All About Jazz described his previous output, “Bathymetric Modes”, as “an album that, in its combination of lyrical beauty, attractive sound worlds and left-of-corner concerns, deserves to place him on the same international radar alongside his better-known Norwegian colleagues”. This opinion could be strengthened by listening to his recent album, “Sleep Freeze Wait Eat” (Hubro), where Professor Ivar Grydeland – he teaches at the Norwegian Academy of Music at the moment – builds a complex web connecting abstract electronica, Americana, lo-fi and hi-fi drones and improv by means of a huge set of acoustic and electric guitars, pedal steel, banjo, bows, metal, propellers and electronics. Check it out!
Chain D.L.K.: Hi Ivar! How are you?
Ivar Grydeland: Hello, I’m good. Busy travelling. Just came back from UK performing with Dans les arbres in Newcastle and at the London Jazz Festival, and performing with Nils Petter Molvær Quartet, also at London Jazz Festival and BBC3. Just been home for a short stop to leave my heavy pedal steel guitar and lots of stuff. Now I’m on my way to Bern to continue the tour with Dans les arbres. How are you?
Chain D.L.K.: Pretty busy, but fine, thanks for asking! While listening to your outstanding recent solo-album, a chemistry lesson came to my mind related to the effect of extremely low temperatures on matter…it seems that particles are “hypnotized” by frost and the distance between their electronic spheres are diminished! Do you like such a comparison? 🙂
Ivar Grydeland: Yes, indeed! It is very interesting to hear all sorts of associations that people get listening to my music.
Chain D.L.K.: Before speaking of your album, some readers might be interested in knowing something more about you…how did you decide to become a musician?
Ivar Grydeland: It just happened. I began studying music, and it all slowly developed from there, playing concerts, teaching a little while studying. Gradually I played more, and it just became my job.
Chain D.L.K.: How did you more or less mould your sound in recent years?
Ivar Grydeland: Playing the world’s most popular instrument, the guitar, means that there are tons of people that sound great, tons of performers to be inspired by playing the same instrument. It is an interesting challenge, and to me, a necessity to try to find a little something that makes my guitar playing sound a little less like the majority of other players. For many years I have been using different types of tools to prepare the guitar (a tradition that already is 40-50 years old…) and I have worked a lot with electronics. For a while it has been an interest of mine to make the acoustic guitar sound like an electronic instrument – but by the use of preparations and via the use of electronic treatments. Also, I believe that some of my playing approaches are more inspired by electro-acoustic music than by typical guitar-music. My latest solo album Stop Freeze Wait Eat is an example of such. The majority of the sounds on the opening track and several other tracks are acoustic guitar treated electronically.
Chain D.L.K.: You are a musician that could really testify that there are no real boundaries between styles in music by means of your own music and artistic path…could you trace it back?
Ivar Grydeland: I don’t know, really. I have just played the music I like, and not really cared that much if it is this or that style. I enjoy improvising and composing my own music in studio, I enjoy performing with my main improvising groups, I enjoy performing Norwegian artist Hanne Hukkelberg’s great songs, although it has been a little while since I worked with her. Lately I have had the chance to perform a little with Norwegian trumpeter Nils Petter Molvær. That has been a really nice experience, too.
Chain D.L.K.: Frost…some people think it could be a booster for creativity! What’s its effect on your music-making skills?
Ivar Grydeland: My music making skills? Well, frost is not good for guitar playing, that’s for sure. For example, in 2012 we recorded my group Huntsville’s 4th album Past Increasing Future Receding (Hubro) in a mausoleum in Oslo. The room has a great, super long and loud reverb, 12 seconds or so. One of the drawbacks of that venue is that it is really cold. No ventilation, no windows, almost no light, almost no heat. The album was recorded in March. It was COLD.
Chain D.L.K.: You teach at the Norwegian Academy of Music…besides techniques or compositional schemes, what do you try to inoculate into your students?
Ivar Grydeland: It depends a lot on what kinds of students. I am not teaching composition, but I have improvisation classes and I have guitar students. On a general basis, I would say that it is often about listening, and musical communication. For improvising classes it is more like I am an observer on the outside, commenting on what I am experiencing, giving suggestions to make the students reflect on their own improvisations. I try to help them focus on their own listening.
Chain D.L.K.: Are you more interested in rendering your own emotions or inspiring emotions in listeners by means of music?
Ivar Grydeland: I am not sure emotion is the right word. I would say I am interested in igniting my own curiosity. When improvising, it could be by the combination of known and unpredictable processes, a new variation of something reminiscent. When performing compositions, it could be to find the right energy and a good communication with the band members. A collective process of making coherent and consistent versions of a composition, a song or a piece.
Chain D.L.K.: Could you tell us more about the birth of “Stop Freeze Wait Eat”?
Ivar Grydeland: It was made as part of an artistic research fellowship project at the Norwegian Academy of Music in Oslo. The project took place between 2011 and 2015. In this project I have produced solo improvisations that derive from the music of two improvising ensembles to which I belong: Dans les arbres and Huntsville. Both the solo album and solo performances during the project period are examples of such.
Chain D.L.K.: Why did you title it with a sequence of “passive” actions?
Ivar Grydeland: All these actions are also active. Part of the title stems from my research fellowship project. I have studied how the ensemble music and my solo work stop, how they freeze, how we wait. I added eat simply because it sounded good.
Chain D.L.K.: You said you liked the alternation of intuition and reflection while working in a recording studio…what’s the track which is closer to intuition and what’s the closest one to reflection/meditation in your own words?
Ivar Grydeland: “Eat After Me” and “Lag, Accumulated A” have no overdubs, and are thus the tracks closest to being intuitive. “Eat After Me” was recorded and treated on a MAX/MSP tool on the fly. What I play is distributed on 3 different amplifiers. “Lag, Accumulated A” is a stereo setup that presents what I played in the moment in one amplifier (present), and what I played 12 seconds ago (past) in another amplifier. The sound of the present can be frozen and the sound of the past can be chopped up with a stutter effect.
“Stop Freeze Wait Sing” is the track that has the most versions. The original improvisation was 10 seconds on acoustic guitar. The electronics in the beginning stem from these 10 seconds. I have re-arranged, re-composed and re-improvised many of the sections on that track.
Chain D.L.K.: What are the main differences of this album and your likewise acclaimed debut “Bathymetric Modes”?
Ivar Grydeland: The general mood is very different. Stop Freeze Wait Eat is darker and slower, more dissonant. My fascination for repetition and small variations in repetitions remain.
Chain D.L.K.: Hubro is a wide-open window with many interesting outputs from the Norwegian scene… as you also manage the label (Sofa), what are your suggestions for keeping this windows open?
Ivar Grydeland: We are extremely lucky in Norway to have the opportunity to work professionally with even not-so-popular music. For years we have had politicians that understand the importance of art and culture. Various grants have allowed for labels and artists to keep on working, producing and releasing music, even if the sales alone do not cover the costs.
Visit Ivar Grydeland on the web at: www.ivargrydeland.com