New Directions by Danielle VanTuinen
A Talk with Kristoffer Lo of Norway
Kristoffer Lo has redefined the use of tuba and its role. From its traditional role as the low end in symphony orchestras and Dixieland bands, Kristoffer has taken the instrument in a new direction, filling the position as the ultra low end in metal and noise bands. With a bunch of electronics and huge amps, Kristoffer’s tuba sounds like a low-end monster and a high pitched squeal at the same time.
With education from the famous jazz conservatory in Trondheim and as a member of bands like Pelbo, Trondheim Jazz Orchestra, microtub, Sunswitch, and Highasakite, he has slowly built up a solid reputation both in Norway and mainland Europe. -www.kristofferlo.com
Lo was the recent recipient of a major commission prize by the famous Molde International Jazz Festival in Norway.
Danielle VanTuinen: How and when did you begin playing the tuba?
Kristoffer Lo: I started playing at the age of eight, but I actually started on the euphonium. Later on I switched to the BBb tuba. Marching bands are popular here in Norway; each town has a marching band and they tend to start kids off early, usually at the age of eight. I was just really interested in music as a whole. I was playing in the marching bands and I picked up guitar and began playing in rock bands while formally studying music.
DV: Who were your most influential teachers and how did they affect your development as a musician?
KL: I think the most influential person that I have ever worked with would have to be a Norwegian tuba player by the name of Lars Andreas Haug. Lars is a jazz tuba player that I had the privilege of studying with for about three years. I feel like he was the most influential for me because he, in a way, paved the road for people that aspire to be jazz tuba players.
DV: How old were you when you began playing live?
KL: I started to write and play live when I was fifteen years old with a brass quintet and with my rock bands. I started touring when I was about sixteen with my tuba quartet and that was mostly in the United States.
DV: How many auditions did you take before getting to where you are today?
KL: I’ve actually never taken an audition. I don’t play in the orchestral or military style so I stuck to enjoying what I was doing. I just felt like doing things my own way, so I didn’t have to take any auditions. I just toured and wrote music.
DV: What kind of tuba do you play?
KL: I play a B&S Parentucci CC tuba known as the jazz tuba in Norway. However, my tuba can also be turned into a microtonal tuba by adding valves and tubes to it. It was designed by tubist Robin Hayward and made possible by help from B&S.
DV: What is the most satisfying thing about your job?
KL: I think the most satisfying thing about my job is the fact that I get to do what I want to do. I’m not copying anyone. I think it’s really cool to be able to play the tuba in a rock setting. People really seem to enjoy the sound,as well as what the tuba brings to the ensemble. People enjoy listening not because I’m playing the tuba but because it sounds good. What’s not to love about having fun at your job?
DV: Are you in high demand as a teacher?
KL: I actually don’t teach at all. I’m just at the point of touring and providing entertainment.
DV: What kind of music do you find yourself practicing?
KL: I know this sounds bad but I really don’t have time to practice. When I do it’s mostly music with my band mates. I don’t play classical music or scored music for that matter. I usually play/learn music by rote so there isn’t much practicing to be done, especially since I’m playing so much.
DV: With the little time that you do have to practice, what do you recommend for a successful practice session?
KL: I recommend starting your day with long tones as well as some Arban’s. And just playing-playing what you like the most. I don’t have much time to practice or warm up since I’m on the road for 230 days out of the year. Because of that I feel that it’s very important to start everything off with a lot of long tones.
DV: Other than the tuba, what instrument do you really love the sound of?
KL: If I had to choose an instrument other than the tuba, I would pick another low instrument. I really love the sound of the bass clarinet and the baritone saxophone as well as the contra bass clarinet and the bass saxophone. I really love the sound of the lower registers!
DV: What are you looking forward to on the season’s schedule?
KL: Well, I’m really looking forward to the commissioned work for the Molde International Jazz Festival. This is such a wonderful opportunity for me as a composer and musician. Also, I’m in a band called Highasakite and we will be releasing our second album worldwide sometime in the next season, which I’m really excited for. With this group, I’ll also begin touring for about three months beginning in February and we’ll probably be touring in the U.S. around March.
DV: What are some of your interests aside from music?
KL: I’m a huge advocate of travel, which is convenient for my career. Aside from that, an activity that I enjoy taking part in is snowboarding. I grew up with the sport and absolutely love going whenever I get the chance.
DV: If you weren’t a musician, what do you think you would do for a living?
KL: I’ve been thinking a lot about politics due to the recent election in Norway that led to a right-wing government. There are so many things in this world that need be changed and I would love to be a part of the process.
DV: Can you tell me a bit about the award you recently won?
KL: The commission is a huge boost for my career-a great opportunity and a big challenge. I can gather the musicians that I want to play with for the concert. There’s no limit as to whom or what instruments, and that’s great. I’ve gathered ten musicians, some of the absolute best musicians in Norway, including two of my absolute favorite vocalists. I’ll be writing the music for the concert throughout this year and next year. It should end up being 60 minutes of music.
The concert will also include a huge visual aspect, probably a bit disturbing and intense, as parts of the music will be. After the concert, I’m hoping to be able to take the band out on the road. I really don’t want this to be a one-time thing.
DV: If there was one thing that you could change about how people perceive the tuba, what would it be?
KL: I would actually begin with the International Tuba Euphonium Association! I wish more people in the tuba world would have an open mind of where music could possible go. I would love to open the minds of those that are closed off to different possibilities. People’s perception of the tuba begins with the people that actually play the instrument. In a way, it causes other people to think the same. I would love to change the perceptions of tuba players themselves, because only then will the perceptions of the outside world change.