“A small, completely harmonic and quiet part in the right place can have a much bigger impact if something really sharp and harsh or brutal or completely abstract happened before, and vice versa.”
One compact organism
You probably won’t hear a Schnellertollermeier track on the radio; the Swiss trio’s name bluntly shouts no commercial potential, and its music confirms it. Together, David Meier (drums), Andi Schnellmann (bass) and Manuel Troller (guitar), operate as one compact organism. This organism is savage and dangerous, but can be caressing and dreamy when it wants to. These guys don’t really give a rat’s ass about current trends and traditional modi operandi. They search for, and explore the unusual. In fact, it’s no surprise they released their third album, X, on the always adventurous U.S. based Cuneiform imprint in January this year.
Meier, Schnellmann and Troller are experienced and highly skilled players with diverse musical tastes and rich musical backgrounds. With Schnellertollermeier, they have formed a unique creative space to mold their wildest musical fantasies into without taking into consideration genre or formation limitations. It’s safe to say there’s nothing quite like Schnellertollermeier’s music out there at the moment. With X, we get the trio at its finest form, twisting, stabbing and swirling, with full, merciless power. Elements of rock, jazz, metal, noise, industrial and ambient, are all there, but woven and merged in a genre-defying way. The six compositions simply burst with electrifying energy and edgy experimentalism, providing a skull-shattering, mind-boggling and body-stimulating experience. X is ambitious and wonderfully bizarre and hectic. If you decide to get it from your local record store, make sure you write down the trio’s name before you go in.
Meier :: I’ve been living in Zürich for the last three years. Before that I had studied music for two years in Scandinavia and lived in Berlin for a short while. I grew up in a small village about 50 kilometers from Lucerne, Switzerland. It’s a beautiful place, but for what I’m interested in musically it’s a bit off the map. The first time I met Andi and Manuel was in a band contest in Lucerne. I played with an instrumental rock trio, Andi and Manuel were playing with their group called Perch. Soon later I met Andi in an evening course at the Jazz School in Lucerne. We started having sessions with Manuel and a piano player. Schnellertollermeier finally formed in fall 2006.
In my early years I was mostly listening to my parents’ record collection which included some classic 70’s and 80’s rock bands (Billy Joel, Queen, The Police, Sting, Toto, David Bowie, some Pink Floyd). These are my roots I guess. When I was 13 I got to study drums with this amazing drummer Fabian Kuratli (he sadly passed away in 2008). He turned me on to loads of things, Jazz, D’Angelo, Drum’n’Bass, etc. From then on I wanted to be a musician.
I knew about Cuneiform Records through Raoul Björkenheim whom I met in Helsinki. I also play in a band in Finland called Equally Stupid. The tenor sax player is Pauli Lyytinen and he plays in Björkenheim’s Ecstasy (they have a record out on Cuneiform).
Troller :: I was born in Lucerne (Switzerland) in 1986 and I’m still living there. Andi and I had the same classical guitar teacher when we were at the age of 9 and 11 and started our first band when I was 13 (Andi was 15 back then) in I guess 1999 or 2000. Since then until today we played together in various bands and projects. We met David in the final of a band contest where Andi and I have been playing with our first band and David was playing with a trio. I think this was around 2002/2003. Unfortunately none of our bands won that contest (:-) but we instantly had big respect for each other and discovered similar interests that night and had a good time. Andi and David met again at the Jazz School in Lucerne, we soon did some rehearsals together with a piano player rehearsing some Jazz Standards but we stopped again after a while. In 2006, Andi, David and I decided to do a rehearsal again just the three of us and we all knew that this combination is something special and started to rehearse a lot, working on our own music.
When I was a kid, my mother used to listen to Soul music a lot (Etta James, Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin etc.) and I still love that stuff!! Through an elder cousin of mine, I started at a very young age (7 or 8) to listen to Nirvana (all the Grunge stuff) but also some Metal bands. After a while I discovered punk and Hip-hop (Wu-Tang, Gang Starr, Public Enemy, Common, Mos Def and Talib Kweli etc.). Then as a teenager I got interested in Jazz, Pop and soon also some more experimental music. I think somewhere between the age of 14 and 16 I knew that I want to be a musician so I went to study in Lucerne with musicians like Christy Doran, Frank Möbus, Gerry Hemingway and Fred Frith.
After the recording of the new album “X” we discussed some labels that we wanted to contact. In the end there were 3-4 labels in which we were interested and Cuneiform was one of them. We sent them the music and Steve of Cuneiform reacted really fast and told us that he likes the music a lot.
Sound & style?
Meier :: The music we play is really the essence of the mix of our musical personalities. We have spent a lot of time in the practice room melting our ideas into one sound. Our backgrounds (and maybe also our interests) were a bit different in the start. I think that this created a nice musical tension. We challenged each other and had to adapt and shape our voices into this emerging Schnellertollermeier sound. Our music is definitely very physical, people can feel the energy in a physical way. This could be called the rock element. Then there are a lot of improv and contemporary music techniques and aesthetics as well. I get the impression that the audience really gets something out of the music. It seems to have an effect on people. Sometimes trance-like, often just energy.
