Monday, January 17, 2011

Guy Klucevsek Interview

In addition to the previous post about the late Lars Hollmer's album "XII Sibiriska Cyklar" I conducted a quick e-mail Q & A with his collaborator (as part of Accordion Tribe) and friend Guy Klucevsek about Lars' music and their work together. Klucevsek has released over twenty recordings as soloist/leader and has worked with many diverse musicians including Laurie Anderson, John Zorn, Natalie Merchant, Bill Frisell and Fred Firth amongst others.
Many thanks to Guy who was extremely obliging and helpful in his e-mails. More information about Guy Klucevsek can be found here

Guy Klucevsek Q&A

According to the Accordion Tribe website, you were first introduced to the music of Lars Hollmer by David Garland in the early 90s, what were your first impressions?

GK: I adored the music!  It was heart-felt, complex and naively innocent at the same time.  Wonderful counterpoint, beautiful melodies, wacky sense of humor.  I felt an immediate kinship with the music, though we came from very different background--Lars an auto-didact, playing in bands; me with classical accordion training, university studies as a composer, experience in chamber music, orchestras, as a soloist.  Still, somehow, we ended up in a similar place.  

You have expressed your love of "Boeves Psalm" in the past, what are some of your other favorite Lars Hollmer compositions?

GK: Portaletyde, Sud Af, Utflykt mit Damcykel.  Also, I have a soft spot for the tune "Lädereld," which he dedicated to "Guy Klucevsek, the accordion rider," on his "Utflykt" cd.  I returned the favor eventually by dedicating "The Return of Lasse" to him; it was very much inspired by his music--the odd meters, the contrasting sections, the counterpoint.  I also wrote a piece in his memory in January of 2009, entitled "Lars Song," which is a solo accordion, but which I also arranged for Accordion Tribe, and we played it on several concerts that year.

His music encompassed and explored many different styles and themes throughout his career, do you think this eclecticism prevented him achieving more commercial success outside of Sweden?

GK: No more than it has prevented any of us in the "alternative music" scene from achieving international success.  Problem is that we get pigeon-holed as "non-commercial," and that limits our possibilities for success in the mainstream.  But I don't think Lars concerned himself at all with that.  He kept creating music non-stop, for the pure joy and wonder of it.

Lars was the first person you invited to be part of the Accordion Tribe project, how did he react to the idea?

GK: He seemed thrilled by the idea.

What specific qualities did Lars bring to the group?

GK: First of all:  his wonderful compositions strongly reflected the heart and soul of the group.  He was very prolific, so he created or arranged many, many group pieces for us, and they were all wonderful.  As a performer, he brought an intensity and focus to everything he did on stage with us, but he also had a wonderful sense of playfulness, zaniness, and a willingness to try anything.  And raw, explosive energy!  

Much of his music is very idiosyncratic or even eccentric, did this reflect his real life personality?

GK: Not really.  Lars was a very social being on tour, extremely funny, loved hanging out with the group over dinner or a drink late at night after the concerts, warm-hearted and generous.  And he had a smile which could melt ice--very useful in Sweden :-)  (See the photo in the cd insert of Utsiker for a great example of that smile, and a fantastic shot of the interior of The Chickenhouse as well.)

What was it like to record at The Chickenhouse Studios in Sweden?

GK: It was intense!  And quite funny at times.  Lars, Bratko and Otto were night owls and loved to begin work about 12 noon and work long into the night, whereas Mia and I are daytime people, who get up early and like to work in the morning and afternoon.  So we had to find those few hours a day when all our energies were at the maximum capacity and get a bunch of work done then.  But it was also very leisurely, lots of breaks for a walk, breath of fresh air, a meal, a drink (or 3 or 10).  All-in-all, it was a blessing for us, because it was the only place we could record in our own working rhythm--it took us 7-10 days normally to rehearse new material and record it all, because of our working method; if we had to pay for studio time by the hour, we could never have afforded to make Sea of Reeds or Lunghorn Twist (the first album, Accordion Tribe, was made up of live tour performances).  Being in Lars's home studio, we had the luxury of time.  We were able to work on everything until it sounded just the way we wanted it to, in our own way, our own time-frame, in a relaxed, congenial, homey atmosphere, without the pressure of an outside producer breathing down our neck as the hours ticked by...

His death must have come as a great shock to you and the other members of Accordion Tribe, did you consider that this could herald the end of the group?

GK: Yes.  My immediate feeling was immense grief and loss, which I still feel.  I was too numb to think about what it meant for Accordion Tribe, whether it even had a future without Lars.  
Bratko, Otto and Maria like members of my family, but the absence of Lars left such a void that it was all I could think about on tour or even on stage at times.

What does the future hold for Accordion Tribe?

GK: Unfortunately, I have decided recently to let the group come to a graceful ending.  It has been a wonderful, glorious, fantastic 14 years since our first tour in 1996, when we had no idea what would happen when we got together.  There have been some of the most amazing concerts I have ever been in, three wonderful recordings, a beautiful film by Stefan Schwietert, long and wonderful friendships--which of course will continue--but there comes a time when you realize it is perhaps time to stop while the music and memories are still strong and vital.   It seemed an organic time to stop, not only because of Lars's passing, but because we had no new tour on the horizon, and we would need a new recording to make that happen.  Without Lars, without the Chickenhouse experience, I couldn't face the prospect of recording again and prolonging the inevitable.  Perhaps if an opportunity comes to play on a big festival in a few years, we might consider a reunion concert, if everyone wants to do it, but Accordion Tribe is no longer an ongoing project.

How would you like Lars Hollmer to be remembered?

GK: As I think he would wish to be remembered:  by his wonderful music and recordings!

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