Mathias Lundoe, TEDxKEA

Original article written for TEDxKEA

Monetising Big Data

Big data is the word on everyone’s lips. The exponential growth and availability of data has come to play a pivotal role in the manner in which individuals, companies and society at large operate. So what is big data and how exactly is it a game-changer for consumers and businesses alike?

Mathias Lundø Nielsen, a 26-year old serial entrepreneur with a devastatingly effective track record within international e-commerce, might just have the answer. The youngest-ever Scandinavian to be accepted in to Henley’s MBA programme, Mathias’ latest venture is, a tech startup that has received one of the highest-ever valuations of any Danish tech company prior to launch, based on the sole idea of its business model.

Making a serious case for disrupting the hotel industry, Nustay epitomises what monetising big data is in practice through matching guests with hotels by ranking them using information such as profiles, interests and past consumption patterns.

Advanced algorithms work on producing a match between guests and hotels, creating an experience that is both exceptionally customised and that saves both time and money for customers and hotels alike.

In a world that is replete with data and information overloads, Mathias is determined to demonstrate how and why it makes sense to see big data as a new raw material – a commodity that can and needs to be processed in a way that adds value to our societies.

However, in order to derive advantages from big data, we need to know what we are looking for, Mathias points out: “If you’re drilling for oil, you need to know exactly what you are looking for before you begin.” As is the case with oil, big data becomes a commodity only when you know what you will use it for: “You also need to know exactly what your end consumer wants, you should have a very sound knowledge of what your end product is.”

So the question we need to ask ourselves is how do we use what we know more effectively? How do we utilise the endless data at our disposal in a way that meets global and individual needs in a more cost-effective and less time-consuming manner? Let’s talk big data.

Khaterah Parwani

Original article written for TEDxKEA.

A Lifetime Battle to Fight for The Right to Freedom and Independence

Violence against women is a major hindrance to the development of our societies. Whilst measures and organisations are in place to attempt to overcome this problem, many focus on helping the victims and not on nipping the problem at the bud; namely men who indulge in acts of violence against their spouses.

Add context to this within the frame of the society in which we live in, here in Denmark, and you will find that violence against women of ethnicities other than Danish tends to be both more common and harder to uproot.

Khaterah Parwani is the vice-chair, legal adviser and ambassador of the Exit Circle, an organisation that engages victims of physical violence, social control, bullying and radicalism in a dialogue.

A victim of violence herself, both in childhood and adulthood, Parwani has spent the last few years channelling all her time and energy into helping those deprived of the rights to freedom and independence, using her background in law and a deep-seeded passion to make a difference in the lives of others.

Parwani’s work also focuses on the brothers and fathers involved in the circle of violence and social control. Understanding the underlying social circumstances that explain why, for example, the percentage of uneducated or unemployed men with Muslim backgrounds is as high as it is represents a key point of focus for Parwani: “It is harder to become integrated or accepted in Denmark when you are a brown man with a Muslim name than when you are a woman.

A lot of these men feel marginalised.” Similarly, over and above violence and the need to understand why it happens, Parwani is of the opinion that it is more important to comprehend and work at disrupting mechanisms of social control and cultural radicalisation amongst minority societies.

An ardent debater and orator, Parwani has represented her views across numerous media such as The BBC, Der Spiegel, TV2 news, DR1 and Radio 24/7.

Sharon Jones Interview

Vega, Spring 2014.

Daptone records a retro sort of label who think that it’s rad to keep things old school and simple when it comes to the soul music that defines their way of thinking. At the centre of this mindset is Sharon Jones and her backing band, The Dap Kings, who have made it their mission over the years to keep the soul flag flying high, safe from the encroachment of music categories that threaten to redefine it as something that it is not. Sharon was the soul standard beared long before Amy Winehouse came along, conquered and tragically departed and, having fought her way out of a titanic battle with pancreatic cancer, Jones is stronger and more vocal than ever before. Initially delayed, her latest album ‘Give The People What They Want’ is a work borne of her struggles in this battle and is currently one of the driving forces behind her ongoing tour.

I caught up with the endearing songbird ahead of her show at Vega in Ma, for a chit-chat about her music, views on r & b, working with Lou Reed and the U.S healthcare system, which in case you forgot, is quite shit. She was chirpy, and talkative, ahead of her show, which went on to rake in widespread praise from various media and burst into song whenever afforded the slightest opportunity – her flowing locks replaced by an air of statuesque bald sophistication not unlike that of fellow diva-in-crime, Grace Jones.

The Battle Against Cancer 

A: “Welcome back to Copenhagen Sharon. How are you feeling ahead of the show ?”

Sharon: “Im ready.” “ I mean, we’ve been going, we’ve been going, we’ve been going.” “Tonight is the third show in a row.” “We fly to Helsinki or somewhere like that tomorrow.” “It’s a lot, but i’m ready to go !”

A “ This year has been a big one for you – you’ve come out fighting from your battle with cancer.” “Congratulations on that.”

Sharon: “Thanks – it’s still a battle.” “ You know for the rest of my life I have to go every six months to check that none of it comes back, as a matter of fact i’m going for a check-up on the 9th of June.”

A “How has this battle shaped your views on music and what it is that you do as a performer ?”

