Henrik Schwarz & Bugge Wesseltoft

Henrik Schwarz is a long time veteran of the German deep house scene, having cut his teeth as a DJ in the ‘90s, but it’s been his forays into production that have really set dancefloors alight; his extended, epic approach bringing a jazzy ambience to the 4/4 groove.

As well as running his Sunday Music label, he’s remixed everyone from The Sunburst Band to DJ Hell and Kuniyuki, and recently rolled with Dixon and Âme as part of the Innervisions Orchestra, and collaborating on their mix CD The Grandfather Paradox.

On the couch with him for this 2010 Red Bull Music Academy session is recent collaborator Bugge Wesseltoft, a Norwegian mastermind whose became known for his New Conception Of Jazz in the early ‘90s - particularly after working in several jazz outfits and recording with Jan Garbarek for ECM.

Hosted by Gerd Janson Audio Only Version Transcript:

RBMA

Now, we have two people, one from Berlin, one from Oslo, working together, coming from different backgrounds but sharing common interests. Bugge Wesseltoft and Henrik Schwarz, give them a very warm applause, please.

(applause)

If one wants to pigeonhole and talk in cliches, one could say that Henrik Schwarz is kind of a house producer, dance music guy, and Bugge Wesseltoft is a jazz musician. But I would say, both of you have been working on different things as well and trying to mix it up a bit. Who wants to start?

Bugge Wesseltoft

I’ve done several collaborations with people from the club scene, starting in the ’90s with a close friend of mine, a DJ from Oslo called Olle Abstract. There was a great place called Skansen and he launched this thing ‘Superreal’ in ’96 and we did a lot of live stuff. I loved it.

RBMA

So you’re no stranger to club land at all?

Bugge Wesseltoft

No.

RBMA

Henrik has more of a DJ background, that’s what got you into doing music.

Henrik Schwarz

Yeah, definitely. I was never a trained musician, I’ve always been super- interested in jazz music and that was always a background for me. But I started making music when I got a computer. I’ve been a DJ for many years and started from that point.

RBMA

Bugge, you are also more or less self-taught, no classical studies?

Bugge Wesseltoft

No, nothing.

RBMA

Maybe, to give people some idea of your music, shall we play something quick?

Bugge Wesseltoft

Sure.

RBMA

This is Bugge Wesseltoft.

(music: Bugge Wesseltoft & Henrik Schwarz – Dreaming / applause)

So this was from your current album, Playing. Maybe you could talk about it a little bit and maybe also one of your first works, I believe it was called A New Conception Of Jazz.

Bugge Wesseltoft

I started to work with this type of music in the ’90s, inspired by the electronic music. My first group was a lot of people – horn section, guitar, drums, acoustic bass, Rhodes, and I wanted to make a band that played like a good DJ, possibly because I was always going to clubs and seeing how DJs worked with the music. I saw how they brought it down, worked things up, just an amazing vibe to the whole scene, so I wanted to make a band that played the same way. I was doing this New Conception Of Jazz thing for ten years, basically always jamming, we never rehearsed, we had just two rehearsals in ten years, but after that I started this solo project, which is basically what I do. I play piano and I have a laptop. What I love about electronic music is it gives you new possibilities to improvise. To me, it’s still jazz, still real-time improvisations, but with electronic gear it gives me a lot of new things.

RBMA

But you’re also using sampling as a technique.

Bugge Wesseltoft

Live sampling, yes, I record what I do on stage. What I love about jazz in general is that it’s unique in that you create music on the spot. The audience will experience something that never happened before. This is what I can do with electronic stuff. The same thing with Henrik, we really try to create good feeling, good energy on stage.

RBMA

So it’s about improvisation?

Bugge Wesseltoft

To me, it is, and I think to Henrik too.

Henrik Schwarz

Yeah, definitely. It’s about finding the right moment, and when you have it you keep it.

RBMA

OK, before we start talking about how you guys work together, and finally showing it with all the gear, maybe you can play us something?

Henrik Schwarz

You choose.

RBMA

I have to pick one.

