Fire at the theatre
Fires of Denmark is joining Rochester rock ensemble Hair of the Dog for a show at Olde Pine Theatre Friday.
An ongoing project by Mike Terrill, Fires of Denmark has not played many shows, despite releasing an original album last fall that garnered good reviews and accolades.
But expect to see a lot more of Fires of Denmark in 2019, Terrill says.
Terrill spent about 15 years playing in various rock bands, including Runway 36, which led to an album deal. He’s since taken to creating music solo by building electronic loops and layers.
“There are just so many rock bands out there and they’re a lot more talented than me,” he said.
He challenged himself not to use a guitar on a project called “Verses the Lion.” The songs, built with multiple tracks and unusual instrumentation, got some radio play.
At the time, Terrill couldn’t figure out a way to play any of the album’s songs live. Without a tour — or any live shows at all — the album’s attention was short-lived.
“It didn’t get any traction despite some hype,” Terrill said.
Initially, he met the same obstacle with Fires of Denmark. Terrill keeps songs short — to about three minutes.
“When I record them, I cut the fat out of them,” he said.
Despite the shortness of the recorded tracks, he still had trouble recreating them for a live audience. A new approach offered a path to performances. He decided that instead of trying to recreate the songs as he recorded them, he would play them like he was playing cover versions of someone else’s songs.
“That helps me detach myself from my songs and be able to perform them,” he said. “I had to do some soul-searching to figure that out.”
The simple rock versions are his touchstone. Then he adds and subtracts different layers with loops to stretch three-minute songs into six- or seven-minute pieces.
For Terrill, it’s the best way to capture the creative energy he taps to write songs.
“Whenever I go on stage and play live, I get into my head space and it just flows,” he said. “And I’m not back until the show is done. That’s an experience I can’t get anywhere else.”
Creating the performance takes a balance of enough practice to make tasks like turning on a drum loop or activating the electronic high hat come as naturally to him as changing chords while playing guitar. Too much practice, and the performance is stilted and doesn’t flow, he said. The approach makes every live performance unique.
Another Fires of Denmark album is in the works for 2019. For now, Terrill has found his key he needs to play out.