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Interviews

Manu Katche: Play As You Are

By Published: June 15, 2010

MK: Of course he sounds very close to Jan, though the phrasing is different. Jan, of course, has marked the sound of Northern Europe, particularly Norway. On my second album, Playground (ECM, 205), I had Trygve Seim

Trygve Seim
Trygve Seim

saxophone
because he was recommended by Manfred Eicher. When we went on tour, his partner was pregnant and he was unable to complete the tour. I told him having a baby is the best thing in the world, so you have to be with her and not with me. He said he could recommend me a guy who is an amazing artist, and he gave me a record by Tore. I heard his playing, his phrasing and his sound and I thought, "Wow, that's the guy I want."

The first time we met was in France and he came straight to the gig. Of course he had all the records in advance and the set list, but he just played wonderfully, just beautifully. I told him that was exactly what I had in mind. We feel very comfortable together, very at ease. I told him I would love to have him on my next record.

When we did the record, I was very comfortable with Pino and Jason, who I've played with for many years, and I felt like I knew Tore after touring. I asked him to use some effects on the soprano saxophone even though he knew little about using effects, but I wanted him to bring something in that would make him play just a little different, and with cause and effect maybe lead to something else.

AAJ: He certainly leaves a big mark on Third Round.

MK: Yeah, he does.

AAJ: Most of the songs on Third Round are under or around four minutes, and they're very melodious which is more typical of pop songs...

MK: You're absolutely right. I don't even think about this when I write. I've been playing with pop artists for more than 20 years, so I'm used to their structure. The way I listen to the music and the way I approach it is very much pop—I'm just talking about the structures of my compositions. Even if it's instrumental music like jazz, I'm not a big fan on record of—which is different than on stage— having 150 bars of improvisation. I think that when you listen to a record you just go for a trip, and if the trip is too long you get bored, unless you are Tony Williams

Tony Williams
Tony Williams
1945 - 1997
drums
, Elvin Jones
Elvin Jones
Elvin Jones
1927 - 2004
drums
, Herbie Hancock
Herbie Hancock
Herbie Hancock
b.1940
piano
, Keith Jarrett
Keith Jarrett
Keith Jarrett
b.1945
piano
, John Coltrane
John Coltrane
John Coltrane
1926 - 1967
saxophone
or Miles Davis
Miles Davis
Miles Davis
1926 - 1991
trumpet
, which I'm not.

I love melodies and I try to be as melodic as I can, even when I play drums, and I think when you listen to Third Round, you go for a little trip. When we play live, of course, we go a little bit more for the improvisation but not too far away, not going crazy. The audiences are pleased because maybe they are not used to that way of structuring in instrumental music, but they react very positively to it. It's in, and not so long after, it's out, and they appreciate that.

AAJ: There are a couple of very short numbers on the album, "Out Take Number 9" and "Urban Shadow," and both of these compositions end at surprising times, leaving the listener wishing that they had gone on—particularly the former, which sounds like a feature for you as the drummer. Why did you make it so short?

MK: When we played it in the studio, it was nice. I was pleased, but not pleased enough. It's funny you should say that, because it really features myself and I thought, "When we do it live, we're going to have plenty of time to feature my drumming," but on the record it didn't reach what I was expecting, maybe because we had just three days to record and that track was recorded pretty much at the end of the session. I didn't want to get crazy with it, and I liked the vibe of it as a short piece. We'll get to it on stage, don't worry.

The other one, "Urban Shadow" has no drums on it. I'd tried that track live with the band before, and I used brushes or mallets sometimes, but I thought it sounded better without me. The others said, "Manu, it's a drummer's record. We can't do that." I said, "We can do whatever we want." It has a beautiful atmosphere and the drums do not bring something else to it, which means it doesn't need drums. If I was the producer I might think, "Maybe we need that drummer on it," but as it was, it sounded compact and beautiful and intense with these guys playing on it, so I wanted them to play on their own.

AAJ: What drum setup do you use on Third Round?



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