Sharon: “I just want to do more and get my stuff out there.” “I want people to recognise soul music and recognise that what me and The Dap Kings are doing is true soul music.” I’m alive and my goal is to push for the music world to recognise the category of soul music.” “I think that’s why my life was saved – for me to continue to do what i’m doing.”

A “To keep battling, admirable.” “ It goes without saying that it’s nice for you to be back on stage again”

Sharon “ Oh yeah !” “For me, that’s my joy, that’s my energy, that’s my happiness – the stage and music.” “ When I couldn’t do it, when I couldn’t sing, I couldn’t even listen to anything anymore” “ It was frustrating.” “ From June to September I couldn’t bend over, that’s how bad it was”

A “ Ouch ! “ Here in Denmark, there’s a lot of talk about the medical system” “ In the U.S, they are trying to reform things right now.” “What is your experience with the system?”

Sharon: “Well thank God i’m in the band.” “ We have an insurance” “We pay so much for it though- almost 10’000 dollars a month !” “One of the doctors that did the operation in New York was from outside of my network so I had to pay.” “ He tried to work it into my plan but it wasn’t possible so after 2 or 3 months I had to pay him some 20’000 dollars or whatever it was.” “ I’ve been paying and paying and I wasn’t working so the little money i’d saved up was chewed up.” “I have to take enzymes for the rest of my life though – I just changed insurances so that’s gone up too and the medicine itself it probably also going to go up.”

A: “That’s crazy”

Sharon: “It is – I went to a med store sometime back and I hadn’t shown my insurance card so the guy behind the counter comes back with the medicine – he wouldn’t even tell me out loud how much it was – he wrote it on a piece of paper and pointed to it.” “ I was like have you lost your mind ?” “Five hundred and eighty something dollars !” “Of course when I showed the insurance card the price came down drastically but it got me thinking, if I didn’t have insurance, what would that mean ?” “ Would I just die if I couldn’t afford the medicine ?”

A : “Sadly that is a reality for many people in America”

Sharon: “Yeah, people are sick and can’t get medication – they are not insured” It’s scary, they are fighting Obamacare, trying to say it’s not working.” “ It is working, they just don’t want to give it a chance.” “ They are full of crap !” “It’s all about the pharmaceuticals and the money – you’ve got to keep the doctors and the doctors have to keep you on all your pills instead of telling you to go home and find more natural solutions that could also help you” “I don’t want to talk about natural drugs because the last time I talked to one of the news people in New York they misinterpreted it completely.” “That was not my intention at all – I wasn’t bragging about my experiences with weed , but they need to get it right, there are a lot of people that use it- cancer patients and so on”

A: “Well they have legitimized Marijuana in some parts of the states, Colorado for instance.”

Sharon: “Colorado is a different part of the country.” “Even if people don’t want to smoke it, they can take a pill prescribed by the doctors.”

A : “It’s quite stressful to contemplate a med system based on such rampant inequalities”

Sharon : “ I’m telling you- you see what it’s like ?” “ I figure that everyone has to do what they got to do- i’ve been eating kale, Spinach and carrots, ginger and so on, mixed as a drink sometimes”

A: “Sounds like a nutrient bomb”

Sharon “ Yeah, when I started taking it the doctors were amazed by how fast I was recovering.” “ That’s the power of the greens, the power of vegetables.” “That’s what you’ve got to do, stick to natural stuff.”

Give The People What They Want 

A: “ Indeed.” “Going back to a more positive topic, your music –your latest album Give the people what they want’ was also delayed by your illness.” “It’s out now and it’s got quite a lot of people baking it up.” “What was the inspiration behind it ?”

Sharon : “It took us a couple of years just to make the album because my mother was sick, Neil Sugarman’s brother was sick too.” “They both died afterwards- my mother died during the making of this album, Neil Sugarman’s brother died of cancer then the next year there I was diagnosed.”

A: “Was the album ready at that point ?”

Sharon “No actually the album was due to drop in August and in April-May I was diagnosed with cancer so everything got postponed to the year after, January.” “We put out ‘Retreat’ already because we thought the album was coming out so while I was in the hospital an animated video was made for it – which changed it to a tale about fighting cancer.” “We also did the video for ‘Stranger’ – I was very sick during that, on chemo.” “ I went in and we did the video over one day and I was in bed for the next four days after that because my white blood cell count had dropped and my immune system was down.” “It was happy though, but I was a stranger to it all.” ‘Get up and get out’ changed as well – first I had to learn it- the drummer wrote it and he didn’t tell me what the song was all about to start off with.” “ Later he told me it was about bed bugs – ‘I’ve been laying with you night after night, you leave before I see the morning light, I always say you’re not welcome no more but when you knock I open up the door and say Get up and get out !” (sings jubilantly ! )

A: “ Haha ! And there I was thinking that this song was about some lousy lover ! “

Sharon “Yeah, right ? (Laughs) “ And then the second verse ‘All my friends they ask me about you and I swear up and down that we are through.” “If only what I say is true, why can’t you find someone new ?” “Get up and get out !” “When I started singing it on stage, we changed the whole groove and I start the song off in a Tina Turner way.” “I don’t tell em about the bed bugs though” “At the end I scream ‘ Get up cancer, get out!’ “I shout the cancer out”

Proper R & B is not pop 

A : “ Your record label, Daptone, has a back to the old r & b school feel to it…”

Sharon “Yeah it’s r & b but we want to want to be recognised as soul – there is no label for soul music in the music categories.”

