HUBRO talks to Stephan Meidell
Improvisor, experimental guitarist, member of the trio Cakewalk, ex be-bop man, journalist, concert organizer and general good guy Stephan Meidell released his debut solo album “Cascades” on Hubro earlier this year. He just returned from a solo tour in Japan where he shared the stage with his partner Eva Pfitzenmaiers solo project By The Waterhole. How was Japan Stephan?
Stepan: It was a very special and great experience. We met so many generous and welcoming people, and got to see a some beautiful places outside of the big cities as well.
HUBRO: It was your first time in Japan, wasn´t ? What surprised you the most.
Stephan: Yes. The respect people treat each other with is something that really struck me – there was a sense of honor in any profession. That was a really powerful experience. I was also surprised of how many bands they put on stage during one night, haha. We played two nights with five other bands. The audience has great stamina. Rush hour is of course something you can never be prepared for, the swarm of people is mind-numbing.
HUBRO: Japan is a great food country. Did you eat anything you haven´t eaten before?
Stephan: Oh, the food was unbelievable. We spent a few nights in traditional houses – Ryokan – and ate traditional dinner and breakfast. It was an abundance of small delicious dishes I’ve never eaten before. I didn’t know so many kinds of tofu existed! I didn’t go for the suicide-blowfish, though.
HUBRO: You are about to start a solo tour of Norway now. Where are you going to play, and what can the audiences expect?
Stephan: I’m mostly playing in the northern part of Norway, starting off at a nice festival called Nødutgang in Bodø . Then I’m playing in a small village called Kabelvåg, and then in the city of Tromsø, which will be the furthest I’ve ever been to the north. Later on I’ll play in Trondheim and Stavanger.
The audience can expect some of the same textural landscapes as on the “Cascades” album, but with more percussion, and a stronger rhythmical presence. I’ve called it hypnoritualistic rhythms, but don’t know if that’s an actual thing. I’ll also be using video material from the artist Tolga Balci, who made the “Suspire” video.
HUBRO: The gig in Bergen today is at a benefit concert for Bergen Kjøtt where your studio/rehearsal room is, and where you recorded “Cascades”. Tell us a bit about Bergen Kjøtt and why a benefit concert is necessary.
Stephan: That’s a long story.. In a few words there’s been a struggle this year with keeping Bergen Kjøtt as is – a place for art, artists and studios working without the intervention of commercial interests. The building has gotten new owners, and their first order of business was surprisingly to get rid of the people running the place – the ones we are renting our rooms from. They were the ones renovating Bergen Kjøtt in the first place, and saw the possibilities with this house. Now they’ve had to deal with endless lawsuits from the new owners, and the artists of the house want to do a benefit concert to show what grows in here, and also to show our support for all the hard work our “landlords” have done. It’s also an expression of unity. This is such an important place, and I can’t imagine where I – and many others – would have been without it.
HUBRO: Next weekend – October 18th Cakewalk is doing a one-off project at the Ekko Festival in Bergen – one of the best festivals for electronic music in Norway. The concert is a collaboration with the Berlin based designers and filmmakers of Blank Blank. I´m curious to hear more about this project!
Stephan Meidell: I’m really looking forward to this one! It almost didn’t happen, since both Øystein and Ivar are busy that week. But luckily I got together a real dream-team for this night, with Øyvind Skarbø (Bly De Blyant, 1982), Øystein Moen (Jaga Jazzist, Puma) and Kjetil Møster (Møster!). I’m really happy they could make it. I really admire BlankBlank’s work, and wanted to collaborate with them for a long time. They came up with the idea of using 16mm film and physically manipulating it in realtime. Before the festival they’re releasing a brilliant video for “Transfixed” from our latest album, and for the festival they’ll be doing this live during the concert – projecting it on stage while we play. We’ll play material from both “Wired” and “Transfixed”.
HUBRO: Are there any other acts at the festival that you are planning to check out?
Stephan Meidell: Definitely. I’ve recently discovered The Haxan Cloak and Shackleton – and I’m looking forward to checking them out. I’m also curious to see Asbjørn Fløs commission for BEK together with Maja Ratkje, Alexander Rishaug and Hilde Sofie Tafjord. There are plenty others, but those are the most immediate ones.
HUBRO: You told me recently that you have been listening to a lot of new electronica lately. I am mostly still listening to the electronica I was into ten years ago I must admit. Have you stumbled a cross something that you think I (and the people reading this) should check out?
Stephan Meidell: This summer I spent a lot of time trying to discover new music. Electronica is such a huge genre, and I must admit I’ve never listened to so much music I didn’t like, haha. But, I found some good stuff. Not all of these are new, but Emptyset, Yves De Mey, Ryoji Ikeda, Kaumwald, Peder Mannerfeld and Ben Frost have some great music. My mates from my studies in Amsterdam – Lumisokea – made a great album called “Apophoenia” in 2011, which is sort of experimental techno with quite an advanced rhythmic approach that I really like – all run hard on tape to get a great, explosive sound. I also like Todd Terje’s debut album. It’s far away from where I normally wander musically, and I later found out I played it at the wrong speed! In the midst of all this I found a band called “Dawn of Midi”. It’s an acoustic piano trio playing in a minimalistic, rhythmically shifting way, reminding me a bit about electronic music. I highly recommend their album “Dysnomia”.
HUBRO: The following weekend – on October 25 you are playing a solo gig at the same festival together with visual artist Birk Nygaard. What does Birk do?
Stephan Meidell: Birk is a much-in-demand VJ from Bergen that mostly deals with video accompanying concerts. On this project – “Dialogues” – we’re both expanding our field. Me with synthesizer and drum machine, and him with analogue wall-clocks triggered with computers (plus video). The music and visuals are highly intertwined, the midi signals used for the music are also used with the visuals. It’s turned into a musical theatre in a sense – it has a story line, however abstract.
HUBRO: So, finally: do you have any new recording plans both as a solo artist and with Cakewalk?
Stephan: Yes, we’re now getting together with Cakewalk to work on some new material in November, and we have some ideas and sketches to work with. For my solo work, I have a lot of new rhythmic ideas on paper, and will start composing this autumn for more musicians. I’m interested in bringing my textures and sounds together with acoustic instruments and see if they can work together. All in all it will be a solo record, but with guests.