Colin Stetson

Colin Stetson was born and raised in Ann Arbor, spent a decade in San Francisco and Brooklyn honing his formidable talents as a horn player, eventually settling in Montreal in 2007. Over the years he has worked extensively live and in studio with a wide range of bands and musicians including Tom Waits, Arcade Fire, Bon Iver, TV On The Radio, Feist, Laurie Anderson, Lou Reed, Bill Laswell, Evan Parker, The Chemical Brothers, Animal Collective, Hamid Drake, LCD Soundsystem, The National, Angelique Kidjo, Fink, and David Gilmore.

Meanwhile he has developed an utterly unique voice as a soloist, principally on saxophones and clarinets, his intense technical prowess matched by his exhilarating and emotionally gripping skills as a songwriter. Stetson’s astounding physical engagement with his instruments (chiefly bass and alto saxophones) produces emotionally rich and polyphonic compositions that transcend expectations of what solo horn playing can sound like. Stetson is equally at home in the avant jazz tradition of players who have pushed the boundaries of the instrument through circular breathing, embouchure, etc.(i.e. Evan Parker, Mats Gustafsson) and at the nexus of noise/drone/minimalist music that encompasses genres like dark metal, post-rock and contemporary electronics (i.e.Tim Hecker, Ben Frost – both of whom have mixed or remixed Stetson recordings).
Colin Stetson will perform at MaerzMusik/The Long Now in Berlin on March 25th.


1. Evolution by natural selection

2. The universe is expanding

3. Japanese breakfast is my favorite breakfast


1. What is the biggest inspiration for your music?
Musically speaking, the biggest inspirations are Jimi Hendrix and Nobukazu Takemura. In the world, the biggest inspirations are running up mountains and staring at sunlight on moving water.

2. How and when did you get into making music?
I started playing saxophone at age 9 in school at the time. I suppose I became “serious” about it when I was 15 and started studying with a teacher who was able to show me what was possible and to inspire me to achieve unrealistic goals, simply because I didn’t know they were unrealistic.

3. What are your 5 favorite albums of all time?
Glenn Gould: Bach’s Goldberg Variations, 1981
Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan: The Day the Night, The Dawn, the Dusk
Van Morrison: Astral Weeks
Peter Brotzmann & Bill Laswell: Lowlife
Meshuggah: The Violent Sleep of Reason

4. What do you associate with Berlin?
My friends who live there and make it a place that feels like home to me.

5. What’s your favorite place in your town?
My backyard.

6.If there was no music in the world, what would you do instead?
I would be a dancer

7. What was the last record you bought?
Odoro Matilda

8. Who would you most like to collaborate with?
Jimi Hendrix

9. What was your best gig (as performer or spectator)?
Arthur Doyle solo at Tonic, NYC, in 1997

10. How important is technology to your creative process?
The technology I use in solo performance is only my microphones, and these don’t tend to be a part of my practice or writing, so I’d say that the technology beyond my saxophones really doesn’t play a role in the creative process. Not until recording starts.

11. Do you have siblings and how do they feel about your career/art?
I have 3 siblings, and they are supportive and loving. My sister is also a musician, an opera singer, and we collaborated on a record together in 2016 called SORROW: a reimagining of Gorecki’s 3rd Symphony.

To Listen: