Biography: Some words about Saint Thomas and his musical friends.
Saint Thomas is Thomas Hansen, born in Oslo, Norway in 1976, where he worked as a mailman. He quit his job to focus on his musical career, and though he only worked at the post service for less than two years over three different periods, the mailman-turned-musician label has followed him around ever since. After two periods of living in Berlin, Germany, he currently recides in Oslo. In his youth, Thomas played football for Oslo-team Skeid's junior team and for their reserve team in Norwegian third division, until he quit in 1997. At that time he was listening to Will Olham and Elliott Smith, who at the time were rather unknown artists in Norway, and, being inspired by them, in December the same year he bought a semi-acoustic guitar and a four-track recorder to start making his own music.
In Autumn 1998 Thomas moved to Bergen, where he put up notices that he was interested in starting a band. He started a duo called Emily Lang with Benjamin Rokseth, who played twelve-string guitar and the flute, and the outfit grew into a five-piece within a couple of months, including Sveinung Nesheim, who had a background in dancing bands, on bass, Gunnar from Michael Ellis on guitar, and Robert Jønnum from Ai Phoenix on drums. Jønnum would later quit the band, but he produced the band's first demo and later three Saint Thomas albums. The band got some attention in the underground music scene in Norway, with an early version of "Cornerman" included on a compilation album; the band's setlist included several compositions by Thomas that would later end up on his solo albums. With Thomas moving to Kristiansand in Summer 1999 and later to Oslo in June 2000, he had less time for the band, and had started his own solo project on the side. He liked the idea of working with whoever he wanted, and had started to realize that he might do just as well, or even better, as a solo artist. Thomas also saw Emily Lang as a more commercial band than what he wanted his solo-project to be. Emily Lang was an ordinary band featuring members who with large egos, and it did not work out when Thomas wanted to be the frontman, so they broke up after a performance at Øyafestival in Oslo Summer 2000, their tenth concert.
While in Kristiansand, Thomas had started recording a lot of demos by himself in his bedroom. An early, and admittedly poor, artist name was Lonely Scabdogg. Others included Morning Sundowner, until Filip Ring Andersen, who ran the small bedroom label Krank Records in Kristiansand, suggested he use st. Thomas as his artist name. This would later be changed to St. Thomas, and in early 2005 to Saint Thomas, as after international success foreign media and concert organizers had been referring to him by this name for some time already. Filip's Krank Records released the four-song Saint Thomas seven inch "Songs" in 1999, in a limited edition of 200 copies. It was later re-released in another 200 copies in Summer 2002. With Filip's help, Thomas got in touch with the French label Darjeeling Sounds, who released the album "Surfer's Morning." Thomas was proud that his album was released on a French label, only to realize how small the label actually was when the album being released in a limited edition of about 100 copies, all on CD-R. Thomas received a package with about thirty CD-Rs, blank paper covers and stickers to put on the covers, and had to assemble the covers and sell the CDs himself. About thirty were sold in Norway, and the remaining seventy or so copies in France.
The big breakthrough in Thomas' musical career came during the Quart Festival in Kristiansand, Summer 1999. Thomas arranged a nachspiel for festival-goers where one of his demoes happened to be played on the stereo. An employee at the Norwegian label Dbut thought the material was so good that he wanted to release it, but the rest at Dbut turned it down. The employee later started his own label, Racing Junior, along with Claes Olsen, Robert Jønnum and others involved with the rock club So What! in Oslo. One of the new label's first releases was Saint Thomas' "Mysterious Walks." This album was a collection of Thomas' old demos, recorded between summer 1999 and May 2000. Everything on the album was played by and recorded by Thomas in his own bedroom, except for a few songs which featured Robert Jønnum, and "Invitation" which featured Andreas Knudsen and Espen Mellingen on percussion, and a few of the songs which were recorded in Jønnum's incredibly small bedroom in Bergen. "Mysterious Walks" has seen both a European and a North-American release.
From April 2nd to 9th of 2001, Thomas brought some friends to a studio called Bjørkhaug 49 outside of Bergen, recording what would be Saint Thomas' first proper album, "I'm Coming Home." "The Cornerman EP" was released to promote the album, and everyone were caught by surprise when this song ended up becoming one of the biggest hits in Norway in Summer 2001. The success of the EP and the August-released album gained Saint Thomas interest from European record labels, and he soon signed a lucrative deal with German-based City Slang. In February 2002, "I'm Coming Home" was given a European release, where it was critically acclaimed in most European countries, with the English media hailing Saint Thomas the most. The album saw a North-American release on Misra Records in April 2002.
Part of the reason for Saint Thomas' success at that time was continual touring in Norway and all over Europe. When playing live, Saint Thomas is always backed by The Magic Club. The name started as a joke, as in the beginning of his solo career Thomas never had a proper backing band. Whenever he had concerts he would have to call his friends and ask if they could play with him, and usually some of them had other plans, so Saint Thomas sometimes appeared as a duo and sometimes with up to ten people on stage. The continually changing members of his backing band were tagged The Magic Club, as no one ever knew who he would appear with.
