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Saturday 6th March, 1999.

Obsessed with the blues

30-year-old Dan Klarskov has dedicated his whole life to just one thing - the blues. So far, this has cost him everything he owns and even more. But the meaning of life is not always measurable in money. It is all about reaching your own innermost moods and feelings, and the blues is an excellent tool to attain this.

"The blues expresses the deepest of emotions. It is not just a question of melancholy or sorrow. To be in love, or wish to give a piece of advice to a good friend can also be deep emotions. These things are realized through the blues. It's like a kind of medicine."

By Lars Rix

A book entitled "Emotional Intelligence" is lying on the coffee table. The shelves in the room are filled with books about the greatest blues musicians. They look like icons, and they are flanked by an enormous amount of meticulously organized cassette tapes with names like T-Bone Walker, B. B. King and Buddy Guy on them. We are in a bachelor flat on Amager, Copenhagen, and 30-year-old Dan Klarskov is dressed for the occasion. He is wearing a Texan-style necktie, a colorful waistcoat, and he is ready to tell me his story. It is a story about the blues. About a young person's life which is dedicated to an old musical style - almost to the degree of an obsession.

" When I was 16, I started frequenting the blues clubs in Copenhagen. One night I heard a concert with Kenn Lending who had given me a few lessons at the time. He usually walked around amid his audience, and he did this on that particular night too. But all of a sudden, he took off his guitar and gave it to me. There I sat with his guitar, and the entire Rådhuskroen (which is now Mojo, ed.) was full of people. I was flabbergasted. He walked behind me, turned up all the buttons, and I played my blues. When I had finished, he took his guitar again, but after the concert, he came to me and said:
"In the future you can play whatever you want, but promise me to play a little blues from time to time, because it's in your blood." "I will never forget that piece of advice," says Dan Klarskov after we have settled around the dining table.

Peace guard
When he was young, he was a bit of an individualist. Like so many others, he searched for the meaning of life. He was chairman of the pupil's council union in Ballerup. For two years, he was a member of the school committee. He was elected vice-chairman of the National Pupil's Union, and people knew him as "Dan with the guitar" when he lectured throughout the country. He was a peace guard in the Next Stop Nevada project and he traveled all the way across the US. Then he got into a series of problems, and, in his own words, it took him a year "to slow down entirely and then fight my way back up."
He graduated as a mechanical engineer, but he was already aware that this was not what he really wanted to do. The music was his main desire. "My soul has depth. I might have been a bit of an individualist and done things my own way. I might have kept some things to myself, and I had something in me which was touched by the blues. Most importantly, to me, the blues is an honest kind of music. Americans say that "the blues is a feeling", and this is my point exactly. The blues expresses the deepest of emotions. It is not just a question of melancholy or sorrow. To be in love, or wish to give a piece of advice to a good friend can also be deep emotions. These things are realized through the blues. The good as well as the bad things that are natural ingredients in life. It's like a kind of medicine", says Dan Klarskov.

Borrowed from his family
In 1993, Dan Klarskov decided that the blues was going to be his life. He turned professional.
"I played at all kinds of places. First as a member of a band, then solo. During a period of six months beginning in the fall of 1997, I planned the release of a CD. I was involved in every aspect connected with the release. All the music, the production, booking of studio, musicians. I simply organized everything", Klarskov tells me.
His family lent him about 100,000 kroner (app. 14,000 USD) for a project that resulted in the CD "Dan Klarskov & The Honey Drippers". He then set about promoting his CD through his own label Clearwood Records. It was hard work demanding both willpower and self-discipline, especially during periods when everything seemed to stand still. It was the only way possible if he wanted his music to be released, though.
"The blues is not particularly well-off here in Denmark. Most often blues records are wholly or partially self-financed, and they rarely pay off. There is hardly any help available, for the money-men in the business are afraid to work with the genre, because the blues is not manipulative music. This means that the blues is not suited to be well-planned radio hits. It's not a flash in the pan. The blues is meant to be enjoyed within the soul", says Dan Klarskov who nevertheless hopes his CD will pay off eventually.

The pilgrimage
His hope is tied up with the bunch of positive feedback he has received because of the recording. Most of which has come from abroad. Amidst the feedback was a letter to Dan Klarskov from Bruce Iglauer who is president of Alligator Records, the leading blues label in the US. He praises the Dane and writes that "The whole album is something you should be very proud of."
Living Blues Magazine from Mississippi also praises Klarskov's CD, and several American radio stations have the CD on their play list.
"These are the kinds of things that will keep you going", says Klarskov. He was himself on a pilgrimage to the US, which is the home of the blues. Naturally, he had his CD with him in case anybody was interested. "Presently, in the US and elsewhere, there is a growing interest in swing and jump - the jazzy forties and fifties style I am playing, so I believe in my chances", he says optimistically.

Reaching the depths
It does not matter that a great deal of his own generation - and the younger generations - are listening to techno, hip hop, rock and other modern musical hybrids. It does not matter if they think of the blues mainly as three chords on the guitar repeated endlessly by a man who is at least 70.
"I have paid attention to all of it, and I am somewhat familiar with most of it. But when something reaches into the depths of my emotions, like the blues does, I can sense that this is right for me. And then I feel like a good chef must feel: I want to pass it on to others - perhaps give them the same experience and touch them emotionally the way I was touched myself. And the blues generally makes me feel good. After having performed, I am completely cleansed", Klarskov tells me. He is well aware that the term blues is perceived differently by different people:
"One person may think of Gary Moore, another may think of Louis Armstrong and jazz music and yet another may think of the US and the cotton fields. I may have labeled myself and said, "the blues - that's me", but for the next ten years I must set out to show the world what kind of blues I represent."

A unique sense of unity
For many years, the Danish blues society has been centered around the venue Mojo, the Copenhagen Blues Festival and a line of minor venues throughout the country. Dan Klarskov says that the blues society in Denmark is rather unique when it comes to the sense of unity among the people involved.
"Within the blues there's a tradition to help each other. We support each other, talk with each other and we often let each other appear as guest musicians in our shows. I myself have been helped by those who are ten to twenty years older than myself, and I will of course help young musicians who are up-and-coming. That's what it's like. The older and more experienced will support the young and thus carry on the music", says Dan Klarskov.
Suddenly he reaches for the book "Emotional Intelligence" and says "I really recommend this one. Among other things it says why emotional intelligence is more important to the survival of mankind than IQ. And this is exactly what we work with in music. Emotions and honesty. In some way we try to bring mankind closer together through description, satisfaction and entertainment."

Praise of Klarskov:
"If his first solo album is any indication, we're in for a treat."
-Catfish Whitey. Blues Access, USA.

"This tastefully spare album, is a welcome change of pace."
-Peter R Aschoff. Living Blues, USA.

"The whole album is something you should be very proud of."
-Bruce Iglauer. Alligator records, USA.

"One solid CD that really sells the diversity and the beauty of The Blues."
-John Muller. New Jersey Blues Society, USA.

"Their musicianship is A+"
-Pebber,Maine Blues Society,USA.

"He has combined jazz and blues in a brilliant way."
-Bosse Majling, Jefferson.

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Dan Klarskov 1998-99.
Page updated
14. juni 2000