Karim Theilgaard is a talented singer, songwriter and performer who is currently dividing his time between London, Paris and Copenhagen. At Song Revelation we always endeavor to search for the best upcoming creative talent and really wanted to share Karim’s musical experiences with you. Read the full in-depth interview below where Karim discusses, amongst other things, his process for creating a track, his current work commitments and what he’s hoping to achieve over the next 12 months.
Q: Hi! Tell us about yourself.
Hey! My name is Karim Theilgaard. I thought about having a separate artist name but people already know my name from acting in films, so I just stuck with it, as it’s much simpler. Plus, I’d probably forget to answer half the time when someone called out my name.
Q: If you could use a tagline of less than 20 words to describe your music and who you are what would it be?
I’m a person of contrasts and my music is a reflection of that – punchy/delicate; multi-textured; a bohemian libertine!
Q: What is your musical background?
I started writing songs around the age of 6. Back then I was greatly inspired by Michael Jackson and Abba! But hey, so were Nirvana! I always wanted to play guitar but then a drummer came to visit our school in Switzerland to give a demonstration. I was mesmerized. Needless to say, I picked up the drums straight after.
When I moved to Denmark and wanted to join the school band they already had a drummer so the teacher suggested I play bass. I’d never touched that instrument before but I thought why not? They gave me a cheap, nylon-stringed Spanish guitar to practice on, which I found rather boring. Once I discovered tablature online I started learning little riffs and melodies to play on it. David Bowie’s “The Man Who Sold The World” and Nirvana’s “About A Girl” were the first songs I taught myself to play .
After high school I went to an awesome music college out in the middle of nowhere. That is where I really learned to open up and discover myself as a musician, experiment with life and creativity, dress up, make-up and make out! Ha ha! I was greatly inspired by the people I met there. Those 6 months were among the most significant in determining the next years of my life. Eventually it led to my coming to London to study audio production and music business.
Q: How have the last 12 months been for you?
They have been intense! I’ve been doing my MSc. at the French university ESCP Europe at their campuses in London and Paris while completing work on my first three singles. I was fortunate enough to meet Portuguese street photographer Joao Retorta at a Soho gallery opening one night in London and we got to talk about filmmaking. He’s shot fashion films before and was up for trying his hands on something bigger. We were talking ideas back and one night it just clicked! So I wrote the script and sent it to him with production starting right after. I was fortunate to have some fantastically talented help with the shoot. I knew it was going to be a challenge so I asked two friends I’d previously done projects with, Drew Sheridan-Wheeler and Sophie Lovell Anderson if they were up for it. I’m really happy with how it turned out and can’t wait to shoot my next music video.
While in the studios at Konk and Abbey Road I also shot a mini documentary relating the creative and recording process directed by Lithuanian filmmaker Simona Zinevičiūtė. She is my go-to person for anything documentary related. She’s awesome!
The way the cover art for the singles came about was when I ran in to L.A.-based photographer and DJ Tony Adams at a place I frequented during the spring of 2012 called The Scotch. It’s legendary for being the first venue Jimi Hendrix played at in London. For a while that year the place had a great creative vibe and I met so many interesting people from the film, music, fashion and art scenes from all around the world. I came up with the art direction concept for the shoot, which we managed to get in the can just before he returned to the US. He’s such a cool guy and you must check out his tunes as well!
During the shoot I had my arm painted white for the first cover photograph for debut single “The Way We Used To Be”. We were outside with make up artist Giselle Fryat when the Olympic Flame passed by our house. So there I was, waving with my whole arm painted completely white, with loads of cameras whizzing by! It was surreal. The other hand in the photograph is my talented friend, model, actress and DJ, Tolula Adeyemi. On the covers of “Strangers On The Floor” and “Love Stains” is another friend of mine, Nevi Balezdrovna. From the instant I met her I knew I had to involve her in some way as she had this cool, quirky and creative vibe about her.
Q: Who inspires you musically?
It was listening to Nirvana that got me to pick up the guitar in the first place. Though I would say musically I probably have more in common with artists such as Placebo, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, the Killers, Kings of Leon and Arcade Fire. However, the focus on simplicity in melody and structure I initially learned from Kurt Cobain.
I love the guitar tones from Queens Of The Stone Age as well as Dave Grohl’s ability to combine pop melodies with hard rock, the ambitions of Muse’s compositions as well as the layers found in lo-fi bands such as My Vitriol and my friends in New York band Pains of Being Pure at Heart. One late night after leaving The Scotch I found myself partying alongside both Muse and My Vitriol with Nero spinning tunes! It was so surreal to be talking about collaboration with these guys who have long been musical heroes to me and then later to see them play at the Olympic ceremony!
Q: Which modern day artists do you look up to?
There are many – and not just musical artists. Among them are Thom Yorke and Bjork, because they keep evolving musically as well as pushing the music industry conventions, for example in terms of fan-interaction as well as the design and release of the album as a concept. Bjork’s latest was released as an interactive app. How well you thought it worked or not is not as important as what it signifies in terms of it’s willingness to push forward in to new ways of releasing.
Q: Is there anyone you would like to collaborate or gig with?
I would love to collaborate with Radiohead, Trentemøller, Sigur Rós and Karen O (Yeah Yeah Yeahs). I’m sure we could make something twisted and special! So guys, if you happen to read this, get in touch! Other artists I’d really like to work with on for example some remixes or a side projects would be M83 and Deadmau5.
Q: What songs are you listening to at the moment?
Lately I’ve been listening to Tribes who have some really catchy songs that remind me of early Ash. One album I’m really excited about is the new Godspeed You! Black Emperor. It’s been years since their last release so it’s great to have them back! The Naked And Famous and M83 are also artists I recently started listening to. They brought Shoegaze in to the 21st. Century. Check them out on Spotify where you can also find my tracks.
