Monte Nordström

“"The Poet's Song"”
By Sergio Vilar

Hello Monte, thank you for this interview.
You are welcome, thank you for asking.

Could you tell our readers who is Monte Nordstrom?
Yo soy un hombre sincero… Like anyone, I am a spiritual being living in the material world, learning from my mistakes and trying to help people as much as I can. I express myself with music and I try to keep an open mind.

Until about 12 years ago I supported my family exclusively with money made from performing music. This resulted in having to be very versatile and open to playing many different styles of music. I collected over 1500 songs for my act. I also wrote and recorded music in the manner that my audiences could relate to. My bands were quite popular locally and I was fortunate to employ very talented musicians. It was a lot of fun at times.

These days I am employed by various agencies to provide mental health support services to people living with various challenges. I perform less often but I am able to be more selective of the engagements I accept. I still have a great trio and we play as often as possible. I also perform as a solo artist while my wife MaryAnn and I enjoy traveling the world as musical tourists.

What elements define your music?
My music is a fusion of styles from various influences. I try to bring a sense of spontaneity to my performances and recordings. I like to improvise over atmospheric chordal movements and use melody and rhythm to present my lyrical ideas. Sometimes I try to include a specific message with poetry. Other times the mood is the message.

Who has influenced your work?
I have many influences. I grew up listening to North American country music, rock & roll and pop radio in the 50’s. Elvis, Hank Williams and Frank Sinatra were the icons of that era, as well as many others. I also listened to classical music, my favorites being Beethoven, Bartok, Segovia and later Villa-Lobos. In the early 60’s The Beatles and Bob Dylan showed what a group or a solo singer/songwriter could do. That’s when I started playing. My tastes rapidly expanded to include Miles Davis “Bitches Brew”, “Cosmic Music” by John Coltrane, early funk by James Brown, southern soul by Otis Redding and raw blues by Howling Wolf/Muddy Waters, etc. Living on the Pacific coast when the psychedelic movement started I was directly influenced by the San Francisco/Los Angeles bands, Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead, Quicksilver, Zappa, The Doors, etc. Atmospheric jazz guitarists Lenny Breau, Gabor Szabo, John McLaughlin, Antonio Carlos Jobim and others like Sandy Bull were all of interest. The early Prog bands were emerging. The Moody Blues and Procol Harum were my first taste of that style. Of course when Hendrix arrived everything changed. The power trio was revolutionary & at times music became political as well as entertaining. The 70’s brought about technical virtuosity but sometimes imagination gave way to formlessness. I started writing my own material in 1968. By 1970 I joined my first serious band, Ptarmigan and the focus was on reflective acoustic soundscapes. By this time Yes, Genesis, ELP, Soft Machine and King Crimson were getting big. The Mellotron and synthesizers taking over, making music more orchestral & complex. At times virtuosity and imagination gave way to bombastic self-indulgence. But that’s rock & roll…


How do you resist fashions and fads?
Trends and fads in music come and go. We take the bad with the good. Sometimes a fashion becomes a movement. The reggae sounds of Bob Marley or the Bossa Nova of Jobim for example. Other times it is a current teen-age gimmick that is forgettable. One has to keep an open mind to all music. Otherwise we’d all still be beating on a hollow log with a stick. We have to evolve & absorb fresh ideas, creating mutations as we expand the lexicon of our musicality.

How have you been able to maintain your originality?
I am conscious about my influences when I write and know the difference between composing in a particular mode versus stealing someone else’s ideas. Stealing my own ideas is allowable. I often return to certain favorite progressions and moods depending on what I am trying to express. That is simply developing a style. But each composition must be able to stand up on its own merits.

How does the process of the creation work in you?
Sometimes the poetry comes first, inspiring the music to follow- or vice versa. The feeling of the music can evoke a mood, which inspires a lyric or message. Ideas evolve through performance, interplay and experimentation.

When do you understand that a work is well achieved?
When a composition conveys an emotional expression or mood, it is ready to perform. The performance itself is a spontaneous creation inspired by the concept of the song.

At some time you did look back in your career and evaluate it?
I recently reviewed a video interview/performance of mine from about 1975. I was amazed that if the same questions were asked of me today I would answer them in a similar fashion. I am still following the path I set out on in 1968.

