Viennese collective SKETCHES ON DUALITY just released their album “BLESSED” . SKETCHES on Duality is a multicultural hip hop | jazz quintet straight out of Vienna's vibrant music scene. Formed end of 2015, this group always plays out the quintessence that makes up their music: Soul. Wolf Auer met the friendly quintet of JAHSON THE SCIENTIST (vocals), PHILIPP KIENBERGER (bass), MICHAEL PROWAZNIK (drums), HELI MÜHLBACHER (guitar) and FELIPE SCOLFARO CREMA (keys/producer) to talk about crossing genre borders, releasing music in current times and the Vienna’s Jazz mecca PORGY&BESS.
Can you tell us a little about your experience? Where are you from / how did you get into music?
Born in London, grew up in London/Monstserrat, started piano at 4, got into freestyling and crate diggin in my early teens.
Born in Vienna into an Austrian/Filipino Family music kind of always surrounded us (at least from my filipino side). Growing up in Lagos, Nigeria introduced me to Afrobeat, Fela Kuti and opened up a whole new world of musical influences. Listening to Jimi Hendrix at the age of 16 was a turning point, from then on I decided to play guitar and learned all kinds of songs I heard on the radio. My friends at that time decided to have a band and so I ended up playing bass in an Angolan Punk band called “No-mads”. I was not proficient enough yet on guitar so my friends showed me a couple of riffs on bass and I took it from there. It was a lot of fun! Most of them were experienced musicians already, coming from families that all played instruments on a high level. I learned a lot and felt that music could be a thing for me. I kept practicing guitar and years later also ended up studying jazz guitar in Vienna.
I'm from Sao Paulo, Brazil, and music has been an important part of my life since my early childhood years. In my late teenage years I started playing in bands, and in one of those years I listened to a Jimi Hendrix record with musician ears and felt the urge to make music myself.
Grew up in Vienna ,studied in Boston ,Berkleecollege for 4Years, before that New York for 3 months at age 18. Dad had a huge record collection and Uncle had an even bigger Jazzrecordcollection. Grew up listening to Ray Charles, Thelonious Monk and Billy Joel. Got into Public Enemy, A Tribe Called Quest, Stereo MCs, 70’s Soulfunk like Idris Muhammad through a drumming and dejaying fellow student in high school. We had to play a simple drumbeat in Musicclass (everybody had to learn it) and Sascha could play the „Funky Drummer“ beat and it was soo good and impressed me so much that i asked my teacher if i could come and practice after school. he said yes, and i did. Much later on i got heavily into D’Angelo „Voodoo“ , Meshell Ndegeochello and Flying Lotus, Dilla as well of course.
Also we had this band of former Students who where also permitted to rehearse in the basement of our high school after classes. They played covers of Cream and Jimi Hendrix and where fabulous and i used to watch them rehears/play as often as i could. their drummer was wonderful, very dynamic and musical.
I asked my dad for a set of drums and he said ok on the condition that i take formal lessons. I was fifteen at the time. I went for lessons through the local drumshop and had a very good teacher who again impressed me with his skills (he also taught at a conservatory and played for musicals) From then on i just practiced my A.. off.
I feel like the underground scene will continue to persist. Do you think we can go back to "normal" events and festivals?
Michi: Firstly i feel that there is no underground scene. just people who are more or less successful in monetizing their efforts for various fair or unfair reasons. ability to reach a target audience, marketing budget, generally the amount of money that is available to be invested. media coverage that is not paid for etc.
What i think, and anybody who’s not an expert scientist in viral pandemics for that matter, is highly irrelevant. I hope that we do of course. I also hope that we learned that people will still try and maximize their profits through various legal or even illegal or a moral practices, even in the face of a worldwide pandemic. We should seriously question what kind of leaders we have chosen and might in some cases want to rethink that.
Jahson: The underground doesn’t depend on big money it’s an independent thing, so it will always be created and a have a presence. But, live events is where we as musicians and artists connect and build and that is missing. I remember when other virus’ set deep fear into society and we’ve “normalised” since, HIV for example. It’s more a matter of how long we have to wait for live shows to back in full swing.
Felipe: Yes, it will go back to normal, but only if governments really pull through and immunize these strains out of the Earth.
Heli: Hopefully. I think it will take a while until everything is back to “normal” as we know it. Vaccinations might help, lets see! The underground scene will always persist – what is underground anyways? Music that’s not defined as pop or mainstream?
How is your sound evolving? What artists and genres do you enjoy mixing right now?
Felipe: We're constantly threading the needle between jazz, pop and hip-hop.