A “So what is the difference, for you, between the ‘r & b’ that we hear on the radio today and what you’ve been making throughout the years ?”

Sharon: “It’s just changed.” “The r & b of today isn’t the r & b of the old days because the r & b of the past was called soul.” “James Brown came up with funk and then you had different categories of funk” “ R & B took on a whole other value; I don’t even know what the hell they’re talking about when it comes to r & b today – it’s pop music.” “Anytime you take, and I keep using their names, Taylor Swift and Justin Timberlake, and people keep on saying they’re r & b singers I think ‘Wait, that’s pop ! They are great pop singers, their music is great but it’s not r & b.” “I don’t consider it r & b.”

A “For me Amy Winehouse was a very good musician, all credit and respect to her, would you say that you have a similar sound ? “You’d been on the scene for some time before her singing that sort of sound.”

Sharon : “Yeah, we inspired her, I inspired her.” “That’s why Amy and Ronson came to our label, came to the Dap Kings and 6 of her songs on her album were produced.”

A : “ What is your philosophy behind music ?” “Why do you do what you do ?”

Sharon : “I’ve never really thought about it like that.” “I think of music as a bit of my life, it’s been part of my life since I was a child.” “When I did my first solo and realised I can sing in church, at that point, I was aware that it was a gift, a blessing.” “It’s something I have to do – it’s my happiness, my joy.” “I don’t have kids, i’m not married and i’ve been on the road for the last 20 years or so touring” “ To me, when I lose that joy, that happiness, or when I don’t feel that connection, when I lose the connection with my fan or with my band, it’s time to quit, to retire”

A: “Hopefully not anytime soon”

Sharon : “I don’t see it coming any time soon right now”

A: “It was difficult for you to make your big break, having been around on the scene for a while.” “When did you know for certain that making music was something you wanted to devote your life to ?”

Sharon: “It was in church one day.” “Back in the 80’s and 90’s I was trying to do that club stuff with all them beats – you’d go in the studio and they’d tell you ‘Sorry, but you just don’t have the look for this kind of stuff.’ “I knew I had a voice, a gift so to be told that in my youth was hurtful.” “I took many jobs and many of them weren’t for me.” “Everything comes back to my music, back to singing.” “I knew that it was part of my life and something that I had to do.” “ You’ve got to know where you’re going and what you’re doing.” “Some people want to be singers and musicians and it’s not for them. “In your heart you know you’re good and if you’re somewhere and fifty people tell you that you’re not or 100’000 people tell you that and you’re the only one who believes in you, maybe there’s something wrong.” “ However, when one person out of all those tells you something positive, you’ve got to search yourself and keep going- have faith in yourself and keep that one person in mind.” “That’s what carried me, I didn’t have to look though- my ex was out playing and the guys he was with were looking for a soul singer with a James Brown groove thing going.” “ I could do that easily, that was my break and I knew that it was the style of music that I was meant to do.” “I don’t want to go out and try to sound like Beyonce or some of the young girls out there today, that’s not what I do.”

A : “That’s the problem with the music industry, their reproduction of everything that’s already there …”

Sharon: “And people let them do it, they give you a bit of money and if you’re record doesn’t sell a few hundred thousand copies they drop you.” “With my music, whether I sell 500 or 5000, the record label is still going to go on supporting me”

R.I.P Lou Reed 

A : “You’ve worked with quite a few musicians over the years – Lou Reed being one of them.” “What was it like working with Lou?”

Sharon: “Honestly, I didn’t even know who Lou Reed was.” (chuckles) “Of course I remember ‘tu tu tu’ (hums ‘talk a walk on the wild side’ ) but it wasn’t my style – I wasn’t into the rock of the 80’s and 90’s.” “When they told me what he was doing and I listened to his ‘Berlin’ album I thought ‘Wow ! This is dark.” “At that first rehearsal in Brooklyn Anthony from Anthony and the Johnson’s was there too.” “ I didn’t know who this guy was but his style reminded me a lot of Tiny Tim who used to sing ‘tip toe to the garden’ (sings Tiny Tim’s iconic Tip Toe Through the Garden’ ) “ He had a very high pitched voice.” “ I went to Australia and he let me do a verse of ‘Sweet Jane’ with him on the first night.” “ He wasn’t going to ask me to sing”

A: Why not ?

Sharon : “That’s Lou for you – I stepped on his solos.” “It didn’t bother me at all – In Australia someone asked him what it was like to have such great backup singers and he said ‘Sharon, come here, I want you to take a verse of ‘Sweet Jane’ and we tried it out without success to start off with.” “ I told him ‘Lou if I have to sing this song the way you sing it then I don’t want to do it because that’s not who I am’

A: “Two very different styles”

Sharon “Exactly.” “So Lou goes ‘I tell you what, i’ve been singing this song for many years my way – let me see how you are going to do it.’ “I did my Tina Turner thing and at the end of the night Lou says ‘Ladies and Gentlemen, the magnificent, wonderful Sharon Jones !’ “We hugged in the dressing room afterwards and everything was cool.” “ He was happy to start off with but got mad afterwards because he wanted me to go on tour with him in Europe and I said yes, before cancelling 3 days before the tour because I had to do the movie with Denzel Washington , ‘The Great Debaters’- I chose to do the movie.”

A “How come ?”

