Jazzitalia - Interview with Arve Henriksen
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Interview with Arve Henriksen
June 2007
by Luca Vitali

Fai click qui per leggere la versione in italiano

I meet Arve Henriksen for the appointment in front of the Hotel Norge in the centre of Bergen during a pause between the thousands of things he has to do (after the rehearsal with Trio Medieval at the Logen Theatre and before the mini-show of "folk" music for "OiOi" festival reviewed in the "Io c'ero" section (only in Italian).

His way of being and the nature around us are immediately obvious when he invites me to go to a park close-by near a big fountain where it is more peaceful, but more importantly, a place where the nature (so ever-present in his last record Strjon) all around makes his feel more relaxed (that's what I think).

While walking there, something strange happened, we met a "strange artist" who was playing an instrument (mounted on a cart) that looked like an organ but in fact played bells, the sound is quite delightful and Henriksen, amused, opens his Notebook (Apple of course) and starts recording, at the end of which we start the interview.

L.V.:  First of all, I would like to compliment you for "Strion", after "Sakuteiki" and "Chiaroscuro" it was not easy to make an album as beautiful and original and, most of all, different from the Supersilent with three out of the four components. Are you happy with the result? Will you be making a European Tour to promote it?
Henriksen: In first I'm very satisfied and very happy with this recording and I must say it's been a great pleasure working with Helge Sten who produced this record and Stale's (Ståle Storløkken – member of Supersilent) contribution has been fantastic. The thing is that we are trying to make a tour, but I rather would like to go with Supersilent instead.We are trying to put together a tour with Supersilent in September and then we will. But I will do a tour in October visiting Germany, France, Ireland and I'm not quite sure if we have the chance to go to Italy, but my management is working on this now so we will see if we can do it.

L.V.:  Your work to date shows that you are a great ‘explorer', each record is a surprise, each concert a unique performance: it is clear that you are full of creative youth that naturally we all hope will be long-lasting. But aren't you afraid that the creative streak will run out? Aren't you afraid that you will make records that, for sure will be beautiful, but they will be a shadow of something that you've already done? And if so, do you have any ‘preventive therapy' to avoid it?
Henriksen: Ha-ha-ha (laugh)....well, this is always a challenge for artists because we are always afraid of repeating ourselves but if you listen to Garbarek or other musicians today they can produce many records with the  same concept and the same band playing just melodies and doing nice material. So, I think many artists just go on making variations of the same theme and for myself I've been trying to make different records. These three solo albums are all a bit different. The next one that I'm working on right now has a obvious link to the record of the "Chiaroscuro" record, but I'm not afraid of doing that, because the Chiaroscuro had a certain, special sound and I think there are some more things there to be explored.I'm not afraid of repeating myself in the sense of making variations of the same concept but after that coming record, I have to do something really drastic, (HaHaHa - laugh) I just want to make one more record with this concept and then hopefully I will do something else, maybe more powerful, more rhythmically, maybe playing some drum kit myself on my solo album – I don't know, I really would like to do something different.

L.V.:  Of the artists that you have never worked with, with which would you like to collaborate, Norwegian or otherwise?
Henriksen: Of course there are many Norwegians that I haven't had the chance to work with, Sidsel Endresen the singer, we talked about this two weeks ago that maybe we could do something next year we could meet and see if we could have a gig together, it would be very interesting - I really admire her work – of course there are many other Norwegians.It would be fantastic to work with Jan Garbarek someday....or Bill Frisell ...maybe one day. I have so many nice projects with Supersilent and Christian Wallumrød right now so for the time being I just try to focus on those things and maybe in one or two years time I can try to do more and explore more with different musicians.

L.V.: You have a big group of friends and you can explore with him
Henriksen: Yes, yes absolutely !

L.V.: What part do electronics play in your music? Do your compositions come from the computer or do you improvise and compose at the keyboard or on the trumpet?
Henriksen: you know, in many ways actually, some times I just record the concepts I play and then I do a lot of improvisation and sometimes I just listen to the recording from the concert and then we just go in there and cut out the things that we would really like to use. Then we focus on those parts and we delete or add more trumpet or more keyboards or whatever to make it more strong and precise, so that's one way I can do it, but also I sometimes sit by the piano and I make some chord changes or some melodies but I must say that most of the time I just improvise stuff and compose like that. So improvisation is my leading way of working.

