read that you were into jazz from a very early age.
How did you get into jazz music?
When I started playing the clarinet in the school band
at ten, I quite soon began to improvise for myself –
playing around with melodies and creating my own versions
of the parts (to the conductor’s big irritation
I guess). When I switched to the sax, I started listening
to my parents’ Stan Getz bossa LPs... My father
played Coltrane to me one day, and I remember saying
something like 'he has a very sharp tone'. Uh, little
did I know then. And now, I guess...
I’ve read that you used to sneak away
from other kids to listen to jazz records. Did you feel
ostracised by other kids because you didn’t like
the same music?
No, I liked the same music as many of my friends did
– I was actually deejaying at a youth club (this
was in 1991) - and I was playing Snap!, Public Enemy,
Beastie Boys, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Guns’n’Roses
and Nirvana – the usual teenage stuff at that
time. I started playing sax with rock bands –
and even programmed a couple of tunes together with
a friend - on an Atari clone. We programmed an entire
Garbarek-tune, with Eberhard Weber’s entire solo
and all! I was listening to more and more jazz at that
point, especially when one of the youth club workers
gave me a mix tape with Steely Dan, Jan Garbarek/Keith
Jarrett and Joni Mitchell.
Scandinavian jazz is very unique in the way
that it is far more forward thinking than modern forms
of jazz found elsewhere and doesn’t seem to rely
so much on classic American jazz. How do you explain
It’s because of the fjords, the mountains, the
big contrasts between winter and summer, and light and
darkness... KIDDING!!! During the sixties, all the old-school
American jazz musicians moved to Copenhagen, and all
the avant-guardist to Stockholm – playing their
music with local rhythm sections. Nobody seemed to care
about Oslo, so then-youngsters like Garbarek, Andersen
and Rypdal had the privilege of being inspired instead
of being instructed on how to play jazz. They took lessons
with George Russell in Stockholm and Oslo, and he must
have been a good mentor – telling them to explore
jazz ‘in their own sweet way’. That’s
the mentality we strive for as well, 30 years after.
It also seems to be a very ‘incestuous’
scene, with people working with each other a lot, which
is something that is quite common on the jazz scene
in general but seems even more in Scandinavia. Is it
a way to learn from each other?
Oslo is a small city, and everyone on the music
scene practically know each other. In larger cities
like London, Paris or New York, the different music
scenes become more isolated, making them less visible
to each other. A club can get a fairly good audience
even if it’s featuring music in a very limited
genre range. In Oslo, there are not that many music
clubs, and people are somewhat ‘forced’
to listen to different music all the time. This is a
goldmine for inspiration for improvising musicians with
ears wide open.
Although jazz has always evolved in many directions
in the past, there seem to be a lot of new blood on
the scene at the moment, with artists taking the genre
into new territories. Do you make a distinction between
what could be classified as classic and contemporary
We use to say that contemporary jazz is music
in constant renewal, and in constant search of musical
sparring partners. Classic jazz is more of a museum
thing. We like to do that too (at least Per and Håkon),
we like to play these standards and imagine we’re
on 52nd Street or even Hackensack NJ in 1957 every now
and then. Others might call themselves contemporary
jazz musicians as well, and disagree with our concept.
Or they might agree with the fact that jazz is ever
changing, but to a more ‘microcosmic’ extent
(‘big intervals are so hip this year...’
etc). However - in our book contemporary jazz has always
been in line with the rest of the world, and should
continue to be so.
How did Wibutee meet, and what made you decide
to all play together?
Wetle, Per and Håkon met at the conservatory
in Trondheim; special jazz studies. We agreed on what
contemporary jazz should sound like. This was in 1996,
and we’d been listening to people like Tricky,
Goldie and Björk, and wanted to make jazz inspired
by the new club music thing – jungle, trip hop
and drum’n’bass. We first formed Triangle,
an acoustic trio that played groovy jazz. For our first
concert, we made posters saying ‘new direction
in jazz’ and hang them all over campus. We really
thought we’d reinvented jazz at that time. Soon
we asked fellow students Live Maria (singer) and Erlend
(rhodes/synth) to join us, and then Wibutee was formed.
