The End was formed when London-based record label RareNoise Records suggested that Mats and I create a band together, which made it a collaborative organization already from the start. Giacomo Bruzzo, RareNoise’s founder and creative force, gave no directions regarding which musicians or instrumentation the band should contain. Mats and I spent the first half of 2017 discussing potential band members via email. We landed on a quintet format, with American drummer Greg Saunier, Swedish vocalist Sofia Jernberg, and Anders Hana on guitar.
Anders and I played together for six years in Ultralyd, where his use of effect pedals was formative to my approach and aesthetics as I first explored the electrified saxophone. For the last five years, he had prioritized drums and not played the guitar in band settings. I had deeply missed his guitar playing during those years and decided to ask him to pick it up again to join The End. In my humble opinion, his use of guitar and electronics in Moha! and Ultralyd were essential contributions to the 2000s European experimental scene.
Personal historic relations were already a factor in this band. Mats Gustafsson had drastically changed my conception of what a saxophone could be when I, as a student in the year 2000, heard his trio The Thing's self-titled album (Crazy Wizdom, 2000) for the first time. In particular, their version of the song Mopti by Don Cherry displaying Mats' extreme articulation techniques was highly fascinating to me, proposing the saxophone to take on an entirely new set of functions and roles. During a recent conversation, he explained: “there is something special about the sax because it is about breath and pulse, beat. I see the saxophone as a huge percussion instrument played with the breath, with which you can also play tones. It invokes a kind of primitive, primordial communication with those you play with, which is quite incomparable."1 This transfers to my intentions working with the electrophonic saxophone; to explore new potential by approaching the instrument as if it was of another kind.
In The End, Mats uses a live electronics set up separate from the saxophone, which, from my perspective, is an interesting choice since my research is based on the idea of combining the two. He states that: “I used to process the saxophone sound in different projects, but when I started playing with Paul Lovens, Barry Guy, and Peter Brötzmann et al. and my saxophone technique was developing, I found that the music left no time to process the sound, the electronics made the instrument too slow.”2 This is a challenge I also experience. Sometimes musical situations occur when I wish that the processing tools had more rapid flexibility.
I tend to engage with the electronics from two different approaches; either by playing with one effect configuration for an extended time or by playing the electronics directly by tweaking effect parameters. The two approaches have different consequences. Playing along with a configuration involves less tweaking but offers my saxophonistic playing an extended sonic and expressive range. This approach allows for a more elaborate exploration of the instrument relating to the specific configurations, and the effects become a part of the modified instrument's resonant body. When I play by affecting the effect pedals’ parameters, the saxophone acts mainly as a signal source, and the effect pedals become the instrument, more related to the field of live electronics.
In The End, I use both of these approaches. I often use effect-playing as an improvisational option when the music invites for it. Still, the extended playing on a more fixed configuration dominates. It facilitates a position within The End where I can explore a stretched-out, compositional approach to electronic sound processing, as it complements Mats’ rapid, explosive playing style. Playing alongside another saxophonist, especially one that has been so pivotal to my own development, enables different premises for the interplay. Mats and I have many of the same aesthetic preferences, and we both enjoy energetic saxophone playing. Even though we have a different core sound, we will sometimes intuitively occupy the same sonic positions. Part of the work in The End has dealt with finding these role divisions between Mats and me to utilize our potentials rather than trying to conquer the same space. In that respect, the challenges and questions that emerge from playing in a band with two saxophonists are rewarding and give great insight into my practice and potential roles as a saxophonist.
Since many of the musical practices that constitute The End have free improvisation as a central part, the compositions often explore ways to organize the free improvisational impulses that the band has innate.
The phonetic composition Rich and Poor gathers the band in sonic coherence by individual interpretations of each letter’s phonetic qualities and transferring them to the instruments. The intro part for Both Sides Out has another way of textually structuring improvisations by giving associative directions. Intention and Release explore a restrictive orchestration of the band, sharply contrasted by Mats’ ruptures by the end of the song.
The End saw the departure of Greg Saunier after the first release. He was substituted by Stavanger-based drummer Børge Fjordheim. The process and development of the band have tended towards more structured compositions and a more evident role division between the instruments. My use of electronics has made me associate more generally with the drums and bass to form a rhythm section, e.g., in the tracks The Prayer, The Prey from the EP Nedresa (RareNoise Records, 2020), Allt Är Intet, and Kråka. Rörde Sig Aldrig Mer from the LP Allt Är Intet (RareNoise Records, 2020).