9. MY SECOND STORY (FIRE)

Lies. Lies. Lies.

Don’t believe a word I’ve been saying!

Or, believe some.

But be sceptical.

As any informed person should be.

Yes, it’s true that I was born in the Arctic, and yes, my dad was a captain at sea.

I also have two brothers.

But the actual truth is, my childhood was nothing like I described in my previous story.

It was dead boring.

My dad being away half the time, and this being Norway in the seventies – before we discovered vast amounts of oil in the North Sea and became one of the most priviledged nations in the world, meant we didn’t have much when I was little.

We didn’t travel anywhere on holiday, or have a car, so we could drive the four to five hours it took us to get to the nearest town, Narvik, where they had a train station that connected them to the rest of Scandinavia through Sweden.

We didn’t even go on weekend trips to Northern Finland to buy cheap meat, as most of my friends’ families did.

We were stuck.

I remember the seventies as a dull mix of long silences mid conversation, middle-aged men smoking on TV and shades of faded green curtains, only interrupted by the odd orange and brown striped knitted sweater.

And shit music.

Lots of it.

Progressive rock performed by balding dinosaurs, and pop songs with lyrics describing the sadness of dying from cancer just as summer set in.

I liked Hot Butter’s “Popcorn”, though, and later on, when I got a cassette tape of Kraftwerk’s “Man Machine” from a friend, everything clicked into place.

I remember it well.

I was sitting in my room, assembling a DIY electronics kit that promised to function both as an FM radio AND a tone generator. 

I put on “The Robots” and my life instantly had meaning. 

I was 11 years old by then.

But more of that later.

Most of my childhood days were pretty uneventful.

I spent my free time skiing in the winter, which lasted for 7-8 months, or playing with other kids out in the woods during the short, sunny summers.

The summers seemed to last for an eternity back then.

I guess that is a good thing.

On rainy days I liked building fantasy structures with Lego in my room.

Creating miniature worlds.

A tiny plastics mason.

Playing God.

I had friends, though.

They came and went as our fields of interests changed.

None of them became lifelong acquaintances.

Some due to their bad taste in music.

And I had girlfriends.

I was far too young, of course.

But so were they.

Still we kissed in the dark.

Which I liked.

Otherwise there’s not much I can recall that would be worth telling you about.

After the uneventful seventies, the transition into the eighties felt like an opening of floodgates of possibilities.

It would become the decade during which my future was shaped.

I was 14 in 1980.

Punk had already happened in the UK, without much notice to us.

London was far from the Polar Circle back then.

Mind you, one of my friends bought “Never mind the bollocks” by The Sex Pistols when it was released in 1977, but I didn’t really like the music, although I could relate to the energy it radiated.

But anyway I had already discovered Kraftwerk.

It seemed to me that punk was all about destroying the past, whereas electronic music was about building the future.

I would rather be on the building team.

Luckily, in the years that followed the shift into the new decade, lots of new and exciting music started arriving.

Along with otherworldly looks.

But the music that hit me the most when I was 14 years old, was decorated with the black and white squares of 2 Tone Records.

It was music that moved me.

The beats.

The attitude.

The message.

When the quirky Norwegian answer to the new British ska wave turned up in the shape of The Aller Værste, I instantly became a fan.

I still am.

On another side of the musical spectrum, weird sounds from California started arriving by mail-order.

San Francisco’s Ralph Records provided me the avant-garde sounds and hallucinatory imagery of The Residents, and the art-rock genius of Tuxedomoon.

A proper education.

At 15 I played drums in a post-punk band, trying to fuse all of my influences into an original style.

We ended up sounding like a typical New Wave band.

And by now I was mostly listening to synth pop anyway.

Enter the drum machines.

In the band I was trying to keep the time like a Linn Drum.

Failing, of course.

So soon I was selling my drum kit, got a job as a cleaner, and saved up enough money to buy my first drum machine. 

A Roland TR-808.

In 1983.

Me and my friends got hold of some synths.

Korg MS-20’s and Roland SH-09’s.

And went for instant bedroom superstardom.

We stayed up all night, drank endless mugs of instant coffee and smoked cigarettes, trying to get the machines to obey our visions.

Most of the time they didn’t.

But we had fun.

Apart from the odd tape release, and local gigs, none of our efforts succeeded in connecting us to the rest of the world, or the sub-cultures that inspired us.

So however much we wanted to communicate, detachment was all I felt.

A disconnection from the “real world” that I imagined existed elsewhere.

So I left.

Never looking back.

Until now.

And as I’m sitting here, in a small rented room in Berlin, all of the above events seem to have happened aeons ago.

The sequence of choices that brought me here are impossible to undo.

Bridges have been burnt.

And I have a brand new choice to make.

One that might mean life or death.

A basic, binary problem.