The real alternative






















Interview with Thomas Troelsen




If, 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 !!". But 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...


ROCKOMONDO: 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 ?

THOMAS TROELSEN: 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 Crunchy Frog.

RM: So, 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 !

RM: On 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.

RM: So 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.

RM: And 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...

RM: One 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...

RM: Talking 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.

RM: You 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.

RM: When 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.

RM: I 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.

RM: The 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.

RM: Did 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..

RM: Some 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...

RM: What 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.

RM: Do 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.... Japan...

RM: Japan ? 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...

RM: 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 rest.


* ( 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: : )