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Escape Velocity

The Guilty Conscience Of The Pseudo Orchestra: Klak Tik Interviewed
Sophie Parkes , June 22nd, 2010 08:47

The Quietus talks to multi-instrumentalist Søren Bonke of Klak Tik about their fantastic Must We Find A Winner album, and finds out why he feels guilty about his band's demanding sound

"It was a beautiful night," the beautifully named Søren Bonke states, without a hint of the new age nonchalance that so often comes hand in hand with musician interviewees being asked about their debut album launch.

And it sounds like it really rather was: a sell out crowd gathered together in a Victorian music hall to revel in the release of Must We Find A Winner and to listen to an eight piece’s delivery of the self-proclaimed 'pseudo orchestra'. "I expected nothing, I really didn’t. I know that the music we’re making is not to popular taste. I’m just happy if people listen to us once or twice," Bonke continues, honesty – and seemingly multi-instrumentalism – his forte. "All the intricacies and arrangements: it’s pretty demanding on the ear."

And it’s been pretty demanding for Bonke, too: turning often twenty-part arrangements into something that could be gigged by the more manageable ensemble.

"I started [Klak Tik] completely alone. I spent years just picking up lots of different instruments until I could play them, a kind of one-man-orchestra, and so I started to write, arrange and record in this way. But then I realised that I thought it’d be good to perform the songs live."

Bonke set about recruiting other musicians, among them the bassist from his previous band, 6 Day Riot - the band he co-founded with singer Tamara Schlesinger, until they realised they were pulling in very different directions.

"I wanted to do more orchestral, experimental stuff and 6 Day Riot wasn’t going that way. But it was amicable, and they’re doing incredibly well since I left. Tamara only lives five minutes away from me, so I see her regularly," he confirms. It was then Bonke took to his warehouse space, Padangle House, and conceived Must We Find A Winner.

"The whole album was created there. No vocal booths; so many instruments you can’t sit down. Nothing was added from anywhere else. It was all done just in front of this one laptop."

And was this a conscious decision, or one taken out of necessity?

"Well, I haven’t got thousands of pounds to spend on studio time. But though we didn’t record it live, it sounds so together because everything was done there. I like this about the sound."

And now the album is released and the arrangements undoubtedly pared down for live appearances, Klak Tik is venturing abroad for their first gig outside of the UK – to an old barn converted into a cinema in Bonke’s native Copenhagen.

"I haven’t played a gig at home for 10 years," he guffaws in disbelief, inevitably counting the years off on his fingers at the other end of the line. "I’m going to be under scrutiny when old friends come down to see us!"

Which is both strange and impressive, considering he never intended on moving to the UK in the first place.

"I didn’t want to come, but I was living in Germany with a girlfriend who got a job with Alexander McQueen over here so I came, too. You get in a band, you end up staying. And seven years down the line, I just love it."

Family will also be on hand to witness Klak Tik’s first continental show, though Søren’s younger brother, Adam, might be otherwise engaged having just been nominated for the Young Director’s Award at this year’s Cannes.

"It’s incredible, he’s only 25. He’s been nominated for a film he shot in Uganda, which I did the music for. He’s won so many awards!"

And it’s no revelation that Søren Bonke is a film buff, either – parts of Must We Find A Winner lend themselves to cinematography perfectly, helpless laid bare ambience. He’s currently writing and recording for a Stephen Irwin film, and a soundtrack to a Canadian director’s animation is also on the horizon.

"Composing for film is something I love doing, and will do until I die," he laughs, matter of fact. "I know that I’ll get tired of the touring life; being in a band is something you can’t do forever. But I can do the pseudo-orchestra thing, playing all the instruments."

Inevitably, this also means Bonke can indulge his experimental whims, more than he could in band format.

"Yes," he agrees, "we can be a little demanding at times. I feel guilty about it."

But for all his demands, Klak Tik seems to be doing pretty well at winning over audiences – even the most uncompromising. Klak Tik has seemingly been embraced by the British folk scene, invited to perform at the English Folk, Dance and Song Society headquarters, Cecil Sharp House in London, as part of the Folk Rising programme.

"I don’t identify myself as a folk musician and I don’t listen to traditional music at all. But I’d be happy to be accepted into the British alternative folk scene; the music fits and I love English folk festivals," Søren Bonke concludes.

"We were the odd ones out that day."

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