About / Contact
Also streaming on Apple & Soundcloud.
An Interview with Roger Houdaille (Ex Norwegian), babysue comic strips, News, Views and Perspectives & Notable New Releases
Label: Think Like A Key (TLAK)
Location: Miami, FL, U.S.A.
Roger Houdaille is one of the most credible and talented underground pop musicians to emerge in the twenty-first century. His songs have a classic sound that is instantly captivating and unique. When I first heard the Ex Norwegian album Standby, the songs immediately stuck in my mind and became eternal favorites. Roger has since released a whole slew of Ex Norwegian albums that have captured the minds and hearts of intelligent guitar pop fanatics all around the world. His ability to consistently come up with credible entertaining songs is just one of many things that sets him apart. His melodic sense is mindblowing and his arrangements are always a perfect fit for each composition. Houdaille surprised almost everyone when he started his own record label Think Like A Key. The label boasts a long list of Ex Norwegian releases as well as a surprising array of other nifty artists. The label has quickly garnered unanimous praise and support from those who place a bigger emphasis on creativity and credibility than popularity, fame and money. This interview took place in early 2023 at a point when Roger had just released and/or reissued several new Ex Norwegian albums and was also riding high on a tidal wave of positive response to the album Spook Du Jour.
* * * * * * * * * *
The name Ex Norwegian initially confused me until I looked it up and thought...duh...I should've known that, considering how much I love Monty Python stuff. Do people usually 'get' where the band name comes from?
It has happened, yes, but not often. A fan suggested the band name relates to the Parrot sketch, since the ex-parrot in that sketch is a Norwegian blue. Now that would be clever, but I actually got the name from another sketch in which Eric Idle literally says “an ex-Norwegian prime minister...” I had Flying Circus episodes playing in the background for days until I heard something and that's the one that stuck with me. Before that, we were leaning towards “the Besides” or “The B Sides”. We wouldn’t acknowledge Monty Python in the early days as much when the question was asked, instead telling a fanciful story about how we all dated the same Norwegian.
Who has influenced your sound the most?
It's hard to say, but I suppose The Kinks would be the one both myself and the audience would agree on. My main music tastes, which arguably are my biggest influences, would lie in British psychedelia of 67-69, early progressive pop/rock, bands like Family, Jethro Tull and Procol Harum seemed to resonate a lot with me. Stuff that wasn’t totally blues or rock’n’roll but still rocking and clever. Short songs are also a big influence, at least early on. When it came to Ex Norwegian, I had the idea of sounding like those 60’s bands did on their BBC sessions. You know, the sound of their music without studio gimmicks. Big and bombastic. A three/four piece rock band playing simple but interesting and clever material. That was a very specific target but, of course, we didn’t end up really sounding like that. I was unfamiliar with the bands that were thrown at us as being soundalikes. I must confess to never really listening to bands like Guided By Voices, The Pixies or Pavement, which may surprise some people. I assume we sound like them because we had very similar influences.
Approximately how many songs have you written at this point? How many would you estimate have been tossed to the side for one reason or another?
It’s a good question. Without looking more into it, I was going to say 140-150, but then I started really counting and it may be closer to 200. That’s over two decades worth, including things written back in high school. Then there’s probably 40-50 co-writes. I love releasing music, so a lot has been out there in some shape or form. Or in some cases, older songs have been reworked and used in Ex Norwegian or other projects. There’s probably only a dozen or so unfinished, abandoned Ex Norwegian songs…not many.
Which do you enjoy most: composing new songs or recording final versions? Why?
I enjoy the recording process the most. I am usually impatient when it comes to composing. Recording the first demo is always cool, and usually will capture an energy and bits of ideas that get lost along the way. But I think I’m most happy once a final master is ready and I can move on.
What did you do before Ex Norwegian? Provide as much or as little detail as you like.
Musically, I have been performing since my high school days in the late nineties. It was a very busy time, but after that it slowed down as I was reluctant to have my own band. I did form a band with a buddy of mine, BJ. This was called The BJ Experience, naturally. I put all my time and creative energy into it, which many suggested was misguided as it was a bit of a joke band. And arguably, it doesn’t hold up too well. However, it’s interesting as it was a content band, meaning we didn’t just gig and release albums, we did a documentary, magazine and even had an online sitcom!
There were no social media or practical ways to share content in those days, so it was a flop, but at least it was ahead of its time. I joined a band called 100 Fires in 2001 on bass and a year later I was in nearly a dozen different bands. The "band whore" days were short lived, as either the bands fizzled, or I just burned out. There was no money and I needed to get serious. However, it was a very valuable learning experience.
Throughout, I had been recording my songs and had a few friends and associates who really liked them. My music really didn’t fit in the local scene at the time, so I rarely performed solo. But later in that decade, it seemed to make sense to try and put my own band together. And by that time, I had plenty of experience and knew what to do but more importantly, what not to do.
