Picking up where we last left off.
On Music…Each album has it’s own unique sound, yet cover multiple genres. Do you approach writing thinking you want there to be a concept for the album?
I think the music is a little different from album to album, but I think with the album, Captain Europe it was kind of a collage of different ideas and thought I’m gonna put this and then find a way to make it work. From the beginning I thought I wanted to make a collage album…random stuff and various ideas, then choosing the ones I liked.
On the new album, Creation Keeps the Devil Away, from the beginning I imagined an overall piece that I wanted to do instead of specific songs. To work within the framework of the pop song, not necessarily that they are pop songs, but more like there is an a-section, b-section, chorus…I thought that would be more fun to try because I never really explored that format. And also working with Rasmus, [his co-producer], it helped me to figure out what to do in that setting. I’ve done some music for film and for theater, so often I’ll take some pieces that I’ve written for the Danish Royal Theater. It would more be a collection of impressions from the past year whereas this latest album is designed to be more like an album. It’s been many different things and again a lot of it goes to what I’m curious to explore. So I thought it was time to make an album.
What 3 songs do you feel define you, or you most proud of?
Hmm. Tough question. One that is important to me is from the very first album is called Walk Song it’s also on the record called Hits. It was when I first started making music based on the computer and was written in Brazil. It was a very good lesson for me on how to be open to coincidence. I had created the music and prepared the vocal. I was hoping to meet a Brazilian vocalist – I was really inspired by Bebel Gilberto – such a beautiful vocal sound. So I booked a session in the studio and first off she didn’t speak any English and the lyrics were in English…but she was so fantastic that she learned to say all the lyrics because her boyfriend helped her. We couldn’t really communicate a lot because I didn’t speak any Portuguese. Then she sings in this adorable accent, which at first I was a little disappointed that she didn’t speak proper English, and second, she didn’t’ sing anything like Bebel and I was like noooo this is not what I wanted! I was almost thinking of cancelling the session because she was singing more like an old-school classical singer. But we went through it and when I came home and listened to it, forgetting what I initially wanted it to be, it was then I realized what she had done was much better and more original than my idea. So that was song was really like WOW, coincidence…fantastic…and really gave some life to it. So that was an important first step for me to have a singer come in and have it come out better than what I thought…I learned a lot from that.
I have a song called Ssshhhh on an album called Denial which is very experimental and artsy and all just long passages, and not really tracks. It was a dark time, just working. When I had the album done and how I wanted it, the label I worked with at that time, was like that’s fine but can you take that section and make it a 4 minute arrangement of just those elements so we can try to get it to radio. I said what? You’re crazy, this isn’t radio material. Then we were selected for highest rotation on Denmark radio even though there are no vocals – totally unexpected. They played it 50 times a week. So it was fun for me to do something so unexpected, and all of a sudden it blew up and I didn’t see it coming at all. That was a fun surprise for me…I never though that would ever be a radio hit, but it was probably the biggest radio hit for me, at least in Denmark. I remember when they called me up and said HEY YOU’RE LIVE ON THE RADIO…we chose your song this week, I thought WHAT? You’ve got to be kidding me – it must be a mistake, it’s an instrumental song – you don’t want to play that.
A third piece of music is from the new album, the only real ballad on it, which is called Go Go Go Go. I wont get into specific details about what the song means because that often limits it for the listener – like oh, it’s about that, I thought it was about something else. It’s such a simple song but for me it means a lot for me about the time I wrote it and my friends. So with that one I was really lucky to capture an emotion. I guess that was my ambition with the new record was to try and come a little closer with the listener, so becoming quite naked and intimate with that song. I really feel it touched what I was trying to do.
I remember I was thinking about the perfect situation to write a piece. I have to wake up, do my rituals, my meditation…and this one was kind of random. I was hung-over, in a bad mood, walking down Bleecker Street, dragging myself to the studio and I remember those words just came – so simple – I was singing it, got up to the studio and a half hour later it was there. I was written, it’s really simple like ABC part, and that’s it. We changed the arrangement a bit but it fell in to my head like that. That’s only one way to write something then other times you will have a little idea that you keep developing but this was like “Oh, here’s a song”.
That makes up for all the other ones that drag on.
Yes, the other ones you keep changing. This one was sort of delivered as a meal on a plate – here’s the song, now go out and record it.
One last question. If you weren’t performing and writing music, what would you be doing?
Ohhh, yes. I’ve been thinking about that. But I’ve come to the conclusion that I’d do what I would like to do. I’ve been questioning that myself, maybe I shouldn’t have chosen music. But as the years past I’m pretty sure I was a good decision for me. I’m not saying it would be a good decision for anyone else. I mean if I wasn’t so old, I would probably go for being a tennis pro, but I don’t think that’s gonna work.
I’m really a big fan of people who play tennis well. I can say a lot of things of I would love to do, but they’re unrealistic. It must be fantastic to be a dancer. Again, so far from what’s possible for me.
We were working recently with the Royal Ballet and I’ve never really known a lot about dance, but I would have moments when I would look up at the dancers and realize, WOW, they’re expressing so much with the way they move. It must be such a gratifying experience to be able to express so much with your body in that aspect WOW, I would love it. But again I’m not a dancer, I hardly ever dance but it’s I’m attracted to those things. Both tennis and dancing both have a lot of body movements – and sitting in your studio writing music doesn’t have a lot of body – so maybe it’s more like I need to get more exercise!
Thank you Mikkel for a great conversation!