Expect only the unexpected – an interview with Fire! Orchestra

The ever-changing members of international bigband free jazzers Fire! Orchestra have been defying traditions and reinventing themselves in the large format since the original Fire! trio swelled to an impressive 28 musicians in 2013. The trio is still at the core of the Orchestra’s large-scale outings, consisting of renowned saxophonist Mats Gustafsson, bass player Johan Berthling and drummer Andreas Werliin, with Gustafsson acting as both composer and performing conductor during the band’s overwhelming concerts.

Fire! Orchestra are playing both Aarhus and Copenhagen during Vinterjazz 2018. Local Aarhus-venue, Atlas, had a chat with Mats Gustafsson regarding Fire! Orchestra’s upcoming tour. Read on!


What can the audience expect from the show?
Mats Gustafsson: “Expect only the unexpected, as Joe McPhee always says. We are bringing an entirely new version of Fire! Orchestra back to Aarhus – with a definite focus on strings and clarinets this time! No electronics, no guitars – no massive horn sections. A totally NEW sound and color! And a brand new composition/structure – that will lead to a totally new music for the orchestra. We have worked in a completely new way with this version of the ensemble – where all musicians are involved in creating and arranging the music. Very rewarding. We have been playing bits and pieces of the ideas during the fall 2017 – but this Scandinavian tour means that we bring the actual piece with us, “ARRIVAL”!”

What merch do you bring?
“We will have the new Fire! Trio album “The Hands” with us, as well as new merch for the orchestra: T- shirts and totes. And we will bring the old titles of the orchestra as well as solo projects by all the members of the groups. The merch table will be a serious one! The new album of the orchestra “ARRIVAL” will be recorded during the concerts in February and mixed together and mastered in February/March for an early summer release. Watch out!”

Which song do you prefer performing live?
“”ARRIVAL” is the title – but it might include other elements. But it will all be NEW things – melodies, songs, structures and ideas that we have been working on the whole fall 2017. Even some borrowed music. But this is not yet decided – whatever comes up during the concert comes up. What NEEDS to come up… Willl show up.”

How have your most recent concerts been?
“Very good , thank you! As long as you give 100% and all your inner and outer energy – it will come out in a way that the audience can feel that they are part of!”

How would you describe your many bandmates in Fire! Orchestra?
“Fantastic people all around with big ears and big hearts.”

Which live act (band and/or artist) is your favorite – and why?
“That varies from day to day. Some days I would say Entombed, some other days I would say Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, some other days I would say Shellac, some other days I would say Lee Konitz, some other day I would say Sofia Jernberg solo – some other day.”

How would you describe your latest album?
“”The Hands” – is everything we ever wished for.”

What are your plans for the spring and the summer?
“Many many many – but including tours, projects and festivals of Fire! and Fire! Orchestra as well as activities with The Thing, The End and also projects with Thurston Moore as well as concerts and recordings with Merzbow and other creative minds. And I plan to spend serious time in Sapmi with my beloved family – to show my daughters the real world. And I hope to find some EXTREME vinyls on my tours. Especially in Aarhus – where there are two really great shops: Black Light and Clemens Antikvariat!”


You can catch Fire! Orchestra on the following dates during Vinterjazz 2018:

Friday February 2nd, 9:00 PM – Alice cph – Read more / Buy ticket

Monday February 5th, 8:00 PM – Atlas, Aarhus – Fire! Orchestra (SE/NO) – Read more / Buy ticket


The 18th edition of Vinterjazz takes place from February 2-25 in 2018. The line-up of concerts will be continually revealed during November, December and January. The annual nationwide music festival was founded in 2001 and always takes place during February. Its role as a national gathering spot for venues and organizers, artists and audiences in both small towns and big cities is exactly what sets Vinterjazz apart from almost all other Danish festivals – a national initiative coming to fruition in a very local way. Vinterjazz also marks the beginning of a new season of concerts for the regional venues, local organizers, audiences and artists; the latter now able to tour again after a few dormant months, thanks to the increased concert activity at Vinterjazz. 2017 saw the attendance of more than 120 venues and organizers across the country, presenting more than 700 concerts.