Skúli Sverisson: A Seria ManOver the past two decades, composer/bass guitarist Skúli Sverrisson has worked with a veritable who's who of the experimental world, from free-jazz legends (Wadada Leo Smith, Derek Bailey) to music icons (Lou Reed, Jon Hassel, David Sylvian, Arto Lindsay) and composers (Ryuichi Sakamoto, Jóhann Jóhannsson, Christian Fennesz). Sverrisson is also known for his work as an artistic director for Ólöf Arnalds (Innundir Skinni, Vid og Vid), recordings with Blonde Redhead, and as a musical director for legendary performance artist Laurie Anderson.
He has released a series of duo albums in collaboration with artists such as Anthony Burr, Óskar Gudjónsson and Hilmar Jensson. He has been a member of many influential groups including Pachora, Alas No Axis, The Allan Holdsworth Group and The Ben Monder Group. Sverrisson has also composed music for The Icelandic Dance Company (Open Source), The National Theatre of Iceland (Volva), and numerous films and installations, such as "Welcome" and "Music for Furniture" with Ólafur Thórdason, "Spacial Meditation" with Claudia Hill, and "When It Was Blue" with Jennifer Reeves. Sverrisson founded Sería, an ongoing ensemble featuring Amedeo Pace (Blonde Redhead), Ólöf Arnalds, David Thór Jónsson, Anthony Burr, Eyvind Kang and Hildur Gudnadóttir, in 2005, and released "Sería" in 2006 and "Seria II" in 2010.
He has appeared on over 100 recordings and has performed around the world with a wide range of artists. Recent works include series of live film /music performances with experimental filmmaker Jennifer Reeves, three new recordings of his ongoing collaboration with Anthony Burr, and a new duo recording with Óskar Gudjónsson. Sverrisson has been awarded 5 Icelandic Music Awards, including Icelandic Album of the Year for "Sería" in 2006.
"Modir" of Seria II
"Instants" of Seria II
"Volumes" of Seria II Live @ Iceland Airwaves festival 2009
First up, what's the idea behind Seria - the "series" as opposed to the first album?
At the point when I started Seria I had been involved in music making for a while in so many different kinds of situations and I was interested in finding some sort of thread between them. Mostly the ones on the opposite end of the spectrum, free improvisation and songwriting. I also wanted to work closely with musicians not involved in any particular music style, who had developed a personal voice.
For those that haven't heard it, how would you describe Seria I to people?
Well, it is composed music informed by instrumental experimentation and improvisation...but done through quite traditional means in terms of instrumentation and material.
What are the key differences between I and II?
Seria l was about creating a relationship with the musicians involved and bringing the resonance of that into being. Seria ll involves mostly the same musicians working further with what we had discovered.
It took a few years to complete the sequel - what have you been doing in between?
My musical activities lately have somehow been unexpected...from conducting and producing to writing for theater. But I still perform and record with with many of the musicians I've worked with for years.
There are a lot of collaborators on this record - you seem to enjoy collaborating, where does this impulse come from?
Yes, I am fascinated by the social aspect of music making and how it comes about...every time I work outside that world I'm surprised how many meetings you have to go to...Music has a way of reaching somewhere without a word.
Why did you choose the musicians you did on this record? Are they all people you've worked with before?
I chose them because they all seem to be very curious about music both as listeners and performers.
Your music has a languorous, dream-like quality to it - is this something intentional or just a natural outcome of your compositional technique?
I do enjoy the sound of long tones and how they interact and create hidden melodies...as well as things being slightly out of focus.
What got you started down the musical path in the first place?
My father plays and listens to music, that had alot to do with it.
You live in the states now - in fact your relationship with America goes back to the 80s when you studied at Berklee; what did you study there, and what fond (or otherwise) memories do you have of those years?
At Berklee studied mostly practical aspects of music making harmony, counterpoint arranging and such, as well as being around amazing musicians every day, many of whom I still work with today.
How do you find life as a musician in New York as compared to, say, Reykjavik...?
Most of the musicians I know in Reykjavik and New York are dealing with very similar questions regarding life in music and both places offer many of the same possibilities.
You have worked a lot with Laurie Anderson, are you still acting as her music director and co-performer? What does that role entail exactly?
Yes, I have worked with Laurie Anderson over the last 10 years on many different projects. My role would vary depending on the work...from performing to directing to conceptualizing. We continue to work together.
What other projects are you engaged with right now? Will you be touring this year etc?
I just finished a new duo recording with Oskar Gudjonsson. And at the moment I am preparing for two shows in New York, the first one being a solo performance of new works for the music series at The Stone on February 24th, curated by Laurie Anderson and Lou Reed. The second one is a Seria II record release concert at Le Poisson Rouge on March 15th. I'm also conducting "Cosmography" by Briggan Krauss at The Kitchen, February 25th and 26th. I will be playing in the spring with Wadada Leo Smith in Italy and Theo Blekman in France. The Reykjavik Arts Festival will present a concert on May 20th featuring the Seria Music and the music of Olof Arnalds.
Source: Iceland Music Export