Troller :: I think the idea of a band sounding like one compact organism with each element/voice having its own importance is a big part of our new album. The music is a lot about energy, playing “on the edge” (sometimes also physically) but also a lot about finesse, textural work. The process of melting different ideas into one compact sound and really bringing it “to the point” through a lot of rehearsing and doing work together is very important in this band. Also the messing around with contrasts is important for me. For example, a small, completely harmonic and quiet part in the right place can have a much bigger impact if something really sharp and harsh or brutal or completely abstract happened before, and vice versa. A thing I really like a lot with this band is that the music fits indie/experimental pop venues as well as open minded jazz clubs or festivals. I find it not so easy to say what our music does with the listener but I guess the energy, tension and also some physical aspects can be felt really well. People sometimes say that they felt like “being washed” after our gigs.
The new album?
Meier :: Our second album “Zorn einen ehmer üttert stem!!” had a lot of improvised parts and the tunes had more ‘abstract jazz’ melodies and lines. Over the last few years all of us got really involved with free improvised music. One of my main bands has been the trio Things to Sounds that plays 100% improvised concerts. We were even considering with Schnellertollermeier to go deeper into improvisation but somehow it turned out the other way – “X” is made up of a lot of composed music. We were looking for ways to sound more like one organism rather than a trio with the soloist / accompanist division. We have been playing early versions of some songs from the new album for nearly three years now. This gave us a lot of time to really find out about which direction we wanted to take.
Troller :: On our second album “Zorn einen ehmer üttert stem!!”, the Jazz-Element in the “traditional“ sense had almost vanished completely (compared to the first album “Holz”), while the improvisational sense/aspect got more important just as the brute rock influences/energy. Furthermore, new elements from modern classical music, minimal and experimental music and noise found their way into our playing and composing. After presenting the album in a lot of concerts it was clear to us that we shouldn’t rush into another album just for the sake of being present in the musical scene, as we might end up with something too similar to “Zorn einen ehmer üttert stem!!“.
So a lot of thinking and discussing was done before we decided to work on clearly more compositional-focused material for the third album. David and I both started to work individually on new ideas, concepts and compositions. We went several times to a house in the Swiss mountains to experiment, rehearse and work together on new compositions. The subsequent material had then been thoroughly tested while touring Switzerland, Russia and Austria, before being recorded. For the recording, we also did a lot of research, planned the room/studio/miking-situation really precisely. We used much more microphones than we ever did before (also in other bands’ recordings) – for example the drums and its room have been recorded with 14 microphones, also recording the reflections on glass to get a lot of natural brilliance etc. I think the whole idea of sounding like one organism that I mentioned already was an important element to develop the new compositions and also to push the boundaries of a classic guitar/bass/drums trio regarding the functions of the instruments, sounds, everything.
Meier :: A few times people have suggested using a singer in addition to our trio. That seemed pretty odd to us at the time… ;)
Troller :: Hmmmm…I think around 2009 we had a week-long residency at a very traditional jazz festival in Switzerland, playing in the tent outside every night (which was for free for the audience). After the first night, one of the festival bookers wanted to kick us out because our music “draw too much attention”, it did not animate the audience to eat, drink and consume a lot…The other booker said no, they can not kick us out so we played the whole week with nearly no contact to the festival guys. The bar team at least liked us. At that festival it also happened that a woman in the audience was yelling at us while playing: “This is not music anymore!!!”. It was a good experience though but the festival didn’t book us again, haha!
Something that’s also funny, people often hear some “clear” connections to King Crimson or other Prog bands in our music. I so far have never listened to a Crimson album or Yes or Genesis or other “classic” Prog bands and I think Andi or David haven’t really been into Prog Rock, either.
On heavy rotation?
Meier :: I’ve been listening to the new Zs album called Xe recently. I really dig it! I love the conceptual aspects just as much as the playing. And the record also sounds very good! Then I really like this guy called Father John Misty. I didn’t know about him, and his last album is just great. I like his voice a lot and the lyrics speak to me somehow. Pianist Anthony Coleman has been a recent discovery for me. His records “Selfhaters” and “Sephardic Tinge” are fantastic! Then I listened a lot to the album “Belleke” (out on Clean Feed) by trio Baloni. It’s so very beautiful! Fratz Loriot who plays viola in that band is a friend of mine. He lives in Zürich and we’ve just played the first gig with a new improv quartet. One record that continues to inspire me is ‘Love and Ghosts’ by trio Farmers by Nature.
Troller :: Lately on my heavy rotation have been the following: Earl Sweatshirt – I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside; Aphex Twin – Computer Controlled Acoustic Instruments EP Part II; Oren Ambarchi – Quixotism; Morton Feldman – For Bunita Marcus; Grouper – Ruins; Can – Ege Bamyasi; Dans Les Arbres – dito.
Meier :: We have some great gigs coming up this spring and summer. We play at Schaffhausen Jazzfestival, one of the main jazz festivals in Switzerland. Then we also play at a few rock festivals like Bad Bonn Kilbi and B-Sides. This is especially nice since we feel like our music totally fits that crowd! We have a week-long tour in England, Scotland and Ireland coming up in June as well.
Troller :: Check our homepage for details and updates! There are more shows to come for sure in autumn. It’s always a big pleasure to play with this band! The understanding has been really special since the start and is constantly developing.