Q: What is your creative process for writing a track?
It usually starts off with a beat, melody snippet – whether guitar or piano – or a lyric bouncing around my head. If I’m in the studio I’ll immediately try to capture it or record it on my phone.
After a while of playing around with it I will usually be able to decide whether it’s worth working further on. If I think it is, I’ll start building the song from there. If it’s mainly the music I’m building with I’ll often just start singing whatever comes to mind with the music on loop – even if it’s gibberish to begin with. I try to feel what the music is telling me and then the lyrics take on a direction of their own. Other times I may have a strong melody in mind already and the lyrics will write themselves. Then it’s a process of editing and sharpening them as well as the music.
Because I write, compose, record and produce all at the same time it’s often a lengthy process of going back and forth between writing, arranging and recording and re-recording before I start mixing.
Q: What’s more important, melody or lyrics?
I would say they are both equally important, though from a commercial perspective it would probably be melody. Personally, lyrics and song titles are often the first thing I look at when I come across new music and artists I haven’t heard of before. If I like the lyrics I’ll probably enjoy the music as well.
Q: Where are you based?
I’m based between London, Paris and Copenhagen at the moment so I feel it was quite fitting to have released my debut single in Paris, the second in London and the third will be released soon in Copenhagen, where I am at the moment.
Q: What’s it like being where you’re from?
One helluva ride! I’m a “TCK” (Third Culture Kid-ed) – one big mix of nationalities. I grew up all over the place. It can sometimes make it hard for others to understand you when talking about where you’re from. The common questions I get asked are, “where do feel at home?” “Where do you feel you are from?” Many people want to box you in so it’s often a struggle to explain that that thinking just doesn’t apply to me. Everywhere I have lived is a part of me and feels part of my home. It’s similar when talking about my acting work alongside my music. Once again, the classic question, “Which do you prefer, or which would you choose over the other if you had to?” There is no choice; both are an equal part of me, which I can’t live without.
Q: What are you currently working on?
Mixing the third single before I begin work on new material. I can’t wait to get going on it after the fantastic response to my debut! I may also be working on some sound design and composition for a sci-fi computer game called Cimmerian Space and a WW2 game called Achtung Cthulu being released by Modiphius Publishing. I also hope to work with both Joao and Simona on a new music video, which will be VERY sexy! So stay tuned! 😉
Q: What’s been the highlight of your career to date?
First of all experiencing the tremendous positive feedback to my singles. I really had no expectations but so far it’s just been overwhelming! My music isn’t commercial. It’s alternative rock so it’s hardly going to be in everyone’s taste. My visuals and music video are also a bit edgy and controversial to some, so to have people e-mail me and say they loved it is an amazing feeling! Art should raise discussion and divide opinions; otherwise it isn’t justified.
Also, being featured on the New York Rock/Pop Top40 Charts with my debut as well as making the front page on one of the largest music industry news sites in Asia was fantastic! It’s such a huge market there I’d love to explore! It’s also been amazing to have one of the producers of Nine Inch Nails and Carly Rae Jepsen like my single. Even Psy retweeted my music video!
Q: What are you hoping to achieve over the next 12 months?
To release my third single, shoot another music video and release an EP along with remixes and acoustic versions before putting out an LP. I would also like to start playing some gigs as soon as there is time for the preparations and rehearsals.
Q: Do you have any gigs or shows that you’d like to tell us about?
My first gig in London was played in front of 1200 people. I had been asked to come and perform as a solo artist as, at the time, I was playing in a band called Mute. I wrote an acoustic song in just a couple of days specifically for this gig called “The Escape Artist”. The song later went on to be our biggest hit!
Q: What do you do to relax?
I love hanging out with friends, or taking long walks and people watching around town. I enjoy seeking out the weird places and parties and experiencing all the crazy, creative and vibrant people in areas such as Dalston, NY’s Lower East Side and the 11th Arrondissement in Paris where my university is located.
Q: Where would your favourite holiday (vacation) be and why?
That’s a tough question. There are so many places I want to explore and places I’ve already fallen in love with and would like to return to such as Tanzania, Kenya, Paris, New York. I think it’s important to travel in order to meet people and be inspired by your surroundings. Being in a place for a relatively short time gives you the urgency to try and accomplish as much as possible in the time available. It intensifies and focuses your life and thoughts – the very things you need to get creative. Living in Paris and New York was amazing. I hope to try LA soon. No doubt I’ll always keep going back to Paris for inspiration. I also have a feeling I’ll be going to Italy again soon – maybe Sicily or Tuscany.
Q: If you could give a little piece of advice for new or aspiring musicians what would it be?
Be focused and set yourself achievable goals. Don’t just say “I want to make a hit or sell a ton of records”. Break it down in to smaller steps that you can manage so you always feel there is an immediate goal to work towards and achieve. Getting those small successes along the way will drive you forward and keep you excited as well as always giving you something new to talk about when meeting people. And that’s a good angle to have when opening a conversation.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to let our readers know about?
My first three singles are available on iTunes and all major streaming services including Spotify, Deezer and radio. Just search my name! You can also watch my videos on YouTube. If you like them, please do feel free to share them with your friends on Facebook, twitter and your blog and show your for support independent music. Thanks for your time and checking my music out!
Editor’s Note: Karim Theilgaard has a great commercial vibe and effortlessly partners this with a great deal of technical and musical expertise. This is a great combination and at Song Revelation we’re looking forward to how Karim’s musical career develops over the coming months and years.
If you’d like to learn more about or get in touch with Karim Theilgaard just follow the links below:
Download Songs: http://bit.ly/KarimTheilgaardiTunes
Press Info: http://bit.ly/PressReleaseAndBio
Website: http://www.karimtheilgaard.com (acting website)