Q&A with Danish musician Thorbjørn Risager - made people smile and dance, grooving away life’s problems

"Oh, I miss a lot of things. I must admit that I just don’t find modern music as interesting as the music of the for instance the 60’ and 70’. I mean where’s the new BB King, where’s the new Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin? Who’s here to take over? I can’t see or hear them, but maybe I’m just to old to understand and appreciate modern music."

Thorbjørn Risager: Let The Groove Roll

Thorbjørn Risager & The Black Tornado: Talent, dedication and perseverance As this band enters its seventeenth year, they really seem to be on the verge to a success that will open some new doors, in new territories. And with all the hard work they put into this project, they surely deserve it. In 2003, singer and guitarist Thorbjørn Risager asked some of his favorite musicians to join him in a brand new band. The picked the band name ”Thorbjørn Risager Blue 7” and started playing round Denmark. A year later they recorded their first album, ”Live 2004”, and in 2005 they met their current agent who also started working with their CD promotion, in connection with the release of their second album, ”From The Heart”, which already got considerable media recognition. His next album titled ”Here I Am. By then they had been signed by the Danish label Cope Records, run by the band’s trumpet player. A few albums later, they made a deal with French blues/roots label Dixiefrog, and in 2014 they secured a record deal with Ruf Records, based in Germany but with a very strong position in the international blues world.                                          (Thorbjørn Risager / Photo by Christoffer Askman)

The same year, before the release of the multi-award-winning album ”Too Many Roads”, they decided to add the band name ”The Black Tornado” – to signify that this is a REAL band and not some random musicians that back up a vocalist. They were also hoping that this new name would be a bit easier to google, for all the listeners that heard the band’s music being played on international radio stations. Parallel to writing, recording and releasing new material with 12 – 18 months’ interval, they have kept touring all over Europe, plus a tour to Canada and a spot at Asia’s biggest blues festival Mahindra Blues in Mumbai, where they shared the stage with Buddy Guy. Through more than 1,000 concerts in 21 different countries, the hard swinging and critically acclaimed ensemble has made people smile and dance. For that is what the blues is capable of: grooving away life’s problems. The front man knows this better than most, and on the 10th album - with the inviting title 'Come On In' (2020, Ruf Records) - he goes into clinch with everything from his own age to political reality.

Interview by Michael Limnios        Thorbjørn Risager, 2012 interview @ blues.gr

How has the Blues and Soul music influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

Blues and soul music is the result of the mixing of African and European music. The mix of these two musical worlds has resulted in SO much great music and it’s a prove that many good things can come from mixing cultures, which is something that is good to remember many places in the world where some people fight against the mixing of cultures. I think that the mixing of cultures brings progress, also in music.

How do you think that you have grown as an artist since you first started making music?

I’ve learned so many things since I started out. The most important thing is probably that you have to always be serious with your music and always try to do your very best. Nothing comes without an effort. And the biggest the effort, the greater the result! It took me many years to really realize this and it’s something that I still struggle with. I tend to look for the “easiest way out”.

What has remained the same about your music-making process?

I still write music more or less the same way: First I find the chords and the groove, then I make the melody and last the lyrics. And the lyrics are still the hardest part. But now I just walk the extra mile to make the songs a little better.

"Blues and soul music is the result of the mixing of African and European music. The mix of these two musical worlds has resulted in SO much great music and it’s a prove that many good things can come from mixing cultures, which is something that is good to remember many places in the world where some people fight against the mixing of cultures. I think that the mixing of cultures brings progress, also in music."  (Thorbjørn Risager / Photo by Christoffer Askman)

How do you describe "Come On In" sound and songbook? What touched you from the "vinyl sound"?

I would like to say something in general about what I consider the main theme of the album. The album title Come On In, invites everybody in to our “house”. Everybody in the world are invited in to join the party, but they’re also invited in to share with everybody else all the common emotions that we have as human beings like melancholy or sadness for instance. There seem to be a core of more melancholic songs on the album and I guess that reflects the state I was in when I wrote those songs. And we want to invite everybody in to share their worries and sadness which are common feelings that everybody has some times.

And this is also what’s so great about music that it allows people to come together and share difficult feelings with other human beings through the music. And maybe especially the songs that has a melancholic tone have the quality to comfort by showing that someone else shares our state of mind. Maybe these songs also allows the audience to get in touch with deeper emotions that might be suppressed or forgotten in the daily routine of work, responsibilities, commitments and obligations. And also I think that the superficiality of the social media creates a need and a longing among a lot of people towards connecting with the deeper feelings and really sense our humanity.  And that would be my big hope that people will listen to these 10 songs whether it’s live or by listening to the album and feel that they’re not alone and maybe feel that their emotional load has been lightened.

Are there any memories from gigs, jams, tours and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

Jamming with Buddy Guy in Mumbai India is probably the most spectacular thing I’ve experienced on a stage. I also once played a whole set with Robben Ford in a club in Copenhagen which was also pretty neat.

"Be serious about your music. Make the extra effort when you write your songs, and also when you record them. Always consider how you can make your live show better and how you can make your fanbase grow. You have to create your own career, no one will do it for you. Practice!" (Photo by Christoffer Askman)

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

Oh, I miss a lot of things. I must admit that I just don’t find modern music as interesting as the music of the for instance the 60’ and 70’. I mean where’s the new BB King, where’s the new Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin? Who’s here to take over? I can’t see or hear them, but maybe I’m just to old to understand and appreciate modern music.

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in the music paths?

Be serious about your music. Make the extra effort when you write your songs, and also when you record them. Always consider how you can make your live show better and how you can make your fanbase grow. You have to create your own career, no one will do it for you. Practice!

What is the impact of music on the socio-cultural implications? How do you want it to affect people?

I play music because I love to sing and play music, not because I want to change the world. I have great respect for artist who have more political messages, but basically, I just want to have fun with playing music, and that’s also what I want the audience to have when we play live. We want them to have a party and forget about their worries and just dance and have fun.

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?

I would pay a visit to "fantastic" Coachella Festival 1969 - Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Johnny Cash, The Velvet Underground, Janis Joplin, Pink Floyd, Chuck Berry, James Brown, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Steve Miller, CS&N, Frank Zappa, Paul Butterfield and many others….

(Coachella Festival 1969 Never Happened - Dangerous Minds points us to a fun contest that Coachella ran, inviting fans to create their dream Coachella line-ups for every year from 1969-1998).

Thorbjørn Risager - Home

(Thorbjørn Risager / Photo by Christoffer Askman)

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