ARTURO MORA: First of all, my deepest
condolencies regarding Esbjörn’s passing.
MAGNUS ÖSTRÖM: Thank you very much, thanks.
ARTURO MORA: Four months have passed since
Esbjörn passed away. You were close friends since your early childhoods. How
are you bearing his lose?
MAGNUS ÖSTRÖM: It’s been really hard
actually, what can I say? It’s been four months but still it’s a very short
time. It will take a long time to kind of get back on track. It’s tough.
ARTURO MORA: We all know what kind of
musican Esbjörn was, but how was he like as a person?
MAGNUS ÖSTRÖM: He was a very dedicated
person when it comes to most things, I think. Everything he was interested in
he committed himself to it, like in music. He worked a lot, he was very focused
in what he was doing, and also a very curious guy.
ARTURO MORA: Leucocyte, the new
album by e.s.t., is a freely improvised album. How much of the record was
pre-written and how much was fully improvised?
MAGNUS ÖSTRÖM: There’s nothing written,
everything is fully improvised. There’re no pre-structures or compositions that
we build on. From the first to the last note it’s totally improvised.
ARTURO MORA: What was the process like? Did
anyone start with an idea, was it always Esbjörn? Did you have a little talk
before starting a tune or anything?
MAGNUS ÖSTRÖM: No, we didn’t talk at all
actually. Maybe I could start a groove or Dan [Berglund] a bass line or
Esbjörn a chord and then we took from there. It was very very open and totally
ARTURO MORA: Although there’s a lot of room
for improvisation it looks like keeping the beat was really important in this
MAGNUS ÖSTRÖM: Yes, it is, yes.
ARTURO MORA: Is it a coincidence that the
whole record is in 4/4?
MAGNUS ÖSTRÖM: I don’t know, it just came
out this way. It’s a hard question to tell [laughs], I don’t know, I haven’t
really thought about that actually. Maybe the beat comes out naturally like
that, or something, I don’t know why it is like that. I don’t have any real
answer to that.
When you compose things you can
figure out how to change things around and then maybe it’s easier to go with
different grooves and different beats, maybe in 7, or 5, but...
ARTURO MORA: What are you thinking about
when you’re playing in this context?
MAGNUS ÖSTRÖM: I don’t actually think much
at all, things don’t come really from the brain, they come from somewhere else.
It’s hard to tell where it comes from, but you don’t really think, you just
start out and listen. You listen to yourself, of course, but you also listen to
the musicians around you, it’s the only way you do it. When you improvise like
this it’s good if your brain is not there actually [laughs].
ARTURO MORA: How did you come up with the
idea of the snare drum solo at the end of “Premonition – Earth”?
MAGNUS ÖSTRÖM: [laughs] You mean like the
machine gun thing? [laughs]
ARTURO MORA: Yeah, that rockish thing.
MAGNUS ÖSTRÖM: I don’t know. Of course
there’s a reminiscence of the Jimi Hendrix song [entitled “Machine Gun”], I
think it’s [drummer] Buddy Miles who plays on this song, I don’t know [he
does]. My brother listened a lot to Jimi Hendrix, he still does, he’s three
years older than me, so I got that music very early in my life. When we played
it back and I heard it I noticed I somehow picked it up from there. When I
played I didn’t think at all, but, you know, whatever you play it comes from
ARTURO MORA: I guess you came up with the
song titles, as usual.
MAGNUS ÖSTRÖM: Yes, I came up with them,
ARTURO MORA: The tune named “Jazz” swing,
is there anything ironic in that title?
MAGNUS ÖSTRÖM: I don’t know, it’s easy to
feel that this is ironic, but it’s more like kind of bring that word back to
value, because you know people think so much what jazz is, so why not just put
that word? People ask: “do you play jazz, or are you a pop band, or whatever,
what do you play?”, and that brings back the value of the word for ourselves,
and of course you can see it a little bit of ironic, but what can you say?
If you read the titles like a
poem you can see how it connects: “Jazz still ajar” [tracks 4, 5, and 6 are
“Jazz”, “Still”, and “Ajar”], because that was my first thought on this record,
to read the titles like a poem. My titles are usually much longer, but now I
wanted just one word on every song, so that was the connection, you can read it
like “jazz still ajar”: the door of jazz is still open for us.
