Photo: Anja Basma

Stian Westerhus: 'I don’t plan anymore'

Guitar Player portraits genre-bending and exploratory Norwegian guitarist Stian Westerhus

With its monthly circulation close to 150.000 copies, influential guitar magazine Guitar Player is a major place to be for guitarists around the globe. In the latest edition of the magazine, Guitar Player decided to make a portrait of genre-bending and exploratory Norwegian guitarist Stian Westerhus. In addition to his extensive solo work, his current musical co-operators include, among others, the Nils Petter Molvær Group, Monolithic, Puma, ice music maker Terje Isungset, influential singer Sidsel Endresen and Helge Sten (Deathprod/Motorpsycho/Supersilent).

Stian Westerhus has gained more and more international attention and repute over the last few years, and this is what John Kelman of All About Jazz wrote about his latest solo release, “Pitch Black Star Spangled”, released on the Rune Grammofon label in 2010:

“There's little in the canon of solo guitar—with the possible exception of Derek Bailey and Fred Frith—that can prepare or set precedence for Norwegian guitarist Stian Westerhus and Pitch Black Star Spangled, an album that utterly redefines the concept of solo recording. Pitch Black Star Spangled is a masterpiece of solo guitar, positioning the boldly unrelenting Westerhus as an artist whose realized promise only suggests far more to come.”

In the Guitar Player spread Westerhus talks about his need for going on stage and play just to see what happens:

“Do you prepare your performances? No. I once planned an hour of music for my master’s exam. It went well until the end, when I was transitioning from a wall of howling feedback into a bowed section. The guitar was full of sweat and out of tune. I started bowing and it just went screech. Even though it sounded bad, I tried to save the idea. If I had had my ears open I would have just utilized the sounds that were coming out of the guitar. That’s why I don’t plan anymore.”

Before retorting into the all-important and relevant, but rather closed for non-guitarists, geek speak on guitars and tech stuff, Stian Westerhus reveals that an important part of his performing dynamics is to constantly surprise himself:

“Do you have any methods for surprising yourself? The time from when musical ideas come into my head to when they come out of the instrument needs to be as short as possible, so that I don’t think about them. I try to change my setup and force myself into new territories. Also, I listen to a lot of different music, and, whether I like it or not, that music just sneaks in there.”

To read more on how Stian Westerhus approaches the art of guitar playing and exploration and how he achieves his distinct sounds, read the full Guitar Player interview here.

Stian Westerhus web page

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