Lukas Graham’s singer on Growing Up In Denmark’s Anarchist Utopia

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If it looks like Lukas Graham came out of nowhere, it’s because the Danish pop group did it. Leader Lukas Forchhammer grew up in a small, difficult area of ​​Copenhagen called Christiania, founded by anarchist squatters and which has an estimated population of around 800. So, seeing the group’s eponymous album reach number three on the Billboard 200 and their single “7 Years” reached number two and made Forchhammer, in his own words, “that humble little boy”.

Forchhammer has already said Rolling stone how difficult it was growing up in Christiania, where he learned “how to make a Molotov cocktail before I knew how to make Long Island iced tea”. The police presence in Christiania was so pervasive that the singer remembers having punctured the tires of their trucks with spikes and throwing stones at the authorities. He has since learned to channel his frustration into his music with his band, which presents a much more joyful and emotional outlook. It is a change that he is experiencing in real time.

“Am I allowed to do this for a living?” ” he asks Rolling stone humbly. “I don’t know how to thank everyone who listens to our music. It’s so amazing to find my friends who resist conformism, because they are so happy that I did. I think I owe them to keep going and beat this.

How would you describe Christiania, where you grew up?
I would describe it as a utopian place to grow up if your parents live together and work regularly. There’s just that sense of community. Everyone knows everyone. Everyone helps everyone. You know the names of your friends’ parents.

“When the police arrested many cannabis dealers in my neighborhood, gangs in the city tried to take over. “

Is it a difficult neighborhood?
It is, in the sense that the police arrive, in riot gear, and fire tear gas everywhere. It’s a tough neighborhood in the sense that the government has always threatened to kick us out and shut it down. So there is a certain fear that manifests itself among the children of the neighborhood. And children express it as anger. They don’t know it’s fear until they get older. If we had recreational marijuana like the US states, then our neighborhood would be perfect.

What do you mean?
When the police arrested many drug dealers in my neighborhood, gangs in the city tried to take over. When you remove a powerful force, someone will try to fill that void. It made it quite difficult to grow up there.

How was school for you?
People treated me differently because I was from Christiania. The teachers blamed me for things because of where I was from. I started out as a very, very sweet, very sociable kid, but ended up being a pretty evil kid. Teachers, police, and parents of other children all treated me differently. My friends weren’t allowed to come to my house because of my neighborhood – despite my neighborhood having the least violence in the downtown area.

Growing up, you found a loophole in a boy’s choir. What effect has this had on your life?
I love singing very much. I think if I hadn’t been a good singer I would have been kicked out of school.

You said that Dr. Dre and rap had a big influence on your music. How? ‘Or’ What?
My biggest influence is rap. It spoke to me, probably because of my upbringing in Christiania. You listen The Chronicle and you can hear this anger and this frustration. Below the anger and frustration, for many ghetto children, there is fear: fear of eviction, fear of guns, fear of the police, fear of your neighbor. . I think that’s what we felt. We weren’t doing anything wrong, but the police were condescending to us.

So we found a connection hearing NWA, Dr. Dre, Eminem, Jay Z and all these other amazing lyricists because of anger. This is something you might spit on the police when you see them.

What would you say to the police?
I would just say “Fuck the police” like NWA

How did you come to write pop music?
I was writing rap when I was 12 and started writing songs when I was 20. I think I wrote my first song in the winter of 2008-2009, when I was in Buenos Aires. I wrote about my childhood and my boys at home. After that I spent a few months in Denmark and went to New York. And I went to Boston, where I met a group of folk musicians that my dad knew, and that’s when I knew I wanted to start a band.

How did the group come together?
All the guys in the band and the producers and songwriters – seven boys – went to the same high school. Some of us were in the same class; some were in other years. But neither of us knew each other when we went to school, but we knew who we all were.

Why did you want to write an autobiographical song like “7 Years”?
I’m not the typical songwriter, in the sense that I sit down and determine what I want to write a song about. I heard the piano and I just started to sing: “Once I was 7”. Then I started to write it. It’s not like I’m sitting down thinking, ‘Oh, I would like to tell this story’ and ‘I hope people leave with a certain feeling. “

Did you really smoke weed and drink when you were 11?
I think I was 12 years old. You just stole something from adults at a New Years party or something. We tried it at 12 years old. I didn’t start smoking until I was 18.

It still looks young.
I think trying these things early on gave me and the boys respect for it. It’s not like in America where you have a 27 year old who has only been drinking for six years and [isn’t] in control.

“Growing up in a neighborhood like Christiania, you don’t trust anyone. “

You sing about your father’s death in “7 Years”. When did it happen?
Three and a half years ago. He supported me a lot in my music. My parents never pushed me in any particular direction. I don’t think my dad really understood why I wanted to study law.

Why were you studying law?
Having grown up in a neighborhood like Christiania, you don’t trust anyone. So to beat the system, I felt like I needed to know the system. Now I’m in a position where I have a better recording deal than most of my peers.

You’ve had such a difficult life, yet a lot of your songs sound upbeat. Even “Funeral” sounds like a celebration. Why is that?
My family is Irish Catholic. When someone dies Irish Catholics have what’s called a vigil, and it’s because you’re partying so loud that you hope to wake the dead. Everyone brings food and drink. You have music and instruments, and you talk about the good things that the person has done for you. This is also why in “7 Years” I sing, “Remember life and then your life becomes better”. I cry over my deceased father – of course I do. I also cry over my dead friends, but not at the funeral. At the funeral, you stay strong. You celebrate life. You give the hell out of death.

Were you surprised by the success of the album?
Absolutely. We recently performed in Montreal, LA and Toronto, and everyone was singing along to the songs, and we’re just stunned. You think, “Wow. People on the other side of the planet are listening to our stuff. I find that very humiliating.


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