One really, really, really happy Charlene and Four stoned Presidents.
Bonobo is very popular and loved by his many devoted fans, something which is evident from the very first beat. Bonobo aka Simon Green is plaing Vega in Copenhagen during Strøm festival 2014 and the venue is sold out. I am shooting the concert for the Strøm festival and have managed to snake my way to the very front. Like the other 1200 people in the crowd I anxiously await Bonobo’s appearance on stage. Vega’s wonderful stagelights illuminate the center of the stage and Simon Green appears, alone. He grabs a pair of drum sticks and strikes the first beat of the song Cirrus from his latest Northern Borders album. The crowd erupts in a massive cheer. Bonobo has us spellbound and he never lets up. The rest of the band appear after the first song and the singer Szjerdene Fox mesmerizes us with her melancholic vocals. They naturally perform most of the songs from the Northern Borders album but also dip into the older albums. It is a near perfect performance as the performances fuse with the audio and video and transports us all to some magical Bonobo land for close to two hours.
I did not know Bonobo all that well before the concert, I knew his name and had heard and loved the Northern Borders album featuring Bonobo’s trademark downtempo trip hop electronica with complicated basslines and guest vocalists. I was certainly looking forward to the concert but my expectations were blown away by the quality performance. Bonobo live comes with a full live band and singer and instead of just replicating the recorded versions like many ‘live’ electronic bands, they perform live versions of the songs and add in what feels like a fair amount of improvisation. The Singer Szjerdene Fox and Bonobo’s drummer in particular stands out in my memory, performing an amazing ‘jam’ session at the end of the show.
As is usually the case with concerts where I am working, I remember roughly half of it. The moments where I stood still and listened are still playing in my head like the concert was yesterday. The moments where I was focusing on shooting and running around the entire venue, onto the balcony, down again, to the front, to the back etc tend to be a very busy blur. I love shooting music but at times it makes the concert experience really peculiar and uneven.
I would not trade my job for anything though, but Bonobo’s live tour was so spectacular I really hope to catch them again some day where I will happily buy a ticket just so I can listen. It is something not to be missed, do go if you get the chance. In the meantime I shall be playing lots of Bonobo tunes every day in the car on our USA road trip.
Captured on Fuji X-T1 and Fuji X-Pro1 cameras.
We are back! Back in the USA where Mad and Magic Raving part III takes place over the next 2.5 months.
The road is home.
For two years I have been fortunate to work as a commercial music photographer. Having been seriously into music since the age of 11 or 12 it is a dream come true, but it took me a long time to realise I should bring my camera to music events and combine my love of photography and music.
My earliest memories of music was listening to vinyl records (yes, vinyl, google it you youngsters!). My mother played a variety of music during the day at our farm, including lots of 70s disco (Boney M anyone?). I soon started listening to the radio and at some point as a 6-7 year old I became the proud owner of my own cassette player and some childrens audio books. I had a Danish audiobook version of Star Wars that I played over and over to the point of wearing out the tape. It came with a book with pictures and when you had to turn a page to keep up with the audio, R2-D2 would beep-beep on tape. It was quite possible the coolest thing I had ever experienced and my first moment of audio magic.
When I received a ghettoblaster – this was the 80s! – for my birthday I also started making mixtapes by recording songs from the radio. This is a science in itself, as anyone who have ever attempted it knows. Some of you Danes out there will remember Kim Schumacher, I religiously listened to his weekly radio show where he would speed talk and play all the latest tunes he picked up in New York. I also began reading about music in the hippest publications I could get way out in the country, the Danish Vi Unge and the German Bravo magazines. This was before I even spoke much German so I had to use my mothers dictionaries. Bravo always came with these big posters and my room was decorated with Michael Jackson, Duran Duran (yikes!), and the German Nena (yikes!) – and Star Wars, of course.
Then one Christmas, probably in 1983, my world changed. One of my presents was Michael Jackson’s Thriller on cassette tape. I sat glued to my ghettoblaster and could not stop playing this over and over and I still can’t, I still get completely entranced by MJs (and Quincy Jones) genius work. This album was and is legendary, no other music means as much to me. More than 30 years later I still listen to this album at least once a week. It is for me the best album ever made and nothing short of actual magic. I still have the cassette tape somewhere in storage. Beats are what first catch my attention and no one makes beats and basslines like MJ, no one. Being a ‘beats man’ the lyrics often gets filtered out by my brain, but this entire album I can sing (really poorly but funny!). I do a version of The Girl is Mine that brings the house down.
