with Thomas Troelsen
some time ago, you had asked for my opinion on an eventual early-80's
revival, my answer would have been clear: " Never that again !!".
then enter SUPERHEROES, a bunch of Danish kiddies claiming their love
for THE HUMAN LEAGUE ( ouch !), DURAN DURAN ( eeerk !) and GARY NUMAN
( aaargh !!), and suddenly, things are not as simple as they seemed
to be. Actually - and much to my own surprise - I like this band a lot.
There's one good reason for this: SUPERHEROES are not opportunists trying
to surf on the latest wave, they're a real pop band, and a damn good
one ! On the strength of their flawless second album " Igloo"
and their ultra-dynamic live shows, we decided to meet the man who,
on stage, spends more time in the air than on the ground, and composes
all Superheroes material, Thomas Troelsen...
One of the most striking thing about SUPERHEROES is how young you were
all when you recorded your first album ( " Dancing Casanova",
1998). You started the band with your friend, guitarist Asger when you
were both 14, is that right ?
Yes it is, but we knew each other and played together long before that.
Asger and I, we started playing instruments around the age of 9, 10.
At the time we were just playing covers songs, 60's rock and roll songs,
not very well to say the truth... Then I started writing material of
my own, we got some good members into the band and, well, SUPERHEROES
was born... We recorded " Dancing Casanova" when I was 15,
and six months later, something like that, we got a record deal with
music is something that became important in your life very soon How
did it started ? For instance, do you come from a family where people
have a special interest in music ?
TT: Well, I can't say that...My
dad plays accordion, he also plays a little organ, but he hasn't been
my main influence of starting playing music. I think it's something
that came very naturally to a guy like me: I just love music. As far
as I can remember, I always loved it: I started buying records from
a very early age for example. So , I think it was a natural development
for me to start playing an instrument, and then, to start writing my
own music. One of the first songs I did was " Superheroes"
that you can find on our first album. I actually wrote that song in
the 7th grade, when I was 12 or 13 years old. OK, it's not that good,
but... I was young !
your website, you make a list of your favourite bands and artists. It
starts with Michael Jackson...
TT: The " Thriller"
album was my first lp ever. It was the first album I bought myself when
I was about 7 or 8 years old and, to this day, it's still one of my
favourite albums. It's a truly amazing record.
this list goes from Michael Jackson to the Sonics, passing through people
as different as Joy Division, Marvin Gaye, AC/DC, Dolly Parton, The
Clash or Prefab Sprout to quote only a few. And I don't even talk of
Devo, O.M.D., the Human League and other predictable early-80's icons.
It's pretty rare to find people, and particularly young people, with
such a wide and eclectic taste...
TT: Well, I have my own identity
of course, but I don't see myself like someone with a specific style.
For instance, you know, people who like hip-hop usually have a hip-hop
style, dress like hip-hoppers with streetwear and baggy trousers and
only listen to hip hop. Or they're punk rockers with safety pins and
mohawks, and only listen to punk rock. That's shit because if you dig
into the roots of music, you always find something interesting to discover,
be it the Rn'R bands of the 50's and 60's that inspired punk rock in
the late seventies, or the soul and funk combos that later gave birth
to hip-hop. All current musical channels are inspired by the music from
the past, and it's great to dig in there and see where it all comes
from. I have a huge record collection, maybe 5000 or 6000 lps, vinyl
lps, because I'm a fan : I just love music. So, it's a chance that I'm
not only interested in the music from the 80's, otherwise most of it
would suck, I'm afraid.
what about your liking for old analog synthesizers ? On both SUPERHEROES'
albums, you put another list with all the electronic devices you used
for the recording. It looks like it makes you dream just the same way
vintage guitars and tube amps could make dream a rock & roll band.
What is so special about those old synths ?
TT: I think they provide
some very warm and natural sound. Compared to the new synthesizers,
they're much more interesting. They can make all sorts of funny and
cool sounds that you can't hear anymore nowadays. Actually, I started
collecting synthesizers after I discovered an album by The Human League.
