Take Five With Michael Janisch
Freelance jazz bassist and bandleader from the USA, resident since 2005 in London, England. Performances with Joe Lovano, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Mark Turner, George Garzone, Dianne Reeves, Shirley Horn, Joe Locke, and others, as well as rising stars including Walter Smith III, Mike Moreno, Jason Palmer, Will Vinson and Ambrose Akinmusire.
Leads The TransAtlantic Collective with Patrick Cornelius, Michael Janisch Purpose Built Quintet featuring Clarence Penn, and curates a monthly creative jazz residency at London's Pizza Express Jazz Club. Released debut album, Purpose Built, in January, 2010 on his own Whirlwind Recordings Record label.
Acoustic and electric basses.
Teachers and/or influences?
Teachers: Karyn Quinn (classical/jazz), Bertram Turetzky (classical), Abraham Laboriel (electric), Carol Kaye (electric), Dave Santorro (upright jazz), John Clayton Jr. (upright jazz).
Main bass influences: Charles Mingus, Oscar Pettiford, Ray Brown, FLY, Sam Jones, Edgar Meyer, Dave Holland, Paul Chambers, Jimmy Garrison, Paul Jackson, Larry Graham and Robert Hurst III.
I knew I wanted to be a musician when... I actually have no idea, it's just always felt like the correct and natural thing to spend my life doing. I did spend a few years here and there away from music, but it always drew me back, and now I'm happily hooked for good.
Your sound and approach to music: First and foremost living life, which includes a busy schedule outside of music, like family, working out, socializing with non musicians, etc. With music it's work hard, play hard, always continue to learn, buy albums, see as many live gigs as possible, practice with the same zest as when I started, and always be open to new ideas and different types of music, and also musicians.
Sound-wise, I am always trying to keep my hands in tune with my basses so that I can both produce the best sound possible but also put as much emotional content into what I play as possible. This requires me to do a lot of technique work on both basses and to keep my classical bowing up. The acoustic bass sounds best when bowed frequently.
Your teaching approach: I try and be very realistic and honest with them about both musical and non musical realities when choosing to be a jazz musician. Teachers never really told me how difficult it would be as a freelance bassist. I teach them aspects of the music business as well as gig etiquette just as much as topics on the actual bass and improvisation. I feel my job as a teacher is to give an entire outlook to a student on what it means and is to be a professional musician, not just teaching them how to pull strings, etc.
Your dream band:
My dream band would simply be a group of individuals who all pushed me artistically, and one that I could work with full time to earn my living. As of yet I haven't been able to achieve working with the same band year round. There are always tours here and there, but not full time as of yet, I can only hope one day this will happen, because there are jazz musicians who have reached this, so I have hope!
Road story: Your best or worst experience: I could write a book here... one of my favorite experiences was leading my own quintet in support of my debut release for a 25-date tour. By the end of the tour I was a new musician, and bandleader. One funny story was getting caught on a church top somewhere in Italy at 6:00 AM, after thinking it would be a good idea to climb it; the police weren't too happy when they had to help me get down as I was too intoxicated to climb back to the ground.
A true horror story from the road: one time I was performing a concert outside at a festival on a big purpose built platform, and the crowd started rioting and attacking the stage because we were playing music that many in this particular audience thought was offensive to their religion (this was a funk gig). They were chanting "death to the west and "this music from Satan," throwing bottles and anything they could get their hands on at us, and the riot police came in with crash helmets and barricaded the stage. I honestly had that sinking gut feeling like "well... this is it fellas!" Luckily, in the end after an hour-long standoff, a whole slew of riot police showed up and broke up the crowd. Here's the unbelievable partthis was in the UK (Bradford, which has had a history of rioting, unbeknownst to me at the time)! I never thought I would hear people screaming such things at a funk gig, in an actual western country; needless to say, I have never taken a gig there since.