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For Terkel Atsushi Røjle Christensen, aka Atusji, the process of defining the music he makes is ongoing, but rather than viewing it a cause for concern, it’s something he takes in his stride; a sign of rude creative health. – The Japanese-Danish indie singer songwriter, musician, and producer has been making music for most of his life. Residing in the sprawling neighbourhood of Copenhagen’s Østerbro, Terkel speaks to Clash from his studio in Vanløse, a district of the Danish capital, where he spends a lot of his time recording, playing, and writing.

“I often find that it’s hard to pinpoint who I take inspiration from,” he begins. “I believe that the starting point of this project was that I had been doing a range of different things. Prior to that I had no idea that I would become a singer songwriter, as it’s a term that can mean a lot different things to different people, but I soon realised that I wanted to refer to myself in that way.”

While the songwriter’s work offers musical complexity, early attempts at balancing the cultural aspects of Danish and Japanese culture led to challenges of a different kind. Born in Japan, where he spent a large part of his childhood before moving to Denmark, he soon attended Japanese schools in Denmark. It was not an easy time, it represents a difficult period in his life, a point where he never felt quite right nor did he feel at complete ease.

Attending piano lessons didn’t make him tick, despite being music related. He didn’t practice, and it got him into trouble. “I was completely hopeless,” he admits. “I couldn’t be bothered doing anything. My parents continued to pay for piano lessons, I went along, but I didn’t practice, it was a waste of money. Looking back, it was disrespectful, I was young though.”

Things took a drastic turn in the opposite direction, however, when he got older. As a young teenager he recalls the moment when his older brother bought Bright Eyes’ ‘I’m Wide Away, It’s Morning’. “I listened to it, I was excited, and I read all the lyrics. It was a big moment, it was when I realised how hard growing up had been for me. That record became really important, it was the point when I started to think about music as an occupation, playing with the idea that artistic expression could be part of what you did for a living.”  

Right up until now Atusji’s journey has been sparked by creative variety and curiosity. Having played with the band Virgin Suicide for a number of years, he also composes music for film and adverts, but this solo project signifies a new lease of life, and he sees it as a process that is ongoing.

Last week his alluring, uplifting single ‘Everything’s Not Broken’ came out on The Big Oil Recording Company. It is a confident manifestation that depicts where the songwriter is at this point in time. With some musical foothold in the ‘80s as much as indie sounds of 2010, the track sets out fresh ideas. Having released the track ‘Copenhagen’ in April, the combined effort of the two songs represent a new direction that sees the singer experimenting with other emotions and atmospherics.

”I guess a lot of the time my lyrics just tackle specific themes. A quick look at some of the records I’ve released you’ll probably notice that I’m not always the most cheerful person, but when it comes to challenges such as mental health and issues that I struggle with, I feel that it’s important to take things in a different direction and focus on something else entirely.” He is dedicated to Pan-Asian representation, and his work often involves collaborations with Danish-Chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese singers, producers and directors. He is the co- founder and co-host of Denmāku, a podcast that explores the perspectives of Asian people living in Denmark.

It is a busy time, this summer Atusji is scheduled to play Roskilde Festival, and Autumn could see further live action and the release of more enticing songs. Atusji’s path offers a vibrant journey that just continues to flow.

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Words: Susan Hansen

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