As a professional in the electronic music industry, life can often mean a juggling act between family and career, creativity and business. For those trying to figure out how to make this work within their own lives, it would do them well to look towards Kasper Bjørke. His career itself is a testament to his approach to life, spanning decades and ranging from working as a full-time touring DJ to producing solo albums covering a range of styles, managing major artists such as Trentemøller, Goss and Vasco, and composing music for brands like RedBull, Hugo Boss and Mercedes Benz. Not to mention, being a father and aspiring for an eco-friendly lifestyle that benefits his family and the Earth.
It certainly felt easy talking with Kasper, his approach to his life and work evident in his appreciation for things just as they are today, while still being open for whatever comes tomorrow. His willingness to mix things up and to adapt to changes has kept his music fresh and life interesting, whether this comes in the form of an unexpected release that returns to his past from a new perspective, or a different approach to touring which both frees and challenges him along the way. In doing so, Kasper has continued to keep his passion at the center of his life while adjusting to all that it brings with it.
One of the subjects I was most interested in speaking with Kasper about was the adjustments he has made to his professional career in order to be closer to his family and kinder to the environment. Those who make a living as DJs, or musicians in general, have increasingly been forced to rely upon touring as a major source of income rather than sales of physical media, and to do less of it would be challenging for many artists to continue to earn a living. For Kasper however, cutting down on touring ended up being his best decision.
“I am very happy that I have been able to scale down touring after I became a father. For me the most important thing at this point in my life is to be as much as possible with the family while still maintaining my DJ career to a point where I am happy as well. I still love to play as a DJ but touring takes its toll – especially with small kids at home and I think I found a perfect balance.”
When he does tour, he has been experimenting with what he can do to travel with less impact on the environment by using trains instead of airplanes (read his travel diary here). While he acknowledges that it’s not always possible for DJs to do so, he knows that every movement in a positive direction can make a difference.
“I think all artists can work towards touring that includes less flying. By coordinating with their agents who coordinates with the promoters, it is possible to plan tours so that the gigs in each territory are lined up in a way that makes trains a way to travel between destinations. Also going back and forth on the long hauls across the atlantic is one of the biggest carbon emitters so coordinating gigs in SA, Mexico and US on the same tour instead of flying back and forth. This of course means that you have to stay away longer instead of flying in and out all the time but I think that is the price artists have to pay if they want to tour more sustainable. I know of US DJs who use Amsterdam or Berlin as a hub in Europe, where they rent an apartment for a month and then travel from there on the weekends.
I don’t think offsetting all your carbon footprint to a green organisation makes up for it. It is of course better than not off setting – but flying less is the one factor that surely will lower your emission.
Also, there are all the other common factors where everyone, not just artists, can do to live more sustainable. Not eating any red meat and dairy products (or become vegetarian, vegan or pescatarian) and of course recycle as much as possible, buy vintage, avoid any fast fashion, single use plastics, always eat local and organic produce in season, etc.
When it comes to going away on holiday it is always a great idea to spend your holiday locally or travel to a destination by train instead of flying out.
We as a family try hard every day to live by all these parameters and it has become a part of our mindsets.”
To support a career as a musician who isn’t touring as frequently, Kasper Bjørke has built a foundation through his long-developed projects which include Artist Management and artistic collaborations with major brands. It’s clear that he loves his work as an Artist Manager, something that he has been doing for over 10 years and which gives him much reward as he helps artists find their value and further their career through his advice and guidance. Currently he is managing Trentemøller, Goss and Vasco (“all of them are Danish artists and dear friends of mine”) who cover a variety of music with the same passion and dedication: “Trentemøller is the biggest Danish artists with international success within the indie-electronica field. Goss makes a mix of indie and urban with a twist of electronic. Vasco is a producer who makes futuristic pop music, he has produced for the likes of Terror Jr and MØ.”
He offers some advice for those who may be looking to diversify their income sources as well:
“Apart from touring which for many is the number one income, if you get a streaming and/or radio hit then it is obviously still possible to make income from royalties – but other than that licensing your music to film, tv and commercials can be a way to maintain a career. Also brand collaborations can be both expanding for your fanbase and financially beneficial.”
While some may consider working with brands “selling out” Kasper believes it is not only necessary in today’s market, but something which can be of benefit to everyone involved. It is an opportunity to bring quality music to a wide range of listeners, connecting in a different way than the dance floor and promoting the value of music outside of the mainstream, while supporting the artist in order to produce their personal projects.
“I have worked with brands like RedBull, Hugo Boss and Mercedes Benz and I have always had a positive experience. The big brands that would like to establish a cultural platform has to tap into the underground to reach the young audience and at the same time you as an artist will be introduced to a much larger audience via their channels. I think its beneficial from both sides and I also like the “Robin Hood” aspect of being able to co-finance my releases with funds from a big brand.”
Creating that creative space allowed Kasper to produce a double EP that surprised even himself. As his life is continually moving forward, he wasn’t expecting to return back to a place in the music which he thought he had left behind.
“After releasing my latest album, The Fifty Eleven Project, which was a two-hour-long instrumental ambient journey without any beats on it (which came out on Kompakt Records in 2018) I couldn’t reconnect with making club music for a long time. It just felt like I had completely lost that vibe… but then last Summer I sat down and everything just happened very intuitively and I had a great time working with beats again.”
Dance music had seemed to be left to his past, lacking intimacy and personal connection that he had felt from his other projects. However after his daughter was born he felt that creative wave coming and took it for a ride, resulting in Nothing Gold Can Stay. Not only for the club, Kasper aimed to produce a double EP which would work equally as well at home; music for deep listeners whether they’re on the dance floor or in their living room.
Once he moved forward with the idea, everything came together quickly as he found that he was really enjoying the return to the rhythm. Working with his talented friends, Nothing Gold Can Stay is the result of collaboration and inspiration, with nods to the past and passion for the moment.
“I loved the creative freedom working on a double EP instead of a full album this time around.
It somehow gave me the space to work faster than I usually do when I work on an album which usually takes me around a year.
I planned it so there was a month in between Part A and Part B being released which made it possible to make two very different moods on the two releases. I couldn’t really fit the slow and moody vocal driven tracks on Part together with the club jams on Part B, so it was a way to work around that to be able to separate them like this.
I really enjoyed working with my friends Toby Ernest, Justin Strauss, Christian d´Or and Tomas Høffding on the vocal tracks. It all came together really naturally and it was a fun challenge making the cover version of the Alessi Brothers “Seabird”. I think I did 10 different versions… It’s a tough song to cover and I wanted to do the original justice and add my own flavor to it while maintaining some of that lo fi feeling so basically everything is recorded analogue on the cover. It’s been 10 years since I did a cover version (of The Rolling Stones “Heaven”) and I thought it would be fun to do a new cover – but this one turned out to be much harder to finish – but I’m very satisfied with how it turned out in the end.”
The remix EP of Nothing Gold Can Stay is coming up in March, and Kasper is ready to take on the rest of 2020 by continuing to follow his inspiration and delve into the different means of creative expression which drive his passion:
“I am going to record another ambient album this winter and will continue on that path while still doing some club/dance jams when I feel inspired to do so… I’m also continuing to work with music for advertisement and film as I find it really inspiring with creating music to moving images and these short deadlines and out of the box opportunities is a nice break from just doing my own thing.”
With a thoughtful approach to creativity, career, family, and Earth, it feels that the future for Kasper Bjørke will be featuring even more of the positive impacts and inspirations which he has already made through his many roles as musician, manager, father, and friend.