KENNETH BAGER BIOG
“Danish DJ and dance entrepreneur Kenneth Bager is the original space cadet who singlehandedly introduced the Scandinavians to House music – and the Balearic scene – via his infamous Coma Club parties…”
Kenneth Bager is meant to be on holiday. He’s supposed to be having some time off to relax in Italy, but, as ever, Kenneth Bager’s got way too much going on to be taking it easy.
For one thing, his record label, the brilliant Music For Dreams – launched with EMI in 1999 and responsible for the astonishingly good self-titled compilation back in 2001 – is having huge success across Europe with a folk-singer called Aura (2.5m You Tube hits and counting). At home in Denmark Bager DJs for two hours every day on the country’s national radio station. Then there’s his clubnight, Coma, the first House music club in the whole of Scandinavia. This is a proper institution, a club that is as unique and as outrageous as any in the world. Coma is the sort of place where everyone is so dressed up, so into it, that if Lady Gaga herself were to turn up wearing little more than a few strips of Parma ham she’d barely turn a head.
Forget The Box or Manumission, Coma is serious, it’s hardcore. Their recent Zombies party had real animal entrails hanging from the ceiling. The last party had a Jane Fonda theme. Naturally, Bager had a huge statue of a penis constructed just for that night. At 1am the whole thing exploded with fireworks. And it’s been like that for 23 years. “The next party will be even bigger…” Bager promises.
You can also factor in the Coma and Flex labels that have had mammoth hits with artists as diverse as KLF, Moby and Whigfield, but it’s the interest in his own new record, to be released on Sony Music through Mike Pickering and Calvin Harris’s Deconstruction label in the UK, that is keeping him up all night right now.
The Grammy nominated Kenneth Bager Experience’s Sound Of… album is the musician, DJ and producer’s first record in years and it draws inspiration from all his loves, his passions, his obsessions even.
Recorded alongside a group of jazz musicians who add a freshness and a swing to the electronic base, Sound Of has elements of African music, Kraftwerk, dub, World music, folk, hip-hop and soul. Above anything else, it is, like so many of Bager’s Music For Dreams releases, an album to love as a whole, from the joyous, super-melodic rush of Naked Music, through Aloe Blacc’s appearance on the ragtime-soul of the first single. The Sound Of Swing, through the bliss-pop shuffle of The First Picture (with Julee Cruise) right up to the pulsing, ambient drift of Rabbits In Russia with its melancholic tug of Mames Babegenush’s Klezmer music.
In fact, Rabbits are something of an obsession for Bager: “White Rabbits are my favorite pets,” Bager says. “In almost everything I do the rabbit is part of the theme. In my stage show I often use white rabbit gloves, ears or even bums.”
Bager once wrote a play based on famous movie characters. The main character was “Charlie” Chaplin who would snort white powder out of white rabbits.
Last April Bager got the opportunity to show the industry what a truly original pop artist he really is. Invited – as a sort of surprise – to meet the collected European executives of his record label, Sony, Bager, as ever, decided to make the most of his opportunities.
Everywhere he went he was followed by two beautiful, and rather flexible, dancers wearing rabbit outfits. The “rabbit girls” spent their time dancing on tables, doing the splits and attempting to undress the executives. Kenneth was, as usually, wearing his hippie Mozart outfit. When he began playing his music he suddenly released 25 rabbits that ran around the office causing chaos and looking for a quiet corner where they could make love.
“It was my way of showing my love to the world,” Bager says. “I love these crazy events. I like to be spontaneous and just let the ideas come out.”
This sense of freedom extends to the songs and arrangements which were all prepared in advance then recorded in 4-5 hour bursts in the studio. “I record in the old Blue Note way,” Bager says. “Do the preparation then let the musicians bring something completely unexpected.”
Indeed, the band gelled so well in the studio they now go out and do it live. “So we play these wild shows with amazing solos!” he laughs.
Kenneth Bager began DJing in 1979. He lived in a small rural community called Hobro whose population, no doubt, thought this guy playing Bee Gees, Chic and James Brown records while wearing swimming trunks, lipstick and a wig was quite something.
“That was so long ago Pete Tong was still a jazz-funk DJ,” he smiles.
In 1982 Bager went to Ibiza for the first time, quite unaware of the island’s growing reputation among pre-acid house clubbers. One day Bager found himself having a drink at a quiet, recently opened beachside café. He watched the sun sink into the sea and listened to Brian Eno and Tangerine Dream and Jean Michelle Jarre. That was – and is - Café Del Mar.
“At that time San Antonio was full of dressed-up transvestites,” he says. “It was so outrageous. All this was on display in the streets, now you only see that in the clubs and the private parties. DJ Alfredo in Amnesia was just incredible – he would mix two or three different records and make a whole new one. I remember buying things he had played and wondering why they sounded so different!”
Inspired, Bager began to shift what he played and how he played it. By the summer of 1986 he was ready to open his own club, the infamous, Amok where a boxing ring took pride of place on the dancefloor and girls armed with eye-watering love-aids performed up makeshift towers. In the summer of ‘88 Bager returned to Ibiza and had his mind well and truly blown. Back in Denmark, he began Koma in August that year.
“Paul Oakenfold came and said it had the same vibe as Spectrum,” Bager says.
In 1990 Bager launched Coma records and had his own global hit, Kaos, as Dr Baker, while he carried on producing and signing big records to the label. A couple of years passed before Bager founded Flex with focused on the new Danish electronic scene, while the first Music For Dreams compilation appeared in 1995. Soon after came the first in the Ambient Ibiza series. Tracks drawn from Bager’s labels have sold 40m copies across all the compilation CDs they have appeared on. This story is really only just beginning.
“What I have is a good ear for digging through a big bunch of records and finding the one or two pieces that will stand the test of time,” Bager says. “From first hearing it might seem difficult, but somewhere in there is a combination of melody and groove and vocal. That’s the hook and that’s the bottom line of everything that’s on this record. It’s about melodies, that’s what it’s always been about for me.”