Guitarist Troels Skovgaard from Denmark talks some muso-talk and more with RockUnited's Bandi.

RockUnited - Your debut (9 points) and your second album (10 points) both rated exceptionally high at RockUnited. Does it make you feel rewarded? Do you care for critiques and reviews in general or are they just the "necessary evil" to coop with in order to get some promotion?

Troels - Even though I have fun working as a sideman, my own music is (of course) the most important part of my work . It took a lot of work and $ to make the first album and even more to make this second one. Therefore I do care for reviews, and I absolutely appreciate good reviews from someone who has really listened. It is very likely that the Danish newspapers won't write at all and if they do it will probably be something very superficial…

RockUnited – Why do you think there is this usual attitude difference between local newspaper and foreign-run online magazines?

Troels - I think that you guys run your website because you have a passion for music! I know two guys here in Denmark who run a website called “Blue Desert”. They are fantastic too. They just burn for music!
The journalists on a newspaper here won´t neccessarily care too much about the music itself, but will focus more on trends and young upcomings. Then of course the big record companies have much better possibilities to promote their artists and make the journalists write about them. I should add though that I am treated quite good by the Danish national radio. There is airplay on one of my songs almost every day.

RockUnited - Despite being praised by critics, you are relatively unknown outside (or even inside?) your country. Could you please offer some insight into your musical career for those not in the know?

Troels - I was a band member between 1984 and 1994 in a band called the "Bamboo Brothers". We made 2 albums. Beside that I was often hired as a sideman live as well as in the studios and on the Danish television.
When we split up with Bamboo Brothers I simply continued songwriting just with the difference that I was on my own, but on the other hand I could choose what I felt was the right musicians for the right purposes

RockUnited - You have worked with a whole bunch of musicians. How did you get in touch with them?

Troels - They are all friends and colleagues and most of them I have worked with a lot along the years as sideman. Toots Thielemans I hired when he was visiting the Danish radio- bigband where some of my friends play. Jimmi Haslip, Justo Almario and Alex Acuna I was introduced to by drummer Henrik Engqvist whose album I produced.

RockUnited - Are they just session musicians for your album or do you work with them live as well?

Troels - I have a 5 piece band that I play with live and (except from our new guitar player, backup singer Martin Stender) they are all on both of my albums.

RockUnited - Can you actually tour this material? Especially taking the amount of musicians into account...

Troels - Our 5 piece band can do pretty well. I am trying to add a saxophone/flute-player and a percussion player for certain concerts... as a matter of fact we had a deal with Alex Acuna and Justo Almario to come and play as special guest-stars with us this summer, but the bookers weren't too efficient doing their job so we will try again next year with our own home-booking.

RockUnited – How often can you play in your country? Any chance of touring abroad?

Troels - I hope that my possibilities will grow with this new record. I can make like 10 gigs twice a year if I work hard at the telephone. We have also some contacts in Italy where we hope to be able to tour next autumn. I have always been dreaming of being able to tour outside Denmark but only now I think I have enough good material to start working on it.

RockUnited - By the way can someone like you make a living out of playing music in Denmark or do you have a full-time job?

Troels - I teach a little guitar but I make my living as a sideman mostly.

RockUnited - You handled the production of the album. It must have been quite a task with so many musicians and so many tracks to record. Did you do it because of the lack of financial support to pay for a producer or did you just want to have control over everything? Are you a control freak anyway?

Troels – Well... After having been on many peoples albums with producers that in my opinion often would not make the right choices about arranging, mixing etc. the challenge and the fun was to try to do it myself. The fact that I often would have to wait until the studios were available would allow me to listen to rough mixes and be well prepared when dubbing and mixing.
I may be a control freak to a certain point, but not when we are playing. Then I just try to have a good time and afterwards when I am alone with the sound engineer we make the choices that we feel are right.

RockUnited - Do you compose with the guitar only?

Troels - In the beginning I composed mostly on piano. Then the guitar became the instrument for composing and often I do a song on guitar and then check the chords on piano in order to see/hear other possibilities maybe improve a bass line or something like that.

RockUnited - Do you sequence your arrangements for the rest of the band on PC or do you have the luxury to work the arrangements out while jamming with your fellow- musicians?

Troels - Maybe I write down the chords for the guys. Maybe I just play the song on guitar or on the piano. They are such great players and they play just the right stuff during the first 3 takes. About the vocal arrangements we have to work a little harder… but on the albums I have had Bob Bailey who is a Nashville studio-cat and he makes the work really easy.
I have just bought a little Pro-tools program that I am about to learn to use. That'll probably save some money for the next record…

RockUnited - How do you come up with titles for the instrumental songs?

Troels - Some titles were homages to beautiful places I've been, some titles were jokes like "Coffee with Salt" (even though that one based on a true story:-) Some of them had the most silly titles until the very last moment… some titles were based on a feeling that's hopefully reflected in the song.

RockUnited - The packaging of the album is fantastic. Who was responsible for the image wizzardry of the booklet? And what is that orange fugitive outfit you are wearing on the front artwork? Where are the handcuffs?

Troels - My wife who is a restorer of paintings recommended Lisbeth Damgaard who is a photographer and layout'er. She is mainly responsible, but the orange/green outfit was chosen (mainly by my wife) when we were hanging around in Perugia last summer when I played Umbria Jazz with Delmar Brown and his band.

RockUnited - How could you get the label (In Da House music) finance such a thing (double disc with a high-quality cardboard holder, big booklet spiced up with countless images, etc.)?

Troels - Well I paid the master tape (studios, musicians etc) myself which was by far the biggest part of it all. Then I simply insisted that the package-part should be made by people of my choice. It was quite expensive for them :-))

RockUnited - This record label is about as unknown as you are outside Denmark. Can they back you up promotion/touring-wise or do they only handle the distribution of your album?

Troels - They only handle the distribution and only in Denmark. The tour booking we do at home. We can do better than the people I have tried so far.

RockUnited – How about distribution everywhere else? With praising reviews under your belt there surely would be quite a few people who'd like to purchase the album outside denmark. Does your website or the record label have a webstore?

Troels - There is some sale on the American website CD BABY Here in Denmark "In the House Records" has a web-store too but there is still a lot of work to be done in order to get a distribution work.

RockUnited – Speaking of foreign distribution, how come your website doesn't have an English version?

Troels - We are updating a little every day, and there is in fact an English version by now.

RockUnited – How did you pick the four songs that are offered to be played on your website? Do you feel they represent your music the best?

Troels - It was more or less the web-guy that helps me who chose the songs that are present on the site at the moment. Very soon I will put some more music on the site, because I think you need to hear more songs to have the right impression of what the album contains. Then maybe the versions should be shorter... like appetizers. Hopefully I will soon reach the point where I can do all the updating myself.

RockUnited – Is there anything else you'd like to share with our readers?

Troels - Thanks to Rock United for giving me some space!

Editor's note: Make sure to check our MP3 Vault column and Troels' website out for some of his music.

Interview by Endre "Bandi" Hübner
(c)2006 RockUnited.Com