Kasper Bjørke is a Danish DJ and music producer. His fourth solo album, After Forever, is out September 22. He was interviewed for The Lab by Mads Damsgaard Kristiansen, the lead singer of Reptile Youth.
MADS DAMSGAARD KRISTIANSEN—Alright, my friend. Here we go. How does it feel to release an album?
KASPER BJØRKE—It’s really a weird feeling. I would say it’s almost like an anticlimax somehow… You have been working on something for a whole year, then you wait maybe four months for the record label to do the work with sending it to vinyl production, and prepare the press, etc. So once it’s actually out you feel kind of detached from the actual music.
MDK—Is it scary?
KB—Well… it’s my fourth solo album and before that I did another four albums, and then also a remix compilation, which makes me sort of “numb” to the actual release itself. I think it’s far scarier, that point where you have to say to yourself, “It’s done!” And then hand over the master to the record label. That is the point of no return and that is kind of freaky… because there is always something more you could do; at least that’s how I feel.
MDK—At what point did you have the most fun in the process of making the new record?
KB—I was spending some time in New York last November in the studio with my good friend, musician and songwriter Kurt Uenala. He recently co-wrote the songs with Dave Gahan on the latest Depeche Mode album. It was a lot of fun doing those recordings with Kurt, of course because we are close friends but also in this brilliant location in New York. It was very inspiring and affected the overall sound on the whole album.
MDK—Did the magic that happened there affect how much you value those songs you did with him? And which track on the album are you most happy about?
KB—I felt like I went into that studio with some tracks that were not really “there” yet. And I knew that Kurt, being a brilliant bass and synthesizer wizard, could help me get those tracks to that point where I would be happy with them. I was in particular working on the instrumental tracks on the album with him, for example, Into Smithereens, which is a really slow and melancholic track – I wanted it to be even darker, like a The Cure track from Disintegration – heart-wrenching, you know? So I had Kurt doing this particular baseline which is so full on The Cure-inspired, which definitely made the track complete and it ended up as one of my favorite tracks on the record. I must say I’m also really happy with a lot of the other songs, for example, Apart featuring Sísý Ey, Sylvia featuring CTM, or TNR featuring Jaakko Eino Kalevi. Overall, I think this is the album that I’m most happy about, but I guess you are never better than your last record, right?
MDK—Right! Unless you are really good and your last record was shit? :)
MDK—As you just mentioned you have a lot of really interesting artists on the record. How is it working with so many people that you don’t necessarily know on something as personal as this?
KB—Well it’s always a bit intimidating to contact people with the idea to work together in case they say no, but as soon as they say yes, it’s really fun to work with a stranger and sort of get to know that person a little bit as you get further and further into the collaboration. I think it’s very inspiring and also a necessity for me as an artist to collaborate. Since I don’t sing and write lyrics myself, I have to let others into “my world,” so it has always been a part of my career in that way, and I think that is actually also quite liberating somehow – to leave some of the creative freedom with others. Of course I pick out who features and I also give input to text and melody if I think I have something to add, but I like to give this freedom to others to sing on tracks that I made for them. It gives a fresh and often unexpected result, which is what I really like about it. A strong track is not just the production or not just the vocals and melody – it’s a combination of both.
MDK—I think this is really interesting! Do you think they become a little bit Kasper Bjørke or do you think you become a little bit of them?
KB—Haha! I think maybe it’s more like a small merger of me and them; like a musical sandwich! Haha! Like I am the bread and they are the butter? Wait, does that sound a bit sexual? Haha! No, seriously, I think that collaborations are really important, because it challenges you as a producer and I guess it also challenges the vocalist because they have to deliver something on a track they didn’t compose themselves. In most cases it’s a win-win scenario.
MDK—I think you are completely right. There is something super interesting going on in that gap. But can it be dangerous sometimes? Do you ever feel you lose yourself in it?
KB—As a producer I have been chasing particular people for a long time and really spend a lot of time talking to their managers, trying to fit the collaboration into the artist’s schedule. For this record there was one person that I was waiting for maybe a full year to confirm. In the end, the artist’s manager just stopped answering me, which was super frustrating because I had made that track specifically for that artist, and now I was left with a great track but not the artist that I wanted. And you can’t just stick someone else on the track, so I had to just leave that track off the record. Come to think of it, that’s why there are only nine and not 10 tracks on the album! Anyway, you can definitely lose yourself by being fixated on having particular singers on your record, and if that doesn’t work out, it can get very, very frustrating.
MDK—Can you tell us who it was?
KB—No, I’d prefer not to, but they’re a pretty big and established indie act from Sweden, so take a wild guess. I remember I also got a no from JUNGLE. At the time they had just released one song and it wasn’t really official that it was two white, British producers. At the time I thought it was two soul singers from New York. Haha! Their manager was really nice and answered that they didn’t really do any collaborations but that they were happy that I had them in mind. It’s clear now why they didn’t do collaborations, so I don’t hold any grudges.
MDK—If you could choose one track that someone else had made and put it on your new album, which track would you pick? And why do you think it fits?
KB—Hmmm… that’s a difficult question, Mads. I’m too humble to mention any of my heroes and all-time favorite tracks, because I think they are too epic to be stuck into my album, haha!
MDK—I know that feeling! Isn’t it hard to be both a manager for Trentemøller, myself (not an easy job), and other artists, be label manager of Oh Land’s own record imprint, travel as a DJ all over the world, and still find space not only in your calendar but also in your head to keep making records?
KB—Yes it’s very, very difficult. I think, that’s why it takes me quite a long time to finish an album – I have to allocate small periods in my calendar for focused studio time, because there is always so much stuff going on. But I also worked a lot on the album on the road, when I am touring. For example, I did the idea and demo for Apart on a flight from Copenhagen to Paris, and in Charles de Gaulle airport, the day after the gig, on my way home, I was actually at a point where I thought, OK it’s ready to send to Sísý Ey now.
Of course not all ideas and tracks are done that fast. I have spent a lot of time in the family summerhouse, where I bring a small portable studio setup, so I have been able to work on the album while being away from home. For me it’s the best way like that, always working a bit on it, very rarely do I take actual time off from everything. I think I maybe had less than a week of real holiday this year. And by the way, you are not a difficult artist to work with! If you were, I would not work with you, my friend – life is too short for negative collaborations.
MDK—Time is up. I gotta run. It was nice chatting with you. I haven’t done that since I was 16. Seriously! BTW, you have an oak tree inside you. I mean that in the very best way! Love!
KB—That’s very sweet and wonderful. Thank you. Speak later, champ… Run!
Buy After Forever with artwork by John Copeland—