Interview With Guitarist & Band Member Glenn From ‘NSK’

Tell us a little about yourself?

Glenn – I’ve been a college professor for nearly two decades, and I was a high school and college baseball player. I started teaching myself to play the guitar in my early twenties and have never had a lesson. In high school I was the singer for the garage band Please Respond, then in my thirties my brother Brian (he fronts The Brian Berggoetz Band) got together a re-recorded two of our early garage band songs under the name Fruit Bowl. About fifteen years ago I met Alan when I began to write and direct films and Alan came on board to shoot and edit some of those films. At the time I had no idea he was a musician – I would find that out a few years later one day when we went out for an Indian buffet.

How did you come up with your artist name?

Glenn – It was all Alan. He came up with dozens of potential names, then I picked my few favorites out of those, then we eventually settled on Norwegian Soft Kitten. If I remember correctly, the only name I came up with was Haulin’ Oats as a play on Hall & Oates – imagine the depression that set in when I found out there was already a Hall & Oates tribute band using that name.

How long have you been in the music industry?

Glenn – While Alan and I began prepping for the recording of “Sunshine on Lava” in 2011 and began recording the album in 2012, we can really point to 2020 as the year NSK actually got into the music industry when we released “Sunshine on Lava,” our debut album. However, the first time we recorded as Norwegian Soft Kitten was to do the theme song for the 2010 feature film “To Die is Hard” that I wrote and directed and that Alan shot and edited. That song turned out to work so well that NSK then did the theme song to the 2011 feature film “The Worst Movie EVER!”

How did you get started in the music business in the first place?

Glenn – If by the music industry you mean simply making music, it came about in early 1984 when I got together with my brother Brian (on guitar) and the most righteous Steve Burkholder (on drums) to form the band Please Respond. I did get a used bass guitar that I was supposed to learn to play to help round out the band (I was doing the singing), but I was too busy playing baseball and basketball and being lazy that I maybe spent a total of 8-10 hours messing around with that bass. Please Respond got together half a dozen times or so to play, Steve gave me a drum lesson at one point, and we came up with some original songs, like “Sausage,” “I’m Just a Preppy Guy with Soup on My Shirt,” “The Strange and Impending Circumstances of a Modern-Day Love Affair,” and “The Awesome Song” (one of the songs Fruit Bowl later recorded that The Brian Berggoetz Band also later recorded – it’s the song that won’t die). While Please Respond never played a live gig, Steve was an excellent drummer and Brian – who didn’t start playing the guitar until he was nineteen – was well on his way to become a fantastic guitar player.

If by getting into the music business you mean actually making music to release, 2020 would be the year for that as Alan was doing a fantastic job of engineering the songs on “Sunshine on Lava” and adding in his totally sweet drumming to the album, then getting “Sunshine on Lava” available on websites like Bandcamp, Spotify, iTunes, etc.

How would you describe your latest single?

Glenn – Our recent single “Ohio Dreams” is a pop song. It’s shorter, punchy, easy to sing along with, and fun. But as a gush band, we make music that fits into all kinds of genres – or no particular genre at all. Our second single from “Sunshine on Lava” with be the rocking “Expensive Hobby,” and our third and final release from SOL will be “Release,” a moody, late-’80s British-styled song that was my attempt to make a song that had a little bit of a feel for The Smiths.

When can fans expect the visuals for the single?

Glenn – At this point we don’t have plans for specific visuals related to the singles as we use the bloody fantastic artwork that Michael Herring did for us for the cover of “Sunshine on Lava” in all of our promotional materials.

Who are your inspirations in the music industry?

Glenn – I don’t know about particular inspirations, but I have been a huge fan of Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys since I was a kid. Of course, I don’t have anywhere close to enough talent to make anything like he created, especially from the mid-’60s through the late-’60s. I love the funky sound of popular music from the first half of the 1980s. Talking Heads, Thomas Dolby, Men Without Hats, Devo, Men at Work, Tommy Tutone, and so many other cool bands from that era are fantastic. I saw Bruce Springsteen in concert in the summer of 1984 and immediately became a big fan of him and Little Steven. I love a lot of the rock music from the late-’60s through the ’70s. And some of the late ’80s music from Midnight Oil, Tears for Fears, The Smiths, Bruce Hornsby and the Range, and Rick Astley (gotta love a Rickroll!) is most excellent. Moving into the ’90s, I love They Might Be Giants and have thoroughly enjoyed the many times I’ve seen them in concert.

