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Killing Popes, The (Steidle / Mobus / Nicholls / Downes / Donkin): Ego Kills (Shhpuma)

An incredibly inventive album of 21st century jazz incorporating a twisted wealth of rock and electronic elements, in the 2nd album from Killing Popes led by drummer Oli Steidle and keyboardist Dan Nicholls, with Frank Mobus (guitar) and Phil Donkin (bass), Philipp Gropper (saxophone), Jelena Kuljic (voice & sampler) plus Natalie Sandtorv & Liv Nicholls on voice.

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product information:

UPC: 5609063800661

Label: Shhpuma
Catalog ID: SHH066CD
Squidco Product Code: 30566

Format: CD
Condition: New
Released: 2021
Country: Portugal
Packaging: Cardboard Gatefold
Recorded Blackbird Studios, in Berlin, Germany, on September 14th, 15th and 16th, 2020, and at Tito's Zentrifuge, on September, 17th, 18th and 19th, 2020.


Oli Steidle-drums, percussion, marimba

Dan Nicholls-keyboards, bass, sampling

Jelena Kuljic-voice, sampler

Philipp Gropper-saxophones

Frank Mobus-guitar

Phil Donkin-bass

Natalie Sandtorv-voice

Liv Nicholls-backing vocals

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Artist Biographies:

"The drums, more than any other instrument, have developed significantly in recent years in terms of playing technique and musical function. Jazz drummers have moved beyond the role of the accompanist, to an equal musical partner. Indeed, now they are often band leaders and composers. Their playing is not only defined by the beat, but also through their sound. Extremely fast tempi, huge dynamic range, as well as highly virtuosic poly-rhythmic playing are these days generally a matter of course. German drummer, Oliver Steidle, " who pulls all the strings with sensitivity and efficiency ", " an ace of dynamic and rhythmic flexibility", " a drummer who has developed from rhythmic servitude into a totally emancipated and unique musician", has been influential in this development. Not only German music critics, but also the international press agrees that Oliver Steidle is "one of the most innovative young jazz musicians", "a like-minded collaborator for many renowned musicians, [he] has admirably developed a distinctive style; he beats, whispers, and controls his instrument so fabulously as if it were the easiest thing in the world".

The latter, a comment from the British music magazine The Wire, perhaps sums up the quintessence of Oliver Steidle's accomplishments. Although he moves for the most part between the musical worlds of free jazz and new music, he is always focused on clarity of sound. He makes even the most complex rhythms comprehensible, while playing uncomplicated music with intense expression is a professed goal. Like so few, he succeeds in finding the right proportion of sound and energy. Beneficial no doubt was the shaping of musical versatility and variability from an early age. In his hometown Nürnberg, he started on piano before changing to drums at the age of 11. At 14, he was a fan of hardcore rock and punk bands the likes of Slayer, Mr. Bungle, or Napalm Death. Even today he describes rock as his musical origin, reconnecting to these roots in many of his recent projects.

This is carried out, of course, while incorporating knowledge of the jazz tradition, and its harmonic and melodic foundations. Already at the age of 16, Steidle had experimented with the vibraphone. After which he played in garage rock bands, as well as in jazz big bands before beginning a course of study at the Music Conservatory Nürnberg, under Hans Günther Brodmann, jazz drum teacher and jazz department head. Brodmann, a role model of stylistic openness, remains to this day a close friend of Steidle. Via the music conservatory, Steidle began to play in the Bavarian state youth jazz orchestra, the top ensemble in Bavaria. From there, it was only a small step to the first professional bands. Today, Steidle has performed with many of the great players of jazz, including Tomasz Stanko, Louis Sclavis, Sean Bergin, Vincent Courtouis, Ernst Reijseger, Josh Roseman, Simon Nabatov, Nils Wogram, Adam Pieronzcyk and Walter Wierbos.

By the end of the nineties, Nürnberg had become too confining for Steidle. He had won two music competitions, and was invited by pianist Ritschie Beirach for an extended stay in New York. In the year 2000, Steidle moved to Berlin, where he was immediately integrated into the jazz scene, the most vibrant in Germany, and is now an integral member. In 2002, he was a founding member of Klima Kalima, the trio led by Finish guitar player Kalle Kalima. He also joined the band Der Rote Bereich, with Frank Möbus on guitar, (one of Steidle's former teachers, who also encouraged the move to Berlin), and Rudi Mahall, bass clarinet, both Berliner emigrants from Nürnberg, like himself. Der Rote Bereich would become immensely popular. Due to its unorthodox orchestration and avant-garde approach, the trio is known as one of the most prominent European jazz Trios. In 2005, it won the German record critic's award for the Album "Live in Montreux". In 2006 the trio was awarded the prestigious national Jazz award, the German Jazz Prize. Two years later with the band Klima Kalima, Steidle not only repeated this feat, but he was also awarded the prize for best soloist.

