Rune Rask has been a pioneer of Danish Hip Hop for more than 20 years. He is constantly exploring and pushing the boundaries of mainstream and modern soundscapes to replace and change the perception of the new normal.
With no less than 8 Grammy wins in Denmark, 2 US Grammy nominations and countless platinum certifications, the critically acclaimed hit producer has proved his name on an international scale working directly with artists like Kendrick Lamar, Schoolboy q, Lukas Graham, Akon, Tech N9ne and many more.
In his home country, Rune Rask has triumphed for more than two decades as producer and member of the iconic rap group Suspekt. Performing all major stages throughout the years as an absolute headline act and manifesting their importance in the Danish music landscape each time releasing new music. When releasing his first album ‘Rune Rask’ last year, the multi-talented producer took a chance. Creating his own space and not least inviting everyone into to a massive playground build of music. A journey which is far from done yet and will continue in start 2023, when Rune Rask will be releasing his second album; ‘Face Yourself’…
Great to meet you Rune Rask! Let’s start off with a sense of your background. Where are you from and how did you get involved in music?
Thank you for having me.
My father was skilled at all kinds of instruments and my grandfather travelled in Scandinavia with the circus performing various musical acts with his girlfriends.
I was born and raised in the suburbs of Copenhagen, Denmark. I grew up in Albertslund, a working-class town faced with many challenges as it was a new town built to house people that worked in the city and was a destination for immigrants.
Nobody seemed to know how to handle anything, and as kids, we were often left to solve difficulties in life by ourselves, which led to a lot of juvenile conflict.
I was not much of a fighter, so I searched for a safe space where I could determine the rules of life myself. Music saved me from the alpha dogs and also helped me daydream about making it onto the MTV channel that was constantly flickering in the hash club I spent most of my time hanging out.
One day my father came home from work with a computer he had borrowed. I managed to save up some money for a sound card to record music on it while working as a sweeper at the local distribution centre for gossip, press and porn magazines.
I found that making beats felt right and decided it was something I wanted to do for a living. My parents wanted me to finish school, but there was no turning back at that point.
I started working full time on different jobs so I could save up money to buy a real Akai sampler, sequencer and mixer.
I started my band Suspekt and moved to the capital Copenhagen, renting a small 60 sq ft studio where I slept on the floor under the console. To this day I still sleep on the floor when I’m home. It reminds me of the mentality that kept me going during that time, “keep pushing the music, then someday you can afford a house and a bed”.
Who inspires you?
Most of my inspiration comes from all kinds of music, but also just being with my friends drives me. I like to start a musical challenge and see how it changes the vibe in the room. You can tell from the eyes if people are up for the quest- if not then I just start a new track. They shall not pass without music haha.
How has your hip hop background influenced your involvement in electronic music?
I have always loved almost every kind of genre, but electronic music has a very special place in my heart. I have lived through the changing times when the sampler became affordable for young kids with new ideas about music and have seen how electronic music can mix all sorts of cultures. The Prodigy showed the world how to work a sampler and DJ Shadow set the bar on the highest level with his first album using a minimum amount of equipment.
What’s the story behind the album title ‘Face Yourself’?
At the start of the summer of 2021 I got really sick with dizziness – I could barely stand up without falling. It was in the middle of a big summer tour and in the music business the philosophy is no day off. No show no gold and we had just started making money again after the pandemic.
So I managed to perform during the season but on weekdays I just rested on my back at home staring at the ceiling. Then all the thoughts about “is this thing going to pass or am I gonna go insane with no musical future” really kicked in even harder.
I tried to hit the studio, but no music happened for me and I did not have the mental capacity to do anything.
That was the time I was facing myself. Thinking about life.
After 3 months of frustration, I picked up some chords. I suddenly remembered something I had written on Christmas morning in 2019. I forced myself to write a track and finished from my bedside. I instantly named it “FACE YOURSELF”. Then I slowly got the ball rolling, started new tracks and finished old ideas. I got the love for my life back with music.
The album will be accompanied by a music video for the single Plavalunga featuring one of Dua Lipa’s backup dancers- tell us how that came about!
