Publicity picture by Dave Stapleton
Bassist and bandleader Jasper Høiby has a new project brewing. Featuring saxophonist Josh Arcoleo and Drummer Marc Michel, Jasper Høiby’s Planet B will make its first public performance on 19 November at the Cambridge Jazz Festival. Jasper Høiby explained the background to this new project to Matt Pannell.
London Jazz News: You have two bands already. What sparked the need for another project?
Jasper Høiby: I have a hunger to do something else, and now feels like a good time. I have had a couple of great years with Fellow Creatures, and I obviously play in Phronesis alongside, though I don’t lead that band anymore. With Planet B I want to explore a different lineup and some new musical expressions.
LJN: You’re known for your interest in environmental issues. Planet B sounds like it may be connected to those themes.
JH: I’ve always tried to make these issues a part of my music. I realised from early on that if I want to express something, music is the way to do it. I’d find it weird to do a project that was not related to my concerns and opinions. I need to have that connection and honesty in anything I do.
LJN: There’s a long relationship between music and political issues. Do you think that relationship is changing?
JH: You can get the feeling that things are changing. Musicians have been shouting about injustice for so long. Recently it seemed to me this had lessened a bit. People turned down the anger, but these days it has sparked off again. Gender issues, race…these are things people want to concern themselves with, which is great. These are serious times and it’s our duty to speak up and engage in debate with people holding opposing views. We have to bring about positive change.
LJN: Thinking about the music – what will the audience hear in Cambridge?
JH: Without sounding unprofessional… I don’t know! I can say they’ll get a really nice experience, and maybe something they didn’t expect. The three of us met and played and it was really nice. We played a couple of new things, a bit of free… we have two more plays and then things will take shape.
I’m keen for this to feel open. Whatever the specific tunes, tools, melodies, I want openness and playfulness to be a big part of it. Everyone gets the opportunity to create on the spot, and this has been a part of Phronesis and Fellow Creatures. In a quintet it’s harder to reach that space, but with just three players it’s more ‘possible’. I also have some electronic elements to incorporate.
LJN: Can you tell us more about the electronics? These are around the bass?
JH: Yes. I don’t want to sing or preach, but I’m looking at chopping up speech, triggering some samples, maybe. For the bass, I have a bunch of pedals, ways to create loops and soundscapes and once you start exploring that side of things it’s pretty mind-blowing.
LJN: What about the other players? You’ve not collaborated with them before?
JH: With Josh, it’s this immensely positive and honest thing in his playing. He’s fearless. He’s always played music, so it’s natural to him. He can kind of ‘do anything’. He can take anything, play it and make a statement with it – especially new music. It’s an amazing gift. He’s also a total dude to hang out with, too, which is very important.
With Marc, personally, we get on really well. His drumming is phenomenal. He has a great touch – he can play so quiet but with real intensity. He really listens, and he uses the entire range of dynamics. This is an amazingly attractive thing – all my favourite drummers can do it.
LJN: In April 2017 Fellow Creatures gave a beautiful and moving performance as a sextet, at The Vortex. There wasn’t a sense of one player soloing and others complementing. These roles became blurred. Individual and collective responsibility seemed to merge. Is there any link between this approach and your thinking about politics? On combating climate change, for example, there’s constant debate about joint versus individual action.
JH: That’s what music is about, and I’m glad you enjoyed the gig. My philosophy has always been to create something which is a ‘whole thing’. It’s about a collective. For example, Phronesis isn’t a ‘piano trio’. It’s three strong individuals, coming together to create ‘a thing’. It does translate into politics because without individual responsibility there is no collective. It’s positive to see how much we’re talking about current issues, because we need a collective consciousness in order to move forward.
LJN: What are your hopes for Planet B?
JH: I want to take the group to different places, explore new areas of music making. That’s my goal. We have two gigs booked, in Cambridge on 19 November, then at Kings Place on 14 December. After that, I’ll make a serious plan. Perhaps a recording, then more gigs. Who knows, it could go anywhere!