From Norway to Hollywood to Minnesota, this rocker has led a storied and fascinating career. As the frontman of young Cali outfit Scared of Girls, he became known for leading a wave controversial publicity stunts before disappearing into a maze of darkness and confusion for several months. Now resurfaced as a fully energized and inspired single dad with quite a tale to tell, Toggo Ultrarock is ready to seize the stage once more!
Thotyssey: Hey Toggo, how’s it going? How was your July 4th?
Toggo Ultrarock: Hey Jim! Apart from the (actual number) 36 mosquito bites I’ve got to show for it, it was amazing.
Everyone wants a piece of you, even the insects! So, you have a pretty interesting story to tell and a highly anticipated new EP coming out; there’s a lot to talk about. We’d best start at the beginning! You’re a native of Norway, right?
Yup, that’s right.
What was life like growing up there for you?
It was cool, I love Norway, love visiting and spending time there, and at some point I’m sure I’ll even have a house there. But the second I landed on American soil, I was madly in love, and have been ever since.
But I love the whole dual thing I have, with permanent residency here, and a Norwegian passport. Lets me enjoy the best of both worlds.
I always think of Scandinavian music as having diverse extremes, from the sugary splendor of ABBA to the heavy darkness of the death metal scene. Did the music from back home influence your own in any way?
It definitely did. I feel like my music is a mixture of my Scandinavian background, a.k.a. my love for hooks and pop melodies, and the beats, roots and feel of music from the US.
How soon after you arrived in the US did you starting writing songs and assembling a band?
I actually went back and forth quite a bit before I permanently settled here. I started by attending Musicians Institute, then spent some time in Norway, then here in the US, then back there again. But when I finally settled here, I started my first band almost immediately. As far as songs go, I’ve been writing songs since I was 10 years old.
You had a fun run with your Los Angeles-based band Scared of Girls. What are some antics and adventures you recall that really stand out in your mind from that period?
I really cherish those days; I had the time of my life! We were the Hollywood kings of promotion in those days–did everything bigger and more outlandish than any other local band, which also got us more attention and fans than just about anyone else at that time.
Before every show we played in Hollywood, we would get 10,000 glossy color flyers printed up. Then we’d spend weeks hitting everyone who were leaving shows at places like The Roxy, The Viper Room, The Rainbow and The Whisky, with our over-the-top flyers.
I remember pissing off every other LA band because they were all using crappy black & white flyers, and here we were with our fancy looking glossy ones. But within about 6 months, every single local band were also using color flyers, to keep up. Kind of proud of that one, it’s not every day that you change the local Hollywood music scene!
The one antic that really stands out is “The Laurel Canyon incident.” In addition to flyers, we also had these ridiculously huge color posters of us that we would plaster all over town. One day before a show, we thought it’d be a brilliant idea to staple one of our posters on every single phone pole in Laurel Canyon. It took us all night to do it; I think we posted something like 150 of them.
Of course, what we didn’t think of is that Laurel Canyon is an extremely wealthy community. And apparently their residents didn’t much like our little stunt, because the next day I was contacted by The Laurel Canyon Association. They told me that we had eight hours to remove every single poster, or they would prosecute.
So we spent another night taking them down, super pissed and disheartened! But I can laugh about it now… just seems like one of those warm and fuzzy memories.
That’s definitely the way to get your name out there! When you were living the rockstar life, did you find it difficult to balance the hard-partying aspects of it with the business end and the creative end?
I didn’t, because I found a way to capitalize on it!. When I got our flyers printed up, I got ridiculously low prices–so I decided to start my own company, offering my services to bands and clubs in Hollywood.
Of course, since all the bands were taking a page out of our book and moving over to color flyers, they all used my services. Pretty soon word caught on, and before I knew it I was doing flyers for just about every club in Hollywood, too. Didn’t make me rich, but allowed me to live a very laid back lifestyle, with no job to go to.
