I try to have no expectations - interview with Andreas Schaerer

Piotr Wojdat

Is Switzerland a good place to start a career as a musician?

Andreas Schaerer: Switzerland has a good possibilities in jazz education. There are several universities of art that offer a jazz department where we can study jazz music. Besides Switzerland is really nicely connected to the German, French, Austrian and Italian music scene. It’s a good place to connect to the other musicians.

The difficulties in Switzerland are that there are not so many places and festivals where you can play as a musician. So if you wanna make a living as a musician you need to somehow get out of Switzerland and open up other areas where you can perform and regularly play concerts. If you want to try it only in Switzerland it’s impossible to do.

Besides Switzerland has a nice way to support their artists when they work outside the country. We have different possibilities that help us to support for example travel costs.

Switzerland is a terribly expensive country. So if you wanna live within Switzerland, but your fees are outside Switzerland, it’s a huge disbalance. Daily amount of money you need to live here is huge. If you have average european fee but you live in Switzerland you have a problem therefore. It’s great that we have a possibility that there are different art councils that support musicians that are traveling outside of Switzerland.

So I think all in all Switzerland is a great place to start a career as a musician.         

How and when did you start your career?

AS: I think this is difficult to say. My parents told me that I was singing ever since. I think I’ve made my first vocal trainings without knowing that I will practise when I was a small kid. The decision to follow a professional career was actually quite late. It was in my early 20’s, when I was 21 or 22. I realised that I would like to make music the center of my life. I started to study jazz vocals and later compositions at the University of the Arts in Bern.    

Do you feel as a part of any music scene?

AS: I think I have a privilege to be connected to a different scenes. Of course to the contemporary european jazz scene. But also in last four-five years more and more I started to work with musicians for classical scene. So nowadays I have the possibility to go in the really different directions. Doing like compositional work for classical ensembles as well as working with contemporary jazz musicians. As well as working with crossing borders artists for example Soweto Kinch, UK-based rapper and saxophone player. So I’m very open minded to touch different music scenes.

Are you a musician or a performer?

AS: Hopefully both. As soon you go on stage you need to perform. If you decide to play concert in my opinion it’s all about to connect with audience to create an energy. That isn’t just a musician playing his stuff and the audience that is consuming the music. It’s more to create a collective spiritual energy. So to make this happen it’s important to perform. To not just sit introverted on the stage. Be like the host of gathering. This is what I think is performing all about. To be a musician is just to turn on your radar to receive all the beautiful information that we are surrounded by and translated it into the music. This two branches are important. 

Have you been already in Poland? If yes then what were your impressions?

AS: A little. I played also with Lucas Niggli in duo at the Sopot Jazz Festival. About three years ago I was invited by Grzegorz Karnas to join his festival in Żory. I remember when we played in Sopot Lucas and I thought that the audience was really wild. The reaction was very intense and direct. I also had an impressions that the audience was younger than for example in Germany or Switzerland. It felt very beautiful. I’m looking forward to going to Poland again.     

In October you will be performing with Lucas Niggli on Ad Libitum Festival. What are your expectations?

AS: It’s a very interesting evening. Double bill with an amazing ensemble. I’m looking forward to listen also.

I try to have no expectations when I go on stage to play. I’m open to whatever happens. Maybe it will be a very fragile, intimate, focused energy, but it can be also wild and rough. I’m open and happy to go in both directions.   

What do you think about Lucas Niggli? You are performing with him also in quartet.

AS: Lucas Niggli is a really dear friend. We are working together since six years. We started playing together as a duo - just voice and drums. The connection felt very natural and very intense from the first concert. Actually our first concert was recorded and released. It’s called “Try-Gly-Gly-Phe-Met”. It was fully improvised concert and it felt very pure and somehow felt like we were brothers from the very ancient time. The feeling was like we played several concerts few thousand years ago and now we play again.

Lucas is an amazing performer. He has amazing energy on stage. I think he is a mix of panther and sorcerer. The way he plays his drums is so energetic. It’s like he will be hunting something, he will be hunting in the forest. He’s playing ranges from very wild rockin’ beats to very fragile, sensitive sounds. He is a whole universe, I think.          

Around ten years ago you were invited by Bobby McFerrin to contribute to the opera "Bobble". Could you describe how did it happen and what kind of opera it is?

AS: The first time I’ve joined this opera in Lörrach which is southern part of Germany just border to Switzerland. It was a festival called Stimmen. They were searching for vocalists, so I just send some music to the management of Bobby McFerrin. And then they decided to invite me and join this project. We were working together for one week. There were probably nineteen different vocalists from all over the globe. We’ve created two concerts with very loose dramaturgic storyboard within which we were mostly improvising. Later on I was reinvited once again by Bobby to join him in Moscow for another version of the “Bobble”. And later on in 2014 I was invited to join him for a few concerts in Germany. Playing actually in duo together with body percussionist and the dancer. Unfortunately, I was fully booked in that time. I had already a lot’s of concerts that were confirmed. I could only play one concert with him in Philharmonie in Essen. Full 90-minute concert, just two voices, body percussionist and the dancer. It was an amazing experience.

What I actually enjoyed the most was during our work for the first version of “Bubble” we were hanging out a whole week and talking about eating and discussing about mostly not musical topics, but philosophical and spiritual topics. Bobby is a really beautiful and humble person and was inspiring me. It was a true gift.

How it is to teach vocal jazz at the University of Arts in Bern?

AS: It’s a beautiful work. At this moment I have five or six students that I teach jazz and improvised vocals. Besides I have four ensembles where we work on instant composing, concepts, on how to explore possibilities of ensemble. I think it’s a very interesting work, because I have a possibility to explore with my students about what is the role of the musician within the society of the XXI century. I hope I can help them to find their inner voice, their own true language, to encourage them to insist in their own vision. Maybe also if sometimes it’s difficult, because their vision might be quite different than what we’ve heard before. So they really need to find their own way to express themselves. I really try to encourage them to go their own path and not just copy whatever musician that I admire.           

What are your plans for the near future?

AS: We just recorded an album with my sextet Hildegard Lernt Fliegen. It will be released in february 2020 on ACT Records. We will then tour with this material quite a lot in Europe. It’s a project that already exists for 15 years. This new record goes in a little new direction. I focused only on singing melodies and lyrics in a more traditional way. There are less vocal effects and less extended vocal techniques. Just regular singing. I wanted to go into more profound direction. It’s the first time I actually do spoken word stuff on an album. I’m very curious to see the reaction of the audience.

Then I have a commision for some symphonic piece. It will be premiered on August 2020 in Basel with the Basel Sinfonietta. It’s a very nice classic symphonic orchestra. So there’s a lot work to be done to compose new symphonic piece.

Right now I’m writing chamber music piece for a string sextet together with swiss bass player Wolfgang Zwiauer and finish guitar player Kalle Kalima. It will be premiered on 26th October in Bern, so I’m in the middle of this project now.

With our quartet A Novel Of Anomaly will meet in late 2020 to start working on a new program that hopefully might be recorded in the near future.

So it’s a lot of work. A lot of beautiful work for which I’m really thankful.