OTHER SIDE OF THE TRACKS Q&A with Sebastien Brun

A shamanistic electronic ritual, merging acoustic  textures and electronics effects with a singular rough style of playing, Seb Brun (aka Ar Ker) has appeared with Jeanne Added, Yasmine Hamdan and Magnetic Ensemble. He is one of the most active musicians on the French noise jazz scene, offering up whole worlds of sound, space and speed, and rhythms that are organic and mechanical all at the same time.

Following on from a chance musical encounter in Jazz Connective Ljubljana, Seb is collaborating again with Irish guitarist/electronic musician Shane Latimer, also joined by Finnish saxophonist Linda Fredriksson. For Jazz Connective Dublin, they create something entirely new. We spoke to Seb about his perspective on what improvisation is, experiences in music from La Réunion and Rajasthan, being connected in multiple ways while making music, and the active participation of the audience in creating musical meaning.

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

It's quite a hard question. Thinking about it, I've found two ways to answer:

The first one is to say that music for me has to be very close to everyday life, a real part of it, maybe even above it. Like a kind of cloud or eye covering the whole thing. I like when music is always here, without separating a time for music and a time for the rest. So, by extension, the question could be what is the most important thing in life ?

The other answer, maybe more realistic, is to say that the most important thing is to be connected - connected to the other musician, connected to the audience, to you, to the time and the space. 

I worked a lot with some traditional musicians from La Réunion Island who play Maloya. When I saw them few years ago, I realised that I was missing something - this connection. A connection to whatever you want, you believe, you feel. This became my most important thing. Not to be polite, not to be brillant, to pleased the audience, to be good at my instrument... But to be connected and to tell your true story.

Q. Can you tell us a bit about your collaboration with Shane Latimer? 

We met last spring in Ljubljana (Slovenia) for a Jazz Connective event. We had the opportunity to work as a trio with Irena Tomazin, an incredible Slovenian singer & performer. We had three days to exchange, to try, to play, and I think we started to find something common. I think a lot of us (improvisers & performers) are like researchers, we don't really know what we are looking for, we are just following some footsteps. 

Q. How do you see improvisation in music?

I think every musician is improvising. There are so many variables in music before notes, chords & solos - sound, timbres, dynamics, speed, durations, silence... all those parameters are a question of choice. The musician 'improvises' from those variables, what he feels could fit the best for this particular moment in this particular music.

Then the term 'improvised music' has become a stamp for a lot of stuff - maybe for musics that are not easy to formalise on charts, or just not interesting to formalise on charts. But charts are a specific way to translate music, not the only one. 

A lot of improvisers have a kind of canvas in mind when playing, with different possibilities, different choices to take.

That is what we are doing. Making choices.

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

Living between Paris & Lyon, I have some blood from Brittany, where I've spent a lot of time. The traditional style of dance festival there, called a "Fest Noz", brings hundreds of people dancing together. I've found the same kind of thing in La Réunion or India where I studied folk music from Rajasthan. 

In the 1990's-2000's the rave parties were like a new place where people could share and resonate together.

In one of my bands, 'Parquet' (kind of rough techno / noise played live), we talk a lot about the social power and role of music. Not really the political thing but the ceremony around the concert and what people can find in this particular moment. It's not a mystic thing I think (but I'm not really sure). 

In my last creation, 'Horns', we were working on this kind of active, in-the-moment experience. When you don't understand what you are looking or earring, your brains create answers because it needs it.

When you don't know what you are looking at in a show, you have to act, to be part of the thing, develop an understanding, create ideas, find a story. For this the performers have to be connected, persuasive, and honest, as I was saying in the first question.

When that's happening, everyone being a part of that beautiful unity, that's my ideal gig. It's not at all a question of style of music. And I like when, after the show, people tell you what they went through, and we realise that every story is so different.

Q. What are the most rewarding/challenging things about being a creative improvising musician? 

I'm maybe going again into that mystical thing, but this thing about being connected is quite challenging, because at the particular time of day could be too full, or you could be exhausted, angry, hungry, or you think you didn't practice enough... you know what I mean. It's quite challenging to find the consciousness of connection in the moment. And when you touch it it is so rewarding. 

Thanks Seb!

Hear Seb Brun perform at Jazz Connective:

With Shane Latimer
Wed 11th Dec, 17:30
Project Arts Centre.
Free launch performance

With Shane Latimer & Linda Fredriksson
Thurs 12th December
Project Arts Centre

– posted