We got signed on Jazzland Recordings when Nils Petter
Molvær heard us at the Nattjazz festival in Bergen
and told Bugge about us. Newborn Thing was
recorded in December 1998.
You all come from different backgrounds. What/who
are your influences?
We have many different influences. But we’ve really
gone through some musical phases together; in the first
years we (the trio) had our respective heroes, people
like John Coltrane or Jan Garbarek on saxophone, Dave
Holland or Miroslav Vitous on bass and Audun Kleive
or Peter Erskine on drums to mention a few. Now we’re
much more concerned with form thinking, and listen to
all types of music, people like Miles, Björk and
even contemporary classical composers. (Håkon
has even become a big fan of Justin Timberlake, who
would have thought of that...). Additionally we have
the same type of background – we all come from
non-musical families, and we’ve all listened to
jazz from quite an early age.
How would you define the Wibutee sound?
In some festival programme we were defined
as ‘Mahavishnu Orchestra meets Squarepusher’,
and a Norwegian radio station just recently dubbed us
‘Gong meets Venetian Snares on a jazz club next
year’. BBC wrote that a track on our second album
sounded like ‘Alice Coltrane’s Journey
To Satchinanda played on a derelict space station
by a bunch of manic depressives’. In other words:
Future Jazz! Maybe good ol’ Aldous Huxley would
be proud of us.
Håkon, you played with Bugge Wesseltoft
as part of his New Conceptions Of Jazz for a few years.
What did this bring to you? Was it your first experience
as part of a formation?
It wasn’t the first group I was in, and
I was only in the band from time to time, just like
Wetle and Per. To play with Bugge is always fun. He’s
a ‘true playa’. He’s really groovy
in a very natural and easy way – things seem to
come very easily to him. I guess this was the main inspiration
during my Bugge years: simplicity and groove.
Has it affected in any way the sound developed
Bugge in fact produced our first album Newborn
Thing - a very clean, poppish and slightly dull
affair I must say. I think he might have inspired us
to take control over the production and to do something
else than his New Conceptions of Jazz. Experiment a
little bit more, yet keeping it simple, straightforward
and honest, like he really succeeds in doing. Respect.
Was it hard for you as a band to get some recognition
by the press and the general public?
When we released Newborn Thing, we were one
of the first bands to experiment with this Nu Jazz thing
in Norway, and we got so-called ‘rave reviews’
in the Norwegian press. We didn’t have a problem
with getting attention from the jazz press, but what
we really wanted was to be regarded as an electronica/pop
band, and to play on rock/pop festivals. That has been
quite a long way, and it wasn’t until recently
that the more common Norwegian music press started writing
about us, and for the first time we’re featuring
on festivals like Quart (Norway) and Roskilde (Denmark)
When you recorded the first Wibutee album,
you had a vocalist as part of the band. Since, you’ve
focused on instrumental music, although Playmachine
features a track with vocals from Hild Sofie Tafjord.
Do you think that you will ever work with a vocalist
on a complete project again?
We really like vocals, and we would want to include
some singing on the next album, but not on an entire
album. Wibutee is primarily an instrumental band, and,
should we include vocals, it should have to be a male
singer, so that we could stand long tours in a small
bus. JOKING!!! When Hild Sofie ‘the noise princess’
recorded this for us, we instantly thought it was beautiful
yet also very funny – as she’s perhaps best
known for her hardcore pink noise together with Maja
Ratkje. Maybe this added something extra to the intensity
in these few seconds of vocals – the fact that
the piece is sung by someone who could burst out in
something else than a lullaby at any moment...
Apart from the vocal aspect, how would you
say has your sound evolved since?
The first album was quite popish and hi-fi. After this
we made Eight Domestic Challenges – instrumental,
and the first album to be produced by Wetle, Per and
Håkon. Based on free improvisation, the forms
were perhaps a bit more blurred, going beyond than ambient.
But it was a necessary step forward and away from the
faux-Massive Attack vocal Wibutee – and into finding
our own expression. Then, after the second release we
actually encountered a band crisis! We focused for a
while on separate projects, but then we decided to record
again (after a bit of touring in Norway) and we instantly
felt that this new material had great strength in it.
