”Music is like living, but better”

Swedish saxophone player Mats Gustafsson will have a solo concert on XX1st Jazz Fest Sarajevo on 3rd November in Dom policije.

You open new worlds of sound through your exciting and innovative playing. How did you develop your distinctive technique and style?
It is a lot of work of course. The amount of time you have to spend initially is something else, but just necessary. You have to do it! No way around it! The beauty is that most of the things you develop over the years origin from mistakes. I like that fact. To control your mistakes and make them yours. And develop them methodically as well as intuitively!

It seems that sound and sounding are very important in your work. How would you describe your intimate relation to the sound itself?
The sound is me. That is key.You have to FIND your OWN sound. So that you can express WHO you are with your music, with your sound.The personal sound, the individual sound is really the key to all artistic expression.

You provided the sound background for various performances, dance, visual art, theater etc. How do you approach these projects – with improvisation or composition?
It is really depending on the collaboration, on the content and nature of that specific project. What energy, what form is needed for the art forms to make the interact work. EVERY tool necessary should be possible to use. At ANY time.You can block yourself. Or lock yourself into a corner if u limit yourself to only one method.
Any tools can be and should be used. That is very important.
I try to work like that. Using elements and parameters from anything I learn or get inspired by. Strict composition, free improvisation or anything in between. That is how life works. And music.

The list of your collaborators is long and diverse, from Sonic Youth to Misha Mengelberg. Which ones of your collaborations were particularly significant and challenging for you?
It is impossible to point individual collaborations out. Every collaboration I have ever done has effected me. All the different works has made me who I am now. It is very important to find a mix between long lasting working relations / groups and new meetings, new collaborations. It has to be a mix. I’m always and continuously looking for new situations to work within, to develop my music and the interactions I do. But generally speaking – anyone or anything that kicks my ass and my mind is a thrill to work with.

You perform solo and with your various ensembles. Can you compare these experiences – playing solo and within a group?
Of course there are some major differences but also a lot of similarities. But the most striking difference is of course that you have no one to interact with on stage, when you play solo.
And what is happening in the room – movements, noises, ventilation sounds, electrical buzz, audience noise, outdoor activities and most of all the specific acoustics of the room you are playing in – is effecting the solo playing a lot more then when you play in a group. You have to open up in a different way. And stay open. I never plan a solo concert. I let the solo concert PLAY me. It is a great challenge – and I love doing it – but I would never like to be without the interaction that happens within a group of musicians. Looking for frictions is KEY to all!

You received various prestigious awards for your work. Which is the most valuable to you, and why?
A cliche – but the attention that the audience is giving is what makes me continue. Not the prizes. Of course, if a prize means that someone gives me some cash – I can buy new instruments or make special research travels – then it really means something. But I m not making my music for glory!
It is a bit more important then that, to me.

Playing various types of saxophones, which one do you prefer?
Same here. It all depends on the situation and the day… the mood… It changes all the time. I started on tenor sax… but I play mostly baritone sax these days… and I cant get enough of the soprano… and I love the bass beyond belief… the slide kicks my ass bad… And I practice all the time on my alto…
So, you see… I love them all! I need them all, basically.

You elevated the concept of free improvisation to a completely new level. In few words, what is free improvisation for you?
Sharing. Resistance. Life. “Music is like living, but better” (Derek Bailey)

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