These are not the only prominent projects with which the tireless Oliver Steidle plays. Since 2003, he belongs to guitar player John Schröder's trio, Uli Kempendorff's Quartet Field, Aki Takase's Tama Trio, the Hong Kong Quintet with Alexander von Schlippenbach, Philipp Gropper's Quartet Philm, and in the collective band Outliers with Toby Delius, Haarard Wilk, and Clayton Thomas. In each of these bands, Steidle plays an individual and slightly different role, up to modern instant composition projects, such as those from Tristan Honsiger and Axel Dörner. In this context, Steidle alters the sound character of his drums with the use of objects ranging from cymbals to household appliances, producing a sound quite unlike the conventional drum sound. He collaborated with Ensemble Courage in the Maerz Musik Festival, performing the world premiere of compositions of the Swiss drummer Michael Wertmüller, who like Steidle has experimented over many years with various forms of New Music. With his involvement in the Bikini Orchestra, Steidle makes a contribution to the positive trend in which large ensembles experiment with new and unusual sounds.

Steidle also uses this versatility in diverse self-initiated projects, among others the Duos ddAa with Antonis Anissegos, and Lenina in collaboration with Daniel Erdmann, as well as the humorous Collective Band, Rowk Music (Ronny Graupe, Wanja Slavin und again Kalle Kalima), which operates within rock and jazz traditions. Also belonging to the category of collectively led bands is the trio Die dicken Finger, with guitarist Olaf Rupp and bassist Jan Roder, modelled after the hard rock styles of grindcore and metal. The athletic competition, and self-serving ossified virtuosity of the originals, is substituted with spirited improvisation and radical tempo changes. In 2014, the trio completed an extended tour with Peter Brötzmann, saxophone legend, and veteran of the German free jazz scene, with whom, somewhat logically, Steidle has collaborated on occasion for many years.

Steidle´s blood, sweat, and tears flows not least into the band SoKo Steidle, founded already in 2004. All sound colors and forms are intended to emerge out of nowhere. "The important question here is how we can combine swing and jazz traditions with modern sounds and rhythms, that is to say their extended and abstracted treatment in the form of free improvisation". The development of the concept, together with Rudi Mahall, Henrik Walsdorff und Jan Roder, has taken place exclusively during live concerts, through the conscious exclusion of rehearsal. After over 100 concerts across Europe, and four CDs, this concept functions not only extremely well, but an unmistakably original band sound has also emerged in the process.

The newest of his many undertakings, initiated in 2013 is the Quartet Oli Steidle & the killing Popes, with the line-up of Frank Gratkowski, Kalle Kalima und Petter Eldh, where Steidle draws purposefully on his hardcore and punk rock roots. The result of his intensive involvement with these aesthetics is the translation of the immense energy of this music into the formal language of jazz. For the first time, he wrote lyrics for his songs, an expression of his growing interest in recent years in political themes. Concrete political statements find their way into songs like "Monopoly Experiment", or "Robin Hood Index", a continuation of the old and almost forgotten jazz tradition.

With such a multitude of activities, it is no wonder that Steidle is constantly on tour, a veritable festival champion. For quite some time, he has played in at least a dozen worldwide festivals each year, with increasing tendency. Countless tours, among others initiated and sponsored from the German Music Council, or the Goethe Institute, have taken him throughout Europe and the USA, as well as to China, India, and Yemen. The globalized world is increasingly able to hear the no less globalized music of Oliver Steidle. For Steidle, this is only a beginning."

-Oli Steidle Website (

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"Dan Nicholls is a keyboardist, reeds player, composer and producer, also working with video and animation. His music is inspired by prevalent issues in society: exploring environment, experience and identity, as well as the use of various forms of media for political and social influence.

Dan has studied Indian classical music, worked with dance, and produced projects with film and visual art. He has performed at music festivals in Berlin, Copenhagen, Gothenburg, Malmo, London, Birmingham and Cheltenham as well as venues throughout Europe. Dan has also performed at various film and dance festivals including Bath Film Festival, Risk Reclaim Copenhagen and Edinburgh Mela.

Current projects include... Mirror + ByramArt A collaborative project with the visual artist Stephen Byram with guitarist Matt Calvert (Three Trapped Tigers) and drummer Dave Smith (Robert Plant, Juju, Fofoulah).

Strobes A duo project with drummer Dave Smith, working with West African Sabar rhythms, electronics and sample-based composition."

-All About Jazz (

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"Jelena Kuljić was born in Serbia in 1976 and moved to Germany in 2003 to study singing at the Jazz Institute Berlin.