What perspective do you have of your career?
I see my career from a variety of perspectives. When I first started out I made a statement that I would like to be an underground artist. You must be careful what you wish for. I see now that many of my career decisions have been commercially non-productive. Sometimes I find it frustrating that I did not develop a more supportive and wider audience when I was younger. Even so I must say that there are many levels of success and you can’t judge yourself compared to the music business because it is largely a false image. Due to my personality I probably wouldn’t have been able to survive the rigors of life on the road through the 70s and 80s had I been a "Star". The fact that I have survived and I am still following my own creative path is reward enough. Being married for 26 years and having a well-adjusted 22 year old daughter is my biggest success. Being able to live on Vancouver Island and travel about the world from time to time is a beautiful thing.

What things do you find the best and which the worst?
The worst was during the 80s when I performed in bars and lounges as a solo singer guitarist. There were good points but it was very lonely work and demeaning at times. The best times are found in a well-appointed recording studio or in front of a responsive audience.


What are your the most significant contributions as an artist?
If I have a good audience I have the ability to perform "in the moment", channeling the soul of inspiration. When I am in this frame of mind it is a transcendental experience. I also feel that bringing a positive message is important. There are so many negative things in the world already. If I can uplift someone’s spirits with a song or my guitar playing, then I am happy.

When making a balance, what satisfaction has your music given you?
Performing is a catharsis that releases the stress of everyday existence for me & hopefully for my audience.

What road are you traveling now as an artist? Where do you go with your music?
I continue to learn from the past as I move into the future. I will follow my music wherever it takes me. With the Internet making the world a smaller place, I keep being surprised by the opportunities that are presented by people’s curiosity.

Is it premature to speak of a new disc? Does new clever material already exist?
I have at least 2 albums of material ready to record, once the budgeting can be arranged. Being self-financed is my biggest limitation. I am currently in the process of having the 1974 “Ptarmigan” album re-released by Vincent Tornatore of The Lion Productions. He will distribute that CD and my latest release “After All… ” from 2004. We are also working on a couple of other re-releases from my back catalog, including “Silhouette of our Insanity” from 1978 and “Voodoo Rage” from 1983. Once these titles are all available I will look at recording new material.

What new sounds are you experiencing?
I enjoy some worldbeat, trance and ambient material but don’t really keep up on the current scene that much. There are lots of new singer/songwriters that are wonderful and worthwhile, but as a rule I tend to favour music of a mature vintage or new material written by mature artists. It speaks to me more directly. Bob Dylan’s “Love and Theft” was wonderful and we saw him in concert this month and he continues to amaze me by moving forward. We will be seeing the Rolling Stones in November and hearing their new material. That may be a bit of a chance, but it will be a spectacle. Last year we saw Procol Harum and King Crimson, both acts presenting new albums. Brooker and Fisher were in fantastic form. Crimson was truly beyond description. Frightening beauty.

What you are listening at the moment?
Procol Harum “Live at the Union Hall” DVD; Miles Davis “On the Corner/Jack Johnson”; Joni Mitchell “Woman of Heart and Mind” DVD; Fiamma Fumana, a young band from Milan, Italy; Classical M “Bad Guys”, a Parisian band from the 60’s.

Which are your favorite artists?
I prefer artists that perform with passion and commitment. The genius of creativity must come through at some point.

Does a genuine philosophy of innovation exist in the music scene today?
Yes and No. There are an amazing number of brilliant artists using the latest technology to create new mutations of music. Some of it is truly innovative and can be beautiful or terrifying or both. The thing about technology is that it tends to recreate rather than innovate. It takes a true pioneer to enter new territories. After a while others will follow and end up going over the same ground until it becomes commonplace. That is why King Crimson is such an impressive band. They continue to move forward in creative spasms, harnessing technology and pushing the envelope. Even then after awhile they are faced with growing stale and have to somehow reinvent themselves. That is an art in itself. It would be interesting to hear King Crimson perform in an acoustic setting without all the machines, wouldn’t it? I choose to operate with a mixture of vintage and modern equipment using acoustic and electric instruments while I focus on the music itself and the innovation of an inspired performance.

Many thanks Monte, do you have some message for our readers?
Yes, please continue to support unknown and non-commercial artists, buy their recordings & go to their concerts. Promote love and peace wherever you are. Celebrate diversity! Thank you for your interest!

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