Tony Cummings quizzed Denmark's multi-talented MIKAEL R ANDREASEN aka KLOSTER
It is true to say that until the release of the 'Nine Beats To The Bar' album by the collaboration of world class musicians, artists, poets and songwriters known as the Nine Beats Collective few people outside his native Denmark had heard the name Mikael R Andraesen. In Denmark it's a different story. His album 'Half Dream, Half Epiphany' released in 2015 under the pseudonym Kloster (Danish for monastery) was nominated as Album Of The Year at the Danish Music Awards. Such is the excellence of his tracks "Nine Beats To The Bar" and "The Beatitudes" on the 'Nine Beats. . . .' album that Cross Rhythms felt the time was long overdue that we caught up with this hugely talented singer, songwriter, guitarist, keyboard player and author who is currently writing songs for a new national songbook in Denmark and who at Steppeulven 2016 (an annual music award show curated by the Association of Danish Music Critics) was named Composer Of The Year. Here are his answers to my questions.
Tony: Tell me a bit about yourself.
Mikael: I was born in Demark, in 1975. I grew up with a piano and parents who still have a large vinyl collection. Music was always there somehow.
Tony: When did you get to writing songs?
Mikael: That's a good question. I think I fooled around with a guitar when I was in my teenage years - 14, 15, 16 - but it wasn't really until around 2000 that I started writing songs in a more serious way and put out my first album in 2001.
Tony: Were you brought up in a Christian home?
Mikael: I was. I grew up in a small church that was Pentecostal, but it didn't always feel Pentecostal. It felt like a bunch of hippies gathered together, so it had this late-'70s vibe that they brought into the '80s. That was my upbringing.
Tony: Was your first album in English?
Mikael: That was in English, yeah. It was called 'Friendly Sessions', which reflected the process of the album-making - a lot of friends gathered together. It was kind of meant to be that one album, a spare-time project while I was studying to become a teacher. I don't know what happened: I'm on my seventh album now. So something happened after that, but it wasn't meant to go that way. 'Friendly Sessions' came out in 2001. The second one was called 'Coastal Research' and it was released in 2004, and again in Norway in 2006. 'Do Not Be Afraid' was the third one in 2008. I did a concept album of Julian of Norwich - her writing - which came out in 2010. In 2012 I made an album in Danish, my native language; the translated title would be 'Nine Hymns And An Evening Song'. It was just nine hymns that I rewrote melodies for, and then an evening closing song. In 2015, the sixth album called 'Half Dream, Half Epiphany'; and now I'm working on another Danish album.
Kloster is the Danish word for 'monastery'. That's the name I came up with back in 2001 when we made the first record, because we were a bunch of friends who would withdraw for a while to create this music together, and I liked to think of it as a monastery where you withdraw yourself from the world and create something beautiful.
Tony: I understand a lot of the people who bought your albums weren't Christians but simply enjoyed the music.
Mikael: Yeah, probably. I've always made it a point for my records that I would not be considered a part of the Christian music industry. I think sometimes the Christian music industry can be quite excluding of the rest of the world. My approach is 'music is music, art is art'. My background is clearly Christian - my faith and my doubt, that's what I write about - but I want to just put it in there in the pile of everything else that's in the world. So I've always made it a point not to release my albums on Christian labels; they're out on normal record labels.
Tony: So 'Half Dream, Half Epiphany' was on the record racks next to the latest Madonna album?
Mikael: Yeah. Even the tabloid paper back in Denmark praised it.
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