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Thomas Stronen: The Tin Drum

By Published: July 4, 2012
AAJ: You are involved in quite a few parallel projects. Would you like to develop their significance? What are the points of convergence, what differentiates them? What side of you do they each represent?

TS: I try to not play into too many bands. I feel that instead of using all the different aspects of my musicianship in one band, I can sort of use some sides and go really deep in a certain direction. For example, Food is connected to my listening to a lot of Japanese music, where I use space and texture, trying not to play all the time, trying to play open, trying to believe that one hit will change the next movement. This is what they say in Japanese music: if the next hit won't change the music, then don't hit it. It is like the opposite of jazz in a way, where there's too much information all the time.

So this band is very much about daring to be open and daring to develop things all the time. You can have one tune lasting for fifteen minutes if it's interesting enough. It has a lot to do with texture and about being one big sound. There will be sounds you will identify, and others you won't be able to tell where they are coming from. Even if we improvise we like to have a strong shape, a strong form so that you have the feeling that it is composed, even if it is not.

It is a very well-defined music compared to Humcrush, where we are taking more risks, and which is a lot quicker. Humcrush is like you put something into a blender, and everything goes faster and comes out spattering as something else. Here you can have five tunes within five minutes, totally different things, even if we sometimes stretch out, it can be much more extreme. We can have one gig being extremely loud all the time with no dynamics, but working on other parameters like sounds, shifts, energies or beats. It is more outrageous; there is more power in it. It is probably hard in one way to listen to, and it is really about having big ears and reacting to the other guy—or woman, when we play with Sidsel Endresen
Sidsel Endresen
Sidsel Endresen

, who's featured on our latest record.

Meadow, where I play together with [pianist] John Taylor
John Taylor
John Taylor
and [saxophonist] Tore Brunborg
Tore Brunborg
Tore Brunborg
, is more of a chamber group, into colors, extremely into detail and dynamics. We work a lot on the dynamics, from silent to even more silent; playing really softly and compressed

And sometimes I just play solo with Pohlitz, which began as an exercise when I started playing with samples. I just play percussion, I don't play drums with Pohlitz, I just sit on the floor and there are sounds, bells and gongs all around me.

Food, with Special Guest Christian Fennesz
From left: Fennesz, Iain Ballamy, Thomas Strønen

AAJ: Have you ever been to Bali?

TS: No, I haven't been to Bali. Actually I started checking out Gamelan music after I did the solo record, Pohlitz (Rune Grammofon, 2006) record. In many reviews, journalists referred to gamelan music, while I knew very little about it. I was more into Steve Reich
Steve Reich
Steve Reich
, John Cage
John Cage
John Cage
1912 - 1992
and Arne Nordheim, and then it was more like building up things from the beginning, patching samples and creating a small world of sound and also letting the audience be with me along the whole trip. In the beginning, you hear the absolute sounds, before I start putting it together and making small compositions out of them.

After I did that record, I needed to do something else, so I started to write for string quartets; on the compositional side, that's what I spend most of my time on these days.

Selected Discography

Humcrush/Sidsel Endresen
Sidsel Endresen
Sidsel Endresen

, Ha! (Rune Grammofon, 2011)
Food, Quiet Inlet (ECM, 2010)
Needlepoint, The woods are not what they seem (BJK-Music, 2010)
Meadow, Blissful Ignorance (Hecca/Edition, 2010)
Various Artists, Money Will Ruin Everything 2 (Rune Grammofon, 2009)
Trinity, Breaking the Mold (Clean Feed Records, 2009)
Humcrush, Rest At Worlds End (Rune Grammofon, 2008)
Food, Molecular Gastronomy (Rune Grammofon, 2008)
Maria Kannegaard Trio, Camel Walk (Jazzland, 2008)
Humcrush, Hornswoggle (Rune Grammofon, 2006)
Mats Eilertsen, Flux (AIM, 2006)
Various Artists, Until Human Voices Wake Us And We Drown (Rune Grammofon, 2006)
Thomas Strønen, Pohlitz (Rune Grammofon, 2006)
Food, Last Supper (Rune Grammofon, 2005)
Thomas Strønen, Parish (ECM, 2005)
Thomas Strønen/Ståle Storløkken, Humcrush (Rune Grammofon, 2004)
Parish, Rica (Challenge, 2004)

Photo Credits
All Photos: Richard Wayne

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