stian westerhus

Stian Westerhus' music-making motto is "by any means necessary." Here, he screams into the pickups of his main guitar,

a 1970 Gibson ES-335.

Photo by Ulf Cronenberg

The Norwegian sonic wirewalker defies the conventions of tone, technique, and composition to create a unique aural universe.

If musicians can be likened to painters, Robben Ford, Wes Montgomery, and Joe Satriani would be considered classicists—their linear lines telling a story, à la Rembrandt or Rubens. Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, and Bill Frisell would be impressionists, with smeary solos that distort reality, like van Gogh or Cézanne. If we use the analogy to describe Stian Westerhus, the Norwegian guitarist would fall in the abstract expressionist camp, like a Jackson Pollack or Kandinsky. Westerhus largely eschews melodic lines in favor of splashed stabs of pure sonic color layered on a wash of bowed guitar, creating works as intangible as a Kandinsky and as deeply affecting.

Like those artists, Westerhus is thoroughly grounded in the tradition. He studied jazz while taking a bachelors degree in London, but found that “the traditional language is not my cup of tea … I didn't grow up with it." For his masters degree in Norway he was allowed to create his own program, where he worked 14 hours a day developing his unique style of playing.

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