The Norwegian guitarist Eivind Aarset is an inventor and creator of extrovert sound tapestries and generates almost spheric clouds of energy with the help of his instruments, half a ton of effect pedals and a computer. He even does that on stage: With his band "The Sonic Codex Orchestra" he documents this on the album "Live Extracts". As a collection of the best parts of numerous concerts, the CD resembles a never ending intergalactic sound voyage...
Aarset, who has worked in the bands of Nils Petter Molvaer and Bugge Weseltoft and can be heard on their most important works is a master of the musical texture and a, as he puts it eloquently, a "traditional non-traditionalist".
Carina Prange talked to Eivind Aarset for Jazzdimensions
Carina: A general question to start with… Soundscapes, energy, melody, texturewhich role do these aspects have in your music? Do you have a personal definition for them?
Eivind: Well, if you add harmony as well, I guess these are the building blocks I use when I make music. But I will try to define what they mean to me. Soundscape and texture are parts of the same thing for me. It is the sensual perception of the music, the physical presence.
Energy is what the music needs to come alive. I love good melodies, but I can also easily enjoy music without any obvious melodies. This is probably reflected in my musicsometimes melodies are very important, and sometimes not that important. Texture and energy is always important.
Carina: Do you see a limit to the usage of electronics and transmutation in your music where an audience might not be able to follow anymore?
Eivind: I have to remember to be honest with myself in the sense that as long as the music connects with me emotionally, I think it will connect to others as well. However, I see a clear danger of being too fascinated by the tools, theories and experiments, and all the possibilities there are.
I mean, I can easily spend a whole day experimenting with sounds, without any meaningful music is coming out...
Carina: On the other hand, is there a minimum for these ingredients, too? Or none at allEivind Aarset "unplugged", is that thinkable?
Eivind: Well it is thinkable, but not comfortable to think about! (laughs) I prefer to think about dry acoustic sounds like a important color on the palette, rather than the only accessible color.
Carina: It has been a long road from the Hendrix-influenced start to your Sonic Codex Orchestra. What would you name as the most important phases in that development?
Eivind: Well the Hendrix influence is still there, but I have been very lucky to receive a lot of other heavy influences, too. Especially from playing together with more experienced people who have been willing to share their knowledge.
Chronologically the important phases have been: As a music student playing around in bands with people and thinking and talking music all day. My first professional band, Road, was a hard rock band. There I learned how to play riffs, and got a taste of how it actually is to be touring. An enormous amount of hours I spent being a session musician in the 80´s and up until mid 90´s playing a lot of different stuff.
For my second professional band Ab & Zu, the concept was to have no concept, but to arrange the tunes in whatever style we wanted. That band brought me for the first time outside Norway.
Then came working with Bendik Hofseth in his band. This fantastic saxophone player also was a member of Steps Ahead after Michael Brecker. Afterwards I worked with Bugge Wesseltoft on various projects including "New Conception of Jazz." With Dhafer Youssef & Paolo Fresu I got introduced to strange meters, and Mediterranean culture.
But Nils Petter Molvaer's band was maybe the biggest impact for me musically besides my own project. Even though Nils Petter has a strong idea about his music, he has given me a lot of freedom, space and trust to develop my own role within his concept. I am very grateful for the time in his band.
Another interesting experience for me has to be working with people that has sampled me and put my phrases in another setting. It has sometime given me a lot of new ideas on how my vocabulary can be used. Chilliminati, Strangefruit, and Kjetil Bjerkestrand, and the German Werner Cee has given me a lot of nice experience in this way, but most of all Jan Bang has been very important for me pointing out new possibilities.
But also music I listen too has of course been important, here are a list of some music that I listen to, some of it has been with me since my youth, some are music I just recently have been introduced to. Miles Davis, Brian Eno, Tortoise, Ligeti, James Brown, Jon Hassell, Bill Frisell, Steely Dan, Daniel Lanois, Talking Heads, Jan Garbarek, Terje Rypdal, Erkan Ogur, Tricky, Messiaen, Meshuggah, Pärt, Pink Floyd.
Carina: Musicians like Terje Rypdal or Jan Garbarek were door openers for your generation of Norwegian musicians.Do you think you and your peers also might be door openers for the next generation? Who would you name as the next emerging talent following in your foot steps.
