Michael Janisch launches his latest album, Worlds Collide, with a concert by his new band at Kings Place on Friday, September 27. He spoke to Rob Adams:
It’s the Wisconsin-born, London-based bass guitarist and double bassist’s first album since Paradigm Shift almost exactly four years ago but he has hardly been idle in the interim. He toured the material
from Paradigm Shift exhaustively, playing some 140 concerts, and between his own group and his work as a freelance musician he regularly plays 200 to 250 gigs a year.
He also runs the label, Whirlwind Recordings, that releases his output alongside a catalogue now running into just over 130 albums, and he produces some interesting figures that fly in the face of the perceived downturn in music sales.
“Our sales have actually gone up recently, with even items from the first set of releases from almost ten years ago picking up interest,” he says. “I think there’s a community out there who still want to buy
physical albums and they know that in buying music, rather than downloading it, they’re putting money into small companies and enabling them to make more records. So almost ten years in, I feel optimistic about the label.”
Worlds Collide is an optimistic album, too, although some of the thinking behind the music reflects current times and a feeling that we might be facing a breaking point in terms of politics and the ecology.
“It was Clarence (Penn) who made the observation in the studio that the music was a series of collisions between musical worlds,” says Janisch. “There are a few different styles at work and as well as being heavily influenced by both the London and New York scenes, there’s free improvisation, soaring melodies and quite complex grooves paying homage to artists as diverse as Feli Kuti and the electronic music pioneer Aphex Twin.
“I thought Worlds Collide was such an apt title because of that but also because of the times we’re living through. Your music is naturally informed by your life experiences, so although I didn’t sit
down and compose music inspired by what was on the news on that particular day, I think the mood and the sense of turmoil fed into the compositions.”
As well as the aforementioned Clarence Penn, on drums, the band on the album features Pakistan-born Californian guitarist Rez Abbasi, saxophonist John O’Gallagher, and trumpeter Jason Palmer, with a UK contingent of saxophonist George Crowley, keyboardist John Escreet and drummer-percussionist Andrew Bain making guest appearances alongside the Americans.
For the Kings Place concert and the gigs in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Birmingham that precede it, Janisch will be joined by a band comprising George Crowley and Nathaniel Facey on saxophones, Rick
Simpson (keys) and Shaney Forbes (drums).
“It’s the first time I’ve led an all-British band for my own solo career,” he says. “And the guys I’ll have with me are all world class and I’m really excited to have a band of great friends who will develop the music from the album as we tour it.”
Fifteen years after he moved to London to be with his wife, Sarah, after completing his studies at Berklee, Janisch is at a happy placein his life.
“I feel I have a nice balance,” he says. “I’m able to enjoy a home life with Sarah and the kids and I love running Whirlwind, although I have people there to help me now. There are things I want to do in
music and I’d like to compose more and go deeper into it but I wouldn’t be happy if all my work consisted of composing. I couldn’t do it to order. I need to get out into the world and I love playing music for audiences. There’s something very satisfying about getting to the venue, setting up and – I hope – taking people away from whatever hassles they’ve experienced that day – myself included!.” (pp)