Interview with Blues Swedish guitarist – singer Patrik Jansson. An interview by email in writing.
JazzBluesNews.com: – First, let’s start out with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music. How exactly did your adventure take off? When did you realize that this was a passion you could make a living out of?
Patrik Jansson: – I grew up in Gävle, a small town about two hours north of Stockholm. Nobody in my family played any instrument really but the radio was always on and sometimes my father or mother would put on some record. Nothing cool like blues or jazz, it was mostly music for dancing. What got me interested in music was that I got some cassette tapes with old school 50´s kind of rock´n roll and some music magazines from my older sisters. I remember reading a Swedish magazine called Okej where both Kizz and Motörhead made a great impression on me, especially the drummer of Kizz and his drumset, which was massive.
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It took about another 10 or 15 years before I actually heard any of those bands, hahaha. It was also lots of live music on the TV when I grew up. Almost every television show had their own band and the Eurovision had always a big orchestra back then. It was never playback like many things nowadays. I started beating on pots, pans and chairs in the kitchen with some drumsticks that my father made for me until the stuffing swirled in the room. I must have been about 4-5 years old then. About a year later or so we got a little drum kit through some friends of my mother and father and from then I played pretty much all the time. It just felt good, and it felt important to me. It was just something that appealed to me. A great way to express myself, I guess. The older I got the more important it became to me. I remember I had a period between 15-19 when I practiced the drums about 12 to 14 hours a day, every day, even midsummer, christmas, my birthday etc. I had made up my mind that I was going to be great at the drums. That was what I wanted to do with my life, play the drums. It wasn´t until years later, in my early thirties that I picked up the guitar and started to sing and write songs. By then I had been studying piano, musical theory, arrangement, and classical and afro percussion etc. at Kulturama, one of the biggest schools of performing arts in Scandinavia for a couple of years while living in Stockholm. It was also there that I got to play more Jazz with some great Swedish musicians.
JBN: – How has your sound evolved over time? What have you been doing to find and develop your own sound?
PJ: – My sound is still evolving. It´s a constant process. As I grow as a musician, that affects how I hear the music and how perceive “my sound”, and how I want to sound. Throughout my career I have been playing lots of different styles of music. Everything from hard rock and metal to blues, jazz and everything in between. To me there is only two kinds of music, good and bad. But as far as my guitar sound goes, I guess it´s been pretty much the same since I started playing guitar. I love that classic strat sound. I love to try new pedals for inspiration but usually I come back to what works and feels comfortable. I like clarity with a little bit of grit or dirt to it, also I like to have some body in the tone. I constantly try to work on my touch and tone. I guess my first and biggest influence as far as guitar goes would probably be Steve Ray Vaughan. He was the one who really got me interested in blues guitar anyway. But I love B.B. King, Freddy King, Joe Bonamassa, Robben Ford, Matt Schofield, Mel Brown, Kirk Fletcher, Eric Gales, all those amazing guys. I don´t consider myself a guitar player really.
JBN: – What routine practices or exercises have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical proficiency, in terms of both rhythm and harmony?
PJ: – Well, its hard to find the time since I have my record company, two bands to manage and write music for, and my family of course. I try to find time to at least keep the chops in decent shape as far as the drums go, sometimes I work on technique and timing, just trying to get my playing smooth. I´m aiming for a kind of “flow” in my playing, a deep groove, while at the same time being light in the touch, letting the sound come out of the drums and the cymbals with the least effort possible. I also try to work on my singing and my guitar playing as much as possible. I try to play for an hour or two each day at least but it can be frustrating sometimes as I want to practice so much more, but there is just no time for that.
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JBN: – In your opinion, what’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?
PJ: – Well, that’s a tough one. I don’t believe you can make great music if you don´t put your soul into it. You’ve got to make it count. It´s not science of course. But if you think of it, why does some music stand the test of time while we have these one hit wonders that nobody wants to know about a year later. I think that is proof of that the music and the industry is not the same. I mean look at all these songwriters sitting around writing songs for artists they don’t even know about, and these “product” artists of the industry with a great voice and a great look singing all those songs. The question is, why do people keep coming back to the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Queen, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, David Bowie, Johann Sebastian Bach, Led Zeppelin and not Spice Girls, Back Street Boys or Milli Vanilli? Is it because they had something to say, that their music meant something, touched us in some way? You tell me. I mean Its not that I don’t appreciate electronic music, I love bands like Massive Attack, Nine Inch Nails and The Prodidgy but they too had something to say, they made their music mean something.
JBN: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; are you okay with delivering people the emotion they long for?
PJ: – Yes, of course. That’s the beauty of it, isn´t it? No matter what kind of genre in music or what kind of art you are doing. If you can´t touch or move people in some way, then you must be doing something wrong. Everybody don’t have to experience or feel the same thing, its about what each person in the audience have experienced in their life that dictates how they will perceive or appreciate a lyric or performance. We can all hear and see the same thing but appreciate it in totally different ways. That´s the magic of it.
JBN: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of standard tunes are half a century old?
PJ: – That is a tough question. First, I believe that to be really great at something you have to know where it comes from, you got to “back track”. Only by checking out or studying the masters you will be able to play with “depth” and authenticity. Look at Miles Davies, he wanted to like his idols and then he basically invented drum and bass with Bitches Brew. In order to know where you are going, you´ve got to know where you come from. There is an album by Herbie Hancock called A New Standard if I´m not mistaken, where he plays songs from The Beatles, Nirvana, Prince but like you would play old Gershwin standards. I mean the “old classic jazz standards” was, most of them anyway, written by classical composers working in Tin Pan Alley. And the themes were often just pieces of the original scores, or Broadway musicals adapted for lets say a jazz quartet to be played in a A, A, B, A format. Why couldn´t you do the same thing with great new songs. I ‘mean, like I said there are only two kinds of music, good and bad. I think that the biggest challenge is getting the kids today exposed to real music, played by some great musicians. Where do you take your kid to see a great blues or jazz concert these days? You´ll be lucky if you can afford a ticket to Disney on ice, that is if you can convince them to take their eyes of the screen, hahaha. No, I´ve got nothing against productions like Disney on ice or anything like that BUT I think there is a problem today that you hardly ever see a musician on TV or hear them on radio since most of it is playback or programed. What would inspire young kids to pick up an instrument today if you hardly ever heard or saw someone play one in your life? I mean you have these shows like Idol on TV where, basically what they do is teach kids that if you are not better than everyone else you suck and it´s ok to make fun of you. That is not very encouraging is it. But the forest would be very quiet if only the greatest bird sang don´t you think?
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JBN: – If you could change one single thing in the musical world and that would become reality, what would that be?
PJ: – I would want to see more musicians perform on TV and I would like to see that every pub or restaurant worth mentioning would have some sort of live performance at least once a month. I would want that people, and kids especially got more opportunities to see live music with real musicians playing real instruments without buying tickets for ridiculous amounts or traveling for hours. Art is important, that is what makes us human. It helps us grow, endure, and mature as human beings.
JBN: – Whom do you find yourself listening to these days?
PJ: – There is so many. I listen to a lot of Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Joshua Redman, Weather Report, Chick Corea, Allan Holdsworth, Mike Stern, Julian Lage, Larry “Scary” Goldings, Scott Henderson, B.B King, Freddie King, Joe Bonamassa, Matt Schofield, Kirk Fletcher, Robben Ford, Eric Gales, Doyle Bramhall II, Sting, Jeff Beck, JD Simo, Gary Clark Jr, Fantastic Negrito, Jimi Hendrix …
Interview by Simon Sarg
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