Payin' Dues: Thorbjørn Risager

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2014’s Too Many Roads introduced Denmark’s Thorbjørn Risager & The Black Tornado’s soulful blues sound. This year sees them join the rich canon of acts who have contributed to the Ruf label’s Songs From The Road CD and DVD series. “We were proud to be a part of it, and to be in such great company as Luther Allison, Canned Heat and Royal Southern Brotherhood,” Risager says. “It was a real luxury to play with a full horn section and have the Tornadettes on backing vocals.”

Ruf is a great modern blues label.
We were on a small Danish label and we wanted to see if we could get some international attention by switching to a bigger label. Ruf seemed the obvious choice. It’s taken the band to another level.

How is the blues scene in Copenhagen?
We have a legendary blues club called The Mojo Blues Bar, which has live blues every night. Right now Copenhagen Blues Festival is happening and I’ve played two shows at this festival at another great venue called Amager Bio. And yesterday I participated in a BB King Memorial concert which attracted 800 people.

Stevie Ray Vaughan really blew me away

How did you discover the blues?
At my neighbour’s house where I spent a lot of time growing up. Fats Domino and Muddy Waters were always on the radio and at nine, 10, I took a big interest in this music, and I remember I bought myself a cassette recorder so I could copy those records. So while my friends were listening to Duran Duran and Wham!, I was deeply into Fats Domino and Elvis Presley. Then at music school in the ninth grade, somebody introduced me to Stevie Ray Vaughan, who really blew me away. Later, in high school, I began to play and sing the blues in different bands, covering Stevie Ray, Eric Clapton and ZZ Top.

What was the first blues record you bought?
I believe it was a double album by Eric Clapton called Backtrackin’, which I bought when I was 16 from a shop in Roskilde. I loved that album and covered a lot of the songs on it during high school.

Why release a live album and DVD?
We didn’t have a DVD so we thought it would be a good thing to have in our merch shop, and something our audience would appreciate. It’s a great thing to have a release as often as possible to keep the whole machinery going and to get media attention, so doing a live recording means we’re able to have a release, even though we don’t have any new songs.

Songs From The Road is out now via Ruf