I initially took the name I used in The BJ Experience, Father Bloopy, as my moniker for my own band. And to do something different, I recruited only female musicians to be in my band. That didn’t last too long and it turned out to be a real case of musical chairs with the only solid partner being Carolina Souto on bass. Previously, she only played classical guitar, so it was all new to her and she had to dedicate a lot of time to the material. And I guess this allowed her to be more interested in sticking with the band as it morphed into Ex Norwegian. After doing a proper album release with the name Father Bloopy, the reviews for that made it clear that I needed to change my artist name. But the real catalyst for the name change was the song “Something Unreal”. There was something different about it that had the potential to be a big deal.
Which matters more...your opinions or the opinions of others? Explain.
Well, it depends. In general, I am pretty detached to my music. I have my own strong opinions and those are important in the sense that they guide me in my musical efforts. I do take opinions of others into great consideration, within reason. A perfect example is the decision to change the unmarketable band name Father Bloopy to a slightly more marketable Ex Norwegian. I was so used to the original name that I didn’t think about how it would be perceived outside my world. Same with the songs. So, in those cases, especially when you are spending hard earned money, I find it very important to hear and take into consideration what others have to say. Ultimately, though, I will do what I want and not what others want. Explains why Ex Norwegian will always be underground.
* * * Click HERE to read FULL INTERVIEW. * * *
April 2023: News, Views and Perspectives
* In 2020 there were 547,326 music labels operating in the world. In 2023 there are only 17. * Something was invented somewhere recently and no one is talking about it. It's a lot more than some were thinking, yet a lot less than originally observed. * The band Smaller Hearts (a favorite around these here parts) has released a swell new song (and video) entitled "Belts and Braces." This comes in advance of the band's fourth album Rock and Roll Was Here To Stay (great name, that one). It's bound to be another direct hit. * It's a big deal whenever anything is a big deal. And the big deal this month is the big deal this month. * When anyone takes things too seriously they become a victim of their own consciousness. * Crackers is a plush talking parrot made by Mattel in the 1963. It moves its beak up and down when it talks. It was part of the company's Animal Yackers line of toys and is one of the most beautiful 1960s toys ever created. It is also becoming very difficult to find out there in the real world. * Tickets just aren't selling very well for Taylor Swift's 2023 tour. The reason could be that no one is familiar with her or her music. * It's always a good idea to avoid blindly trusting reviews...because in many cases people are completely wrong. Most folks don't care for the motion picture Accidental Love. The reviews are so-so at best. But it's actually a hilarious movie that is intelligent and unusual. Great cast. Excellent dialogue. Ignore the reviews and give it a whirl. Much smarter than the average flick. Jessica Biel really shines in this one. * Giant masses of seaweed will take over the East Coast of the United States this spring and summer. Over 25 million tons of the stuff, sprawling everywhere and covering everything. Very soon everything will be covered in a dark green slime that will never go away. There is no way to stop the giant seaweed. * Noah's Ark has been discovered again and this time it is more real than ever before. There is much more detail to everything which means better photographs and videos. Inside the dark forgotten boat are rows upon rows of animal fossils, a male and female of each kind completely frozen in time. Each and every species is intact except for llamas and flying squirrels. Scientists are trying to determine why llamas and flying squirrels cannot be found on the ark but somehow managed to continue their existence anyway. * Everyone is doing away with their smartphones because they realize they no longer need them or want them. * Masterminds Fernando Perdomo and Michael Collins have recorded and released another great album entitled Broken Sound. It features twelve groovy tracks with both artists playing all instruments. Killer stuff. * The always-curious Public Eyesore label has just released the album Echo Chamber by Evan Lipson. The album features one lengthy single track which is an uninterrupted improvised double bass performance that was recorded live at a former munition storage bunker located in South Nature Park in Chattanooga, TN. How cool is that? * A 3-D hologram of Lucille Ball will be the star of a new television series coming in 2024. Entitled Life After Lucy, the show will focus on Ms. Ball's attempts to do all the things in life she always wanted to do...but never did. * The band Ways In Waves has a nifty new song and video out entitled "Who In War." The song features intelligent lyrics exploring the idea of people who are constantly online, thinking that this can somehow allow them change the world. It's an interesting idea that adapts musically and visually. * Accountability. Funny how so many want to hold everyone accountable for everything under the sun...yet the national news media is always allowed to fan the flames of crime and bad behavior by making them the top stories of the day. * Alex Miller's curated radio show Miller Time recently began airing on CMR Nashville. CMR is Europe's #1 country music radio station. The program will air the third Sunday of each month during 2023. * John Vanderslice has just released a new single entitled "Crystals 15 (Die!)