interview with Ras Bolding

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How is it that you started playing music? My first attempts at making music was on a Commodore 64 home computer as a child, trying to sound like Jean Michel Jarre and Kraftwerk and generally failing. I still use the 64 in my music even today, though, also live on stage, playing it like you would a keytar.
Did you make music even when you were young? I tried, but making music on the 64 was not exactly easy. There were basically two types of music programs; those where you used standard notation, which I didn't know at the time but learned to some degree pretty much by trial and error, and tracker programs which you'd operate with hex numbers. As I was basically just a kid I didn't exactly turn out masterpieces. There were a few programs also that let you play the keys of the computer in real time, like a synthesizer keyboard or drum patterns, kind of like an analogue drum machine. I played around with those.
Where are you from? Odense, Denmark.
What's your style of genre? That's one of those questions best left to other people because, for obvious reasons, you see so many details and influences in the things you do and create, and so I guess most artists aren't too keen on fitting themselves into this or that particular genre. Maybe it's just vanity.
What inspires you? 
That differs. In terms of music I'm inspired by lots of artists, obviously some of those big icons I grew up on like Kraftwerk, Jean Michel Jarre, Depeche Mode, Laurie Anderson and so on, along with Commodore 64 composers such as Rob Hubbard, Martin Galway, Ben Daglish, Jeroen Tel, Matt Gray, David Whittaker. However, I also find inspiration in a lot of classical music, that of my own time such as Philip Glass or Steve Reich, but also Mahler, Wagner, Beethoven, Bach. It may not seem so obvious at first but if you listen to Bach's works for keyboard instruments, organ, harpsichord, for instance, you actually do see some kind of blueprint for synth, techno and so on.
I also draw inspiration from what goes on around me, this digital age of ours. I seem to have a love/hate relationship with machines. I grew up on computer games, Pac Man was my first love, I surround myself with synthesizers and laser beams on stage, but the pure technical aspect of things never really interested me that much. I know people who are heavily into the tech side and I respect that, however, for me technology was always the most interesting when serving as an extension not only of human intelligence but primarily as a vehicle for imagination.
I also find inspiration in literature; last year I did musical renditions of four of Hans Christian Andersen's darker fairytales which I have presented live a number of times, the complete suite premiered in Hans Christian Andersen's House.
How often and where do you rehearse? I rehearse at home because that's where I have my studio where the synthesizers I use live are set up the way I do on stage, wireless mic as well and so on. That way rehearsing gets as close to stage setup as possible. For concerts I always rehearse full set a number of days because full sets are of course what I'm gonna do on stage. I can get a little neurotic sometimes; if a phone rings three songs into a set and I make a small mistake I tend to start over completely.
How have you developed since you started with the music? I'm technically better; vocally, in terms of playing, recording, mixing, production. That's how it usually goes. You do develop habits, though, which can be a good thing and a bad thing too. When I worked on the music for the Hans Christian Andersen stories, longer pieces, I was very conscious of this being somewhat different to what I usually do and I was quite happy with that. It enabled me to tap into other ideas and also to work a little more with influences of classical music.
Are you looking for a booking agency, and what are your thoughts around that? I never had one and I'm not looking. I'm not ruling out using one at some point but let's be honest here - most acts don't really need agencies. You do if you're The Cure but you're not. I'm of course being tongue in cheek but what I'm trying to say is apart from being a musician I also run a club along with a few other people and have done so for years now. Some of the acts we've booked needed agents, others certainly didn't really. If you feel an agency might help you, by all means go and get one, but don't be naive - it doesn't necessarily mean you will play stadiums all over Europe next summer.
Are you looking for a label, and what are your thoughts around that?
I'm right now looking into some kind of release of the Hans Christian Andersen project and I've reached a point where I'm thinking maybe some of my earlier material should have a release too. The thing is I actually avoided it for years because I felt the internet was a game changer and I actually hoped it would completely wreck the music industry and I would have been celebrating that. It always was a pretty rotten industry. And I was curious - what would happen then? How would music develop if we abandoned releases altogether, if music was just music? Basically I wanted the future. What really happened was vinyl nostalgia and hipster kids going back to cassettes while in Germany they never gave up on the cd. Sometimes you just have to admit you got it wrong. I really thought - and kind of hoped - old-fashioned releases were a thing of the past so for years I didn't want my music released like that and stuck to internet platforms and of course concerts. Truth of the matter is people on the internet prefer videos of cats and babies while physical releases like cds and vinyls most probably won't die before our generations die. So in the meantime I guess I might as well do some releases.
One thing, though, I keep thinking whenever we're talking labels today. You have your majors, you always did, they don't sell as much as they used to but they're still the big ones, the real industry, so to speak. And then you have all the indie labels some of which make it bigger than others. Many of them, however, are very small and led by people who are themselves musicians or music-lovers. And they tend not to sell much at all. And why? Because the fact you know how to play the guitar or who was in Devo in the late seventies doesn't necessarily mean you're any good at selling. That's a valid skill too and I think we sometimes tend to forget as musicians and music-lovers. Try and turn things around - would I ask someone to play with me on stage because they were really good at selling ties?
