AMN Interviews

AMN Interviews: Eivind Opsvik – Part II: The Artist Beyond


Interview with Monique Avakian

Read Part I of this interview

Part II: More

The Artist Beyond

opsvik 2
Jacob Sacks, Tony Malaby, Brandon Seabrook, Kenny Wollesen, Eivind Opsvik.  Fresh off a European tour to Italy, France, and Slovenia (photo by Tiziano Ghidorsi)

Interaction with the natural world seems to be a big part of your being – can you speak of nature’s role in your life and work? You seem to be an oarsman of some kind…

Growing up in Norway, it is such a sparsely populated country with a lot of open nature that even without really trying it will somehow affect you. I can’t claim to be a big outdoorsy type, but I do enjoy nature, like everybody else. In my family, we have a wooden rowboat modeled after the old Viking rowboats. There’s something very calming about rowing this “historic” wooden boat, even when sometimes motorboats zip past. I think where one grows up definitely affects one’s creativity and artistic output.

Machines also play a big role in your creative life – you have a lot of interesting equipment, both new and old. Can you reveal for us your relationship with a few of these contraptions and what a particular machine or two might bring to your creative trajectory as a musician, and also as the head of Loyal Label Records and Greenwood Underground Music Studio?

To me having an instrument collection and various recording equipment is like having more colors available as a painter, especially for my duo, Opsvik & Jennings.

We record all instruments ourselves and are always looking for the right instrument / sound for any particular tune. [This kind of palette is also relevant] for the, ‘ A Thousand Ancestors’ box set. Even though it was centered around the bass, I still experimented with lots of different ways of recording the bass and overdubbing and also orchestrated the tracks with subtle use of other instruments.

Other and Current Projects

Your composition Twelve Days (Overseas I) was picked up and expanded upon in another context with Paul Motian, Mat Maneri and Jacob Sacks— a CD entitled, Two Miles A Day. How did this come about and what was it like for you to hear that song evolve?

That song I came up with on the bass right around the recording of the first Overseas album. That little song always was special to me so when it came time to do the ‘Two Miles A Day’ album a few years later. Jacob Sacks and I agreed on bringing in five tunes each, and I soon realized ‘Twelve Days’ would sound beautiful in this context, so I added a third harmony part to fill it out a bit, and brought it in to the recording. Motian, Maneri and Sacks knocked it out of the park. I’m very happy with that version and proud of that record as a whole.

Sound Cloud Taste: Twelve Days

I know you have an exciting project upcoming with photographer, Michelle Arcila

Yes, this is the project I’ve been working on for the past few years, and it is finally ready for release on December 2nd this year. The idea for the project goes pretty far back: I got asked to contribute to this Norwegian art and music festival at the now defunct Monkey Town in Williamsburg in 2008. That was a place that was really laid out for having visuals (big screens on all four walls for projections, etc.).

So, photographer Michelle Arcila (who is also my wife), and I decided to put something together. We’d always been mutually inspired by each other’s work, so doing something together was very natural. After that first show, we continued brewing on the idea, and we did some more shows with solo bass and photo projections, so we decided we wanted to release it in physical form. Quite a few years later, “A Thousand Ancestors” is finally here. The project is a limited edition box set (numbered edition of 500), designed by Espen Friberg. The set contains a ten-track vinyl LP (plus a CD and download card), ten photographic prints, each of which correspond to a track on the record, and a poster. “A Thousand Ancestors” is released by Brooklyn based record label, Loyal Label.

I first started recording the music in my basement studio in 2011. The starting point and framework [came from] my solo double bass performances, which, as I mentioned, sometimes had projections of Michelle’s photographs. But when it came time to record this music, I intentionally did not put any limits on myself. I decided to orchestrate the bass-centric pieces with subtle overdubbing and other studio techniques. [I also used] light touches of other instruments, like lap steel guitar, a 1950’s Hammond Solovox organ and some percussion and drum machine. The process sometimes included having specific photo prints with me in the studio, and sometimes I just let the general theme and mood of the project serve as a guideline and inspiration.

In this day and age where less and less value is put on a physical product (CDs in particular) and on music, it became a very gratifying experience to work on something that really takes the album experience to a different space entirely. I also like how it crosses and blends art genres (or maybe erases genres) and kind of exists in a space of it’s own. We are currently working on fine-tuning the live presentation of it.

Video Taste, A Thousand Ancestors:

A Strange Gratitude (from A Thousand Ancestors)

Sound Cloud Taste, A Thousand Ancestors:

Are there other current projects you’d like to share with us?

I am happy to say that Opsvik & Jennings, my instrumental odd pop collaboration with guitarist/ tunesmith Aaron Jennings is still going on. We are currently in the middle of releasing a new 10-track album called: Lune. One song is being released digitally on the first of every month. The first song was released on July 1st so there are still a few more to come. Check out to stream and download, where you can name your own price. This project is also recorded and produced by me in my basement studio–a fun process where anything is worth trying out.

Sound Cloud Taste, Opsvik & Jennings:

The Artist – History and Future

What do hope for at age 88?

I hope to still be sharp enough to be able to read some of the books I can’t seem to find the time to read now.

Are there other artists in your family, and, if so, how have they impacted your life’s work?

My father, Peter Opsvik, is a furniture designer, artist and musician and one of the most creative people I know. Obviously, he is a huge inspiration. And my wife, Michelle, is an amazing photographer and artist. She also has a very good sense when it comes to music and is my best and hardest critic.

Who are the people who have influenced your creative development the most and in what ways?

Like earlier mentioned, my father. Also, a very good friend and unique bassist in Norway, Bjørnar Andresen, who is a contemporary with Jan Garbarek and Jon Christensen on the Oslo scene. I got to know him well in the late 90’s. I learned so much about music and life just from hanging out with him–such a spirit. He sadly passed away ten years ago. Latley, my wife and daughter inspire and influence me. And I still learn a lot from my peers.


Upcoming Shows:

check @LoyalLabelNY

Overseas at the 2015 NYC Winter Jazz Festival – venue, date, time tba

A Thousand Ancestors

Event: December 13th

New Revolution Arts

7 Stanhope Street, Bushwick

Opsvik @ Nublu Jazz Fest, December, 2015 – tba

Selection of other fine writings about Eivind:

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