May 22, 2024

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Interview with Björn Meyer: Somehow the bass resonated with my inner being from the very first note: Video

Jazz interview with jazz guitarist Björn Meyer. An interview by email in writing.

JazzBluesNews.Space: – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?

Björn Meyer: – I grew up just outside Stockholm in Sweden, music was always around. I played trumpet in the music school, Guitar in garage-bands, sang in a boys-choir and played a bit of piano. But always just as one of many hobbies. I played table-tennis, went skiing and spent a lot of time in nature ..

JBN.S: – What got you interested in picking up the elecric and bass guitar?

BM: – Just before turning eighteen I picked up a bass for the first time at a Jam session, just for fun actually, and since then I just had to play bass .. the impact it had on me – those first notes – was really amazing.

I was supposed to be the guitarist but that role never suited me I guess. I used to play only in the lower range anyway so something in me was more open to the low frequencies of the bass .. and the function of being part of the foundation of the sound of a band – I really like that!

JBN.S: – What teacher or teachers helped you progress to the level of playing you have today? What made you choose the electric and bass guitar?

BM: – When I started playing bass I lived very close to a house where many of the great jazz musicians in Stockholm would hang out, jam, rehearse and do workshops at the time. Quite often it happened that there was a bass player missing, so they would call me and I five minutes later I could jam with musicians much much better than me — almost from the first day! They would point me in the right direction and my curiosity did the rest. There was always someone there to ask, that was my education.

JBN.S: – How did your sound evolve over time? What did you do to find and develop your sound?

BM: – Somehow the bass resonated with my inner being from the very first note. Automatically i started searching for all those sounds – how can I play the bass so that the feeling I have when playing it transports to the rest of the world?!? I knew from the start that there are so many unexplored sounds hidden inside the electric bass guitar (which is quite a young instrument!) so I spent all my time trying things out while also practicing the basic skills.

I was also lucky to be exposed to a wide variety of music at the right time – flamenco, afro-cuban, jazz, funk, minimal-, new-, electronic music etc. As soon as I heard something — by any instrument — that I found interesting I tried to play (emulate/import) it to the bass

JBN.S: – What practice routine or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability especially pertaining to rhythm?

BM: – Rhythm has to be in the body .. for me! .. so I have tried to find ways of integrating that feel in my practice. Feet doing one thing, while the fingers are doing another, while counting to X .. to put it simply.

I have always really enjoyed practicing and experimenting with the bass – even the most tiresome things – so the biggest challenge has been shutting out the rest of the world for the time I need (want to have) to practice. NOT answering the phone for a full day!! .. etc. but it is a very important routine – you HAVE to be there 100% when you practice, or it has no meaning ..

JBN.S: – Which harmonies and harmonic patterns do you prefer now?

BM: – I tend to think more about the color of harmonic development rather than than the traditional way of functional harmony .. I am really interested in stepwise or incremental changes at the moment.

Image result for Björn Meyer Provenance

JBN.S: – What do you love most about your new album: <Provenance>, how it was formed andwhat you are working on today. Next year your fans like we can wait for a new album?

BM: – Provenance is in one way the essence of 30 years of experiments and research on the bass. I still have a lot to say inside of this repertoire so I am focusing more on Live performances at the moment – the next album will have to wait a bit!

I am especially happy that ECM with Manfred Eicher and the sound engineer Stefano Amerio went along with the idea of recording the electric bass in such a fantastic acoustic environment. To make use of all the sounds that we normally don’t hear when recording this instrument. I think it turned out very good and fits very well to the music.

JBN.S: – Many aspiring musicians are always looking for advice when navigating thru the music business. Is there any piece of advice you can offer to aspiring students or even your peers that you believe will help them succeed and stay positive in this business?

BM: – … respect might be an important word to remember: your dreams, your music, your audience, your bandmates, your teachers, your students, promotors, media .. things get a lot easier when you treat them with respect …

and focus: there are so many aspects of being a musician nowadays. From practicing your instrument to keeping your social media output up to date to keeping in contact with bookers and promotors to creating albums and writing music .. all needs time and can only be done if you find your way to focus!

JBN.S: – Аnd furthermore, can jazz be a business today or someday?

BM: – There are many people living fully with “Jazz” as only source of income so it IS — and has been for a long while — already a business. Question is – what is Jazz? .. and what is business?

I would hope that we find ways so that the people actually CREATING the music gets a bigger share than they do now – especially of the “newer” sources like “free streaming” services etc.

I also hope that we can change the “modern” idea that music should be free to consume, always available on any device and at any time. There is a value in music – emotionally, spiritually, ritually etc. – which we should learn to acknowledge again! .. come to concerts, support your artist …

JBN.S: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?

BM: – As a musician – Be aware! Be honest! It is not about how old the tunes are or how old the performer. It is all about what emotional content you are able – AND WILLING – to put into your interpretation and performance .. which is true for any kind of music at any time!! … You can play any standard tune and make it be a totally relevant statement of today .. or you can play new music and make it sound totally outdated …

There is so much great Jazz being written and performed today by fantastic musicians of all generations – maybe we need to come up with a new word? .. or at least put a more clear meaning into the word Jazz ..

JBN.S: – John Coltrane said that music was his spirit. How do you understand the spirit and the meaning of life?

BM: – To put it VERY short: we are all part of the same universe, what can possibly go wrong? or, as Einstein said, “universe is a safe place”

Music is one of the strongest places I know where I can feel that unity with the universe.

JBN.S: – What are your expectations of the future? What brings you fear or anxiety?

BM: – There are a lot of problems worrying me – injustice, climate, conflicts, politics etc. – but at the same time I have a strong belief in positive aspects of life …

JBN.S: – What’s the next musical frontier for you?

BM: – Everyday is filled with new challenges and new things to discover on my instrument and inside my music. I don’t see it as frontiers to be crossed or “goals” to be achieved – You are never ready as a musician. Life and music is in a constant flow and that’s what makes it so fascinating!

Of course I have dreams and projects I want to continue to develop – but that is all part of the flow. My solo-work is very important to me at the moment and I spend a lot of my musical efforts trying to develop that repertoire further.

JBN.S: – Are there any similarities between jazz and world music, including folk music?

BM: – This is impossible to answer without writing a book about it! But I think definitely yes. For one there is a lot of improvisation in most traditional music – as it is in jazz – just with different sets of parameters … and it is about communication … and emotions …

… but again I think all of these genres are in need of new words or different ways of description. Music that was called Folk music 20 years ago is now World music and the other way around .. and jazz .. ?!? These words have been misused and diluted for a long time now – why not call it all Music?!?

Music is one of the only ways we have to communicate across cultural borders and language barriers. In a way I find it quite strange to create borders between different styles of music by putting labels on them.

JBN.S: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?

BM: – This changes on a daily basis but Bon Iver and Radiohead have been with me a lot lately, as well as Thomas Morgan – wherever he puts his bass!, Skuli Sverrison and ADHD (Iceland), Colin Vallon trio, Tarkovsky Quartet, Alva Noto …

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

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