Jazz interview with jazz pianist and composer Kjetil Mulelid. An interview by email in writing.
JazzBluesNews.com: – When you improvise, you know where you’re going. It’s a matter of taking certain paths and certain directions?
Kjetil Mulelid: – For me, improvising has a lot to do with the context. If I play a specific tune, that tune will make me improvise in a certain way, and if I’m playing an interlude, the following tune will lead my path, and so on. Also, the other musicians I play with will, of course, have a lot of influence on me. But in general, I always strive to listen to my inner ear and where it wants me to go in the improvisations. Sometimes I also love to go on deep-sea and be completely lost in both rhythmic and melodic, and think more like a sound designer or creating sound effects. To combine these things I really love, and together I think it says a lot of my thoughts about my play.
JBN: – Do you ever get the feeling that music majors, and particularly people who are going into jazz, are being cranked out much like business majors? That they are not really able to express themselves as jazz musicians?
KM: – Yes, I think a lot of people who want to do jazz are scared to let go of other people’s and musicians expectations of what to do, old habits, and also music culture to really express themselves through music and tell their own story. There is a lot of music students in the world but unlike many others, I don’t think this is a problem. I think it is a great thing that a lot of people are getting to know the culture of jazz music – of course, can not all of these guys make a living out of the jazz music, but our society will be a greater place.
JBN: – What about somebody who is really gifted and puts together a band and just gets upset to the point of quitting because of the business aspects-the agents and the clubs?
KM: – This is a classic situation – I’ve studied with and met so many talented musicians who never really got any further with their epic new band. Of course, it’s extremely important to rehearse and practice, but to succeed in the music industry as it is today, I think you need to understand that you need to be an entrepreneur as well as being an epic musician. You got to do some computer work for your band: record a demo/album, take some nice photos and make a video of your band where you’re really killin’ it. Write to venues, organize a tour, apply for culture funding, and do some promotions.
JBN: – How to prevent disparate influences from coloring what you’re doing?
KM: – Hmm, I love if the different things I’m doing in life and influences is coloring my music. I think that this is what makes my music mine, and what makes me explore more music to go even further without stamping in the same shit. No one else has my story of life and my specific package of influences. If I’m inspired by some new music or art, I will for sure do an imitation of that to try to see if that is something I can incorporate into my playing.
Since then our all over aim is to just play some nice tunes and try to express us through them.
These days we are working on our upcoming twenty release concerts this autumn around in Europe for our second album. Also, the upcoming spring looks like it’s gonna be pretty busy.
As a musician, I’m also planning a solo project these days – trying to record my first solo piano album. My quartet Wako is also doing our final preparations for our fourth album. It will feature some amazing musicians known from the acknowledged ECM label, and some local Norwegian heros and we are pretty stoked about the whole thing. Think it will be released beginning of 2020 when we are having a 10 concerts tour in the UK.
JBN: – What’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?
KM: – This is deep. I would say it all comes with plenty of playing/listening and experience. After a while, you’ll find balance and most things will turn in to soul if you’re not just doing math music.
JBN: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; you’re okay with giving the people what they want?
KM: – Yes, but I think as long as I take responsibility for what kind of room and venue I’m playing, I think that will be a quite easy task?
JBN: – Please any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?
KM: – Bjørn Marius is very much into swimming – during some parts of the recording of our debut album «Not Nearly Enough To Buy a House», he wore diving fins. That was hilarious!
JBN: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?
KM: – By encouraging the young musicians to play and have fun by improvising. Let them try to understand the meaning and the essence of the music so they can use it to express their own feelings and their own thoughts through their playing. I think that if the student can make the music personal, the learning will be much more fun and also more relevant for them. The standard tunes and the copying of older legends can come later when they find interest.
Also, I think music should be a much bigger part of the school system. Today there is a big mistake in the schools (especially in Norway), that there are less and less music and culture subjects, and more and more other subjects like math. This creates less creativity and space for the students to think for themselves, and to use their own hands.
JBN: – And lastly, being a teacher, do you find it difficult to write music yourself?
KM: – I have not been teaching for some years now, but no, when I was teaching I did not feel any restrictions. Often it actually gave me some new ideas and also some new perspective.
Of course, sometimes you get really tired of the music after teaching though.
JBN: – How important is it to you to have an original approach? Can you comment on the bridge between being a musician and being a composer?
KM: – I think that the original approach is the most important thing – I really want to be as true to myself as possible. The music I listen to, is often musicians I find interesting because of their specific sound, melodics or touch f.ex.. If there is now character I often find it a bit boring.
For me, a musician and composer are very much the same. I try to think that I’m composing often when I’m just improvising or playing with someone else as well. In this way, I kind of find a structure in my playing.
JBN: – Do you have an idea of what it is you’re trying to say or get across? Is it an idea or is it just something that we feel?
KM: – Often I try to imitate a feeling. Chaotic, romantic or longing f.ex.
What do you see for your extended future? You know what you have going on? You have life?If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?
KM: – Hm, I hope to keep on playing my own music and try to be an ambassador for jazz music. I hope to still compose music and do some tours around in the world. Maybe a dream would be too change pop into jazz – that jazz and improvisation would be the mainstream interest of music which everyone played on radios and festivals.
JBN: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?
KM: – Lately, I’ve listened to a lot of solo piano music from pianists such as Benoit Delbecq, Agusti Fernandez, Paul Bley, Jarrett, Craig Taborn, Nitai Hershkovits, Shai Maestro, and Christian Wallumrød.
JBN: – What is the message you choose to bring through your music?
KM: – Life’s not perfect and love.
JBN: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go?
KM: – The Opera House in Cologne on January 24, 1975.
JBN: – So putting that all together, how are you able to harness that now?
KM: – Closing my eyes and hoping for the best.
Interview by Simon Sargsyan