Stefan & Quartus dare to make

Interview Quartus Vlak & Stefan Jansen

They drum. And they dare to make, to surprise and to experiment. Meet Quartus Vlak (25) from Musician 3.0 and 23-year-old Stefan Jansen (Jazz & Pop). ‘Be limitless. Don’t think in styles and boxes.’
Stefan & Quartus dare to make
"If you dare to make, this can release a lot that is beautiful. Don't be afraid to make something ugly."
- Quartus Vlak

Dare to make

Quartus: ‘Daring, that means trusting in something. In yourself, that you can do it and that you’re allowed to try it. Do you think your idea makes no sense? It does make sense. If you dare to make, this can release a lot that is beautiful. Don’t be afraid to make something ugly. Just try making, without judging. I’m now in the third year of Musician 3.0, where we have to make something each week. Creating for the sake of creating. It makes me very happy.’

Stefan: ‘Dare to make, for me that means making sure you’re not constrained by boundaries and style. I don’t see myself as a jazz, rock or hip-hop drummer. The conservatory teaches in different styles. Here, I’ve played in an opera, a classical orchestra and a jazz ensemble. Now I'm working on my own band project, where I try to combine everything I love in terms of music – without the style or band members being fixed. If I want to add a poet or an artist, we ask them. Be limitless! Don’t think in styles and boxes.’

Dare to surprise

Quartus: ‘In Musician 3.0 we do a lot of improvisation. We learn to come up with things ourselves in the moment and to work with sound. That can produce some surprising music – especially if you work with other people who have a different view of music. For example, I can play very unorthodox parts. That individuality and authenticity is highly valued within the programme. You can be yourself here and look for your own voice.’

Stefan: ‘There’s been a lot of experimentation in the history of drumming. I try to be myself, and to look for new style influences, such as suddenly throwing a huge swing solo into a rock song. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But it’s a way of surprising my audience. Like Quartus. Do I ever surprise myself? Absolutely! The other day, I was a percussionist at a piano concert by a friend of mine. He’s a classical pianist. I never thought we’d be together on the same stage.’

"Be limitless! Don't think in styles and boxes."
- Stefan Jansen

Dare to experiment

Quartus: ‘If you dare to explore, you can grow as a musician. Every day I film myself on the drums. First, I study the things I have to do for drum lessons, to improve my technique and musicality. When I’ve finished my studies, I'm going to experiment. If I find a good groove, I’ll post the video on Instagram. I notice that people like that. But I also do it for myself; it’s a way of creating an archive of my own ideas and growth. Within the programme there’s also plenty of scope for experimenting and to work outside genres. I’m a drummer, but I can also do percussion or grab a microphone.’

Stefan: ‘Experimenting for me is also daring to fall on my face. Sometimes it’s very instructive to find out what doesn’t work. Or to do something I haven’t done before, like playing with the Latin ensemble at the conservatory. This experimenting is encouraged during the programme. For example, sometimes we’ll be playing a beautiful jazz standard in an ensemble and then the teacher says, swap roles. Then I have to drum the singer’s part and the singer has to sing my part. Then all of a sudden I’m more melodic, the singer more rhythmic. That helps me to look at the music

Dare to dream

Quartus: ‘It was my dream to come to the conservatory. When I’ve finished? I’ll give myself time to find a place in the art world. For me, music is a tool for social engagement. That’s also what you learn in Musician 3.0: music is a tool to achieve things. For instance, I’ve used my musicality to make a video that will increase my chances of finding a room.’

Stefan: ‘I am now in my final year of Jazz & Pop. My dream is for the next few years to be as diverse and inspiring as the last four years. And of course, it would be cool if I were often asked to work as a session musician. Or if I could combine my percussion and drums in a musical production. It would also be great to travel the world with a huge band. But I prefer to keep things realistic, which means a dream in which I keep developing broadly. That way, I’ll automatically end up in the right place.’

Interview for HKU, December 2018