LALLE LARSSON'S WEAVEWORLD
Nightscapes
(Reingold Records)

 

Some of the finest 20th century Scandinavian electric instrumental jazz-rock fusion artists began their major musical breakthroughs 35 years ago in Sweden and now at the end of 2012 a rising wave of Swedish musicians are finally making themselves heard. Having worked earlier in bands Agents Of Mercy and Karmakanic, keyboardist Lalle Larsson is improving his stature as a solo artist with his 2012 CD Nightscapes, which features Lalle joined together with his band called Weaveworld. A lot of music has come and gone, some sadly forever over the past 2008-2012 period. One of the greatest names from the first era of 20th century progressive European jazz-rock fusion, (although a name not entirely familiar to many of the new generation of Eurock fans), from neighboring Finland, Pekka Pohjola died just over four years ago on November 27th 2008. For those music fans, young and old, seeking renewed inspiration, one listen to Nightscapes makes it clear that this current breed of innovative artists are moving fearlessly forward into the brave new world of 21st century music. Interestingly, Lalle’s music on Nightscapes sounds to these ears to be as thematically inspired, and as sonically heavy, as Pekka’s late period albums such as Pewit, from 1997. Performing one intense, eclectic instrumental fusion track after the next, Lalle’s band is certainly up to the task, and the Nightscapes album features stellar support from Jonas Reingold (bass), Richard Hallebeek (guitars), Stefan Rosqvist (guitars) and Walle Wahlgren (drums). Recently, Lalle also worked with U.K. guitar ace Phi Yaan-Zek and if you enjoyed Lalle’s work with Phi, especially on the 2012 CD release of Phi’s latest solo album, Deeper With The Anima, you'll thoroughly enjoy the similarly adventurous soundscapes of Nightscapes. Perhaps Lalle’s vision of tomorrow’s music today sounds just as much influenced by 21st century prog-rock as it is does to first wavers, going back to Pekka Pohjola and Mike Oldfield in 1976, yet listened to as a whole album experience, Nightscapes is the perfect soundtrack to a thrilling sonic experience. www.LalleLarsson.com


mwe3.com presents an interview with
LALLE LARSSON


mwe3: When I was listening to Nightscapes I started to think back to all the great Swedish musicians over the past 45 years. How do you explain the phenomenon of Swedish instrumental jazz-rock and fusion music? What do you think about some of the great Swedish legends from Bo Hansson though to the Finnish-Swedish connection and history, Pekka Pohjola, Ragnarök, Samla / Zamla, Stefan Nilsson. I kind of hear that same level in your new CD. You must be very proud of the Nightscapes CD.

Lalle: Is there a phenomenon of Swedish instrumental jazz-rock and fusion music? If that is the case I´m happy to hear that it's happening somewhere because it sure ain't happening over here. The only thing you get over here in Sweden is Eurovision song contest, X-factor, Idol and weird shit like that.

The names you mentioned are probably more known outside of Sweden, and maybe more so in the 70’s. To be honest I’m not really familiar with the music of the names you mentioned, but I see their names in foreign magazines sometimes...but not in the Swedish press or media. Which is a shame because there is probably a lot of creative Swedish music that never gets heard over here. I know that Stefan Nilsson has written some really nice film music.

I do think that Swedish professional musicians overall hold a very high standard, even internationally, but if you are trying to do your own thing in this country then it is more difficult to get any interest. If there are any instrumental jazz fusion bands over here then you never get to hear about them unfortunately.

There has been some great, inspiring and original voices coming from Sweden over the years who have made an impact, people like Jussi Björling, Jan Johansson, Yngwie Malmsteen, Mats/Morgan, Meshuggah, and a couple of classical composers from the 60’s, all doing their own thing on a world class level, thinking out of the box, that is inspiring, but I wouldn't say it's because they are Swedish but more because they have believed in their music, practised hard, and kept going no matter what.