Plus, I was never the hardcore-alcoholic-waiting-to-happen type. For all my love of partying, I never forget what my priorities are, so it never fucked with my drive.
Things took a very mysterious turn when you fell completely off the map for eight months, effectively ending the trajectory of Scared of Girls. Can you tell us anything about what was going on during that period?
How much time do you have? I’m gonna need about three hours! Dude, that was really crazy what happened, and it’s always hard to try to summarize it into a few paragraphs.
But I’ll try: I met a girl who, unbeknownst to me had some crazy major issues. She was also very smart–and long story short, she pulled me, my friend and my family into a surreal sort of scam that saw me lose just about every belonging I had, including my car, my apartment and everything I had there.
The whole experience had me resurface in Minnesota, super-confused, and a single dad to boot. Right after it happened, I wrote a 90-page book about it that I sent to all my friends and family–basically because what happened was so surreal and unbelievable that it would take me three hours to tell it to someone, and that got old really fast.
The reaction I got from the book blew me away. People said it read like a Tom Clancy book–only my story wasn’t fiction, it actually happened in real life. It will make for one helluva movie one day, like an M. Night Shyamalan film in real life.
That sounds crazy! Is this person out of your life now, and does she know the book exists?
Remember the single dad part? That was her, she was the mom. But she is rarely heard from–her life has been a constant blur of drugs and rehabs ever since then. But yeah, she read the book, and felt extremely bad when reading it. Then she disappeared back into her drug haze. Some people never “get it,” no matter how hard life hits them.
Well, I can imagine that you’ve gotten a great deal of joy raising a child and living a fairly quiet life for awhile.
I’ve always been one of those people who never wanted kids. Then this happened, and when it did, I decided I was going to give my kid an amazing childhood, filled with love, mutual respect and all that stuff that most kids never get to fully enjoy because their parents are too busy trying to be parents. If that makes sense.
So although I love my son to death, I’m not a big fan of all the responsibility it carries with it. I’ve got gypsy blood running through my veins. I’ll never be able to “settle down” or retire, or anything close to it. Life is an adventure to me, and I want to squeeze as many thrills from it as I can before it’s over.
Don’t get me wrong: he always comes first. But I also make sure I get to live my own life to the fullest. Which he totally gets too, as evidenced the other day when I was dropping him off for an overnight slumber party. He was all, “So what are you going to do tonight?” I was all. “I don’t know.” He goes, “You should go to the bar, pappa!”
Had to laugh, because he knows me so well. He knows how much he’s loved, but he also knows that his dad loves getting this thrills as often as possible!
Sounds like you’ve done a great job!
Now music is calling again, and you’re ready to swing it solo with a new EP that drops in a few weeks, Ultrarock! I just watched the fun clip for “Cannonball.”
Yeah I’m super excited about that one–put so much heart, energy and time into both the recording of the song and the shooting of the video.
FYI, I’m totally queer but that girl in the video is beautiful!
Yeah, we definitely got the casting right on it!
What inspired you to put these new songs out now?
The common denominator for this album can be summed up in one word: love. The majority of the album was written out of both being in love, and getting my heart horribly broken. But it all happened in perfect synergy–and made for some seriously inspired moments, which spawned both “Cannonball,” “It’s You I Want” and “Fuck You.”
Sounds like a labor of love indeed! After the album drops everywhere on July 24th, do you have any plans for appearances and touring?
We are working on dates in Scandinavia right now, as well as local US dates, with national US dates to follow.
Superb, hope to see you in NYC soon. Anything else you wanna mention?
Yeah–I would love for people to check out the video for “Cannonball,” and see if they can figure out what actually happens in the video. Who is obsessed with who? It’s written with a twist ending–but interestingly, not everyone catches what ends up happening in the end!
Detectives, get to work! Okay, last question: when the book you wrote does eventually get the movie treatment, who should play you?
Oh there’s no doubt: I want to play that role myself!
Just give him all the Oscars now! Thanks, Toggo!