Interview with David Hansson of The Gothenburg Combo
Dear David and Thomas… a new record! Still with a “scape” idea in your mind, it seems that sound environment is become a predominant part in your music….is it all David Toop’s fault?
Haha,,, good question! To us, ”scapes” are just magical creatures: full of subtle complexities and paradoxes. They work in two ways: you should be able listen to it as background music and have a very enjoyable experience but you should also be able to listen to it with full concentration and attention to detail and constantly be able to discover new fascinating aspects and qualities in the music. Most of the music we really love has exactly this quality: great beauty of surface but at the same time it has complexity and several layers of meaning. This encourages you to return and listen to the music over and over and each time you will discover new fascinating things! Its about making the complex and difficult sound easy and effortless!
Our motto is: Screwed-up but accessible or Familiar but Far-Out!
I realize the concept may seem like a contradiction on the Guitar! Compared to other instruments the Acoustic Guitar is incredibly subtle, intimate and delicate. But thats exactly the beauty of it: within its limitations, its like a universe in miniature with endless possibilities. Its like looking at a grass straw through a magnifying glass or a microscope: at first you don’t see anything special: but take a closer look and you’ll discover a whole universe hidden there!
We tend do something similar when we compose and record: we focus on small, deceivingly simple things-then we magnify them, so that in the end, you almost have the feeling you´re almost INSIDE inside the instrument, INSIDE the music…
This time you played all music composed by you… this Seascape sounds like a real part of you…
Absolutely! This album has been two years in the making so we have lived with those ideas for a very long time. The musical ideas has haunted us, like an ”inner soundtrack” for a very long time. When you cant stop hearing, thinking, and dreaming about the music you know there must be something good there. So this was the kind of album that we just HAD to make, there was no choice involved really, and I truly believe if we didn’t make this album, nobody else would have done it!
I think it represents the culmination of many of the ideas we have worked with so far: minimalism of course but also influences from arabic music, west-african music, early renaissance polyphony, minimal techno, ambient and shoegaze, all blended together in a way that I think is quite personal.
Our musical ideas often start with a kind of inner ”sound” and then we do your best to realize and transpose it into something that makes sense…
Would you accept the words “cinematic music” as a way to try to describe your music?
Yes, although I’d much rather prefer the term ”psychedelic”: music that alters the perception of time and that creates images and colors inside the head of the listener (of course these ”images” are unique and personal and differ from person to person).. .Concerning ”Cinematic”: the cover of Frank Zappas album ”Hot Rats” reads: ”A movie for your ears…” and thats also a good way of putting it I guess!
Why did you decide to take inspiration by the book “20000 Leagues Under the Sea” by Jules Verne?
This book has been incredibly important to me! First my dad read it out aloud to me and my siblings and I was just spellbound and drawn into this other mysterious and magical world. Then I read it myself and the experience was just as profound. Every time I read it, I plunge into this amazing world where everything is possible! And the funny thing is: Thomas has exactly the same experience!
It’s an album about curiosity, discovery, fascination and adventure, a song of praise to the unexplored depths and hidden pockets of nature that can never be completely covered by the human intellect. An album about the oceanic and our constantly changing existence, about ”moving within the moving element” (”Mobilis in Mobili”). In these times when demagogues like Trump are tying to make our world flat and one-dimensional, it has been a pleasure to return to the world of Jules Verne where everything is possible, everything is conceivable.
The music is not programatic at all, rather it is a free fantasy inspired by this attitude of curiosity, openness, and mobility. There is also an underwater feel in the music, reminiscent of being in another element, where your sense of time has been completely abolished and where everything suddenly looks strange and different.
There is a key section that describes just the feeling I’m talking about:
“The captain approached, placed a finger on a position on the chart, and pronounced just one word:
This name was magic! “
This feeling of being enchanted by the sound of a name, a phrase, a place, a map, a book, a sound is the starting point of this musical journey.
In this record you played acoustic guitars, Why this decision?
Its what we do best! We’re way to lazy to deal with electronic effects and anyway there´s so much left to do with an acoustic Guitar that we still haven’t got bored! Also we really like the craftsmanship aspect of playing an acoustic instrument. There are always some rough edges and tiny imperfections there (no matter how hard you work). We actually think this makes the music more interesting. Thats why we record everything live with no overdubs. We tried click-track and over-dubbing but all of those sessions ended up in the trash bin! And rightly so- they were just flat and lifeless (which I believe is the only deadly sin when it comes to music)!!! We’d much rather take some imperfections, tempos going a little bit up and down, some missed notes and cracks. When the organic feeling is right-you don’t care about those things…
Listening to “Seascape 20000 Leagues Under the Sea” I feel a line between this is music and your last Guitarscape, and the line is minimalism, how much Reich and Riley were important for your music?
I would say Riley has been much more of an inspiration to us than Reich. We love Reichs music but sometimes I can feel a bit ”trapped in his box” if you know what I mean? We just love when unexpected things can happen on an album, in a concert or even in the middle of a piece. And we like to move freely between completely different musical styles and ideas. This open attitude to all kinds of music and expressions is something that you can find in Terrys music. We where lucky enough to tour and work together with Terry and his son, the wonderful guitarist Gyan Riley two years ago. Performing, improvising and creating music together with one of our great musical heroes was a very liberating experience, and that led to an increased freedom in our writing. Many of the ideas for this album came after that experience.
Minimalism has provided us with a basic framework, a toolbox where we can sort our ideas, a ”lingua franca” in which we can express ourselves. When we compose, ”jam” and improvise together we do it within a sort of minimal framework. It feels completely natural and we’re able to express ourselves freely and we can incorporate all kinds of musical expressions into this language: from tenderness to wrath to yearning to jubilation! From organic free rubato-playing to almost machine-like rhythmic precision.
Your next projects? What would be your next “Scape”?
Don’t know if there will be another scape, maybe we’ll do something completely different! We’ve worked so hard with perfecting this album that, right now, that as far as our ”guitar-scape”-idea goes I honestly think its hard to surpass this one. Im thinking about doing something much more fragmentary and more messed up the next time. Or maybe we´ll expand our Combo to include many other musicians and instruments on the next album. Although Thomas, who is much more practical and less superstitious than me, says: ”Of course we’ll do another scape”. Haha, we’ll see. What is absolutely 100 % certain however is that we will continue to make music as Gothenburg Combo: composing, arranging, performing, giving concerts and improvising until our last breath!