Sound It Out: “20 Questions” #14 — Anders Nilsson

Another installment of the recurring “Sound It Out: 20 Questions” feature on, with an artist answering a survey inspired by the famous Proust Questionnaire…

(Anders Nilsson, performing at Greenwich House. Photo: Bart Babinksi.)

In Time Out New York, Hank Shteamer aptly encapsulated Anders Nilsson as “a guitarist and composer comfortable with everything from free improvisation to avant-garde metal,” going on to describe Anders’ milestone solo album, Night Guitar, as traversing “ghostly mood-setting, bluesy twang and overdriven riffage.” Two veteran downtown guitar heroes were also taken by that 2012 release: Marc Ribot was impressed by the album’s evocative aura, calling it “Blind Willie Johnson meets Bernard Hermann,” while Elliott Sharp described it as “brooding, dramatic and filled with surprises.” Anders, born in 1974, grew up in Eslöv, Sweden, graduating from the Malmö Academy of Music before moving in 2000 to New York City, where he got his master’s at City College. Anders has recorded in the trio Kalabalik with guitarist Raoul Björkenheim and drummer Gerald Cleaver (Kalabalik, 2012), as well as in the Fulminate Trio with bassist Ken Filiano and drummer Michael Evans (Triangulation, 2016; Fulminate Trio, 2008). Alongside singer Fay Victor, Anders has recorded a duo album (Bare, 2010) and contributed to three of her Fay Victor Ensemble discs. The guitarist has also led the jazz-rock group AORTA and other bands, along with composing a string quartet and writing for film, dance and theater projects. Anders was part of the all-star lineup of Sound It Out’s “Monk on Guitars” fifth-anniversary extravaganza last June at Greenwich House, and he had previously led a trio in the series, in November 2016. On December 14, 2017, Anders plays the year’s final Sound It Out show, co-leading a dual-guitar band with six-string kindred spirit Mike Baggetta. The two guitarists, alongside bassist Jerome Harris and drummer Satoshi Takeishi, will explore their own originals plus tunes by Frank Zappa, James Blood Ulmer and John Abercrombie. About pairing with Baggetta, Anders says: “When I first heard Mike play guitar, I was instantaneously attracted – I love his naturally liquid style and massive sound. To unite onstage with double guitars and two favorite rhythm players will be a joyous trip!” — BB

  1. What was the first jazz album you fell in love with and stayed in love with?

The European Tour by John Coltrane. The classic quartet recorded live in Stockholm in 1963 with a bewildering level of expression and flow, groovin’ really high. I’m trying to imagine what my countrymen and women present in the hall might have felt at the time… Aside from me and my own playing, Coltrane is by far the musician whose playing I have listened to most over the course of my life. As a consequence, I’ve also listened to so much McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Garrison and Elvin Jones, with his incredible groove. Looking back on a long period from high school through college, I could count on one hand the days that I didn’t listen to some recording of this band.

  1. What’s one of your all-time favorite non-jazz albums?

Lô Borges-Clube de Esquina by Milton Nascimento. I was recently given this album as a gift. The songs are of such a variety and have such an inviting tone that it’s addictive. There are also some collage pieces that suggest political, militaristic threat. I don’t know that for sure because it’s sung in Portuguese; but the music sounds like that to me. 

  1. What’s the last album you listened to from beginning to end – and did you like it?

Baryton! by Hans Nyman, Marcelo Gabard Pazos & Petter Nilsson – yes!

  1. What’s your favorite film score?

Psycho by Bernard Herrmann.

  1. What was the most recent concert – of any genre – that made you fall in love with music all over again?

Billy Martin’s trio Bee Line, with Kato Hideki and Chris Cochrane, at Baby’s All Right, in Brooklyn.

  1. Which are your very favorite and least favorite venues for live music?

My favorite venue in New York City is Barbés – for the variety, the relaxed atmosphere, the intimate space. My least favorite: Rock Star Bar, which is now closed. I was once hired to play originals with a performer-songwriter there as a duo. A middle-aged man in attendance was ultra-drunk and kept coming up on stage while we were performing to touch my fingerboard and growl with an open mouth as if singing along. I tried to lead him offstage while playing. It was a challenge to focus on the music, so naturally I looked around for the staff to act. They saw it and did nothing. There is no business like show business…

  1. What’s your favorite quote about music?

“Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.” — Plato

  1. If you could have a drink with any late artist of the past, who would it be?

Hieronymus Bosch.

  1. What are the top three tools of your trade?

Skill, understanding, knowing when to do what.

  1. What’s your most indispensable piece of technology that isn’t music-oriented?

Eh, my smart phone, nowadays.

  1. What are your top media sources of writing/opinion/news about music?

I generally act on instinct, making my own inquiries into music from various eras and places. Lately, I’ve felt a little out of touch with what’s happening right now, though, so I started subscribing to Pitchfork, the Nonesuch label and and, because I’m interested in music from all over the world. So, that in addition to communicating with friends about music.

  1. What non-musical/non-technological quality is most important to being an enduringly creative musician?

Letting go and listening.

  1. What living person do you most admire – and what’s one quality he or she has that you most admire?

I’m not really sure, but to quote the Dalai Lama: “Don’t look down on a person unless you’re trying to help him up.”

  1. What living person do you most despise – and what one quality he or she has that you most despise?

See the previous answer.

  1. What’s your favorite place in the world?

Montepulciano, Tuscany – for the beauty, the wine, the food.

  1. If you could live in another time period, when would that be?

It would be amazing to have been there among the first humans.

  1. What book would you most like to read again?

The Stranger by Albert Camus. I have read this book three times already, years apart. Each time, my relating to it had changed dramatically.

  1. What film haven’t you seen that you feel like you should?


  1. What aspect of the past do you miss most – and what’s one thing you look forward to about the future that doesn’t exist?

I miss a sense of dependability on people, I guess. Alienation is becoming rampant as the value placed on humanity, life and the planet is dropping. The human glue is getting weaker in societies. We had better stop lying and get over some fundamental bullshit for there to even be much of a future.

  1. What would you like your last meal to consist of?

A delicious meal I’ve never heard of before, prepared and presented by a real human being, in a place I have never been, far away, surrounded by my family.