Sven Decker: Interview with the clarinettist and saxophonist from Cologne, Germany

Sven Decker studied at the Folkwang Hochschule (Essen) and lives now in Cologne. Between 2002 and 2004 he worked together with Gunter Hampel on a project called New Next Generation!. He won the Förderpreis jazzwerkruhr 2005 with the Avant-garde Trio Ohne 4 gespielt drei. During the same year he founded his quartet Feinkost Decker. Three years after being awarded the Förderpreis jazzwerkruhr he won it again in 2008 for the performance of U.F.O. unidentified flying orchestra. In 2014 the saxophonist and clarinettist Sven Decker formed Sven Decker´s TRANSPARENCY with the bass player Matthias Akeo Nowak and the Dutch performer and drummer Etienne Nillesen. The duo Gojo-Decker exists since nearly two years.

How important was music during your childhood?

SD: I started playing the clarinet at the age of 11 and had lessons with my grandpa. I played in the music society in the village and had a good exchange with other children and teenagers.
At 14, I discovered the saxophone for me and from that moment on, music was a very important part of my everyday life. The music gave me a lot of support and inspiration and was and is an important anchor in my life.

Do you remember the first Jazz tunes you heard?

SD: 'Take Five' by Paul Desmond and then Gary Thomas 'The Kold Kage' and Steve Coleman.

Why did you pick the saxophone and clarinet? Do you see a relation between your personality and the sound of the instrument? Would you mind to explain it in more details please.

SD: Saxophone and clarinet are very physical instruments. I can play softly and very loudly and also feel directly physical. The energy that I build up to produce sounds I like very much. I am a rather calmer character and can express myself expressively through the saxophone and the clarinet. Saxophone and clarinet are for me a mouthpiece and the extension of my thoughts. To enter into a dialogue with other musicians with my instruments is extremely enriching for me.

What type of Jazz did you discover during your studies?

SD: During my studies I discovered the music of Nils Wogram, Tim Berne, Kenny Wheeler, Tony Malaby, Steve Coleman and Gary Thomas. More modern currents in general. For a couple of years I've been listening to saxophonists like Ben Webster, Coleman Hawkins  and so on. I discovered this music very late. Authenticity was and always is very important to me in music. I like a lot of music and I am open in all directions and always discover more and more new aspects in contemporary music. Music has to grab me, touch me and occupy me, no matter what genre of music it is in the end.

How important are the lyrics for your duo performance?

SD: I always listen to melody and harmony first. These two aspects touch me or do not touch me. - First of all, the lyrics of a song are not so important for me. Later I try to connect the text with the melody . Whether I like a song or not depends not on the  verses. The song must have a nice melody and / or beautiful harmonies or should be rhythmically interesting.

Do you see the voice on an equal base to the saxophone? Why? Do you regard the voice as an instrument?

SD: Filippa and I are absolutely on an equal footing. We are in permanent exchange. It is more like a conversation or a story that we tell each other and continue together.
We work together on a common musical language consisting of melody, harmony and rhythm. We create common sounds and structures. Sometimes, however, we also deliberately look for polar opposites and take different positions. This makes the music so appealing and challenging. Ultimately, this is great fun. Composition and Improvisation are no more than two different, perceptible aspects. They merge into one sound.

Do you play more melodically or more rhythmically?

SD: I play rhythmically and melodically - completely on equal base.

How important is random and control taking into account that Jazz is mainly improvised and not fixed in chords and changes?

SD: I think you have to master your instrument and gain control over technology and sounds, so that you can really deal with it freely and openly. You must work out a vocabulary which you can then take back at the moment. This can happen by chance. But to be able to enjoy it, I have to rely on my vocabulary and rely on my instrument - on my technique. Only then I am really free for the moment. Chords and form represent only the outer frame. The design is often due to the situation and the chance of musical decisions.

Finally, let's talk about your album 'daheim' a bit. Why did you name it 'homebound'? What the heck has a blues to do with 'homebound' thinking about the song  'Blues for Bud'?

SD: Making music with Filippa feels for me like 'home' .... how to arrive at home. The music for the CD I composed in a week and it felt like an inner cleansing."Blues for Bud" is a tribute to Bud Spencer. When I was a child, I watched all his movies  and when I was ill and had to have to lay up,  he always cheered me up and gave me a feeling of security.

interview and photos: © ferdinand dupuis-panther


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