Sharon: “Because it was Denzel and it was the great debaters (chuckles heartily)” “ It was an opportunity to be in a movie, who would turn that down ?” “I would have made more money with Lou but I turned down the tour.” “I had two short scenes but would you believe it they cut em out !” “ I sung a whole song as well which they also cut out” “So get the original and watch the director’s cut and you’ll see me in there and the parts that they took out.”

A : “ Any idea why they cut that out ?”

Sharon: “Length I guess.” “Movies are always too long and they have to nip it down from like 3 hours to an hour and a half so there are so many scenes they have to cut out.” “Of course my scenes were some of them” (laughs)

A : “I’ve got to see the movie then I guess”

Sharon: “From the beginning Al, It’s all at the beginning.”

A: “Any plans of acting again any time soon ?”

Sharon: “Oh I would love to !” “We are in ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ too – the whole band.” “I would love it if Tyler Perry did something and got me in there.” “Singing is acting you know, you’ve got to act those stories out when you’re on the stage.”

A: “This is my last question, what’s next for you ?” “ You’re touring now but are the plans beyond ‘Give The People What They Want ?’

Sharon: “ No plan really, I just want to continue to get this album known and continue to have my health.” “I hope and pray that every show we do goes well, that nothing has to be cancelled.” “That’s important you know- cancellation hurts.”

Agnes Obel, Vesterbro. Sept 2013

(Interview also out in The Copenhagen Post)

Danish pianist and singer Agnes Obel stormed to European popularity a good 3 or so years ago with her debut album, Philharmonics, a coup de maître that garnered gold in The Netherlands and went platinum in Belgium, France and Denmark. With such accentuated success to live up to, Obel is back in 2013 with her follow-up album, Aventine; a more nuanced and experimental work that draws on the dark emotional influences of Roy Orbison, amongst other inspirations. I caught up with her in Vesterbro, ahead of the start of her European tour and this is what she had to say about her music and the new album.


Amk: “Welcome back to Copenhagen Agnes.” “For those who don’t know what you’re music is all about, what’s the philosophy behind your music ?” “What goes into making a song for you ?”

Obel: “Hmm, Well I can explain something about the process or the method.” “When I started working on my own music I didn’t have the chance to record in a big music studio so I had to record everything myself.” “I figured out that recording and writing songs at the same time works really well for me.” “A different moods shines through the song and the performance of it also changes.” “ I feel that this way of working also allows me to get closer to the nerve of the song.”

Amk: “You grew up surrounded by musical instruments as a child. How did the piano become your instrument of choice ? ”

Obel: “That’s a good question.” “I don’t know how I was stupid enough not to learn to play all the other instruments” (laughs). “We had a vibraphone and a double bass; why didn’t I learn to play them as well as I play the piano ?” “There was something about the beauty and resonance of the piano that spoke to my imagination I guess.” “My brother was into drums and guitars and I was always very much into the piano.”

Amk: “Your second album, Aventine, is just about to drop.” “You must be pretty excited about it.” “What is different on this album compared to Philharmonics ?”

Obel : “Aventine was made over a more concentrated period (one and a half years). Philharmonics was also recorded over a concentrated period though some of the songs are from earlier in my life. With Aventine, i’m trying to look into new states of mind that i’ve experienced and been curious about.” “The Cello is a major driving force in some of the songs on the album and i’ve experimented with it, using it in new ways and so on.”

Amk: “You’ve got a few shows coming up to promote the album.” “Is there any show that stands out amongst the bunch for you ?”

Obel : “I’m looking forward to Paradiso in Amsterdam- I’ve played there before on one of the first bigger shows I did on the previous album.” “It’s a beautiful venue.” “I’m also really looking forward to playing at Le Trianon in Paris.”

Amk: “What about inspirations ?” “Who or what do you get inspired by ?”

Obel: “I’m inspired by lots of things all the time and these things change, all the time.” “For the new album, i’m particularly inspired by Roy Orbison and the re-invention his songs have gained through David Lynch movies where one sees this dark under-current developing in them.” “I love the conversation between film and music.”

Amk: “You moved to Berlin a few years ago.” “What is it like living there ?”

Obel: “OhI really like Berlin !” “I grew up in Gentofte and moved to Frederiksberg when I was 12.” “When I went to Berlin for the first time I It felt like a big city and a village all at the same time.” “I didn’t really understand the place to begin with so I was very curious and I came home and told everyone that I’d be moving there.” “It was a leap into the darkness to see if it would work out, which it did and i’m very happy living there now.”

Amk: “What is it like to play in Denmark and Scandinavia in general ?”

Obel: “I’ve heard from other artists that people are a little bit more reserved in Northern Europe, which comes across at concerts, where the audience may be quieter.” “So this means less hecklers (laughs) but maybe it also means that people may not be as open about how they felt.” “I’m not so sure this is especially true of Denmark and I haven’t played that much in the North of Europe as most of my performances have been further south but it’s what i’ve heard.” “As far as Denmark goes, it is always really difficult to play for your family and friends.” “One becomes really self conscious, which is a challenge for me especially in Copenhagen where I know some of the venues really well.”


Charles Bradley, Interview. Stor Vega June 2013

Living proof you can take the last exit to Brooklyn

They used to call him Black Velvet – now it’s simply Mr Bradley
 pic: Allan Kortbæk
The beguiling Charles Bradley is the kind of performer one never forgets. The funk revivalist has enjoyed a fairy-tale success story following the release of his debut album, ‘No Time For Dreaming’, three years ago.

