PART TWO: INTERVIEW WITH ANNISETTE KOPPEL
What had you been singing before you joined Savage Rose in the late 1960s?
I started [at] seven years old traveling around with small amusement parks, traveling around the country in the summertime. As a 12-year-old I combined my singing with another girl playing the piano, and we found some songs we liked at the time—it was Italian songs and small hits from all around Europe, in Danish of course. We couldn't continue traveling around, and after a while some other guys that were hearing my song wanted me to sing in their band. It was a rock and roll band with saxophones and drums, and for me it was a very big thing to sing in a band like that, with all instruments. After a time, there was another band asking me if I would like to sing with them. They were like Beatles band -- we dressed out like Beatles and played with electric instruments, electric guitars and bass. I was 16 years old. I thought that was fantastic, to start singing with such [a] modern-like band.
In the start, I had to play the tambourine, and just sing with them in a sort of choir, together with them. After a little while, they asked me if I could sing some of my songs. But when they heard them (laughs)—it was not what they wanted. They said they had some songs for me, and they found some Dusty Springfield songs for me. I liked them very much, and from that point, I start[ed] to listen to soul music—Aretha Franklin, James Brown, Sam & Dave, and some gospel singers which they were playing.
Playing in the Dandy Swingers, we were playing from early in the evening until 5 morning every day. And in between, we had one hour free, where an English band were playing. We switched over every hour with this English band. In that meantime, I was sitting upstairs in the discotheque, listening to all the American singers. I was so falling in love with that music, because the singing was so very much in the focus. It was so much from the deep of the heart, and I [had] never heard something like that before. So I was finding songs like that for me.
One day, I had a song for the band. I said, I want very much to sing this song tonight. They said, let us hear. And I had from my tape recorder a record called "River Deep, Mountain High." It was Ike & Tina Turner. I didn't know the name of this singer—I just found that it was so great, it was so full with energy and soul. I was playing it for the band, and they said, wow, but this song, we can't play that, we can't do it. And I said, why not? Then the leader of the band, he said, okay, we meet this afternoon five o'clock, and then we learn it, and then we play it tonight. And we did it. Nobody here had ever heard something like that. So it was very popular, and we [the Dandy Swingers] made a record with that, a single record, and it went right on the first place of the list [charts]. Of course, it was an opening for this band too, at that moment.
But at the same time, Savage Rose started up. Two of the musicians in Dandy Swingers, the bass and the guitar player, started to play with the two guys they had met, Thomas and Anders, and a jazz drummer. And every day they came to us and said, you should hear that band that's so great. They're making their own songs, they're making their own music. It's just like the Beatles started. They make [it] all themselves. I was wondering how they must sound like. They say to me, maybe one day you can come and listen. One day, they came to me and said, they want to have a singer with them. Maybe they can come and listen to you.
Then one evening, Thomas and Anders was coming to one of our evenings where we were playing in one of the clubs. They asked me if I would like to sing with them. I went to rehears[e] with them, and it was such a great experience, because I [had] never before had a song in my hand which [I] had not been singing before. So when they asked me to sing that song, I had never heard it before. He just sat down at the piano, and they started to play, and I was listening a little time to that. I started to sing this for the first time in my life.
That was funny. That was like, for the first time, you had that experience of yourself, your own thing, your own soul. You had your own style, you never heard it before, because you always had to imitate someone else. You always have another [singer] in your ears. But this time, you had only your own—your own soul, your own style, your own voice—and that was such fantastic feeling. I would never let it stop. I said to [myself], this must go on forever, because it's such a freedom just to sit there, and just to have your own soul, your own imagination of the song, what is in between the lines, what story to tell, how to tell it—it's all you, you can do that. From that day I knew, that's what I want.
This was something amazing for me to do, a new thing. So when they asked me to choose between Dandy Swingers and Savage Rose, I said I have to go with this new thing, because this is something to build on for me. To learn from [the] beginning what it is to create, with your own fantasy, what's inside you. I think for the two musicians of Dandy Swingers too, it was the same choice. They did it too, and after a month we were playing with the Savage Rose, and after half a year we were on the list [i.e. charts] with Savage Rose too. We went on with Savage Rose, because it was opening up something new in the life.
Was it difficult, singing in English with Savage Rose, although your first language is Danish?
It was like continuous, the language. I had been singing in English for all those years, except for my childhood and my very young period. It was English which dominated all the records here in the country. All the music you were hearing was dominated [by the] English language. The Danish was like an old-fashioned style, and hanging behind the new way of doing music. So you wanted to sing in English to be modern, to be updated. It was Danish was like, not folk songs, but it was old-fashioned singing, and you don't want to be [associated] with that style. So [all] young people, they were singing in English, and it was much more easier for me to sing than to speak, as well as it is now. It's much more difficult to speak English for me now, because I'm not using to speak[ing] English. But when I'm singing English, I'm used to that. So that's much easier. It's something strange for you to hear maybe, because you have your language, and that's the language where people there are doing the music in. But here it's like we have two languages—one you are singing in, and one you speak with.
But as Thomas told you, some years back, we did much singing too in Danish, because we found that something was missing there. Like people forgot their own language, like they were not taking care of it. You can do that in the singing too, in a modern way. You can use that too, and we wanted to tell people here to use their language too in that way, in the poetry and in the rock and roll and everything. And we tried to make this experience for about 12 or 14 years. It was fantastic for us to realize how much we got back from that language, when you use it in a new way. This is nice too. Now we are singing too in English again, and now we are using both.