It's their third album " Dare", the one with Don't you
want me and all their other hits. On the back of the sleeve, there's
a list of synthesizers they used to make the album. I saw that list
with names like "Roland Jupiter
4", stuff like that and I thought " Wow !". So I put
an ad in the newspaper and see if I could get a synth like that, because
I liked the sound on this album. And at the age of 13, I got my first
Jupiter 4. In fact, I was very disappointed because it looked really
old fashioned, and there were all these knobs and things I didn't know
how to use. But after a few months, I learned how to program it and
make sounds of my own. Since then, it's just been a hobby of mine. I
now own 22 synthesizers, organs and stuff like that...
thing I hardly understand is your love for early 80's bands that, at
the time, I used to consider as some of the worst I ever heard. I'm
not talking about Devo or the B 52's, that I find both great. I'm already
more dubious about The Human League or O.M.D., but Duran Duran and Gary
Numan: nothing can save them, don't you think so ?
TT: ( Laughs) No, I don't.
I can understand what you say because a lot of shit came out of the
80's as well. I agree with you that some bands of this era were kinda
plastic and fake. But some were really good too ! Actually,
I just like hit records, really. Duran Duran... they made a lot of good
pop songs I think. Take for instance Joy Division and Gary Numan: these
are two very different things but I like them both. Gary Numan wrote
some really good songs. To be honest, I saw him last year in a festival
and it was crap. But in the old days, his two first albums with Tubeway
Army are magnificent. You know, its really tough and tense, I can't
put my finger on what is so great about it, but it's really good...
about this subject, don't you fear that the special emphasis that has
been put on the " New romantic" aspect of SUPERHEROES could
make you pass for a simple revival band ?
TT: Yeah, we hear this all
the time. When we read the reviews of the album, journalists always
mention Duran Duran, Soft Cell, The Human League and stuff like that.
But I don't think people see us as a revival band. And if some do, who
cares ? When you listen to the " Igloo" album, it's pretty
easy to hear that we were not only inspired by the 80's. If you listen
to a song like Miami, It's much closer to Led Zeppelin and AC/DC
than 80's stuff. It's rock and roll. And if you listen to Calculating,
it hasn't anything to do with the 80's at all. And if you listen
to Paradise of Me, what you get is some kind of lo-fi-folk-sad-indie
sort of thing. Things I said about me can apply to the band as well:
I don't think that we have any particular style. It's just that we use
those old synthesizers, otherwise nobody would talk about this.
songwriting has kinda changed between the first and the second album.
On " Igloo" the songs are shorter, more uptempo and catchy
than before. Is this something that came naturally, or something deliberate,
that you decided ?
TT: Well, I just write songs
you know... Actually a lot of songs from the " Igloo" album
were already written when we recorded " Dancing Casanova",
and could have been on it as well. This is the case of " Johnny
and I " for instance. I think that, although they're very different
one from another indeed, both albums sounds like SUPERHEROES. The third
album will be different too, but still ours.
performing live, Thomas, you have a stage acting that is much closer
to Iggy Pop than to Simon Le Bon. This is an aspect of your personality
that is hard to suspect when listening to your records. So what is happening
when you get on stage? Is this some kind of Dr Jekyll/ Mr. Hide thing
TT: ( Laughs) No, it's just
that music and moving your body are two things very close one to each
other. Recently, when we played in Bordeaux and when we got on stage,
I had no drums in my monitors, so I just couldn't move. I stood still
until I got the sound. You just react to the beat. On a song like New
Romantic sounds, I move slowly, funky in some sort of way. But when
we play stuff like Miami, Let's Dance or Girl U Want, you
know, crazy songs, I become crazy too. It's not a pose, not something
that is calculated or even thought, it's just that it feels right for
me. It's just the same when I'm listening to my records at home, if
I listen to the Damned or whatever, I'm not gonna move like a Balinese
dancer, I just jump all around.
noticed that your live shows are pretty wet these days, isn't it dangerous
for your precious old synthesizers ?
