Mathias Eick: The Lyrical Dimension
ME: That is something really special. It was in 2003 or 2004 when I first heard a solo album from Thomas Dybdahl. I still remember, I was sitting in the Jaga Jazzist band car as the song "Stay Home" came on. I thought it was amazing, and I sort of heard myself playing that piece with him right away. I copied his address from the CD cover to write to him and tell him how much liked it, but never did. I was hoping that one day I would get to work with him. And then a few years later, he called me and told me that he would like to do something together. We reworked the piece and I put in my trumpet solo and made it a little more lyrical. He is such a great guy to work with because he really appreciates when people come up with good ideas. We rehearsed for one week and then we made a six-week tour together. The video on YouTube is from that tour.
AAJ: Would it be fair to say that the work with Thomas represents, to an extent, your romantic side, the lyrical aspect of your musical expression?
ME: Absolutely. I am, more than the average musicians, quite focused on the lyrical dimension of my music. Even when I am rearranging old pieces, I am trying to bring the lyrical part to the front. An then, of course you need the contradiction with other, more sober sounds and noises, but if you know how to combine them it can be really beautiful.
AAJ: Is there such a thing as a master plan, where you know where you want to get, or it is more a matter of chance?
ME: Yes, you can do that but, at the same time, it is not easy to plan the future when it comes to music and emotions because things change really fast. What you can do is to build some frame around it and say, for instance, I don't want to repeat myself too much or try not to copy others, and inside this frame I will develop. Of course, it took me quite a few years to figure out how to do it. When it comes to the practical side it is easier. I had this dream for ten years to make a record with Manfred Eicher at ECM, in Germany. I saw it coming nearer and when the time was right I knew what I had to do. But then again it is interesting to see what the next step is going to be because now I am writing a lot of music for theater and I had a commissioned work for the VossaJazz Festival in Norway.
AAJ: You said somewhere that Skala represents a natural link in your development as an artist. Please discuss your line of development and what particular station this album represents.
ME: One thing is the composing part and another thing is the band. The previous album, The Door, was a really quiet, reflective record in a way, and I didn't want to repeat that. Therefore, it became interesting to try another direction. Skala has more musicians and more energy and more arrangements. So, from the compositional point of view it is more complex. It took a few years to break the barrier and release The Door. Whatever you do is just like a blueprint of where you are in your life and if you put that into an historical context, then you can try and incorporate some of those aspects into your music. Actually this is what I have been trying to do for many years, puttin myself into this picture. Because you have Arve Henriksen, Nils Petter Molvær, Jon Hassell and Kenny Wheeler, and all those trumpet players I am surrounded by, and I didn't want to sound like a copy of any of them. That was a big challenge, so it was good to break that barrier and start playing.
AAJ: Is your music taking a more narrative, more explicit form of expression now, or is it only a phase in your general development?
ME: Skala is more conservative than The Door, more approachable to some extent. You know, The Door was the result of many years of experimenting and searching.
AAJ: I was wondering if you were influenced by minimalism in "Oslo"?
ME: "Oslo" is one of the most pop-ish songs on the album, where the lyrical trumpet intro kind of hides the conservative part, but the inner growth you are sensing may come from the fact that there's a lot of energy in that piece. The other thing regarding the energy was that when I started a band I didn't want to have a quiet, low-playing orchestra. I wanted to be with people who really took off and played out. I wanted them to be expressionists. There are no rules or regulation that say that you have to play soft or quiet.
AAJ: What is the extra dimension the second drum set brings to the sound?
ME: It is not that much a matter of having more or louder drums, as it is a matter of making the sound wider and deeper. When we had only one drummer, I used to play bongo drums on the solos. I think that whenever you make music you need to keep in mind that the sonic landscape needs to be three-dimensional and you are part of it. There are so many layers there that you can dig into. The inspiration for that is actually the quartet Keith Jarrett had in the second half of the seventies, with Jon Christensen, Palle Danielsson and Jan Garbarek, who used to play percussion when Keith Jarrett took a solo. I wanted to recreate that swing.