Manus Nigra is a completely new group with only one single released so far. The members, all from Aarhus, however are near veterans in the music business and that one single seems to be doing quite good with the music video being selected to the film festival CPH Pix and the video has been viewed almost 20.000 times so far on YouTube. So we decided to interview the three parties – the producer and DJ Swab, the rapper Ham Den Lange and the singer Fönix and started by asking them how the three of them ended up in a group together.
Manus Nigra: “It was a series of random events that led to our existence as a group. Ham Den Lange was in need of a wedding singer for his own wedding, a little under two years ago. Tapping into his network, several people suggested a young female singer named Lea Harder (Fönix). Impressed by her talent, Ham Den Lange asked Fönix if she would consider working on some material with him. She accepted and within days they started working on lyrics for a beat produced by Swab. After some time it became apparent that the only way this project would hit a home run, was if Swab became a permanent part of the group and thus the birth of Manus Nigra”.
March 27th the first video arrived directed by local Aarhus talent Daniel Ferraz, who will soon be debuting his first film “Vi De Frie”. ”Bag Dig” (”Behind You” red.) as it was called is the first single from a forthcoming album, which has yet to receive a title. The lyrics to the song are about realizing that the relationship you are in is toxic.
“Something that I have experienced myself” Fönix explains. “It was difficult to say goodbye this person that I loved so very much, but if I didn’t I could easily see myself torn apart emotionally and psychologically further down the road. Ham Den Lange represents the other side of the story through his rap lyrics, casting light on the male perspective”.
As mentioned earlier Manus Nigra had the honor of having their video screened at the Danish film festival CPH PIX.
Ham Den Lange: ”Getting your debut single and video screened at so prominent a festival was a great experience. When the first shot rolled across the screen I felt assured that I was part of a great collaboration and that this was just the beginning of a great journey”
With 10 years professional experience in the music business, Ham Den Lange has been part of many different projects. After displaying his talent for freestyle rapping on the Danish freestyle battle competition MC’s Fight Night, he and the kindred spirit, Kejser A won the music competition on DR (Danish Radio red.) Karrierekanonen, with their group Haven Morgan. This led to A-rotation with two single on national Danish Radio stations such as P3. In 2009 he released his first solo album ”Carpe Diem My Ass”. He has played numerous national festivals including Grøn Koncert and Roskilde.
Ham Den Lange: ”I feel that Fönix and Swab have an eye or more correctly an ear for something, that I don’t. When I look back at my past projects, it has always been the ones with a talented independent partner I could spar with, that turned out the best. In Manus Nigra we are actually rarely in agreement, when we set out to create a new track, but when we are done, we always end up being very satisfied with the final product. Fönix is an amazing singer and creates a very authentic sound when combined with Swabs dusty beats. I am excited about sharing this album with the rest of the world, even though listening to a record from end to end is a pastime thing.”
Swab has been producing, DJ’ing and beat digging for 15+ years with a base in hip-hop. He has produced for different rappers and remixed his fair share of tracks. Swab has also branched out into the ad industry producing music for TV commercials, musical identity for companies and websites. He released his first album ‘Half & Half‘ back in 2002 and has recently released his critically acclaimed album ‘Panorama Playground‘ which features a more experimental side to Swabs talents, inspired by genres such as psych, krautrock, trip hop and electronica.
Swab: ”The sound I had on ‘Panorama Playground’ combined with strong soul elements is a big part of the what I bring with me into Manus Nigra. I always listened to many different kinds of musical genres and I like experimenting with combining them in my music. It is something I feel the need to do to keep evolving as a musician and a beat maker. This fits perfectly with the sound we are trying to capture with Manus Nigra”.
Being the youngest member in the trio doesn’t mean that she is the least experienced, on the contrary. Fönix has been a professional singer for close to 10 years. She started as a member of Det Jyske Musikkonservatoriums Pigekor (The Danish Musical Conservatory’s Girls Choir red.) where she held a spot as a soprano for 5 years. But in the midst of getting groomed for a classical career, she decided to take a turn for the more jazzy part of the business. At the age of 19 she participated in a talent show on national Danish Television, ‘TV2 Allstars‘ (Last Choir Standing red.). This led to a record deal with the smalltime label, Discart. The album ‘Lea‘ was released in 2011.
Fönix: ”I have always known music was my thing in life, it just took me some time to figure out just where I fit in the best. I love and respect classical music, but can’t live without Jazz, soul and R&B. It wasn’t before my mid teens that I realized I had a serious talent for those genres and I haven’t looked back since. In Manus Nigra I’ve finally found a free haven, where everything just makes sense. Bring the more disciplined approach to music and creating as such into the mix. I might not always agree with Swab and Ham Den Lange, but this ‘disagreeing’ leads to a discussion or a debate and it is when I am in the midst of this debate I feel that my talent and the ability to defend it evolves.”
“The future for Manus Nigra looks good. We have a plan that involves total world domination, but that may be a little difficult seeing as only approx. 5.5 million people understand Danish” Fönix says with a great big smirk – Continuing ”so we will settle for good reviews and reception on our debut-album, playing a few festivals during the summer of 2015 and continue writing material so that one day a second album might become a reality”
With Swab being a DJ for many years and both Ham Den Lange and Fönix being avid listeners of music we asked them what the first album they ever bought were and what their latest purchase was as well.
Fönix: ”My first record, that I bought with my own hard earned pocket money, was a remastered edition of ”Kind of Blue” by Miles Davis. An album that only got better when I became old enough to enjoy a glass of red wine with it”.
Ham Den Lange: ”I can’t quite remember the first record I bought, it might have been a Rockers By Choice cassette tape. I do remember having Alzheimer Klinikken (L.O.C. & C.A.K red.) and Wu Tang’s first album with me during my time at Boarding School”.
Swab: “I believe the first vinyl was Cypress Hill’s debut album”.
Fönix: “Robert Glasper – ‘Black Radio 2’, because the first ‘Black Radio’ rocked my world for over a year. Robert Glasper has a great talent for collaborating with other great artist, such as Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, Lalah Hathaway etc.”.
Ham Den Lange: “The new EP with MellemFinga’Muzik. It is an exciting new sound that captures me even though I could not see myself doing anything like it”.
Swab: “Last album I bought has to be, ”Army of the Pharaohs – In Death Reborn”
We also asked them if there are any people they would like to work with or anyone they think are exciting right now.
Manus Nigra: “We all have different people we would love to work with. But there are a few we can agree upon. We would love to work with the likes of DJ Shadow, Peter Sommer, Khalazer, Steffen Brandt (TV2) and maybe Lukas Graham”.
Fönix: “At the moment I am very impressed with Karl Williams new EP ‘Døende‘. Great job Karl! If for some reason you haven’t come across this young ginger wonder-kid do yourself a favor and check it out”.
Ham Den Lange: “Marki Snøre and Kejser A. They are currently working on some pretty exciting stuff. The producer LazerLyde AKA Doktor Syntax from the groups Analogik and Khalazer is also a genius, and everybody should get acquainted with his work”.
Swab: ”Adrian Younge & Venice Dawn – Something About April”
That’s it for now, we will be looking forward to the next single, until then you can check out the first video underneath: