By Georg Forchhammer.
Troels Skovgaard started his career back in the early seventies. He became famous in Denmark with the westcoast band “Bamboo Brothers, and has worked as sideman with many big acts in Denmark. Now he has released his first soloalbum, and Blue Desert´s Georg Forchammer meets with Troels Skovgaard to a talk about music, gigs, L.A. and much more.
– First of all, congratulations with your album.
Thank you very much.
– How long has it been on its way?
Since ’96, where half of the songs were written. I had an offer I couldn’t refuse from Henrik Nilsson (Keyboard player in the Danish band TV 2, and at that time owner of the Werner Studio in Copenhagen). The offer was that I could use the studio for a symbolic payment when no one else was recording. However, it turned out that the studio was almost always fully booked, so my recordings dragged out for years.
The other half of the songs were recorded in different small studios and finally the whole lot was mixed in the Feedback studio in Aarhus.
– After the break up of “Bamboo Brothers”, was there a kind of gap where you still kept on writing songs?
Yes, definitely. I mean, I didn’t change – I just kept on writing songs. Some of the songs were different from the style we had developed in B.B., which also made me want to try something new.
– Well, you’ve been on the Danish music scene for almost 20 years, but it’s first now that you come out as a soloist.
Between ’84 and ’94 I had the Bamboo Brothers, and as long as we followed the same musical course, there was no reason to go solo. One of the good things about being in a band, is that you can join hands, so to speak. Beside the B.B. I have also played and recorded with a lot of other artists which has given me great musical experience.
– Your album is very wide stylistic, but common is that all the songs are very melodic. There are a couple of songs (especially #3: Dive for Pearls and #5: The sun behind the rain) where it’s obvious that you have been inspired by Paul McCartney – especially the Wings’ period.
– The album containing so many music styles, is that a result of the inspiration you have had from all the musicians you’ve played with through the years, or just because you yourself have got a wide taste of music and want to show it on the album?
Actually, there’s nothing deeper in it. The more I develop myself as a songwriter, the more I implement the things that inspired me in the early years. In the beginning, the Beatles were the one and only. Later, artists like Eric Clapton, Steely Dan, Eagles and the early works of The Doobie Brothers came along. Years later, I started listening to Brazilian music and jazz. However, when I write songs, it’s a more simple expression that comes out.
– How would you describe your album, in a few words?
“My own casserole”. It contains elements of the singer/songwriter style, country and blues, a gentle touch of classical music and a twist of jazz with a light Mediterranean breeze.
– A thing that I think characterizes your way of playing guitar is that you mix a lot of musical styles, a bit like Larry Carlton, whom I wouldn’t define as a blues- or jazz guitarist, but as something in between.
That is also a very characteristic thing about a lot of my musical friends and colleagues – they don’t stick to one style, but they come around in many musical styles.
– I have talked with bass player Jon Bruland (in my opinion one of the best bass players in Europe), and he describes you as one of the most attentive musicians he has ever played with.
I´ll take that as a compliment! Jon is himself 100% present when he plays, brilliant and extremely inspiring to play with. Actually, that is a common thing about everyone on the album.
– Troels, you are very international on your album. We are in Italy a couple of times.
Well, you see, my wife is Italian and she has written the Italian lyrics. She has been fantastic in terms of catching the atmosphere in the songs and in choosing words with a good rhythm, and for me it has been e real challenge to sing in Italian. For the song “Quest`estate” it has also been real fun arranging for a string quartet.
– Years back you studied at the academy of music. Do you have a classical education?
No, but when I was 18 – 20 years old, there wasn’t any academy for rhythmic music in Denmark, so in order to legitimize my wanting to be a musician, I started playing classical guitar and I attended the academy for 2 years – and I found out that this wasn’t a place for me!
– Do you feel that you can use any of the classical education you had, after all?
In some of the Southern European artist, like e.g. Pino Daniele (a great singer/guitarplayer from Napoli), there is a more natural relationship with the classical guitar tradition, and I’m very inspired by that. This is obvious on the last song, “Mia”, of my album.
I have also benefited from the touch I got on the classical guitar, or instance when playing Brazilian music.
– On your home page, you write what you’ve been doing through the years. In connection with your new album, you describe yourself as singer/poseur. Is that a kind of ironic distance to the fact that now you are the front figure?
It probably is. I mean, it’s so comfortable standing behind some soloist and just play.
– How do you feel being a soloist?
Well, it is hard work, but also cool! It is wonderful playing with such a great team on the album.
– Have you performed live with the songs from your new album?
Yes, when I have been on tour with other artist, I now and then have had a day off, where I could arrange gigs with my own stuff, for instance in Aarhus and Aalborg. However, I still haven’t made a tour with my own songs. After some experimentation, I have found out that it will work with a quartet, where everyone is able to sing. The musicians in mind are: Frede Ewert (keyboards), Dan Rasmussen (bas) and Rasmus Grosel (drums). We will be ready to play in April 2003. We have been hired for the International Guitar Festival in Aalborg the 5th of April and I hope to arrange a small tour around that gig.
– In the beginning of the 90´s you had great success with the Bamboo Brothers, among other songs, with the hit “Johnny told Sussie”. You have also worked as producer for Laura Illeborg and Engqvist Orkester, and now you are ready with your own music. Where do you see yourself in a couple of years?
Well, the best would be if I were contacted in the light of what I stand for and what I have achieved, both as musician and as producer.
– Do you miss being on tour and the many gigs you had with Bamboo Brothers?
Yes, but I think the club scene has changed since then. Back in those days you just called and asked when you could come and play. It seems that there has been a generational change. Today, lots of young people will rather listen to DJ’s and the so called jambands which means coverbands who appeal to the greatest joy of all, the joy of recognition. It is very difficult fighting that, when you come along with your own music. It’s almost demanded that you make a huge radio hit in order to make a tour. In the last few years, the record business seems to have changed – a lot of artists have started releasing their own music by themselves.
– Do you think that is because the record companies have become too big and too hit minded?
Probably. I’ve tried sending my material to different companies, but they all returned it. They liked the music but they were unsure of how much it would sell. So therefore, I teamed up with a friend, who has his own little record company, Selina Records, and together we released the album.
– In the future, the internet probably also will be the road to new music. There are a lot of west coast fans around the world, especially in Japan. What if a Japanese agent contacts you some day and wants you over there to play?
Man, then we will be off – anytime!
– Talking about being international: Your working with Engqvist Orkester has led to, that you and the guys from Engqvist Orkester are going to L.A. to play with Alex Acuna and Justo Almario, whose collaboration probably is best known from the band “Koinonia”. The gig is even at “The Baked Potato”, a place that will make real west coast freaks think about the legendary live album with Greg Mathieson. Tell us about it!
Well, Engqvist Orkester contacted me back in May 2000 and asked me if I wanted to produce their album. And after having heard some of their great demo stuff, I said yes. So we met in a little studio near Aalborg, Dreamland Studio. And during the summer of 2000, we recorded the album. Since then, I have played with them sometimes. They don’t have a permanent guitarist in their band, so that was fine with me. Then they were offered this gig at “The Baked Potato” in L.A., and they asked me if I´d like to come along, and who wouldn’t say yes to that!!
– Did you ever consider going to the USA and record with American musicians. For instance, the Danish singer Sanne Salomonsen has had great success with the album she recorded with “Little Feat”.
That would be nice. But I guess I´d have to sell a lot of records before I could pay them. A good friend of mine, Kim Soegaard (a keyboard player living in L.A. since ’95, among others, playing with Ricky Lawson) says, however, that things work out over there in the same way as here, with friendly turns.
– You have also been in Italy to play.
Yes, back in ’96 another friend of mine, Flavio Piantoni, an Italian Bass player, arranged a little tour around Milan, and I remember that before the concerts we went to local radio stations to make interviews, as if we were pop stars. On one radiostation in particular, we were featured along with big names as AC/DC. And the audience loved our music. We even had our demo tape reviewed in a rock magazine. The reviewer was crazy about the songs.
– Have you then considered promoting your album in Italy?
Yes, definitely. We have already started looking for addresses on radio stations etc. However, first we have to get the distribution of the album to work in Denmark. We are also establishing some distribution in Germany, through the company “Target Records”. So following the principle “First we take Manhattan!, we’ll go South of the Alps eventually.