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Jyllands Posten. 
August. 1, 2000.


Clear Love.
By Uffe Christensen.

It is central in Dan Klarskov’s life to be in touch with his own and other people’s feelings. Therefore, it is no coincidence that the blues is his genre. His début CD was received positively at home in Denmark, but the reception was far more positive in the country of blues music: the U.S.A. 

"The whole album is something you should be very proud of. Thanks for sharing the good music with me." Bruce Iglauer, President of Alligator Records in Chicago.

All the clear, blue rain - all these heavy gray clouds blocking my view to the warm summer sun are heavily addictive. You bend your neck on such an afternoon in Århus, where the international jazz festival has been able to blow a few frayed holes in the cloud ceiling after all. With a view of black shoes, I stroll across the shiny cobble-stones of Store Torv. The commercial postcard which is stuck between the sole of my shoe and the cobble for a few seconds has a picture on it, and beneath the picture it says, "Swing your blues away". I stop. I look up. And I listen. "There is a Danish blues musician who has played the blues for as long as I have lived. His name is Troels Jensen", says the lad from the tent-covered stage as he and his band erupt into Mr. Jensen’s "Take Your Hat And Leave". In spite of all the odds against a young and far from conventional Danish blues musician, 31 year-old Dan Klarskov has no intention of taking his hat and leaving, however. "I have come to stay", he says a few days later when I meet him in his own private Danland - a small, densely packed apartment on Amager where he receives me dressed in black and wearing a Texan-style necktie. The living room is full of records, cassettes and books. The love of his life, a Fender Stratocaster guitar, is placed in a corner and transmits its vibrations to the beautifully handmade acoustic guitar, "the Swallow", in the opposite corner. "Yes, I have come to stay, and I am motivated by the fact that my blues, which is of course based so heavily on emotions, is able to put people in a certain mood. Music is generally universal and far greater than people. This is why one must be humble toward one’s talent", he says and takes a sip from his cold Coca Cola. Otherwise, humility is not what you would connect with Dan Klarskov who spent most of 1999 eagerly promoting his début CD "Dan Klarskov And The Honeydrippers" which was released in 1998 on his own label Clearwood Records. This promotion was highly personal. Many people regarded it as unusually unremitting - and a few regarded it as insistent and annoying. Under all circumstances, Dan Klarskov employed a marketing strategy highly unknown in stolid blues circles. "I have had a heap of comments, and it strikes me that particularly older and more established blues musicians are bitter that they were not so prominent in the media last year. They think that the media seek me out, but those are not the conditions for a blues musician in a small country like Denmark. You have to make yourself heard. Otherwise nothing will happen", Dan Klarskov says in a slightly monotonous voice which only rises a few notes when he begins on a new subject. And subjects are plentiful to Dan Klarskov.

Plainly stated.
In his youth, Dan Klarskov, who grew up with divorced parents in an intellectual and politically left-wing home in Ballerup, was deeply engaged in youth politics and the peace movement. At the same time, he studied to be a mechanical engineer, but all of a sudden things snapped for him: "I was in the United States as a peace guard for the "Next Stop Nevada"-project, and there I realized that I had spent a lot of time and a lot of strength on everybody but myself. I plummeted into a depression that lasted a year, before I was ready to begin my studies anew and graduate. I wanted to prove to myself that I could, although I had already realized that my future was in the blues." Dan Klarskov started playing when he was eleven. He used a guitar his mother had rented. His family mostly listened to records with Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton and Little Feat. "I was particularly interested in the bluesy parts, and that fascination led me back to blues musicians like Buddy Guy, Albert Collins and B.B. King. I listened to a little bit of T-Bone Walker, but at the time I did not like his often jazzy approaches. Since then, T-Bone Walker has become my beau ideal, and I own every record of his released", says Dan Klarskov whose flirtation with the blues grew into a burning love when he heard Kenn Lending play at a festival in Fælledparken, Copenhagen, in the middle of the 1980’s. "His music touched me deeply, and I quickly started frequenting the blues venue Rådhuskroen (which is now Mojo, ed.). I got to know Kenn Lending. He tutored me, and one night during a jam session when he was playing amid the audience, he suddenly gave me his guitar. I played like a madman, and afterwards Kenn Lending told me: ‘you can play whatever you want, but don’t forget to play a little blues. It’s in your blood.’ I took that piece of advice, and I have played nothing but the blues ever since. For a while, Klarskov played in the band Junior N’ Brown, but after some time he continued as a soloist with part of that band as a backing group. Since then, that band changed its name and became chart breaking Zididada. He nods eagerly when I ask him whether it is okay for me to light a cigarette. He does not smoke himself, but he does not consider himself an ascetic. "I never drink before a concert, though. During the concert, I may enjoy a fine glass of brandy, but never more than that. My music is very emotional, and for me to get it across the edge of the stage to the audience, I must be one hundred per cent present. That cannot be done if you are intoxicated. Also, I would not be receptive to audience feedback which means so much to me." He smiles, washes his soda down, and reveals that he has a specific pre-concert ritual which he goes through before each of his many concerts. "Before I leave, I light a candle, insert a particular tape in the machine and slide comfortably into my chair", he says and nods towards his rocking chair and its footstool. In order to visualize this, he rises and presses "play" on the tape deck. Seconds later, the sound of Jimmy Witherspoon’s "Nobody’s Business" fills the room. "Filled with this music and its atmosphere, I dwell on various important events in my life. I get a hold of these emotions, and they fill me up slowly. I do not talk much before the concert, but the moment I enter the stage, I open myself up to all these emotions - and I am able to give myself fully." Dan Klarskov is generally highly controlled by his emotions, and he is fond of quoting from David Coleman’s "Emotional Intelligence". Coleman is more interested in man’s EQ than his IQ. The E stands for emotional. "Emotions are stronger than intellect. They take up much more space. Therefore, it is extremely important for a person to be in contact with his or her own emotions. Just as it is important to try to understand and empathize with other people’s emotions", he says. No doubt, Dan Klarskov could have talked about emotional intelligence for hours, but he slips back into his blues very naturally. "The blues is ideal for expressing one’s emotions. For many years, I used my guitar, but now I have realized that the singing is the most important thing. The words and their intonation. The whole thing is centered around the singing."