What made you decide to make this music? I think the type of music you end up doing has a lot to do with what kind of music you grew up on. That doesn't mean you end up making music that sounds like that - my parents played a lot of classical music, acoustic folk and jazz music as well - but it does influence you somehow. Also the type of music you end up doing tends to depend on what you're good at. Most people who spend years learning the violin rarely end up in a hiphop project. Personally I always liked the idea of making my own music. As a kid I was fascinated by people such as Jean Michel Jarre, Mike Oldfield, Brian Eno, Laurie Anderson, Kate Bush who would sometimes make albums where they did much of it or sometimes basically everything themselves, of course making use of technology. So that's what I drifted towards as well.
What are your songs about? I think it's fair to say there's a wide range of topics, from nostalgic longing for childhood days raised on Pac Man and the fear of all out nuclear war to modern day cybersex and warfare. Plus the dark side of Hans Christian Andersen. I never wrote a love song.
Who does the composing and writes the lyrics? I do.
Do you start with the music or the lyrics? Most of the time I start out with melodies. If I'm working on a song and not an instrumental piece I might think of words as I go along but most of the time I make out the melodies first so I know the number of syllables I have to work with for lyrics and go from there. 
Do you compose in a certain enviroment? You can get ideas here, there and everywhere, in all kinds of situations, also awkward ones. I prefer working in my studio, of course, where I can work out melodies, harmonies and such on keys while building the basic foundations of the music. Also, since I'm working with synthesizers I would say although most of my music is based on composition and melody, sound is also part of the deal. In other words, composing is not just what you play but what sounds you use for playing. Or you may do bits which are all about sound and not so much about playing in the usual sense of the word.
Have you done any covers live? Yes. I typically do a cover or rendition as encore for my concerts. It's almost a tradition and, I feel, a nice way of saying thank you to people whose music inspired you.
What language do you sing in? Mostly English and also Danish. I leave Latin, Gaelic and Elvish to Enya.
What are the least and most people to attend one of your gigs? That's almost impossible to answer. I have done some concerts where there were many people but I was too busy singing and playing to stop and count. I would say most club concerts of this type of music in Denmark attract maybe around a hundred people, sometimes two hundred. But with festivals and special events you can of course get more, sometimes a lot more.
What ages are most of your concert attendants? That varies depending on the event and type of concert. I've had kids and I've had seniors. I want the dead and the unborn too.
Do you always play the same songs live, or do you vary? I vary, of course. Some songs feature more often live then others but since I also sometimes do themed concerts, such as the Hans Christian Andersen project or perhaps performing at an exhibition, a film festival or maybe an SM party, I try to pick material that makes sense in the given context.
Do you have a regular place you play live often? There are some clubs and stages you get to know more than others.
What was your first gig like? 
The story of my first concert with original music is actually kind of funny. I was young and into music but of course not very experienced. I happened to be waiting for a bus and this guy I did not know came up to me and invited me to his art exhibition. So I went there the next day and there happened to be a keyboard in the corner which I happened to play around with. So the artist came over and asked me if I wanted to do a concert for the last evening of the exhibition which was in a week. I was inexperienced so I said yes to basically making, recording and rehearsing music for this concert in a week. I got in touch with a friend and dragged him into it and we went to work with the music facing every possible MIDI problem you could think of when trying to make our then not particularly impressive collection of synthesizers comunicate. We also faced a death in the family and some days later there was some sort of drama between my friend and his then girlfriend which meant he couldn't do the concert. So I borrowed a Juno 60 from another friend as I needed some extra arpeggiator and did the concert. It was actually quite well-attended and by the end of the concert I learned why. The artist came up to me and asked me if I was planning to do any encores. I wasn't. Good, he said, because he'd put speakers in the windows facing the most busy plaza in the city and cranked up the volume to attract people which had worked but the police sure were not happy about it and were on their way.
Many years later I would rework a chord progression from that concert into my song Zombiesjæler which I still play today.
What was your latest gig? We did a series of concerts with the Hans Christian Andersen Suite at a theatre and we have a couple of regular concerts coming up next month.
Have you had to cancel a gig? Yes, it can happen. The most interesting story was probably when I had a concert at Ungdomshuset in 2007. The place famously got stormed by the police a couple of days before the concert date. Maybe there's something about my concerts and the police. Stick to your own music, Sting!
Where have you played live this year? At clubs, festivals, theatres, indoors, outdoors - without rain, I'm happy to say.
Where do you plan to gig next year? I have a few concerts next year already and a couple of maybes. Looking into some potential and possible projects. We'll see what happens.