Along with her own band, Yelena K & The Love Trio, she has been a featured guest in many music and theater projects throughout Europe.In 2006 she released a solo CD with her band Y move, and she has been featured on the ECM records release of Marc Sinan and Julia Huelsmann's Fasil. Jelena has worked extensively as a singer and actress with the prominent director David Marton. Some of their productions have included such important theaters as Vienna's BurgTheater, The Royal Theater of Copenhagen (Insomnia), Volksbuehne Berlin (Wozzeck), and the Schaubühne Berlin (The Well Tempered Piano)."

-Frank Gratkowski website (

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"Philipp Gropper (tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, composition) was born in Berlin in 1978. He began to play the saxophone at the age of seven.

Gropper studied the jazz saxophone at the UDK Berlin and played with the concert section of Bujazzo for two years under Peter Herbolzheimer. He has since been busy as a freelance sax player and composer, dedicating most of his time to developing his musical ideas.In 2003, he started the trio HYPERACTIVE KID with Ronny Graupe and Christian Lillinger, and in 2012 founded the quartet PHILM with Elias Stemeseder, Robert Landfermann and Oliver Steidle. In 2013 - exploring yet again a completely different field of music - he initiated TAU, an electric acoustic group with Philipp Zoubek, Petter Eldh and Moritz Baumgärtner.

Concerts with these bands and others have brought Gropper to over 40 countries across Europe, Africa, Asia, North and South America. He has had the honour of sharing a stage with wonderful musicians such as Rudi Mahal, Ralph Towner, Jim Black, Bobby McFerrin, Kresten Osgood, Tobias Delius, Clayton Thomas, Nasheet Waits, Pablo Held, Olaf Rupp, Ceylan Ertem, Matthias Schriefl, John Schröder, Maria Joao, Paulo Cardoso, James Knapp, Kaja Drachsler, Kit Downes, Dan Nicholls, Günter Baby Sommer, Håvard Wiik, Axel Dörner, Mat Maneri, Matthew Herbert, DJ IllVibe, Ibadet Ramadani, Peter Evans and many others.

As a sideman he plays with Wanja Slavin's Lotus Eaters, Pablo Held's Glow, Oli Steidle & The Killing Popes, Home Stretch, European Movement Jazz Orchester and some more.Gropper has recorded more than 50 albums and has been awarded several prizes. He has been a member of the Jazzkollektiv Berlin since 2009."

-Philipp Gropper Website (

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"Frank Möbus (* March 7, 1966 in Nuremberg) is a German guitarist of modern jazz .

Möbus studied in Boston , Massachusetts at the Berklee College of Music from 1985 to 1989, and during this time he also had regular jazz music lessons with Jerry Bergonzi .

With the bass clarinetist Rudi Mahall he founded the band Der Rote Bereich in 1989, with which he visited countless internationally renowned festivals and has released seven albums (for Jazz4Ever Records , ACT and Intakt). In the project Azul by Carlos Bica , he has worked with Jim Black since 1993. He has also been a member of the groups, Christoph Grab's "Raw Vision", the formation "KUU!", With Daniel Erdmann from Erdmann / Rohrer / Möbus / Courtois (since 2009). And Wiesendanger / Möbus / Hemingway. He was a member of the formations "Erdmann 3000" (formerly known as Erdmann 2000) " Yuri Honings " "Wired Paradise", Paul van Kemenade -international 5tett, Dejan Terzic "underground and the soulband" Spank You ". He toured as a soloist with musicians such as Herb Robertson , Ray Anderson , Kenny Wheeler , Mark Helias, Karl Berger , Louis Sclavis , Maria João , Chris Speed , David Moss , Till Brönner and Han Bennink . As a soloist, he worked for the RIAS Big Band , the Ars Nova Ensemble , the Ensemble für Neue Musik Zürich, and Kevin Coyne's "Paradise Band". Since 1990 he has played up to 300 concerts worldwide with different formations.

Möbus was appointed professor of jazz guitar and ensemble to the Franz Liszt Academy of Music in Weimar in 2003. He has also taught as a lecturer for jazz guitar at the Lucerne University since 2007 and taught at many jazz workshops around the world.

Frank Möbus composed the film music for Hans-Günter Brodmann and Rio Vermelho of the director Raquel Freire and worked occasionally with ambitious productions of young artists as a producer .

Privately Frank Möbus chose Berlin as its foodstuff. He is the father of a son and a daughter."

-Wikipedia (translated by Google) (

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"Phil Donkin has risen to become one of the premier European bassists of his generation.

Born in Sunderland, North-East England, Phil grew up in a musical family and was surrounded by a vibrant local music scene. Not long after taking up the bass guitar at the age of 12, he was quickly playing with local bands from the area. Phil moved to London in 1998 to further his musical studies. After graduating from the prestigious Guildhall School of Music and Drama in 2003, Phil had a fruitful early career as one of the UK's most in-demand bassists. He performed and recorded with many great British based musicians such as Kenny Wheeler, Evan Parker, Julian Arguelles, Tim Garland, Stan Sulzmann and Gwilym Simcock.

