Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Gangway's Henrik Balling on pop

Over the past two years on this blog I have intermittently celebrated Danish pop band Gangway. This should be the last post based on an interview with the group's main songwriter, Henrik Balling, in Copenhagen.

On writing for popular Japanese actor and singer Masahiro Takashima: 'I never met him because he was doing a movie and he didn't have time. The funny thing was I don't think he had a clue what he was singing about, because he did it in English… [One song was] called The Language of Love and the chorus goes: "It's a shame that the language of love was invented by fools and handsome charlatans/ And people like me who were brought up differently/ On mineral water and Hector Berlioz/ We don't have a chance when we meet up with girls at the local disco." And then there's a line I made him sing: "And I'll never be drunk enough to win the Nobel prize." I thought that was funny because there's a couple of alcoholics who got the Nobel prize like Hemingway, and I thought it was great to hear [Masahiro] sing that.'

On playing Japan in 1995: 'It was quite expensive to go and see us. It was something like £50 for a ticket so people were very quiet during the actual songs - they did applaud and everything - because they really wanted to get everything. I think that's a good idea to have really expensive tickets because then people are very quiet and tend to listen. It's like if you go to see, well, he's dead now, but Frank Sinatra - £200, £300 for a good seat, how can that be a horrible show? It has to be good, no matter how shitty it is, and if he can't sing the high notes, who cares, it was the best show you've ever seen because it was expensive.'

'I really don't want to buy pop albums if the artist is over 35 because I think they tend to get boring. I like that whole battlefield of youth: from 20 to 30 you go out there, fight everybody and get your piece of cake. From 30 to 40 you say, "How much did I get?" You count your money and you try to repeat yourself and get more money and after that, then it's over. I've got nothing against Pink Floyd but I think that's a good example; there's a huge difference between the first and the last album in that sense. They're very popular and people buy their albums whenever they release something; it's a secret career somehow because nobody writes about Pink Floyd do they?'

'CDs are the most horrible way to put out music, even DVDs are better because the cover is soft plastic that won't break. How many of us know the sound of a CD smashing on the floor, and you know that the lid comes off and it's difficult to get the booklet out: you have to squeeze it and you can't really get it. It's a horrible format, I hate it, the covers become blurred after a while, really horrible.'

On trying to write songs in a different way: 'Belgian Lovers [from album That's Life, 1996] is a weird song, I like the music. I did an experiment with the lyrics, trying to write like an idiot, in the sense you start here and then all of a sudden you start to write something else because you can't focus. I thought that was so funny at the time. It's a bit embarrassing now because I come across as an idiot.'

On gig-going in London: 'Just before we started the band, Allan [Jensen, Gangway's lead singer] and I went to London for two weeks to see a lot of bands and we bought Time Out. We saw some bands that we'd read about or knew about and then we just looked at the names - that looks like an interesting name let's go and see them. We went out almost every night to see bands and that was really, really good because we thought of England as this fantastic country for music - pop music, rock music - and it was actually good to see all these bands were crap. Hey, we can do better than them. Of course, all the good bands were there but it was great to see that not all of England was good. If we'd gone to see bands that hadn't released anything and they all were completely great, that would have been horrible. We saw bands that were nothing, just crap from the word go, and that was really good. We enjoyed our stay in London very much.'

On meeting Robert Palmer: 'He sold millions of records all over the world compared to our 100,000 maybe, so I asked him if I could show him one of our videos and get his advice. He said: "It's the snare sound." Isn't that great?'

Merry Christmas and a very happy new year!

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