2005 was an extraordinary year for me.
In January, the band that had begun in 2001 – Big Game – reformed. Individually, we had listened to our four-song demo in the 18 months we were disbanded, and each of us – unbeknownst to the others – reached the same conclusion: We really should give the band another go… the music is great!
We meet at my apartment and discuss possibilities, expectations and scheduling and agree to record a couple songs to see what develops.
Using my new ProTools HD mobile recording studio and our friends’ artistically-conducive basement, we lay basic tracks to add to our first album, The Great Unconformity.
Working together again is thrilling and productive and we agree to seriously attack the challenge of creating an original, unique rock band. After weeks of considering probably a thousand different possibilities, Clever Bastards is our new name.
As I’m leaving for Europe for the month of June, our goal is to have the finished album in-hand by May 27th.
This band is a democratic outfit. Each of us has our particular forte. I act as engineer and director. The album is mixed with all our input and everyone’s agreement, which takes a while, but by the time of my departure, we’ve accomplished our goal.
My wife, Eva and I, and four-year-old son, Roger, land in Vienna May 30th. Two hours’ drive north is Petrovice, Czech Republic, where Dasa and Jarek, my mother and father-in-law have an absolutely wonderful existence. In typical Czech fashion, we are treated to delicious home cooking and generous hospitality, which is unsurpassed.
I have been visiting Czech at least once a year since 2001, and have very dear friends there. When we get together, WE PARTY! Two of our best friends are Moj Mir (pronounced moy meer), and Andrea.
Eva and I have reserved our timeshare this year in Cannes. Traveling in a BMW X-5 with GPS (with a German-speaking, female voice), we travel south through Austria, then Italy and on to France, where we’re greeted with warmth and sunlight.
To say our place of residence in Cannes is romantic would be an understatement. Wow! What an incredible place! Typical in Europe, we see red tile roofs amongst lush, semi-tropical foliage growing artistically, as if painted perfectly into place. We are half way up a hill, the top of which is a village that puts one centuries back in time. Romantic, artsy, and magical, it remains very real. This is a good place for lovers.
After becoming familiar with our surroundings, we head to the beach. The sun is intense, the water is clean and inviting, and much to the delight of these American eyes, the beach-goers include many women patiently tanning their breasts.
After several days of swimming, visiting St. Tropez, sightseeing and making great dinners, we visit Monte Carlo. I realize I need an ocean-going yacht with onboard recording studio.
The four of us enjoy a fulfilling stay in France and then it’s back to Czech, where I enjoy a few days before picking up three of my kids – Dylan, Michaela and Lily, in Vienna.
Having them visit us is such a fun experience for me, because I see them marvil at the differences between American and European cultures, much the way I did when Heart first toured Europe in 1976.
Two years previous, Lily had joined me and tasted the flavor of European living, but Dyl and Michaela hadn’t yet been off the North American continent. In June, Lily is 14, Michaela 15, and Dylan 17 – perfect ages for discovery.
In Czech, there are many freedoms Americans don’t enjoy. Among them are relaxed rules on the use of alcoholic beverages. I enjoy drinking and partying with my kids and seeing them enjoy our friends and their kids, and the Czech way of life. These people know how to live.
A combination of surviving the oppression of Communism and knowing how to do a lot with a little – as a result of not having much – has created a populace that is creatively self sufficient; non-affected; strong; and clever.
Eva and I have shipped our 2005 Hyundai Tiburon to Germany, and my brother-in-law, Jarek and I have to drive across that country to the coast to retrieve it, then drive it back to Petrovice, which we accomplish in two days.
Then Dylan, Michaela, Lily and I leave Prague for Oslo, Norway. Our cousin Gunnar, who had found his cousin Rog online months before, meets us at the airport. When we meet each other for the first time, there is immediate recognition of family, and we’re giving each other a hard time and joking and being silly. Wow… finally meeting our Norwegian relatives. I’ve dreamed of this moment for many years.
My webmaster, Adrian Oleson, lives in Hønefoss, close to Oslo, so we spend the night with him and his family. More generous hospitality!
In June, Norway’s latitude dictates loooooong days. There we are at 1 in the morning, learning Freestyle Frisbee moves from Adrian, who runs Hønefoss Discsport Klubb. No problem with darkness here.
Next day we head north riding in Gunnar’s new Audi. We’re in for a five-hour drive through some of the most beautiful countryside in the world. Destination: Åndalsnes, where both my mother and father’s mothers are from. Our first night is spent in Gunnar and brother Steinar’s mountain cabin in Broste Dalen, which translates to Breast Valley.
The cabin is a duplex – half for each of them – just down the road from where they were raised. They’ve worked hard with every free moment and have just finished building it in time for our visit. It is set among low-growing trees.
Looking around, mountains surround us. Gunnar tells me he has climbed every one of them. There are very old sod-roofed houses, flocks of sheep, an old dirt toad and a feeling of beautiful serenity. Running along the center of the valley and about 100 yards from the cabin is a raging river that comes directly from the still sno-patched slopes. The water is clean enough to drink.
Steinar tells me they’ve had electricity up here since the 1920’s.
Next day, we’re off to the big, white house built in the 1800’s, which ended up housing 16 kids, the first of which was our mother’s mother, Nanna Ora. On the way there, we stop at Trollstigen – a breathtakingly beautiful steep-walled canyon with hundreds of waterfalls.
When we arrive at the place I’d been seeing pictures of all my life – the Ora farm with the big, white house, it’s cloudy, without rain. About fifty people have gathered for this family get-together – some having driven for eight hours. An aura of importance and significance pervades the scene, with old, healthful, smiling faces welcoming the four Americans. Young, rosy-cheeked countenances shyly sneak curious glances.
My background as an entertainer comes into play as I cheerfully and energetically break the ice of otherwise potentially awkward first words.
We all gather on the historic front steps of the house on the Ora farm for photos.
When we enter the house, it’s like being in a museum: many pictures of bygone family and friends adorn the walls. I’m led to an old bible, where I see the handwritten chronicling of births beginning with Nanna’s in 1882.
Then we receive an opening speech in Norwegian. Everyone is seated in anticipation of the meal whose fragrance generously announces its self. The speech climaxes with my introduction, and I realize I’m expected to say something. By now aware that every Norwegian younger than 50 speaks English, I introduce my kids and bravely predict that from this moment on, the shackles of distance and busy-ness will no longer keep our family apart – next year they can expect another visit from me, joined by brother Mike and sister Kay. “Now let’s eat!”
After a delicious soup and many different homemade cakes, pies, pastries and tea and coffee, a crowd surrounds my Apple laptop. Pictures of grandma Nanna, book-ended by her twin daughters, Sylvia and Katherine; as well as more current familial scenes, draw great interest.
Soon, though, we are summoned to the barn. At the entry to the two-level, large building, also from the 1800’s, are old, large aluminum milk pails filled with flowers. Our considerate cousins, with much help, have created a wonderful stage area inside, with borrowed and rented amps and P.A. system.
The music, mostly covers of Beatles and Presley songs, is too loud for the older people watching, but the younger ones are soon dancing and having a lot of fun, as is the band, which consists of Steinar – alternating with Gunnar – on drums, a good bass guitar player, and me.
The rest of our time there is exhilarating and we leave Norway very glad to have met our family and very appreciative of being treated so well.