A lot of underground artists make their living by playing in other countries where they have more of a following. The Swedish music scene is very conventional and pop-oriented. Music for children is also very popular over here, even among adults, with artists such as Sean Banana and Markoolio getting a lot of attention. People also seem to like bad poetry sung over three chords.

mwe3: How old are you now, where and when did you grow up, say for instance during what musical period? What was your early exposure to music like, who were your first favorite artists and what instruments did you study growing up? Do you still practice music every day?

Lalle: I am 38 years old so I grew up in the mid-eighties, early nineties. I was born in the south of Sweden and both my parents worked in showbusiness, so there was always a lot of music around the house.

My mother got me into classical music very early and my father played a lot of showtunes and musicals from the American songbook. So my first musical experiences was from the music of Bach, Mozart, Chopin and Frank Sinatra. The very first cassette tape that I bought was Frank Sinatra live with the Count Basie Big band.

When I was 12 years old, as most kids, I got into all the bands that was popular at the time... “The new wave of British Heavy Metal”, and I studied drums for a couple of years, joined the drum corps for a while which really helped my reading and learning about rudiments, etc. Then as a teenager I discovered guitarist Yngwie Malmsteen's early albums that mixed metal with classical music. Because of my classical background I could relate to that and that got me into practising obsessively on the piano. That music also got me into other guitar oriented bands and instrumental music like Allan Holdsworth and later saxophone players like Charlie Parker, John Coltrane and Eric Dolphy who really got me into chords, scales, music theory, jazz and improvisation. I was also influenced by the harmonies in the music of the old Bond movies, many years later I found out that the music was written by the brilliant composer John Barry.

After my father died, when I was 14, I became a total practiseoholic and just played all the time. I didn´t care much about school because I already knew that I wanted to become a musician, there was no other choice really...

When it comes to practising I am always trying out new concepts, scales, harmonic movements, always working on new things. I feel as if I have only just started, I hear so much stuff in my head that I can’t play yet, so I am constantly working on it. It’s a bit frustrating but it is also what keeps me going.

mwe3: How and when did the Nightscapes recording and writing sessions take form and take place? Where was the album recorded and can you say something about who you recorded the album with and something about the guitarists and drum/bass on the CD? What were some of the guitars used? The guitars are superbly recorded by the way.

Lalle: The "Weaveworld Trilogy" has been an ongoing process for many years. Some compositions are older and some are new. My idea for Weaveworld in the first place was to have more of a band sound, so I have used the same musicians on all three albums.

I handpicked the band for this project. Drummer Walle Wahlgren with his energetic blend of old school and modern playing was a perfect fit. Jonas Reingold was my first choice as a bass-player because he is so all-round and he understands where I’m coming from. Whether it's distorted bass played with a pick or a lyrical melody on the fretless bass, he has it all covered. Guitarist Stefan Rosqvist delivers that rock/metal edge and energy that is needed in some of the compositions. I have known Stefan for over 20 years now so we also share a lot of the same influences in the rock department. He always knows what sounds I’m after.

As the lead instrument playing themes and solos I needed someone with a strong sense of timing, jazz sensibilities and someone who could play freely over chord changes. My old friend Dutch guitarist Richard Hallebeek was the guy for this. Rich nails my scores and phrasing every time, he really has that shit down to perfection and he is a hard worker. He did an amazing job on Nightscapes doubling all those complex keyboard themes and arrangements and adding his own touch to it as well.

I wrote all the scores and did the pre-production for Nightscapes last year and we began recording the drums in May 2012. The bass, guitars and additional keyboards were done in June-August and me and Jonas had the album mixed and mastered in August right before I went on a European promo tour as the support act to The Flower Kings in September.

mwe3: How would you compare Nightscapes with your other CD releases and how has your music evolved over the years?

Lalle: Well, first of all I'm really happy to have these albums out of the way. To be honest I feel that I should have released the "Weaveworld Trilogy" fifteen years ago, but at that time I didn't have the means to do that. No record label, no money, couldn’t afford the right equipment and I didn't have the right connections to release and produce albums like this. There are demos of some of the music on the first Weaveworld album that goes back as far as 1992. Today it is easier and cheaper to do albums and almost everyone has a laptop and a homestudio. I am also very grateful to be able to release my music on Reingold Records. It’s great to have all these talented friends, and we play on each others projects to make things happen on a shoestring budget. Otherwise we wouldn't afford to do albums like this.