Henrik Schwarz

Yes, of course.

RBMA

Then maybe "Leave My Head Alone Brain". You have it with you?

Henrik Schwarz

I don’t have it with me.

RBMA

I thought you had it all in that marvellous computer.

Henrik Schwarz

I have it live, of course, but I don’t have it as a file.

RBMA

You couldn’t put it together quickly?

Henrik Schwarz

I could.

RBMA

Then we’d also have a quick sample of how you work alone (applause), if it’s not too much of a headache.

Henrik Schwarz

No, it’s not. It might be a problem to come back to this set-up later. This is going to take a few minutes to load because the live set is huge, it’s just the loading. It takes seven minutes or something.

RBMA

Now, this shows that I’m a bad journalist and badly prepared because I believed in modern technology. Is anyone here unfamiliar with Henrik’s work (some hands go up)?

Henrik Schwarz

We could do a live improvisation of it, I think that would work (applause).

RBMA

Or shall I pick another track that’s easier to improvise live?

Henrik Schwarz

It’s all live, you don’t have to feel bad about it. And for anyone here not familiar with it, the music thing in this computer is called Ableton.(pause) Something’s wrong, I don’t know. (pause) You should never change your set-up.

(music: Bugge Wesseltoft & Henrik Schwarz – Leave My Head Alone Brain live improv / applause)

RBMA

Where was the singing part?

Henrik Schwarz

I’m training, I’m working on that but it’s going to take a little while.

RBMA

Before you explain your set-up and working together in words, how did you two meet?

Henrik Schwarz

Through a friend – he’s in the back – we both know him, Sven. He’s known Bugge quite a while and I met him because he was working for a record company and asked me to do remixes, so that’s how we met. And after a few years of working together he said: “You have to meet Bugge,” and he had the idea that this could work and he was right.

RBMA

We’ve just seen it. Can you talk a little bit about what you’re doing together, how you set it up?

Henrik Schwarz

We basically just start with nothing. Bugge was doing a concert in Berlin and invited me to join him as a special guest for the last two tracks of his concert. We did a rehearsal in the afternoon and found out that by bouncing back ideas we were getting somewhere really quickly. That’s often the start for a new track when we play a concert together. Sometimes, there’s just a good line and so for the next concert we keep that line and play around with it.

Bugge Wesseltoft

I think that live setting, when you don’t have too much planned, gives a unique possibility. You have to be really focussed, it’s not like you’ve been playing it for years and you just go out and recreate what you’ve done, you have to be really focussed, trying to create something on the spot. This makes a unique energy. It can be really shitty or it can be really good, too, and when it’s good it’s really good. We’re trying to create as much openness as possible. We have a brief rehearsal and then it’s just playing. Basically, it’s about interplay, it’s about listening to each other and trying to capture the energy of the music, capture things that are in the room already.

RBMA

Is it different for you, Henrik, working with someone like Bugge, as opposed to the Critical Mass project, which is you playing with ÂmeandDixon, the people who run Innervisions.

Henrik Schwarz

Yeah, of course, it’s a completely different set-up. The Critical Mass shows are also about improvisation, but not that much. I have this set-up so I can play as much as possible. So what I try to do is improvise with the laptop, so I need to learn it as if it were an instrument so I’m fast enough. It’s also a lot about speed, not too much pre-programmed stuff. I always try to keep it as open as possible, because if there’s a computer, you can easily fall into the trap of playing pre-programmed material. But that’s not what’s the magic about it when you play with a guy like Bugge, who can respond immediately and give something. Now, I have to respond immediately, or really fast. It really is about the playing.

Bugge Wesseltoft

I just think how amazing the development of electronic gear in the last ten years has been. Just think about the ’90s, you had to load a floppy disk, it would take a minute just to change the sound. I bought my first sampler in the ’80s, the Emulator 2 and it was massive. I used the case as my table in the living room (laughter). It was unique, it cost £6.000 and it had a double floppy drive, so while you were playing one floppy drive you could load the other one without having to wait. So the development is amazing and today you can really do live transformation of sound recorded live. But still, this is just the beginning, it’s an ongoing development and a lot of people in the electronic music scene use this for everything and it will continue to develop. It’s great.

