|GETTING TO KNOW YOU: MIKE JANISCH
Celebrating 10 Years in London
Wednesday February 5 | 8:30pm | £10
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It's hard to believe that Michael Janisch has been on the London jazz scene for over a decade, and tonight we celebrate his arrival from across the pond ten years ago with a typically engaging evening from the award-winning bassist. His unorthodox technique is augmented by a remarkable improvisational ability while remaining warm & accessible, effortlessly moving into a more melodic and rhythmic approach. An accomplished composer, bandleader, producer, promoter and record label owner (Whirlwind Recordings), you would be hard pressed to find a more well-rounded musician, and Michael has worked with jazz greats such as George Garzone, Roy Hargrove, Joe Locke, Dianne Reeves, Joe Lovano, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Kenny Wheeler, Lee Konitz, and Stan Sulzmann to name but a few. Tonight’s performance will include original compositions from his albums 'Purpose Built' and 'Banned in London' (the latter named one of the ‘best albums of 2013 by Downbeat Magazine) with a multitude of musical styles being represented including blues, straight ahead, African, rock and funk as well as covers of songs by jazz greats Jaco Pastorious, Miles Davis and Charles Mingus. Michael’s band tonight will feature some of the crème de la crème of UK musicians with Phil Robson on guitar, Alex Garnett and Paul Booth on saxes, Jim Hart on vibes and Andrew Bain completing the line-up on drums, with the likelihood that a number of Special Guests will stop by to join the party! A terrific evening of outstanding playing with advanced booking definitely advisable.
"Contributions like Janisch's - both as bassist and as producer - to the musical life of our great city are beyond price." London Jazz Blog;
“Exceptional creativity, brilliant musicianship and compositional intensity are what bassist/composer Michael Janisch is all about" - Jazz Times
“Michael Janisch is a commanding bassist, who brings a sinewy thrust to the ensemble with masterful agility.” Downbeat Magazine
“Janisch seizes the instrument with a blend of speed and energy as if he wants to be melody, harmony and rhythm all at once.” The Telegraph
MIKE JANISCH INTERVIEW FEBRUARY 2014
606: First of all it is simply remarkable how you manage to accomplish so much - running your label Whirlwind Recordings as well as pursuing your own career as a musician, composer etc. What's your secret?
MJ: For me, it's all about having a blast but also maintaining self-discipline, persevering and have good time management. And all of this comes from being inspired. All the things I do inspire me-- from being a father to plucking a bass-- and I know I only have one life to get as much of this done as possible. Also, I hardly ever spend any time watching TV and never do things like play video games or online gambling (which loads of musicians seem to do!). If I'm not spending time with my family or working out, I'm spending time with something to do with music, which for me is just fine.
606: Speaking of the label, what was the impetus behind its founding? Is there a particular philosophy that determines the artists you work with?
MJ: I wanted to have a record deal that was fair to me (or what I thought was fair) in terms of getting a good return out of the sale of my music. I'm of the mindset that I want to release my own music and make a living out of selling it. My own music has been a smaller but very important contribution to my yearly income as a musician and it helps me release more music, which is very important for me. When I shopped around I realized that I would have to give most or all of my proceeds away, so I started my own label. My label is what I call a cooperative label. Both artist and label invest and for the most part we split the proceeds according to who spent what. However, one thing my label does that I haven't heard any other labels do is that after WWR has made it's invested money back we give the remaining stock (minus what we sell off sites/stores) to the artist to keep 100% of the profits. It may sound stupid as an investor but as a result of this is inspires and spurs the artist to work hard to get the music out there because after we're recouped they can then make decent money on the sale of their own music stock and not have to buy records off the label. They can then keep this money to make more music or use it as income support while touring, or both. The label then retains its cut off the sale of the album through its' own revenue channels, so we continue to earn off it too. We both win. From my experience, when artists have to buy their own record and never see any royalties from their music, they aren't going to push touring the album music as much as they do when they know they will actually get something monetary for their own art. I believe this is why the label has been so successful, almost all of the albums on the label are in profit within the first year of release (and I'm talking anywhere from 1K to 10K investment as well). I know we do this for the love, and many musicians are just happy to have a record out there, but there is also a lot of fulfilment to actually get monetary return from one's own music as well, especially in a world where we have bills to pay.
