It is not often we unearth a Fretless Guitarist that has been playing for forty odd years, but to unearth one with the same surname as oneself is surely unique. Lutte Berg is a veteran of several bands, with a string of CDs to his name and appearances at International Festivals in New York, Hong Kong, Syria, Algeria, and Italy.
Lutte Berg was born Luciano Scalercio in Sweden on the 30th April 1963 (Father Italian and Mother Swedish) and he learnt his first chords on his mother’s classical guitar at the age of 12.
At the age of 13 Lutte Berg starts his first band “Ägg I Mössan” (Eggs in the Hat) with some school friends. When Lutte Berg was 14 a friend of his mother brought him his first electric guitar and it was love on first sight.
He started his second band “Astra Khan” and decides that the electric guitar and music will be what he does for a living.
When Lutte Berg is 16 he enrols at the music college “Södra Latins Musikgymnasium” in Stockholm where he for the first time digs deep into studying music theory, history, arrangement, and electric guitar. At the age of 20, he becomes artistic / musical director of the ROJ theatre of Stockholm.
In 1990 he decided to move to Rovito in Southern Italy where he gets interested in ethnic music and instruments such as the Saz and Fretless Nylon Guitar.
In 2012 Lutte Berg decided to move back to Sweden and settle down, together with his wife Tina, in his Grandfather’s old house by the lake near the town of Malmköping.
Jeff Berg interviews Lutte Berg (Berg on Berg)
Jeff: Is Lutte Berg a stage name or have you officially changed this?
Lutte: I’ve been called Lutte since I can remember. Probably Luciano was to difficult to pronounce in Sweden in the early 1960’s. The Italian part of my family called me Luciano and the Swedish part Lutte… but I have not officially changed it.
Jeff: Tell me what fascinated you about the guitar at age 12?
Lutte: Actually when I was twelve I was in love with the saxophone but in those days it was impossible to play that at the age of 12. When I was 13-14 a friend of my mother came to our place with a Telecaster… and that was love at first sight! From that day on there was only music in my head.
Jeff: During your time at the Södra Latins Musikgymnasium you formed the “Whenever Band” and performed on Swedish National Radio, how did that come about?
Lutte: They were great times for culture. It could happen that a radio producer wanted to do a live program with unknown people and it was actually possible. Nowadays it is almost impossible. If you are already a star, Radio and TV are there for you… otherwise there is no chance.
Jeff: After your three years of study at the Södra Latins Musikgymnasium you moved to Skurups Musikfolkhögskola was that another school?
Lutte: Yes it is a school, Skurups musikfolkhögskola was the best choice if you loved jazz and rock. I was very lucky that they chose me. I still remember the situation; 83 contenders for 3 available “seats”. You had to do a live performance playing 3 songs in front of a jury and when I heard the others warming up I realised that they were much better than me. So I played perfectly cool (knowing that I had no chance) and really enjoyed my time… and they liked the performance so I got a place!
Jeff: Who were your musical influences at the time?
Lutte: That was the period in which Pat Metheny recorded his best CDs (personal opinion of course) and Miles come out with “The Man with the Horn” and we all discovered Mick Stern!
Jeff: At the very young age of 20 you are offered the job of artistic / musical director of the ROJ Theatre of Stockholm, how did you secure that position?
Lutte: I was lucky I guess. After four months of hitch hiking around Europe and Northern Africa I returned to Sweden and found that a new and very interesting theatre project had just started in my home town. Some people knew about me and they called me up.
Jeff: This sounds like a fascinating job, what were your duties?
Lutte: Fantastic job! My “duties” were to invent whatever I wanted in music. The more crazy the music was, the better! I had a choir with around 80 people and I wrote for string quartet, heavy metal / electronic band, cello and electric trumpet, jazz bar band….you name it! That period (5 years) was a great training ground for me.
Jeff: After five years you relocated to Italy, why was that?
Lutte: The plan was to be in Italy for 1 year with my girlfriend. Then just one month before the trip she left me, so I said… what the heck and bought an old car, put everything I owned in it (not much!) and moved to Italy for 25 years.