How do you go about writing a song and what is your process?

Glenn – Typically it comes as I’m watching TV. I frequently watch a game or a movie while I have my guitar in my lap. I try to keep my focus on the TV while I simply strum chords or fiddle around with some soloing. As I’m watching, I’ll sometimes suddenly realize I just played some chords or notes that sounded really good. That’s when my attention leaves the TV screen and goes to the guitar. Nine times out of ten I can quickly replicate what I just played, but every so often I don’t know what I just played and have to spend some time piecing it back together. For the next little while I focus on what it was that I liked, playing it over and over again, switching up the order of the chords or notes, adding in some new chords or notes, maybe taking out some of them. Typically over the next one to three days, I have the music pretty well set for that song. That’s when I add in the lyrics. Sometimes I’ll come up with the lyrics as I keep playing the song over and over, keeping a note pad next to me, or sometimes I come up with the lyrics when I’m out on a morning walk at five or six a.m., then cutting the walk short to rush home and write down the lyrics before I forget them. From there, Alan has the hard work to do of adding in the drums, bass, and keyboards and mixing the song.

What is the concept behind your forthcoming project if working on one?

Glenn – In December Alan and I got together and recorded all of the guitar parts and vocals for 52 new songs. This will be enough material for three albums. Alan and I put together a tentative list of which songs will go on each of the three albums, but those lists could get switched up a bit. With that in mind, there’s no particular concept for any of the albums other than we’ll keep doing our gush thing, simply creating songs we enjoy writing and plying, regardless of what genre the songs might fit into or even if the songs fit into any particular genre. One difference on the upcoming albums is that there will be a few guitar solos mixed into the songs – there are no solos on “Sunshine on Lava.”

Any plans on touring to promote your latest single?

Glenn – There aren’t any plans to tour. Part of that is because of the COVID-19 situation, but maybe a bigger part of it is that so many of our songs are tremendously layered that it would be quite difficult to play the songs live. For example, Alan often plays really intricate drum tracks on a song, so if we played live we may need to add an extra drummer to the band. Plus, since Norwegian Soft Kitten is a two-man band, we’d have to bring in a lot of people to round out the band, including a bassist, at least one keyboard player, possibly a horn player, as well as the extra drummer. Alan and I have briefly discussed maybe doing something like They Might Be Giants did early in their careers where we play our instruments to recorded music of the other instruments in each song, but we’re not convinced we’d be able to give those who attend the concerts their money’s worth.

What did you buy with your first check off music?

Glenn – I’m still waiting for that first check! When it arrives, I’ll probably buy doughnuts.

What are must haves when you’re in the studio working?

Glenn – When we’ve gotten together, the first must have for me and Alan is to have fun. We laugh and carry on so much that recording is a blast. When we recorded in December (at my house), the deal Alan and I had was that I’d buy the food, and Alan would prepare it. I’m a vegetarian who is a very lazy cook, but Alan is a vegan who is a fantastic cook, so every day Alan would put together all kinds of wonderful vegan meals for us to enjoy when we were done recording or when we were taking a break, and if we didn’t finish it all off (I usually finished it off), we’d finish it off the next day. It’s also great to have no set schedule so we can record at our leisure and re-record vocals or guitar parts over and over until we get them just right.

What is the best piece of advice in this business you actually followed?

Glenn – Jeff Johnson, who’s a phenomenal guitarist who played (and sang) in the band Torch the Wagon, told me recently to get out of my head when playing. When Torch the Wagon would play live, Jeff told me he’d try to make eye contact with as many people as possible in the crowd and give every one of those people a look that said, “I want to make love to you.” He said this not only helped get the crowd on the band’s side, but he would also forget about playing and simply let his body take over. He said he played his best concerts that way. He said if he was focused on playing, however, that he never played as well. While NSK has never played live, I keep this in mind when practicing, when writing songs, and, in the future, when recording because I’ve noticed that when I get too focused on playing every chord and every note perfectly, I don’t play them nearly as cleanly, and there’s not the sense of fun and spontaneity to what I’m playing.

