July 13, 2024

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Interview with Rune Robert Friis: … in a hectic everyday life, I easily lean towards intellect: Video, new CD cover, Photos

Interview with bassist Rune Robert Friis. An interview by email in writing. 

JB: – First, let’s start out with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music. How exactly did your adventure take off? When did you realize that this was a passion you could make a living out of?

Rune Robert Friis: – I was born and raised in a small provincial town in southern Denmark, in the Danish-German borderland called Haderslev. It is a picturesque and musical little town and a great community to be a part of. After spending a few years in Copenhagen, we have settled here with our own small family. I am very much a family person, which certainly comes from growing up in a loving home with a large family of 9 siblings.

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My family is not a musical family. None of my parents or anyone else in my immediate family plays an instrument. So, it was by no means expected that I would become a musician. However, I remember that we listened to a lot of music at home. Mostly Danish folk-rock, which I still have a special nostalgic love for to this day.

Nevertheless, I was captivated by music early on. For many years, it was as a listener rather than a practitioner. I could listen to music for hours. In the beginning, it was especially the lyrical dimension of music that caught my attention; later on, it became the rhythms, harmonies, melodies, and the texture as a whole. I still have a great passion for the lyrical dimension, which, in combination with all the other elements, can bring enormous depth to even the simplest words. That is one of the many almost magical things about music.

That I ended up becoming a musician is truly a gift, but also more or less a coincidence. It wasn’t until I was 13 years old that I began to play a bit of guitar. When my close friend David Poulin and his father Nils-Ole Poulin needed a bassist for their band, I became an apprentice blues bassist at the age of 15 and had the pleasure of playing many concerts before I learned to read my first musical note.

In many ways, I perceive my music career as an apprenticeship, one that in many ways seems to have just begun. Throughout the years, I have been blessed to play with many talented, creative, and generous musicians who have taught me a lot about music and being a creative person.

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An apprenticeship takes time. It certainly has for me. I have always written my own music, but it is only in recent years that I have felt completely ready to release music under my own name. In ’22, I released “Rune Robert Friis & Built For Comfort, Vol. 1,” and this year we are ready to release Volume 2 with 10 new tracks. Patience is truly a virtue, especially in my case.

JB: – How has your sound evolved over time? What have you been doing to find and develop your own sound?

RRF: – As an electric bass player, I’m not sure if my sound has changed all that much. I’ve always been drawn to a relatively dry and woody tone. My sound itself is quite old-school, akin to many of my bass idols, including Jerry Jemmott, Carl Radle, Charles Calmese, and many others. My musical and technical approach has evolved and continues to do so depending on inspiration and, most importantly, what the songs require.

In my roles as a composer, band leader, and producer, I’m hesitant to speak about my own development. I’m only just scratching the surface and am primarily focused on capturing my creative impulses and recording music that I find exciting. I can hear both similarities and differences between our first album and the new one, but I’ll leave it to our audience to determine the exact evolution.

JB: – Have you changed through the years? Any charges or overall evolution? And if so why?

RRF: – In August, I’ll turn forty. I can’t imagine anything other than having changed and likely continuing to do so. I certainly don’t feel like my 20-year-old self anymore, both body (unfortunately) and soul.

In reality, I believe that our new song “Keep Warm” encapsulates quite well my personal and musical development in recent years: “It is not true what they say. True love will forever change. And so we grow into the calm. For us to keep warm.” In my experience, change is an inevitable condition, but the better grounded we are within ourselves, the better we can embrace and grow within those changes. At least, that’s been my experience over the past few years, so we’ll see if it holds true.

JB: – How do you prepare for your recordings and performances to help you maintain both spiritual and musical stamina?

RRF: – It’s a big question with many answers, most of which might be more practical in nature. It all starts with the feeling of having something to express. This “something” then needs to be distilled into songs that I feel are worthy of seeing the light of day.

For me, the band is incredibly important. I love our band “Built For Comfort,” and the album is very much the result of our collective chemistry, where I feel 2 + 2 equals 5.

Improvisation, or perhaps more accurately, “the moment,” is one of the main ingredients in my approach to our music. This applies both to recording and live performances. As both a composer and a bassist, it drives me to co-create exciting spaces where skilled musicians can express themselves creatively, to the joy of us all. Letting go of control, or rather seeking to the moment, is therefore a significant part of my preparation.

JB: – What do you love most about your new album 2024: Rune Robert Friis – Built For Comfort, Vol. 2, how it was formed and what you are working on today.

RRF: – There are many things that I am both satisfied with and proud of regarding Volume 2. First and foremost, I am simply grateful for all the talented friends who have helped me bring my songs to life. It’s nothing short of amazing to experience each musician opening up various corners and crevices within the songs. This also means that Volume 2, like its predecessor, is a relatively versatile album that explores a wide range of musical styles. The common denominator, however, is a foundation rooted in the widely branched roots of blues music.

Last but not least, I am pleased that Volume 2 is thematically cohesive. Overall, this album is both a celebration of a slower, liberated, and creative human life, as well as a reflection on the rushed and superficial existence many of us experience these days. In essence, the album is a musical collection of blue-toned post-it notes reflecting on our existential circumstances in an increasingly accelerated world.

At the moment, I am working on completing the music for a small EP, which is inspired by Carla Andersen-Jensens, who was the only Dane to survive the sinking of the Titanic.

Buy from here – New CD 2024

Amazon.com: Built for Comfort, Vol. 1 : Rune Robert Friis: Digital Music

JB: – How did you select the musicians who play on the album?

