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Den Browne talks to Trygve Mathiesen, author of the new book ‘Sid's Norwegian Romance - Sex Pistols Exiled to Trondheim 1977’. Tryg's Oslo and Trondheim books are essential reading for anyone with a serious interest in the Sex Pistols, freeze-framing the group at a mid-point in their career, after the UK bans and record company upheavals, and before the group's US disintegration. Once again, both books are bursting with great photos, mostly unseen since they were first taken.

DEN: It's a while since the gigs - what made you want to tell the story now?

TRYGVE: We really wanted to make a tribute to the Trondheimers, the ones that made the effort to establish an independent rock scene in Trondheim from '77/78. But after I released the book about the Oslo gig, I actually had no intention of releasing another book about the Trondheim gig. We just wanted to do a photo exhibition there to market the Oslo book. The idea was for an exhibition of pictures from the Pistols' visit to both Oslo and Trondheim, but while doing the research we found a lot of unique stories, enough to do a separate book

DEN: What's the story with the photos? It's great to see some different photos of the Pistols...

TRYGVE: Because I knew there two or three times as many people in the audience at Trondheim compared to Oslo, I figured there had to be at least as many unpublished pictures of the Pistols. We started to dig into it, spread word about our project through papers, radio stations and facebook, and in four months time we had tracked down 240 of the audience members and more than 70 pictures, most of them unpublished. Some of them are totally unique!

DEN: What were the differences between the Oslo and Trondheim gigs? I get the feeling the Trondheim crowd were a bit more hip to what was happening with punk?

TRYGVE: Yeah, I think you're right. Punk was introduced in a much more down-to-earth way in Trondheim than in Oslo and the rest of Norway. Mostly due to Casino Steel's weekly column in Trondheim's biggest newspaper, where he reported back from the London scene and gave his readers balanced inside stories without the tabloid dimension.

DEN: Did the shows have an immediate influence on the scene in Norway then?

TRYGVE: In Trondheim it certainly did! Within six months young punks and counter-cultural freaks and anarchists established their own club with weekly gigs and big festivals every sixth month. Trondheim was the happening city in Norway in '77 and '78. Things happened at a much slower pace in Oslo. Due to the strict age limit of 20 at the Oslo gig, young kids of 17+/- were prevented from getting a much needed kick-start to go out and do-it-yourself. Looking at the figures in the end of the Trondheim book it shows that 17 of the 28 17 year olds there actually started a band, a fanzine or arranged a gig in a relatively short time after the show! That's quite significant...

DEN: And how's punk doing there now?

TRYGVE: Well, it depends how you define punk. The hardcore scene connected to Cafe Blitz and Hausmania is very nostalgic, and relate most of their activities back to the UK scene in the first half of the 80s. There is a vivid glam-punk scene down at Elm Street with a lot of good bands, there's a going indie scene ambulating between a few other venues, and besides that there are different scenes for all sub-genres. And of course we do get a lot of artists coming in from other countries. So I guess you can still hear the aftermath of punk and post-punk there.

DEN: How did you manage to track down the people who'd been there? It looks like someone did some serious research!

TRYGVE: Thanx, this time I used facebook for what it was worth! As soon as I got new pictures of the audience, I posted them immediately on our facebook group, so people could tag faces they knew and we could quite easily get in touch with new names. As two of the mandatory questions were "Who were you with?" and "Do you know any others who were there?” we had tracked down 240 names in four months.

DEN: The new book focuses on Teddie T's connection with Sid - how did you find her?

TRYGVE: We found Teddie through some of those who were tagged on facebook pictures by others. To begin with she was quite shy and didn't have much to say, but as I followed up her answers, she came more and more forward. Finally I met her at a cafe and she talked non-stop for more than two hours about her experiences. That's when I realised her story could be the substantial part of the book that would make it very special.

DEN: It's a shame there isn't a current picture of her in the book ... does she prefer to keep a low profile now?

TRYGVE: There's one picture of her, a facsimile from a magazine at the first after-party. And her t-shirt is in another picture, next to Sid eating pizza. But you're right, we've been working hard to track down more pictures of her, and it's a shame she didn't pose more for the cameras.

DEN: Did you read David Nolan's ‘I was there’ book about the early Pistols' gigs in Manchester?

TRYGVE: Of course! I read it and I really loved it. Yeah, I guess you could say we were inspired a lot by that book before we started the Oslo and Trondheim books. But Nolan did his book before there was any facebook, so I guess he could track down a lot more of the audience more easily today.

DEN: From the photos it looks like the audience at Trondheim were mostly young and male - is that right?

TRYGVE: I haven't counted, but I guess you could be right. Girls didn't attend gigs alone on the same scale as boys. They went out to gigs together with their boyfriend or as part of a gang.

DEN: You've got your own group - Nekropolis, I love the version of 'Israel' - tell us about that...

TRYGVE: I've been playing in a lot of bands since the late 70s. The last two years me and my Greek friend Thanasis Zlatanos reunited our old electronic post punk band from 1982. He was living in Oslo back then, but we've kept in touch ever since. So he invited me down to his studio in Thessaloniki to see if we could come up with something together. We did a complete album in three weeks, which we released last year. The 'Israel' version of the Banshees' song from 1980 is the result of our common love for the Banshees, and I guess you could take it as a comment on the situation in the Arabic countries these days, where everyone's yelling for "democracy" and "freedom", and the Western world's supporting it on a big scale. But polls show that 85% of Egyptians actually want Sharia Law, and we all know that doesn't correspond to what we traditionally know as "democracy" and "freedom". They're getting rid of one corrupt dictatorship just to replace it with a new one.

DEN: What's Harry Nordskog's role in producing the two books?

TRYGVE: Harry's very deeply into collecting Pistols' memorabilia, and he's got a lot of connections internationally. It's been great to work with him as he always comes up with new ways of researching. Besides, he's been working on tracking down the audience members in both books.

DEN: Any other books planned?

TRYGVE: Yep, I've got a deadline for my next book less than three months from now. It's about Norwegian Post punk 1980-85. I'm deep down in research and analysis about what was going on, and the consequences of punk etc. It was a very interesting period in Norway with a lot of bands and artists doing fantastic, strange and weird stuff in a DIY-style. Also, me and another friend have started a music publishing company, collecting Norwegian punk classics. One of the ideas is to release a book, called something like "Teach Yourself to Play Guitar with Norwegian Three Chord Classics" with tabs and music and words!

That's great Tryg, thanks...

Interview by Den Browne 03/05/11
Picture credits: Pistols onstage b/w - Eirik Lie, Sid on his back - Bente Solem Johansen, poster - Arne Nordtomme, Trygve - Dan P Neegard