The Anatomy of Bliss: an espresso with Christian Zatta and Nova

Image Credits: Christian Zatta © Oleg Panov


January 28, 2022

The Anatomy of Bliss is the title of the album released by the Swiss trio Nova led by guitarist and composer Christian Zatta and with Florian Bolliger on bass and Florian Hoesl on drums. 

> Ivano Rossato

How was the Nova project and its sound born?
Nova’s main inspirations are astronomy, science and science-fiction. Even the band’s name is an astronomical phenomena. Every note we play is dedicated to the known and unknown universe. We combine rocky, pithy music with cosmic, filigree sounds and spheric atmospheres. The jazz influence and the improvised parts are very important for us to give to the music an organic and analogue character. The live performance is accompanied by video projections that Nova uses to illustrate the compositions throughout the whole audiovisual concert.

The aesthetic might not be “jazz” but the attitude definitely is! For this specific album, I was inspired by many different science-fiction stories. My intent was to “translate” into music some of the complex emotions I felt after reading, which would be impossible to describe with words. It is important for me to have a story or a clear reason to compose. I usually work alone, make some charts and demos to explain the ideas to the others and then I bring the material to the rehearsal. Then I work on the material alone again and after a couple of rehearsals a new composition is born.

Did you already have a “sound” in mind or did it spontaneously turn out to be the sum of the three musicians?
Both! I always have a vision for the next album and some concrete ideas, but it’s still very important to remain open for other ideas and feedbacks: everyone in the band has his “expertise fields”. In my case, as the person who brings all the musical ideas, I learned to detach myself from the material. Every time I bring some new compositions to the band, I must be open for changes. If a composition is already finished and works well already as it is, the others are happy to leave it exactly like that. It also happens that I have some parts that need to be worked on all together and I get lots of fresh inputs. Part of my job, as a composer is also to give to the other musicians plenty of space for self expression. That usually makes the music much better.
Compared to the versions recorded on disc, how does the live approach change?
There is practically no difference between the studio and a live show for us. We always wanted to be a live trio and to always sound like a live trio, keeping our performances on stage and in the studio as honest as possible. There are in fact almost no overdubs in the album, all the pieces are performed with the whole band together in one room and all the solos are improvised. All the takes in the studio were different. We simply chose our favourites. On stage we don’t get to choose of course, but the rest is the same: we just take our instruments, play and see what happens.
Listening to the songs you will hear timbres and styles that are apparently very different. What are the artists who most inspired you in your artistic training?
This might sound like a cliché-answer, but I really don’t think in “styles”. Music is music and it’s not like speaking different languages, but more like changing the dialect. Also my favourite artists come from very different times and places. I really like classical music and listen to a lot of Chopin and Janáček. From the “Jazz history”, I love some of Duke Ellington’s suites and I’m also a big fan of Chic Corea and Keith Jarrett. Speaking of contemporary musicians which I admire and who influences me a lot I have to name pianist Tigran Hamasyan (probably my all-time favourite) and saxophonist Ben Wendel. I could go on for one hour with name-dropping, but I’ll stop here! 
In such difficult years for a professional musician, what are your “survival strategies”, in what do you think the world of music has changed the most for a professional?
It’s a well known fact that the lives of artists, especially in the so called “jazz world”, were never easy and economically stable. Everyone does it for the passion and the deep meaning of music. In that sense, I feel privileged to be a part of this. I always wanted to be a musician and I’m really proud that I got the chance to do it. One of my goals was also to make a living out of it, but I keep asking myself if it’s still possible nowadays. Before Covid-19 it was already difficult to get gigs, sell your music was already impossible and reaching out to new people very difficult, even with the help of technology. Almost nobody that I know is able to make a living just being an artist: everyone has to teach or do something else.
Of course since two years we are living a special situation. Playing live was (and sometimes still is) impossible and everyone was just teaching, even some of the most famous artists. On the one hand it is a privilege to have this problem at all and not having to think about how to survive. On the other hand it is interesting that most of the time art is just a hobby, even for professional artists. I think about that a lot and I hope I’ll be able to come up with some solutions in the future. I personally believe that it’s part of our job, as artists, to think about how to make arts more present in the society and how to share and explain its value to the people.
The Observatory Tour, our current project with Nova, is one attempt to do so. We bring our music and visuals to astronomical observatories and planetariums, where people with the same passion for astronomy and science can experience a very special evening. We perform live while the videos which illustrate the music are projected in the big dome (360°). I think that nowadays it’s really important to figure out new and unexpected ways to share music with other people, combining different experiences and art forms. That will hopefully capture some attention through the noise!
What are your next musical steps?
The first next steps for Nova is The Observatory Tour 2.0, starting in April 2022. We will perform in different Planetariums in Switzerland, Germany and Austria, but the goal is to expand the tour to more countries for the end of 2022 and the beginning of 2023. During the summer we will already work on new material for the third album, which will be released in 2023 with a very special release show, but I’ll tell you more about that in the future!
The Anatomy of Bliss: an espresso with Christian Zatta and Nova copyright Jazzespresso 2022.
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