I constantly feel like I’m discovering new ways to write songs.
Konzert und Interview am 18. September 2015 in der Kantine/Berghain
Fotos, Interview & Text: Corinna Sauer
Klischees sind dazu da, gebrochen zu werden. Manchmal bestätigen sie sich auch. Im Fall von Kalle Mattson trifft wohl beides zu. Kanada – Akustikgitarren – raue Feinsinnigkeit – Songs voller Melancholie und auch kristallklarer Lebensfreude, wie ein See in den Tiefen der Wäldern im hohen Norden. An dieser Assoziationskette mag man sich vorerst problemlos entlanghangeln, wenn man sich mit Kalle Mattson auseinandersetzt und doch ist da etwas, das sich nicht so recht einordnen lässt und einen auf dem Weg in die mentale Schublade zum Stolpern bringt. Und dieses Etwas ist es, das die Musik des 25 jährigen Kanadiers besonders macht, auch, wenn es sich mal mehr, mal weniger Preis gibt und sich manchmal hinter eingängigen Songstrukturen verbirgt.
Das Label Trickser feierte vor kurzem seinen dreijährigen Geburtstag und lies seine hochkarätigsten Musiker_innen in der Berghain Kantine aufspielen. Kalle Mattson betrat als erster die Bühne, ausgerüstet mit seiner Gitarre, einer Mundharmonika und seiner zerbrechlich markanten Stimme; die Haare wirr das blasse, jungenhafte Gesicht einrahmend. Nach den ersten drei Songs fragte Kalle das Publikum mit einem schiefen Grinsen, ob „anyone wants to slit their wrists, yet“, ob der vorgetragenen in Moll getönten, zaghaft gezupft mit der Gitarre untermalten, Untiefen seiner jungen Seele. Niemand schien an diesem Punkt zu sein und so fuhr er fort, ergänzte bluesig klagende Mundharmonika-Einlagen, wie einst eines seiner großen Idole Bob Dylan und lies seine Gitarre ihre eigenen Geschichten erzählen, die seinen Texten das fein ziselierte Fundament bieten.
Bei all dem ist Kalle Mattson Profi und seine melancholische Eigenwilligkeit authentisches Instrument, sein Publikum zu erreichen und zu berühren. Mein Empfinden ist, dass Herr Mattson sich noch mehr dem hingeben sollte, was ihn und seine Musik besonders macht – diesem nicht klar zu identifizierbaren „Etwas“, was manchmal mit dem allzu Durchdachten zu kollidieren droht, weil es weder angeleitet, noch instrumentalisiert werden kann und sich in keiner Schublade so richtig wohl fühlt. Das, was spielen und sich entfalten und sich finden möchte und in Kalle Mattsons Songs immer wieder, mal schüchtern, mal gradezu draufgängerisch, hervorblitzt.
In dem Interview, das Kalle und ich vor dem Konzert geführt haben und das ihr im Folgenden lesen könnt, erzählte er mir von den Aufgaben eines Musikers, von Heimat, vom Banalen und dem Finden seiner „Schreibweise“.
You released three albums so far. I read that you once said about your last album „Someday, the Moon Will Be Gold“ that “This record really feels like a first, or a debut…“. What exactly did you mean by that?
Kalle: I also have a new record coming out in a couple of weeks. I put out a record every single year, because I feel like I get a lot better constantly and with each record. I’ve only been doing it for five years now. „Someday“ was maybe the first one that I felt like I really knew what I was doing. I found my style and I fell into my way of songwriting with it. That’s why this one feels like the first one.
Can you tell me a bit about the process of songwriting? Is the place where you write for example an important aspect to you?
Kalle: „Someday“ for example was written in my childhood home. It is a really personal record. It is about my mom passing away when I was sixteen and I wrote the songs in my old house, when I came back for the first time. This new record, Avalanche, was written on tour. When „Someday“ came out last year I’ve been on tour ever since. So there is no specific space for me to write my songs. Each time it’s completely different.
Do you think, that there was a certain point when you knew for sure that you wanted to be or would become a musician?
Kalle: I’ve never done anything else. Music is just what I have done for a pretty long time now. I went to school for classical guitar and composition and once I graduated I’ve been making records and I have been touring a lot.
Home seems to be a recurring topic in your songs – directly or indirectly. Would you say, that you have something like a personal concept of „home“?
Kalle: I guess I do sing about it a lot. I’m from a really rural part of Canada, far north. Not a whole lot goes on there. I don’t know – I guess, I sing a lot about the whole idea of home and what it means to me. It’s a pretty universal theme. And because I tour so much, I guess I’m never really home, ever. I’m sorry, I don’t have a really good answer for that.
It’s a pretty abstract question, I guess. And of course there is not THE answer to it.
Kalle: Yes. And it’s an abstract answer (laughs).