." He will also be touring the East Coast this month in support of his brand new album Crystals 3.0 which will be released on April 14. I highly recommend anything/everything by this brilliant musical genius. * One of my favorite bands will always be the Wisconson-based duo The Frogs. Jimmy Flemion and Dennis Flemion recorded several incredible albums that were, unfortunately, only heard by a very select audience. Over time the brothers apparently became disenchanted with the music industry (like so many others) and stopped recording altogether. I was pleased as punch to find that these super-talented fellows are at it again. In 2020 they released the limited edition vinyl album 1st that is available on bandcamp. Hopefully they will upload their entire catalog to bandcamp soon. And hopefully there will be many more albums to come in the years ahead. * Once again, the fine folks at Great Britain's Cherry Red Records deliver just what I'm wanting to get my grubby little paws on. Coming soon is the Chronology box set by the iconic British band Chapterhouse. Due to be released on May 26, 2023, the 6 CD release presents all the band's albums, singles, B-sides, remixes and demos. * Over the past few years one of my top favorite labels is Tapete Records. They've just scored more major points for releasing a new album by babysue favorites The Telescopes. Entitled Of Tomorrow, the album features seven new hypnotic recordings from criminally-overlooked band. Also out on Tapete is Smile by Robocop Kraus. It's the band's first new album in fifteen years (!). * If publicist Erika Tooker is involved, it's usually great. And that holds true again, as Erika is working on getting the word out about a new album by Charlie Cunningham. The album is Frame and it's another direct underground HIT. * People whose presence on earth are greatly missed here at babysue: Pete Shelley, Emitt Rhodes, Adam Schlesinger, David Bowie, Kim Shattuck, Pete Ham, Tom Evans, Bob Hoskins, Marc Bolan, Joey Ramone, Dee Dee Ramone, Johnny Ramone, Scott Miller, Gil Ray, John Lennon, George Harrison, Andy Kaufman, Salvadore Dali and LD Beghtol.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
April 2023 Notable New Releases
Pamplemousse - Think Of It (A Tant Rever du Roi). Black Sheep - Live at the Whiskey A Go Go (YouTube). Sam Casey - More Songs About Weed and Toxic Relationships EP. Icicle - Coalescence (Herd Records). Apollonio - Time In Between EP. Bill Pritchard - Sings Poems By Patrick Woodcock (Tapete Records). Ed Ryan - A Big Life (Kool Kat Musik). Bryan Ferry - Who Ate All My Darn Pork Rinds (Island). Redlight King - In Our Blood (AFM Records). The Wonsers - You Never Knew Me When I Was Young 2.0. Bart Ryan - Messenger. Gentle Party - God:Complex re:Mix EP. Friendly Rich - Man Out of Time (We Are Busy Bodies). Ian Churchward - Rejects of Lord Zarquon. King Black Acid - The Rainbow Lodge (Cavity Search Records / Mazinga Records). Lydia Lunch - A Bunch of Lunch. Vincent Van Beethoven - Needle and Thread. Jenner - To Live Is To Suffer (Fighter Records). Miles From Nowhere - Slow Down. The Infinity Zoo - ForeverScape EPisode II. Lost In Japan! - Night Talks. The Mel Outsider Reformation - Miss Victory V (Planet Records). Robin Schell - The Macchiato (Kool Kat Musik). Jake Merritt - Old Soul. Brutal Youth - Rebuilding Year (Stomp Records). Knife The Symphony - All The Wrong Turns Taken To Get Here (Knife Record / Phratry Records). Marivon - None of This Is Mine. Fiat Nox - Opium To Insidious Slumber EP (Crawling Chaos). The Speedways - Talk of the Town (Kool Kat Musik). Smaller Hearts - Rock and Roll Was Here To Stay. La Faute - Watercolours. End of Hope - Pushback Is Strong. The Electric Grandmother - The Next Day. Gibbs Street Duo - Memories Unsettled (Parma Recordings). Desar - Into The Sun (Silent Spirit Records). Lakes - Elysian Skies (Big Scary Monsters / Refresh Records). Rene Erickson - Silent Street. Wrack - Altäre der Vergänglichkeit (Crawling Chaos). Taylor Swift - Taylor Covers Her Favorite Jesus Lizard Songs (RCD-57 Music). Barbra Streisand - My Face Be Where Michael Jackson's Nose Done Wented (Tractor Factor Plus). The Archies - Fentanyl Fentanyl (Krushner). Elour - Blood Running. Marco Busato - Night Of My Times (Kool Kat Musik). The Rolling Stones - Hot Buttons and Hot Zippers and Rare Cataracts (RCG73 Music). M. Crane - Swearing Off Fame. Velvet Beach - The Dream. Various Artists - Hank Williams Uncovered (Paradiddle Records). Tommy Stinson - Wronger (Cobraside). Fil Campbell & Tom McFarland - Shoreline (Glenshee Music). Dallas McLaughlin - I Didn't Start the Fire (and Other Lies). Gregg Turner Group - Songs For Sparrow (Nickel and Dime / Triple X Records). Tav Falco's Panther Burns - Nashville Sessions: Live At Bridgestone Arena Studios (Org Music). Logan - One Step Forward, Two Steps Back (FnA Records). Polun - Trillium EP. Whim Ensemble - Trees (Ravello Records). Moshimoshi - Green (All That Plazz). John Robb - The Art of Darkness: The History of Goth (Louder Than War Books). Paul B. Cutler - Les Fleurs (In The Red Records). Moonlight Parade - Here Comes Moonlight Parade (Kool Kat Musik). Caixa Cubo - Agora (Jazz & Milk Recordings). Tao of Lucy - Isle of Lucy.