Interview with Morgan Ågren in April 2009

2008 begann das für seine erlesenen Spezialitäten berühmte Label Cuneiform Records, den Backkatalog von Mats/Morgan mit Bonusmaterial neu aufzulegen. Seit 2005 ist das musikalisch in jeder Hinsicht gegen den Strich und allgemein beliebte Vorstellungen anarbeitende, wilde Sounds erschaffende und gern auf der Bühne unisono (!) hüpfende schwedische Duo plus mithüpfender Band beim US-amerikanischen Label unter Vertrag. Die erste gemeinsame Platte dort war "Thanks For Flying With Us", ein guter Einstieg, Jazz, Extrem-Funk und so was wie Prog zu eigenwilligem Leben zu erwecken. Zuvor, bis 2002, hatte Morgan Ågren unter eigener Regie Mats/Morgan CDs (und die einiger weiterer Künstler wie etwa Simon Steensland) auf seinem eigenen Label UAE (Ultimate Audio Entertainment) veröffentlicht. Momentan touren Mats, Morgan und Band ausgiebig, im Sommer 2009 werden sie (wieder) auf dem Zappanale Festival (Zappanale 20!) zu sehen und hören sein. Neue Musik ist in Arbeit, alte wird ausgekramt, möglicherweise wird es bei einer der kommenden Reissue-Produktionen auf Cuneiform neben Bonusmaterial Video- oder DVD-Zusätze geben wie auf dem 2008er "Heat Beats Live" Album, dem eine DVD beigelegt war, die eine irrsinnige Schnipseljagd enthielt, Videos von 1991 bis 2007, stilistisch alles dabei, von Free Jazz über Punk Rock bis Jazzrock und Progressive Rock - und vieles (persönliche) mehr.
Das Interview zog sich etwas dahin. Der erste Termin im Januar, am Telefon, erwies sich als ungünstig, in der Nacht zuvor war Morgan Ågrens Hund gestorben, die Familie also aufgelöst. Per Email verloren wir uns im Anschluss, am Telefon ebenso auf Grund diverser Konzerte. Bis schließlich, eine Weile, nachdem der Schlagzeuger mir Fotos übersandt hatte, Morgan die Fragen erneut anfragte und einen Teil davon schriftlich beantwortete. Keine tolle Kommunikation, etwas statisch, das Frage-Antwort-Spiel, aber immerhin ein Statement.

Ragazzi: "You both, Mats and Morgan, play together since your childhood. Are you unique in your musical work?"

Morgan: "This I can't tell. Mats is unique anyways, he really is. Maybe also the fact that we met when he was 10 and I 14 years old, and have played since then is a quite unusual thing."

Ragazzi: "Do you understand Mats ideas and he yours just without words?"

Morgan: "Yes. But it is not necessarily always good to know each other too much. Sometimes you need to get more challenges. It can also be the same situation like in an old relationship where things don't move forward anymore even if you want. Don't get me wrong, I thank god that I met Mats. It changed my life. But after a long time together you sometimes look for other different things. It is always a hunt anyways… to find that feel and groove and rhythm."

Ragazzi: "Do you feel like friends or more like brothers?"

Morgan: "I think we are both."

Ragazzi: "Do you play your compositions together in sessions? How do you compose: with spontaneity, intuition, conception?"

Morgan: "When we started we composed more together. Now we do it on our own one by one. But things come together later, when we play it. Sometimes I can give mats a groove with a chord line, and then he does the melody too."

Ragazzi: "Is composing new songs more easily or hard with the years and with the records you have made?"

Morgan: "In a way it is harder today, on a feeling level. I mean, when we younger lot's of stuff was great and just inspiring. Today it is harder to find music that gives you the same kick as it did when we was young. And that is the same when composing own material too in a way. On a technical level (equipment) things are much better and easier today!"

Ragazzi: "Do you have study music/drums?"

Morgan: "I did a few highschools etc, but I am self-taught. To me all the great records that I found early inspired my very very much. It was they key for me. The joy, the power, it was all."

Ragazzi: "You work in a lot of bands/projects as session man. In which are right now?"

Morgan: "I will tour and record with project BOX soon. We did a record last year and a little tour with Trevor Dunn and Co."

Ragazzi: "What is fascinating you in the projects?"

Morgan: "Just meeting new good people and musicians creating good music, is always nice!"

Ragazzi: "Will there be another project like "Sol Niger Within" with Fredric Thordendal?"

Morgan: "Don't know. He is very busy with Meshuggah. But he is planning for a new solo CD also actually."

Ragazzi: "How do you have find the deal with Cuneiform Records, to release not only your new work, than the old albums remastered too?"