The singing.
At this point, Dan Klarskov touches upon an aspect of his music that has made several critics sharpen their pens. His voice has often been criticized as being too agreeable and polished to sing the blues. "Why should I strain my voice and sing as if I had smoked and drunk too much? That would not be me, would it? I express myself with the voice I have been given. The people who criticize this have a far too narrow perception of the blues", he says. In 1998, Dan Klarskov released his début CD after many months of serious preparation. It consisted of some of his own interpretations of classical blues tracks. After the release, Dan Klarskov was subjected to a frontal attack by Ekstra Bladet (Danish newspaper, ed.) who gave him a single star in their review. "That review struck me hard. It was tough and hurt me deeply. The worst thing was that I actually believed it to be true. I believed it right until the morning when I received a letter from Bruce Iglauer himself to whom I had sent the album. He spoke highly of my album, and I regained faith in myself and my own worth. Pursuing my own goals is far more important to me than other people’s opinion of me and my way of doing things", he says. And as he sits there at the table, that is exactly what he conveys: self-confidence and fighting spirit.

American enthusiasm.
Upon recording the début CD, Dan Klarskov sent it to a record label that declined to release it because they thought it too bluesy. Klarskov took this as a compliment and raised the money to release the CD on his own. Since then, he sent it to more than 300 media representatives, radio stations and record labels in Denmark, the United States and elsewhere. At home in Denmark, the album was well received - with the above-mentioned exception. From the United States, the response was amazingly positive. Legendary Bruce Iglauer as well as many others fell in love with the album upon hearing it, and for one month in November 1998, the CD was the most frequently played CD at a blues radio station in Montana. Ahead of B.B. King. "I have potential in the United States, but as Iglauer told me, I must tour the United States frequently if I want to release my material over there. I am not ready to do that yet. Presently, I will concentrate my efforts around the Scandinavian blues market, which is developing rapidly these years. In Norway alone, 60 new blues venues have opened in a mere 18 months, and an estimate says 200,000 blues concert tickets sold in Norway this year." We are not that far yet in Denmark, but Dan Klarskov has a firm belief in the future, and he singles out the solid blues circles in Copenhagen, Århus and Odense.

The second album.
Recording, releasing and promoting the début CD cost Dan Klarskov around 130,000 Danish Kroner (app. 16,000 USD, ed.). This investment has almost been recovered now through the sale of the CD, which has only been sold in small numbers from regular record stores. Most of the CDs have been sold through Klarskov’s own homepage, whose guest book is full of praise from all over the world. "I plan to release a new album next year, and this time I will include some songs of my own", he promises and adds that the perceived success with the first album has opened up new perspectives in his life. "Until now, I have not had the time or the energy to get involved in a relationship. My career has been top priority. This has changed because of my success, however. I now have a girlfriend in Odense, and we are currently figuring out the practicalities surrounding our moving in together." Dan Klarskov smiles and seems to be in complete harmony with himself and his ideals.

What will you be doing on 28th May, 2010?

He looks at me questioningly and writes the date on a notepad on the table. He smiles when I remind him that this is the date his greatest idol, T-Bone Walker, would have turned 100. "In ten years, I see myself as an established name in blues music. I will be playing for 20 people in small clubs, and I will be playing for thousands at festivals. I will be strongly rooted in the Scandinavian blues circles, and I will be able to live well by my music. I will have kids. I will be in harmony with myself and my surroundings. These years, I am happy to see how the old blues boys are getting older while maintaining their spirit. I will also have lots of spirit after I have turned 40", he promises. And it is hard not to believe him.


uffe.christensen@jp.dk

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Dan Klarskov 1998-2001.
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17. april 2005