Paal Nilssen-Love: Transforming the Boundaries of Creative Music
PNL: Some feel this way and some don't and it creates a discussion in whether it's a good quality or not. It's not always easy. I sometimes hear that I'm over blowing the person I'm playing with but that's not my intention at all. I try to see it as a quality and try to work against extreme density. But then again, you also need contrast to feel the quality of it. All levels of density are needed and if they are all there, the different levels will benefit from each other. I try to work with all levels of frequencies, rhythms, volumes and density and when it all interacts together; there is a sense of tension and release. The tension is released by the contrast of the different elements and you should then be able to experience the music with a completely different feel of time and pace.
LP: We spoke previously about the how the individual voice can influence the direction of the music. Can you expand on this?
PNL: You have to believe in yourself and be strong enough to project your own voice. Even if you don't get a response from your partner, you are changing the music because of the contrast that you might be producing. But if you don't believe in yourself, you end up following the other players and that doesn't exactly invite interaction. If you're on stage with someone else, investigate the possibilities of interacting with other musicians. Even laying off will affect the direction of the music.
LP: You grew up during a time when rock music had a substantial impact on American and European culture. I admire the fact that you haven't lost your roots in rock music and don't deny who you are.
PNL: There's no reason to deny or reject those influences just as I cannot reject the influences from Art Blakey. All your influences are always going to be there and will always be a part of you and you're playing, audible or not.
LP: It's unfortunate that many who listen to open improvisational forms don't listen to mainstream music just as it's disappointing that those within the mainstream don't find the challenge of trying to understand the freer forms of the music interesting.
PNL: I would say that many of the musicians who are playing free music are aware and listen to mainstream music. Not necessarily today's mainstream music but when the music was originally happening; before it became mainstream. If you want to listen to where Evan Parker came from, you have to go back to the late or even early recordings of John Coltrane. Or check out Sidney Bechet to find out where Peter Brotzmann came from.
It's interesting but a fact that free players are more into bebop and straight ahead jazz than most people think. But that doesn't mean the straight ahead players are into freer music. Free music isn't a phase you go through; it's a way of expressing yourself. It's a style as everything else and there are those that are trying to push the limits within free music, which isn't always that free...
LP: Don Cherry said that if we are not careful that style could lead to the death of creativity. It's a statement that seems quite appropriate today?
PNL: I couldn't agree more. Creative music is dead as soon as you box it as a style. You should let all styles of music and art create your style, and then let it become all styles. You have to believe in yourself and build on whatever provokes your feelings and then create your own art from your own risks. If what you do ends up as a style, go even further and give people more to chew on. It's like the art historian who complained about Paris not having its own style because there was such a mixture of styles, which was right. It was all styles.
LP: One of the areas within jazz or creative music that has changed significantly is the approach of the drummer and bassist. Traditionally, the bassist and drummer worked as the timekeepers or as the rhythm section and kept everything in the pocket. But today, the drummer and bassist help lead the direction of the music. Bassist Ingebrigt Haker-Flaten and yourself are prime examples of this.
PNL: There is a long tradition of the bassist and drummer having the role as the rhythm section and supporting the soloist. But fortunately today, these two instruments are now considered equal with the other instruments. And within improvised music, all instruments are on the same level and can influence the musical direction.