Expanding Drum Kit Tones with Magnus Öström (RYMDEN / e.s.t)

— Features — Joshua French

Drummer and composer Magnus Öström made his name with the Esbjörn Svensson Trio— his expressive playing the perfect complement to the late pianist’s technicolour soundscapes and to Dan Berglund’s inventive string bass work. RYMDEN represents his return to the trio dynamic, with the experienced and accomplished Bugge Wesseltoft behind the piano and keyboard and Berglund once again seated behind the upright bass. A mild-mannered and thoughtful musician, Öström kindly took the time share his thoughts about the experience with RYMDEN thus far, his environmental concerns as a travelling musician and the ways in which he has developed his drum setup.

Yourself, Dan and Bugge all contribute compositions to RYMDEN, much like the trio Phronesis, who pride themselves on having equal roles and a balanced dynamic. Was it important to you that everyone make creative contributions to the trio and were there any other founding principals or ideas you had when the group began?

MÖ:‘There are or were no principals at all. Bugge just said, why doesn’t everyone bring a song or two? Yes, great! We all think it’s a nice feeling to share the songwriting. You get different temperaments, flavors and colors. It hopefully broadens the sound of the group.’

You have a selection of pedals and a few uncommon cymbals/percussive instruments within your drum setup. Can you tell us a little about the less common additions you have made to your setup and why it has been important for you to customise your kit to achieve the sounds you seek?

MÖ: ‘I’ve always liked different sounds and colours. I like to blend the ordinary drum sound with both electronics, percussion and different cymbal sounds. Usually, the song gives me the sound to search for, if I listen carefully enough. I have my usual set up with guitar pedals, but recently switched my two line 6 stompboxes to one Line 6 HX stomp, mainly for making everything easier to pack up and down but also to find new sounds. I also recently added a Electro harmonix pitchfork for some tonal work.’

Music has enabled you to visit some wonderful places. What have been the most interesting places you have recently visited?

MÖ: ‘Wow, hard question. Wherever I’ve been or wherever I go, it always gives me something special. I was on a longer tour in Japan in December and it was great to be back there and also see some smaller cities/villages and eat their fantastic food. The other week I was in northern Italy and Innsbruck. All super beautiful places. The sad thing is that you always spend too short of a time in every place. Plus, the real backside of it is how to cope with how the travelling affect the environment and climate. That’s a big question for everyone of us who earn their living being on the road. To start with, we try to go by train whenever we can but in the long run I don’t really know how to solve it, maybe stay home and do the concerts via internet… not the same thing but more friendly to the environment.’

A number of the early e.s.t. albums have been remastered for vinyl recently. How involved were you in this process and was it pleasing to see the music being treated especially for the format?

MÖ: ‘It was great to revisit the recordings and the old analogue tapes. I’ve been on every mastering process to oversee the process but it’s Claes Persson, the mastering engineer, that got the job done.’

Given the success of Reflections & Odysseys, have you begun making plans for how the trio might progress, or do you prefer for things to develop more organically?

MÖ: ‘We’ll see what happens. So far we’re still in the beginning, starting to know each other’s sound, but I think we already starts to sound like a group, not only three individuals. I’m just happy to be back in a trio setting, love the format.’

Photo credit: Emil Nils Nylander

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