“We try to be in the moment and have as much fun as possible.” Vienna-based trio Mario Rom’s Interzone have a new album out to celebrate their 10th anniversary: Eternal Fiction. (Traumton Records) They take their band name from William S Burroughs’ writing, and trumpeter Mario Rom talked to Alison Bentley about the writer’s influence on their music; the ideas behind the tunes, and working together for 10 years with Lukas Kranzelbinder (bass) and Herbert Pirker (drums.)
London Jazz News: How has this year affected your music?
Mario Rom: The plan was to release the album in June- we would’ve gone to Canada for a 2-week tour. And this January we had 14 gigs which are nearly all cancelled. It’s difficult, but we try to make the best of it, so we have time to work on new music and practise. And I have much more time to spend with my family and 2-year-old son.
LJN: The tracks on your new album are all quite short and intense, but feel much longer and absorbing.
MR: Generally when we play live, we have very long pieces with lots of improvisation- we try to go with the flow. What we tried to do with the album is, even if we had to cut it down, to keep the same energy as if we had complete freedom.
LJN: You’ve been described as sounding like a much larger band.
MR: We try to be in the moment and have as much fun as possible. Maybe it’s the joy we have in playing the music.
LJN: Which philosophical ideas have influenced your music?
MR: Right at the beginning the whole band was influenced by William S Burroughs. Everything can come out and you don’t need to question it. That’s how we see our music . Everybody can bring everything to a gig or play anything in any tune and we go along with it.
We tried to find names for the tunes that leave space- that are open to interpretation. All of us are big fans of art that doesn’t explain everything. The title Eternal Fiction has different meanings for us- for example, even though we’ve had our tenth anniversary, we still enjoy the process of playing and spending time together so much, that it feels like it could go on forever. Eternal Fiction is inspired by a book, Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari. It describes the importance of stories and myths in the development of our society. It’s important to question those things.
LJN: How has your music developed over 10 years?
MR: From the first concert onwards we really felt we had a band sound. We knew we wanted to go in the same direction musically, so everything felt familiar. What’s changed in these 10 years is that each of us has developed in his own way. Every concert is still so fresh, because after 10 years we still don’t know how it’s going come out. The title of our second album is Everything is Permitted and it’s still our motto. It means we can play Dixieland one moment, and the next moment avant-garde pop.
LJN: You started out studying classical music.
MR: I started playing trumpet aged 8 in Admont in Styria, and I grew up with marching band music. It’s a big tradition in Austria. My father was the leader of one of the marching bands and he was also my teacher, which worked very well for us. I played in the school big band for 8 years, where I became more familiar with jazz, and later I started studying classical trumpet too. My classical teacher was a very open guy so he really supported me in doing what I felt like. I got to know people like Lukas from the jazz course at University in Linz. He was studying jazz, and I was still studying classically when we founded Interzone.
LJN: Who wrote the tunes on your new album ?
MR: You Will Find Me No More is by Lukas. It’s quite melancholy, dreamy and surreal.
LJN: You play in a very emotional, breathy way.
MR: I’m a big fan of Ambrose Akinmusire- he’s one of my main inspirations. The others are all my tunes. I think of Are We Real as a rhumba, but whatever comes into the listener’s mind is the right image or story.
LJN: I think this track shows your incredible discipline.
MR: This track is completely composed; other tunes have bigger and smaller improvised parts. No Matter of Health was originally “no measure of health” but our sound guy misspelled it.
LJN: So the title is improvised?
MR: Exactly. That’s bebop. The title is from a Krishnamurti quote:
“It is no measure of health to be adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”
On each of our four albums we have one tune that’s an anagram. Lion Care is the name of my girlfriend. It also gets very emotional
LJN: Matala is a Chicago blues?
MR: It’s a place in Crete where in the 60s and 70s a hippy movement was living in caves by the sea. Joni Mitchell was there for some time. I’m a great Joni Mitchell fan, and her song Carrie is about Matala. My girlfriend and I went on holiday there. We went to sleep early with our young son, but next to the apartment there was a blues band playing till 2 o’clock in the morning. It was a rough night but the tune was inspired by that band.
LJN: Phenomenon comes with a mysterious, funny video on the dodgems?
MR: We didn’t know we were going to do it like that until a few hours before we started shooting. That whole Nintendo style was a really improvised process. Mysterious and funny are good things! Responsibility is a kind of a drum feature even if there’s no solo. It’s like an open energy thing.
Chant for the Voiceless has a very emotional message. I think most people would agree that every living being has the right to live. Around 2000 animals are killed every second, and mostly we don’t need it. Those animals have the same wish to live that we do and the same feelings of fear. This tune is dedicated to all those, including all those humans that suffer because of our way of living
Here’s to Another Decade is a celebration of our 10th anniversary. “Something with Ornette” was the working title – it’s very much inspired by Ornette Coleman.
We take a lot of risks to keep the music fresh; to keep that feeling we had at the very beginning, even though we know each other so well.