Friday, March 31, 2023

Surrounded by Music - an interview with Danish musician Ras Bolding

In my hometown Odense, Denmark, most people look a bit boring, wearing dark blue, brown, or black clothes, trying hard to look like everyone else. One of the few exceptions is the musician Ras Bolding, and as he lives in the same neighbourhood as me, I visited him on an almost spring-like day in February. Over a cup of tea, I got to know a bit about what makes this both musically and visually striking artist tick.


As soon as you enter Bolding’s home, it is clear, that this is the home of a musician. Most of the living room is turned into a sound studio dominated by synthesizers. The dark room with blue-green lighting and black, drawn curtains is in sync with the musician’s characteristic appearance which include a dyed mohawk and heavy, black eye make-up.

Ras Bolding says that he has lived in the neighbourhood since the spring of 2017 and that he moved here because there was no room for more synthesizers where he lived before. Here in the living room, on the other hand, there is enough space for him to set up his equipment 1:1 as on stage, which makes it easier to practice for concerts.

“Furthermore, there is a practical aspect of moving here,” says Bolding. “Because as most of my activities take place in the city, an address in the city centre is preferable.”

The Artist

“I was born here in Odense, and I was always surrounded by music,” says Ras Bolding. “There is a picture of me as a child, standing at my grandmother’s piano, barely able to reach the keys. Both my parents played music, and at an early age I was offered violin lessons, but I turned them down – unfortunately – as it was the electronic music that attracted me. I wanted to play the synthesizer, because I grew up with Jean-Michel Jarre and the entire electronic wave.”

“When you came from Odense south, and money was scarce, buying a synthesizer was not an option, so I started making music on a Commodore 64 computer,” Bolding explains, “You could get music programmes for it, and you could also use it for instrumental music, as you could play directly on the keys.”

Although Bolding is well-educated, having for instance an English major and a Masters-degree in Multimedia, he is autodidact as a musician.

“I did it the hard way through trial and error,” he explains, “and you either learn a lot from it, or you give up.”

Bolding didn’t give up.

The Music

Ras Bolding’s music is often described as a cross between electronic music, punk and new wave performed on synthesizers, but Bolding himself is not much for being put in a box.

My music is wide-ranging,” he explains. “Not least in terms of interpretation. The musicians I always return to are some who have covered a lot of ground and found new paths with their music.”

The artists who recur in our conversation are Jean-Michel Jarre, Kraftwerk, Klaus Nomi, Mike Oldfield, Brian Eno, Gary Numan and Kate Bush to mention a few, and you can find a certain kinship between their music and Bolding’s.

“Music made for computer games has also struck a chord with me,” says Bolding and continues, “When I write music, the melody comes first, because the melodic aspects fascinate me. Why, for example, is Johann Sebastian Bach good? If you ask random people on the street, you may be lucky to meet a music student who can explain why, but if you hum” – here Bolding hums excerpts from The Brandenburg Concertos, The Well-Tempered Clavier, and The Goldberg Variations – “everyone knows them. The music still holds up. That’s what music can do.”

“The lyrics follows quickly after,” continues Bolding. “This happens almost automatically, because the number of syllables in the words must fit the notes in the music, and I am not one to stretch the vocals over several notes to make it fit. Arrogant as I am, I also consider myself above using filler words such as yeah and very. The lyrics I write are mainly in English, but I also write in Danish in for instance my Hans Christian Andersen pieces.”

Like Ras Bolding (and me) the famous fairy tale writer Hans Christian Andersen is a native of Odense, and Ras Bolding has written an entire suite of numbers based on Andersen’s darker fairy tales such as The Shadow, The Little Match Girl and The Story of a Mother, which Bolding has performed for the past many years at the annual H. C. Andersen Festivals here in Odense. Furthermore, Bolding writes ˈtech lyricsˈ such as 8-Bit Kit, Load Error and Ghost In The Machine, as well as socially critical lyrics such as Have a Nice Day and Ruth. He also makes cover versions of for instance the Martin Galway soundtrack to the Arkanoid Commodore 64 game, and tributes to the likes of Blade Runner and The Rocky Horror Show.

“Most of the numbers I write have lyrics, but I also work instrumentally,” says Bolding, “and my musical works are - diplomatically speaking - not what you will find in rotation at the established radio stations.”

The Recordings

Ras Bolding considers himself lucky to have been born in the digital age.

“The Internet has become the huge game-changer,” he explains. “Today, you can record and mix your music at home, and when you play a synthesizer, you are not dependent on the acoustics of the room the way symphony orchestras or opera singers are. Those who work in big studios will probably say that the last 10% of the sound is missing when you record at home, but even Jean-Michel Jarre recorded the album Oxygène in his kitchen.”

