Raised in the small village of Frillesås on the western coast of Sweden, Joel Wästberg picked up a jazz saxophone and the rest is history. Inspired by greats like John Coltrane, Joel honed his skill and ended up travelling the world to perform in a variety of ensembles.
Eventually wanting to break away on his own, Joel adopted the moniker sir Was and used his worldly and musical experience to create his brilliant debut album, Digging A Tunnel. Mixing elements from multiple genres, including hip-hop, soul and electronica, the brilliantly unique multitalented instrumentalist is about to get big.
We sat down with the Gothenburg globetrotter to find out all about him.
You started playing the saxophone at a young age. When did you first realise you wanted to pursue music as a career and not a hobby?
As I recall it I was in my early teens when I wanted to be the new Charlie Parker and gradually I got more and more devoted to practicing and all of that…..
How did you find the shift from playing the saxophone to solo electronic production?
For me it was and is more about recording myself playing different instruments and then play around with that. The shift, once again, happened gradually. Suddenly I was spending more time recording stuff than practicing sax. But on that path I had already started to focus more on the drums so I was in a mode of change anyway….
You are quite the experienced traveller, has this inspired your music, and, in particular, your debut album Digging A Tunnel?
It certainly has!
If so, which place and experience was the biggest inspiration?
Its hard to sum it down to one specific place or event but I have to say that the couple of months I spent in South Africa was really powerful for me. Not just because of the music I heard and experienced, but really all the people I met. It was a big thing for me.
“I have to say that the couple of months I spent in South Africa was really powerful for me. Not just because of the music I heard and experienced, but really all the people I met. It was a big thing for me.”
Can you tell us a bit about the creative process behind Digging A Tunnel?
It was a long one that led up to me even starting to make an album. I have been making music for many years and in many different ways. As a sideman in other peoples band and on my own, but then without putting it out or even showing it to others (with a couple of exceptions such as being drunk with a close friend). Then one day I had had it with the whole thing. I was tired of not really finishing my musical ideas… I had so many sketches, ideas, beats, small snippets of this and that so I decided I was gonna do an album and put it up on Soundcloud/Spotify/etc on my own or best at some friends small label or something. Then it became a bigger thing than I thought and now I answer questions from journalists about the album. Pretty fantastic and insane.
For people who haven’t heard your music, describe your sound in three words…
BLUE IN GREEN
You’re about to go on tour, what is your favourite thing about performing live?
The moment when the band and audience feel something together and the line between performer and receiver is somewhat gone.
What else do you have lined up for this year?
I’m not entirely sure yet.
Finally, I read that you used to practice interviews in the shower… Are they how you imagined?