Will you be collaborating with any other artists in the future?

Glenn – There are no plans for that. Alan and I have so much material we’ve already recorded, and I’m already working on new songs, that we have plenty of music on our hands to keep us busy for years to come. Plus, it’s always a blast to work with Alan!

What artist have you had the pleasure of working with and what was it like?

Glenn – Years ago I worked with my brother Brian and with Steve Burkholder when we had the band Please Respond, but it’s been decades since I’ve worked with anyone other than Alan. I will say that I loved working with Brian and Steve!

Name an artist(s) that you would love to work with?

Glenn – Brian Wilson, all four members of Talking Heads, Olivia Newton-John (I’ve had a crush on her for forty years, plus, she sings really well). Peter Garrett from Midnight Oil would probably be pretty awesome to spend some time working with. And Bruce Hornsby and Geddy Lee seem like they would simply be a blast to spend some time around, whether working on music or not.

Do you think your music is mostly enjoyed more for the beats or for the lyrical flow and content?

Glenn – While I love our lyrics – especially Alan’s lyrics which are so creative and use common words in such uncommon ways – the way Alan composes, engineers, and mixes our songs is so phenomenal that I would think that even if listeners don’t catch all the words, they’ll still find plenty of songs on “Sunshine on Lava” that they will enjoy. For those who listen to our songs and pay attention to the lyrics, they’ll have a good time as well as we have plenty of lyrics that are really fun, catchy, and occasionally insightful. On our upcoming albums we’ll have some songs that are maybe a little more serious lyrically.

What area do you need to improve on in regard to your career? (Example: Better production, Delivery, Stage presence, etc.)

Glenn – Since we’ve never played a live gig, it’s probably safe to say that we need work on our stage presence should we ever play live. I’ll have to practice my “I want to make love to you” look that Jeff Johnson told me about.

What’s your all-time favorite song?

Glenn – While I’m not necessarily a huge fan of The Who, my all-time favorite song is “You Better You Bet” by them. I’m also a sucker for “Surf’s Up” by Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys and songs like “She Blinded Me With Science” by Thomas Dolby, “Jenny, Jenny” by Tommy Tutone, or “The Safety Dance” by Men Without Hats.

What was the last album you listened to?

Glenn – Our own album “Sunshine on Lava.” I absolutely love it and can’t hear it enough. Man, that sounds conceited.

Your favorite artist of all time and why?

Glenn – To narrow it down to a single performer or band, I’d have to go with Talking Heads. Their albums are so incredibly strong both lyrically and musically, and Chris Frantz, Tina Weymouth, and Jerry Harrison all seem like incredibly underrated musicians and composers – David Byrne rightfully gets a lot of attention for his work in Talking Heads, but Chris, Tina, and Jerry seem to often get improperly overlooked as fantastic artists.

Who are your favorite five artists right now?

Glenn – I am not a good person to ask this of as I’m still pretty much trapped in the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s. I did see Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul in concert in 2019, and, sweet heavenly Buddha, they were incredible. I’ve been a fan of Little Steven since the ’80s, but this concert went above and beyond anything any band can be expected to deliver, and I’m thrilled that Little Steven is still recording and performing.

In your opinion who is the most influential and successful artist in your genre today and why?

Glenn – Since Norwegian Soft Kitten is a gush band, and not many bands fall into the gush category, I’m going to be a jerk and say that NSK is the most influential and successful gush band in the world!

Who have been some of your favorite artists that you’ve been able to work with?

Glenn – If I can’t say my bandmate Alan (for the sake of this question) it would be my fantastically talented brother Brain Berggoetz, and the totally sweet drummer Steve Burkholder.

How do you feel about the current state of music?

Glenn – A woman I was dating a few years ago listened to a lot of contemporary music, and she had a wide variety of tastes ranging from country to urban to top forty. She often just turned on radio stations playing these kinds of music, and none of it resonated with me as so much of it seemed similar, and it seemed every song was either about sex, smoking weed, or getting drunk. There seemed to be very little creativity going on and a lot of corporate, derivative music being composed and played. It wasn’t a huge sample size, and I’m not the best person to ask about this, by the music I heard didn’t do much for me. On the flip side, I do like to click on links that are posted on Twitter and listen to songs from relatively unknown bands, and I’ve heard some pretty sweet current songs that way.

