An Chat with Christoph Victor Kaiser
By Martin Simpson
How long have you been playing Christoph?
Hi Martin, I started playing the electric bass around 1989.
How did you get started?
I received classical instruction on the piano at the age of five and switched to violoncello at the age of 10. I stayed with the cello for about ten more years, after which, my interest and dedication to the electric bass had led me to focus my time on bass as a main instrument. My music teacher in high school told me that he needed a bassplayer for the big band and because I played cello, he thought I could do that, because I was able to read bass clef. That was the starting point and it didn´t take so long for me to get comfortable with the bass.
Do you come from a musical family?
My father used to be an opera singer but changed very early to a regular teacher job and didn´t pushed his musical career.
Do you still play Cello or any other instruments?
I mostly play electric bass, that is just my main instrument. Unfortunatly I don´t have the time to play the cello very often. I don´t play any other instruments in a way that it would be appropriate to mention them here.
I read on the Jazz Pistols site that you took some instruction from Kai Eckhart.
Yes – that was at the time when he was touring with John McLaughlin and Trilok Gurtu. He lived nearby and I had the chance to take a few lessons with him. He is an extraordinary bassplayer and a very dedicated musician. Even though I didn´t have that many lessons with him, it was a very valuable time. It is not always the case that a good musician has to also be a good teacher – but Kai is definitly both.
What’s your favourite band / solo artist?
There are quite a few artists that are turning my head – my interest in music is very broad, so I´m a big fan of Frank Sinatra, Miles Davis and David Bowie for excample. Bass-wise there are the usual suspects like Marcus Miller, Jaco Pastorius, Gary Willis, Victor Wooten, Victor Bailey, Richard Bona and others. I like to listen to John Scofield and Pat Metheney but also Hip Hop or other styles. My CD collection mostly consists of CD’s where I can learn something, not only from the bass – and other CD’s that I just enjoy listening to.
What are the amps and instruments you currently use?
Right now I use two VI-string Fodera Imperial basses – one fretted, the other one fretless. My working amp is a Acoustic Image Focus II after my Wolter Woods Ultra High Power got lost or stolen in the US on the way for service…. If anybody has information about it, the Serial Number is 121204-2
I have two AccuGroove Tri 112 cabinets, which are incredibly light and goodsounding – just as the Focus.
That is about my main equipment, which I use on gigs. In the studio I use a Radial JDV-MK3 as DI-box.
What instruments would you like to have if money were no object?
Actually I´m very fortunate and already own my dream instruments with my Foderas – I´m getting a Ritter Okon VI-string in the next few weeks, which I will be endorsing – just like the Foderas. I would like to have my Walter Woods amp back – but unfortunatly I had very bad experiences with that amp and the maker…
Would you ever consider going beyond six strings on a bass?
Actually no. I just had to think about that question for myself a few months ago when Jens Ritter approached me to built a bass and we discussed if we maybe should go for a 7-string. But it’s just like I don´t hear me playing any higher. I don´t see the musical neccesity to go beyond six strings. It looks cool but I think there should be a bigger reason to switch – otherwise it would be really silly if you just can´t work with that instrument. Other than that, I believe that it would be even harder to get normal bassjobs with such an instrument. People are just scared that you’ll take over everything… it’s more for soloplayers, I think.
Any interest in Double Bass?
I played a little Double Bass and because of my cello experience I can find my way and I´m in tune. But right now I don´t have the time to really hang in there for what I could be - somebody like John Patitucci who really covers both instruments in a fabulous way… I wish I could cover only one instrument like him ;-)
What have you been doing for the last five years or so?
I´m mainly focusing on the Jazz Pistols – my main band, which I’ve played with since 1996. Together with the guitar player Stefan Ivan Schäfer, I founded Cherrytown Records – our own record label where we are distributing our records. We just released a new Live-CD of the Jazz Pistols.
Running your own Record Company must take a huge chunk out of your time – I remember Bob James, running Tappan Zee records and eventually he had to give it up because it was so time consuming.