“I am in charge of my own mix/mastering process, and it is a battle against myself, because there is only one person to make the decisions,” says Ras Bolding. “When you have finally made something that you think is good, it has gradually become part of my process to hear it through other people´s music systems as well, and then it often sounds different and maybe not as good, but those are the conditions. It is a tiring process, as you are responsible for everything yourself, but it is also fascinating.”

The Concerts

“I started giving concerts early on, because concerts create visibility,” says Ras Bolding. "The audience becomes aware of the music through concerts, and contact with the audience is essential. It is a paradox, because you are dependent on the audience, but on the other hand you must not be dependent on them in the creative process. However, admittedly everyone in the industry craves recognition, and here I have a funny anecdote, because I once met Karlheinz Stockhausen in a toilet, and he said something to me that I still remember. He said, “We of the Darmstadt School were never indifferent to the audience.” He is considered one of the most inaccessible composers, but he too needed audience contact. I am glad this is what he said to me.”

Ras Bolding does have quite a spectacular stage show, which includes eye-catching stage clothes and stage performances as well as an impressive laser show. He has two young female musicians with him on stage. There have been quite a few changes over the years, but the current line-up consists of Olivia Obskur and Emmelie Eddike, Obskur and Eddike being Danish words meaning Obscure and Vinegar.

“The alliterative nicknames started as a joke with former musicians and now it has become a tradition,” explains Ras Bolding. “The fact that I have two women with me on stage is because I often have an extra vocal on my numbers, which is sung by a woman, so it is practical to have a female musician who can sing and play a bit synthesizer. It is Obskur who has the vocal parts, but should she be prevented, she would have to be replaced by another musician, who then must be a woman too, in order to do the vocals. In addition, it is good to have young energy on stage, so you don’t get stuck in a nostalgia groove, and when the musicians are young, they do not yet suffer from the popular diseases called real work and real children but have more control over their time. It takes a lot of time to rehearse and travel for concerts.”

“We have performed in many different places in Denmark and abroad and in many different contexts, not just at the usual venues and festivals, but in everything from an SM club to The Hans Christian Andersen’s Museum,” says Bolding. “During the Corona virus lockdown, we even gave a concert at the venue Magasinet here in Odense for ghosts, because the only sure way the audience would not be infected with COVID-19 was if they were already dead. Now, however, we play for the living again.”

“We have started using hologram graphics on stage, created by American Max Kaos, who is also on stage,” continues Bolding. “We would like to add more screens for projecting drawings as well, a kind of gothic children’s book illustrations that fit the lyrics. It will be interesting to compare the hologram graphics, where everything is programmed and points towards the future, with hand drawings, which are one of the oldest visual expressions. I have a visual approach to things as I have always drawn. At school I was the kid who drew on the desks, and today I make a cartoon that serves as promotion for Klub Golem.”

Klub Golem

You cannot say Ras Bolding without saying Klub Golem, a local alternative club that has existed for almost seventeen years now.

“The club was founded in 2006,” says Ras Bolding. “I had previously run a similar club with three others, but they all moved to Copenhagen, so I contacted some new people. We got Klub Golem up and running, and it was an immediate success. We began our existence at the local cultural centre Badstuen, and when it was closed and most activities moved to the new cultural centre Kulturmaskinen, we moved as well, and we are still there.”

“Klub Golem is a club for alternative music and culture, and it is a mixed crowd that attends,” continues Bolding. “Not only can you be yourself here, you can also be whoever you want to be. The club is open six or seven times a year, and there are over a hundred visitors each time. This is a main reason as to why I have stayed in Odense. Hans Christian Andersen and the hipsters all fled to Copenhagen, but I am neither Hans Christian Andersen nor a hipster, so I’ll stay here, because when you get something like this up and running, the only decent thing is to stay.”

The next Club Golem will be held on April 8, 2023, at Kulturmaskinen, Odense, Denmark 

If you want to know more about Ras Bolding, you can check him out online:

Lise Lyng Falkenberg

Photos: (c) Tea Falkenberg

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

”You” by Claus Dencher

The Danish singer-songwriter Claus Dencher released his new album “You” in July 2022. The 57-year-old musician has been part of the Danish music scene for quite a while, first with his band “Tankens Bager”, and when they disbanded, he went solo in 2018. With “Tankens Bager” Dencher used so sing in Danish, but he switched to English for his solo career, and “You” is his first full album in English.

Backed by the competent musicians from The Farm Music, Claus Dencher has created an enjoyable Americana album with roots in folk rock, which it deals with the musician’s “midlife reflections” on adult life, crises, love and the future.


