A veteran of the Shanghai jazz scene, Alec Haavik’s take on music is similar to an open-minded father enlightened by his offspring’s experiences. Never hesitant to experiment with different sounds, musicians or equipment, Alec’s jazz career has traversed the realm of feasibility to create a style that is unique and constantly evolving. Over the past seven years his presence has been pivotal to the development of a solidified jazz scene in the city. Aside from his ongoing music projects with the Friction Alliance, Alec currently performs at the JZ club for monthly series and is a revolving guest at the Peace Hotel.
The Alec Haavik Friction Alliance will be releasing their eponymous album on Thursday, June 28th at 10 p.m. at JZ Club and Saturday, June 30th at 9 p.m. at Yuyintang. The Friction Alliance consists of Alec Haavik on saxophone, Johnny Joseph on drums and Fred Grenade on bass. Although the band has undergone a revolving door of musicians, the trio forms a strong bond that sustains the positive friction in their music.
“Music for me is not something that should be too comfortable. I like drama in the music and in the structure because I think that it’s more representative of human existence - life is not easy. Of course we like to have a lot of fun, but there’s a tremendous amount of conflict. I certainly want my music to follow that. More specifically, in the music I really love having polytonality; different chord structures that are happening at the same time, and create tension in that way,” Alec shares. “I’m really happy all of the musicians express themselves in the group. This can create friction too, but it’s the good kind.”
The Alec Haavik Friction Alliance will be releasing their self-titled album this Thursday and Saturday
Alec’s multifaceted music career and varied interests has allowed him to explore musical possibilities like a curious child enthralled by a chemistry kit. His desire to expand his repertoire to undiscovered territories allows Alec to incorporate new techniques and styles into his already unpredictable sound. The new CD will stray from his past music in its use of electronic equipment. “One big difference on this CD is that this is the first recording where I’ve used electronic effects on the saxophone. This is a new sound for me.” After a careful reconnaissance of the electronic scene, Alec Haavic Friction Alliance drew aspects of various genres into the new CD to create a fresh and innovative experience.
Alec’s willingness to experiment with different genres conveys a timelessness and boldness that leaves the listener enchanted. Although the band’s multi-layered music flows into the eardrums like euphonic puzzle pieces, the effect isn’t achieved without trial and error. His music is like a swarm of incongruous sounds that meshed together by mere coincidence. The self-titled CD that was intended to be recorded in one day soon morphed into a laborious project exceeding the band’s expectations.
“The process began with the very naive expectation that we could go in one day and record enough tracks for a CD, and then it would be a really jazzy thing, but I think I was fooling myself. Even from the start I had a very radical technical experiment, which was to create a multi-level, multi-texture click track,” Alec recalls. Recounting the tribulations that preceded the successful recording of the CD, Alec suggests: “I love musical disasters. I’ve always learned the most from musical train wrecks; and then the next time it’s better than I ever would have hoped.”
The band’s capabilities during recordings and live performances have enhanced by utilizing the equipment that has revolutionized modern day music. “One of the compositions ‘Mind is a Time Machine’ has an extremely complicated rhythmic structure. It is so complex and difficult that before recording this CD it has been a challenge to perform it live. So part of the process of the CD was to fix the entire structure: the temp all throughout with the click track. It was not possible for us to record it live, it was just too difficult; but having given the song a manifestation, now we can hear it. Now it’s real, and now the band can play it. We perform it live as a trio, so really, it’s a tremendous achievement.”
Fans should expect the CD to be “blazing, out there, cosmic,” Alec summates. The CD attempts to capture the principle of cosmic expansion and translate it into songs that people can access. In the vain of expansion, Alec Haavik Friction Alliance’s CD release at Yuyintang on Saturday, June 30th will feature cross-genre bands from the Shanghai music scene performing together for the first time. Improv metalers Death to Giants will team up with electronic group Acid Pony Club and Alec on the saxophone to create Death to Friction Ponies. All girl rock band Next Year’s Love will also make an appearance on stage.
The unlikely collaborators form the confrontation that inspires Alec’s love for music. Like a Greek tragedy filled with beauty and trials, the Alec Haavik Friction Alliance’s new album captivates the listener in its exploration of common struggles and ponderings. Audience members for the CD releases on Thursday and Saturday should prepare for a mind-blowing experience that demonstrates the extent of human capability.
Click here for details of the album release on Thursday at JZ Club, and here for info on Saturday's release at Yuyintang
WORDS: MELISSA HELLMANN