It followed a lifetime of trying to make a living under harsh conditions in the US, moonlighting as Black Velvet as he performed James Brown impersonations alongside his job as a chef.

What’s fascinating is not Bradley’s rise to the limelight at the ripe old age of, per say, but more the perseverance he showed along the way, despite hardship and travails that included him sleeping on New York subway lines as a teen and losing his brother in a shooting.

His is a life replete with drama and difficulties that would derail most, yet somehow the Brooklyn star is still here, telling us his story through shrieks, tears and the passion of a man half his age.

The Copenhagen Post caught up with Bradley before his third performance on Danish soil at Lille Vega last week, backed by his seven-piece band, The Extraordinaires.

The Copenhagen Post: Welcome back to Copenhagen, Charles. This is your third visit to Denmark, I do believe. You go on stage in about half an hour. How are you feeling today?

Charles Bradley: I’ve got a bit of a problem with my eye – it’s running a bit. Must be some kind of allergy, but there ain’t nothing that’s going to stop me from doing a great show. I’m going to do my best to keep people entertained and make them happy.

CP: Your latest album ‘Victim of Love’ has just hit the shelves. Could you tell us a bit about it? What’s the inspiration behind it?

CB: ‘Victim of Love’, that’s  me – it’s about my life. Music is what I have left to tell my story. During my working life I couldn’t express myself you know, cos you want to speak up and say something about the injustices you go through, but you can’t cos that’s the way it is. My music gives me the chance to do this today. I’m grateful to God for giving me the opportunity to be able to share my story.

CP: You’ve definitely “Made it in America”, to quote one of your songs [‘Why is it so hard?’]. Some may forget that many of America’s issues remain hidden by the success of your music. What is the reality of life in America today living in Brooklyn?

CB: Everyone talks about America being the land of milk and honey, but it ain’t. You can get milk and honey, but you gotta work hard to do it and it’s never easy. You’ve got to fight, you’ve got to be strong and keep going even when it seems like there is nothing to live for.  I took the long road to get here.

CP: Many of your songs, such as ‘No Time for Dreaming’, relate to sensitive moments of your life, but they also have a wider application in the state of America and the world today. What is your message to everyone out there who is struggling to cope and struggling to make it?

CB: Go back to the golden rule. If you’ve got a gift that God gave you, use it. Don’t let nobody tell you nothing about it. It doesn’t matter how many millions somebody offers you. You can be rich, you can make it financially, but if you don’t have inner peace, dignity, you won’t have anything. You got to keep your dignity because that’s worth more than anything.

CP: Where do you go from here, Charles. What’s next in this musical journey for you? Can we expect you back in Denmark anytime soon?

CB: I’ve got to put up a show. It’s part of the job, so I’ve got to perform and give people a good time. I don’t know where I’ll be tomorrow; I don’t know where I’ll be in a few years. Only God has the answer to that.

Penny Police Interview, Vega April 2013

Original written for The Copenhagen Post

Penny Police is a act that caused quite a few ripples across the Danish music scene when she first surfaced a few years ago. Those ripples have been spreading ever since, and bear the potential of developing into storm waves, if Penny’s ascendancy in the hallmarks of Danish music continues.

The Copenhagen Post caught up with Marie Fjelsted before her performance at Vega’s Ideal Bar last week, for a quick chat about her music, new E.P and where she is headed in 2013.

Amk: “What’s your music about, for all those who don’t know ?” “Why make music in the first place ?”

Penny: “I make music because i’ve got a lot going on inside of me. My music is an outlet for all the many thoughts and stuff that are sailing around my head”

Amk: “A way of sharing your thoughts perhaps ?”

Penny: “Sort of, it’s not as if I think, now I MUST tell everyone what’s going on – it’s more something that happens and my feelings are translated through music in a natural way.”

Amk: “Penny Police is an interesting stage name.” “Where does it come from and what does it mean ?”

Penny: “Penny is the pleasant aspect of the two P’s and Police is the harder, rougher dimension.” “It’s a duality that reflects who I am and what my music is all about”

Amk: What about your inspiration, where does that come from ?

Penny: “It’s all thoughts- thoughts that I have about different things; life for instance.” “It’s about what’s right for oneself.” “It’s so easy to say, “I should have done this or that or the other” so it’s important for me to constantly think about what it is that’s important for me.” “It is about finding ones balance, which of course is a never-ending process.” “Musically, there is lots of stuff that inspires me-the Norwegian Ane Brune is really cool, The Beatles- George Harrison, Paul McArtney and all of that lot as well- they’ve got some amazing melodies !”

Amk: “Your new E.P sink or sail has recently dropped. Tell us a bit about it”

Penny: “All the songs on it are about the lives of inner feelings.” “Whereas my previous productions were way more outgoing, sink or sail is a lot more melancholic.” “The songs emanate from thoughts that came out of situations where I couldn’t do anything else other than bury myself in a sofa in sadness.” “It’s about what springs to mind in such situations, about getting knocked down and getting up again.”

“Musically, it’s very ambient and there’s no autoharp on it.” “Some would say it’s art-pop, whereas my album from last year is more within the singer-songwriter niche and has more folk elements.”