When did you start to sell merchandise, and what do you have for sale? Just the usual array of full-sized bronze statues, life-sized pyramids and spacechips.
Where can people buy your merchandise? I try to steer mostly clear of merchandise. In return Kiss promised never to use a Commodore 64 live.
What do you think about people downloading music instead of buying records nowadays? I have no problem with that. When I grew up on the Commodore 64 our heroes were the crackers, those smart kids who knew how to break the copy protection on games so even poor kids like myself got to play Pac Man, Space Invaders and Last Ninja. I'd be quite the hypocrite if I complained about people downloading music for free. Moreover, I think the whole moral debate is at best academic but really just downright silly. Like talking about it should somehow stop the technology from working or what?
How do you think the music industry has changed because of this?
Now that's a more interesting question. Music doesn't sell as much as it used to and of course file sharing, downloading, the whole internet deal is part of that. But not the only part. The music industry itself was slow to accept the changes brought on by new technology and then you have the rise of social media and gaming culture as well. From around the mid nineties and back music was a bigger part of especially young people's identity which was a major reason why it sold so well. Someone aged fifteen today will most probably see their phone, their social media, as a bigger part of their identity, of who they are, than whatever music they happen to be listening to while spending time on social media. It's not necessarily a good thing, it's not necssarily a bad thing.
As a result the music industry has turned far more conservative, opting for a few really huge stars instead of a multitude of genres, bands and artists. And that's a bad thing. Monoculture. We see this very much in mainstream media these years where even national radio stations sometimes turn de facto advertising channels for big commercial acts like Kanye West, Justin Bieber, Beyonce, Rihanna. And it's a strategy, of course. Major labels have no interest in sharing airplay with indies, they have no interest in musical diversity and they will gladly rig YouTube and other streaming services in the name of Holy Queen Beyonce. There's a reason why most people who actually have an interest in music will tell you they don't listen to the radio anymore. Most mainstream media are targeting people who don't actively want to seek music and so you end up with these endless talent and reality shows and that's what music on TV has become. And before you know it you have Trump for president.
How do you think this interview will help you in the music business? I don't really think about that.
Do you have any role models or idols? I have many musical heroes, if that's what you mean. Living as well as dead. 
Is it easier to find inspiration from older bands, or bands that are more active today?
I think most people - whether they like to admit it or not - tend to return time and time again to whatever inspired them when they were kids or teenagers. And it's not necessarily a bad thing that you have to condemn to high nostalgic hell forever more. When you're young you meet the world, for obvious reasons, with less preconceived ideas which of course goes for music as well. It's not just about fondly remembering that Beatles, Bowie, Madonna or Spice Girls song, depending on your age, you listened to when dancing for the first time with the boy or girl of your monthly teen desires, it's something stronger and more deeply rooted than that. It's meeting something for the first time.
When I listen to new postpunk bands from around the world today of course I hear the inspiration from Joy Division, The Cure, Siouxsie And The Banshees - how could I not? I am a musician and I have reached an age where I know enough music to make these references. But someone who's maybe sixteen or seventeen today will not necessarily make those references when listening to She Past Away, Ash Code, Zanias, just like people sixteen or seventeen didn't make those references with Joy Division or Bauhaus back then although of course they in turn had their references too, Bowie, Velvet Underground, what have you. Of course there is such a thing as originality, of course some people are more original than others, but what I'm trying to say is that moment when you're young and something hits you for the first time you don't really care if something else of the same nature, more or less, hit someone else ten years ago, you're just struck. And that's the magic of it which when we grow older we'll never really truly find again. Fortunately we can do with less; having grown up on Kate Bush her first handful or so of albums are pure magic to me but fortunately this doesn't mean I can't like, say, Fever Ray too and find inspiration in her music as well.
A long answer, so to cut it short I can find inspiration in new music as well as composers who died centuries before I even touched an instrument.
What have been your biggest obstacles? I think one of the big challenges most musicians face today is reaching an audience, esepcially artists whose music doesn't fit into the ever more narrow confines of mainstream media and the mainstream music industry. Which means most of us. We're pretty much on our own. Some of us find ways to survive but many give up and choose other paths in life. Did we lose a Hendrix here, a Björk there along the way? Who's to say?
What advice would you give other bands or artists? Go for the 10.000 points and get your extra life.
How do you get psyched for a gig? I think I might be more tense around soundchecks. We bring many synthesizers and I have a compressor from hell setting on my mic, so that really tense moment is when everything is set up and connected - does it all work?
Do you have any new material? I'm currently working on a music video, hoping to finish it at some point. We have club night at Golem in a couple of days, though, where I will be DJ'ing too, and then a concert the next weekend, so I have to prepare for that first.
What are your web sites?
How can people reach you? Through my Facebook music profile for instance or by mail.
What are your plans for the future? I'm sort of torn between dying at some point or immortality.
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