TT: Oh yes it is ! Like I
said, it's not something that you can easily control. I don't have any
brain when I go on stage. I don't think of the consequences of what
I do. If I spit in the air, I don't think where it's gonna go, most
likely on my head, but I don't care. And if I throw water, I don't think
where the water will end. I just disconnect with my brain.
last SUPERHEROES' single*
" Las Vegas" is the theme tune for a very popular sitcom broadcasted
on the Danish TV. Can you tell us more about this TV program ? How did
you get chosen to compose this music ?
TT: Well, first of all we
got a phone-call from the production team who made the sitcom. We were
asked if we were OK to do this and we said yes, because famous Danish
people were involved in that project and it looked like a good thing
to do. But if I must be honest ... well, it was the first time in my
whole life that I wrote a song to someone else and not to myself. Suddenly
I had to write a song with a deadline, a month or two, when usually
I just wait until the songs come to me. So I did it: it's a good pop
song but I definitely prefer writing songs for myself than for a sitcom.
it helped you to enlarge the band's audience in Denmark ?
TT: Yeah, I think it contributed
to make the band more easily recognizable, more " famous"
in some sort of way. People know who we are when they see our CDs in
the shops now, and, well, that's just fine..
time ago, we did a " Denmark Special" show, 2 hours stuffed
with new Danish sounds. It' something that would have been hardly possible
a few years ago. What can explain the emergence of such an exciting
new scene ?
TT: Four or five years ago,
it would have been difficult to play any good music at all, I think.
There was a period in the nineties were there was a lot of shit coming
out. And I mean : bands from all over the world, not only from Denmark
Dunno why... It was just a bad era for music, I think... Still today,
in my opinion, most music you can listen on the radio is quite bad actually.
I don't listen to radio anywmore. I much prefer listening to records
from my own collection. Things have not always been that bad though:
20 or 30 years ago, there were some really good bands in Denmark. Maybe
it's going to change again for the better...
are your favourite Danish bands at the present time ?
TT: From the same label as
us, I quite like The Tremolo Beer Guts. Yebo, who takes care of our
live sound plays drums in this band. It's some kind of a surf band:
one of the most special and good things that has come out of the Danish
rock scene in a long time. They're my favourite Danish band at the moment,
so special, very retro-sounding. When you listen to their records, it
doesn't sound like they're from 2001 but more like an ultra-cool twanging
guitar band from the 60's. It's amazing ! Of course there's also lots
of other good bands in Denmark, but most of them have a really hard
time at making their music heard, not only abroad but in their own country
too. We're such a small country. It's not easy to be accepted, and we
had real difficulties in getting accepted in Denmark as well.
you know how many countries released your album so far ?
TT: Yeah, it was released
in all of Scandinavia: Norway, Finland, Sweden, Denmark of course, also
in the Benelux countries, Holland, Belgium, in Spain too, France....
? Great ! SUPERHEROES sounds like a perfect band for the Japanese audience...
TT: All bands are ! And all
have a great time touring in Japan. Actually, we were on the biggest
Japanese independent label. They're the guys who release Britney Spears
and Backstreet Boys' records in Japan. So, maybe they were expecting
from us more than we could give. Well, it was not an overwhelming success,
because our music isn't that commercial, but it was really nice being
there on tour. I mean, Japan is such a crazy country...
You're soon going back to Denmark ? What are you goin' to do back home
? Maybe take a rest after such an long and exhausting French tour ?
TT: Yes, tomorrow will be
the last " Igloo" set list ever. Actually, before we went
to France for this 3 weeks tour, we were doing the first recordings
for what will become our third album. When we'll be back home, we'll
take 3 or 4 days of rest, then we'll start working again in the studio
on the new SUPERHEROES' album. We won't be playing gigs again before
march 2002, then we'll fly to the USA for the 4th time, in order to
promote the " Igloo" album and new songs. Lots of things are
apparently going to happen there in the future. Then we'll finish recording
the new album... but first of all, you're right, we really need some
* ( A new SUPERHEROES 5-tracks
Ep " Turn me on" has been released on Crunchy Frog in february
2002. It features a cover of the title-track by THE TREMOLO BEER GUT.
An eponymous third album is also available since april 2002. All this
and more at: : http://www.vibrashop.com