A talk with Magnus Öström

Image Credits: Magnus Ostrom

June 12, 2017
After becoming famous with E.S.T. together with Esbjörn Svensson and Dan Berglund, the drummer Magnus Öström with his solo project is considered one of the most interesting musicians on the contemporary jazz scene.
We have interviewed the musician on the eve of the birth of his new trio project.
> Ivano Rossato

You recently played at NATTJAZZ in Bergen, Norway, with a new project with Bugge Wesseltoft on piano and Dan Berglund, your long-time partner in E.S.T., on double bass. Can you tell us something more?
Bugge proposed about six months ago to try and do something together. I’ve been knowing him for a lot of time, since when with E.S.T. we travelled together on tour. However, we never played together and I was very happy to accept the invitation, also because it’s the first time we play in trio after the experience with E.S.T. The rehearsals have really been very amusing, we had a lot of original tracks on which we have worked together, and the audience has greeted us very warmly. We still don’t know how this project will be developed, but we will be very happy to play live again and maybe to record an album. We all are very busy but this is likely to happen starting from next January.
E.S.T. music, Magnus Öström Group music as well as Wesseltoft’s work contain a lot of references to many different genres. What’s jazz today?
It’s always difficult to discuss about the “Jazz” word and what it is. I think that if you ask 100 persons you will get 100 different definitions. To me, jazz means freedom, to try all that comes to your mind without any tag. Especially in Europe, you can find a mix of different genres combined together. Obviously the States gave birth to traditional jazz as we intend it, but nowadays all over the world many new artists are growing up, each developing the genre in a very personal way.
Which is the message behind Parachutes, your third album as a solo artist, and which projects do you have for Magnus Öström Group?

Magnus Öström - Parachute

The album title is very important to me. In the years after Esbjorn [Svensson]’s death, music saved me in the darkest moments, it literally was a parachute allowing me to go on. In this sense, the album is a tribute to the positive energy of music, and to its strength in helping us to overcome even the most difficult moments. From the beginning of this group, I had the idea of recording three albums with the same line-up and see what would have happened. Since then, we went very far and we are still evolving nowadays. The guys have a very strong personality and their own voice. My fame just acted as a springboard for them and I’m very happy that now each one of them can present his own solo project.

What is your opinion on the possibilities offered by the web and the several streaming platforms?
I have conflicting opinions. On the one side, platforms such as Spotify are incredible because you can find practically all the music you like. Even too much! And maybe this abundance is disorienting old style people, like me. I still love to go into a record shop where the owners know my tastes and can give me some advice and propose artists I could be interested in. On the other side, then, there’s the aspect of the artists’ compensation, and honestly the earning is practically null, there’s no comparison with the earnings deriving from the sale of traditional records. And this is a problem, because to continue to write and develop new music you need a minimum earning to carry on. In a long term vision, then, I don’t think it is sustainable, because if the artist is not able to survive with his own music, then he won’t even have the time to develop new things.
Do you have any advices for a young musician who want to take up a career and live from music?
I think it’s the same as ever: you must trust in what you do, even if around you there are people telling you you’re not worth it. Carry on developing your personal voice and sooner or later you will find somebody listening to it. It is very important, especially when you’re young, to play in several projects and line-up, only by doing this you will be able to find your own way. Presently, the media continually propose new music and new artists, but I think that, at the end, the strong voices will emerge. It is necessary to trust in yourself instead of concentrating on what the audience wants to listen to, to cultivate your own art and, sooner or later, it will emerge.

In addition to your shows in America and Europe, are you planning to play again in Eastern Asia?
With E.S.T. we played a lot of gigs in Japan and South Korea, and I’m looking forward to going back in Eastern Asia where there’s a fantastic and very involved audience, and I would like to continue to discover the local musical scene which is very thriving.

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