Any dream award shows you hope to one day play at?

Glenn – Do they hold a Gush Music Awards?

What is your main goal as far as music?

Glenn – There would be two goals for me. First would be to make some people’s lives more enjoyable. Life is really difficult for most of us, and any joy or happiness we can bring to someone’s day is really important, so I hope some NSK music can help make some people’s lives a little happier. The second goal would be to simply make enough money from our music that I could make music for a living and not have to rely on another job to pay the bills.

Who would you say your music relates to the most?

Glenn – Totally cool people.

What separates you from other artists? (What’s makes you different?)

Glenn – It would have to be the way Alan and I look at the world. Dating back to more than a decade ago when Alan and I were making films together like “To Die is Hard,” “Guernica Still Burning,” and “The Worst Movie EVER!” we’ve had a different approach to how we interpret the world, and we have a peculiar sense of humor about the world around us. This comes through in our music and lyrics.

When you’re not in the studio, what do you like to do for fun and relaxation?

Glenn – I certainly spend a lot of time practicing the guitar (this has helped me to become mildly competent with that instrument). I also like to read – in the past year I’ve read some classics like “Les Miserables” and “Brave New World” while also working in some fantastic Stephen King. And I certainly spend a lot of time in the classroom as a college English professor.

If you could work with any producer who would it be?

Glenn – Good gravy, I can’t imagine anyone on the planet being better at producing, engineering, and mixing music than my bandmate Alan. If you said I couldn’t work with Alan I’d want to work with someone like Todd Rundgren or Brian Wilson.

What’s the biggest highlight of your career thus far?

Glenn – Getting to work with people like Alan, my brother Brian, and my former bandmate Steve Burkholder. I’d also add to that – though I wasn’t an active participant in the band – seeing Jeff Johnson and Torch the Wagon perform live on many occasions. It was also super cool to hear some Norwegian Soft Kitten songs played on The Tony Kornheiser Show and Alien X Radio and hearing the wonderfully positive comments from Tony and DJ Keith “Alienstone” Samland about our music.

What is your dream venue to perform at?

Glenn – Wembley Stadium.

What’s the name of the last book you read and by whom?

Glenn – “The Stand” by Stephen King, and right before that it was “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley.

What’s your favorite sports team and why?

Glenn – Being originally from New Jersey – not too far from New York City – I grew up a New York Yankees baseball fan whose favorite players were Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Thurman Munson, Sparky Lyle, and Yogi Berra. I also enjoy the men’s basketball team from the University of Notre Dame. And I’m working on becoming an English Premier League fan and have selected Leeds United as my team to follow.

Who’s your favorite actor or actress and their best movie?

Glenn – I have to go with Baird Lefter. Baird played the evil mastermind “Anton” in the action/comedy “To Die is Hard,” and he couldn’t have been more prefect in that role. Honorable mention goes to Alan who played the role of “Lester” in “The Worst Movie EVER!” – his dance moves in the film are beyond belief.

Name someone famous who inspires you and why?

Glenn – Charlie Brown from the “Peanuts” comic strip because Charlie Brown gets knocked down by life over and over again, yet he gets back up and keeps trying, keeps plugging away, every single time.

What can we expect from you in the future?

Glenn – With all the material Alan and I have already recorded, we certainly have enough material for three new albums. I’m really looking forward to hearing how these albums turn out as we’ve tried a lot of new things both lyrically and musically with the new songs. I’m especially looking forward to hearing our song “Synapse Death Knell” as it will be an 8-12-minute instrumental song that is driven by an extended solo I recorded, and we didn’t have a single solo on “Sunshine on Lava.” Alan has come up with some really intriguing, awesome material, and I can’t wait to hear how those songs turn out. I came up with some Devo-like songs for the new albums that should be really cool. And I got in a bit of a rhythm during our December recording session with some longer, more lyrically interesting songs that I not only am excited to hear how those songs turn out, but I’ve recently written a new song that will probably end up being around ten minutes long that is lyrically dense and musically interesting that will be fun to record when Alan and I record again, but since we live 2,000 miles apart, it’ll probably be a while before NSK is in the studio again.

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