Making a Scene Presents an Interview with Thorbjorn Risager!
The popular and award-winning orchestra brings forth a new album: ‘Come On In’. The intensity is intact, but there is also room for new streaks of melancholy. Through more than 1,000 concerts in 21 different countries, the hard swinging and critically acclaimed ensemble has made people smile and dance. For that is what the blues is capable of: grooving away life’s problems. The front man knows this better than most, and on the 10th album – with the inviting title ‘Come On In’ – he goes into clinch with everything from his own age to political reality.
In this way, the title symbolizes everything that Thorbjørn Risager & The Black Tornado stand for. Thorbjørn explains: “Some people think the blues is sad because it’s named after the color of the melancholy and has its roots in music played by the slaves in the United States. But you have to remember that this was music that people gathered around when they were trying to relax from their hardships. It emerged in festive situations and was meant to be danced to. I would like to help lift that tradition: To try to ease your problems through music, and then go home with a smile on your lips.”
In 2019, these musicians still work in the same way as when they began. Thorbjørn Risager sits at home with his acoustic guitar and creates the core of the song before they enter the studio, where everyone offers beats, bass lines, horn parts, backup vocals and fills. All that provides the Black Tornado with a sound that evokes a feeling of the elements raging around Risager’s voice.
Their open-minded and innovative approach to the blues adds elements to the songs from genres like funk, gospel, soul and rock ‘n’ roll. It all depends on the feeling and the direction of the song. One of the significant nuances of the new album is its axis of melancholic songs with acoustic guitar. It has instinctively arisen because the blues now reflects where Risager stands in life.
“The blues is my outlet. And this time, I’ve written some songs about having doubts about whether I’m the right place in my life. However, there is something fundamental in my songwriting that seeks the light. Which is about clenching your teeth together, saying, ‘I’ll just keep moving on’.”
‘Never Giving In’ is exactly such a tune, while ‘Last Train’ addresses the concern of falling too deep into yourself. ‘Nobody but the Moon’ shows a rare political side of Thorbjørn Risager when it asks the questions: Who saw the children who drowned in the Mediterranean, and who heard their screams? And it answers: “Nobody but the moon.”
In the midst of all the seriousness, however, the album’s title song ‘Come On In’ highlights the uplifting community that Thorbjørn Risager & The Black Tornado want to create. It revolves around a bar where everyone is welcome, and Risager has written it with Mojo Blues Club in Copenhagen in mind. Because as he says, “That’s where we in the band grew up and many of us met our girlfriends.”
Some orchestras break through and fade out. Others give up if the breakthrough doesn’t immediately show up. And then there are those for whom it is a matter of life and death to play music, steadily gaining popularity by keeping the standards high year after year. Thorbjørn Risager & The Black Tornado belong to the latter category. Quietly, both in Denmark and abroad, there is a growing awareness of their explosive concerts, in which guitar, bass, drums, organ and horns surround Risager’s powerful vocals – reviewers have drawn parallels to both Ray Charles and Joe Cocker.
The Blues has been in his bloodstream ever since he, at the age of 10, heard something absolutely magical. In his home in Jyllinge, his two music teacher parents primarily put classical records on the turntable, but at the neighbour’s house another world opened up. Thorbjørn was too young to understand the depth of the roots, the amount of dust and gravel, the size of the pain, and not least the redeeming euphoria of singing it all out. He just knew that he had to take it home with him. So he got cassette tapes with the exotic music and for years he was falling asleep to the sounds of Fats Domino and Muddy Waters.