L.V.: Future projects?
Henriksen: as I said earlier, now its focused on doing Supersilent and we're going to China do more with Supersilent, we go on this release tour in September, then I also have a dual tour with Jan Bang in France and Germany and Belgium I think so and hopefully I have the chance to collaborate with a lot of musicians but I will also produce a record next year in January with a very famous Norwegian songwriter Odd Nordstoga he's doing folk music so I will do that kind of producing work as well, but of course, about composing I would really like to spend more time on writing music and writing music for different string instruments or whatever, I have one project with a cello player from Oslo Johannes Martens and I will write a piece of music for him this autumn, you know, its so many different things that its difficult to find time to do all the things

L.V.: Your skills and the originality of your ‘sound' mean that you are one of the most sought-after "sidemen" today. Do you feel you get something out of every situation to increase your own value, or do these situations in reality distract you from your projects?
Henriksen: It's a good question, the thing is that this is a give and take situation – when you work with musicians you get a lot of nice response (feedback) on what you are doing and you also learn a lot from playing together with people so for me it's a question of finding a balance in this, a balance so that you feel that you can add something to other peoples projects but at the same time its important for me not to be engaged in too many projects where I get tired, but I must say, I've been, how can you say, open wide since I started to play trumpet and being a musician, I've been more interested in working with different types of music, folk music, jazz, contemporary music, rock pop, I really find interesting a lot of different stiles, so for me its been, I must say, I try to, in every situation I am in, if I go to a studio with a pop singer or I go to a studio with some more contemporary music, all the things I do, I try to find something to learn from it, I try to find something. it is also a question of how you put up your life, I mean, I have three kids, I have a family situation I also have to be at home, I have to find time to be around my kids, and in the last years I've tried to cut out things that I don't have time to do and focus on a few projects, but it's a very interesting question because its always this give and take situation

L.V.: I think that is very different to plays with David Sylvian, or Sinikka Langeland, or Frode Haltli, are very different situations..
Henriksen: It is, absolutely, it´s different people I am so lucky and privileged that I can work with musicians that are very focused and musicians that are very professional and, you know, musicians that want to get out the very best of what I'm doing and that also inspires me to be as good as possible when I meet these people or when they ask me to add something to their concert or to their records so it's a fantastic situation to be in

L.V.: By now the whole world has discovered your talent, the UK Guardian speaks glowingly of you, in japan they invite you to play, at Moers last year you were the resident artist, Fresu invites you to Berchidda, do you feel that you have ‘emerged' on an international scale or is everything like before?
Henriksen: I have achieved a lot of nice things in my career, but I'm not thinking of that so much.My goal is not to become famous or to have a world wide recognition of my work, I just keep on doing the things I've been doing all the way and I get inspired by all the musicians that are around me, all the musicians and all these people, I feel that its more important to be a part of a certain band, I mean, its fantastic to be a part of Supersilent and we feel that we are a band, four members that we go around and we have this nice response, so I'm not so, well sometimes its very nice to get invitations from around the world and you think that wow this is fantastic, but I'm not thinking so much about that, I tried to just focus on playing and creating nice music and as long as I keep that focus I think that that's most important – because if you start to be, or get this kind of attitude of being a certain important star or whatever, then you are out of focus and I don't want to lose the focus.

L.V.: When you play you are very happy.. (risponde: yes), yesterday during the concert with Stale Storlokken I have thinked that is very beautiful when you smile to Stale or other components or to spectators.. I think that is very important because arrive from your hearts
Henriksen: it is. i have had the chance to play with fantastic musicians and when you are invited to a festival to play, you know, they like what I am doing and they like this kind of concept that I can bring along. At the concert yesterday I improvised some Norwegian texts about going to Gardermoen airport. I made up story about all this weird stuff that you see there and when you can add these things in a natural way at a concert then people can have a little laugh about,and the next moment you go into a more serious mood and then will follow you there as well– so I'm walking on this balance between being able to let people have a laugh and in the next moment get a bit serious.its always, there is a mix of many different moods and we can "walk" between them.

L.V.: It's very nice because people interact with you and they can enjoy of special unique show and exit fully enjoiedHenriksen: oh that's good, wow!! That's Fantastic!The voice is used much less in the last record, is this a sign of things to come? It would be a shame because the voice has been really important in your albums and concerts, like an "angel" or like a "shaman" (I don' know if this word exixts in Norway) at the same time.
Henriksen: Yes, from the Norwegian folk music tradition of the Sami musicians from northern Norway, Lapland, maybe the next record will be a little bit vocal – I don't know how much but a little bit – the fifth album has to be powerful and with more vocals and rhythmical aspects and I would really like to sing more, I sing more in concerts than I do in the albums of course – but it takes time because the voice is so personal and there are so many good singers around and I need time to find my voice, not just trying to copy other people and try to sing this high "falsetto", it takes time and I mean, playing trumpet for many years I don't know how long, 25 maybe 30 years a long, long time and the vocal stuff, I've been singing for just a few years compared to the trumpet so it takes time to develop and become confident and to trust that you can sing but I really like to sing because it is something direct, it gets direct response it just comes out so, I promise to sing more on records ha-ha-ha (laugh)