Michi: I practice and write for Solodrumset pieces and i learn and or compose the music for the various band projects that i am involved in. That keeps me busy mostly and sharp and inspired. I play with the most wonderful musicians on the contemporary jazz/fusion scene and contemporary Large Ensembles playing exclusively original compositions. I bring all that to the table when i play with sketches of course keeping our vision as a band in mind .
Jahson: Our sound has moved between a live sound to a more produced sound, we’re finding our balance right now. Listening to a lot of reggae artists and rap, from Damien Marley to Kojey Radical.
Heli: As a band I see us as a constantly moving organism, changing sounds and colors at a moments notice – open to experimentation and if we all approve with whatever we come up with we bring it to the stage. As a guitarist I spend a lot of time thinking about my sound and spend a lot of money buying equipment and pedals etc. Besides that listening to my fav guitar players helps me to shape a vision of my instrumental sound – still searching but I think I am eventually getting closer to how I want to sound.
How do you feel that your music influences or impacts your listeners?
Heli: I am sure that our music impacts our audience, if they are open to creative music and deep spoken word lyrics. Plus everybody loves good vides right?
Jahson: Comments and messages from people say they’ve been touched by our music and brought positive vibes.
Felipe: If it grooves and spreads positive vibes then I'm happy.
Michi: I can only speak from our live gig experiences and for me it’s mostly that people are often surprised how good we are as band. More often than not we perform with crap sound in a less than optimal venue but people can tell and feel the energy of a tight and energetic band that’s real, uses no playbacks or computers and is just a good old quartett with a singer. I can make the worst drum kit sound better than the average joe and also we are all improvisers so we blend arranged and improvised parts as a band but also take individual liberties in the parts. It’s always high concentration and listening and blending dynamics and space. People get that and that instills hope in them that reality isn’t over. Also Jahsons poetry, as i see it, reaches and surprises people who speak english well enough to be able to follow his ideas and puns etc. More than once People commented on the whit and poetic depth of his lyrics. And girls love him.
What projects are you working on right now?
Michi: see above
Felipe: I collaborate with a few different artists, from pop/electronica to singer-songwriter and folk. Sigrid Horn, Tin Man Falls and Katrin Spiegel are in the works with releases nearing.
Jahson: Outside of Sketches I’m working on some solo material, a spoken word album called Earth Tone Poems a black solidarity compilation album called Black Seeds and other collaborations like Black Massiah and World Music.
Heli: Besides Sketches I am part of a 12 piece Jazz/Improvisers ensemble and also an afro-funk band. What can you tell us about your latest work: Blessed?
Jahson: Blessed is about recognising that we are Blessed beyond our adversities. We have the gift of life, to enjoy and no matter what anyone does against you, you can direct its course.
Michi: Nice Tune that Philipp (bassist) wrote. For me definitely Questlove inspired and also Steve Jordan. definitely Jordan on the Chorus and Questlove on the Verse with the rimshot. In terms of „ Blessed“ i feel the mere fact that we could rehearse, record and shoot a video with all that’s going on is a blessing.
Heli: It was a lot of funk working of this tune, adding different layers of rhythms and sounds. The lyrics by Jahson are great – it’s a true blessing to work with so many talented artists/musicians. What were you inspired by? WHAT have you wanted to express?
Heli: Generally as guitarist I feel inspired by blues/rock guitar players with an unique vocal approach in their guitar playing - such as Jimi Hendrix, Derek Trucks, Clapton, Page etc.
Jahson: The lyrics were inspired by seeing that I can make a success out of music despite being thrown a bundle of issues that were music related, affected me directly and were painful. I took this as a metaphor for life because it always feeds you extra chilli and cold slaps, leaving you dazed and begging for respite, but that is life. So I don’t need a break from life or music but learn from it, instead being slapped out my centre I keep myself in the hotseat.
What piss you off?
Jahson: Arguing over dumb stuff instead of looking for solutions is damn frustrating.
Heli: Nothing really, besides people not committing a 100% to whatever they do.
Felipe: People looking only after their own interests pretending to be selfless and managing to accrue followers.
Michi: how the prospect or the chance to make more money corrupts people and their indifference to the impact it has on other peoples well being. What makes you happy? Michi: Sunshine, always works Felipe: When humans get together to make collective life better, when people go out of their way to try and leave a positive mark on the p
Heli: Music, a good life, Family, nice gigs, playing guitar, good health.
Jahson: Living my life without feeling like I’m compromising myself makes me happy.
Do you have any final words of wisdom?
Jahson: Nowadays even when the worst of things happen to me I give thanks. Like day follows night, grey clouds must pass.
Felipe: Be safe, choose love, not hate.
Michi: Be good. Invest in yourself by learning and creating. Invest in other people and collaborate. listen to music without a video or doing something else. Sketches On Duality