August 03 2016

Kenneth Bager's Sweet Dreams

New York-Le Bain
We chat with the label Music For Dreams' honcho, Danish super producer and DJ Kenneth Bager, before he plays Le Bain's rooftop at sunset on Sunday, August 28th.
LE BAIN: There is such a special laid back atmosphere in Copenhagen during the summer. What's your favorite memory of that time of the year?
KENNETH BAGER: I used to DJ at a harbor beach bar called Luftkastellet (meaning "air castle") and organize a weekly event there called The Social Club. The idea was to bring in a celebrity or a very strong personality who would host the evening and curate the menu with one favorite dish. People would come and see that special guest in the kitchen cooking with the local chefs and later playing her/his favorite records. The music was transmitted to small radios in lounges that looked like apartments where you could see the guest DJ on your TV. I remember Helena Christensen playing a very dark and melancholy DJ set. I compiled six compilations called Luftkastellet that are full of timeless music and mixes from those parties. 
"Too Much" by Hong Kong Syndicat feat. Frankie 
(Music For Dreams)

You've made that concept even bigger with your Apple Flower Festival.

Danish chef and founder of new Nordic cuisine, Claus Meyer—the man who started the world's best restaurant, Noma, and has just opened Agern in Grand Central Station—came to one of my Coma Club parties. Coma Club is the longest-running party in Danish history, having started in 1988! People are invited to use their imaginations and dress up really special. Claus loved the free spirit of the party and approached me five years ago, as he wanted to start a festival on a very tiny Island called Lille Ø (meaning "small island"). There are only seven people living there. The festival is every year in May when we celebrate the blossoming of the apple trees. Claus curates the food and invites chefs from around the world, and I take care of the DJs and artists. 

What’s the secret to combining food and music?
We trust each other's tastes. I like quality food, but I don't know how you make it. The same goes for Claus; he likes great music and feels and understands it when great DJs and artists perform. We literally don't have any budget, it is a non-profit event, but people love to participate and give something to other people—a bit like Burning Man but just very different and on a much smaller scale. We have a lot of volunteers and we would never be able to make the festival happen without them. 
The Standard
"Feel like a kid in a candy store. Be open-minded. Have fun."
There is this great photo of you shot in Ibiza in 1987 wearing Keith Haring trousers just before going out to Amnesia. People in New York look back at the ’80s downtown scene with nostalgia, but we should have the same nostalgia for Ibiza at the time.
I think the '80s were incredible in many ways due to the exciting breed of new artists. The New Romantic movement brought colorful bands like Duran Duran, Human League, Japan, and Culture Club, and the NYC scene supplied Talking Heads, Tom Tom Club, and fantastic rap records by Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five. And the clubs! Area, Limelight, Danceteria...

I went to NYC for the first time in ’87 and bought my trousers in Keith Haring's shop. As a tourist, I thought it was a pretty wild shop with paintings on the ceiling and everywhere. I just loved the looks of the trousers. I remember buying them, but it was not until many years later that I realized what an amazing artist he was and that I actually met him in his shop. 
Kenneth Bager (left) in Ibiza, 1987

Kenneth Bager (left) in Ibiza, 1987

What about the '80s in Ibiza?
I went to Ibiza for the first time in ’82 and have been visiting the island every summer ever since, having missed only two seasons. 1987 was a special year—it was the big breakthrough for Ibiza as a cultural phenomenon and an international holiday destination. I remember dressing up with a friend to go to the open air club Amnesia. It was madness on Earth; so many international and colorful guests on the dance floor were creating an eclectic atmosphere. I still remember the DJs Alfredo and Leo Mas mixing records every two minutes and creating their own versions mixing the instrumental into the vocal or dub mix. I have memories of a lady in her mid-thirties lifting her skirt and flashing her lower regions to me. The next thing I saw was she dragged a person on the dance floor, lifted the skirt, sat on top of his face, and moved her hips to the music. After this, I went back to Denmark and did a dress up party. That's how the Coma Club started, the following year, in 1988.

How did you translate "Balearic" to Danish?
For me, the term means an anything goes music policy—and I always try to play a mixed DJ set with many styles of music like a sort of best-of-the-best of many genres...and to drop unexpected things.

"Sunshine Stereo" by The Kenneth Bager Experience feat. Damon C. Scott

Tell us about the Kenneth Bager Experience and the way you create music as a collective.
I love to create new music. I produced the first Danish 12-inch in 1982 and I guess I have never looked back since. I am happy and fortunate to have worked with some incredible artists, such as Aloe Blacc, Julie Cruise, the electric violin player Jean-Luc Ponty, and the actress Sofie Gråbøl (from the Danish Cult TV series “The Killing”). I have made three solo albums as The Kenneth Bager Experience. My approach to music? You need to feel feel like you are in the creative room of Disney; you have no boundaries. You have to feel like a child and then anything can happen. Feel like a kid in a candy store. Be open-minded. Have fun. And Enjoy. The Kenneth Bager Experience has played live and been on tour, a ten people party band with a kind of Kid Creole vibe to it. Partyyy! 

Are you in Ibiza right now? What do you miss the most from the big cities?
I have been on the White Isle for most of the summer playing in many different places, like the bigger clubs Space and Pacha, and some beach bars such as Sa Trinxa, Babylon Beach, and Jockey Club. (I made a sunset compilation with Jockey Club). We've been hosting our own events, the Music For Dreams parties, at the Hippie Market in Las Dalias. The highlight has to be our own parties due to the mad crowd response and their openness to music in many styles. I also love swimming and dining with family and friends, as well as introducing my son, bonus daughter, and chef Claus Meyer to the clubs of the island. There is not much I miss from the big cities, but I am very much looking forward to playing in New York! 

On Sunday, August 28th, Le Bain presents Été d'Amour Sunset
with Kenneth Bager (Music For Dreams | Copenhagen)
5pm-11pm (Doors open at 2pm) | The Standard, High Line