When Madrugada regrouped to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of their classic debut album «Industrial Silence» in 2019, they quickly realised that interest in the band had not waned in their absence. It had, in fact, increased, not least on the European continent.
What’s more, they realised that they loved being back together. Being in Madrugada had never been quite this much fun.
The tour was a triumph, with the band selling out shows in the their native Norway, plenty of festival dates and a host of concerts throughout Europe, where the band now sold out halls that were twice the size of the places they used to play back in the day.
10 years on from when the band called it a day after guitarist Robert Burås passed, the three remaining original members – Høyem, Frode Jacobsen (bass) and Jon Lauvland Pettersen (drums) – felt rejuvenated and ready for more.
They wanted to play more shows. In order to do so, new music had to be made. The trip they were on couldn’t be strictly nostalgic. And so it was that Madrugada, a band that usually takes its sweet time to agree on just about anything, ran straight off the stage and back into the rehearsal room in December 2019.
Jacobsen: «We were on a tight schedule. We booked time at Sunset Sound Studio in Los Angeles at the end of February, and had about a month and a half to come up with the material and whip it into shape. It went rather swimmingly. We were still high from touring, raring to go».
The band worked in their own rehearsal space/studio in Oslo, in another studio, Velvet Recordings, 45 minutes outside the city, and spent a further week woodshedding in Berlin. 70% of the material they came up with, is spanking new. But they also rescued a couple of older songs from oblivion. «The World Could Be Falling Down» hails from the time of their first album. «Slowly Turns The Wheel» first reared its head somewhere between the third and the fourth.
The band arrived in Los Angeles in late February, happy to be recording in a legendary studio where classic albums by Led Zeppelin, Fleetwood Mac, The Doors and the Rolling Stones had been conceived.
Lauvland Pettersen: «It was a boyhood dream come true, for sure. A terrific gift: I’m here, I’m with my dear friends and we’re having the time of our lives».
Producer Kevin Ratterman (Ray LaMontagne, My Morning Jacket, The Flaming Lips) was waiting for them, and the plan was once again to get in the flow and work fast. The band had given themselves two weeks to put the music, recorded live in the studio, to analogue tape. They met their deadline, and a good thing too. No sooner was the last song on the album, «Ecstasy», in the can, before the world as we knew it shut down. It was March 2020, and the plan had been for Madrugada to go home, rest up for a week and return to do overdubs and mix the album in a studio in Silver Lake. Instead, they had to go home, and stay home.
Up until this point, the making of «Chimes at Midnight» had been a whirlwind affair. When it became obvious that the world would remain in a state of emergency for quite some time, it was important not to lose momentum. The album would have to be finished by unorthodox means:
Namely by Zoom and via big screen-TVs, with Ratterman and the American team on one end in Los Angeles, and Madrugada on the other, in Oslo, Norway. Frustrating? Oh yes. But the esprit de corps remained strong.
Jacobsen: «The technology enabled us to do overdubs in real time, with Kevin producing us from the other side of the Atlantic. Unusual, to say the least, and quite interesting. But the process became a lot slower».
It goes without saying that Høyem, Jacobsen and Lauvland Pettersen are painfully aware that one of Madrugada’s founding members, Robert Burås, very sadly isn’t around to work his magic anymore. But what other developments have the nigh-on 14 years since their fifth and hitherto last album, «Madrugada» (2008), and «Chimes at Midnight», begot?
Høyem: «The songs are a reflection of who we are in the present time. We’re older. We’re all fathers. I believe I have a more nuanced view of life than I had 20 years ago, a greater ability to feel several things at once. Madrugada’s aesthetic was very New York City and Berlin, we were a punk band that played the blues. All those elements remain. But this time around it felt appealing to explore the more dreamy aspects of what we do. The city we recorded in encouraged us to do so».
Jacobsen: «Chimes at Midnight» is not a conceptual album, it doesn’t point in one particular direction. That makes it somewhat different, in my mind. But it’s made to played live, just like the other albums».
Lauvland Pettersen: «It’s got maybe more of a singer/songwriter vibe to it, I think. If I want to write a ballad and give it the full orchestral treatment, I’m welcome to do it. It’s been therapeutic too. The shows were pure pleasure, and the album’s given me a feeling of closure».
Høyem: «‘Chimes at Midnight’ was born of an atmosphere of true joy and goodwill. To me, it’s a passionate album».
The members’ respect for their shared history is at the top of their minds at all times.
Jacobsen: «I’ve always had romantic ideas about bands in general, and our band in particular. I never wanted to make music outside of Madrugada. I wanted to make it with the people I started out with».
Jon Lauvland Pettersen
Cato Thommassen and Christer Knutsen