I think that the Weaveworld trilogy should be listened to as a whole, and in a perfect world all three CDs should have been released as a CD box all at once, but it is more profitable to release three separate discs, one every year.

For about ten years, when I wrote more avant garde music (Seven Deadly Pieces and Marimba pieces), I always heard from people that my music was difficult, non-melodic and weird. So with Weaveworld I wanted to show a more melodic and accessible side of my composing.

I see Nightscapes as a bit of a closure of a musical period in my life. Especially the track “Nightscapes Suite”, I think encompass all the elements of my past recordings – Ominox, Seven Deadly Pieces, Weaveworld etc. to where I'm heading in the future.

mwe3: Can you compare recording instrumental music with a more vocal based sound?

Lalle: I would say that it is mostly a question of instrumentation. The main priority in, for instance, more traditional pop oriented vocal music is the vocal melody and the story telling. In that case the comp instruments should underline and support that, but it all depends on the music really. In some modern music the vocals can be used as an effect or a noise instrument. When I listen to Ligeti’s madrigals the voice is used more as one of the instruments, weaved into the different counterpoints. So it really depends on the composition.

mwe3: What is your keyboard set up like on the album? Do you collect old keyboards and other electronic devices and sounds or do you prefer the more modern ones? Also do you prefer to record live versus say using vast amounts of overdubbing and is there an advantage one over the other?

Lalle: My keyboard set up is really based around what I can afford at the moment. On the first Weaveworld album I only had cheap old equipment to work with and on Nightscapes I think I have better keyboard sounds because I managed to buy this new Nord Stage 88 which is great.

Apart from that I'm using mostly sounds from my laptop which has Logic with some plug-ins. It works for some stuff, but I'm never satisfied... I am always looking for the sounds that I hear in my head, and it takes time to find a palette of sounds that are unique and expressive.

The more traditional piano, rhodes, organ and that kind of stuff usually works even though you can’t really get the warmth of the real instruments but you can work with the timbre and produce something that emotionally sounds like a piano but is something else.

I like the organic sounds of wind instruments, violin, guitar and the expression you can get from those instruments with bends, glissando and vibrato. I guess that I will try and spend the rest of my life trying to phrase and sound more like those instruments, but it is frustrating, it feels like I'm trying to play organic beautiful expressive stuff on a distorted bagpipe.

When it comes to recording I really think that you lose something in overdubbing. If it is metronomic notated arrangements the music doesn’t really suffer from it, but if you are overdubbing solos you lose some of the live interaction and you can never get that magic happening as you can if you record one take together in the studio. My best recorded playing is definitely recorded live in one take.

The reason why we do overdubs is simply because I can't afford to book a big studio and get everyone together in the same room. Rehearsals, plane tickets, engineer etc... it is just too expensive for a project like this. It is just one of those compromises that I have to make when there is no real cash involved.

mwe3: Would you describe your sound as being progressive instrumental rock or jazz-rock fusion? Which genres of music have the biggest impact on you and what artists today interest you as a composer and musician? Also can you say something about recording Deeper With The Anima with U.K. guitarist Phi Yaan-Zek? What was making that amazing CD like and how did you meet Phi?

Lalle: To me it is all just music. I understand that it is easier to be put into a category and a genre, but to me it is all about just putting sounds to an emotion or realizing a mood that I have in my head, telling a story. If we take a song like “Nightscapes Suite” there are elements of rock in that I’m using riffs and distorted bass and guitar motifs. It also has elements of jazz in the way that we improvise over chords and superimpose scales and chords from many different keys. I am also using a lot of techniques from classical music such as 12-tone counterpoints, recurring themes and arpeggiated harp-like sequences on the piano. Some parts are quite cinematic with simple themes and pop-like melodies. It is hard to put this music into a genre.

A lot of the time people also confuse instrumentation with genre. If you would orchestrate Stravinsky´s Rite Of Spring for distorted bass, guitars and a drum kit would it still be considered classical music? Progressive rock? I don´t know. I tend to get inspired and influenced by musicians who create their own genre and their own musical world.

