Karl Seglem

Due to appear as part of the Off-Womex series of concerts, the incomparable Norwegian saxophonist, folk-improviser and crossover composer Karl Seglem is preparing to let his unique expression make a lasting impression in the Andalusian heat.

Listen to excerpts from Karl Seglem's Femstein album (2004)
Listen to and download Karl Seglem releases here

Karl Seglem 2006

MIC had a talk with him about the upcoming show, his new band and his latest record, which will be released this fall.

MIC: How familiar are you with Womex and what are your expectations?

Seglem: I’ve attended Womex five times, so I’m fairly well acquainted with it and I have a clear notion of what my ambition for the gig is. I’m confident that I have a substantial market potential in Europe and my ambition for Womex is to reach the right people to help me realize this potential. My previous records have been received very well, so in places I have a name, and now I also have the right record label. What is lacking is proper booking. In this respect, Womex certainly is the place to be, and it really is great to be given the opportunity. Right now I feel that the gig there is fairly decisive for what will happen onwards in Europe. Hopefully we [Seglem and band] can gain enough attention to give us the apparatus and momentum for a couple of proper tours each year.

MIC: So what is the strategy to make the Womex gig trigger this?

Seglem: Well first of all we need to make sure the right people show up. As for the concert itself, it is fairly obvious that given 45 minutes you don’t emphasise the most introvert bits. So we will avoid “forcing it” and instead try to stay open, extrovert and surprising.

MIC: What is the line-up of the band?

Seglem: Now I’m back with the quintet format [Seglem’s former record Reik featured a trio] and again the heart of my sound is the dynamic between my tenor sax and the Hardanger fiddle. [A unique Norwegian fiddle with twin layers of strings, the lower ones resonating and creating a crisp sonority; a shiny, almost silvery sound.] A novel aspect is the inclusion of some African elements, courtesy of our new guitar player Olav Torger, who has worked extensively with African music. In addition there is bass and drums. This is the constellation behind the forthcoming album.

MIC: That release is entitled URBS, which is Latin for city. Does the choice of title reflect a more urban-sounding direction in your music?

Seglem: Perhaps, even though I think that is simplifying matters somewhat. I have lived in cities for the past twenty-five-years and feel equal affinity to the city and to the mountains – even if the latter always tend to be set forth in descriptions of my music. However, it is probably true that this record to a certain degree emphasises more on the urban properties. There is a considerable amount of beats on it and I guess that is generally associated with the pulse of cities and modernity, even if I personally find that beats can just as readily be a property of mountains and nature.

MIC: You have previously received a lot of credit for the way electronics and studio elements partake in the sonics of your music and how they enhance the lustre and dynamism of the traditional instruments. Is this aspect also emphasized on URBS?

Seglem: I always rely on Reidar Skår for that part of my music and the recordings. And the reciprocally enhancing dynamism between what I conceive as the ‘acoustic heart’ of the music and the elements contrived in the studio depends on his special musicality. On the latest record he has developed those aspects further, but it does not necessarily mean that they feature more prominently. In general I feel that the musical spectrum I span is wide and that that in itself is perhaps the most distinctive trait of my expression.


In previous interviews Seglem has expounded on the diversity of his music and professed that his chief concern is a personal ownership to the complexity of influences and elements, not what they are and how they interplay, but that the expression is truthfully his.

URBS will be released 2 November in Europe and Norway.

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