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Meet Mathias Kunzli

Today we’d like to introduce you to Mathias Kunzli.

So, before we jump into specific questions, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
Growing up in a very small town in Switzerland I started with drum set lessons at the age of thirteen. Soon I got involved with several bands and was the drummer for the Swiss Youth Jazz Orchestra for about five years.

Not quite twenty years old I got a bunch of scholarship money, packed my bags and moved to the US to study drums and percussion at Berklee College of Music in Boston where I met a lot of my future collaborators. After graduating, I relocated to New York City where I’ve been part of the scene and community of musicians from a stylistically broad and multi-cultural background.

Three years ago, I moved to Pasadena where I live with my wife and two cats. The change has been fun but challenging as I’m constantly looking to be more involved here in the local LA scene. The two cities have a very different feel and dynamic, and I’m still adjusting and trying to figure out how to “crack LA’s code.”

Being a freelancer and having made most of my connections in New York City, I go back there often and keep my life as bicoastal as possible. Over the years I’ve toured, performed and recorded all over the globe with a wide variety of folks and I intend on keeping going. Why stop now?

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
I haven’t had any deep struggles as far as being able to connect and collaborate with others in my professional life. I’ve always been busy enough (with ebbs and flows) to keep doing what I’m doing and survive as a musician for which I’m grateful. I feel like I have been able to trust my intuition and count on instincts to get me going. I’m not much of a long-term planner, and so far that has worked for me.

However, the sheer fact of having been gone from home (Switzerland) for over half of my life is a pretty consistent thought which tends to create some puzzling moments. Having already lost my mom almost ten years ago and being far away from my dad, my sister and friends feels wrong and at times rather painful. I cannot deny that my life has definitely been an amazing ride. Having left the familiar in order to dive into the unknown has been a huge lesson, but it does come at a price.

As much as I love where I live, how I live and what I do, there are times when things seem slightly off. It’s hard to describe it. Is it a slight lack of identity? Where do I want to be or what could’ve been if…? Is it just me missing my family and friends back home? And as I’m sailing towards my mid-forties, I realize that I’m right on schedule for some of those bigger life questions. I suppose they would’ve shown up right about now no matter what…

We’d love to hear more about what you do.
I play drum set and a wide variety of hand percussion instruments such as frame drums, pandeiro, etc. I write music. I play shows all over the world, travel to record on people’s albums, film scores and record a variety of music for TV, etc. at my home studio in Pasadena. I enjoy teaching as well.

Having studied a range of styles (jazz, rock, pop, Brazilian, Middle-Eastern, etc.) and have had the chance to collaborate with countless artists from around the globe, I feel rather comfortable in a lot of different situations. I love the unknown and enjoy improvisation, and I’ve been told that I have a pretty well-developed sense for orchestrating and finding “the thing that works” in the very moment.

I crave an honest interaction with humble human beings and tend to steer away from predominantly success and red carpet hungry folks. Music is my day to day life, and at the same time, it is a magical and sacred phenomena. I’m drawn to music from all over the planet, and therefore you can find me playing on a rooftop with Yo-Yo Ma one day and at Sydney Opera house with Regina Spektor the following week. While I’m constantly involved in many projects, I’m always looking for the next collaborator.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Rene Mosele, Stadele Photography, Palma Fiacco

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