For Danish musician Mikkel Hess, the most exciting thing about music is the very act of sharing it. It makes sense then that Hess’ act has evolved over time from a solo project into Hess Is More — a full-blown transatlantic musical ensemble fusing jazz and classical influences into danceable tunes that thrill crowds from New York to Copenhagen.
This Saturday, Hess Is More will be once again thrilling crowds at Nublu in the East Village. Ahead of the concert, #DenmarkInNY caught up with frontman Mikkel Hess about where he finds inspiration and how music drives him to succeed.
DKNY: Can you tell me a bit about yourself and how ’Hess is More’ was born?
MH: I grew up in a musical family in Denmark with two older brothers Emil & Nikolaj who are now also musicians. Fortunately, neither of them had been smart enough to pick drums as main instrument, so that was an obvious choice for me. Best instrument by far! Our mother Em was always a proud minimalist, so the band name Hess Is More naturally pays homage to her (as well as Mies van der Rohe who coined the phrase “Less Is More”).
We first used the name Hess Is More in connection with my graduation from the Conservatory in Copenhagen in 2003 and since then we have released seven albums under that banner. Hess Is More has always been a very spacious project, carried by many collaborations and influences — maximalist by nature — perhaps therefore aiming for a more minimalistic expression.
DKNY: How would you describe your music?
MH: Time for a disclaimer here: “We only play dance music”. That being said, you will find clear traces of jazz, classical and electronic music. As my late teacher, the great Ed Thigpen, used to remind me: “There are two kinds of music — good music and bad music”. Hess Is More functions as the party band at the museum — or the art house band at the rock festival.
DKNY: What inspires you when creating music?
MH: Much of the music I write is informed by live music experiences shared with other musicians.
By the end of the day, the most exciting thing about music is probably sharing it — in listening, in playing with other musicians, and in exchanging with audiences. That’s when the music fully comes to life.
DKNY: This Saturday, ‘Hess is More’ is playing in New York City. What kind of experience can people expect?
MH: The stage will be in the middle of the room so the audience can see and hear the band 360 degrees. We will be in a transatlantic 8-piece ensemble formation and for me it is truly an honor and a pleasure to share music with these brilliant musicians. We love playing together and hopefully this energy will translate to the audience. It’s a collaborative ceremony of sorts — celebrating the experience of sharing music.
DKNY: ‘Hess is More’ has evolved from a solo project into a full blown Transatlantic music ensemble. Where do you see the project/band in 10 years?
MH: For a second, the idea of a symphony orchestra popped into my head as a natural expansion. But actually that’s not what I dream off (even though a symphony orchestra is of course the ultimate band). I imagine we will keep exploring the interplay and communication that can live so intensely in the relatively smaller formats. Music strictly composed and produced with room for the individual expression of each musician.
See all Hess is More’s concert dates here: https://bit.ly/2HqPxNg