Sunday, September 13, 2015

Stephan Meidell 13 Questions

Photo Oddbjørn Steffensen

Stephan Meidell (Kristiansand, 1982) guitarist, musician and composer working out of Bergen, Norway, with a dedicated focus on improvisation and sound. He mainly uses guitar and bass together with preparations, electronics and amplifiers in both sound sculpting, jazz, progressive kraut rock, noise rock and electro acoustic music. Later works also involve synthesizer and drum machine, and programming in Max/MSP.

Photo Oddbjørn Steffensen

Stephan has a background in jazz, from the Conservatory in Amsterdam (2004-2008), and he has gradually moved from a more conventional jazz-idiom to music of many genres, where the key element is improvisation and extensive sound research.    

Current bands and projects include solo works,  a cluster of improvised, industrial ambient and gritty beats,
Cakewalk, with Øystein Skar and Ivar Loe Bjørnstad, synths, guitars, drums and effect boxes, they improvise intense and captivating drones and riffs. Their music spans a wide range of styles and influences, including motoric Krautrock, industrial electronic music, noise-rock and 70s psychedelia.
Strings & Timpani - guitar and drums improvising our way through countless genres,
Krachmacher, with Eva Pfitzenmaier, Linn Frøkedal and Øyvind Hegg-Lunde,  avant-kraut-art-rock experiment gone pop.,
Velkro, with Bostjan Simon, sax and Luis Candeias, drums, a trio between post scandinavian ambient aesthetics, avant-garde noise jazz and simple rock energy.
The Sweetest Thrill, with drummer Øyvind Hegg-Lunde,  a sonic starburst between hypnotic drums and guitar cacophony, or
Vanilla Riot with Bostjan Simon and Roel van Doorn a multimedial noise-improv band that move from noise improvisation to electronics.

Quoting All About Jazz he's "in the same league of other Norwegian guitarists as Eivind Aarset and Stian Westerhus who redefined and re-conceptualized the role of the electric guitar. "
He's also a music critic and curator for new and experimental music.

What do you remember about your first approach to music?

I remember playing and testing out things on my grandparent's piano when I was around five or six, thinking that I was making amazing music, but nobody seemed to care. Haha, I guess it only sounded good to my ears!

Which was the first and the last record you bought with your own money?

First one I bought was Naughty By Nature: "19 Naughty III". Just thought it looked kick ass and it had a lot of swearing on it.
Last one I bought was Emptyset: "Recur".


How's your musical routine practice?

It differs from day to day, and project to project. Playing, production or sound research is basically what I do most of the time.
If I'm not touring I spend a lot of time behind a computer, synths or effects, testing out things, mixing music or fiddling with equipment. These days there's unfortunately not as much time spent playing my instrument, which I would like to do more. I really admire people who still practice the basics regularly every day. I guess electronics has become a natural extension of the guitar for me, although I still consider the guitar as my main instrument.

What is the most recent musical experience that has attracted your attention?

Helmut Lachenmann and Oslo Sinfonietta played in Bergen in June. That was amazing. I keep track of my latest experiences on my webpage under "latest kicks": "Lachenmann is a master in composing using extended techniques and textures in a way that truly makes sense, and tells a story. Be it for an ensemble or single performer. Amazing performance by Oslo Sinfonietta (and Lachenmann himself!). One of my favorite concerts – ever."

What's the relevance of technique in music, in your opinion?

In terms of workmanship, I think it's an advantage when a musician or composer knows their terrain well. That doesn't necessarily mean technique in the traditional sense of scales and fine mechanics – happy accidents often occur if you try something you don't really master. But for the most part I think a good technique is important in order to get an organic and intuitive flow with what you do. In my opinion people who know their instrument well can bring their music to the next level, instead of just riffing on the stuff we've heard so many times before.

Why do you need music? Can we live without music?

Music touches me in ways I cannot explain, and I'm addicted to that feeling. There's a rush that I can't get anywhere else. There are probably people who can live without music, but I've never met those people.

What quality do you most empathize with in a musician?

Being curious and daring to go away from their "safe-zone".

What are the challenges and benefits of today's digital music scene?

People start expecting to get music for free. That's my main concern. Besides that I think it's great that your music can be easily available to millions of people on the same day you release it.

How do you feel listening to your own music?

If it's completely fresh I feel exhilarated, and look forward to shearing it. Later on I feel it's a thing of the past and not relevant anymore, and I tend to hear things I would've liked to change.

What special or strange techniques do you use?

They're mostly used up by all the great experimental guitarplayers out there, I guess. Maybe the one I get most comments about is a mean delay setting where I can bring the amp to seemingly explode in a split second. Also I haven't seen the knitting needles I use anywhere else. They're great for a lot of different sounds.

Christian Wolff, Edges . Performed by Øyvind Skarbø (percussion), Else Olsen S (piano), Stephan Meidell (guitar), Alwynne Pritchard (voice), Thorolf Thuestad (electronics) & Øyvind Storesund (double bass) at Borealis Festival satellite event, Bergen. March 8th 2014.

Which is the main pleasure of the strings? What are their main limitation?

The tangibility of the strings, being able to control and feel the tone so to speak. The limitation is that I'm constantly out of tune, and can't - despite my best efforts - make the sound go on for ever (without a pedal, fan or e-bow, and it's really not the same).

What’s your craziest project about?

So far, it must be my commissioned work "Dialogues" which I did together with the visual artist Birk Nygaard. I wrote a 45 minute piece for synth, drum machine and guitar - where the computer is playing the synth and drum-machine through MIDI. Everything is on a clock, so it's all composed, except for a few places where I improvise on the guitar.

Photo Eva Pfitzenmaier

It also features two wall-clocks that are being triggered during the piece. The visuals are being triggered by the same MIDI-signals, so the whole thing is pretty tight. I've only played the piece twice, but really hope to be able to do it again.

What projects are you working on now and what does the future hold?

Five albums, two commissions and some concerts is what the next six months are about.

Right now I'm in Berlin for a three month residency, working on finishing records with Cakewalk, Krachmacher  and Velkro. I'm also writing music for my upcoming solo recording, which should be done by November. I'll be doing a commission in collaboration with the great collective Blank Blank Film while I'm here, using 16 mm projectors both visually and musically. Next year we'll release a record with a "new" duo called Strings & Timpani with drummer Øyvind Hegg-Lunde, which is actually the same constellation as The Sweetest Thrill, but quite different music. More experimental and less rock-oriented. I've also recorded, mixed and produced By The Waterhole's latest record, which will be out next year. It's awesome.

Photo Oeyvind Toft
 Selected Discography

Don’t Wait For The Revolution
(Clean Feed 2014) [CD]

Flamingo/Life Is Blood
(Klangkollektivet 2014) [7”LP]

The Sweetest Thrill
Strings & Timpani
(Klangkollektivet 2014) [CS]

Stephan Meidell
(Hubro 2014) [LP]

(Hubro 2013) [CD|LP]

(Klangkollektivet 2012) [LP]

The Sweetest Thrill
(Klangkollektivet 2012) [LP]

Vanilla Riot
(Playdate Records 2012) [CS]

(Hubro 2012) [CD|LP]

The Future Of The Past
(Pling 2011) [CD]

Vanilla Riot
(AIM 2009) [CD]


Mr. Eart
(Neuklang 2006) [CD]