Copenhagen Rising

Seeking artistic exploration and community spirit with Danish musician Emil Wilk
By Eoin Murray | Music | 30 May 2017
Photography Jonas Bang

M.I.L.K. Photo by Jonas Bang

Turn your ears towards Denmark, something is bubbling. The Scandinavian country may be more known for its design credentials than for its musical contributions, however a new wave of musicians are proving that Denmark as a hotbed of exciting new talent. Stretching a broad range of genres and sounds, COPENHAGEN RISING is our portfolio of those musicians standing at the vanguard of Denmark’s rising scene.

Reaching out for the pleasures of good company and artistic exploration, musician Emil Wilk wants little more than to venture across the world with friends, bringing the music they make to wider audiences.

And this is exactly what he does under his moniker M.I.L.K.. There’s no frantic rush for monetary gain or superstardom. Instead he thrives on the patience of chronicling the fantasies dreamt up in his head, as made clear on singles U and Me and the recently released When You Feel Good.

From a rural, unaffected upbringing on the Danish island of Bornholm, Wilk grew up in a landscape where life is less manic. With that, came an unabashed adoration for music that teenagers of the big cities would have turned their nose up at. Citing Curtis Mayfield as his most prominent influence, one can’t help but hear that same soulful sincerity in his new EP Memories of a Memory of a Postcard.

We caught up with the musician to learn what drives him and what he is looking forward to now his new EP is finished and on the shelves. The future looks to be shimmering.

Eoin Murray: Bornholm looks like a pretty spectacular place to grow up. Picturesque, idyllic. Do you think being brought up there has influenced your development as a person?
Emil Wilk: Bornholm is a fantastic place. But I actually hated living there while I was growing up. I was always more attracted to the idea of big city life. I always wanted the opposite of what Bornholm were offering me. We lived on a small farm in the middle of the woods with no neighbours or other possibilities of social life. It was just trees, sheep and my dog, Balder. My school was in a small town, with small-town mentality. I just always felt outside, of all of that, sort of isolated.

Looking back though I am grateful for that solitude. It played such a big part in shaping me and allowed me to discover my tastes and dreams on my own. There were no cool kids to tell us what to listen to or what to like. My taste in music was terrible, but it was and has always been my own. Today Bornholm is one of my favourite places to spend summers. It’s crazy beautiful and so calm. It’s coconut oil for the soul. 

“There’s lot of good stuff happening in Copenhagen right now. Personally I think it has to do with the dynamics that go beyond the music scene, it’s happening in all other fields of art in Copenhagen.”

M.I.L.K. photo by Jonas Bang

Eoin: Tell us about Copenhagen then, and the artistic, musical scene you got involved in once you moved there. It seems that the music community is particularly thriving. Why do you think that is?
Emil: That’s true. There’s lot of good stuff happening in Copenhagen right now. Personally I think it has to do with the dynamics that go beyond the music scene, it’s happening in all other fields of art in Copenhagen. I don’t really know what is causing this blossoming. Maybe it’s the realisation that stuff doesn’t necessarily become better if you fly half way around the world to find people to work with. I guess that’s when a scene really starts to flourish. It makes people look inward, both collectively and individually. 

Eoin: At face value, your music is very playful and joyous. But I sense that, lyrically, the songs on A Memory of a Memory of a Postcard display a sort of longing or a nostalgia for a summery past rather than a present.
Emil: The lyrical undertones are definitely coloured by memories and ideas of past days when things were simpler and more pure. But when you read into the songs, most of them are actually about future scenarios and scenes I long for that may come down the road. 

Eoin: You’ve spoken before about “the musical vision” of the M.I.L.K. project. Where do you want to see that vision take you? What is your dream for this project?
Emil: I dream about travelling the world with my friends and having the time to develop my craft as a songwriter and producer. That’s it.

Eoin: You’ve done a lot of visual work too with other artists like Liima and Blondage. The mini-documentary style of the Liima video was particularly excellent. What gave you the idea to create that project?
Emil: Making that film was absolute chaos. When Liima approached me and my directing partner Jonas Bang and asked us to make the music video the only thing they told us was that the song is built around an old horn sample from the opening ceremony of the Olympics in 1980, which was held in Moscow. We did some research and found that it was the year of the biggest Olympic boycott in history. More than 60 nations chose not to participate due to political reasons. In our view, this was completely bonkers because the Olympics, to us, is all about competing through sports instead of politics. 

We decided to do a documentary style video that explored the personal consequences that some of the athletes faced in that were robbed of the biggest moments of their careers. To tell the story we found the gold medal favourite from that year, Michael Wessing from West Germany. He’s a wonderful guy. Full of stories. But still to this day he is a bit broken up about the lost chance of winning an Olympic gold, all of because of some political shit he had nothing to do with.

“It’s so unsatisfying when everything ends up as little more than streams, links, blog posts and statistics. I just wanted to create something that was more than just mp3 files.”

Eoin: What should we expect in M.I.L.K.’s future, visually? I heard there will be art installations and several videos?
Emil: I’m doing various video installations at galleries and festivals this summer. I really felt a need to create something physical for the EP. It’s so unsatisfying when everything ends up as little more than streams, links, blog posts and statistics. I just wanted to create something that was more than just mp3 files. It will add a lot to the experience of the EP, I think.

My approach to songwriting has always been based on mental images that I try to nuance and capture sonically. In that sense all my songs are kind of a score for my memories. So since the songs started as visuals it only made sense to end up with something audiovisual, and not just stop when the songs where done.

M.I.L.K. photo by Jonas Bang

Eoin: Like we discussed earlier, now more than ever it seems that Copenhagan is an exciting place to be as a musician or any type of artist. Who are some other artists we should be keeping an eye out for?
August Rosenbaum, Vera, Blondage, Soleima, Silvester, School of x, Goss, Liss. There are so many local artists that I dig these days. I could go on for days about each of them.

Eoin: Have you got a big summer planned?
Emil: I’ll be out there for sure. Mostly in Europe I think and then I’ll venture out to South and North America next summer. That’s the plan anyway. Let’s see.

Follow M.I.L.K. on Facebook and Soundcloud.
M.I.L.K. – A Memory of a Memory of a Postcard EP is available to buy here.

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