RBMA

So you wouldn’t sing that song of how technology changes the means of making music in a negative way, the democratisation of it? Everyone can make music and there are a lot of bad things and you should learn an instrument and all these kinds of things.

Bugge Wesseltoft

Are you asking me?

RBMA

Both of you.

Bugge Wesseltoft

I love new things and I think talent will come up with new ideas on any tool. If you look at how new ideas and directions in music have come, it is quite often someone finding some new gear and doesn’t perhaps know quite how to use it and suddenly there’s a new direction coming. I love new things and the laptop is an instrument, absolutely.

RBMA

As Henrik would probably also say.

Henrik Schwarz

I think it’s beginning to become an instrument, it’s been quite difficult during the last ten years. You had to deal with processor power, crashing of programmes, but that’s going away now more and more and you can really play. I have the feeling you can tweak this thing and see what’s coming out. Of course, the negative discussion about it is that you can press a button and something is coming out anyway, that’s a bad thing. But still, maybe this one button sounds better than what happened 20 years ago. But that’s not enough today, you have to work and find new paths and explore where the machine can help you create new things. But, of course, it’s still you who has to create, the machine won’t do that.

RBMA

So if something’s in you, it will come out?

Bugge Wesseltoft

If you learn how to use it, yeah.

RBMA

Speaking of new technology, you also developed a tool that helps you working with people like Bugge on the fly.

Henrik Schwarz

I wrote a plug-in for Max For Live on Ableton. As I’m not a trained musician, I have learned what notes are during all these years working with computers, it’s something I’ve learned by ear. Still, when I want to go from one chord to the next one it takes me quite some time, so I always had a dream of having something that will help me find the right notes and chords. Especially, when I play with Bugge, I want to improvise on the keyboard without having the fear of playing the wrong stuff that sounds horrible. Some people like that.

Bugge Wesseltoft

I do (laughter).

Henrik Schwarz

Yeah, that’s the funny thing about it. I think if you want to play wrong, that’s alright; but if you want to play right and play wrong, that’s not alright.

RBMA

Say that again.

Henrik Schwarz

I can’t repeat it. So I have this plug-in and it’s helping me to find the right notes in real time, that’s what it’s about.

RBMA

Maybe you want to show it really quick, or would it make more sense in a…

Henrik Schwarz

Yeah, I can open a new midi channel here (stares at computer).

RBMA

And if any of you have questions along the way, feel free to raise your hands.

Henrik Schwarz

I think most of you might know Ableton and some of you might know Max For Live, too, it’s a very new thing they just launched a couple of months ago. It’s something like a programming language inside the programme, you can create you own audio effects, like echoes or filters or synthesizers. There’s also a second section that lets you create midi effects, things that handle midi data or notes that come from the keyboard. You go to the computer and you can do whatever you like with it. (pause) Crash. There it is. This is how it looks. I need sound. I just take a basic piano and I can hear it very easily with that. So "Leave My Head Alone Brain" was the track we just played and that is made with several chords, of course. What was always difficult for me was the question of how you’d find the rest of the notes, which ones are allowed and which ones are not, so that the musician can play with you. (demonstrates on the screen) What the plug-in does is it remove all the wrong notes. If I press an E, for example, and it’s not part of the current scale, it corrects it and plays a C in this case. It might not be right from a musician’s, point of view but it works for me and that’s what it’s all about. As a first step, I might not play many wrong notes with this, but there are many different scales here, Debussy or Sakamoto. There will be a function where you can create your own chords very soon. It’s getting interesting when you can add more than just one note to your chord. If I want to play a chord out of three notes, I can select it (demonstrates on the keyboard). For Bugge, it’s really easy to hear what’s going on here and join this harmonic environment. And for me, it’s interesting to play in this environment. It’s four notes and you can change the chord spreaded over the keyboard. There’s also a slave to this, maybe we’ll show that later when we start to improvise over something like that. It gives me, as an untrained musician, an electronic guy, who doesn’t know much about harmonics, some kind of environment where I can play and improvise. It’s just a helper.