I noticed that you grew up in Ribe, Denmark’s oldest city and culturally a place where lots happens. What was it like for you growing up there ?

Penny: “Ribe is a great town to grow up in !” “There’s lots of music, which affected me a lot.” “I attended a musical academy there and exploited all the opportunities I could such as performing in Ribe’s church and so on.” “It’s a small town with a big town feel because of all the cultural happenings that take place there , many of which I was happy to be a part of.”

Amk: “And how does Copenhagen live up to that ?”

Penny : “I’m happy to live in Copenhagen.” “It’s also a nice city.” “I couldn’t imagine myself living in Ribe in my youth, right now that is.”

Amk “So with your E.P on the shelves and several concerts on the calendar, what’s next for you this year ? “

Penny : “I’m writing songs for a new album. Some of them have already been written, some are still pending. It’s scheduled for a release in 2014.” “ I’m also talking to people in England and Germany about future musical projects.” “I’m also working closely with Barbara Moleko and we’ll be writing songs together for her new album.”

Modeseletor Interview, Copenhagen Feb 2013

Original article written for The Copenhagen Post

Sebastien Szary and Gernot Bronsert got together in the early 1990s when Germany had just been shaken by the collapse of the Berlin Wall. The duo found gigs playing a fusion of acid house, techno and hip-hop to hordes of anarchic Berliners in a now-united city. Since then, they have gone on to produce music alongside the likes of the city’s ‘first lady of electronic music’ Ellen Allien and Radiohead’s Thom Yorke, who is a fan of their ecclectic electronic sound. The Copenhagen Post caught up with Modeselektor’s Sebastien Szary for a short interview before their massive show at Store Vega a few weeks ago:


Modeselektor’s Sebastien Szary before the show at Vega. Photo: Jason Moisio

Here is what Szary had to say about Copenhagen, Musical inspirations, and working with Thom Yorke.

Amk: So, Szary is this your first time in Copenhagen ?

Szary: Well Gernot is the one who is really good at counting the years. I think we started in 2005 and we’ve been back every year since then. This is the 8th or the 10th time. We’ve played in Århus, Copenhagen and even on Bornholm in the pre-Modeselektor era (laughs)

Amk What was it like at Roskilde ?

Szary: Roskilde was amazing, it’s a really nice festival. We’ve played there twice- last year and two years ago with Moderat, the side-project we have together with Apparat. You can feel that it’s a festival with a lot of history.

Amk what was it like playing back in the early 90’s after the wall came down in Berlin ?

Szary: The whole situation after the wall came down was comparable to the wild West. The wall coming down was like a revolution- all the different influences – Communism from the East, and Capitalism- consumption and so on from the West all came together. It was a very exciting time musically as well. A lot of different styles from all the radios from different sectors came together.

Amk: What’s on your Ipod right now ? What are you inspired by ?

Szary: I have a problem with my Ipod, I hate software updates so I stopped updating my Ipod a couple of years ago. Right now i’m listening to the new My Bloody Valentine album quite a bit. Modeselektor are quite diverse, we do our slalom thing. We came from the hip hop of the 80’s then went straight to Acid House back to hip hop (Public Enemy and so on) and then into techno, Sonic Youth rock, you name it. There are lots of undiscovered sound samples and non-western oriented styles of music from the 20’s and 40’s that inspire us when we compose, well I don’t want to call it composing, it’s more like jamming. It helps if you have a knowledge of music and I have to admit that Gernot and I don’t have proper musical knowledge. I don’t play the piano for instance, so the way we use our instruments is more intuitive than anything else.

Amk: Now a question about Thom Yorke

Szary (laughing) : Ah Thom Yorke, The T Question, it comes up often

Amk: Indeed. What is it like to work with him, you guys are quite close, right ?

Szary: Yeah, we’ve been friends for about ten years. The partnership started with remixes initially then we teamed up with Radiohead and it’s going pretty well. It’s more than just about music, we are good friends with Thom. He’s a nice guy.

What’s your favourite city to perform in ?

Szary: There are quite a few actually. We like cities that aren’t in the focus that much. Glasgow can be pretty fun, also in the rain. I like the people there, it’s a bit rough and similar to the rough feel of East Germany. San Francisco and New York are fun too as is Guadalajara, Mexico.

Lastly, What’s next for Modeselektor ? What are you working on at the moment ?

Szary: Right now we’re working on the next Moderat album (teaming up with Apparat). It should be out in August. It’s time to continue our partnership with Apparat so that’s taking up almost all of our time. Aside from this we have our own private lives to keep us occupied as well.



Modeselektor raised the rafters at Store Vega last month. Photos: Jason Moisio

If you haven’t listened to Modeselektor’s music yet, here’s a couple of tunes :

Lena Andressen, Le Panum (October 2012)

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to interview one of the most endearing singer / songwriters around on a cold October morning. Lena Andressen is a Canadian – Faroese musician with four studio albums out, including her latest, “Letters From The Faroes.”

The recently dropped album has been selected as the album of the year in The Faroe islands, and Lena is currently on tour promoting it.  “Letters from The Faroes” is as inventive and as intimate an album as you’ll ever find.