There is so much great music out there. My latest discoveries was probably french composer Henri Dutilleux, especially his violin concerto played by Isaac Stern, and composer Joseph Schwantner which inspired some of the parts in “Nightscapes Suite”.

I recorded my keyboards for Phi Yaan Zek's Deeper With The Anima back in 2011 when I visited him in the UK. We were just hanging out as usual and in the evenings I did some keyboard overdubs to his album which was released in 2012.

Phi is one of my oldest and closest friends. I met him 20 years ago in Vienna where we both studied at the American Institute Of Music. Over the years we have inspired each other. For many years we sent each other cassette tapes back and forth and if it wasn’t for Phi I would never have heard of people like Conlon Nancarrow, Slonimsky or of certain drum & bass, avant garde thrash metal, Indian music etc... and I turned him onto Mats/Morgan and some Swedish stuff. Phi has been a constant inspiration for new music.

We used to copy cassette tapes on double speed and fill a 60 minute tape with the most extreme Coltrane solos and guitar solos played back on double speed. Sometimes backwards on double speed. And we would walk around with headphones listening to that stuff on repeat, and it is amazing how the mind works because after a while it all sounded perfectly normal to our ears. It made me practise even harder to try to achieve that sound, trying out different two handed techniques to get that mystical beautiful otherworldly sound. We were totally living it. (lol)

mwe3: How has Nightscapes been received so far and what plans do you have moving the album forward into 2013? Do you have other projects coming and can you say something about other interesting things happening in Sweden this winter 2013? Is there snow on the ground in dear old Stockholm?

Lalle: It seems like Nightscapes has been received really well so far and the sales are as expected compared to the previous albums. Reviews are always mixed, some reviews for the latest album have been the best so far out of the three CD’s, and some reviewers are not really educated in this kind of music so they try to compare the music to vocal-prog music which is a totally different thing. To be honest I don’t really care too much about reviews, whether it is good or bad. I already know what turned out the way I wanted and what didn’t, so the most important thing is that I'm satisfied with the recording and that I did the best I could at the time. Although, by the time an album is out I have already developed new things so when I listen back to the music, I hear that I could have done it so much better today. It’s hard for me to listen to my older stuff sometimes because of that.

My plan for 2013 is to record my next solo album which will be more focused on my keyboard playing. My two projects Seven Deadly Pieces and the "Weaveworld Trilogy" was all about composition and notated arrangements. Now I feel it is time to do a raw live recording in the studio with me stretching out and improvising over chord changes, a more traditional solo album I suppose. I have already written about ten songs for keys, bass and drums. These compositions are based around a lot of different unusual scales and chord clusters. Concepts that I have been working on for many years now. A vehicle for improvisation. I will spend the beginning of this year in the practise room again to be able to play freely over all those chords. It is a real challenge.

I am also playing the keys for Richard Hallebeek´s new CD RHP II which was just released on the 6th of January. It's a great jazz fusion CD with guests such as Randy Brecker, Greg Howe, Guthrie Govan, Kiko Loureiro, Andy Timmons, Alex Machacek, Jose de Castro and Eric Gales. If you are a guitar and fusion fan you can´t afford to miss this album. It also features the great rhythm section of Frans Vollink – bass and Sebastiaan Cornelissen – drums.

We will also begin to work on some new material for the next Agents Of Mercy album with Roine Stolt. Later this year there will be a DVD release from Karmakanic – Live at RosFest, a live show we did in the US last year. There will also be a live DVD with Agents Of Mercy this fall. So a lot of exciting projects will be released this year.

I also hope to do some gigs and clinics with my own music. It feels like 2013 could be an exciting year and I feel that I'm turning the page and heading into new musical territories. I don't know about Stockholm but over here in the south of Sweden the snow has melted away. Thanks for taking the time and please visit my facebook page for the latest news and reingoldrecords.com to check out the latest releases.

Thanks to Lalle Larsson @ www.LalleLarsson.com and to Reingold Records

 

 
   
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