Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Interview with Silas Bjerregaard of Turboweekend

Left to right: Silas Bjerregaard (vocals), Martin Petersen (drums), Morten Køie (bass).

Copenhagen trio Turboweekend's second album "Ghost Of A Chance" from 2009 lifted the band from underground prospects to major venue headliners in their native Denmark; the hit single "Trouble Is" especially garnered a lot of international attention with the aid of remixes by Tiësto and Joker.

In June, 2010 they signed with London based Supervision Management and thereby joined a roster that includes acts such as Franz Ferdinand, Kaiser Chiefs, and Crystal Castles.

October saw the band nominated as Best Danish Act for the MTV Europe Awards 2010.

On November 10, 2010 they released the free downloadable 5-track EP "Bound" featuring Casper Clausen of Efterklang, Ty Bulmer of New Young Pony Club and Coco Malaika of Quadron and are encouraging fans to remix songs, redesign artwork and record their own music videos as an attempt to ”shake the bag” before the next album.

Silas, Martin and Morten grew up together in the small town of Fredensborg [25 miles north of Copenhagen] and formed their first band together in 1996. Some wild years later in 2006 they formed Turboweekend as a playground project, and only four years later the playground has become full-time work in the most rewarding sense of the word.

The band is currently writing material for their third album and preparing a European spring tour beginning March 2011.

[bio courtesy of Turboweekend website]


(where you can download the stellar new 5-track EP "Bound" for free)


Q & A with Silas Bjerregaard, lead vocalist of Turboweekend

The Nightfly: How did you come up with the very cool and memorable band name and does your friendship date back to before you formed Turboweekend?
Silas: We have known each other just about forever. Morten and Martin met in Kindergarten in 1988 and I joined the class in 4th grade in 1992. We formed our first band in 1996 playing mostly grunge inspired rock. I played guitar, and we had a couple of other guys from class in the band also. As we grew up the band evolved, slowly taking in wider inspirations from jazz, funk and electronic music. The personnel shifted over the years as well, and at one point we were eight people on stage with horns, Rhodes piano and backing singers. The name had also changed by now and we were a bit of a high school sensation, booking our own gigs around the country. About two years after high school the band broke up and we worked on various other projects. I had a solo project, Morten and Martin did some stuff together, and Morten and I also had a little project. One night in 2005 we talked about how we missed making music just for fun and how well the three of us worked together. We decided to go down to the rehearsal space and fool around and Turboweekend was born, more or less. Back when we formed the band in 2006 we had a much more narrow musical agenda. It was about two things: having fun, and challenging ourselves and the club scene by mixing the ever-present house/tech vibes with some more rough rock sounds, much inspired at the time by bands like Does It Offend You Yeah and The Rapture. We wanted a name that very clearly represented this narrow party agenda, and which furthermore would not have to be explained in either Danish or English. Martin came up with Turboweekend (spelled in one word as it would be in Danish), and we went for that. Now four years later the name might not be fully representative of the full flavor of the band and might even scare off some people who might actually like the music for itself, but we’re stuck with it in a love/hate relationship. It may not be very subtle, but it has a kind no-bullshit charm.

The Nightfly: Mew, The Raveonettes, Anders Trentemøller, Carpark North, Kashmir, Quadron, Efterklang, Turboweekend and more: things are not so rotten in the State of Denmark after all as evidenced by the high quality and variety of music coming from this corner of the world at the start of the 21st century. In your opinion, is there a specific reason why such an abundance of stellar music is being created at this time in Danish music history?
Silas: The acts you mentioned are spread out over a good deal of years, Kashmir being the oldest from 1996 I believe, and Quadron the youngest with only one album out. But I do see a growing Danish presence on the international scene, and would like to add names like Choir Of Young Believers, Volbeat, Oh No Ono, and the young Tree Fight For Sunlight. Denmark has always compared itself to Sweden musically and Sweden always seems to have had better game than Denmark, at least when it comes to hyping their music outside their own country. It’s very evident when you compare the large amount of Swedish music on Danish radio with the almost non-existing amount of Danish music on Swedish radio. It’s been like that for many, many years, since ABBA and maybe even before that, and we’ve been very jealous, but I think Danish musicians are finally getting bored with this comparison to the brother land and starting to make something for themselves. We are not Sweden. We have an identity of our own. And one succes story encourages another. I think there is a new confidence among Danish musicians, and more international focus, knowledge and contacts being accumulated. It all adds up.

