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Jaga Jazzist

Interview von: Matthias Rauch mit Line Horntveth, am: 27.05.2005 ]

Es passiert zwar recht selten, doch hin und wieder macht man Bekanntschaft mit einer Band, die versucht, einen etwas anderen Weg als die meisten ihrer Kollegen zu beschreiten. Das kann genauso erbarmungslos danebengehen, wie es Großartiges hervorbringen kann. Bei den sympathischen Norwegern von Jaga Jazzist ist definitiv Letzteres der Fall. Auch auf ihrem neuen Album "What We Must", das man schon beinahe als programmatischen Titel deuten darf, wandert die Band wieder gekonnt abseits ausgetretener Pfade. Man hat sich von der Elektronik über weite Strecken verabschiedet und setzt jetzt wieder stärker auf eine instrumentale Umsetzung der schillernden Klangflächen. Grund genug uns mit Line über das fantastische neue Album, Ninja Tune, Chaos im Proberaum und die Verantwortung der Kunst zu unterhalten.


Musicscan: How has the tour been so far? Tell me a little bit about the tour.

Jaga Jazzist: ItÂ’s been really fun so far, even though we are pretty tired, because it is our sixth week. So today everybody is a bit exhausted, but other than that everything is great.

Musicscan: How has the audience response been?

Jaga Jazzist: Great. We did a tour like this also two years ago and we played a lot in Belgium and the Netherlands and we have done a few festivals. We also played a lot in France, so we are pretty well known there. So usually there are a lot of people at the shows.

Musicscan: Did you notice any differences depending on the country that you play?

Jaga Jazzist: Yes, definitely. Well, Germany is not difficult, but it is harder for us to get people to give us the response that we want to get. I guess it is just quieter than and not as crazy as in Italy perhaps. In Poland, for example, it is totally crazy. Poland and Prague have been absolutely fascinating. So it really depends on the audience, but usually everybody likes it. Of course, there is always somebody who does not, but it has been very good for us so far.

Musicscan: How much do you improvise in a live setting?

Jaga Jazzist: Not very much actually. There are a lot of people who are convinced that we are, because we have Jazz in our name, but it is not very important in a live setting. We do have a few solos, but all the songs are arranged beforehand. So we practice a lot and we improvise a lot during the rehearsals but not during the shows. I mean there are a few improvised intros and outros and a few solos, but other than it works like a normal pop or rock song.

Musicscan: Is there one major songwriter who introduces the main ideas and you just go from there?

Jaga Jazzist: Usually it is one person who has an idea. That could be an entire song or just a bass line, we donÂ’t know before. So everybody definitely contributes when we rehearse and a lot of things are still changed when we are in the studio. But usually there are one or two people who come with the songs and they introduce it to the rest and they explain how they think it should be and how they imagined it. Sometimes it doesnÂ’t work and we have to use other instruments for example. We definitely rehearse and improvise a lot before we are fully satisfied.

Musicscan: So when you start jamming during practice and you improvise, doesnÂ’t that usually end up in chaos with so many people involved?

Jaga Jazzist: It can be chaos, but then somebody has to say that it doesnÂ’t work. At the beginning of the creation of a song it is usually chaos and then we have to strip down everything, because it is usually too much. Everybody plays two or three different kinds of instruments and we change instruments all the time and maybe itÂ’s too many melodies or maybe itÂ’s the contra-melodies. So we tend to strip away a lot.

Musicscan: The response to your new album has been overwhelmingly good, especially in the UK. Do you keep track of that? Do you read reviews or features about yourselves?

Jaga Jazzist: Oh yes, we do that all the time. It is very interesting, because everybody has a different idea about what we are and, of course, I understand that as we don’t know ourselves sometimes since we change so much. It is kind of funny, because we have played together for eleven years now and, of course, we have changed very much since when we started. I think every record is quite different. On the new record we wanted to do something totally new for us and we wanted to skip that whole electronic thing, because we were very tired of doing that. Of course, we still do it a little bit, but not as much as on the last two albums. So that has been very interesting for us to see what people think about this new approach. Of course, in different countries, for example in Italy or Poland they really liked it, but in France they are more into that whole electro-jazz thing and they seemed really stuck on that. They totally loved the last album and where like “what happened to the electronic stuff”? We just wanted to do something else, but I think they will need a few more years, I think.

Musicscan: Since you keep up with what is being written about yourselves, do you think that this also automatically influences your music and how your perceive it?

Jaga Jazzist: No, I donÂ’t think so really. Of course, it is nice to get good reviews and we have to think about bad reviews, but generally I think we just want to develop and make the best music we can in the position that we are in. We basically just want to have fun really. Of course, it is nice when people like it. However, especially on this album we were really curious if people would dig the new stuff, but we donÂ’t really think that much about it while making the songs. Afterwards it is always nice when people like your music.

Musicscan: Would you consider it a compliment or rather a form of criticism if someone called your music escapism?

