Colin Stetson: Musical Athlete

‘…feels like music I’ve been subconsciously craving without even knowing it exists.’ – PITCHFORK

Colin Stetson was born and raised in Ann Arbor and spent a decade in San Francisco and Brooklyn honing his formidable talents as a horn player eventually settling in Montreal in 2007.

From early beginnings in experimental jazz group Transmission Trio:


Stetson has gone on to collaborate with artists such as 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 – to name but a few.

But above all, he is a solo artist in his own right, who has crafted a unique sonic & visual experience through avant garde and extended techniques, equipped with an eclectic musical palate.

On his solo work, The Quietus says Colin ‘has totally eclipsed the flare of these heavyweights with a series of brutalist yet ambitious and exhilarating records’. He produces enigmatic, physical, strenuous music which courses and caterwauls through a reminiscence of dark jazz, post-rock and industrial electronica.

Colin has perfected the technique of circular breathing and with his live shows, literally ties himself to the grizzly beast; as the performer and instrument grapple together in a hypnotic whirl they almost blur into one.

I guess where it started to get interesting for me was when I realised you didn’t have to only learn from or mimic other players of your chosen instrument, regardless of what it might be. So much more can be gleaned if you do the same thing with other instruments and different sound sources entirely.”– Colin Stetson

For an fascinating interview with Stetson about Mastering the Flow click [here]

Considered a prodigy in his teens, Colin was thrust in to the limelight; in freshman year he was instantly playing in a sax quartet and the main symphonic band whilst majoring in visual art. He speaks of how during this time ‘the challenge to live up to the hype is quite real.’ and as a result he has maintained a solid work ethic throughout his life, ‘it was just an all-intensive and personally challenging regimen, which pretty much sets you up for a lifetime of living that way.’.

When it comes to mastering an instrument in the way Colin has, many may envisage a vitamin D deficient recluse locked away in a dark room running scales until their fingers drop off. Practice is of course a huge factor but also the physical demands of performing in this way requires peak fitness – and Colin is something of a musical athlete.

Natural ability, practice, eclectic palate, work ethic and artistic collaboration are what contribute to creating this intriguing, well rounded musician but something which ties this all together beautifully is the immediate emotivity you hear when you put on a Colin Stetson record or watch him perform.

It was his long standing dream to work with musical hero Tom Waits. One hazy early morning in his San Fransisco home at the age of 23 the phone rings, Colin drearily answers and it’s Tom Waits on the line. He’s got his number through a mutual friend, bassist Matthew Sperry. This friend had changed the course of his life. For the next year and a half Colin and Matthew played regularly in Tom Waits’ band until one day, Colin received another life-altering phone call saying Matthew had been hit by a car on his way to work and had been killed, leaving behind a wife and 2 year old daughter. The much-loved Matthew’s untimely death had a profound effect on Stetson as he states:

“I tell the first part of the story to set up the second part of the story – what we think is all important and life-altering events when we’re young, they pale in comparison to the things that actually do touch us on a real meaningful level and change us in ways that I think are long lasting and are actually what we should be looking for in our lives.”

Such sentiments and sensitivity can certainly be heard in Colin’s rich, all encompassing sound.

Listen and watch his most recent release from the forthcoming album ‘All this I do for Glory’

Out April 28th 2017

[pre-order here]