RRF: – A question where the answer largely depends on the context. However, what is common is that everyone has been able to hear themselves in Built For Comfort’s universe. The musical core consists of Kristian Hoff on drums, Jesper Heinz on guitar, and last but not least, vocalist Sarah Jana Westphal, who is the primary vocalist on Volume 2. This core also forms the basis of the live version of Built For Comfort, where we are often accompanied by talented soloists.

In total, there are 14 musicians contributing to the album, including my old mentor Nils-Ole Poulin on vocals, the Swedish guitar and keyed fiddle virtuoso Perry Stenbäck, and my good friend and mentor, the outstanding guitarist Kenn Lending. The choice of which tracks each of them has contributed to was decided in agreement with each participant, based on what creatively made sense to us. Like its predecessor, the album is thus very much a result of collaboration.

JB: – What sort of feedback did you receive after it was released from musicians or your friends and family?

RRF: – The album will be released on August 10th, so there are currently very few who have heard it. Among the few comments I’ve received, though, I’ve noticed that several have highlighted the somewhat more positive and happier expression that characterizes much of this second album. I find that interesting.

Of course, I am very excited to hear what the audience discovers in our new music and hope they find both joy and “Comfort” in listening to it. Additionally, it is my hope that people will be inspired to invite us to perform live, as I love playing live.

JB: – Can you share any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions over the years?

RRF: – I collect good memories, and music always delivers in that regard. During the recording of Volume 2, there have been several memorable moments, one of which even made it onto the album. The track “Gin Gin Mule” is inspired by the drink of the same name and is a modest tribute to taking a day off and instead drinking it away on a sunny terrace. To ensure the right atmosphere, we started our studio session by drinking Gin Gin Mules. At 9:00 in the morning, mind you – it must be 12 o’clock somewhere, right? (see attached photo for reference). Afterward, with our drinks in hand, we went in and recorded a couple of takes of the song, ultimately choosing the first one. On the album, you can hear Sarah both sipping and stirring her Gin Gin Mule while passionately singing about its significance – it’s very authentic.

JB: – In your opinion, what’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?

RRF: – If only I knew the answer. I have no doubt that there is a balance between intellect and soul. I am also very aware that in a hectic everyday life, I easily lean towards intellect – in many ways, this realization is what the songs on Volume 2 revolve around in various ways. But well, I haven’t gotten any further than that, yet.

JB: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; are you okay with delivering people the emotion they long for?

RRF: – I actually think it’s simple, but I’m probably wrong. It’s rarely simple. Regardless, I see it as my responsibility to strive to offer the most honest and authentic music I can, and then it’s up to the audience to feel if they can connect with it.

JB: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of standard tunes are half a century old?

RRF: – I am by no means an expert, neither in jazz nor in youth culture. I don’t think the age of most standard tunes is the barrier. I actually believe a good melody is timeless. My guess is that jazz’s biggest challenge is that the slow and repetitive practice needed to achieve a special presence in the moment, fostering musical creativity and spontaneity, doesn’t match the restless presence that characterizes our accelerating era.

JB: – John Coltrane once said that music was his spirit. How do you perceive the spirit and the meaning of life?

RRF: – The meaning of life. It’s a big question. Perhaps one of those questions that’s more important to ask than to find an answer to? I have certainly wrestled with it many times, including in my music. My ballad “Truth Don’t Rhyme,” from Volume 1, is in many ways a partial conclusion to that question. Personally, I can relate to Coltrane in the sense that music is one of the fundamental elements driving my being in the world. On the other hand, it’s not the only thing; my family, my close friends, and art in all its forms, colors, and sounds are equally important in driving me.

JB: – If you could change one single thing in the musical world and that would become reality, what would that be?

RRF: – That the average skilled musician was paid a fair fee for their music, so that more would have decent living conditions and thus better opportunities to contribute to expanding and challenging our musical world.

JB: – Whom do you find yourself listening to these days?

RRF: – Recently, I’ve been listening to various classic New Orleans soul albums such as Dr. John’s “In The Right Place,” Lee Dorsey’s “Yes We Can,” and Johnny Vidacovich’s “Mystery Street.” Our guitarist, Jesper Heinz, also introduced me to Julian Lage’s “Nothing Happens Here,” which I find truly remarkable.

JB: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine: where and why would you really want to go?

RRF: – Oh, there are so many places I would have loved to be. It has to be October 10, 1968, at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco for a concert with The Jimi Hendrix Experience.

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JB: – What is the message you choose to bring through your music?

RRF: – I don’t have one specific message with my music, and I’m not sure I ever will. My messages are many and often unrelated, as far as I know, “Truth Don’t Rhyme.”

JB: – Do You like our questions? So far, it’s been me asking you questions, now may I have a question from yourself…

RRF: – Okay, it might be a bit nerdy, but I think it’s an interesting question. What impact does a venue’s aesthetics have on your overall concert experience?

JB: – Of great importance, everything must be proper to have a quality concert.

JB: – Have you ever given a free concert during your entire concert career? At the bottom line, what are your expectations from our interview?

RRF: – I have given quite a few free concerts and still do occasionally, for example, if it’s in support of a good cause.

I think it has been both fun and different interview. My hope for this interview is that the reader is inspired to listen to my music and see if it resonates with them. Nothing more, nothing less.

JB: – Is there anything that we didn’t talk about that you’d like to discuss?

RRF: – No, not at this moment.

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Interview by  Elléa Beauchêne

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