Name: Bugge Wesseltoft
Occupation: Improviser / Pianist & Keyboarder / Producer
Current Release: Somewhere in Between on Jazzland.
Musical Recommendations: Alim Qasimov - time stands still when he sings.
André Bratten – very talented young Norwegian electronica artist.
If you enjoyed this interview with Bugge Wesseltoft, you can follow his concert schedule, album releases and musings on his personal Facebook page.
When did you start playing your instrument, and what or who were your early passions or influences?
I started playing piano at the age of 2 (according to my father), then moved on to brass band and symphony orchestra (tuba and percussion) from the age of 7. An early influence was my father's music (jazz, soul, Jimmy Smith, Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder).
For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you? How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice?
Sounds true! I remember myself sitting on my small Yamaha house organ trying to play like Jimmy Smith, or copying the tuba parts from Blood Sweat and Tears. (laughs)
Tell me about your instrument, please. How would you describe the relationship with it? What are its most important qualities and how do they influence the musical results – and possibly even your own performance?
I'd say my main instruments are the piano and various electronic sound sources. As I did not have a real piano between the age of 7-22, I moved over to organ, Fender Rhodes and my first synthesizer, a dx7. I bought myself a piano at the age of 22 and never left it since. Yet I'm drawn to the combined world of the stunning acoustic piano sound versus the possibilities of soundscapes coming from electronic sound sources, synts, effects, samples, algorithms, etc..
Many artists feel as though, at some point, certain people gave them the ”permission to do certain things”. How was that for you – in which way did the work of particular artists before you “allow” you to take decisions which were vital for your creative development?
There are so many to thank for this, including all of my inspirations like Miles Davis, Jan Garbarek, Herbie Hancock, Stevie Wonder, Thomas Dolby, Don Cherry, Brian Eno etc etc.. Still, my main inspirations were the influences from working with Arild Andersen and Jon Christensen. They managed to create their own world and told me how I should find my own way in music, instead of trying to sound American or like ECM. As a performer you have to find your own voice, pulse and sound connected to your own environment.
What were some of your main artistic challenges when starting out as an artist and in which way have they changed over the years?
Firstly to become (still working on this) a strong and good musician, then to focus on finding “my own way” of interpreting music. Next was my decision to establish my own record label and release my own music. Very important step for me.
What do improvisation and composition mean to you and what, to you, are their respective merits?
In my opinion they work equally aside each other. I see a good improvisation just as much as a high quality piece of music as a written composition. In the end both a composition and a improvisation, are a variation of timbre, sounds and pulses over time. The challenge is to connect and reach a listener. To me personally, I see a live improvisation as a unique art form where the performer has the possibility to grab the energy in the moment and transfer it into music, as opposed to performing a written piece.
How do you see the relationship between sound, space and performance and what are some of your strategies and approaches of working with them?
Sound, space, time, energy are the essentials in a concert and will always work together. The strategy is to try to connect to “what's going on” in that moment. First, connect with yourself, then to your fellow musicians and last but very importantly, connect with the the listener. Together, you will be able to create unique and strong musical energy.
Derek Bailey defined improvising as the search for material which is endlessly transformable. Regardless of whether or not you agree with his perspective, what kind of materials have turned to be particularly transformable and stimulating for you?
That's very true I think. To perform and express musical energy you have to have a palette to work with (technique, sound, personality, understanding of energy). The size and your control over this palette will define you and your music. My kinds of material are my control over my sound sources and my ability to connect with “now”.
Purportedly, John Stevens of the Spontaneous Music Ensemble had two basic rules to playing in his ensemble: (1) If you can't hear another musician, you're playing too loud, and (2) if the music you're producing doesn't regularly relate to what you're hearing others create, why be in the group. What's your perspective on this statement and how, more generally, does playing in a group compare to a solo situation?
I very much agree. The connection to you, other musicians and the listener is everything. It's the same whether you play solo or in a group. However, it can be even more difficult to connect in a solo performance, as you really have to split yourself into both a realtime analyser and a performer and composer.
With more and more musicians creating than ever and more, what does this mean for you as an artist in terms of originality? What are some of the areas where you currently see the greatest potential for originality and who are some of the artists and communities that you find inspiring in this regard?
I clearly see globality via the Internet as the most interesting source for art development. The possibilities for inspirations and connections are simply fantastic and will change the world (have already). A “new idea” is always based on combing two or more existing ideas. Today one can sit (almost) anywhere in the world accessing information and mix them with your own ideas.
What constitutes a good live performance in your opinion and what’s your approach to performing on stage? How do an improvisation and the recording of this improvisation compare?
Performing live is clearly most important for me. The chance you have to connect with someone in a concert situation is unique in every moment. A good live performance will be defined by the strength of connection we manage to create. The energy of this situation should also stay strong in a recording.
How do you see the relationship between music and other forms of art – painting, video art and cinema most importantly - and in how far, do you feel, does music relate to other senses than hearing alone?
They are related, obviously. However music is so (too) easily accessible. There will be music almost wherever you are, and I feel sometimes music is reduced to a sound used for shopping purposes. I am sometimes jealous of writers. As a reader you have to sit down and concentrate to take in what you read. Music is a wonderful world of contributing energy – you should use it for more than a background happysound! Take it in, dance, cry, love and think about it.
Reaching audiences usually involves reaching out to the press and possibly working with a PR company. What's your perspective on the promo system? In which way do music journalism and PR companies change the way music is perceived by the public?
There is a certain duality to this. As a performer releasing art or music, promo and press are unavoidable and important elements. Therefore, the “business” aspect will be important as well. If you want your music to be accessible and heard, there will be a business aspect. As a record company owner, the duality between art, quality and a business / promoplan becomes very clear. whether you like it or not. (laughs)
I have nothing against promotion and music journalists! They are extremely important. I'm against cases where business obviously comes before a level of quality.
Do you have a musical vision that you haven't been able to realise for technical or financial reasons – or an idea of what music itself could be beyond its current form?
I do have a dream to work more with visuals in an art/music live concert context.