L.V.: How is it going with the drums
Henriksen: Well, it´s coming gradually and slowly and it is fun to play drums.I'm trying to practice drums as often as possible, I sit there by myself and try to find ways of playing it and also get a certain technical skill so I will be able to play these very difficult patterns but I'm not stressed about it, I have plenty of time you know rehears. My son plays much better drums than I do so its inspiring to him rehearsing together and I try to play the same things that he does but its difficult, very difficult, I'm too old, ha-ha-ha (laugh)

L.V.: Is there a question that no-one has ever asked you but that you would like you to answer?
Henriksen: ha-ha-ha (laugh) Well….the meaning of life – that's something that people don't ask you about because its too personal but – maybe that's a good question actually, what's the meaning of life to me - could be kids family have a nice girlfriend that I have now – I have a good relationship with my ex wife, be able to play this fantastic music that I've been doing with Supersilent with all the colleagues in other bands so that gives me a certain meaning of life so its very seldom that you get those questions

L.V.: And one that everybody always asks that you are really fed up with answering?
Henriksen: Well I'm not fed up with it but its one question that it is very obvious for people to ask about and it's the trumpet and shakuhaachi combination, you know this link between the shakuhachi and trumpet because for some reason this is very strange for a lot of people to talk about or they are very curious about it because it's a …. but I think that all musicians have certain…… either a musician that they have been copying or inspired by or they have a certain sound that they would like to copy but maybe this is a weird combination of listening to shakuhachi music and try to answer and work …..I'm not fed up but this is very often the focus for journalists and people to ask me about. Maybe because I don't look upon this question as a very important thing myself actually but some questions are probably interesting because it gives a certain different focus for the journalists to ask but its fine, it's ok

L.V.: If you hadn't become a musician, what would you have liked to do or become?
Henriksen: Well this is difficult because I never decided to be a musician I just became a person who really liked music and in my childhood my brothers and sisters played in a marching band, fanfare orchestras that we have a big tradition of in Norway and I was just listening to their rehearsal and I went to the rehearsal of the marching band and I was sitting there thinking ‘maybe one day I can play some kind of instrument' so I gradually became, or was dragged in, actually I would have liked to play football and I was doing well as I kid, I played football with Thor Andrè Flo, a Norwegian footballer who played for Chelsea – he was playing football and I thought that this was good and there were a lot of people playing football in the street where I come from and it was very nice but gradually music became more and more important for me and I was thinking; one year I worked in a kindergarten looking after kids and that was not interesting – it was nice because my son was there but I could never do that – I've never had any ‘proper job' I've never worked in other one place I've just been working with musicians – but what else could I do ? I've been thinking, if I had an accident or something and I couldn't play trumpet if I cut off my hand or whatever, I could probably sing or play drums. I could play drums with one hand – I know I could do a lot of different things in life, but if there were an accident or my kids had some problems or I had to do a big change in my life I would certainly find something interesting and maybe I would like to work as a promoter or whatever doing some art work because when I worked in the kindergarten I tried not to work so much with music but it was impossible, you know, I just had to do, there's a strong need in me to work with some creative aspects but maybe I could be a performance artist doing weird paintings or whatever – so there are a lot of things I haven't done yet but I couldn't go to an office every day and sit there for 5,6, 7, hours, I couldn't live with that – I have to be moving around

L.V.: Is there a new talent that you would like to mention, someone that you think will have a great future as an explorer like you (not necessarily a trumpet player)?
Henriksen: I do some teaching once in a while and I meet a lot of young talented musicians around and there's a lot of young musicians coming up in Norway and for me its hard to mention some new up and coming musician – of course there's Mathias Eick who's a trumpet player and he's got a lot of nice response around him and its fantastic and its good to see because of his fantastic talent because he is so talented in many ways because he plays the piano he can write down music from just hearing it first time so he's full of these nice skills and there's a lot of very well educated and young musicians coming up and its hard for me to….its difficult to have this overlook (overview) because I'm touring so much and I don't have much time to go to concerts but its amazing how many new musicians are coming up, loads of vocalists from Norway, loads of musicians or other instrumentalists and so its nice to see that the younger generation, and its strange to say that because I don't feel that I'm so old but there are always new musicians coming and this is fantastic, and Mathias Eick the guys in JagaJazzist the guys in Shining I mean bands that are really putting focus but maybe I can mention another name, its Stian Westerhus the guitarist in puma and that trio with those three musicians, fantastic and talented and I really hope they can go on with their work – loads of musicians to mentions but I don't have the whole picture of it good

L.V.: Thanks a lot for taking time to answer
Henriksen: Oh, thanks to you

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Publishing Date: 17/09/2007

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