Electronic beats in the blood
I explored many genres of music over the years growing up. I had my metal years of course as an angry teenager, I had a period where I explored older 70s music, I even had a rock phase believe it or not, and then in the mid 90s my world changed again. Shortly after moving to Copenhagen, electronic music permanently entered my DNA through my ears. My strongest memory is of hearing legendary Future 3 play live at Vegas Vegatronic nights one Saturday evening. The beats, the bass and the complete freedom in the music blew me away. I had never heard anything like it. It was refreshing, the tunes did not bow to any standard form of composition and it was entirely beat and bass driven. It was about moods and often surprising structures. In that respect it shares many similarities with jazz (of which I am not a fan). It was also tribal with repetitive beats, great for dancing, and the scene was filled with people embracing a fresh alternative and freedom, freedom to just be yourself. I was hooked and many a night was spend clubbing in Copenhagen (usually at either Vega or Mantra). Many of the DJs I danced to back then are still around and I have now photographed some of them.
DJ Flemming Bo
Yes. That was the ‘killer’ DJ name I invented for myself in early 2000. I could not resist anymore, I had to buy myself a pair of Technics 1210s and a cheap Numark mixer. I started collecting vinyl, frequenting legendary Copenhagen record shops such as Street Dance, Baden Baden and Loud and I taught myself how to mix. Yes, the old man here can beat mix on vinyl and one of my mixes even survived and can be found on my mixcloud. It was just a hobby, no different from playing with a guitar in your home and I DJed exclusively to the wall in my flat – but it was great fun and a major stress relief too. When I think back to 2004 I still do not remember quite why I at some point sold my decks, mixer and hundreds of records. Perhaps I had just moved on to other things – one of them was photography.
After many years of listening to music and going to events, and many years of doing photography I still don’t know how I finally put two and two together. But I purposely went to a Dokkedal/Dixen event with my camera and determined to find a new groove I started shooting music. I found a groove. The week after I went to Bas Under Buen for some bass and again brought my camera and made pictures. Soon after that I found myself shooting for Strøm festival 2012 where I made my now somewhat legendary image of DJ Copyflex. I believe in letting my work speak for me and this picture got me noticed back then.
A dream comes true
I had indeed found my new groove. The following year, in 2013 I shot as many events and festivals as I possibly could manage to gain experience. I managed 20+ events and festivals over the summer, one of them even turned into a Fuji promotional movie. It was far too many events but I had to make my presence known through my work. A call from Red Bull Studios Copenhagen in June 2013 asking me if I wanted to shoot for them proved another major turning point. It started the best working relationship I have ever had, working with wonderful people at great Red Bull events.
My general experience in photography and understanding of light helped me, when I started shooting music. In music, it’s the beat that I listen to, in photography it is always the light, the epic light, I look for. I tell myself my experience with electronic music helps me. Because, you know, I have been there! Well sort of, I DJed to a wall but I did imagine a crowd of thousands in front of me. So if I was the musician that I now shoot on stage I know how I would like to be portrayed. And I understand the music, I can predict what will happen with the beats, the crowd, the musicians and the stage light.
I love being in the music scene, being around music, musicians, sound engineers and all the interesting gear. My job is at times the best in the world, but it is also a lot of hard work and not always fun. It is very depressing to be sitting alone in a mostly empty nightclub at 3am, been there for 5 hours, now almost falling asleep and just waiting for the main act to go on so I can get 10 pictures of them. That makes me want to give it up and never shoot again. But on the good nights where it all comes together it is worth it. If I ever get a ‘rider‘ I shall put in “Main act must go on no later than 2am as the photographer is an old vagabond and needs to sleep”.
Being around all these musicians and wonderful tools, I am immensely inspired to play with music again. I miss my two decks and mixer, not the least because it was such good stress release to just play tunes and mix for hours. One day, when I’m an old man (Michael, shut up!) I have grand plans to built a beach house. I shall have decks and a mixer again and I will subject Charlene to hours of tunes – and rants about why vinyl is better. Fortunately for both of us, we’ll probably be deaf at that time. The dogs won’t like it much though.
I stood on the shoulders of many and received much help and encouragement to get where I am now. I must especially thank Åsmund (DJ Copyflex, Copia Doble Systema, Alo Wala), Frederik (DJ 2000F, Ohoi!, Strøm) and Fergus of Red Bull Studios Copenhagen. And the magic Lady in My life, my P.Y.T., Charlene, for The Way You Make Me Feel (ok, I shall stop naming MJ songs), working alongside me at gigs and coming along on tours, kicking my ass to keep improving and being the best (and hardcore) editor of my work.