RBMA

What was the feedback like when you announced this?

Henrik Schwarz

Dramatic. Actually, I think it’s one of the most interesting releases – I see it like a record – because it raised some serious discussion about whether or not you have to be a trained musician, if this is complete crap or not, if this is music that’s coming out, or if it’s the end of music.

RBMA

Someone said that.

Henrik Schwarz

Some people were getting very angry about it. But it’s very important to do things people either love or hate. If you do anything in between it’s boring. If some people hate it, there are also a lot of people who love it. That’s an interesting thing. I’ve also received a lot of positive feedback from people like myself who said: “Yeah, that was exactly my problem. I can go into this a bit and learn about how notes fit together.” That’s what it’s about.

RBMA

So do you think this makes you care about it more?

Henrik Schwarz

How do you mean?

RBMA

If you don’t know anything about notes and scales and you start using something like this, do you think it makes you think about it?

Henrik Schwarz

You have to, of course. Still, this is not a jukebox. If you make enough mistakes, it will sound shit. It’s just a tiny little helper and you still have to be creative, but you have to be aware that you have to create something that hasn’t been done before. It’s not about playing a fantastic piano solo, because there are other people who’ve done that much, much better, and no computer will ever be able to do that. But I can create some chord combinations that are really hard to play and that could be interesting.

RBMA

So you still have to have an idea.

Henrik Schwarz

Yes, you have to have an ear and an idea.

RBMA

And if you like the food, it doesn’t matter if it’s being cooked by a trained chef or not (laughter). Maybe we can do another live explanation.

(inaudible talk between Henrik and Bugge)

This is the set-up you’d also use on stage?

Henrik Schwarz

More or less, yeah.

RBMA

Or would there be other elements you’d add on stage?

Henrik Schwarz

No, that’s the set-up. Normally, there’s a grand piano for Bugge. Maybe when we start doing something new we might use this, bouncing ideas back and forth to see where it’s going.

RBMA

OK, let’s bounce.

(music: Bugge Wesseltoft & Henrik Schwarz – live improvisation / applause)

Do you have a kind of fallback repertoire for when something goes wrong?

Bugge Wesseltoft

There’s an old saying in the jazz world: when everything goes wrong play blues in F (laughter).

RBMA

How would you explain to someone who doesn’t know about laptops and set-ups and what your role is in this and what Bugge’s role is?

Henrik Schwarz

That’s a difficult question, I would just say, it’s a duo trying to play some music.

RBMA

And your part is taking care of the rhythmic structure.

Henrik Schwarz

It doesn’t always work like that. Sometimes Bugge’s hitting the inside of the piano or playing rhythm with percussion instruments. Or we have a timbale with us tomorrow, which is a rhythmic instrument, so basically there’s no rules, I would say.

RBMA

Have you thought of extending the set-up, with other people adding to it?

Henrik Schwarz

We have Frank from Âme with us in Amsterdam, which was nice too. But I have the feeling with the laptop you are not a musician, it has its speed, it’s a limitation in a way and it makes it more difficult to have more people involved.

Bugge Wesseltoft

The more people you have trying to create something together, the more difficult it is. You have to be in contact with each other somehow, so you can follow each other’s direction. If there are too many people trying to create something together, it can be difficult, but if it works it’s great. It just needs more rehearsal. This duo, what I love about it is it’s really open, you can start from nothing and create something, just as we did now.

RBMA

So you would say – and I’m not sure this is a saying in English – but you have something like a blind understanding.

Bugge Wesseltoft

We all have, music is like communication, like a good conversation. Sometimes you talk to someone and think this guy isn’t listening, he’s just talking to me. But if you are aware of each other, you have dialogue, you can create something good.

Henrik Schwarz

Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, it’s the most normal thing in the world. It’s like when you meet people, when you meet somebody new, he might become a friend, but you don’t know. One of how many people you meet is becoming a really close friend? You don’t find people to make music with all that often, just like you don’t have that many close friends.

