On January 14, 2012 Hess is More took the stage at New York City’s renown Mercury Lounge. For that hour, Mikkel Hess and 6 other uber-talented musicians entertained a full house to the delight of their fans.
Here’s one way to describe his music: it’s what putting LCD Soundsystem, a bunch of hot jazz cats, and an orchestra in a blender, pressing mix and pouring out aural awesomeness sounds like. Would Would Would You Like To Disco is a fine example.
I had the honor of sitting down with the wonderful, humble, and musically brilliant, Mikkel Hess – the man behind Hess is More. We spoke for almost a half hour about a lot of great topics, from the differences of living in Denmark and NYC to what exactly he would be doing if he wasn’t a writing music.
Due to the length of the interview we’re going to break this into two parts for maximum readability.
On New York…How long have you been living in NYC and what was your decision to move here?
I just realized I’ve been here for about three years now. It wasn’t really planned…it started out as a teenager romantic idea about NY and jazz music…which is what first put it on the map for me – listening to all those records. When I was getting older it was sort of a random decision for me to do something else. I went to the Conservatory in Denmark and got educated with a lot of different projects and I guess entering my 30s it was like, maybe I need to try something new to develop. I sometimes jokingly call it my adult education – you know, like instead of going back to school, I went to New York to try and learn something new. I’ve been here three years and it’s hard to get away now. You get involved in so many things. It’s been fun.
What was your instant impression about cultural differences when you got here?
Yes, the whole way you meet people and communicate with people is different. I’ve never tried moving to Copenhagen from somewhere else, but I’m sure it’s quite different than moving here. It’s very easy to meet people here. People are very curious about what you bring to the city. I usually refer to my own work as an integration project because I like to use many influences and work in different fields but then also NY is an integration project in itself. So it’s easy to enter on some level, but it doesn’t mean you’re connected or your established…but there is certain openness to it. From what I hear, for people coming to Copenhagen, it takes a longer time, people sort of check you out for a while because it’s a smaller community. So obviously that was inspiring in that sense. There’s another thing…the integration. There’s a lot of room for doing what you do, people wont be bothered in any way. A lot of people going for a lot of different things – ok, that’s fine, that’s your thing, go for it.
What are some of your favorite places in NY?
There’s a lot of very different music clubs and restaurants. So a place like Nublu, it’s so unique. I don’t know if you would find that particular vibe anywhere else. A very mixed crowd, younger and older – all kinds of people go there. I like that. Sometimes I get a little uncomfortable if the crowd is too specific – this is only music people, this is only art people – it gets a little stiff.
On Touring…What about touring in other countries?
I’m excited we’re going to San Paolo, Brazil in May to play a festival there. I used to live in Brazil for half a year, so it’s fun for me to finally bring the band to play there.
Any touring stories you’d like to share about the differences in venues?
Coming from Denmark, my project is a little bit more established in some way. When we released the new record in October, we had a big release and two big concerts at the Royal Theater and were working with the Royal Ballet. Everything was very organized – a full week of rehearsals, there’s a cantina, wonderful big hall where you play 700 people every night…and then I remember coming back from that. We were playing on a Friday night there and everything was just fantastic, I was so happy about it but we didn’t get to sleep and jumped on a plane to fly to NY…and it was crazy. We were flying in a snowstorm, we had to land in Montreal, everything was just completely fucked up. The taxi got a flat tire coming from the airport. We were too late for the party here. It was sort of an elevator ride coming from a place that everything was perfect and then coming to this event, which was a fantastic event, but the sound system was crazy. Because of the snow storm we didn’t have half the equipment or cables, and people couldn’t come…it was just sort of from Hero to Zero…but I really like both – it’s been part of the fun to tour in general.
To come to NY and start from zero…it’s not like I was already a big pop star, but you get used to a certain way of doing things and all of a sudden it’s like whoa, you start from scratch. You learn new things…those shows from Friday and Saturday couldn’t have been more different. That is what’s fun about travelling, you go somewhere and everything is fine and organized and the next day “Oh you need a drum set, I didn’t know that”. I think that’s good…it can be a little tough, but I think it keeps you fresh also. You don’t get too comfortable…I find always expectations are not always the best thing. Whether entertainment or music. Some places will give you 200 dollars, a warm beer, and a kick in the ass. Then you really appreciate it the next time you play the Royal Theater – or the other way around. You can have everything by the book or you can go to Nublu and want to play for five hours…Oh, go ahead! That’s one of the great things about it, it sort of refreshes the browser. You don’t get stuck with a certain set of expectations. You don’t really know.
It was refreshing to me coming to NY because I didn’t have my regular set of musicians, so I had to find new ones. How do you do that when you come to a new place. When I’m in Copenhagen I have a lot of great friends and well all help each other. But when I come here it’s like Hey, do you know any musicians.
The way the band is with the combination of instruments wasn’t my master plan. I didn’t say I’m gonna have seven musicians, it’s gonna be this and that. I had some idea of something, but then I met Michael, who plays the vibraphone, and I was like let’s try it – now he’s so important to the sound of the group. But I wouldn’t have originally thought about that. He was one of the first musicians I met, so it’s good when you find things like that. He plays it like a keyboard, vibraphone, and a drummer, so I like when coincidences like that happen when you get out of your comfort zone.
CLICK HERE FOR PART 2 where Mikkel discusses his approach to writing and his thoughts on being either a tennis player…or dancer.