Here’s most of my brief morning interview with lena:

Your latest album letters From The Faroes, which was released in Denmark yesterday am I right ? It seems like a really interesting album, could you tell us a bit about it ? What’s the inspiration behind it ?
Yes it came out yesterday and it’s inspired by the feeling of being uprooted, the constant longing for elsewhere that I sometimes tend to feel. I’ve grown up in Cananda and on The Faroe islands so i’ve always tended to long for one thing or another and this sense of longing, of uprootedness is reflected in Letters From The Faroes.
The cover design is pretty unique too., as a letter with stamps and love hearts on it Was this your own idea ?
Well it was mine and Niclas, the guy I write most of my stuff with. The idea was to bring back a bit of feeling as far as the art of letters being something that is dying or certainly something that is less common. The CD case feels and looks like a letter, which brings back the idea of feeling being involved in music. Letters from the Faroes, the album title refers to the songs on the CD, which for me are like different letters that capture the state of mind that i’m in at the time I write them.
You’re playing quite a few gigs around Denmark to promote the album over the next few weeks. What is like to play here ?
It’s always nice to play in Denmark. I think my music is appreciated here. Of course it’s different from one venue to another. Some places are really loud, really noisy whilst others can be quiet and cosy and everyone listens to you. Generally it’s always a pleasure to play here.
Most Danes don’t know much about the Faroe Islands, For me they’re this picturesque magical place- that’s the image that springs to my mind when I think of them. What are the islands actually like ?
(smiling) It’s sad that many Danes don’t know much about them- they are a part of Denmark too. Well The Faroes are 18 small islands in the middle of the Atlantic. The weather can be pretty bad – there’s a lot of wind and sometimes it feels like there are four seasons in one day, so if you’re into weather extremes this is the place to be. There are actually a lot of people from the Faroe islands who play music, and I think this has to do with the fact that they’re quite an isolated place, so we’re always looking to express ourselves somehow.
Do you also sing in Faroese ?
I haven’t recorded any songs in Faroese, no and this is mainly because English is my native language which makes it a lot easier for me in the songwriting process. I speak and write Faroese but for my music it’s much easier to do things in English.
What inspires you in the process of writing your music ?
When I write songs I try to convey a state of mind that i’m in at the time so it’s very spontaneous. Sometimes I feel happy, or sad, or if I feel like dying or whatever emotion it is that’s going through me. Sunsets and sunrises and other natural phenomena are all background inspirations but not part of the main process as such. My songs are sometimes a way for me to overcome certain emotions, they have a bit of a therapeutic effect whilst at the same time telling some story or other.
What music do you listen to when you’re not playing your own songs ?
Well anything really. I’m really inspired by songs that trigger an emotion in me, songs that make me do something or want to do something. Of course these songs can be anything really, The Beatles, you name it.
Photo: NJ Photo /

Tako Lako, Le Panum (Sept 2012)

Identified by MTV as one to watch, and with a new album under their belt, the band are keen to explore the international market in 2013

Balkan beat is a rowdy, raunchy concoction of a music genre, popularised by the efforts of acts like Goran Bregovic, Fanfare Ciocarlia and the well-known New-York based band Balkan Beat Box. Here in Denmark, it remains something of a stranger to the mainstream despite its increasing popularity in underground music circuits.
This may well change though, thanks to the efforts of a band cited as one of the greatest up-and-coming acts in Denmark by MTV, the critically-acclaimed Danish/Serbian outfit Tako Lako, who in their own words are “more than just another Balkan Beat band”.
The Copenhagen Post caught up with three of the band’s members – harmonicist Andreas Broby Jensen, bassist Philip Zubin Hormozi Køppen and multi-instrumentalist Malene Brask – for a quick chit-chat following the recent release of their eagerly awaited debut album, Through the Mud.
First and foremost, for all the people who don’t know you guys, who are Tako Lako?

Jensen: Tako Lako is a band that plays psychedelic gypsy beat; that’s what we choose to call what we do. It’s a pretty mashed-up type of music. We combine heavy beats with a psychedelic acoustic vibe.
Køppen: So far we’ve been known mainly for our live shows, up until releasing our debut album, Through the Mud.
How did Tako Lako come to be, how did you form ?
Køppen:  (grins): Well Andreas was on a inter-rail trip, maybe you’d like to elaborate on that?
Jensen: It all started on an Inter-rail trip many years ago. Our lead singer Ognjen and I went through Europe- Serbia and Monte Negro especially. On the tour we bought some instruments- a drum and a small keyboard thing; a melodica is that what you call it ? It was very chilled, very relaxed – we just jammed on the long train trips- we sat in the coupe and jammed
Køppen : Which must have been really annoying for the other passengers
Jensen (laughs) : For some yeah, some did think it was cool to have a private concert. We weren’t really a bad it was just for fun. When we came home to Denmark we thought it would be fun to go further with our music,; we started bringing people together. In the beginning Oggie wasn’t singing- he wanted to be a percussionist. We got a better percussionist who was trained- even though Oggie insisted on trying the percussion.In the end we got ourselves a pretty good lead singer (laughs)
Køppen: Personally I got into the band since I was really drawn to the complexity of the music. I’d played a lot of rock before that and I wanted to try something new
Did you know any of the guys before ? 
Køppen: I went to high school with Andreas, the classic story
What about you Malene, how did you get involved ? 
I went to school with Phillip (Køppen). He invited me to a concert which I remember really well- I was drawn by a bunch of gypsy balkan dudes who were playing really well and I though that I’d really like to be a part of this.
Tako Lako, the name; where does it come from?

