Skip to main content
Joris2 B Lasure2 B Bravo2 B3

FIVE BEFORE LIVE Q & A with Sam Comerford from Thunderblender

FIVE BEFORE LIVE: A new Q&A section posing 5 questions to our artists before their upcoming IMC concert.

Ahead of his performance with free-jazz trio Thunderblender at SPECTRUM Festival 2018 on Saturday 10th March (in an exciting double-header alongside Catherine Sikora & Brian Chase), we spoke to Irish saxophonist Sam Comerford about his music, what inspires him, and his return to Ireland!

Tickets & Info here

Sam Comerford is an improviser and composer from Dublin, Ireland. Active on the European scene, he specialises in creative improvised music, playing both tenor and bass saxophone.

Q. What motivates you, as a band/artist, to create music?

With Thunderblender, I wanted to put together a band that would surprise me. Music that is created spontaneously by a group improvising together is something very exciting to me. However, I also love bands that play with strong compositional ideas. This trio is my way of finding this balance. I don't think I've found it yet! As we've been gigging the music it has always been changing. Hendrik and Jens are brilliant improvisers and composers, who sit between many different influences; jazz, electronic music, improvisation, etc., so they can take the music in many different directions in the moment.

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

The music we make is instrumental and relatively abstract. I've never directly involved politics or my personal life, but of course these things influence everything you do. I think that if the meaning of the music is too obvious, there's no mystery anymore. On saxophone, I'm influenced by people like Lester Young, Eric Dolphy, Lee Konitz, but also more recent players like Chris Speed and Óskar Guðjónsson. Composers I've been listening to lately include Steve Lehman, Alban Berg, Tim Berne, and Henry Threadgill.

Q. Can you tell us about a seminal experience, project, or encounter that had a significant impact on your career?

Going to the jazz workshop at the Banff Centre in Canada was probably a turning point. I was 19, and not sure if I could make it as a musician. I'd been playing saxophone for four years, and was completely out of my depth. Being surrounded by musicians such as Dave Douglas, Donny McCaslin, Drew Gress, Matana Roberts, and Myra Melford was quite inspiring, and definitely influenced everything I've done since.

Q. Are you working on anything new at the moment? What’s next for Thunderblender?

Well, we're super excited to tour Ireland! It will be my first time playing my own music at home, which is pretty significant for me. It's also going to be Hendrik and Jens' first time in Ireland. As I write this I've just arrived at the Centre Culturel Irlandais in Paris, where I'll be in residence for a month. Among other things, I'll be writing new music for Thunderblender, which we'll play in Ireland and later Belgium, and record by the end of 2018.

I'm also excited about some projects as a sideman. Aerie, the European jazz quintet featuring dubliner Matthew Jacobson, will be touring and releasing our second album SONIC in May. It's a mixture of jazz, rock and improvisation and will be coming out on Berlin label QFTF. In December, I recorded an album with Hendrik's new project, the “warm bad” (warm bath in English), a septet with three guitars. We play beautiful songs and improvise, and it will be released in 2019 on De Werf records. I'm looking forward to playing on Camille Alban-Spreng's ODIL's second album in April, with some special guests. And I can't wait to play some live dates this year with my favourite Belgian singer, Lynn Cassiers and her Imaginary Band.

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

I don't know if anyone knows the answer to this question! However, it's clear that streaming services have disrupted and damaged record sales, and I don't see this changing. I don't think I know anyone born after 1990 who would download music – streaming is more convenient. Of course, a minority of listeners will want a physical object and so vinyl sales will always be there. There are other ways too. Jens, the drummer in Thunderblender, released an experimental pop EP in a matchbox with a download code.

Streaming services have such a huge audience that it's hard to justify keeping all music off their platforms. Many people won't make the effort to find music that isn't on Spotify, etc. It's a hard position for the musician to be in, we lose either way. So making a record has become pretty unprofitable. If you're lucky you can find a grant to support you, but otherwise you have two choices. You can do it all yourself, which takes lots of time to get right, if it works out. Or you can spend some serious money on a nice studio, etc, which can sound great. The problem with that is that you can't necessarily afford to pay a nice studio every year for each project. I have many friends who have albums ready to record, and are in the situation of not being able to afford it.

It also feels like a time when musicians are taking on every other job related to music. It seems like you have to become your own booker, promoter, website designer, recording engineer, producer, manager, and graphic designer, because there's no money to pay someone else to do it. People will always want to make great music, but I wonder how much music we're missing out on because of this.

Thanks, Sam!

Catch Thunderblender at this year's SPECTRUM Festival on Saturday 10th March along side Brian Chase and Catherine Sikora at The Fumbally Stables!

Tickets & Info here

Don’t miss out!

Subscribe to the IMC newsletter to keep up with the latest in Irish Jazz.

Sign up

Help us hold that note

Help support artists, and make the musical world in Ireland a richer place.