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Interviewed by Gary Hill

Interview with Lief Sorbye of Tempest from 2018


Your new album celebrates thirty years of Tempest. Did you think when you started the band that you'd still be doing it thirty years later?

Yes, that was the plan…
How do you keep it fresh after all those years?
For me, I find that when you work with traditional folk music forms you never run out of inspiration. And when you work with Rock-n-Roll you can add anything to it and make it your own.
Your albums typically include a combination of classic folk music, original compositions and sometimes other covers like Thirty Little Turns' "Norwegian Wood." How do you decide on the balance between those things and are there reasons you choose certain songs as the "not written by the band" inclusions for certain albums?
I think of Tempest as a "progressive electric folk band." Our material is a combination of traditional Celtic and Scandinavian folk music, (I guess what you would refer to as "classic folk,") and original compositions. So, sometimes, we might write new music to a traditional lyric, or new words to a traditional melody. Other times, it’s our own original arrangements of a traditional song. We also like to write new material steeped in the flavor of folk roots. As a result "not written by the band" takes on a new meaning. We’re part of a living tradition. As far as cover songs, we only recorded two: "Let’s Live For Today," (on Another Dawn 2010) and "Norwegian Wood," on the new album. Both selections were suggested by Magna Carta, and we just went for it!
MSJ: What's the best thing that's ever been said about your music?
That it can lift your spirit and make you feel joy
MSJ: What's ahead for you?
A spring tour of the US West Coast, Midwest and East Coast, starting this month until the end of May. Then the summer touring begins.
MSJ: What was the last CD you bought and/or what have you been listening to lately?
The last CDs I bought was Ravi Shankar The Menuhin Sessions, and The Strawbs’ new album, The Ferrymen’s Curse. I love music, and I listen to all kinds of music, all the time.
MSJ: Have you read any good books lately?
Sticky Fingers: The Life and Times of Jann Venner and Rolling Stone Magazine, a fascinating read.
MSJ: What about the last concert you attended for your enjoyment?
Richard Thompson in Berkeley, California. It was an all-request show.
MSJ: Do you remember the first concert you attended?
My first big concert experience was Blind Faith in Oslo, Norway the summer of ’69. It blew my 12-year-old mind, and I’m not right yet.
MSJ: Have you come across any new gear recently that you love?
Yes. The "Tube Blower" made by Jacques Pedals, the only overdrive I find to work well with both electric and acoustic mandos.
MSJ: Do you have a musical “guilty pleasure?”
I’ve been listening to Steely Dan lately. They used to be too polished and produced-sounding for me, but now, I find myself diggin’ it.
MSJ: If you could sit down to dinner with any three people, living or dead, for food and conversation, with whom would you be dining?
John Coltrane, George Harrison and Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
What would be on the menu?
Fried Tofu in Spicy Peanut Sauce.
MSJ: Are there any closing thoughts you would like to get out there?
Check out our new album on Magna Carta Records, Thirty Little Turns – we’re really proud of it!
This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2018  Volume 2 at
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