The album consists of eight tracks and opens with the smooth but melancholic “It Gets You”. One of my personally favourites, especially due to Claus Dencher’s pleasant voice and Peter Sund’s great guitar.

The next track is the quiet and beautiful “You” dedicated to Dencher’s granddaughter Astrid, followed by a look at childhood in “A Child’s Eye”, which is a bit of an earworm.

The last track on the A-side of the album is “Restless Fool”, a slow, melancholic but charming duet with Trine Lunau.

The B-side opens with another of my personal favourites, the folk/country rock song “My Relief”. It is the most upbeat track on the album with an efficient rhythm section consisting of Peter Dombernowsky und drums and Henrik Poulsen on bass and prominent Hammond organ by Palle Hjort. The Hammond organ plays a prominent part in the following “Loving You” as well, a calm, introspective love song,

As a contrast, the almost ominous “A piece of My Soul” follows, a very personal song about losing the happy, free spirit of childhood.

The album ends with “Formation Song”, an uplifting track with an almost pedestrian, Queen/I wanna break free-ish beat.


“You” is poetic and slow-paced album that leaves the listeners plenty of time to dwell on the music and its messages. It is, however, Claus Dencher’s calm and pleasant voice that carries the album and makes the songs stick in your mind. “You” is available digitally and as vinyl LP.

Monday, September 26, 2022

Slade-drummer Don Powell writes children’s book

The Adventures of Bibble Brick is the title of Don Powell’s children’s book that is now available from Amazon in both an e-book and a hardcover edition.

The 76 years old drummer who rose to fame with the seventies’ British glam rock band Slade, wrote the original manuscript in the sixties, but apart from the chapters being printed as a serial in the Slade fan magazine in the seventies, it has never been published. Not until now, where Don and I have teamed up. We have been friends for 17 years and the last time we worked together was on the 2018 updated version of Don’s official biography “Look Wot I Dun”, which I wrote back in 2013.

In the biography Don revealed that he was twenty-two when he wrote The Adventures of Bibble Brick. “I’d always had the idea, even when I was a teenager, to do something that appealed to both children and adults,” he explained. “Because when I was a young child, I used to sit with my father, watching cartoons, and I couldn’t understand why he was laughing at different things than the ones that I was laughing at. I was laughing at the obvious things, but Dad was laughing at something else, and I didn’t get it until I started to get older. Then I could see the humour, things that appealed to him, and that was really what inspired me to write it.”

Together Don and I have rewritten the story from the sixties to make it more up to date without it losing its original charm, humour, and quirkiness. It is beautifully illustrated by Mark Millicent, a US-based British illustrator. He was hand-picked for the job by Don and me in a competition held in 2021.

The Adventures of Bibble Brick tells the story of the pebble Bibble who leaves the beach to see for himself how it is to live on shore. Here he ends up in the entourage of a prize fighter, where he makes new friends and fights against the bad guys.

The story is still wonderfully inappropriate for younger children with its boxing theme, drunken night club scenes and a very sexy spider. It is not your ordinary bedtime story, but both young and old Slade fans are sure to love it, especially as the observant reader will be able to spot some points of similarity between the main characters and the members of the original Slade.


Sunday, September 11, 2022

Jack in The Box


Released on July 15th 2022 through Big Hit Music, Jack in The Box is j-hope’s first solo studio album. J-hope is without doubt mostly known as a rapper, singer, songwriter, producer and especially dance captain of the biggest group in the world these days, namely South Korean BTS.

Prior to his solo album, he released a solo mix tape in 2018 called Hope World, which reflected j-hope’s image within the group as a positive, hopeful and happy artist with only minor melancholic strokes in some of the lyrics, whereas Jack in The Box is a concept album that lets us see the whole picture, including the dark sides of the 28-year-old artist whose real name is Hoseok Jung. The album pays tribute to the 1990s hip hop that came to define j-hope as an artist, and it consists of 10 tracks:

The intro to the album is narrated by a female voice (belonging to the actress Rachanee Lumanayo) and tells the myth of Pandora’s Box in a slightly glorified version. Hope is here seen as something good and positive, or is it?

The myth can be interpreted in different ways, but as the box contained all evils and hope was in the box, hope must be evil, too. To quote Friedrich Nietzsche: “Hope, in reality, is the worst of all evils because it prolongs the torments of man.”

 The intro is in English, whereas the lyrics of the album consist of a mix of English and Korean that has become the trademark of not only BTS but j-hope as well.

2. Pandora’s Box
The opening of Pandora’s Box could be straight of horror movie soundtrack and when j-hope starts rapping, his voice sounds quite aggressive and disillusioned. The lyrics are about his background including his stage name j-hope, which derives from the Pandora’s Box myth. Once again it is stressed that hope is seen as a ray of light, but he also draws attention to the title of the album, Jack in The Box, where according to the jack-in-the-box myth, Jack is the devil, so is hope really the devil?

