An intense period of self-reflection led to Different Class
As the saxophonist for jazz-rock outfit Nordmann, tribal-electronica trio MDC III and Sylvie Kreusch’s art-pop band, Mattias De Craene is perpetually metamorphosing. But now it’s now time to slow down and to turn the gaze inward. Under his solo moniker, De Craene released the first collection of cosmic ambient meanderings last year, and there’s more to come. We discuss his creative process, artistic evolution, and his influences as a solo artist in the light of his show at Different Class.
In April last year, you released your first EP as a solo saxophonist. What’s happened since then, as a solo musician?
The lockdown period led me to an intense period of self-reflection and evaluation. I decided pretty early on to get into my home studio with just my saxophone and my computer, which resulted in a double LP, soon to be released on W.E.R.F. Records in November.
Does it sound different from your EP?
The main approach for this record was the use of sounds purely originating from my saxophone, which resulted in more than an hour of fairly filmic, mystical music that incorporates compositions, soundscapes, and other sonic explorations. Bringing all of this together, the album sounds very suggestive, evoking a lot of atmospheres and images.
There’s a clear difference in sound when comparing your bands to your solo work. How did that happen?
To me, making music is very personal; it’s about how I feel and how I function. Therefore, my solo work can be seen as research and introspection, and obviously not as a clear result of a plan of something I wanted to create. Making this music with only a saxophone is really challenging, and obliges me to play with the limitations of the instrument. It gives me freedom and lets me push myself to another level. Furthermore, at this moment, it’s important to me to improve myself by coping with these limitations and to be alone – in the strict sense of the word.
I’d like to describe the live sound as ‘gentle dissonance’, as an improvised trip with an experimental distinctive filmic character
Over the years, you’ve created a distinctive language on the sax. What were the key moments in this evolution?
Band members, friends, parents… they all played a role in this. I started as a classical, avant-guardian, minimalist musician, then got into the jazz scene and eventually ended up in the pop and rock scenes. During all of these periods, I picked up important tastes and experiences. Playing alone again now, I feel like the little kid I was when I played the saxophone for the first time: vulnerable and searching. It feels like a full circle.
Why the saxophone?
It’s always been my medium, my tool to express myself. It brought me to a lot of beautiful places and keeps on challenging me, over and over.
How will you perform live?
I’ll be improvising with just my saxophone and my computer. It won’t be a live translation of the record; performing live is a totally different thing to me. I’d like to describe the live sound as ‘gentle dissonance’, as an improvised trip with an experimental, distinctive, filmic character. Improvising is important to me; it’s what I stand for as a musician. No compromises: just take it or leave it.
Last question: where and with what drink do we have to listen to Mattias De Craene?
There are obviously different possibilities, depending on the listener. Let’s say: a dark place where you can focus well and open your mind, then grab whatever drink you like!