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Nik Bartsch: Commitment, Movement, and the Batman Spirit

By Published: July 24, 2006
AAJ: Well, there is improvisation in Ronin, especially, I think from you. And then there is everyone responding to you in various ways. And if everyone were totally concerned with just accurately performing exactly what they felt they were supposed to, no one could play at all, let alone improvise.

NB: Yes, and often the solo player is more the guy that shows the rhythm section and what's happening in it than anyone else. The soloist brings the light to the rhythm section and the rest of the band. You can, for example, hear Björn's enormous playing on the Rea CD, I think on the second piece ["Modul 22"], where he has an introductory solo. You know, on Stoa, he played so modestly. Before we recorded "36," the opening tune on the CD, which was also the first recorded tune, we had discussed it. We'd agreed that, like in the concert before, he would do an introduction for this piece over the band's opening. But then he played much more modestly—he's very about playing with the band and not showing how much he can do.

AAJ: He's a very restrained player, and his parts are pretty grooving, but he's a very melodic bassist.

NB: He can play like a guitarist on the bass. When we play live, it's a bit of a different experience—there's more freedom. But when he plays live, he never uses his capacity in a way of showing off what he can do. He always uses it for the music. Kaspar, too. He once said, "During a piece, live, there are maybe 30 breaks occurring to me, and in the end, I play maybe five." That's great. And when you have five pickups and not 30, they grow like flowers—you really hear them.

AAJ: You made Stoa for ECM. Is this a continuing relationship? Will there be Mobile record on ECM as well?

NB: At the moment, we can't say. But I think the work on this record we did with ECM, especially with Manfred Eicher, was such a great experience that we will probably continue. I hope we continue. But we as a band, and I as a composer, must develop and create something new—create the energy for a new record. I do not doubt that we can do this. But let's talk about it when it's time for it.

Selected Discography

Nik Bärtsch's Ronin, Stoa (ECM Records, 2006)
Nik Bärtsch's Mobile, Aer (TMR, 2004)
Nik Bärtsch's Ronin, Rea (TMR, 2004)
Nik Bärtsch's Ronin, Live (TMR, 2003)
Nik Bärtsch, Hishiryo: Piano Solo (TMR, 2002)
Nik Bärtsch's Ronin, Randori (TMR, 2002)
Tonus Music Labor Research Result, Live, Vol. 1-2 (TMR, 2002)
Nik Bärtsch's Mobile, Ritual Groove Music (TMR, 2001) Don Li's Tonus, Gen (TMR, 1999)
Don Li's Tonus, SU:N (Brambus, 1999)

Photo Credits
Top Portrait and Ronin Photo: Marc Wetli
Second Portrait: Martin Moll

Live Photo: Palma Fiacco

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