Lately I have been watching videos of people dancing on YouTube, all kinds of dance but especially traditional folk dance from different cultures wearing national dresses have caught my attention.
It is beautiful on so many levels when you really think about it. I told Eva Kruse, my SoMe manager about my newly found passion for dance videos and she told me about Didde-Mie.
Then I was like, can we please ask if she would like to dance to my music, just anything that comes to mind, even a freestyle?
She said yes and I’m really happy she did. Didde has really been giving life to the track – now I can’t hear Plavalaguna without thinking of her dancing.
Martin Skovbjerg, who directed the video, is a great friend of mine. He had just finished up his new film Copenhagen Does Not Exist with Jacob Møller, who is one of the greatest DOP in the world. They filmed the “Back And Forth” video in the morning, then we had lunch and then they filmed “Plavalaguna” after. It’s magic to watch them work.
You’ve mentioned that your musical process ‘soundtracks’ other people’s lives, including your own. Who are 3 musicians you’d want to soundtrack your life and why?
Daft Punk, they are the catalyst for life. Their music can make a bad day good, and a good day absolute.
Henry Mancini has the film strings. His arrangements are just incredible and to the point where only he could tell you where to go. Please lead me forward Mancini.
Johann Sebastian Bach, his arpeggios are without comparison just the thing you need in your life. I would love to see him switch his organ for a Moog.
Every song ever made < Toccata.
Your upcoming album represents a new musical direction – what made you decide to transition from hip hop to electronic music?
I always strive to evolve and challenge my own perspective of what music is all about. It comes down to having fun when in the process.
You’ve built an incredibly successful career as ⅓ of the band ‘Suspekt’ – can you tell us a little bit about the difference between working solo and in a group?
Being in a band I sort of labelled myself as the guy in the back not saying too much, so the challenge is to speak up and catch attention as a solo artist when you are used to shutting up and waving.
When I started recording my first solo album in 2020 I thought to myself, it’s no big deal- just flip a switch and we’ve got music. But I soon realised that something was missing. It was vocals of course – with so many years of making beats and leaving room for somebody to say something I wasn’t used to that aspect of it.
On the first album I didn’t want any vocals disturbing the track out of respect for my band.
My main music writing partner Olle Häggberg and I did string arrangements to tell stories over the beats. That was really the most challenging part – real strings are hard to mix, it’s like baptising a cat.
I think we managed pretty well after all. Sadly Olle left life this winter. I miss him deeply and it makes me both happy and sad to listen to the music we did together.
You’ve also been labelled the Danish Rick Ruben – can you walk us through your production and creative process when creating a track?
Rick Rubin is one of my big heroes. I first noticed his name on different album covers (LL.Cool J, Beastie Boys, Slayer) when I was just a young kid and couldn’t understand why his name would feature alongside such vastly different bands. I realised that they all shared the same thing: raw talent and massive sound. That shaped my understanding of what a record is.
My mentality when entering the studio on a daily basis is let’s see what comes out of nothing today.I have absolutely no expectations at all. I just want to go with the flow as it is all about creativity. I know my way around but please don’t ask for complicated stuff as it will kill the zone we are in.
When it comes to mixing it’s a different matter because you have to take into consideration the fact that the record must capture attention to the shitty sound systems most people have.
In the old days, it had to sound good on the middle tone speaker (like on a clock radio). Now it’s a subwoofer with a tweeter. So you have to be both conservative and fresh.
What are you looking forward to the most in 2023?
On September 15th I will perform with my band Suspekt at Denmark’s biggest venue, Parken National Stadium (47,000 capacity) which is considered the final boss of stages in Denmark. So that will of course take up time to prepare.
I have written and produced a lot of tracks with my new best friend Ashibah who mostly resides in São Paulo – Brazil. She has already taught me a lot about arrangements for the dance floor. Release dates are coming soon.
I’m also planning to spend more time in Los Angeles recording with all sorts of artists. Who knows what will spin off that? For me, it’s all about changing my perspective and maybe pushing the other artist along the borders of creativity.
That’s how I make new friends.