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Magnus Fra Gaarden - "No Coke—but Bionade!"

Similar things could happen as with the small manufacturer who invented the ecological lemonade "Bionade"—thanks to an inventive and convincing marketing campaign, the bio-drink in large parts of Germany succeeded in pushingtheir (until then) leading competitor Coca Cola out of the scene-clubs and to claim the position of the "in-brand"...

Magnus Fra Gaarden

Whether it will be possible as well in jazz music for a little "organic band" to take the passing lane and outrun all their competitors has still to be proved. The Danish band Magnus Fra Gaarden, however, is about to do just that—and at the same time the group, founded by Magnus Bak and Lars Bech Pilgaard asserts "not to be a jazz band at all".

Their stage show, where the musicians perform in animal masks suggests there's some truth about that. And where is the connection to "organic farming" the band put in it's name?

Carina Prange talked to the "Magnus" members Lars Bech Pilgaard and Henrik Pultz Melbye

Carina: What is your opinion towards the jazz traditions? Are they an important means to provide a solid ground from where a personal style can be derived even more freely? Or don't you care about tradition at all?

Lars: Yes, we care and know about tradition. We don't see it as something more important than any other traditions in other music genres, but the jazz tradition still provides inspiration and different harmonic and rhythmical angles towards making progressive music.

Henrik: We think that a personal style can be derived from all music, and jazz is not necessary the most inspiring for this band. And then again, jazz is also the most progressive tradition of them all, and therefore the talk about "tradition" is a little bit unimportant.

Magnus Fra Gaarden

Carina: Indie rock, Balkan beats—there's numerous influences that you use in your music. Among others I hear a touch of film soundtracks and even circus music. Is there an affinity to the manege or to the musical theatre?

Lars: Yes and no, we did not have any intentions of sounding like a drunken circus monkey. It just came from the mess of music styles that we have been involving ourselves with both in this band, and in numerous other bands and projects.

We have the same desire as a circus or a theatre: to entertain both musically and visually, guess that's some of the most important connections. Besides that, I think we have been working harder than most "jazz type" bands evolving our sound and stage performance.

And that's also a point which leads to other styles of culture, like a circus where each performance really has been thoroughly worked through. While a "normal jazz project" would not mind going on tour with only few rehearsals and no thoughts about the show - that's something more common in the "rock/circus/theatre world"

Magnus Fra Gaarden

Carina: What is the point about music that makes it "good music"? Is it the mood it implies for the listener? Or something else?

Henrik: That's a tough one. Inspiration-wise no music is as bad as the word indicates. The spectra of feelings music creates is really what is important - which means that bad music not necessarily are gonna do something bad for you. Rather the opposite, since "bad music" is gonna hold some ingredients which "good" music for you would not.

Carina: Is it important for you to be labeled under "jazz"? Or do you have a better fitting (maybe made-up) name for your style?

Lars: The only reason we are labeled under jazz is because we play with two horns and won a jazz competition in Denmark—and that the "rock environment" is more conservative than the "jazz environment". When was the last time you heard of a instrumental-group who made it to the radio?

Carina: The name "Magnus Fra Garden" together with the claim "100% ecological jazz" (slogan in German: "100% Öko-Jazz aus Bodenhaltung") is an ingenious marketing gag. And more - you even go on stage in animal costumes. What is the message of your music? And behind all this marketing flash and humor, is there a serious core, too?

Henrik: Well, the music is also serious if you ask us. It is just served in a little bit more eatable way than most other music that falls out of normal genres. Behind the term "ecological jazz" you find people who create unfiltered, authentic and no-bullshit music.

When "ecological" food came to the market, people needed and still needs time to realize it is healthier and better for the environment. And the same with our music—people may like it even though it's not considered popular music!

Magnus Fra Gaarden - "Magnus Fra Gaarden"

Lars: Things are what they seem! When we dress up and use different gags at our concerts it is just to try to bring the message that popular music does not need to follow the same schemes and doesn't need to be on MTV to act as "easy listening". And we also do not need to follow the "musical codex" or the "dress codes of "jazz".

Carina: Besides all this, what comes after this album and tour? Will the concept stand? Do you already have plans or ideas how you will go on?

Lars: Already we are planning to make new record—when the time feels right and the material has been properly practiced and fine-tuned. Since the concept follows the music and not vice versa we guess that it will stand maybe even stronger later on.

Henrik: Right now we are just gonna focus on playing a lot of concerts all around Europe and have fun.

Carina: Okay then—what kind of audience do you wish to address with your music?

Lars: Just whoever likes it! From experience we learned that pretty much everyone likes at least some of the stuff we do. But sometimes people also regard it as an insult towards what they think is "jazz".

Magnus Fra Gaarden

Carina: Now a look back: how did the members of the band meet in the first place, who is the principal source of ideas and who is the composer? Last not least, the "organic farm"... Who of you is "the farmer" and works behind the plow besides making music?

Henrik: Some of us studied music in Esbjerg, a small city on the west coast. Magnus, who originates from an organic farm on the countryside, wrote some sketches and together with Lars they assembled a group that was to be named Magnus fra Gaarden. Magnus writes all the songs and we then all work on them in the rehearsal room. As sidenote: Magnus actually does sometimes work for his father at the farm.

Carina: Do you have a kind of philosophy—as a band or, if you prefer, as individuals?

Lars: Since we only are two people doing this interview it is a little hard to speak for everyone! But generally speaking one of our "missions" is to get people to see that even though you play jazz, rock or any other genre, you are not confined to do only one thing or follow any rules just because there is a tradition. Music doesn't have to be a holy thing and you don't have to be afraid to do something out of the ordinary.

Carina Prange

CD: Magnus Fra Gaarden - "Magnus Fra Gaarden"
(Calibrated cali089)

Magnus Fra Gaarden im Internet: www.magnusfragaarden.dk

Calibrated Records im Internet: www.calibrated.org

Fotos: Pressefotos

© jazzdimensions 2009
erschienen: 25.10.2009
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