606: As a bassist & composer, who would you cite as your primary influences?
MJ: My family, my close friends, the outdoors, and all great music that's made with no other agenda other than passion.
606: How would you describe the style of music that you write & perform, aside from calling it "modern" or "contemporary" jazz? These are such vague terms really these days that they don't give the listener much information to go on.
MJ: Well, at the root of it, I don't even call my music 'modern' or 'contemporary jazz' at all. I just call my music 'music' or my 'own music.' My own music is very informed by the entire history of blues/jazz/roots music (that sprang from Black America), but I also like electronic music, drum and bass, African music, rock, classical you name it. So I have no idea how to describe that. All of these influences find their way into my songs.
606: You are from the US originally but have lived in the UK for over a decade now. What are the most striking differences between the US and UK jazz scenes, and can you answer that from both the perspective of artist/composer as well as "label boss"?
MJ: I get asked all the time what the difference is and I can only say that the NY scene is its own thing and the UK scene is its own thing. They are different musically as they are culturally and both really worth checking out. For me personally, London is a very dynamic, historical and inspirational place to be based, I love living here and I've been influenced by it personally and musically. There is a thriving scene here with musicians from all around the world and tons of venues that support this music. I honestly don't know a city outside of NYC that has the sheer volume of musicians playing jazz/improvisational music that London has. I know there are some great scenes in cities all around the world but London must be up there as one of the top scenes after NYC. And one of the great reasons (for me anyway) that this is the case is that all the cats from the NY scene come through London on a near nightly basis, not to mention musicians from across Europe as well (who don't get to tour in the states all that often). So London is definitely a great place to be based for these reasons. The arts in general in the UK are supported much more than in the US and this enables dozens of bands to be touring every single month. And the Brits (especially the 'underground scene' that doesn't seem to get a lot of press outside of the UK even though they should) definitely have their own thing going on as well and I really dig a lot of it. I have to say (and I check out a lot music) it has to be one of the most creative homegrown scenes I know about in terms of composing original contemporary jazz music. This compositional aspect has probably been the biggest influence on my own music I believe. I still remain very connected with music from the States though (I am a Yank after all), and so I spend most of my listening time checking out what's happening mainly on the NYC scene, and I still tour most of the time with US-based musicians or cats from the UK who are actively interested in what is coming out of NYC. But that's not to say I don't seek out musicians who don't, or don't want to play with musicians who aren't coming from this place.
606: There are some who say that jazz is in a period of decline, evidenced by how difficult it can be to attract the "jazz" audience to certain events. What's your take on this, and what do you see as the path forward?
MJ: I honestly can't see how 'jazz' is in anyway in a period of decline. There is more volumes of great music by more and more musicians happening than ever before. There are more venues and festivals promoting jazz or jazz friendly music in more towns and cities across the world than ever before. Sure, it's hard to get every single gig packed every single night but that's just because there is so much of it. And also a lot of the musicians out there have no audience base I would say. They are unknown, so that's not a decline, there are just so many musicians all trying to fill clubs. They also don't know how to promote their own events, and many venues don't either, and then when they fail in 2 years of existence they blame it on a jazz decline, when they just sucked at promoting! It's hard to stay on top of it all I know that from experience. Also, rents are going up and it's harder and harder to make ends meet or to make a lot of money, but there are a lot of clubs doing it still. I don't have a pessimistic outlook on jazz today. I cant' keep up with all the things I have to do with this music and a large majority of my own events always have great crowds at them. I go to major festivals and see tens of thousands of people screaming for this music, whether it's the more accessible stuff or the most 'out' stuff on the menu... I've sold thousands of my own CDs on live gigs, which really helps me move forward, and I promote too and I know what it's like to take on risk and even lose money. I still don't think jazz is in anyway declining. It's more creative than ever, in all its forms. If anything is declining it's our societies, which make it hard or impossible for jazz/artistic type venues and clubs to thrive.
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