In Autumn 2001, Thomas got four permanent members for his backing band; Fredrik Rosland on bass, Frode Refsnes on drums, Eivind Schou on violin and Espen Mellingsen on guitar. Most were multi-instrumentalists; Eivind even played something he once found in a kitchen that he had no idea what was. But a ten-date Norwegian tour in early March turned out to be a catastrophic tour experience, and with journalist Erik Hannemann following the band around to make a documentary film, Fredrik left due to personal problems after the second concert, the tour bus broke down and left tour manager Ajey stranded in the Norwegian mountains for four days while the band continued touring in Hannemann's small Toyota, and on March 6th 2002 the previous tour problems and bad treatment from the concert organizers culminated in Thomas playing the concert sitting with his back to the audience and ending things abruptly after thirty-five minutes. Things went better on the following European leg of the tour, as outside of Norway Thomas felt he got away from the scrutiny of the Norwegian press.
Saint Thomas in the form of Thomas and guitarist Espen joined Lambchop as support act for a long European tour in Spring 2002. For a period in the middle of the tour, things were going very well, as the usually nervous and anxcious Thomas was feeling more confident stage, in addition to having met met a nice girl in London earlier in the year, so he was feeling very happy. Before heading towards Britain for the final leg of the tour, the alcohol-usage was at a minimum, but since he was feeling so good, Thomas has also stopped taking his anti-depressiva. In Britain, he felt that as a support act they were being treated unfairly by concert organizers, and when the time came for the important Royal Albert Hall performance in London, he was also starting to notice the effects of the missing anti-depressiva. At the venue, the band were only presented with ten beers, of which Thomas had only drunk one himself when it got empty. He asked the organizers for more, to which they replied that more could be bought at a kiosk twenty minutes away. With escalated feelings of frustration, Thomas lost focus, threw a bottle at the wall, and got in trouble with security people at the venue. He grabbed Windham Wallace from the label in England, shook him and yelled at him, and then had to go on stage after these very bad preparations. He continued spewing his frustration and bitterness onto the audience, but people laughed and thought it was part of an act. He criticized the organizer and City Slang, owner Christof in particular, from the stage, and afterwards Christof had to be brought to the emergency room, having eaten something that was not good for him. He later told Thomas that if he had been able to, he would totally have kicked his ass that evening, he wanted to beat him up so much.
After a break and some successfull one-off concerts, things once again went wrong leading up to the important Roskilde Festival performance in Denmark at the end of June. Thomas and Espen played in Kongsvinger, where the concert ended after twenty minutes, as Thomas kicked and headbutted Espen, smashed his guitar on the monitors and smashed a mic stand. The mic stand gave him a bleeding cut on his forehead, and he had to be taken to the local hospital. He still has the scars from that night. Fans reacted badly to yet another Saint Thomas scandal, and when they arrived in Roskilde a week later, then extended with Bosse and Eivind in the band, they expected eggs and tomatoes. Instead, the place filled up long before the concert started, with enthusiastic fans chanting for Saint Thomas, and the band got a much-needed positive experience after all the things that had gone wrong.
In November 2001 Thomas had moved to Berlin, where he had gotten new inspiration after a long period of not being able to come up with new material. Demos for a new album were recorded in Thomas' apartment in the end of June 2002, and in Oslo the following month, and expectations were high for the material, which they aimed at making into a more mainstream pop record. Three weeks in September were spent at Beech House Recording Mega-Plex in Nashville, Tennessee in America, recording what would be "Hey Harmony." The title of the album was inspired by film maker Harmony Korine. Mark Nevers from Lambchop produced the album, with Espen, Bosse, Jeremy Barnes, Matt Swanson, Howe Gelb and Tony Crow participating on the recordings. Following the recordings, a week of concerts in America were scheduled. Three days into this, Thomas, frustrated by the lack of attention his band was getting from the audience, with poor self-esteem and a bad mix of pills and alcohol, ended up thrashing a merchandise table, subsequently getting thrown out of the venue, and later trashing his hotel room. The stay in America ended with Thomas getting sent home to Europe in shame, Espen already having been kicked out of the band, and the rest of the band, excluding Bosse, being so upset that they would never work with him again. In Berlin, Thomas packed his bags and moved back to Norway, where he joined a football club in Norwegian fourth division, started a better lifestyle with frequent jogging and skiing during the winter, and stayed away from alcohol for more than half a year.
"A Long Long Time EP" was released to promote "Hey Harmony" in Norway in January 2003. The song had been a radio hit for almost two months, and the EP went straight to number two on the official Norwegian singles chart list its first week in sale, with only Eminem in front on the charts. Two days after the EP release, Erik Hannemann's Saint Thomas documentary was aired on television channel NRK1, following a live performance and interview with Saint Thomas on the same channel earlier in the evening. Close to a quarter of a million people watched these programs. At Spellemannsprisen in February, the band's new line-up featured Steven Sellick on guitar, Øyvind Thune on bass, Ivar Chr. Johansen aka. Ravi on keyboard, and Bosse on drums. Ravi had his own solo project just taking off at the same time, and would only perform a few times with Saint Thomas, and shortly after that Bosse decided to take a break from music, and quit the band.