Morgan: "I had been in contact with Steven Feigenbaum, (the owner of Cuneiform Records) since a long time, cause sold our CD's on his Wayside Music site. So I knew him from there. Later on when I was tired on running my own label UAE, I asked him if he wanted to release us. Luckily shortly after I asked him, he was in Paris where we played with Mats/Morgan Band. So he showed up. It was a very good gig, crowded, members of Magma where in the audience etc. Steve came back stage after and looked very happy. So we stared to work together! (Rare to get a deal today, playing this music)"

Ragazzi: "I've got a video copy of Mats Morgan Band "On Air With Guests" where you play solo parts and talk with a guy. Is this work on DVD out or do you plan to release it with one of the Cuneiform remasters?"

Morgan: "It would be fine for me to do it. It is just a matter of rights I think. We'll see."

Ragazzi: "You got an absolutely style of your own. Powerful, crazy and weird - how do find your style?"

Morgan: "I am a result of thousands of inspiring albums, mixed with my own DNA, haha..!"

Ragazzi: "With which three slogans do you characterise your drumming style?"

Morgan: "Feel/heart, grove and energy."

Ragazzi: "The new album sounds more improvised and jazzy than the earlier ones. Will every album having a new sound, like 'never the same album again'?"

Morgan: "Hard to say, people think and reacts different on the stuff you do anyways. I mean, even if you think you did something new, someone else might think not. However I am sure our CD's will sound different in the future too. They have already changed a bit from CD to CD. I am much more into electronica today then 10 years ago, big difference and that might be possible to hear in our music too."

Ragazzi: "Your brother Jimmy, Robert Elovsson and Tommy Tordsson play just a view notes on the new album. Are they just loose members of the Mats/Morgan band? Having their own projects and bands?"

Morgan: "Mats/Morgan Band is now a trio since 2 years ago, with Gustaf Hielm on bass.
The quintet does not play together at the moment. Our original bassist Tommy Thordsson moved to the US that is how the changed started."

Ragazzi: "I like the work of Simon Steensland a lot. You have released his albums in the past. Is he active again, is there music; he is working on right now?"

Morgan: "Simon is a great friend and a great musician/composer. I play on his new CD "FAT AGAIN" to be released in April! Also, when we played at the Montreal Drum festival last year, I played a drum solo on top of one of Simon's compositions called "Lost in the ark" which is great!"

Ragazzi: "Is drumming your 'daily' job?"

Morgan: "I spend almost ALL my time behind my computer. I only play drums when we play live or when we record… But between age 5 and 20 I played many many hours..!"

Ragazzi: "Mats Öberg has made this great 'Välling & Fotogen' album with G.U.B.B. Is he active in solo projects now too?"

Morgan: "Mats have made at least two solo piano CD's. And he has written for orchestra very recently too."

Ragazzi: "How do you get in contact to Frank Zappa?"

Morgan: "In 1984, me, Mats and some friends of ours formed a band named Zappsteetoot in Umeå/Sweden. Our idea was to play the Music of Frank Zappa. We put a song list together with our favourite Zappa material, and did a couple of tours and radio shows etc. In 1988 when Frank came to Stockholm with the Broadway the Hard Way- tour, me and Mats got invited to play with Zappa as guests! Mats uncle (jazzpianist Bernt Egerbladh) had contacted Franks tour leader and informed him about us, that we were in this band called Zappsteetoot, that Mats had listened to Franks music since he was 8 years old, and that he knew all of his music. So when Frank got to hear about us, he said he wanted to meet us. Me and Mats sneaked in to Franks sound check and afterward Franks tour leader came out and told us Frank waiting for us backstage. And a few years later he invited us to come to the US and play Zappa's Universe. The whole story is on my homepage."

Ragazzi: "Which practice skills needs a drummer, to play "Odd Times" with groove?"

Morgan: "Hard to say. The most important thing is to feel what is needed in the music."

Ragazzi: "Are there any playing deficiencies, you work on right now?"

Morgan: "Huh?"

Ragazzi: "Do you compose musical pieces just for yourself?"

Morgan: "They usually end up for Mats/Morgan Band."

Ragazzi: "Can you imagine recording a solo album once? If yes, how, approximate would like sound that?"

Morgan: "I might do it. How it would sound? I don't even know. I think it would sound different from what many people would expect. Who knows, it might sound closer to Radio Head then Mats/Morgan…"

Ragazzi: "Who is, in your opinion, the most important drummer for the development of play the drum in general?"

Morgan: "Impossible to say. There are so many, and they all did so many different things. I put a value on personality anyway. Anyone with an own new style is important in a way."

Ragazzi: "When we can hear the coming new studio album of Mats/Morgan?"

Morgan: "2010 for sure! As well as new re-releases."

Ragazzi: "What do you think about progressive music in general? And what is your analysis of the present situation of it?"

Morgan: "I always have a problem to define the category. I can't even say what is progressive… In general this music had its highlights in the 70's maybe. Although, there is bands that plays music today that reminds of this 70's thing, which sound good today also."

Ragazzi: "What are your aims with your music?"

Morgan: "For me music is like meditation. It has healing powers. And if people feel that when we play, it is a double bonus. They are happy, and me too."

Ragazzi: "What are your next future plans?"

Morgan: "Most of all a new Mats/Morgan studio CD. (That might end up being a solo CD, we'll see)."