ARTURO MORA: When you played live you used
to link songs with free improvisational parts. Did the jam session idea come
MAGNUS ÖSTRÖM: In the beginning it was
Esbjörn playing some piano in between songs to connect somehow and then we
opened up more and more and it was Dan and me playing things in between, after
that it was all together and more and more. This record was like playing this
in-between thing to show that part of us. A lot of people when they think of
e.s.t. they think about strong compositions and strong melodies, all that
stuff, but we improvised a lot, and we thought: “maybe we should try to put
this on a record to show that side of us.” So during concerts it was just like
we did in the studio: somebody starts something, or it comes from something,
from somewhere, and it just goes on and goes over to another composition. In a
way that’s a jam in front of an audience, but there were no pre-jams that we
took parts from. It was totally free.
ARTURO MORA: Was any material added to the
CD after the recording, in the mixing process?
MAGNUS ÖSTRÖM: No, what you hear is what
happened during those two days, there’s nothing added, no songs, no improvised
parts, no overdubs, nothing. You hear it like it was.
ARTURO MORA: Now that the band is over,
which is your vision of e.s.t. in retrospect?
MAGNUS ÖSTRÖM: Well, it’s really hard to...
The thing that I will remember about the band is that we reached the very
valuable point that we found our own sound, our own personal group sound, and
that’s a very big thing. Not everyone has the possibility and the time to do
that, because people have to struggle and play in different bands to survive.
We were fortunate to have the time to work together as a group for so long, for
such a long time.
I don’t know, it’s very hard.
I’m still in it in some ways. I haven’t listened to the music that much after
what happened, but when I hear a song I can hear it from outside, more as a
listener, and as I said, I can really hear that this is e.s.t., and sounds like
nothing else actually. That’s what I’m very happy about.
ARTURO MORA: Are you especially happy with
a determined time within the band’s career, a record, a performance?
MAGNUS ÖSTRÖM: Wow, we did so many
fantastic things together, so many great concerts... More or less every concert
was great in some way, because there was a strong thing with the trio that
every concert was important, and when we were onstage we were all there, very
focused and very concentrated. There was a really important thing for us, that
we didn’t go up onstage and thought: “we should take it easy today, because
tomorrow we have a very important gig.” That never worked for us, we gave 100%
What can you say? Of course
it’s always very special to play at a new venue in a new country. During the
years there were of course different steps taken, and those steps were very
important. The first gig in Stockholm in 1992 or 1993 was as important as the
last gig in Moscow. One of the good things in the trio is that we were still
three guys trying to make music [laughs], like we were still in the basement we
were when we were kids, still looking forward, still curious. It was a great
thing that we could be there.
ARTURO MORA: Are you aware of how e.s.t.
has influenced other bands?
MAGNUS ÖSTRÖM: Not really, a lot of people
have told me enough that they’ve heard trios or they’ve heard other bands that
may have listened to us. I have heard it from people in different countries,
and also people saying: “you really influenced my band”, but I just can’t
really say I’ve heard a band first hand that I can hear they have listened to
us. Specially after what happened we got comments and condolences from all over
the world, and then I realized how huge it was, because when you’re in the
middle of it and travelling from concert to concert, of course you hear good
comments from the audience, you know that people like what you’re doing, but
after what happened you can really see the impact it had on people. I’m totally
stunned, it’s totally amazing. It had a meaning somehow, that we could reach
people and maybe make their lives more better or whatever, but if it helped
them during their lives it kind of had a meaning, even though what’s happened
now. And hopefully people will continue to listen to that music.
ARTURO MORA: A hard question I have to
make: what now for you and Dan?
MAGNUS ÖSTRÖM: Now it has been four months.
When you’re in such a state after such an event time flies, for me it feels
like a month or something. It’s really hard to feel. I’m really trying to
adjust to my new life, and it’s the same for Dan. We have done this for fifteen
years with the trio, we have travelled the world for ten years in a very
intense touring. I just try to figure out how to live our new lives. It’s also
hard for us to say musically where to go, it will take a long time to find a
meaning. “Why?”, that’s the hardest question. Because you’ve reached as far as
you can go with the band, you can say: “we have not really anything more to
prove”, or something like that. It’s really hard to find this “what should I do
and why should I do it”, because we did it, we did such a great thing with the
trio. We’ll see, we’ll see what happens.