A Portrait of Sven-Åke Johansson

The documentary film Alter Schwede aims to portray the multiple talents and idiosyncratic personality of the Swedish musician, composer, artist and writer Sven-Åke Johansson.

A tutelary figure on the Berlin art and music circuit, Johansson first made himself a name as a Free Jazz drummer in the sixties. Moving to Berlin at the end of the sixties, he evolved on the Zodiak Free Arts Lab scene, where he played with genre-defying performers such as Conrad Schnitzler. In the eighties his work was embraced by the Geniale Dilletanten (as Berlin’s punk scene then called itself), who revered his anti-conformism. To this day Johansson is a model for younger generations of musicians, notably from the current Echtzeitmusik scene, while playing, composing and recording as actively as ever and perpetuating his long-standing collaborations with Rüdiger Carl, Alexander von Schlippenbach and Axel Dörner.

Besides his “free” work, Johansson also cultivates a well-documented interest for classic swing and bebop tunes. With his two quartets – Night and Day and the Ol’ Man Rebop Ensemble (which has recently interpreted classic tunes by Irving Berlin together with the British vocalist Phil Minton) – he likes to “slip into the role of a restaurant musician” to keep alive a repertoire which he sees in danger of museification.

In the coming months we plan to document Johansson’s appearances in his various roles. The film will alternate performances with interviews of time witnesses and companions, among whom Rüdiger Carl, Alex von Schlippenbach, Axel Dörner, Peter Brötzmann, Norbert Eisbrenner and Wolfgang Müller.