to the website Popsike, number 87 was sold for more than 700 $ in 2009. The only registered transaction on the same site since was in 2011, and for a substantially larger sum, before number 79 was sold for 8000 kr on qxl.no in 2015. The ordinary edition of the album can fetch up to 200 $ – as only 1000 total copies were printed.

When a relatively new band created a collector’s edition even before the album was released, it created great interest with the vinyl interested audience in Norway. Furthermore, every fifth or tenth album ordered from the record company would be the special steel edition – also a way to get record stores to buy more copies. However, most of these never reached the intended sale points.3)It is questionable to think that many of these copies were sold in stores. Several probably found their home in private collections with retailers. The special edition was duely noted in reviews of the album. On a poster in a record store in Trondheim shortly after the release, someone offered a trip to London in exchange for the steel cover. Several copies were distributed directly to contributors and friends of the band, while others were obtained by employees of the record company. In reality, far less than the intended 100 copies in a steel box were available when the Soothe saw it`s release.

“Steel cover masterminded by Guttorm Nordø” – so says the back of the regular edition. The album in Rockheim`s possession is Nordø`s private edition.4)Rockheim bought Nordø`s copy some time before the museum opened – the transaction sum not being disclosed publically. I will gladly bring forth the rumour that the deal was made – and authorized by top brass – in the late hours of Rockheims Christmas party in 2009. He is mostly known as a visual artist, and was a part of the milieu surrounding UFFA and Svartlamon in Trondheim. The idea for the steel cover, he says, came to him when he shared a taxi with Sæther from the pub 3B back to Lademoen. Nordø felt Motorpsycho were somewhat of a metal band, and therefore the next album should be in a metal encasement. Having already worked with steel in his own art, he gave the band tips on how to work with the material. Various technics and tools could make traces and tracks in the steel, and create an aesthetic effect of depth perception.

MP cover utsnitt

The finished result was not the box suggested by Nordø, but a steel encasing for the regular cover and record. The encasing is credited to Motorpsycho and “Grøten” (“The Porridge”). “Grøten” is in reality Thorstein Elvestad, a friend of Gebhardt and Ryan from Trøndertun folk high school.5)Elvestad is from Hundorp, and his nickname from Trøndertun might have something to do with his distinct dialect. He`s the drummer for glam rock band Suicide Bombers, where he is known as «T-Bone – The Outlaw Groover». He was studying copper and tinsmithery at Tiller high school, and was asked to produce a prototype of the cover. The band (and the principal at the school) gave the OK, and Elvestad – with two classmates – started working. Plates of steel were rebated, bent and cut to the size of an LP cover, and then the edges were soldered together. Using drills and steelbrushes, the three dimensional expressions were engraved for each edition. The finishing touch: the copies were numbered with an air driven engraver pen.

Each metal edition by Grøten was stenciled in person by Motorpsycho with their logo. Problems arose, however, when packing commenced. The casings proved a little too tight for the albums, but the problem was solved in the back room of Voices of Wonder`s small shop at Olaf Ryes plass in Oslo. The edges of the regular covers were cut to fit the metal cases – this is why they aren`t stapled, but separate sheets of cardboard. Still, the inside of the special metal encasing became a tight fit, making retrieving and inserting the content difficult. Form before function.6)According to legend, some of the metal covers proved too small and had to be discarded – a reason why there are less than 100 known copies. Using special materials for an album cover might endanger the record itself, in addition to being inconvenient for the listener. One famous example in Norwegian music is the album Fjøse (1987), by Andrej Nebb and Lars Pedersen. An accompanying emery wheel would often damage the vinyl disc.

The unprocessed look and the lack of a certain “perfection” is noted by Johan Harstad in his book “Blissard” – where he admits he was disappointed the first time he actually saw the steel cover for Soothe. However, these short comings can help give each copy its own uniqueness. The ideas, the craftsmanship, the techniques and the implementation ensured that no cover was identical. This makes Rockheim`s copy – number 13 – a singular and unique object, not just an object or example.

MP cover nummer

Sources:

Thorstein Elvestad

Christian Nedregård

Guttorm Nordø

Hans Magnus Ryan

Bent Sæther

Harstad, Johan: Blissard (Falck Forlag, 2012)

Hofseth, Anders: «Historietime: Slik fikk CD’en fotfeste» http://nrkbeta.no/2011/03/28/historietime-slik-fikk-cden-fotfeste/
Newspaper search: Atekst, http://www.retriever-info.com/

Rock Furore, årgang 1991 og 1992
www.discogs.com

motorpsycho.no

motorpsycho.fix.no

www.popsike.com

Thanks: Eirik Kydland og Kristian Krokfoss

thebaned2015-08-19 15 kopi
Congratulations David j! Winner of the secret competition (14 October)!  “Toys” is arriving in your mailbox soon!

 

References   [ + ]

1. Other artists have also used effects like parallel engraving, but it is quite rare in Norwegian music. Soothe was released on CD in the fall of 1992, alongside tracks from the follow-up 3 Songs for Rut.
2. Sæther believes there were 101 copies made, in addition to the prototype – and that each one was signed by the band. Other sources indicate between 70 and 80 signed and numbered copies. According to the website Popsike, number 87 was sold for more than 700 $ in 2009. The only registered transaction on the same site since was in 2011, and for a substantially larger sum, before number 79 was sold for 8000 kr on qxl.no in 2015. The ordinary edition of the album can fetch up to 200 $ – as only 1000 total copies were printed.
3. It is questionable to think that many of these copies were sold in stores. Several probably found their home in private collections with retailers. The special edition was duely noted in reviews of the album. On a poster in a record store in Trondheim shortly after the release, someone offered a trip to London in exchange for the steel cover.
4. Rockheim bought Nordø`s copy some time before the museum opened – the transaction sum not being disclosed publically. I will gladly bring forth the rumour that the deal was made – and authorized by top brass – in the late hours of Rockheims Christmas party in 2009.
5. Elvestad is from Hundorp, and his nickname from Trøndertun might have something to do with his distinct dialect. He`s the drummer for glam rock band Suicide Bombers, where he is known as «T-Bone – The Outlaw Groover».
6. According to legend, some of the metal covers proved too small and had to be discarded – a reason why there are less than 100 known copies. Using special materials for an album cover might endanger the record itself, in addition to being inconvenient for the listener. One famous example in Norwegian music is the album Fjøse (1987), by Andrej Nebb and Lars Pedersen. An accompanying emery wheel would often damage the vinyl disc.

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Morten Haugdahl Written by:

  • kjellepelle

    For å få 1 stålbox så måtte du kjøpe inn X antall av Soothe 12″. Hvor mange husker jeg ikke men regner med ca 10. Ivar Matlaus Bokkafe/UFFA hadde 4 stk som stort sett betjeningen stakk av med.