At the time right now, we are making a new piece for theater. I wrote a story. Thomas is making the music, and I make the songs, and we're making it in Danish of course, because it's playing in Denmark. But we want to make it in English too, and maybe in French or something, so it can be used all over.
Thomas has already gone over the band's decision to retreat from the mainstream music business starting in the mid-1970s, and focus on live work, benefits, and political activities for much of the next 15 years or so. What was drawing you toward doing that?
Maybe we had a lot of experience in that time which many of the young Danish bands, and many other bands, maybe didn't have. Because we were fighting all the time to make music, and to make what we wanted, free and without any business...we were aware of the business, because we wanted to get the records out, and we wanted to play on the stage, and we wanted to make big concerts and travel all over. But we want to be free as well. We wanted to be [connected] to that big youth, where freedom was calling. And it was difficult to watch the businessmen telling us how to do and how to stay and how to talk and how to sing. And we didn't do any of it. We were always a little, maybe, difficult for them. Maybe that's why also we felt a little outside the road, on the side of the road, where many other bands just followed the trend and were happy to do that. Some of them, at least, were satisfied just to be on the road and to do the rock and roll and make people happy.
But we wanted something more. We wanted to combine it with the life and the style of the life we were living. That was much more difficult. Because on [the] road, you meet so many stories. You meet so many people and so [much] is happening in front of you. If you combine that with the music and the story you want to tell people when you're staying on the stage, it [has] to belong very strong together. When business comes into that—don't do that, just be happy, just do what people want to hear—we say, how do you know [what]people what want to hear? 'Cause people are so many, and you just want to pick up some of them. But we want to pick all of them up, because we found that people all over liked what we were doing.
But maybe the business people were a little afraid of the...you know, when you're telling the truth, you are suddenly a political one. They try to tell us that people don't want that. We found the opposite. We found out that if you told a story which has something to do with the living of most people, then most people would tell they want to hear your music and your songs, and they give you back what they got from you.
What were the most rewarding parts of that time, when you were playing in a lot of places where rock groups don't go, like refugee camps?
We found out that, because even when we were traveling [in] Lebanon and in the Palestinian camps, even [when] you're telling a story in your own language—they can feel what you are doing, and they are giving you back so much music, so many stories, and so much happiness, and so much will to life, and positive feelings that...that energy, you can't buy. You can't build it up in a way where you don't way to listen to them, don't want to see them, just slug it out, just to be happy. You had to get that energy yourself, to give the next people you meet that energy. To give it to all those people you want to play for. I mean, you're standing on the stage, you want to tell a story, you want to sing your soul out. But you have to have something in that soul to tell. And that's what we wanted to do, and nobody could stop us from that. Maybe we got a little outside the road, and the business people, they wanted to tell us which kind of rhythm we should play, and how you should look, and how to happy. And we said, we can't do it in that way. And if you want to do business out of this, you can do it, but we can't do it in that way you wanted.
So we told the business people, you have to find out how you want to sell this. We are doing our music and we are playing for the people. And if you can't find out how to sell it as a chicken from the supermarket, it's your fault. You have to find a new way to sell things. Maybe we were a little unpopular at that time in the business market, because they liked us in some ways. They found out that we had some power, and they found out that people wanted it. We could make, every year in the summertime, a festival in the big park, and there would be 100,000 people there listening. And they knew that. But they didn't know how to sell this (laughs). So they had a crisis. Maybe we were not millionaires at that time; we are not still. But we had a lot of experience which they never could take from us, and we had so much good will from people here. And the love which we got back, they couldn't sell. You can't buy that for money. We are not unsatisfied with what we have been doing until now, even [if] it cost the commercial side of life for some years.
Has anyone ever compared your singing to Kate Bush's? I hear some similarities.
I heard that about my daughter. She's a singer too, and I heard somebody mention Kate Bush about her. Maybe there's something there, 'cause I've been listening to a lot of singers, and a lot of music. So many different things I love. You put it all inside. You hide it in you, just as well as you have maybe 20 movies which you have enjoyed in your lifetime which you love and which you remember. You have got it, like, your mother milk, for living. The same [feeling]I have when I hear Aretha Franklin, Billie Holiday, and Bessie Smith, and James Brown, Sam & Dave, and a lot of other singers.
I know I can't sing like them. I have to do my own. I have to be aware of my own life. That's the life you're singing about, and that's your own life you have nearest to you. That's what gives you your power and the way of singing. When you're singing, it's like breath[ing] the air or language, you're in a language. Your language from inside. When you are singing, it's the same as laughing and crying and you are giving yourself to somebody. And you want to show them what's inside of you. It's your whole story you have. I hope that other people can use my story in their life as I have used other people's stories in my life.
What are you planning next?
This year , I have been writing
piece, like a drama. It is musical drama, but not a normal musical with
people stage-singing and like that. We are just making the first
evening of that the first of March, we have the premiere here.
we are going to play it every day in a month in a big theater here in
I'm on that show, I'm in that drama too, playing the big role. Of
course, I'm singing too. But it's quite a new experience for me,
that I could write a whole story for three or four hours. It's
really strange, because it's like one big song, four hours long.
But that's the latest news from here.
CLICK HERE FOR PART ONE OF THE SAVAGE ROSE INTERVIEWS, WITH THOMAS KOPPEL
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