Yes, you’re right… it definitly takes a lot of time – we are just at the beginning of it and it’s hard, but it’s for our own stuff so I´m just hoping that it will pay off. I´ve always had to do all that stuff by myself… booking, webpage programming and all the other stuff that has to do with running a band. So it just seemed logic to have everything in your own hands if you can´t find anybody that thinks along similar lines – this is it.
What recordings that you’ve played on would you recommend for listening?
All of the Jazz Pistols – currently four releases to date. You can check them out at our webpage -
Could you give us a brief description of each of the Jazz Pistols albums?
Three on the floor from 1997 is our debut album and has Teen Town as a cover version on it. It has a good amount of energy and I still like it very much. There are also some nice ballads on it.
Three on the moon from 1999 has Birdland (Joe Zawinul) and Spain (Chick Corea) on it – two well known tunes that we arranged for our trio and they work very well. We also put up Blues for Gordon from Bela Fleck and the Flecktones. I´m just naming here the coversongs because a lot of people maybe can get a better idea with that. But our own songs don´t have to hide in comparison to them.
Special Treatment from 2001 was recorded and mixed by me in our own studio. It is again a step forward in our vision what can be done with a trio. We have a coverversion of Wayne Shorters Palladium and also Vix9 from Victor Wooten/Bela Fleck and the Flecktones.
Our current Live-CD of 2006 is just coming out and has a mixture of all the CDs with great liveversions of the songs. You can go to our webpage http://www.jazz-pistols.de and listen to all the CDs and songs and also order them directly in our shop.
You can also check out our mySpace site at http://www.myspace.com/jazzpistols and get connected with us. I would be happy to add you to our friends list.
What’s been the low point in your career so far?
Again I´m fortunate that I don´t feel that I have had any real low points in my career – or is it just that I haven’t had any highs and just don´t realise? ;-)
There are always ups and downs in your life – either personly or music wise. There are gigs which don´t work out as you originally thought they would/should or you have trouble with other musicians which can be a real showstopper for me…
Yes, personality clashes have led to so many bands breaking up. What has been the high point?
The high point of my carrer was definitly the Africa tours that we did together with the German Goethe Institute. We have been in South Africa twice and in another 17 African Countries during our four visits in the last three years – that was definitly the high point.
Another high point - just about the number - was some concerts that I played in front of 80.000-100.000 people with a German rock group - but I have to admit that I liked (for example) our live gig for our Live-CD with the Jazz Pistols in front of around 300 people in a packed club, far better – because they cared about our music!
You’ve visited the South African Bassists website www.bassplayers.co.za what do you think of it?
I think it’s a great resource for all kinds of musicians. It is not only focused at African players – it is very international and I’ve known about the site for quite some time and had been reading some interviews and articles. Definitly worth while to check it out – but I don´t have to tell you that or your readers – they already know what they are getting….
What are your goals currently?
Right now we are trying to get our new Record Label going and promoting our new Jazz Pistols CD. We are currently working on our next studio CD and there are other projects in the pipeline. I just have to see how I can take care of all this without dropping some other important part.
I´m also, always on the search for new ways of expressing my musical visions and trying to practice more…
So do you see the Jazz Pistols being around for quite some time to come?
After about ten years I still hope that we are around for quite some time. We are just working on our DVD coming out in the next months. Beside that we are in the process of recording for our new studio album…. So there is quite some stuff happening right now and we are hoping to find new fans and a wider audience.
As you’ve probably seen on our site, I’ve interviewed German bassists, Lars Lehmann, Philip Rehm and Markus Setzer. Hopefully, I’ll soon be doing interviews with Martin Engelien and Alfred Kallfass. Do you know any of these guys?
Sure, they are known here in Germany. I know Lars and Martin personly. With Markus I only had some eMail contact – we are living in some other parts of Germany and never met, but he has some great stuff going on.
What does Christoph Kaiser get up to when he’s taking a break from music?
I have a Russian Sighthound – a Barsoi, and he (Gavan) takes some time too. I also love the movies and try to see the newest films.
Thanks very much for the interview Christoph.
I have to thank you for that opportunity. I hope that there might be some readers interested now to take a look at the Jazz Pistols….