An interview with Magnus Öström

Ahead of Swedish drummer/composer Magnus Öström’s return to Band on the Wall, we caught up with the metronomic rhythm maker to discuss drum modifications, the evolution of his latest project and some of the many places music has taken him.

Your first performance here at Band on the Wall was with e.s.t. back in 2001, and since that time you’ve toured to many places, recorded a variety of music and established your own project. What have been the most interesting places music has taken you to?

‘The music has literally taken me around the globe several times and I’m super thankful to have had the opportunity to see so many different places, just because I’m playing the drums. I’ll give you a few examples: The Dome in Brighton, The Barbican, The Opera House in Buxton, Band on the Wall of course, a concert at a couple of destilleries at the Islay Jazz Festival, Sarajevo, Moscow, more or less all countries in Europe, Vina del Mar Chile, Mexico City and Morelia in Mexico, Japan, South Korea, the Opera House in Wellington New Zeeland, Sydney and Perth Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Ouro Preto Brazil, Vancouver, Seattle, Los Angeles, Malibu, New York, Pete’s Beach house in Half moon Bay California, Santa Fe…the list goes on and on, I can’t name them all. Iceland was fantastic as well.’

The musicians you play with in this project have varying musical backgrounds, ranging from conservatory educated jazz musicians to a former hardcore player. Do you feel it is important for a musician to play in various styles in order to develop as players and is it important for the aesthetic of this band that you can each diversify your playing?

‘For me the most important thing is that you are totally open to take on any kind of music, then it doesn’t matter how you do it. The best is if you can find your own way and play from your point of view, not what “the book” says. Of course it’s a bonus if you have played different kind of music, it widens your perspective.’

Lots of modern drummers like to modify the acoustic drums and cymbals to achieve distinct sounds and you appear to sometimes do the same with your equipment. What is the science or the thought process behind the modifications and what results have been the most effective within your music?

‘For me it’s all about colors and sounds, it doesn’t matter if it’s a special cymbal, a plastic bag or an electronic sound, it just gives you a wider palette from where you can express yourself and support the music in the best way you can. Sometimes you hear a sound in your head, then you start to search for it and it can take you anywhere.’

In addition to the drums, you’ve played some fascinating instruments from around the world to bring colour to recordings; like an Ektara (Gopichand) and tablas. What sorts of instruments most interest you and do you find your piano and drumming skills transfer to these less common instruments?

‘I really like to play the piano but I don’t do it enough. I definitely think that your skills on one instrument transfers to any instrument you play, or maybe more your musicality. You might not play that certain instrument as it “should” be played but it can also open up new directions. As Daniel, the keyboard player in the band use to say, ‘It sounds like you playing drums on the piano’… enough said!’

You indicated in the Parachute EPK that you wanted to see how the current project developed across three albums. Having recorded the third, do you feel there’s further evolution for the project and are there other projects you would like to pursue?

‘I think the band is still evolving and there’s more room for further explorations with this project but I’m also interested in finding other ways. I’m happy to be a sideman with Lars Danielsson’s Liberetto project which allows me to play the drums in a little bit different way than how I play them in my band. I also looking forward to more gigs with the e.s.t. Symphony project, it’s a beautiful project and it’s fun to play with Dan (Berglund) from time to time. We’ll see what the future might bring.’

What can fans expect to hear on your return to Manchester this month?

‘Of course they will hear a lot of the music from the latest album, Parachute, but also some older ones. We really looking forward to come back to Manchester and Band on the Wall.’

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Sunday | 29.01.17

Magnus Öström

Band on the Wall, Manchester