Jaga Jazzist: I would consider that a compliment. We donÂ’t think of ourselves as making music that is not available to people in an abstract sense. We definitely donÂ’t do that on purpose. We want everybody to like it, but we donÂ’t want to make ordinary pop music either. So I think it is really compliment if people can get into the music and sort of disappear for two hours. That is actually great I think.

Musicscan: What is the function of music for you then? Does music have a social impact or is it another entity that does not really have any direct effects on social life?

Jaga Jazzist: I think it definitely relates to the real world, but it is hard for me to say, because I am a musician myself. But everyone I know is influenced in some way by music, whether you like classical music or rock or pop or whatever. There are only very few people who donÂ’t like music. I only know of one person, the coach of the Norwegian national soccer team who doesnÂ’t like music. He said that he didnÂ’t like music. I think that is absurd. You should be able to like one song at least. It is just a strange thing to say.

Musicscan: Well, do you think that art has responsibilities then?

Jaga Jazzist: Oh, that is a tough question. It is really difficult for me to answer that. It is nice to make people enjoy themselves. If we can change peopleÂ’s views on how to listen to music and how to be more open and have new feelings that would be very good. It is a really big question, I donÂ’t know if I can answer it, but I hope and know that we influence people in some way.

Musicscan: Do you think there are still new sounds to be created or has music nowadays boiled down to a recombination of already existing sounds?

Jaga Jazzist: That is also a tough one. I think every band has influences from other bands and different kinds of music, but hopefully one can transform what one hears into something original. I mean there is a lot of unoriginal music out there and I hope that we create original music, but when you sit down and listen to it you hear all different kinds of influences. That always depends on what kind of music we listen to now because it is changing all the time. At one moment everyone is listening to Britney Spears and the next everyone is listening to Sigur Ros or Radiohead. So to make totally original music, I donÂ’t know if that is possible anymore, but hopefully one can try.

Musicscan: How comfortable do you still feel on Ninja Tune, which is a rather dance-oriented label?

Jaga Jazzist: We didn’t really know if they were going to like this new album. That is for sure, because I personally haven’t listened a lot to the other artists on Ninja Tune, but I know the others have, a few of them at least. Since the last two albums were so electronic we thought that this album could maybe generate a reaction like “what are you doing? This is not going to fit into our system”. I think they do like it, though. We just have to see what we are going to do next. It is not really decided if we are going to stay on Ninja Tune or not.

Musicscan: Do you feel like you are automatically being pushed into a more dance-oriented context because of the label?

Jaga Jazzist: Yes, maybe, but I donÂ’t know if that is a bad thing. It is really hard to put us into any categories, because sometimes we play rock and sometimes we play jazz or sometimes we play dance music. If by being on this label, we can reach new fans who would not have heard of us or purchased the record otherwise that would be perfect, but weÂ’ll just have to see what happens in the future.

Musicscan: You have been doing this for a pretty long time now? How do you keep it fresh and exciting for yourself?

Jaga Jazzist: That is a good question (laughs). It has its ups and downs, but I think that happens in every band. Going on tour is really refreshing for us, because we meet a lot of new people and play for great audiences every night and we can see a lot of beautiful cities. It is like being on holidays really. So this aspect is only positive for us, but it is really hard work, because at least every two years we need to come up with something new. A few people have quit during the years, because they had to do something else such as work or start school. When we get new people in then, they always bring something new to the band. On this tour we have two new people: the guitar player and the trombone player. They both have skills and introduce certain issues that we havenÂ’t dealt with before. Of course, it is really sad when members quit, but on the other hand we sometimes have to do that just to keep the band going.

Musicscan: Does it feel like a band to you or more like an open and ever changing collective of people?

Jaga Jazzist: I very much feel like it is a band. I have read many reviews lately that said that we are a collective, but we feel like a band all the time. So just before the tour two people dropped out and we were really lucky to find such great replacements in such a short period of time. It is not like in most other bands, it is hard work and we donÂ’t make any money with the band, but we spend a ridiculously large amount of time together. I have three day jobs in order to pay the bills actually. There are so many people in the band that it financially usually never works out for us. You have to be totally focussed and feel like you have to be responsible. That is really important in this band. You have to have a feeling that you belong and that you really want to be in this band. Otherwise it simply wouldnÂ’t work. We havenÂ’t gotten any money since the beginning of the band, so itÂ’s worth it, but after eleven years it would be nice if somebody got paid.

Musicscan: Could you imagine playing as a three-piece?

Jaga Jazzist: No, that wouldnÂ’t be Jaga Jazzist then, it would be something completely different. It is the people and all the equipment and all the crazy stuff that makes it what it is.

Musicscan: What else is planned in the near future? Any new projects, any further touring?

Jaga Jazzist: Yes, we have two weeks off after next week and then weÂ’ll go to England, Scotland and Ireland for two weeks and then we are going to do some festivals during the summer and then a big Norwegian tour in the fall. Hopefully we will also go back to the US and Canada and if we are very lucky we will also go to Japan. We wanted to do this for a really long time, but it is so expensive that we have to get some good sponsors or something. So the whole year is going to be pretty busy.

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