When we started the editing process for Playmachine
(with Wibutee the composition process really takes place
after the recording session!), we had a very good feeling,
and we all agreed on making an album that was more edgy,
in-your-face and at the same time melodic and ‘simple’
than the two we’d made before.
Why did you decide to concentrate on instrumental
We had started listening to the sounds of 70’s
Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock more and more, but also
newer acts like Autechre, Plaid and Aphex Twin. We wanted
to combine a free-ish jazz sound with contemporary beats
– and we’re convinced that if Miles lived
today he would be working on his laptop, but we would
still be better than him, as we grew up with computers
and have it in our blood.
Håkon, you recorded an album, Space
Available, with Mats Eilertsen and Paal
Nilssen-Love as the Kornstad Trio, and you are also
working on a separate project with Paal Nilssen-Love.
Were they people you wanted to work with for a long
time? How did these projects start?
They started in the same way as Wibutee – at the
conservatory. We just played together some sessions,
and that was it! The duo was actually ‘formed’
when Mats didn’t get his bass in time on a trip
from Chicago to New York, and Paal and I had to do the
first set at the Knitting Factory alone. That’s
the first time we played solo together, and I’m
glad that it was captured on tape, and later released
as Schlinger on Smalltown Supersound.
Are you planning to record a follow up to Space
We have already. The new record will be out
this autumn on Jazzland. Paal has left the band to play
with Peter Brötzmann Tentet, so I guess the music
will become a bit more quiet and melodic from now on.
You also mentioned once that you were thinking
of recording a solo album entirely based around your
saxophone and flutes. Is it still something you are
working on, or are planning to work on?
Yes, I’ve been playing some solo gigs
lately, in Norway and in New York. Just the saxophone,
nothing else. The repertoire has slowly been developing,
and I really don’t want to rush this. But when
we get our Wibutee studio up and running, it’ll
be one of the first recordings that I’ll do there
on my own, maybe with Wetle as a producer.
Rune, you had your own solo project, Sternklang,
before joining Wibutee in 2001. How was it like to come
from working on your own to working with three other
people on a project that was already established?
Very refreshing indeed! When I joined, Wibutee
was already taking a new direction, so it wasn’t
like I had to readjust to some old idea of what Wibutee
were and what we were going to do. So each member had
to try to think differently, I guess. It took some time
to find out what we wanted, but now I feel we have found
a musical direction that we can take further. But I
must admit that the thought of playing with such skilled
musicians was making me a bit nervous at first, so it
took some time for me to dare play keyboards. I have
always programmed my stuff, so I don’t really
know how to play any instrument. I hope my naive approach
to keyboard playing is adding something to the sound
that a trained musician wouldn’t consider.
What’s happening with Sternklang? Do
you still have the time to work on this project?
Wibutee takes a lot of my time right now, but I am working
on the fourth Sternklang album in-between, and I’m
hoping to finish it after this summer’s festivals.
I think the time spent with Wibutee is good for Sternklang,
as I see ways of doing things that I might not have
considered if I was just sitting in front of my electronics
and working with my own stuff.
You also featured on Rotoscope’s first
album, Great Curves, which we reviewed a while
back. Are you still involved with the project? Can we
expect a second album soon?
Well, Andreas (Mjøs, member of Jaga Jazist and
Rotoscope leader) is doing all sorts of stuff at the
moment, so I wouldn’t hold my breath! Also, the
line up for Rotoscope is quite loose. It’s mainly
Andreas’s project, so who will feature on the
next album is up to him.
Per and Wetle, you also work on other projects
and regularly play with other musicians. How easy is
it to combine all these activities?
The fact that we do so many different things beside
Wibutee gives a lot of input to the band. Our philosophy
has always been not to discriminate and let all our
backgrounds contribute to the sound. This way all our
different side projects actually fuel Wibutee’s
music. It prevents us from getting bored with ourselves
Playmachine has a
more 'live' feel than Eight Domestic Challenges,
and the sonic scope is a lot more varied and rich. How
did you work on this album? Did you conceive it with
live performances in mind?
