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February 16, 2015

Blues Speak: Thorbjorn Risager and The Black Tornado

Text by Simone Louis

“Blues music is so soulful and powerful that it can talk to people of any generation….”

Verve goes backstage to chat with Thorbjorn Risager and The Black Tornado:

Your latest album, Too Many Roads, is the 8th one you have successfully released. What’s different with this one?
“Well, personally, it’s my favourite one. Everything just sort of fell into place and worked out really well, and, for the very first time, we produced the album ourselves. I realised that it was actually a very good idea to do that, because we were so much more connected to the music and it was just easier. We do have very good producers who have worked on our other albums, but it was very fruitful this time that we took the entire responsibility of the album ourselves and didn’t leave the quality of the music to someone else’s opinion. Our final product depended only on us, so that was a very powerful thing to have.”

That also sounds like it could have been extremely challenging, to be on both sides of the recording process.
“Definitely, it was tough! We are seven people in the band, so it’s that much crazier. The best thing about having a producer is that we, as a band, don’t have to think too much or discuss too many things in detail. But this time we had to think creatively and also make other decisions. To simplify matters, most of the producing was done by the bass player (Soren Boigaard) and I.”

How was the band formed and how long have you been together?
“We’ve been together 10 years now. Before forming the band, I was just a regular singer – someone that bars, pubs or concert managers could call up and ask to perform on certain nights. I played whatever gigs I got. But at some point down the line, I decided that I should start writing my own music and form my own band…I had to get my act together! I was around 32 at that time, so I got serious about writing music pretty late. I was already playing a few gigs with some of the band members, so we knew each other. I played with the keyboard player, Emil Balsgaard, for 20 years and the bass player who I mentioned earlier, for 20 years before deciding to form a band — so it was an easy decision for us to do this together.”

Tell us about your musical influences.
“I have two big heroes — B.B. King and Ray Charles. Both of their voices are so iconic and unrivalled; they sing with so much soul. I think Ray Charles is just the greatest vocalist to have ever walked the earth and B.B. King is the King of the Blues!”

How do you see the future of blues music?
“I would say it’s bright, especially in Denmark, from what I’ve seen and heard. The blues culture there has always been kind of small, but it’s rising and a lot of people are getting interested in the genre. The blues is more than 100 years old, so it’s not something that will die out anytime soon, but it’s nice to see so many young and new faces on the scene. Blues music is so soulful and powerful that it can talk to people of any generation, so I’m sure it will last forever.”

What can we expect from the band in the near future?
“We’re excited because this spring we will be creating our first live DVD, which we’re going to be recording in Germany. We’re also hoping to do a tour of the United States for the first time, sometime in the second half of 2016. Wish us luck!”

Also see our interview with Nikki Hill and our roundup of the Blues festival. Don’t miss: ‘Passing the Torch’: Buddy Guy and Guy Sullivan.

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