"Hey Harmony" was released in Norway in March, debuting on the Norwegian album charts at an incredible second spot, to rave reviews. A limited edition version featuring a bonus DVD with music videos was sold out within a few days. For the Norwegian and European tours that followed, a live album entitled "Live In Europe" was pressed in a limited edition of 1.000 copies. It was a collection of ten songs recorded live in Europe in 2002 and 2003, with an additional unreleased track from the "Hey Harmony" sessions as a bonus track. The month-long Norwegian tour saw Karim Sayeed, who had previously worked with Big Bang, stepping in behind the drum kit. With Thomas' dad driving the tour van, and Thomas' girlfriend Ilse selling merchandise, the mood was great for the first three weeks.
But, once again, things were not to stay calm in the Saint Thomas camp. For the third-to-last concert of the tour, on the morning following a long day of arguing Øyvind and Steven decided to let Thomas know that they would play the next two concerts, but would not be going with him on the European tour, set to start only a few days later. Understandably, this was not easy news for Thomas to deal with, but his ways of dealing with problems could have deserved second thoughts, as he opted to throw chocolate milk at them and drive off, leaving them with their bags and guitars outside a venue in the middle of nowhere. Thomas and Karim decided to play on as a duo, an odd setup that worked remakably well for them, and which would be Thomas' preferred line-up for the year to come. Ilse also joined them on vocals and percussion at times.
In August 2003, Thomas and Karim drove to Robert Jønnum's self-built Protofon studio in Etnedal and recorded a follow-up to "Hey Harmony" in five days. Thomas played all the instruments himself, apart from the drums which were handled by Karim and Robert, and the bass which Robert took care of. In addition to recording the material that he had written, demoed and played live over the last couple of weeks and the older songs "Sunny Day" and "The Red Book," Thomas also wrote four new songs in the small guest bedroom where he was staying during the recordings. Already then the album had gotten its title, "Let's Grow Together - The Comeback Of St. Thomas." Part of the idea behind the odd title choice and for having Robert Jønnum record it was that it was supposed to be a step back to the old Saint Thomas, both musically and visually, as Thomas has been quite dissatisfied with how "Hey Harmony" turned out and with all the commercial things he had taken part in during the previous year. He felt that from then on you would not see Saint Thomas appearing on Top 20 hit-shows.
Racing Junior were giving Thomas free reign to do what he wanted with his own career, scheduling the album for an early 2004 release. But in Europe, where "Hey Harmony" had been out since Spring, getting good reviews but selling very poorly, City Slang were far from happy. On the morning of September 5th 2003, Thomas went to the extraordinary step of sending out a personal letter to a number of Norwegian journalists, breaking the news that City Slang had decided to end their co-operation with Saint Thomas. Thomas wrote that at City Slang they had listened to the new Saint Thomas album and liked it a lot, and that their decision to not continue to work with him had absolutely nothing to do with the music. According to them, two years of ups and downs with Saint Thomas had led to there not being anyone left at the office who got really excited when it came to a new album, instead everybody remembered the downsides, the insults and the crisis points.
"Let's Grow Together - The Comeback Of St. Thomas" was released in Norway in January 2004, with artwork painted by Thomas himself. A limited edition also included "On The Road With St. Thomas," a DVD featuring a twenty-five minute documentary shot and directed by Thomas himself on the latest European tour in Autumn 2003, and four music videos also shot and directed by Thomas. The fourth album did not fare as well as was expected by Thomas, partly caused by very bad reviews by the biggest nationwide newspapers, who expected something different to follow-up "Hey Harmony," quickly putting the otherwisely overall good reviews in the shadows, cauing many to never give the album a chance. Saint Thomas had signed with the British record label Track & Field, and "Let's Grow Together" was released worldwide through Racing Junior's partners in Spring 2004.
Only a few months after the release of the this album, Saint Thomas had recorded a thirteen-song demo for a planned fifth album. The band now consisted of Alexander Lindbäck on drums, Espen Mellingen back on guitar, once again, and Petter Pogo from the legendary Jokke & Valentinerne on bass. The demos were done at Protofon, and three songs were picked to be re-recorded at Athletic Sound in Halden with producer Kai Andersen, to see how it would work to work with him and record a new album there. The music was now different than before, focusing on a louder and more rock-driven expression. A long European tour was undertaken in Autumn, where for the first time in Saint Thomas history musical stability was present, and the audiences reacted jubilantly throughout the tour in its entirety.
Over a five-day period in January 2005, the album "Children Of The New Brigade" was recorded at Athletic Sounds in Halden, Norway, with Kai Andersen producing, and featuring guest appearances by David-Ivar Herman Düne, André Herman Düne and Néman Herman Düne. The first taste from the album came in form the the four-song "Morning Dancer EP," released in Norway on June 13th, which got overall good reviews in the press, and which showed great promises for "Children Of The New Brigade," released in Norway through Racing Junior on August 20th 2005.
Biography last updated on June 16th 2005.
Thanks to Thomas Hansen, Robert Jønnum, Filip Ring Andersen, Andreas Knudsen, Claes Olsen and Phil Waldorf for the info used to compile this biography.