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Siegfried Loch: 50 Years on the Music-Making Scene

By Published: March 31, 2010
SL: They are not really the most successful artists I had signed to Act. If I go by record sales, the artist sold more records for me than any other ACT artist is Nils Landgren. He continues to do so.

Vijay Iyer

But on the other hand, e.s.t was the most influential artist that I had signed. At least one ... (album), Viaticum (ACT, 2005) sold over 100,000 copies, which is something pop artists these days would be proud of. I don't think there are many jazz artists who sell that kind of numbers.

You can say it is one of the rare merits. Not making any compromise with his art, yet being extremely successful. That is very seldom in jazz. Many jazz artists start making compromises to get their audience interested in their art. Smooth jazz or whatever you may call it. e.s.t. never did that—they made no compromise whatsoever. This was a real jazz trio, and yet they fascinated the audience when most, or 50 percent, had never gone to a jazz concert before. I think that's what jazz really needs [chuckles]. I'm approaching 70 and I feel so bad when I go to concerts and clubs and I see the audience to be about my age.

AAJ: Listening to Nils Landgren, his music is assessable, but creative.

SL: He loves that. He's always been like that. He is true as true as an artist as Esbjörn was, but in a different way. He is a virtuoso on the trombone, but he also loves pop music. He loves that funk stuff and he does it very well.

AAJ: You alluded earlier to the health of the industry. Record labels in the U.S. have been falling by the wayside. The industry is in flux and still figuring out what to do in the era of new technology and the Internet. Is it the same for you over there, or a bit different in Europe?

SL: It's the same thing here. It hurts to see how people are fighting for survival. Every day we are getting news that another distributor went bust, another couple of stores closed down. It hurts. But there is very little one can do. It's the result of the new technology and young people just don't buy records. Some of them, they download and pay for it. But most of them download and don't pay for it.

AAJ: When it all shakes out, for lack of a better expression, will there be a place for larger labels? Some people here say they will survive in some form, some say they won't.

SL: I have no idea. It's not to say for those who have been spending all their lives in the music business as we know it what the future will be. I think people who will be able to define that will be those who come into the music business now and don't have the history of the record industry. If they go into this with a fresh mindset and figure out how to communicate between the artist and their public. It will not be by means of records ... records will exist, of course, but primarily for collectors and as a souvenir. People will buy records when they go to a gig like they used to buy a program, and keep it. The idea of taking a piece of a great evening home and preserving it.

But that's not what the record business was all about. The music was driven by records. People were making their money with records and touring was a way of promoting record sales. Now, it's the other way around. The only thing we do with our records is help get the artist jobs and survive. That's what it is.

AAJ: Records would document the development of someone's career, as well.

SL: Exactly. So an artist making their own record, it's so easy to do that. They put it out themselves. I think you'll see another merger of the giants. Warner and Polygram will probably merge soon. Then we have three majors left.They will live forever, because their catalogs will be important for any kind of technology, download or what have you, because people will be interested in that music. But for a new label that is out there to help young talent define their audience, it's impossible. You can't make a living. You can't pay any employees. You have no money for promotion or advertising. That's where it really becomes a problem.

AAJ: But ACT is still going strong at the moment.

SL: Yes. I'm turning 70 soon and I think, at least I hope, I'll be able to do it another five years. I don't see that the record business is going down that much that I can't survive [chuckles]. As far as I'm concerned, I'm OK.

AAJ: Is the European jazz scene in general pretty healthy?

SL: Yes. There is a lot of interesting stuff coming up all the time. I'm out there checking it out. I have this incredible young pianist out there- -this German guy by the name of Michael Wollny who's a true giant, or will be, I hope, some day. The talent is massive, as I said. Then I signed Yaron Herman, the Israeli who lives in France and is amazing. I continue to work with Vijay Iyer, who's still a young guy—there's so much to expect from that guy.

There's a lot. I can't do everything, but there's a lot to put my teeth in.

AAJ: So across 50 years, good times, rough times, it's been pretty good?

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