Jeff: You discovered the fretless guitar in Italy, tell us about that…
Lutte: Actually that was some years before. I had (still have) a friend that was a great boatbuilder. Since I loved the fretless bass I had the idea about the Fretless Guitar and he built it for me. After a couple of months I put the guitar away. I could’t get a good sound out of the instrument. The problem was that I played in the same way as with the normal guitar and that doesn’t work! When I moved to Italy I started to listen to the music from the Arabian and Indian world…and that was important!
Jeff: Were you playing any other unusual instruments at the time?
Lutte: Only normal guitars.
Jeff: Your first CD “Mountain’s Breath” (1990) did that contain any fretless guitar?
Lutte: Yes. In that album I use the electric fretless guitar but mainly the acoustic 12 stringed nylon fretless guitar.
Jeff: You also have a twin necked acoustic guitar, 6 string fretted, 12 string fretless, who built that?
Lutte: That guitar was built by a Swedish luthier named Rickard Rolf.
Jeff: Who built the doubleneck electric 6 string fretted / fretless?
Lutte: The very best Roberto Villone from Rome! Sadly I have to say that this electric doublenecked guitar was stolen!!! It happened in summer 2011 and I will never forget. It really took me a long time to find my place again with another guitar.
Jeff: That is a very sad story, I hope you get it back one day. Do you own any other fretless guitars?
Lutte: Yes I have a 12 stringed fretless classical guitar that Francesco Pignataro, a luthier from Southern Italy, gave me. Very nice of him!
Jeff: Very nice indeed! Later on you made a Mini CD with Mick Goodrick, is that the same guy who wrote “The Advancing Guitarist”?
Lutte: That’s correct, the same Mick Goodrick.
Jeff: I really like his books, very well written. Tell us about the CD “Santa Sofia” (1993)
Lutte: In that period I lived in a small village called Rovito in south of Italy. One day a concert was held in one of the churches (Santa Sofia) in the town. It was a solo performance held by a great bagpipe player and his sound gave me lots of ideas. Among other great musicians in the CD I had the pleasure to record with Paul McCandless and Antonello Salis.
Jeff: Your 3rd CD “Mascarò” was a more intimate album, yes? (1998)
Lutte: Yes. That was a particular period for me. I recorded the album mainly at my home using the first ADAT generation. In the CD it’s just me and some friends that are excellent musicians. I like that CD.
Jeff: You had another break of 6 years before releasing “Ensemble” (2004) had your music changed over that time?
Lutte: I think we all change (for the better if we are lucky!) but the principal character remains the same. “Ensemble” is a live “in-the-studio-album” and the first LutteBergEnsemble CD.
Jeff: I believe “Landskap” (2009) was a more “live” album, is that correct?
Lutte: “Landskap” is the second LBE (LutteBergEnsemble) album. When you know your band so well no arrangements are needed. The songs suggest and whisper in your ears how to play them.
Jeff: You’ve made 2 CDs with the Gabriele Coen Jewish Experience, “Awakening” (2011) and “Yiddish Melodies in Jazz” (2013) What drew you into Jewish music?
Lutte: My friend Gabriele Coen wanted me in his band and I must say that I really enjoy playing with him and his group. It is very flattering for us that the great John Zorn is our producer. As we speak Coen is mixing our third CD for Zadik records.
Jeff: In 2012 you made the move back to Sweden, what made you make that decision?
Lutte: It was hard times in Italy for music and culture after more than 20 years with Berlusconi! (Italian Prime Minister & Media Tycoon) Then I must say that after 25 years in Italy it was time to move back to Sweden.
Jeff: Your wife, Tina, is a classically trained musician, how do you mix your two styles?
Lutte: It’s easy and a “luxury” actually. Like all great classical double-bass players she has a total control over the bow. That means that she can be a viola, cello or double-bass player in my music. I love to write and arrange so I just have to write everything down and the music is done! Of course I cannot do open solos (she doesn’t improvise) and sometimes that could be a good thing… so that we avoid endless solos 🙂
Jeff: How did you meet Tina, and when did you get married?
Lutte: We met in 1999 during one of those 1970’s inspired concerts where classical orchestras play together with electric bands. I was the electric solo guitarist and my podium was exactly behind Tina’s bass section. I was worried that I was playing too loud but she told me… pop up the volume! That was 1999 and we married 12 years later.