In any case, j-hope no longer wants to be confined to the box. Instead, he wants to face the disaster head on

This rap rock track is in my opinion the best of the album. It was an early release single that preceded the album, and many BTS fans as well as casual listeners were surprised at the rock theme highlighted by the heavy guitar riff and loud shouting, but this is the j-hope I have always know was there and whom I have been waiting for for years.

The track is cheeky, hard, playful and the “Inhale, inhale, exhale, exhale” lyrics are already a classic. Interestingly, the music video for the track is a homage to David Fincher’s 1999 Fight Club movie, from which scenes are recreated with j-hope in the lead as Fight Club’s protagonist Jack Moore (Jack in The Box and MORE, see?).

4. STOP (There Are No Bad People In The World)
A mesmerising repetitive and multi layered track, telling people to stop fighting as there are no bad people in the world, only bad environment, upbringing, education etc. Very j-hope.

5. = (Equal Sign)
Another homage to ’90 hip hop about respect, where j-hope tells his audience: “It costs you nothing to be kind / Hate’ll paralyze your mind / Gotta see the other side / Not so different you and I. Equality is you and me. A great song, but at 1.55 minutes, it is way too short!!

After the release of the album, I heard j-hope sing it with the Korean singer IU, and I honestly think she should have been the backing vocal on the track instead of the one used!

6. Music Box: Reflection
A short instrumental track, bridging the message-filled songs of the first part of the album with the introspective songs of the second part. Again: it sounds like something taken directly from a horror movie soundtrack, this time added j-hope’s heavy breathing. It is after all a breather between the two parts of the album.

7. What If…
This track samples Ol’ Dirty Bastards Shimmy Shimmy Ya as an homage to the hip hop genre. Here j-hope asks the question: am I really like that? Hope, positivity, always smiling face? He asks is he would be as positive if he had no hope, no dream, no passion or vision. He is living a privileged life, but what if he had no money, no house, no car, nothing. Could he be positive then?

8. Safety Zone
A soul/R&B track, slow with pedestrian beat and second vocal by Jaicko Lawrence. It has j-hope pondering that he has “Dedicated my entire twenties / Living up to this immeasurable life.” He then continues, “My life is becoming my enemy. It is getting lonesome.” and “I like animals better than people these days.”

It is quite heart breaking, especially as he admits that he feels self-destructive and that he is searching for a safe zone, a peaceful home, where he feels protected and finds relief.

9. Future
This track has a light, positive sound partly because it uses chimes and the Yeonum Children’s Choir. The message of the track is, that the future is scary, so we need courage, faith, and positivity to go with the flow and step into what is to come.

10. Arson
Arson was the main single off the album, a repetitive and hard hip-hop track, where both the beat and the rap are very typical j-hope. The song is building up in layers and hardness, while a disillusioned j-hope raps, “My dream done / success done / my part of the job, done / what else, none. Do I put out the fire or burn even brighter?

After the release of the album, j-hope went on to perform at the Lollapalooza Festival in Chicago on July 31 as the first Korean headliner ever, and here even people who had never been into BTS fell for his talent as he is born to be on stage. By making the album and doing the concert, he answered some of the questions that he had raised on the album as he now knows that he wants to burn brighter and continue his career and that the other BTS members along with his fans are the safety zone he has been looking for.

Jack in The Box is a concept album that shows a darker side of j-hope than we are used to see within BTS and that surprised some, but not hardcore fans like me, who remember him complaining about his name and image in the early years of BTS and that some of the other BTS members even thought that he should have been called j-sad back then as that would have been more fitting. Over the years j-hope has lived up to his name and image and acted as the happy sunshine of the group, thereby suppressing his darker side in public, but not anymore.

As Jack in The Box shows, j-hope has grown older and more mature both as a person and as an artist, and that suits him well and is also very fitting as the core fans of both him and BTS are adults of all genders, races and walks of life and not children or crazed teenage girls, which the press usually makes us out to be. Like Arson, the album burns down the old happy image of j-hope and have him rise from the ashes. This way the hope in Pandora’s Box really was jack, a devil who has burned down j-hope’s sunshine image so he could rise from the ashes like a phoenix as a new, multifaceted and intriguing artist.

There is only one bad thing that I have to say about the album and that is, that with 10 tracks it is way too short! I want MORE!!!

Jack in The Box is available as download and a limited edition vinyl LP.

Five out of five stars: *****


How come that I, a fifty-five year old Danish woman, is completely mad with “Hope World” by a twenty-four year old Korean guy named j-...