Among others, especially the videos to your songs „Water Falls“ and „Thick As Thieves“ went viral and they received a lot of appreciation. What does the combination of videos, visual art, and your music mean to you?
Kalle: I mean, I wanted to be good. And music-videos are just a vehicle to sell the record. I’ve been lucky, that I’ve had some really good friends, that made those great videos for me. And they happen to do well on the internet. That’s really about it. Videos are important, but for me, making the record is really the first thing and I think about all the other stuff afterwards. I want the songs to be good first and foremost.
The music scene in Canada, especially in Montreal, seems to be very alive and vibrant. You are based in Ottawa, which is not far away and slightly smaller. How do you experience the music scene there? How’s the network among musicians like for example?
Kalle: There is not a whole lot of really big bands in Ottawa. Montreal and Toronto is where most people live in Canada. The Montreal thing was probably more relevant music-wise a few years ago. I think, it’s slowing down, as Montreal becomes more expensive to live in. People move to Berlin basically.
Kalle: Yeah, I mean, everyone sort of does eventually. So, Ottawa is the capital, but it’s kind of sleepy. But it’s a really nice place to live, cause it’s not Montreal or Toronto, but it’s in between, they are both really close. And I travel constantly back and forth between those two cities.
But you are from a much smaller town originally, right?
Kalle: Yes, about nine hours north of Ottawa.
How do you like touring in Europe? Do you experience differences between presenting your music to a Canadian or American and to a European crowd?
Kalle: Oh yeah, there is a pretty huge difference. I think, there is something like an added gimmick, just because I’m from Canada and people would come to the show purely based on that fact. Like „Oh, you came all this way…“. I think, there is definitely an element to that. But coming over to Europe is great, because people here have a different approach to live concerts. I mean, I came back four times in one year. I find it amazing. So, there is a big difference, which is that it’s just better.
What kind of music have you been brought up with?
I love all the big songwriters. Like Springsteen and Dylan. This music I constantly go back to. But I also love Beck and Wilco. Those are people, that I really look up to.
Apart from music, what else influences and inspires you?
I obviously read a lot. And I really love movies and see a lot of films. So I guess, all this stuff find its way in, I just don’t think about it. It’s probably the best way.
It seems like you write and work on new songs pretty much non-stop. Is that something, that just happens „organically“ or do you have to discipline yourself a lot?
Kalle: I mean, I never took a huge break. Cause it’s the only way, I make a living: Playing shows and selling records. So I have to have a new full-length album every two to three years and an EP in between. And hopefully I can keep touring behind all those things. But like I said earlier: I constantly feel like I’m discovering new ways to write songs and my style is changing and I think, I’m getting better. So, I really wanna put those songs out, that I feel are better than the last ones. That’s my thing. And also the audience keeps getting bigger and better. And I keep touring in different places and selling more records each time. It’s like a small business and you just try to grow it. And you need new products to sell. I mean, it is a terrible way to think about it, but it is sort of the same thing. And I am working really, really hard by putting out records and just trying to make it work. That’s about it.
And having fun while doing it, I guess.
Kalle: Yeah, I do. I just think the more mundane, boring parts have become more boring to me, the more I do it. Like soundchecks. I don’t wanna sound whiny or anything, but you know, last year I did 160 shows.
Ok, that’s pretty crazy.
Kalle: Yeah, that’s a lot of shows. And I don’t know how I feel about touring that much anymore. I wanna keep making records. I just wrote 20 songs for another record and I wanna keep writing those songs. I’d rather do that. But I know, I have to tour. So, I think, my perspective on it is changing a bit. But it’s good to be here, playing shows in Germany.
So, your new record is gonna come out really soon. Please tell us a bit more about it.
Kalle: Yes, it will come out in two weeks and it’s called „Avalanche“. It’s a mini-record with six songs. I’m really happy and excited about it. So I’ll come back to Europe to tour between the middle of November till the middle of December for four weeks.
And apart from that, what are your next plans?
Kalle: I will make another record, that will come out next year. And then some more touring.
Do you have an idea of how your life as a musician could be like in a couple of years and in what way it might be different from now?
Kalle: I don’t know. I’ve never thought about that. I mean, everyone says, you have to have a five-year-plan or -goal and I’ve never made that. I obviously know the things, that I want. I would love to play bigger rooms. And I just wanna keep doing it. So, if I’m still making records in like five years from now, which record-contracts tell me I should (laughs), it just means, it hasn’t gone worse. This is my job and I don’t have any other job. So, if I’m still doing it in five years, that’s great.
Thanks, Kalle. I’m looking forward to seeing your show later tonight.
Thank you, too.
Tourdaten Deutschland 2015:
2009 – Whisper Bee
2011 – Anchors
2012 – Lives in Between
2014 – Someday, the Moon will be Gold
2015 – Avalanche
Weitere Interviews (z.Bsp. mit Lola Marsh, Miss Platnum, Alex Clare uvm.) könnt Ihr hier nachlesen.