JG Thirlwell on Oscillospira
I first met Simon Steensland in Stockholm in 2017. I was invited there to workshop and perform a commission for the ensemble Great Learning Orchestra. Great Learning Orchestra are a collective that operate after the model of Cornelius Cardew’s Scratch Orchestra, using musicians of a variety of backgrounds and abilities.
Steensland happened to be playing fretless six string sub-bass in this iteration of the ensemble.
I had been a fan of Steensland’s work for some years through his albums like Led Circus and Fat Again.I admired the dark power in his work and it seemed adjacent to a lot of music that I love and inspires me – groups in the Rock in Opposition and Zeuhl worlds such as Magma, Univers Zero and Present, as well as 70’s era King Crimson and Bartok.
Steensland liked what I had written for Great Learning Orchestra and wanted to do a cover version of one of the movements. I sent him the score and the results were remarkable. He didn’t know what to do with the track, so I proposed that we make a collaboration album to extend the work.
We sent tracks back and forth. I would start one and send it to him; he would overdub parts and send it back, and I would do the same. Sometimes extending sections or adding new sections. Steensland then got the extraordinary drummer Morgan Ågren to play on all the tracks, which brought them alive in an explosive manner. We also added overdubs from a variety of guest musicians on oboe, bass clarinet, violin, voice and so on.
After pre-mixing at my studio in Brooklyn, I did the final mixes at Gary’s Electric Studio B with Al Carlson, with whom I had worked on the Zola Jesus and Xordox albums.
The result is Oscillospira.
About JG Thirlwell
JG Thirlwell is a composer/producer/performer based in Brooklyn, NY. Born in Melbourne, he moved to London in 1978, then relocated to NYC in 1983, where he has been based ever since. As well as his own name, he works under many pseudonyms including Manorexia, Foetus, Xordox, Steroid Maximus, Baby Zizanie, Hydroze Plus, Clint Ruin and Wiseblood.
He has released over thirty albums. If there is a common thread to his varied musical styles, it is a dramatic intensity and an evocative, cinematic quality. Thirlwell has also featured as producer, remixer, collaborator or arranger for a wide variety of artists including Karen O, Noveller, Excepter, Zola Jesus, Melvins, Swans, Nine Inch Nails, Lydia Lunch, The The, Coil, Z’s, Simon Hanes, Nick Cave and many more.
JG has completed commissions for Kronos Quartet, Bang On A Can, Experiments in Opera, Zephyr Quartet. Great Learning Orchestra, String Orchestra of Brooklyn, Dither, LEMUR and many others. He is a member of the“freq_out” sound-art collective, curated by CM Von Hausswolff, who create on-site sound and light installations. He is also an acclaimed graphic artist. In 2010, he received a fellowship from New York Foundation of the Arts in sound / composition.
He has created solo sound installations which have exhibited in Santarcangelo, Italy and Kaliningrad, Russia. In recent years he has performed live with a chamber ensemble version of his Manorexia project, with his electronic project Xordox and his solo electroacoustic projects Cholera Nocebo and Silver Mantis.
JG also creates the musical score for the Emmy-winning FX show Archer, and for Adult Swim / Cartoon Network show The Venture Bros, for which he was nominated for an Annie Award. JG has also created several motion picture scores. He has been in residency at Elektronmusikstudion in Stockholm, and recently completed a composition for solo contrabass for James Ilgenfritz and a commission for solo cello for Jeffrey Zeigler. He also scored Tony Oursler’s film installation, Imponderable, which was on exhibit for six months at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 2017.
About Simon Steensland
Born in Stockholm, Sweden, Simon Steensland has been a professional composer & musician since 1992. Steensland has released nine acclaimed solo albums since 1993 including Fat Again, Led Circus and A Farewell to Brains. In addition he has with many artists including Mats/Morgan band, Thinking Plague, Gavin Bryars and Sten Sandell, as well contributing to the Magma-tribute album ‘“Hommage a la Musique de Christian Vander”. Steensland is also Sweden’s most prolific composer of music for theatrical plays, having created music for well over 150 productions at most of Swedens major theatre companies during his career. He is also artistic director for one of Sweden’s most revered free group theaters, moment:teater, which celebrates 20 years (of iconoclasm) in the fall of 2020.
Some notable plays Steensland has scored include
A Doll House, Waiting for Godot, Hamlet, Macbeth, Duck Variations, the Father, to Damascus, Titus Andronicus, Cleansed, Tartuffe, Faust, Stitching, Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde, Mephisto, Caligula, Frankenstein, Dracula, Ifigenia, King Ubu, Ashes to Ashes, Phaedras Love, Woyzeck, Kaspar Hauser, Mein Kampf, Moby Dick, Don Quijote, Hunger and many more
Some testimonies about Simon Steensland –
Chris Cutler (Henry Cow, Art Bears, Recommended Records): This is serious work, and that´s not common nowadays.
Fredrik Thordendal (Meshuggah): If you ask me, Simon is KING!
JG Thirlwell (Foetus, Manorexia, Xordox etc): His music creates a fractal that takes me on a breathtakingly and suspenseful journey, and his orchestrations can shear the top of my scalp off!
Michael Johnson (Thinking Plague): A truly deep and satisfying work – a master piece of “beyond rock”!
Gavin Bryars (composer): Perfect, why bother?
Morgan Ågren (Mats/Morgan band, Zappa, Devin Townsend etc): His music has reached an universe that is completely his own. Dark but really, really beautiful. He deserves SO much more recognition.
Udi Koomran (legendary sound engineer): Sombre, heavy and occasionally on the verge of suffocation, yet there is always moments where the light shines and emotions are moved. I love it!