In the following years, Phil's reputation spread beyond the UK and he embarked on regular European touring schedules with the likes of John Abercrombie, Marc Copland, Bill Stewart, Kurt Rosenwinkel Chris Speed, and many others.

From 2009-2013 Phil resided in New York City where he furthered these musical relationships and began many new ones, quickly becoming an in-demand presence on the local scene, playing with artists such as Ben Monder, Kevin Hays, Nir Felder, Shai Maestro and many more. As of 2013, he is now based in Europe and is active on both sides of the Atlantic where he continues to tour internationally."

-Phil Donkin Website (

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"Natalie Sandtorv (born 17 August 1988) is a Norwegian jazz musician (vocals, waterphone, harmonium, electronics) married July 29, 2016, to drummer Ole Mofjell, residing in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Sandtorv was born in Ålesund, Norway. She studied jazz, improvisational music and electronics at the Norwegian Academy of Music in Oslo and at Griegakademiet in Bergen. She is known for her exploration of different expressions within improvisational music in solo projects and with various ensembles. Sandtorv started the band Polygon Junx in Bergen 2011, together with noise artist John Hegre. and drummer Thore Warland from the band Staer. They combine their references from jazz, contemporary music, noise, rock and free improvisation, creating an unpredictable and unique sound, and in 2012 they played in Geneva (Switzerland), Landmark and Playdate (Bergen, Norway), Heck (Trondheim, Norway) and Blowout (Oslo, Norway). They also delivered a gig at Det Norske Studentersamfunn in Oslo featuring Marte Eberson and Kjetil Møster the same year.

In 2013 she went touring with Morning Has Occurred together with Karl Seglem, and also performed on tour with her boyfriend Ole Mofjell (drummer of Morning Has Occurred), playing three concerts in Kraków and Berlin, in addition to concerts in Norway. She also did a solo project for voice and electronics that was presented at Festspillene i Bergen, where she also presented a children's concert for the music festival. At the 2013 Julejazz in Ålesund, she collaborated with the brothers Christian Skår Winther and Andreas Skår Winther as a trio.

Sandtorv is most known as front singer of the band Morning Has Occurred including with Marte Eberson, touring in Europe (2014). They also joined the Vossajazz and JazzIntro competition,. They had received good reviews for performances at Norwegian jazz festivals like Midtsommejazz, Nattjazz, Vossajazz, Maijazz, Anjazz, and Balejazz.

Sandtorv bring the experimental concept of improvised meetings between innovative vocal artists and guitarists to a new extreme with the duo album The Jist with the inventive guitarist Torgeir Standal. They are keeping up the tradition of the master vocal artist Sidsel Endresen and highly inventive guitarist Stian Westerhus, but also inspired by the more experimental music of Maja Ratkje. In 2015 she released her first solo album Pieces Of Solitude.

She performed a duoproject in 2015 together with the British multi instrumentalist Steve Beresford at the Blow Out! festival in Oslo, Norway. Sandtorv is the initiator of the concert series Playdate in Bergen and Jugendjazz in Ålesund. In November 2015, she released her first solo album Pieces Of Solitude on the Va Fongool label. "

-Wikipedia (

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track listing:

1. Disclaimer 1:56

2. Bling Bling Frog$ 6:24

3. Butcher 4:51

4. My Life Is Not Your Game 3:34

5. Hi Five 5:31

6. Chthulu 4:40

7. Legitimacy Loop 0:15

8. F-U-C-K 4:34

9. Human Nature 4:10

10. King Of Soap 6:14

11. Long Live The Popes 8:38
sample the album:

descriptions, reviews, &c.

"Two years ago, before the Apocalypse, the first album of this same project was presented as Olie Steidle and The Killing Popes. Something changed in the works of the pandemic virus: the personnel is partly the same, with Dan Nicholls, Frank Mobus and Phil Donkin repeating tasks, but only the first is part of this second version of The Killing Popes, along the soul and rhythm keeper of the band, Olie Steidle. Yes, now they're a duo.

Kit Downes is out and in, as guests just like Mobus and Donkin, are singers Jelena Kuljic and Nathalie Sandtorv, and also saxophonist Phillip Gropper. The musical concept has the same coordinates, but pushed even further to the limits and maybe beyond: disjointed structures, jumping grooves, a jazz statement for the second decade of the 21st century, introjecting aspects of art rock and electronic club music.

It's funny, it's mind blowing, it's still new and different, it's the real equivalent of these so weird present times, but also an invitation to go ahead and party again, even if any body contortions you make with it hardly can be called dance. And when you notice - again - that Frank Mobus (Carlos Bica Azul, Der Rote Bereich) is involved, you're finally sure that the old new jazz doesn't have to die to give place to the new new one."-Shhpuma

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