Travellin’ Light

Lucas Niggli
Answers 20 Questions About Life on the Road

Lucas Niggli                                                                                               ©Francesca Pfeffer 2012

Lucas Niggli is an Uster, Switzerland-based percussionist, composer and bandleader. Niggli founded several acclaimed Swiss ensembles during the past decade and a half, including Steamboat Switzerland, Zoom and Big Zoom. He has co-led several projects with the eminent Swiss percussionist Pierre Favre, including Singing Drums and The Drummers. Cooperative projects include duos with Guzheng virtuoso Xu Fengxia and percussionist Peter Conradin Zumthor, a trio with accordionist Luciano Biodini and tuba player Michel Godard, and two piano trios with bassist Barry Guy – an established unit with Jacques Demierre and the new Hexentrio with Paul Plimley. Niggli has also served the Swiss creative music community in several administrative and advocacy roles; in addition to managing Unit Records in the ‘90s, he has been the president of the Swiss Professional Association of Jazz and Improvising Musicians, and a board member of WIM, a Zürich-based organization promoting improvised music.

After participating in the Zürich-New York series at The Stone in early March, Niggli will tour Europe with both Steamboat Switzerland and Biodini/Godard/Niggli this Spring. In late June and July, he will tour Canada with Hexentrio and a trio with Guy and Baroque violinist Maya Homburger. Spiegel, the new duo CD with Zumthor, was recently released on Edition Thermal Val; Hexentrio’s Intakt debut will be released mid-year.

For more detailed information, visit:

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What is the most difficult airline to deal with in terms of instruments and equipment?

It is mostly not depending on the airline, but on the day-mood of the person at the desk, so I had several good and very bad experiences with the same company. Really big troubles I had with Air Canada and a very small company in Central Asia, flying from Bishkek to Duschanbe, where I had to give away my cymbals, but the pilots were smoking during the flight ...

Which airline has the worst economy seating and food?

British Airways, Air Canada

Which airport is craziest for making connecting flights?

Charles de Gaulle in Paris.

What is the most important thing you ever forgot to pack?

My passport – when I flew from Zürich to Belgrade, thinking that Serbia is of course also a member of the Schengen Countries, which was not the case ...

What is your worst lost baggage story?

My suitcase with my drum extensions and special sounds, on the way home from Johannesburg to Zürich. It arrived 3 days later, just 2 hours before I had to leave again on a two-week tour.

What country hassles musicians the most at customs and passport checks?

The United States of America.

Which city has the worst cab drivers?

Amsterdam and Prague.

What is the best hotel that a presenter has provided for you?

BEAN BAG, a Guesthouse in Durban South Africa, an ex-whore house, with the best breakfast on Earth.

Do you travel with a laptop or a PDA? If so, how many times a day do you check your e-mail?

I use a Laptop, and check my mail maybe twice if possible; but I can easily not do it when the city or country is nice and it would be a stupid time-killer to hang on my screen, instead of on the unknown streets.

Do you listen to music on the road? If so, what device do you use?

I use my laptop and my in-ear monitoring earplugs, which allow me to listen to music on a low level, not missing any frequencies and not having environmental noises.

Do you do your own laundry on the road?

If you would have heard Erik Satie singing a duet with Diamanda Galas, you wouldn’t ask this question ...

What is your most nightmarish sound check to date?

Maybe in Bejing, with my avantcore trio Steamboat Switzerland. In China very often the mixing desk is not in front of the stage, mostly on the side or even behind the stage, due to optical reasons!  When we didn’t find the right words to complain about this disastrous situation, the engineers started to pack his PA – causing someone to loose face doesn’t work in China.

What is the scariest food that has been laid out for you backstage?

Can’t remember.

What are your three favorite venues?

Alchemia in Krakow, Bimhuis in Amsterdam, and Qbus in Uster, Switzerland.

Which cities have the best restaurants for late after-gig meals?

Maputo, Mozambique.

Which cities have the best after-hours sessions?

Capetown, South Africa.

What is the best city that closes down too early?

Uster, my hometown.

What is the best locale to have a day off?

Therme Vals, Switzerland.

What is your cure for jet lag?


What is your best tip for the novice?

Free your Mind and your Ass will follow.

Intakt Records

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