Martin Klapper

If for some reason one had to leave one's children in the care of just one improvising musician from the European continent, the choice might logically be this man. It isn't so much that he is a devoted father himself, as there are many such people on the improv scene. No, the attraction would be the equipment he might be packing, as Martin Klapper is a musician who gets on-stage without a single recognizable musical instrument. Instead, he improvises with as much as two full picnic tables covered with mechanical toys, toy instruments, everyday electronic gadgets, and a variety of homemade instruments. His ability to coax an incredible array of weird sounds out of these devices, combined with a seemingly always-in-control manner of interplay with his fellow musicians, made him an in-demand player on the improv scene from the mid-'80s on, although he would hardly be the choice of a player looking to create mellow, groovy music. He was raised in what was formerly Czechoslovakia until the collapse of the U.S.S.R. and its satellite republics. Growing up in this intense, politically charged atmosphere with its tight grip on the creative arts had a profound impression on him. He developed not only into an experimental musician, but a filmmaker and visual artist; in every creative field he becomes involved in he seems to truly enjoy the feel of the raw materials in his hands. In his works involving collage or assemblage, he likes to use foam rubber, plastics, or natural minerals. And when creating music, he can frequently be seen intensely caressing a spring, for example, with a small rubber mallet while people in the audience attempt to figure out where the sounds are coming from. He was once praised as one of the only musical artists who could make a coat hanger and a clock spring sound like a bass solo by Jaco Pastorius. His musical beginnings actually involved a normal instrument -- the saxophone -- although his methods of playing it in the 1983 Czech punk rock band A64 were hardly in the mode of David Sanborn. The 1980 underground group Der Die Das Electische Messer...Was had been his first semi-professional musical undertaking, although the activities of this ensemble were severely limited due to the repressive regime. He co-founded the experimental trio Alfred Starke in 1984 and this group created a series of cassette recordings. He moved to Denmark during this year, and from this new home base has collaborated with many European improvisers and some Americans as well. His partners often include other artists who combine instrumental playing with sound creations on electronic instruments or combinations of cheap devices or toy instruments such as Klapper, although nobody seems to show up at a gig with as much weird stuff as he does. These collaborators include British keyboardist Pat Thomas, Australian drummer and composer Tony Buck, and Swedish drummer Raymond Strid. He has also played with reed players such as Tim Hodgkinson and Jim Denley. British multi-instrumentalist Steve Beresford, who has also been known to tote toys on-stage, has performed with Klapper, as has pianist Chris Burn and electronic drummer Ikue Mori. Klapper was invited to one of British free music godfather Derek Bailey's Company events, where he apparently almost drove the conservative American clarinetist Don Byron out of his mind. When the Danish improvising group Ghost in the Machine went head to head with saxophone dervish Evan Parker for several CD outings, Klapper was added to the group lineup to make sure Parker wouldn't overwhelm the lot of them. Perhaps his most succesful playing partner is British percussionist Roger Turner, with whom he created the superb duo CD Recent Croaks on the Acta label in the late '90s. In 1995, he performed in the United States, including a gig at the New York Knitting Factory. He toured Australia in 1998, including an appearance at a large-scale festival in Melbourne. In the following year, he performed and recorded in a trio with trumpeter Birgit Ulher and bassist Jurgen Morgenstern, creating the CD Momentaufnahmen. Since the mid-'90s, films created by Klapper have been shown at several Danish and European film festivals. ~ Eugene Chadbourne

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