RBMA

So a match made in heaven.

Henrik Schwarz

Yeah, it’s always a lucky thing when that happens.

RBMA

Do you have any questions regarding improvisational things?

Participant

Two basic questions. I assume you weren’t synced, the computers aren’t synced. So when you do rhythmic stuff the rhythm goes to him and he records you. You’re always the master clock and there’s no sync, no slave clock. But all the rhythms go through you?

Henrik Schwarz

Well, it could be like that. We’re talking about whether it makes sense to sync the two computers. It’s a cool thing on the one hand because you don’t have to care about the speed, but I’ve had bad experiences with synced computers because they are not very tight. If you have two rhythmic elements on two computers, then it’s not going to groove, it’s not really working. It’s helping you sometimes, but sometimes it’s the wrong thing to do, it’s not making sense.

Bugge Wesseltoft

As long as you base the music on rhythmic structures there has to be a master. We do sync through our wire network, but today we didn’t have time to set it up. Normally, it’s sort of in sync. But the way I work when I play solo, I do the same thing, but I don’t programme, so I create things from scratch without any preset tempos.

Participant

Like, all the rhythmic structure also from scratch?

Henrik Schwarz

Yes.

Participant

I would love to see it. Could you walk us through your master chain? Could you walk us through your rhythm channel, master channel and return channels if we have some time (laughter)? I’m really curious about that.

Henrik Schwarz

Where do we start?

Participant

I don’t know, I’m so sorry (laughter).

Bugge Wesseltoft

I think his set-up is much more advanced than mine. Maybe you can explain your set-up, I can explain mine afterwards. That OK?

Participant

Great!

Henrik Schwarz

When we play together the set-up is different from when I play solo. When I play solo it’s 14 tracks, three of them are drum tracks, but this is already different. But what is similar is that this is there in every channel, to have an EQ already in the channel, even if it’s not used, it helps you save time. When you need it, it’s there. So I try to think what I might want to use. So EQ is important. Maybe on other channels I have other effects. What’s different from the solo set-up is this thing here (demonstrates on screen), all the main synths I’m using during the performance. It’s just my current favourite selection of sounds, where I know I have these ten: one is an acid bass, because sometimes that could be cool, one is a piano, a string or a pad sound, just depending on what we do and where it’s going, ’cause I don’t know where we’re going. But it’s all about being quick. All the sounds that are here, even if it’s drums or pianos or organs or whatever, are all brought together in these four main controls. It doesn’t matter which sound I play, whenever I turn the cut-off knob, all the sounds are going to be changed. It’s always the same knobs, I don’t have to change anything. And if there’s no echo on the sound, nothing happens when I turn the knob. There’s also this button here I call ‘drama’, it can be anything depending on the sound, but I know if I want drama, I turn the knob (laughter).

RBMA

Where do you get this drama knob?

Henrik Schwarz

It’s in every sound, in every synthesizer there is a drama somewhere, you just have to find it. I try to find the drama in the sound and then I map it to this button.

RBMA

That’s what all of you should do.