Jeff: I guess you must have a music studio in your home, what equipment do you use?
Lutte: Not much. Good microphones (geffel M930, milab dc-196…) and Reaper (DAW) running on my computer through my Steinberg MR816 csx.
Jeff: Your most recent project FlenVärldsOrkester (which translates as Flen, the district where Lutte lives, World Orchestra) is a project featuring many talented people from different cultures, how did you pull them all together?
Lutte: It’s all about knowing their musical culture. I have had the opportunity to play in different places in the world so I know the musical language from Syria, Mali, the Balkan countries etc. That gives me a great start for the project. My love for Folk / World music is big and this Orchestra makes me very happy.
Jeff: When can we expect the release of your new CD, and will it contain any Fretless Guitar?
Lutte: Difficult to say. I only make CDs when I think that I have something to say. It can happen at any time. There will surely be some fretless guitar in the next album.
Jeff: Where do you see your current musical direction taking you?
Lutte: It’s strange. My musical direction is… no direction or if you prefer every direction. I feel comfortable in every situation I work with. World Music, radical Jewish Jazz or acoustic… its all the same. People don’t call me if they need a bop guitarist or a traditional rock guitarist. Other musicians are much better than me at doing that. I feel comfortable because when I get a job call they call for my sound.
Jeff: You look very happy living in Sweden, if you had to move somewhere else (apart from Italy), where would that be?
Lutte: I have no idea… it should be a place where I decide my own rhythm of life (no neighbours) where me and Tina could live in peace.
Jeff: If you had not travelled down the musical route, what do you think you might be doing now?
Lutte: That’s easy because (before they brought a guitar to me) I wanted to be a great simultaneous translator. I had everything planned. Travelling the world translating in important Forums, United Nations etc..
OK, let’s do the off-piste questions:
Jeff: Do you have any hobbies outside of music?
Lutte: I love good food and since I live by the lake I like to go fishing and cook what my lake offers.
Jeff: I know the Swedish Lottery (Lotto) does not pay out much, but if you won say, a life changing amount, what would you do with the money?
Lutte: Maybe some money for our house by the lake but then I would very much like to help all the people that supported me in difficult moments.
Jeff: OK so, say you only win enough to buy a new guitar, what would it be?
Lutte: I would ask Roberto Villone to try to do a replica of his double neck that someone stole from me!
Jeff: What sort of films do you enjoy watching?
Lutte: I’m the boring type: Ingmar Bergman, Kieslowskij, Kubrik, Taviani…..
Jeff: Good Choices! Do you read much, any favourite books?
Lutte: I read a lot when I was much younger (before I started to play 24h) and I loved South American writers like Carlos Fuentes, Haroldo Conti….
Jeff: What makes you laugh?
Lutte: I’m not the “comedy film type of person” but together with friends over a good meal and red wine is the right situation for me.
Jeff: OK, what is your favourite musician joke?
Lutte: How do you stop a guitarist from playing? Easy: just put some sheet music on his music stand.
Jeff: I like that one! What’s your favourite Food?
Lutte: I’m half Italian so… the lasagna that Zia Eleonora makes. A piece of art!!
Jeff: Favourite Drink?
Lutte: Good home made wine from our little vineyard in Calabria.
Jeff: You have your own vineyard?
Lutte: Yes we have a little vineyard just for the family (the Italian part) in Calabria. We produce just what’s needed for one year.
Jeff: No free bottles then. 🙁 Favourite Hot Drink?
Jeff: I’ve never tried Grappa hot, is that the best way to drink it?
Lutte: Sorry my fault! I thought you meant strong drink. Grappa is NOT meant to be hot of course. So to answer the question… maybe tea with some cognac in it when you have the flu?
Jeff: Oh, I nearly forgot, the Desert Island Question. You get marooned on a desert island and can take only six albums with you, what would they be?
Lutte: I can give you 6 album titles: My Song (Kieth Jarrett), Travels (Pat Metheny), The Dark Side of the Moon (Pink Floyd), Folk songs (Egberto Gismonti), Shadows and lights (Joni Mitchell)… and Gratitude (Earth Wind & Fire).
Jeff: Many thanks for the interview, you will have to take me fishing sometime 🙂
Lutte: My pleasure 🙂