Two years, tens of thousands of pictures and many, many gigs later the story almost comes full circle. Future 3 (my entry into electronic music in mid 90s) are back together and recently asked me to shoot press photos for them for their forthcoming album. Unfortunately timing and scheduling issues meant it could not happen, but talking to Thomas Knak of Future 3 about it a few weeks ago brought back wonderful memories and a huge smile on my face.
You can never ever predict how this wonderful, weird, dark and quirky thing called life will turn out. Never ceases to surprise as long as I remember to walk through – or sometimes kick them open – the doors of opportunity in front of me. Two years ago I had only just shot my first music pictures. Now, I do it professionally and can combine music and photoraphy. The dream I did not even know I had, has come true. As Bono once said: Dream out loud. At high volume.
A few weeks ago I get a phone call from TV and Movie producer, director and writer Mads Tobias Olsen. “Hey would you like to appear on my TV talkshow?”. “Ehm, yeah, sure, sounds like fun” was my reaction (can’t keep a diva out of the limelight).
Mads’ show is called MOSAIK and is about integration and ethnicity and normally deals with local issues in Copenhagen. This time he wanted to flip the perspective and have me talk about my nomad life, why I choose to live like this, my experiences traveling around the world for 5 years and most importantly – my perspective on Copenhagen and integration, multi-culturalism from a nomadic traveling Dane spending most of his time abroad. I must commend Mads’ on being extremely prepared and having read close to my entire blog. It made for good questions from Mads’ and I was quite happy with the fact I was more concise and on topic than normally (I tend to waffle on a bit).
It was filmed “live to tape” last week and was a great experience. They also featured 50 of my images in the background of the talk, which look cool. The show is in Danish so get going on those language lessons if you don’t already speak this wonderful weird language! Enjoy, oh and spot the point where my restless body becomes so restless I have to start dancing to some inner beats. If the embedding does not work, go here: http://web-kanalen.dk/webtv/78/1350 Thanks to Mads for having me on the show, it was fun and a good learning experience.
Even for an experienced time-traveler this summer in Copenhagen was a strange event in the space time continuum. Seems like summer began only yesterday but I have been in Copenhagen for 3 months and Charlene arrived two months ago. After a nice start to July, a hundred things since then tore me in a hundred directions and here we are, packing up and leaving Copenhagen again. Time does not seem to care about all the best intentions in the world, sometimes I feel in control and at other times it is like a wild ride and you just hang on, only at the end to look up and ask “what happened?”. Naturally, pretending to be a time-lord I get mad at myself and the universe for not allowing me to be being the master of time and all things when they don’t exactly go as planned (what does really?).
Unforseen negative things and people were allowed to steal too much energy. And somehow over the past month I have also managed to bruise my ribs, tear a muscle in my chest, get the flu and get every muscle and nerve stuck in my neck and left shoulder. This time-traveler is getting a bit old. Not something I am used to, being less than 100%, and I do not handle it all that well.
Fortunately, magic continues to happen and I am the luckiest time traveler in the world as Charlene puts up with me and even finds me funny when I am grumpy. We have done some fantastic work that I am proud of at our company Coffee and Magic which grows in awesomeness every day. This company and our work is extremely important to me, it is proving a very special thing. This summer we even created wicked new sites for me and for Charlene as well. I really look forward to showing you the websites we have coming up. Imagine that, I like working with IT again.
Ah well, enough of the grumpyness and letting out steam. The TARDIS is now ready for our upcoming US Mad and Magic road trip and many very positive things happened in Copenhagen. Met great friends, made new friends, worked some great events working for great people and some of the nicest memories are of two trips to Jylland where Charlene got to meet most of my family. I have a million things to be happy and thankful for, life is weird and dark and bright and wonderful.
“I am and always will be the optimist, the hoper of far-flung hopes and the dreamer of improbable dreams.” – Doctor Who
Sometimes I make an image that for me sums up a whole concert in one picture. This is captured at VEGA the same night I shot these portraits of Questlove and DJ Rafik. On stage is Questlove behind the decks, Lord Finesse on the mike and members of the Wu-Tang Clan hovering around. Questlove played a two hour blinding set, some of the best music I have heard in a long time. The room was hot and packed. The audience were loving every beat. The light and sound was outstanding. The stage was filled with incredible characters. The moment was perfect.