“You need to have discipline to create freedom for your band”

Swiss composer Nik Bärtsch and his band Ronin just wrapped up a US tour to present their new two-disc set called “Live”. Everywhere they go, music critics are raving about the groove of a music that is flirting with rock and pop. Swissvibes talked to Nik Bärtsch in New York.

Nik, tell us about your recent US tour with your band Ronin.

Nik Bärtsch We played in Oakland and Portland, where we had already played in the past. We also played at Earshot Jazz Festival in Seattle. It was our first time there and it is a very good festival. Finishing the tour in New York was great. The headquarters of our label ECM are there. We played there last year and it was named by Jim Fusilli, the Wall Street Journal music critic, one of the best live shows of 2011 alongside Radiohead, Patti Smith and Björk. For us, it was amazing to be named with artists like them.

How did your new live album come about?

Nik Bärtsch We recorded about 50 shows. We made a first selection of about 30 tracks from all these shows. We reduced the number to 11 and worked with Manfred Eicher, our producer at ECM, to end up with a final selection of 9 tracks from different shows. The idea was to show the deveopment and activity of the band. It is a funny mix of small venues and bigger ones. For instance, we played in a theater in Lörrach. It was organized by a friend of mine and they had built a lounge. So we had young people lying in front of us when we played. It was kind of strange but also a really special show.

When you talk about Ronin, you often highlight the discipline of your band. Why?

Nik Bärtsch When you listen to great bands like Radiohead or musicians like Herbie Hancock, you can feel they have a lot of discipline. You need to have discipline to create freedom for your band. Our discipline come from our Swiss roots. Our sound is clean and precise. But we only do that to give ourselves freedom during our shows. You could compare us to an experimental pop and rock band. We are precise with our message. But the structure we have in our music allows us to have fun on stage. Music is the message.

Tell us about your relationship to New York.

Nik Bärtsch We played 4 times there. It is always important to play there because it is where most music is developped. We always have had inspiring audiences there. New Yorkers know a lot about bands. We were totally happy because they made us feel that they wanted to hear something special. It is a good feeling.

You are releasing a two-disc set at a time when people listen to more music online. Does this rapidly-changing environment have an impact on how you create an album?

Nik Bärtsch We always did what we thought was right. You have to work on the long run and show people you can surprize them. Ronin sold 50 000 records, which is amazing for a jazz band. The business model changes, the media change, but the message stays the same. I don’t only think myself as a musician. I am also an entrepreneur, because you need to sell records to be able to keep playing.

For more information:

Ronin’ s “Live” two-disc set is out. Label: ECM

Nik Bärtsch and Ronin play every Monday at Exil music club, Hardstrasse 245 21,  in Zurich.

Ronin will perfom at Label Suisse in Lausanne on December 14th, 2012.

For more information: http://www.nikbaertsch.com/konzerte/

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No Reduce in New York

Dave Gisler  travels through New York  with a big suitcase full of guitar pedals. The 29 year-old jazzman from Zurich is currently in the United States for a tour with his band, No Reduce. Swissvibes caught up with him on rainy Monday afternoon, 2 hours before his first show in Brooklyn.

Dave, tell us about Jaywalkin’, your band’s first record.

Dave Gisler We recorderd it in New York last year. I got a residency from Switzerland and I stayed here for 4 months. Nasheet Waits is one of my favorite drummers. I called him up and asked him if he would like to play with us (Nasheet Waits is based in New York and drums for Jason Moran & the Bandwagon among others). My friend Christoph Imiger, who plays saxophone, was in New York at the time as well. And Raffaele Bosshard (Bass) flew in from Switzerland to record the album. Christoph, Raffaele and I had written the songs in Switzerland. We rehearsed them for one and a half days here and recorded the record at Nasheet’s studio. It all worked out well. It is really impressive how Nasheet made the songs come alive.

Why did you call your band No reduce as it sounds grammatically incorrect?

Dave GislerIt is always hard to find a band’s name. The “n”, the “r”, the “d” and the “c” are the first letters of our first names. We put them together and then looked for a way to fill up the blanks. We came up with “No reduce” and liked that. We know it’s not grammatically correct as it should be “No reduction”, but we thought this would be a name people would not forget. And it also sums up the music we do. We really go for it. There is a lot of energy coming from our band.

What are your influences?

Dave Gisler I listen to old jazzmen like Coltrane. But I am mostly influenced by the people I play with and by places like New York. It’s always very inspiring to be here. In the last six years I have come to New York every year and I somehow always end up at the 4 a.m. live session at the Fat Cat. I also love going to the Stone, John Zorn’s club. I have alwas loved both classical jazz and free jazz.

You only have played a couple of gigs before doing this US tour. How important is it for you to play at several venues in New York and Pittsburgh?

Dave GislerIt is a very important experience for us. We try to see if our music works. This tour will make us grow as musicians.

No Reduce on stage at Douglass Street Music Collective in Brooklyn on Septembre 18, 2012.

No reduce’s US tour

18.9. Douglass Street Music Collective, Brooklyn/NY

19.9. Seeds, Brooklyn, Brooklyn/NY

20.9. The Shrine, New York City

21.9. Ibeam, Brooklyn/NY

22.9. Dance Alloy Theater, Pittsburgh/PA

Jaywalkin’ was released on NWOG Records.

For more information: www.noreduce.com

Swiss Bands at the Olympic Games 2012 in London

The Olympic Games will kick off in London on July 27, and alongside the prowess to be displayed by the World’s leading sportsmen and women, the occasion of The Games will also provide the opportunity to enjoy music from all the nations represented in this greatest of all sporting events.
Many of the participating countries have already arranged with some of London’s leading venues to take advantage of these facilities to set up ‘Houses’ to offer hospitality to visitors and to showcase established and up and coming artists to international audiences. The Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) along with Zürich has made arrangements to set up the House of Switzerland at the prestigious Glaziers Hall situated by the Thames at London Bridge.
Acts will perform on almost every day of the Games as part of the “Swiss Artists in Residence“ programme. Artists performing what is described as, ‘a wide range of creative and ambitious Swiss music’ will include: Hillbilly Moon Explosion, The Dandies, Mama Rosin, Pegasus, National Fanfare of Kadebostany and Philipp Fankauser, accompanied by the Walking Acts Micha Sportelli, Nadja Stoller and Nino G and the Human Beat Box.
The highlight of the Jazz/Pop/Rock concert series ‘Zürich Sounds’ is expected to be the performance by the up and coming Boy on 31 July. Other acts to watch out for will be, Legendary Lightness, Evelinn Trouble, Yves Theiler Trio, Ingrid Lukas, My Heart Belongs to Cecilia Winter, Nik Bärtsch’s Ronin and Rusconi.

Further House of Switzerland UK 2012 details can be accessed at:
www.facebook.com/houseofswitzerland
www.twitter.com/HoSLondon2012

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