Henrik Schwarz

Drama is important, especially in today’s club music, I think. There should be some more drama. These basic controls, attack/release, that’s something you can use for every sound. I know the sounds, of course, so I know what the effect is. These chains can be very long (fiddles with controls). For example, if we take this moonlight sound, there’s another subpatch, which controls the actual synth, which is here. There’s a filter after the synth, then after the filter there’s a delay. Here’s a volume control, whenever I turn the knob the sound might change dramatically. At the same time, maybe the volume goes up of the sound because the filter opens, then I already have something that helps me keep it under control. Again, it’s just a helper, so I can play around with what it is and I don’t have to care about the volume. That would be another reason to touch another control, but I don’t have the time. Anything that can be pre-worked, where the computer can help you, I’m trying to put into these things, and I end up with these eight knobs here, so that it’s really easy to play around with it. It might be a totally different set-up for another sound, but drama stays as drama. Then I have some compression, just to get some more control, so that’s basically the main channel in here. I might have some pre-programmed loops with a few notes here, but there’s always a second channel where I can play the sound from the first channel freely on the keyboard and also record. So there’s a basic loop running, I can tweak the knobs and I can add more notes and play. Then there are a few basic loops I use for the track, I put the basses in here. There’s Battery] (laughter)?, and let’s say, there’s drums where with one knob I can jump between different drum set-ups. I have a jazz drumkit, woods, an orchestra, and just with the turn of one knob I can change everything without having to load up for several minutes. This is growing all the time. When we play a new concert, while we’re playing I might think, ‘I’m not into jazz or orchestral or woods now, I’m into something else’. I might load it while we play, but it stays in there for the next concert and then next time it’s already there, it grows constantly. Here’s a classic 808,909 – that’s important when we play clubs. That’s the master and that’s very similar to the master I use when I play solo. Here it’s all brought down to not too many knobs. It’s just a few effects basically, it’s a delay, an EQ, a chorus, a flanger. It’s a low cut here, like on a DJ mixer, that’s important for me. Then I have control of decay on hi-hats, that also adds some drama. I have quite a lot of effects on the master channel because you can add some echo on one single sound when you play, but it’s going to be hard for people to really realise because that’s a tiny little change in the sound. It’s hard for a big audience to realise you are working, especially if you are on a laptop, they still believe you are checking your emails. That’s still not going away.

RBMA

But you don’t really look like you’re checking your emails.

Henrik Schwarz

I work, I play, or I try to. I find it more dramatic if the effects are on the master because people can see you’re turning a knob and hear you’re turning a knob. I think that’s very important for the performance. It’s hard enough getting them to believe you really play, instead of playing some pre- programmed stuff. That’s why I have the important effects in the master. Here’s a compressor, UAD – I have this little UAD card in the laptop because the sound is fantastic – a fast compressor, a slow compressor and something that helps make the sound better because it adds overtones and lets the computer sound warmer and nicer. That’s about it. Ah, the send channels – these are also very easy: there’s a delay, filter delay that gives me some echo, then I have different rooms, a small one, a synthetic one, a real- sounding one, one that’s far away, one that’s close, so you can easily place the sounds while you play. It gives it some ambience to bring it more to the front, or add some room to take it to the back.

Participant

Thank you!

(applause)

Bugge Wesseltoft

I have the same idea of a set-up, simpler though, I think. I’m trying to create things all the time, play around with some stuff and just record it. I can show you quickly. All the buttons are assigned to something, I have an old analogue synthesizer that you can twist and work around with while playing.

(music: Bugge Wesseltoft – improvisation)

I’m also constantly trying to make my set-up better. The whole Ableton-with- the-Macs thing was just in the beginning, it’s getting better every day. I really love it.

RBMA

And have you ever thought of turning the both of you into one record, recording these sessions?

Henrik Schwarz

Yes, we’re currently recording an album together. We have recorded already quite a few things. We need to finish it now, there’s still some work to do but it will be coming soon.

RBMA

Is that always the hard thing for you to do, to finish it? Or is that nothing difficult for you?

Henrik Schwarz

No, I don’t think so, it’s part of the game. If you don’t finish, you don’t release, it’s simple as that. The harder question is to make something that’s worth a release.

RBMA

But that’s kind of similar, right, making a decision when there are endless possibilities?

Henrik Schwarz

Of course, but for me the starting point is much more difficult. You can play for five or ten minutes and it’s going nowhere, then suddenly, something’s hitting you. The interesting thing is you agree on the same moment and that’s what’s it’s about. If we agree, then they’re might be some other people who agree, and that’s what it’s about when it comes to music in general. It communicates with us and with others. It’s about finding these moments, and if you have one, you have to be careful not to lose it, to treat it right and develop it. But the initial thing is to find these moments, that’s the hard part. If you have it, it’s easy to finish it.

RBMA

The same for you?

Bugge Wesseltoft

Yes.

RBMA

That was an easy answer. Any more questions?

Participant

If you’re used to playing in the studio and want to make the transition to live shows, how would you go about it? For someone who’s a trained musician.