Jensen: (grins) I think it’s a bit of a coincidence. Tako Lako means ‘so easy’ in Serbian. We started out brainstorming with names. [Vocalist] Ognjen [Curcic] came up with it – it looks good written and maybe people can remember it. It also reflects our music. Our music is kind of complex, but we wanted to turn it into something that is comprehensible.
Køppen: It’s a name you cannot categorise, much like our band – it’s completely movable contextually, which reflects us as a band. Tako Lako has changed a lot. I mean Tako Lako can be everything.
Many people would call you a Balkan beat group, for the sake of classification at least. What are some of your main influences, if any, within Balkan Beat?
Jensen: Of course, at the beginning, we were very influenced by the Balkan wave, by Balkan beat. Bands like Go Gol Bordello, Balkan Beat Box, Shantel and so on. In time, however, we changed – particularly over the last two years. We found our inspiration from bands who are not related to the gypsy genre as such.
Køppen: The thing with Balkan is, we all adore it, but it’s not necessarily full of substance and meaning, especially lyrically. So we feel that we’ve added an extra element of meaning to the genre through Ognjen’s lyrics.
So what does Ognjen sing about typically?
Brask:  There are some themes on our CD, particularly family traditions and coming from Serbia. Ognjen’s family comes from Serbia. He knows how it was in the war. He also knows what it means to be left out.
Køppen: It’s also about the past and the clash that one’s past represents for the future.
A bit like discovering one’s own identity perhaps?
Køppen: Exactly. In a way it’s about our own story as well. The battle that we’ve been through. We’ve been compared to other Balkan beat bands, but we’re trying to find our own place.
Your album Through the Mud has just dropped. Gaffa has given it five out of six stars. You must be pretty happy with it. You’ve been performing since 2008. What took you so long to make an album?
Jensen: Two years ago when we made our EP, we decided we’d wait a while before making an album.  If you listen to the EP, you can tell that something is happening, but it’s not finished yet. It just took us a while to find a sound that we can all agree on.
Køppen: The thing is that we’re really busy as a live band. We’ve had a lot of gigs over the last few years and have been really busy despite us not having any recorded material (laughs).
Brask: At the start we almost only worked on our live performances because we just love being on stage. We really love it! We wanted to see how far it could take us, so that’s where our focus was, but we also had to find a bit more substance in our music. We needed time to become more of a unit.
I’m sure you’ve had many good gigs in the history of Tako Lako. Is there a jewel in the crown of all your many gigs ? 
Jensen: Roskilde 09 for sure. It was very emotional for all of us. One of the things you say as a band is “We want to play at Roskilde Festival” We did it, with over 5000 people packed in an arena that was meant for 2000.
Køppen: It was manic ! Mind blowing ! The security dudes almost had to close down the stage because there were so many people.
Denmark has been a pop-reliant nation for a long time now. What has it been like for you to face this barrier  a Balkan outfit ? Has it been difficult to get people to latch on to Balkan beat? 
Køppen: Definitely yeah. That’s why our album is titled Through The Mud – we’ve really fought for this. Getting our music out to the important people has been really difficult- we’ve been told there’s no market for Balkan music. We’ve really fought for what we believe in though and we haven’t given up. It is a pat on the shoulder when we get to perform at a Pop festival like Skanderborg and we can get the crowd to sit down and jump start.
Jensen: Signing for a label like Sony is also a huge pat on the shoulder-  It tells the music industry something about us.
Brask: A couple of years ago we actually thought about being a bit more mainstream just to fit into the Danish market. It went wrong though- our heart wasn’t in the music, so we stopped and went back to our original style. The market has to accept our songs and work with us so we can the music out to people.
Where do you see yourselves in, say three years from now ? 
Jensen: We definitely want to expand out of Denmark. A dream would be to become the GoGol Bordello’s of Europe.
What are you up to now then?
Køppen: We’ve got a busy schedule this autumn. The plan is to focus on the Danish market to see how far we can take Tako Lako, promoting the new album and so on. Next year we’ll head south, into the German market and of course the UK.

Kasia StanGrecka, Copenhagen (Jan 2012)

From film-directing to generative art. Creative expression is all around ! The Papaya caught up with Polish generative artist Kasia Stangrecka and found out what her work is all about

 Original article: Roskilde University, Papaya Magazine Jan 2012 Issue: 

 Hi Kasia ! What inspires you as an artist ?

I’m not an artist. I am a builder? A creator? Everyday shapes inspire me ! Last time I looked at a lettuce I couldn’t help noticing how much like fractals the leaves looked like.

What exactly is it that you do and how long have you done it for ? 

My video works are generated through coding, Eisenscript to be specific. I first imagine a shape and then express it with letters and numbers in code. I started doing this a year ago. Creating the code takes me all night and then I render the image.Now that I have a new computer and it takes about 10 minutes to render an image and around a week for a movie. It took 10 times longer on my previous computer !

What’s the most difficult thing about what you do ?

Getting what’s in my head into a language understood by the computer. My communicational tools are purely letters in numbers in a code sequence. Controlling how shapes in my head get digitalised on the computer is probably the hardest thing about what I do

Any exciting plans for the future ?

Well I’d like to develop my skills further. Currently I do short films about life, expressed in generative form. I would like to do a whole series of them and in so doing, illustrate how coding can create a small, independent digital life form