No, we really had to practice the tunes like we were
covering some other band! Our production process can
be seen as three different phases: first, all of us
work on sketches for new tunes. It can be grooves, sounds
or a melody/phrase. Secondly, there are the studio sessions
– we try to capture the spontaneity in the improvisation
happening on the spot. Then, in the last phase, we settle
down for weeks of editing, mixing and mastering. We
did this for Eight Domestic Challenges too,
but when we recorded Playmachine, we knew that
the sketches were better. Then, we must have improved
as musicians during these three years – perhaps
listening a bit more, and giving more room to each other.
And we’ve been working a lot with the software,
so we’re definitely better producers as well.
So, because we were better in all the three phases,
Playmachine is an album we can be proud of.
How would you define the new album compared
to previous Wibutee releases?
On Playmachine we wanted to make shorter tunes
that could all bring something individual into the album.
Like a box of chocolate, where each piece has its own
taste, but then it’s still chocolate... We’ve
also tried to get rid of long intros and outros. In
some way this new album is more advanced and deep than
the two earlier ones (i.e. all the beats are built almost
entirely with saxophone sounds; slap tonguing, keys
snapping, avant-garde techniques... There’s a
lot of work beneath the instantly audible surface).
But at the same time, it’s a more straightforward
album than anything we’ve made before.
You have a few live dates planned in the near
future. What can we expect?
You can expect the in-your-face feel from the
album, combined with whatever may happen live. We have
practiced quite a lot on the tunes, we’ve actually
got more of a show now than before. We’re yelling
at each other like a rock band if the forms aren’t
right... We’ve skipped the long intros, and the
sounds from the album are very recognisable. At the
same time, we’re still quite open for new things
to happen en route. We have to be, it would be boring
to play the same shit every night.
On the press release available from the Wibutee
website, there is a mention of you working with Norwegian
experimental designer Marius Watz, or Amoeba, on visuals
for the live shows. How will this concretise? What can
people expect to see?
When we can afford it, he’s with us on
tour. Marius is one of the bosses on that hidden floor
between design and art. He has programmed his own software
to follow our sounds, they generate really beautiful
graphic backdrops to the music, and people can see that
it’s created on the spot, along with the music.
Håkon, the visual aspect seems to be
equally as important as the music itself for you. You
have created a lot of covers for Jazzland records, especially
yours, and you have also designed both the Jazzland
and Wibutee websites. Do you see visual art, either
graphic or for live shows, as an extension of your work?
It’s all part of me, yes... I’ve
tried to quit many times, saying to myself and others:
“I’m a musician, I should stop doing graphics”,
but it never works. I love putting together visuals
and typo, photograph and to illustrate, and I think
I get both musical and visual inspiration from the art
world. We travel quite a lot, and instead of running
down the record shops to buy albums I could order on
Amazon or eBay, I go to art galleries. One of the best
things I know is to go to Chelsea in New York, and visit
every little gallery that there is. I’m like a
little boy in a theme park when I go there. (I get sick
What brought you to graphic design?
Can you remember the term ‘Desktop Publishing’?
When I got my first computer as a kid, I was instantly
hooked on fonts and typography, PageMaker, laser printers...
It was part of the exciting (doh...) adult world I guess.
I remember making my first brochure for an artist who
lived up the street when I was fourteen. On tour in
England with the school band, I was constantly on telephone
to the printers in Oslo to check that everything was
okay with paperweights, colour profiles and file compatibility.
Weird little kid. I’m glad they didn’t have
things like ADHD back then...
How do you see Wibutee evolving in the future?
With Playmachine we have found the
method, and that’s perhaps the most important
thing that’s happened to us so far. We’re
in the flow – next January we’re already
in studio again to record our fourth album. And the
planned Wibutee studio is also exciting stuff: We’ll
gather all of our equipment in one place, using it for
solo projects like Sternklang, Zanussi Five and Kornstad
Solo, and working alone or together as producers on
all types of projects, with Wibutee as the mothership!
So ladies and gentlemen: We are in Space, and so are
Email interview June 2004
Thank you to Håkon Kornstad, Per Zanussi, Welte
Holte & Rune Brøndbo