Thornros: When did you decide to become a musician? Are you happy with your life as a musician?
Backenroth: Even since I was a child I knew that I wanted to become a musician. It was during my second year at the Swedish “gymnasium” that I started to put some effort into my bass carrier and started practicing. Today I am very happy with my decision to become a musician, although I did not always have enough time for my family and friends. My job has very special working hours, and I have spare time during the day to spend with my family. I have never had the problem of stressful mornings, which I am very thankful for.
You really “live your job” when you work as a musician. I walk around always thinking about music, while cooking, driving and so on. Sometimes I can be more productive without my instrument in my hands. I just practise inside my head, thinking of a melody that later can be used in one of my improvisations.
The best thing about being a musician is to play with others. Especially in the jazz-business where everyone has a very important role in the band.
Music is a kind of language, you speak and communicate with people simply using melodies. You can socialise with people from unknown places by using the language of music, without even understanding a word.
When you travel as much as I do you get the opportunity to visit places and cities that you would normally not go to. I have been to many amazing and unbelievable places thanks to my job.
(Backenroth then gives me an example of when he and his band met colleagues in Japan and they were not able to talk to each other in any other language than music. But despite their limitations, they socialized the whole night long that way.)
Thornros: How do you know Monica Zetterlund?
Backenroth: I have been a part of Monica Zetterlunds’ band for years and I played a lot with her. We recorded many albums together and we were very good friends. We had a lot in common because of our backgrounds in Värmland. I did not realise how “big” she was on the Swedish jazz scene, until she died. But she was just unbelievably fantastic, we shared lots of great musical moments together.
Thornros: Where do you get all of your inspiration?
Backenroth: Legendary musician are of course a very big source of inspiration for me. I also get inspiration from people around me, the musicians I play with and talk to, as well as family and friends. Nature can also be a source of inspiration –– I find harmony while walking in the forest.
Bass - Sweden
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Hans Backenroth: from classical guitar and flute to upright bass
Interview by Astrid Thörnros, Gy1
Lilla Akademien Musikgymnasium
On the 9th of October, on Götgatan in Stockholm, I met Hans Backenroth, one of the world’s leading jazz musicians. He told me about his musical life and experiences, as well as how to succeed in the music industry.
Thornros: How and why did you start playing the string bass?
Backenroth: My big brother Jan started taking me to great rock concerts when I was around 6 years old, that of course inspired me a lot. I also listened to Jan’s band during rehearsals and practices. I got very impressed and fascinated, especially by one particular instrument, the bass. It was the sound that was so enchanting. One day I came home with a new LP record, it was “Heavy weather” with the bassist Jaco Pastorius. He made a very big impact on me with his way of playing melodies on the bass. But it was not until I heard the bassist Neils-Henning Ørsted-Pedersen live, that I made the decision to become a musician. The way Ørsted-Pedersen played was way beyond the limits of what I thought any instrumentalist was capable of, which made me very inspired to start playing and keep on practising.
At the age of eight I started playing the classical guitar and then I started playing the flute at the local music school. It was not until the age of thirteen that I started playing the electric bass. It was now that I truly got the feeling that I had found my type of instrument. I finally fell in love with the string bass at the age of 19. It all started out with me getting a string bass from one of my friends who had an old one in the basement, so he gave it to me. I started playing all alone at home, because it was not possible to take lessons at the local music school.Then I went to a concert where I found a bassist who truly amazed me with his unbelievable skill and sound. I asked him if he could give me private lessons. To my joy, he accepted the offer. There was one big problem though, he lived in Gothenburg and I lived in Karlstad. I started traveling to Gothenburg for private lessons. It was then that I fell in love with the instrument, and I focused all of my energy on the string bass.
Thornros: Why do you play jazz?
Backenroth: I actually did not like jazz during my first years of playing music. It was when I found out about my role models that I understood that jazz is a great music genre. I started to read a lot of jazz magazines at the school library, which opened a whole new world to me. I got into the jazz world after reading many magazines about artists and good music in general. This not only developed my knowledge about jazz, my English skills improved as well. My English skills became so advanced that I could finished my final English course before anyone else in my class. I started listening to many jazz musicians and went to a lot of concerts, to further develop my knowledge of music. These moments were very important for me and really affected my view of jazz as a genre. Today I especially enjoy improvisation because you have the power to build a whole new language. You can hear who is playing just by listening to the improvisation, because it is so personal and versatile.
Thornros: What are your best tips for succeeding in the music business?
Backenroth: First of all you must love music! You should enjoy every part of music, think it is pleasurable and fun! The only way to improve is by practicing. You have to play and practise with passion until you master your instrument and can express whatever you want with your instrument. You should look forward to and be focused on the concerts that you will participate in. If you play jazz you should be very prepared for the improvisation and all the unpredictable things that can happen.
To succeed you have to have “the need of playing” and a desire to transform the tones in your head to your own music. You should also be very open to everything and everyone in the music world. You may also need a dash of talent, but that is absolutely not the main source of success.
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