OTHER SIDE OF THE TRACKS Q&A with Chris Engel, BigSpoon

South African saxophonist and adopted Irishman Chris Engel has cultivated a successful career in jazz and improvised music throughout Europe with his chameleon-like musical talents; adept in small and large ensembles, free improv, contemporary jazz, and latterly electronic music. Through this lens of electronic bits and bytes, BigSpoon emerge. This musical offering is a crystallization of Chris’ musical journey which brings all of his impulses and influences to bear in the company of some of Ireland's leading improvisers and electro-sonic explorers, creating a sound world designed to immerse both the artist and the audience. Ahead of BigSpoon's performance at Signal Series on Thursday 6th February, Chris shared some of his thoughts with us on introspection as a musician, enveloping the audience in music, and concerns for the future.

Q. What is the most important thing to you when making music? 

That I am happy with the result. I think that it’s quite easy to be bound to a concept or idea or get completely caught up in the catalyst of a composition. In my experience/observations, too seldom is the question, “Am I happy with the result? Is the result a reflection of my musical taste/experience?” asked. When playing improvised music, the desire to be happy with the result obviously has to be balanced with the knowledge that one’s own musical agenda might be slightly different to that of a fellow band member so a compromise has to be reached.

Q. Who or what inspires you at the moment - be it in music, arts, politics or your personal life?

The idea of attaining a state of flow I suppose. I’m quite an introspective individual and one of the characteristics of my personality I think about a lot is my tendency to make everything difficult or a struggle. I’m quite inspired by displays of grace, be it in dance, sport, music or whatever else.

Q. How would you describe the kind of music that BigSpoon makes?

Electronic Improvised Music. The compositions are relatively sparse and a lot is required of the individual band members to make it sound like music. Hopefully the result is a sound rich in the Musical personality of each individual.

Q. In your ideal gig, what experience/response would the audience have? 

An immersive one, where they’re completely enveloped in the moment and the music. That’s how I came up with the name of the band. I’d love for the music to wrap itself around you like a big hug.

Q. What direction do you see the music industry headed towards in the next 20 years?

Honestly, I’m quite worried about where the music industry is headed. Every year I think it becomes harder and harder to justify dedicating one’s self to music and one hears more and more rhetoric about the value (or lack thereof) of funding the arts and organisations like national orchestra and the like. I feel as if the value of certain things in life isn’t truly understood until those things are gone and that is certainly true for certain disciplines and genres of music. The influence that improvised music, contemporary music, classical/serious music and other less commercial genres of music have on the quality of more commercial genres/disciplines of music is significant, and without these less commercial genres/disciplines of music being safeguarded, funded and supported by the state and the various communities in which they exist, I shudder to think of what the state of music will be in 20 years. 

Thanks Chris!

Hear BigSpoon in a double-header with ÄTSCH at 
Signal Series
Thursday 6th February, doors 9pm
Arthur's Blues & Jazz Club

Tickets only €10 online/€12 door available HERE.

– posted