Bugge Wesseltoft

It’s basically the same thing, but live you have the energy from the audience as well, the possibility of immediately getting an answer. Is this music good or bad? You’ll feel it from the audience if they’re into it. I remember my first band, and we really, really rehearsed – which I stopped doing, I hate rehearsing. I mean, as a piano player, but not with the band ’cause I really want this live thing to be happening spontaneously, rather than be pre- prepared. With my first band we rehearsed two times a week for a year and in the rehearsal space we thought it was fantastic, the most incredible music ever made. We did our first concert and nobody liked it because we didn’t communicate – communication is the essence.

RBMA

So you felt like the Blues Brothers in that country and western bar?

Bugge Wesseltoft

In one way (laughs). But you have to communicate with your music, and I think that’s perhaps because you don’t learnt that much in the studio and you have to go out there. That’s what I love, when I heard the club music when it was really happening in the ’90s, I saw a lot of young artists playing out in clubs, trying out their music all the time. When they felt it really worked on an audience they’d release a 12”. This is the way music has mostly been working, in a live setting. For me, music is mostly important in a live setting. As a performer, I like the live setting and this is what gives me the option to play for so long.

RBMA

And Henrik, what made you start playing live? Because as I mentioned before, you have a DJ background, you were a DJ before you started producing and the way the “game” is these days, you could travel the world playing other people's records.

Henrik Schwarz

Yes, I could do that like others do. I don’t know what made me do it, a force from inside, I don’t know. I always wanted to make music but I never learned an instrument, so when computers came up, around ’92, I think, a friend of mine had a computer and I said: “If I buy a soundcard, will you let me try some things out?” He said yes, so I bought a soundcard, plugged a mini- keyboard in with a drummachine and it took me nine months to get one note out of this thing. Somebody copied this programme as a crack, and nobody at that time had a clue about computer music.

RBMA

Do you remember the name of the programme?

Henrik Schwarz

Yes, it was Cubase Compact 1.0. It was a black-and-white thing and I didn’t know anything about midi and there was no audio in the computer, of course, so there were all these cables. So we struggled and [eventually] there was a note coming and I remember this being one of the most fantastic moments in my life. Then we were looping it immediately, of course, like everybody else was doing. That was the source for everything else and, of course, I began as a DJ at local clubs, but a few years later I could afford my own laptop. Immediately I thought, ‘Let’s put this beside the turntables and play some loops’. That was what worked at that time – you could play four mono tracks and every five minutes the computer was crashing, but it was fun. The software got better, the computers got faster, and for me, the computer took over more and more, so it was a very natural process. At some point I just felt I’d lost contact with playing other people’s records. When I hear other DJs play, I think, ‘Ah, that’s a good record but I haven’t heard about it’. So I leave it to them to find the good stuff and I’m happy with my laptop.

RBMA

But when you did the DJ mix you incorporated other people’s music.

Henrik Schwarz

Of course, I love other people’s music and I like it when the DJ is playing. But it would be hard for me to go back, because I’ve been doing this for a few years. Whenever I get more processor power, I try to use it. That’s how it works.

Participant

One of the things I’m interested in is computer instruments versus traditional instruments and how to use them in new ways. I noticed you’re using the piano in a very experimental way. What advice do you have for people trying to take the same approach?

Bugge Wesseltoft

First of all, you have to have the idea that you’d like to try something – that’s the basic. Many are happy with what they do, while other people want to try to develop. Personally, I’m really into sounds. Like the piano, when I play the acoustic piano, I still love it, it’s just a beautiful sound. But also I like all the possibilities you can make out of it. I’m sending a signal from either the piano or the Rhodes into the laptop and then trying to build as many possibilities as I can around that signal. Once it’s in the laptop, I can loop it and build new paths from there. But as you say, the possibilities are endless and it’s just trying new things out. Then when you have it, you should try it out. You can’t do everything live, but you have choices, you create something, do something with the piano, feel something nice, put it into the laptop, then you have some possibilities to move on with it.

RBMA

Anyone else?

