With his second solo album "Forever Comes To An End" Bjørn Riis has impressively emancipated himself from his main band Airbag. In an interview, the 40-year-old family man talks about stylistic boundaries, the new Roger Waters album and full nappies.
eclipsed: Bjørn, with the title track you put the hardest song at the beginning of your second solo album. A real statement!
Bjørn Riis: "Forever Comes To An End" was supposed to be on my solo debut "Lullabies In A Car Crash", but then it didn't really fit the rest. But we played it live from time to time. But he also has a softer side. I think we have succeeded in creating a really good balance.
eclipsed: "Lullabies In A Car Crash was musically very close to your main band airbag. Were you trying to make a more conscious choice this time?
Riis: Not necessarily. There are musicians who found solo projects to develop their style, I don't really belong to them. I can't sit down and say: Well, now I'm going to write a jazzy song. This isn't working. I just play the guitar or the piano and see what comes out naturally. However, I think that this time you can also hear my love for dark and epic film soundtracks, at least as far as the production is concerned. Furthermore, the songs on "Lullabies In A Car Crash" basically consisted of ideas that I had prepared for Airbag. But since Asle [Tostrup; airbag singer] took some time out to go on a trip around the world, I used the ideas myself.
eclipsed: Are you following the career of Steven Wilson, who is constantly conquering new terrain solo?
Riis: Anyway, he's always been a huge inspiration to me. What he did for the prog can't be rated high enough. With Porcupine Tree in particular, he has opened doors to an entire generation of young musicians.
eclipsed: Even as a singer you have become an absolutely convincing figure.
Riis: Over the years I have certainly developed a little more self-confidence. I have always sung on the airbag demos, but now it feels better. Because, as I said, this time I really wrote the songs for myself.
eclipsed: Does your music sound Norwegian in any way?
Riis: (laughs) You mean, do I write my songs somewhere in a dark hut in a rainy fjord? No, I don't fulfill clichés like that. Often I even write in the subway on the way to work.
eclipsed: You're a kindergarten teacher, right?
Riis: Yes, but my guitar is always there. We sing a lot there, but I also have to change a lot of diapers. (laughs) I'm very happy with it, and the job also gives me the freedom not to compromise. I don't have to bring out albums to live.
eclipsed: As a guitarist you are always compared to David Gilmour or Steve Rothery. Does that bother you?
Riis: Not really, but my first real guitar heroes were more Ace Frehley and Tony Iommi. I've been carrying the Kiss and Black Sabbath riffs ever since. I learned to love Pink Floyd and David Gilmour in particular only in the late eighties. I think I like guitarists who have a special understanding of melody and tone. I appreciate Billy Gibbons, Joe Satriani and Zakk Wylde too.
eclipsed: Roger Waters' new album is currently the subject of heated debate. What do you think?
Riis: To be honest, my expectations weren't very high because he didn't produce very good solo stuff except "Amused To Death". But "Is This The Life We Really Want?" is really excellent. I like the production, the sound and also many of his songs. It is also a really contemporary album in its statements.
*Interview: Mike Borrink