The Nightfly: In your Facebook bio you take a refreshing tongue-in-cheek approach and call yourself “a synth pop/disco rock-whatever trio”. Do you find music categories to be limiting and even frustrating or should such labels simply be viewed as a necessary part of any ambitious band’s/artist’s marketing tool box when trying to reach an audience?
Silas: In all the years we’ve played music we’ve always had a hard time defining our style in terms of genre, perhaps because the music has always contained elements from so many different types of music that we don’t know which parts to emphasize and which to neglect, or perhaps because we always feel we are headed someplace new and feel claustrophobic when we have to describe ourselves in certain terms. So genre labels can definitely feel limiting which is why we mostly avoid it or joke about it. But genre is so integrated in the way most people talk about music and in the way music is distributed, promoted and sold (both in the form of recordings and in the form of live music), so you have to work with it in one way or the other. Lately we’ve started calling ourselves interpreters of pop music which probably reflects our desire to be popular, but completely on our own terms.

The Nightfly: The band formed in 2006 and your debut album “Night Shift” was released in 2007. Your second album “Ghost of a Chance” came out in 2009 and has resulted in stellar reviews, awards as well as new legions of new fans. Do you feel any pressure now that you are in the process of writing and recording your third album?
Silas: We only feel pressure from ourselves to evolve as a band and make an even better album than the last. We’ve learned a lot from the first two albums and want to apply those lessons to the songwriting and to the production of the third album. On the creative side it always feels like you have to invent the wheel all over again, but that’s just the stone you have to lift if you want to find something new underneath. We’ve just released an EP called “Bound” with a couple of featured guest singers and a cover song of Talking Heads. The EP has functioned as a kind of free space for us to experiment with some new ideas without thinking about the expectations for a "new album." A self illusion maybe, but it has worked for us. We’ve fooled around and we’re now 100% focused on writing the best third album that we can.

The Nightfly: The band has been touring Denmark all summer and Turboweekend was one of the main attractions at Northern Europe’s largest music festival at Roskilde west of Copenhagen in July. Is the festival setting your favorite type of venue and do you think the tragic events at the Love Parade techno festival in Duisburg, Germany this past July might change how performers view such large events?
Silas: Calling us one of the main attractions at Roskilde is at your own risk. We played at the same time as Muse and had a more than full tent, so we’re not complaining. Festival shows can be great, especially a festival like Roskilde where people are open to new music and are just set on having a great time even though they may never have heard the band before. The uninhibited atmosphere is a very big part of a festival like Roskilde, and when the chaos takes over and people get seriously hurt like in Duisburg or at the Pearl Jam show at the 2000 Roskilde Festival, it’s extra tragic because the contrast with the whole concept of love and celebration is so great. It must necessarily have consequences for the security and has had so at the Roskilde Festival. Of course it’s a shame that you’re not allowed to stage dive anymore, but I understand festival organizers' concern completely, and we’re not going to let a reasonable precautionary measure like that affect our love for the stage and for the music.

The Nightfly: The band is on the Danish label Mermaid which is now partly owned by Sony Music. Is there still a significant advantage to being on a major label in this day and age or can a band/artist make the same kind of headway on a small indie label and/or by using social media like MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, etc.?
Silas: This is not an easily answered question. I think the perfect label is characterized by things like skill, experience, dedication, trust and financial resources. The problem is that these elements often do not follow each other, and the cliché is that the major label will have the financial resources and the experience, but will lack the long term dedication and/or will not trust the artist creatively. Contrast that with the indie label which will be very dedicated, but will lack the finances to push the product properly and perhaps also lack the experience and network. While this is true in many instances there are of course also exceptions to the rule with A-list artists on major labels or exceptionally skilled indie labels managing to promote a product on a very limited budget.

The Nightfly: Music videos are enjoying a much welcomed renaissance and your videos are some of the most exciting and original on the web today. Are the videos as important an element of Turboweekend as the records or do you consider them more along the lines of fun side projects?
Silas: We definitely consider our music videos as secondary to the songs and the albums. The concepts for videos are always thought up after the albums are completed. But having said that, we know the power of images in opening the imagination which is why we make videos in the first place. A good video can open the music to new listeners in a very fast and strong way.

The Nightfly: Not only does Turboweekend have a stellar rhythm section, but the group also boasts a superb lead vocalist; an essential part of creating a sound that will make a band stand out in today’s competitive market. Who are your biggest influences in terms of singers and how many years have you been singing?
Silas: I usually say that I’ve been singing since I was born, but my first solo was probably at the school Christmas show in first grade where we played a group of homeless orphans trying to organize a Christmas party. When I was younger I tended to get fascinated by the technical perfectionists like Whitney Houston, George Michael or D’Angelo, but I’ve come to treasure storytelling and personality over technical skill. Not that Whitney and George aren’t great storytellers, but the focus on storytelling has allowed me to also appreciate great performers like Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Iggy Pop and Nick Cave. Sometimes of course a certain emotional phrase will in fact require very healthy technique, but I don’t want to hear the technique; I want to hear the emotion, the story and the personality.