Participant

I come from a jazz background as well and I just want to know if you think this is how jazz will live on and be heard? What you guys are doing, what others are doing nowadays.

Bugge Wesseltoft

I love jazz, too, I come from there. The great thing with jazz, historically it’s always been developing, maybe because we’re clever thieves and have good ears, so we can hear things. The true history has always been bringing in new elements, like after World War I, when the soldiers were in France and experienced the gypsy jazz, which inspired them. It changed the whole American jazz scene from a slow, New Orleans-type groove to a much faster swing. Likewise, a lot of the American soldiers had an impact on the gypsy scene and the European scene in general. Then you have the Cuban stuff, you have Miles Davis in the late ’50s when he lived in Paris, he was tremendously inspired by the French impressionist music and made Kind Of Blue, which is probably the most famous jazz album ever, clearly inspired by French and European classical music. Then jazz rock, now electronic jazz. So this, with the new possibilities, this is jazz with the improvisation. Most instruments now, even from classical, are expanding the possibilities of their instruments, from (demonstrates on the keyboard). It’s constantly [developing] new things of how to expand your sounds. For me, it’s about improvisation, the unique thing about jazz is that you can create something for the moment, that’s the essential. Whether it’s swing or whatever, that’s the unique thing. This is definitely going to be a part of the jazz scene in the future.

RBMA

There’s one more here.

Participant

Thank you. It’s interesting you say neither of you had a traditional music training. Have either of you worked with notation as far as writing music?

Bugge Wesseltoft

I have.

Participant

Listening to your DJ Kicks album, it seems a lot of your music, especially when you’re performing live or in a situation where you like to improvise, it’s moving away from music notation towards an oral tradition, where every time you do something it’s performed differently. Is that how you see your music heading towards?

Henrik Schwarz

I wouldn’t say it’s heading towards it, that’s where it’s coming from. I don’t know where it’s going, it could happen that next year I’m totally into reading notes. If this happened next year, then I would read written sheet music and try to play it. But I come from learning music by ear and that’s what I do so far. If that comes to an end, then I’ll search for another direction.

Bugge Wesseltoft

This for me is a new form of notation. You see more and more music in the world – probably like it’s always been – has moved from notation to playing. Most of the music made today is made without notation. So it’s an interesting thing with sampling, when someone samples a piece of music and turns it into something else, you can look at that as playing a score from someone and then turning it into something else. It’s just an interesting question, new technology gives new ideas, new ways of making music.

Participant

It sounds like you guys play in a lot of different environments, from clubs to more standard stage settings. This Friday is going to be more of a seats- bolted kind of thing. Does that raise any issues to take into account for your set-up? Like, when you were showing your software earlier and said the 909 and 808 are important for when you’re in clubs. Obviously, I’m sure you have different ideas for different setting, so on Friday are you thinking about anything special for the environment itself?

Henrik Schwarz

That’s also improvised. We go into the room, do a rehearsal and it could go anywhere at any time; and we also listen to the audience. The 909 is in the set-up, and if I need it, I use it.

RBMA

And the drama knob.

Henrik Schwarz

Yes, and the drama knob is always there, so it’s totally open. So, of course, the whole environment has a very strong impact on the music. The first time we played together was the first time for me playing in front of a seated audience, which was shocking for me but great, because I’m used to playing for a dancing audience. To see a seated audience start to move because they wanted to was something I really enjoyed. But this environment had an effect on the sound, so it’s just evolving.

Bugge Wesseltoft

I played at jazz clubs, where it was mainly just men in the audience, and you could see them, if they see something they like, they just nod their head. That was the highest achievement you can get. Or tap their foot. So I loved it in the ’90s when I started to play with these DJs ’cause that was a really fresh thing for me. Then, the concert halls again are different. The good thing is you can do slow things, fast things, you don’t have to play one way. That’s because when you play in front of a standing hall you have to be upbeat to keep people moving. In concerts you can do various types of music. That’s quite good, I think.

RBMA

If there are no other questions, we have to get moving. Or do we still have some time? Please give these two gentlemen some big applause.

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