Matt Bonanno interviews Danish guitarist and bringer of Maltese bands to Copenhagen, Jespr Ejrup.
I first interviewed Jesper Ejrup a couple of months ago when he came to play a concert at the Black Pearl. While he was strumming a battered acoustic guitar in the spring sunshine in Nick Morales’ (singer and guitarist for Nosnow/noalps) backyard, we talked about the ins and outs of the local music scene.
Jesper is probably best known in Malta as the super-charged Danish guy who takes promising local bands to play in Copenhagen. He has been playing music himself since he was 9 years old when he was taken out of normal school because he couldn’t fit in. “I was too loud and too hyperactive. I was taken out of that school and admitted to another school that helps you ?calm yourself’ when you’re not fitting in.
There I was helped by a guy who listened to my problems. He also played guitar and I thought ?wow, this is amazing, I want to play guitar too.’ After that, I learned music theory and all that. My solo career is only about two years old. Before that, I was a guitarist for several artists and other people’s bands in Denmark.
If you really love listening to quality music and you have free time, then we strongly suggest that you listen to Jesper. His music is very unique, if you have ever seen or been on one of his gigs, then you will know exactly what we are talking about. One of the best things about his performance is his guitar skill that cannot be compared to anyone else. Over the many years, he has been a musician, he has adapted and developed a completely different side of guitar playing. If you want to know what we are talking about, then you simply must see him performing live.
Other than Jesper, Malta has a lot of other very talented musicians, some of them never get famous even if they are really good. The reason for that is because they don’t have that key thing that is required for success in the music industry.
So, what first brought him to Malta? “Well I met Nick Morales, who was in Denmark to network, and we instantly made a connection. We both wanted to go out and play music all the time. And then he brought me over here to play with my band in the Nadur Carnival. After that Nicky came to Copenhagen with his band and we had such a great time. Since then he’s brought several bands to Denmark, like Red Electrick and Cable 35.”
As a foreign musician who has been coming to Malta for the past seven years to help local bands, as well as play his own music, Jesper is in a unique position to see how the Maltese music business has changed over time. I ask him what difficulties he thinks Maltese bands face. “I think the thing with Maltese bands is that at a certain point they feel that they have hit a roof, that they have nowhere else they can go. Also, musicians don’t get paid here, which is like 100 years back in time. It’s funny but it’s also crazy. You can be number 1 on the charts several times, but still, have to have another job. I hope it changes in the future.”
He continues, “Another thing is that in Malta many clubs and bars act like they’re doing you a favor by letting you play at their venues. Of course, this doesn’t apply to everyone. We had a gig at Gochi’s in Paceville and they treated us like royalty. Rookies is another bar that is really helping the local music scene.”
It’s not all doom and gloom though. “A really good thing over here is the support which people give to bands, and also the help that bands give to each other. That’s really something to be proud of.” He also believes that the quality of the recording is on a par with other, bigger countries.
There is one thing that he doesn’t like about Maltese bands, however. “Maltese bands aren’t very punctual. I know it’s a cultural thing but when we’re meant to meet at 5 and people show up half an hour later, I just think that I could have been playing guitar instead of waiting around!”
Jesper also thinks that Maltese bands play too many covers. “I don’t like it when bands play too many covers and even covers of covers. It’s important to have your own style. I look for originality, both in terms of music and image. Music is a professional business after all.
Jesper’s own music, which he plays while almost constantly bouncing up and down live onstage (“I have 100% craziness in my head”, he tells me), is a mix of pop, R’n’B and blues. As a fellow lover of the blues, I ask him how he came to discover the genre. “Well one day the guy who I mentioned who was helping me with my problems started playing Clapton’s Tears in Heaven, and I was hooked. Then he got me into Jimi Hendrix. By the time I was 10 I was already listening to BB King, Stevie Ray Vaughan and so on. It’s the best style ever. For me playing blues is a part of my soul. I also believe a song needs a good catchy hook. I’m a pop dude playing blues.”
The phrase ’love affair’ comes to mind describing Jesper’s feelings towards Malta. “I feel lucky and privileged that I can come here to enjoy the sun and play good music.”
Jesper will be playing live at V-Gen in Paceville on July 13th .