Eivind: Maybe we have. But it is really hard to tell. I have too much respect for the next generation to say they are following my footsteps, but I can say, that when it comes to guitar players, I really enjoy the playing of Stian Westerhus and Even Hermansen! Serena Maneesh is a very good sounding group, and so are Splashgirl.
Carina: How do you judge the current acceptance for and the interest in Norwegian music abroadfor example in Germany?
Eivind: I feel we are very privileged, there seems to be lot of interest for the Norwegian scene, and it is always extremely cool to tour Germany. The reason for this is in my opinion a combination of a warm, positive audience and serious organizers.
Carina: A lot of your sound bases on the use of electronic devicesbut how much is the music itself based on intuition? How much is thought out in advance , how much is planned and how much do you just let happen?
Eivind: It is hard to tell. I have developed a kind of vocabulary that I use, and that vocabulary is in use every night. But details are seldom planned, even though we have some arrangements. But I try to keep the arrangement as simple as possible, to let us, the musicians, concentrate on intuition and communication instead of on getting difficult parts right.
Carina: In our interview in 2005 you mentioned that you see yourself in the "tradition of non-traditionalists", of people not going with the established sound of the electric guitar. Are there fellow non-traditionalist guitarists you feel related to?
Eivind: I am not sure if I would use the same description today. I think everybody is inspired by someone or something, and have their set of references. And in that sense everybody are traditionalists. But I guess in a classic "jazz" sense I am still a non-traditionalist.
I feel more related and inspired by guitar players like Pete Cosey, David Torn, Nels Cline, Adrian Belew, Christian Fennesz, Hilmar Jensson or Daniel Lanois than by more conventional jazz players.
Carina: Is there something like "trends" in that scene, like people moving in similar directions?
Eivind: There is certainly an exchange of ideas.....
Carina: What did happen, say in the last 5 years?
Eivind: With my music, the important change has been to gradually move away from electronic beats and use the electronics like a textural tool instead of a rhythmical tool. In addition, I have let the rock side of my playing be more obvious.
Carina: When does the non-traditional start to become a tradition?
Eivind: As I said earlier, I think no one is outside a tradition and I don't mind that at all. But it is the museum approach to music that doesn't appeal to me. I think it is boring when music becomes a set of rules what is correct and what is notand the aim is becoming something like ...how to sound like, for instance Miles, James Brown or Hendrix...
Well I am sure you can learn a lot from it. But personally I think the original will always sound better! I read somewhere that Gustav Mahler once said, that "Tradition is the passing on of fire and not the adoration of ashes."
Carina: The new album "Live Extracts" was recorded in a number of venues in different cities and with varying line-up. At what point did you decide it would be appropriate to compile an album of the recordings?
Eivind: I have for a long time thought about this. I often seem to play better guitar live than in the studio, and from talking to people in the audience, it seems they would like to hear the live version of the music as well. So basically I decided it was time for a real documentation of the project.
Carina: What does the "Sonic Codex Orchestra" as a band mean for you? Is it just a vehicle to get the music from "Sonic Codex" on stage? Or is it more than that?
Eivind: Much more than that! It is a place for trying out new ideas. It is a place where the music and ideas come to life. I feel really privileged to perform with musicians that are so strong players with highly individual voices, but still interested to play my stuff!
Carina: Could the "Live Extracts" from your new CD also be interpreted as "Life Extracts" from your life and music? Did you think about that?
Eivind: I didn't think about that. I am a very private person, so I feel a bit embarrassed by the very thought of it. But somehow I guess you are rightmy sounds are closely connected to my inner life. But that goes for all my records.
Carina: With "Live Extracts" being a live album, will there be a live DVD as a consequent follow-up?
Eivind: It would have been great... it is a good idea. I will think about how to do that.
Carina: To put it into other wordshow important is the visual reception of your music for the message? Do people react differently when they experience the music on stage rather than from CD?
Eivind: They do definitely react differently. But I am not sure it is the visual thing that creates this reaction. I think it is rather that the music is different, and the situation is different.
A concert is a collective experience where musicians and audience are exchanging and creating energy. However soundsculpting details are maybe easier to enjoy from your own sofa!
CD: Eivind Aarset - "Live Extracts"
(Jazzland Rec/Emarcy Records 0602527364575)
Eivind Aarset im Internet: www.eivindaarset.com
Emarcy Records im Internet: www.emarcy.com