Jazz interview with jazz violinist and composer Irene Kepl. An interview by email in writing.
JazzBluesNews.Space: – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?
Irene Kepl: – To begin with – I have no clue what got me interested in playing the violin. I assume, that I’ve heard one, when I passed the local music school. I grew up in a village close to Linz/Upper Austria called Ottensheim and I started to play when I was 7. I was a kid that really went for playing the instrument, and so it was ever since.
JBN.S: – What got you interested in picking up the jazz violin? What teacher or teachers helped you progress to the level of playing you have today? What made you choose the jazz violin?
IK: – I´ve studied classical violin, but added some jazz lessons with Andreas Schreiber in Linz, which was great. The faculty of jazz was very open minded, I was lucky. I had always composed and improvised as well, and jazz vocal is a nice way to play around with harmonics and phrasing. In the end you have to find your own way, your own opinion of right and wrong and follow your personal path in music, that´s what I did with jazz vocal or contemporary music or however you call it.
JBN.S: – How did your sound evolve over time? What did you do to find and develop your sound?
IK: – After having finished the studies I avoided any concrete notes – not consciously, but I had to free my mind from classical music to be able to make up my own music. After doing a lot of free improvisation, composing and first performances of contemporary music finally pieces with rhythm, melodies and harmonies appeared again, so that aspect seems to have come back into my music.
JBN.S: – What practice routine or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability especially pertaining to rhythm?
IK: – I love to play the Bach Solo-Sonatas – for training of fingers, for the brain and the soul – especially the Fugas are just awesome! I like to play them differently each time – sometimes slowly and nicely, sometimes edgy and with a lot of wooden sound and percussively, or I change phrasing and colours to the total opposite. I want to challenge me and my routine every time anew.
Second thing is that I like to choose some harmonics and play with simple playalongs some lines, I love to do that to train my phrasings – if I don´t my bow hand gets too lazy and so my phrasing gets out of control.
Generally I just practice when a show comes up – a bit like an athlete. I don´t practice constantly.
JBN.S: – Which harmonies and harmonic patterns do you prefer now?
IK: – It´s always the actual music, the one I play in this moment, that I prefer, or it´s the next project and upcoming concert I´m looking forward to. But I realized (or others did), that I love layering various rhythms, and actually I´m really interested in some African approach to rhythm lately.
I´m working on a lot of improvised music at the moment – I played with Paul Lovens in Duo, did recordings with Marcio Mattos and Benedict Taylor in the UK and with the Duo sweet spot with Guylaine Cosseron. I work on music for a movie and on a composition, that will be premiered at Brucknerfest Linz in September. And so on!
JBN.S: – Which are the best jazz albums for you of 2017 year?
IK: – PUUH! I listened to loads of improvised music the last year, love to listen what colleagues make up, by exchanging CDs I always have enough music to listen to at home. Besides of that I barely listen to any music at the moment to be honest.
JBN.S: – What’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?
IK: – For me the most important thing is to keep your mind free and open – if you just use your learned patterns it maybe makes the music feel more comfortable but misses the magic that appears when you let it grow naturally. Music needs the soul to be in the moment. To keep your mind fresh it´s good to always reach to the stars and keep on working, always risking to fail in behalf of the best music possible. And to risk something can also mean to take your time and play less, not more, if the music demands it.
JBN.S: – Please any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?
IK: – No particular one is coming to my mind that could interest you. Maybe when we chat personally. 🙂
JBN.S: – Which collaboration have been the most important experiences for you?
IK: – There were so many I don´t want to miss! But most inspiring musicians for me are the few strong women that fought themselves through rough surroundings, playing great music, like double bass player Joëlle Léandre or Irène Schweizer.
JBN.S: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?
IK: – The really nice aspect of standard tunes is, that you just can go on stage and play with other musicians right away, and the music is just great. Additionally I think the students should be encouraged to improvise freely and start composing original music right away and make their own opinions on right and wrong of Jazz-harmonics, find the own musical language. Even if you admire your teachers and other musicians always mistrust them and be brave enough to make your own mistakes and just go for it!
JBN.S: – John Coltrane said that music was his spirit. How do you understand the spirit and the meaning of life?
IK: – It´s all one! In music we experience being in a non-visible way, it´s just magic, that touches our souls deeply. I think the world can never have enough of magical moments.
JBN.S: – What are your expectations of the future? What brings you fear or anxiety?
IK: – I think, to be “liked” seems much more important nowadays. The basic respect for music and arts, that is disturbing or not everyone understands right away seems to decrease and yet it´s so important to have a colourful surrounding in music and in life in general and respect each other therefore! We don´t need to always have the same opinion, I think it´s super interesting as well to really DISlike something. Don´t trust people who claims to have the right answer – this answer might work for one person, for the other it´s the totally wrong thing to do.
It´s quite difficult to be visible especially at the start of a musical career, when you have to do everything yourself – creating music and promoting and all, besides you have to pay the rent and costs for the living. I want to encourage people to still trust the instinct and still follow the own path consequently.
JBN.S: – If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?
IK: – Music and arts and the discussion about it should be the center of education. The questions usually more interesting than the answers. I would be happy if society remembers the importance of arts, it´s not a luxury, it´s a basic human need to reflect the here and now.
JBN.S: – What’s the next musical frontier for you?
IK: – It´s always the next gig and the next projects.
JBN.S: – Are there any similarities between jazz and world music, including folk music?
IK: – I think, different influences has connected and merged already in Jazz a lot. I mean: What is Jazz? To isolate one genre from another from the surroundings we live in is impossible, the influences make music special and keeps it vivid and alive.
JBN.S: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?
IK: – To improvised musics of colleagues. Actually right now I´m listening to John Coltrane, since it was mentioned before. 🙂
JBN.S: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go?
IK: – To the future – curious about the music of 100 years from now, to see how it has progressed, how violins are played and if there are still some crazy violinists out there experimenting.
Interview by Simon Sargsyan