Bass Musician Magazine: Feb/Mar 2010 Featuring Jonas Hellborg
Jake: Did it help working with John at that time, who is known for letting musicians be who they are shall I say?
Jonas: I guess so, but it was also him hearing what I did at the time. He had heard my demo tape, and that was the basis of why he hired me. He liked what he heard and thought it would fit his music. I’m sure if I had displayed some other extreme ideas he might not have been so open minded. But it turned out that I was doing something that he was looking for at that particular time.
Jake: I also saw your video playing Beethoven’s concerto for piano, violin, and cello, with violin and cello been replaced with guitar and bass. What do you feel working on classical material has brought to your overall musicianship?
Jonas: I guess the level of the musical complexity, and intelligence, and the abilities of those great masters of the past. If you take people like Mozart, and Beethoven, and more important than anybody else, Bach, what they knew, nobody knows today, and there’s no one even close to that sort of mastery. When you hear one of those pieces, it sounds great, and you get excited. But once you get into the study of it, and actually learn all the little intricacies, all the little details of it, you become astounded by the extreme genius that these masters represented. And it is so, so satisfying to work on. It’s like you go from a high, to a high, and go wow, how did they think of this, how did they come up with it. I feel so insignificant when I’m playing that music—it’s so amazing, so wonderful. It might possibly be the most satisfying thing that I do musically. Playing Beethoven is fantastic, and playing Bach is even more satisfying. It’s an astounding experience just to do that. But mostly, I play that music by myself, for myself…for my own pleasure. You also have to realize there are people that spend their entire lives playing and interpreting this music on the instrument it was written for, and if I’m ever going to do something seriously with that music, I’d have to work on it a lot before I’d feel comfortable putting it out there. I’ve seen a lot of people record Bach cello suites and the like on bass, which I feel is almost sacrilegious. To me, it’s a bad sound, there’s no beauty, no interpretation, they’re just able to play the notes, and sometimes, just barely. And I think that’s a shame…it just doesn’t do the music justice.
Jake: As you mentioned, you were introduced to Indian music while playing with John McLaughlin. What intrigued you and drew you to this genre which has become a big part of your repertoire?