Mattis Sørum – The Man with the Wand

Mattis Sørum is the man behind Norwegian symphonic rock project Pictorial Wand. We spoke with Mattis about his involvement in other projects, the vision he has for Pictorial Wand, as well as his main influences. Find out what Mattis had to say for Prog Sphere.

Nick: Hello Mattis. How’s life these days?

Mattis: Hi. Life is good, can’t complain. These days are used to work with promotion and new music for the next album.

Nick: Can you please tell us how did Pictorial Wand begin? Have you been involved in any other projects/bands before PW came to surface?

Mattis: Pictorial Wand was my first serious project (and only), and it grew out of one song. That song is “The king and his land pt 1” on the debut album. I was very fascinated with rock-operas at that time, had just heard “Journey to the centre of the earth” by Wakeman and wanted to do something like that myself. The King-song I had written the year before without any purpose really, but it became the first brick in a story for the double concept-album, A Sleeper’s Awakening. With that album developing, so did the idea of making a project which only released rock-operas or concept-albums, namely Pictorial Wand.

Nick: You compose music and write lyrics for PW, in other words you’re the main man in true meaning of the word. Is it hard to be behind the creation process?

Mattis: I am a little egoistic with this particular project, and have a very fixed idea about how I’d like the music to be. I mean, every album and song I don’t know how it will turn out, but still I could not share the creative process with anyone. I have another band where everyone work on everything and I love it, but not with Pictorial Wand. It’s either my way or no way, hehe.

Nick: Pictorial Wand has got two albums so far, so let’s talk about them. First one, named “A Sleeper’s Awakening” has been published in 2006 by Unicorn Digital. Please tell us more about this album, such as the story behind it, the composing process, as well as recording process. Are you satisfied with how this album has been received?

Mattis: As I mentioned, the album grew out of that one song. I just started to write the songs, and I realised after a while that most of them ended up very long. That’s when I started to think about releasing a double album. I didn’t think economy, haha! Well, I just continued to write songs, until I had about two hours of music. In the meanwhile I also decided to make the seven deadly sins as a sort of frame for the story. The recording process was a loooong way, done in several different locations during three years. I ended up with using 16 or 17 musicians. I was also studying at that time and moved between different places. My equipment was in constant changing for the better, and that resulted in many retakes. I remember I changed the orchestra sounds three or four times! So these things took time. But the album got finished and released with great responds from the prog-media in Europe and US. As a pleasant surprise it got nominated in all categories in the newly started ProgAwards in Italy that year.

Nick: The second album “Face of Our Fathers” was released again under Unicorn Digital etiquette. How did you get in touch with this Canadian label? Were there any other labels interested in releasing Pictorial Wand?

Mattis: Unicorn was one of many labels I sent my album to. They were the only label interested in releasing it, or crazy enough to release a double album from a totally unknown artist, hehe. But they believed in my music and I’m grateful for that.

Nick: What’s the story behind “Face of Our Fathers”? I have to say that there’s a noticeable difference in production in comparison with “A Sleeper’s Awakening. I also feel like this album is more “mature”. What do you say?

Mattis: I feel that I learned a lot from the process with the first album, when it comes to the production, arrangement, choice of vocalists and so on. I matured a lot musically, and the story is also a little more serious and down to earth, hehe. The story follows four characters, whose lives are woven into eachother in different ways. It’s about inheritance, and what burdens the generations leave behind them for the next.

Nick: Who did the art work for the albums? I especially enjoy how the art looks on the second album. How important is it for you to have good artwork for PW?

Mattis: The artwork is important of course, and for the two first albums it was important for me that the artwork was done specifically to fit the story of the concept. Both front covers are paintings which now decorates nicely my home. The artworks were done by Hans Einar Beddari, a friend of mine from the studies.

Nick: Does the band perform live often?

Mattis: Never. Because this is a one man-project, it becomes too expensive to play live. But I hope to realise it in the future.

Nick: Which bands/artists have influenced you in the creation of Pictorial Wand’s music?

Mattis: King Crimson, Rick Wakeman, Ayreon, Flower Kings and more.

Nick: How do you see the Norwegian progressive rock scene? Would you give us some of your all time favorites as well some of the bands we should pay attention to? There are a lot of good bands from there like Gazpacho, Magic Pie and Wobbler.

Mattis: The Norwegian prog-scene is developing big time these days. Although I’m far from any expert on Norwegian prog, I enjoy listen to bands such as White Willow, Wobbler and Circle’s End.

Nick: What have you been listening to recently?

Mattis: Aural Moon radio.

Nick: “Scenes From a Memory” or “Images and Words”?

Mattis: Scenes from a Memory.

Nick: “Thick as a Brick” or “A Passion Play”?

Mattis: A Passion Play

Nick: What are your plans for the future?

Mattis: I have made plans for the next album and well into the songwriting. I am planning something much bigger than I have done so far, but don’t want to say much before I know more about how it will turn out.

Nick: Thanks for the interview, Mattis.

Mattis: My pleasure.

Nikola Savić is a prog enthusiast, blogger and author, in addition to being the founder of Prog Sphere, Progify, ProgLyrics and the ongoing Progstravaganza compilation series.
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