The Nightfly: You have worked with other Danish bands: this year you remixed Efterklang’s track “Full Moon” and Efterklang in turn remixed your track “Sweet Jezebel”. Does Copenhagen have a close knit collaborative music scene in general?
Silas: There are a bunch of highly collaborative scenes like the Yoyooyoy collective and the scene around Choir Of Young Believers and Chimes and Bells, but we’ve never really been a part of any of these. We’ve had a lot of people do remixes over the years, but we’ve only done a few actual collaborations. The remix swap with Efterklang came pretty naturally as Rasmus of Efterklang is good friends with Morten (and the rest of us like him too). We did a track with Steffen Brandt because our booking agency worked with him. When thinking of collaborations for the EP, Casper Clausen’s [Efterklang] name came up pretty fast, and Coco Malaika from Quadron is also a friend. Apart from that I've done a couple of co-writes with acts in Danish. I think that collaborations are a good creative break.

The Nightfly: Some of your tracks have been remixed by DJs/producers Tiesto and Joker and the band has played techno festivals. Do you find that techno fans are generally more willing to embrace rock than the other way around?
Silas: Not really.

The Nightfly: Your lyrics are fairly dark, but are set against drum beats and bass lines so bouncy that the listener ends up dancing instead of hiding under the covers. Where does the inspiration for your lyrics come from?
Silas: It’s funny - I have a lot of music that I love, but which somehow never manages to affect my lyrics directly. The Pixies and Bob Dylan are good examples of acts which have meant a lot to me during different periods, but which haven’t colored my own production directly. I could never write lyrics or songs like either of those. On the other hand I find that Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young have had a much more direct influence on my writing style. Not necessarily the themes, but the kind of structure of the songs. I also like picking up the odd sentence from movies and books and placing them in a new context.

The Nightfly: From writers Hans Christian Andersen, Karen Blixen (aka Isak Dinsesen) and Peter Høeg to film makers Carl Dreyer, Lars von Trier, Thomas Vinterberg, Danes have a talent for combining tragedy and comedy to great effect. Do you feel any kinship to any of these fellow Danish artists and would Turboweekend be the same band if the three of you had grown up in another country?
Silas: Who knows...

The Nightfly: Who do you bring along for your live shows and have you considered adding more permanent band members?
Silas: We usually always bring our own sound engineer Peter Lehman to ensure that our efforts on stage are conveyed to the audience in the best possible way on the PA system available. Bad sound has ruined or deflated many otherwise good shows, so this is not a place you want to cut back. Since January 2009 we’ve had Anders Stig Møller playing synth and singing backing vocals. This has taken the live show to a whole different level, partly because I am now free to jump around on stage and act crazy, partly because Anders has a natural flair for solving technical problems which means that the setup is now much more advanced than before. For the past year or so, we’ve also had our own light engineer on the big domestic shows. It all adds to the tightness and overall impression of the show. On big shows we also bring a roadie to help set up and take down the gear and drive the van. Not when we’re flying to a gig of course, only when we’re driving.

The Nightfly: You have a growing and loyal fan base in Europe. You have played a few shows in America, but are there definite plans to make a big splash on US market or are the band and the label focused on Europe?
Silas: Definitely focused on Europe at the moment. But we’re coming to SXSW [South by Southwest Music and Media Conference in Austin, Texas] in March, and who knows what can happen.

The Nightfly: Does everybody in the band contribute to the music and lyrics?
Silas: I write the lyrics and everybody contributes to the music.

The Nightfly: Last November I interviewed Yukimi Nagano from one of my favorite bands, Little Dragon of Gothenburg, Sweden. You have mentioned Little Dragon’s 2009 album “Machine Dreams” as a favorite – what was it specifically about this album that caught your ear?
Silas: Yukimi’s voice is of course wonderful and magical, but also, the album has some good melodies and atmosphere around it. “Feather” was the first song that caught our ear.

The Nightfly: Do you have a tentative release date and title for the third Turboweekend album and are you exploring a different musical territory with these new recordings?
Silas: No set release date yet. We are in the middle of writing songs and generally don’t know where we are going till we get there.

