‘Simorgh’ is a new album by Portuguese drummer João Lobo, with Norberto Lobo on guitar and Soet Kempeneer on double bass.
“Searching without worrying about finding”
How do you remember the recording of ‘Simorgh’?
João Lobo: We had a residency for a week at Les Ateliers Claus in Brussels thanks to an invitation by its artistic director, Tommy Denys. Christophe Albertijn, who recorded, mixed and mastered the album, was with us all the time and that was a great luxury because he is such a great engineer and person to work with. We all felt comfortable with the sound. There were no recording booths, panels or headphones involved so the whole environment was perfect for making a record.
We recorded all the songs pretty quickly, in a few takes. In the last couple of days we made some overdubs. The record was pretty much done that week. After that, Christophe had some time to mix but all the music and the order of the songs were pretty much chosen and decided in that week.
In my head I had been preparing this record for a year, so I think that helped.
What kind of album did you want to make with ‘Simorgh’?
I wanted to record my music with these two exceptional musicians. In a way I also wanted to make a sequel to my first album ‘Nowruz’, which is an acoustic drums solo, released in 2017 by the Swiss label three:four records.
What does “Simorgh” mean?
Simorgh is the name of a mythical bird in the Persian language.
Why did you ask Norberto Lobo and Soet Kempeneer?
Soet was my first choice for the bass and Norberto was the obvious choice as the third element. Soet is an amazing double bass player, but he also plays electric bass and keyboards and is very much into electronic music, so he’s also a searcher, like me and Norberto, who is not only a brilliant guitar player but also a prolific composer who makes beautiful drawings.
What do you have in common with them?
We like to search and are not too worried about the finding part.
And what are the differences?
We are all different musicians obviously and if you listen to each of our solo projects you will hear that. I just found another thing we have in common: we all have solo projects.
Why did you choose the traditional guitar/bass/drum line-up?
I didn’t choose the instruments. I choose the musicians. Initially I thought of doing the trio with Soet and a wind instrument because I basically wrote basslines with melodies on top. Very modal stuff. So I made some sessions with other musicians but after a while I realized that Norberto was the perfect third element. He loves modal!
“I basically made the frame and the three of us painted the picture together.”
How would you define what you do on this album? Free jazz meets avant-rock?
I’m too much involved in it to be able to define it. I leave that to you. It’s my music, which will probably always be difficult to define since my baggage as a musician and listener is very diverse. And it’s also my music played by two very creative and unique musicians who are also difficult to label.
You made this album as a trio but the album carries your name.
I wrote the music and thought a lot about where I wanted the music to go but the written material is very little. I wanted Soet and Norberto to feel free to have their own input. That was the idea all along because they are really excellent and creative musicians. I basically made the frame and the three of us painted the picture together. Then I choose the pictures that would go on the album.
Do you think you compose with a “drummer’s state of mind”?
I’m not sure I know what you mean by a “drummer’s state of mind”. None of the music written for this record came from drums though. Actually one of the hardest things for me was to figure out what I should play on the songs. Most of it I figured out on the spot.