We recently had the pleasure to sit down and have a lengthy chat with none other than Rasmus Faber, Swedish DJ, producer, musician and the mastermind behind the fantastic Platina Jazz series of albums. In the interview, we touched on everything from Platina to deep personal philosophies on music.
In Part 1, we got an exclusive glimpse at Platina Jazz behind the scenes. In this second installment, we discuss jazz in general, the rift between niche and mainstream music, and some lighter topics as well!
Aftershok: You made a very intriguing point last time during your interview with our site, which was, in short, that you thought the jazz in some soundtracks sometimes loses quality when it’s conforming too much to an idea of what jazz is supposed to sound like. What, to you, is “quality jazz,” though? Is it an element of improvisation or arrangement? Do origins irreversibly dictate quality?
Faber: Well, quality is a concept that is very hard to grasp, and we could talk about it forever. So it might be easier to put it something like this: there is music that more or less appeals only to people who are already biased to like it. Meaning, some music is appreciated because of the context it is presented in, rather than for the music in isolation.
Its not just in soundtracks, and it certainly applies to a lot more genres than just jazz. It can be in any place where a genre is presented more as a pastiche than as the real thing. I don’t think this is always done on purpose, but I have a personal commitment to being respectful to genres in this sense, and I really appreciate when creators who borrow influences from other genres pays respect to the original traditions.
With Platina Jazz, it would have been a shortcut for us to make records that would just exploit the popularity of the original songs, but the motivation for us has rather been to create records that we ourselves, as jazz fans, would enjoy listening too.
As for quality jazz, there are so many definitions. Some people would probably put a higher value on improvisation (as in solos) whereas I put more emphasis on the sound, fluidity and timing of how melodies are put forth. But that’s a personal thing, I’m not claiming any universal definition of the term.
Don’t get me wrong, I love a good solo every once in a while, but I’m not foot tapping myself into heaven for 10 minutes of hardbop, so to speak!
Hahaha! Solos do tend to get out of hand sometimes, but a lot of people might say that they’re an essential, vital element of what makes jazz what it is.
Yeah, I think improvisation definitely is, but I don’t think it necessarily must come in the shape of a long solo, but can be about the way a song is played more freely and improvised.
Such things are never really on my mind when making records, though. It’s more semantic than anything else. For me there’s no intrinsic value in the purity of just a term such as “real jazz”. It’s a record that people either like or dislike. Interestingly, discussions about what is “real jazz” (or any other music genre, really) very rarely occur among jazz musicians, but more often about jazz lovers (or dance music lovers or death metal lovers, etc.). I can use it myself, just knowing people “sort of” know what I’m talking about, and that might be enough, really.
Do you feel, maybe, that the “mainstream” of popular music output is undeserving of all the attention it receives? Do you get the sense that the musical diet of the masses consists too much of “Ben & Jerry’s?”
Well, that is the eternal lament of educated musicians isn’t it? I think it is helpful to ponder the meaning of the word “undeserving” in that sense. Meaning, is it possible to prove any real, factual benefit of consuming what we define as higher, more complex forms of art, than more simple ones? If not, then what are we really talking about? I mean, when I’m not thinking too closely about it, I feel exactly like, “oh the masses just listen to shit music.” But when thinking a bit harder about it, it sort of goes around in circles
Also, even if appreciation for complex art correlates with more complex minds, and even if complex minds had a benefit over simpler minds in some sort of utilitarian sense, it would not be clear to which direction the casual arrow points. The choice of art one consumes might simply reflect your mental life, without really affecting it.
Playing devil’s advocate, here, but does it mean anything, perhaps, that only one side of the casual/complex debate perceives the other as inherently inferior or of less merit artistically?
I think that is the big, still unanswered question. Does it? There is a quote by someone that goes roughly like this: “You can read your Goethe in the morning and then go to work in Auschwitz, but the person with the strongest sense of moral failure in that place might have a view of modern art that goes roughly ‘my 5-year old daughter could have done that.’”
If you move far enough away from the Ben & Jerry’s type of music, you may end up in a post-modernist, self-referential-meta nightmare, where art has long since stopped being about something purely enjoyable. Many of us put ourselves somewhere along that continuum, and incidentally, we tend to think that right there (or just a little bit around it) is the optimal balance between the two ends.
Let’s move on to some lighter material, then! Who do you enjoy listening to lately?
Haha, sure! I don’t listen to music that much, so that tends to go in phases. At the moment, I’ve been listening to Empire of the Sun’s two albums, especially the first, which I discovered way too late!
I think I read more books than listen to music for pleasure, actually.
Do you think that’s a result of what you do for a living? What do you gravitate toward in your reading?
Absolutely. [There’s already] so much music in my life, anyway. And doing it for work in a very diverse and analytic way takes out the whole “group” thing, which takes away some of that knack of being totally into a whole genre of music. Also, there’s too little time to search for new stuff!
Reading wise, its 95% science, lot of psychology, evolutionary biology, evolutionary psychology, bit of neuroscience and philosophy. Some cosmology, stuff like that.
The occasional novel too, but I like thinking, so I tend to go for those types of books. It is fairly popular science, though; I’m not reading the super heavy stuff. Oh, and it’s all audio books!
A busy man such as yourself has no time to hold a physical book, surely!
Yep, unfortunately that’s true!
Stay tuned for the final part of this fascinating interview.