The Nightfly: Danes and Swedes are both friendly neighbors and arch rivals. Does Turboweekend secretly long to kick some serious Swedish butt by becoming a bigger act than ABBA?
Silas: We are quite realistic when comparing ourselves to ABBA. They were a mainstream act with easily understandable disco pop songs about love and dance and music, hailing from a nation with a very strong musical tradition and network. Turboweekend is in comparison a niche act with ambitions not only to please, but also to provoke or confuse a little bit. On top of this we come from a city with very few internationally recognized musical acts, and as a result a fairly sporadic and weak international network. As I mentioned earlier however, this last bit is changing. We dream of taking Turboweekend as far as we can go careerwise, without compromising our musical vision.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Rasmus Seebach: Den Jeg Er (Who I Am)

A loving tribute by Danish singer/songwriter Rasmus Seebach (b. 1980) to his late father Tommy Seebach (1949-2003) a popular recording artist and performer for decades in Denmark, this powerful song touches upon themes such as family, forgiveness and finding your own path in life. Like Julian Lennon and Jeff Buckley, Rasmus Seebach bears an uncanny physical and vocal resemblance to his father and must be commended for finding the courage to step into the limelight rather than run from it.

Although the very moving lyrics are in Danish, a language understood by relatively few people, the music and soulful vocals will hopefully speak to anyone who appreciates a great song when they hear it.

Rasmus Seebach's voice reminds me of Caleb Followill of Kings Of Leon who in turn reminds me of Peter Gabriel. And speaking of Gabriel: there are echoes of West African music in this particular arrangement of Seebach's song, primarily in the Manu Katche style drums, but also in the Yassou N'Dour flavored backing vocals that pop up now and then.

VIDEO: Rasmus Seebach performed this arrangement of his song with DR Underholdings Orkestret (the Danish National Chamber Orchestra) in Copenhagen, Denmark on December 27 of last year for the Year in Review show.

Legal Disclaimer: the English song title (Who I Am) is my "unauthorized" translation and only intended as a suggestion.



Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Friday, November 5, 2010

Quadron: Baby Be Mine

Beautiful, slowed down, stripped down cover of Rod Temperton's song from Michael Jackson's "Thriller" album with lovey dovey yet sweet lyrics that, when sung by great vocalists like M.J. and Coco of Danish duo Quadron, sound like pure poetry.

I Don't Need No Dreams When I'm By Your Side
Every Moment Takes Me To Paradise
Darlin', Let Me Hold You
Warm You In My Arms And Melt Your Fears Away
Show You All The Magic That A Perfect Love Can Make
I Need You Night And Day

So Baby, Be Mine (Baby You Gotta Be Mine)
And Girl I'll Give You All I Got To Give
So Baby, Be My Girl (All The Time)
And We Can Share This Ecstasy
As Long As We Believe In Love

I Won't Give You Reason To Change Your Mind
(I Guess It's Still You Thrill Me, Baby, Be Mine)
You Are All The Future That I Desire
Girl, I Need To Hold You
Share My Feelings In The Heat Of Love's Embrace
Show You All The Passion Burning In My Heart Today
It's Never Gonna Fade

So Baby, Be Mine (Baby You Gotta Be Mine)
And Girl I'll Give You All I Got To Give
So Baby, Be My Girl (All The Time)
You're Everything This World Could Be
The Reason That I Live

Won't You Stay With Me Until The Mornin' Sun
I Promise You Now That The Dawn Will Be Different
Lady Can't You See That Heaven's Just Begun
It's Livin' Here Inside Our Hearts

There'll Be No More Mountains For Us To Climb
(I Can't Be Still You Thrill Me, Baby, Be Mine)
This Will Be A Love Lasting For All Time
Girl You Got To Hold Me
We Can Touch The Sky And Light The Darkest Day
Hold Me, Only You And I Can Make Sweet Love This Way
There's No More I Can Say

So Baby, Be Mine (Baby You Gotta Be Mine)
And Girl I'll Give You All I Got To Give
So Baby, Be My Girl (All The Time)
You're Everything This World Could Be
The Reason That I Live

Baby Be My Girl
And Girl I'll Give You All I Got To Give
So Baby, Be Mine, Baby, Be Mine
You're Everything This World Could Be To Me

C'mon, Girl, C'mon Girl
So Baby, Be Mine
You're Everything This World Could Be To Me

Coco appears 17 seconds into the video, hanging out with friends on a summer day in (my original hometown of)  Copenhagen, Denmark.

At the end of the video: Michael Jackson rehearsing his "Thriller" video in 1983 plus an ABC 20/20 interview snippet from early 1980.