Danish music producer Vakle interviewed: “Riots from all kinds of minorities are challenging the old boring ways of the music industry and I love it!”

Girls Are Awesome’s very own music production veteran Vakle will be releasing an album featuring some of her favorite Danish artists. She’s been in the game for years and is sharing her experiences, best advice, concerns and hopes for the future of music production!

Vakle by Sofi Hellberg Olsson
Vakle by Sofi Hellberg Olsson

She’s the host of our podcast Talking Tunes, she’s curating the amazing Danish Artists Playlist on Spotify, and she’s been working as a music producer for years! If you’re interested in knowing what’s happening in the Danish music scene, Vakle is the one you go to! With a new single dropping on September 10th featuring R&B artist ESPICHICOQUE, Vakle is announcing the arrival of a new album showcasing her mad production skills as well as a string of talented artists.

Grab a good cup of coffee, make yourself comfortable and read along as Vakle shares her story of entering and managing a part of the music industry where only 2% looks like her.

First of all: You’re releasing an album (!!!) Can you tell us a bit about what to expect?

The concept of the album being me releasing it as a producer with vocal features on all tracks is well known – KAYTRANADA does this for example. That’s nothing new, but I’ve been wanting to explore this way of being an artist for a long time. It’s funny how producing can often be preserved as a technical and not artistic skill, even in a situation where an artist comes to my studio with a demo and a fully written song they want me to produce, it will still be artistic for me. You listen to the artist and try to make their artistic vision come true, but every knob you turn or key you press in the studio will be important for the final piece of art. For me it is not possible to separate art and producing.

The album is many things for me: an opportunity to get to work with artists that I admire, it is a way to take my career into my own hands and a way to share important opinions from people I look up to. It is evident that the album features a lot of minorities in the music industry – this is due to a personal hunger to hear from someone I can somewhat relate to and from other people who may not always be first in line.

So we’re gonna meet loads of different artists on the record! Who are these features and what does inviting other people along add to the record?

The album features a heavy bunch of Denmark’s most skilled R&B artists in my opinion: ESPICHICOQUE, Ju Kaia, ALEA and a UK feature by the talented duo Temptress. Some of the features I can’t quite reveal yet. But it ranges from super jazzy lo-fi neo soul vibes, to big R&B almost pop’ish productions – and I’m diggin’ all of it!

Check out Temptress here!

It’s kinda gonna be my public CV ya’ know? People can listen to the album and be like: ‘that sounds dope – I wanna work with her’, or of course the opposite: ‘damn that’s not my vibe – I’ll find another producer’. I really like that. Someone very clever (Johannes Smed) once told me that I should never say yes to a project I don’t enjoy ‘cus imagine if that one Drum & Bass track is the one that goes viral and I would have to make Drum & Bass the rest of my life. That won’t happen now.

Regarding this album my productions are key and are definitely the thread of consistency. Though every track is made with the artists featured on the songs in mind, I still believe the common thread is my productions, which emphasizes my point about the artistic aspect of producing; the production and the song is equally important to me on this project.

If someone came up to you and asked what it’s like being a woman in music production, what would you reply?

It’s being broke and stressed, haha! But it is also empowering, things are happening! Riots from all kinds of minorities are challenging the old boring ways of the music industry and I love it!

For me it was very lonely to start producing, I didn’t have any Danish female queer producers to look up to and didn’t really have any friends who were musicians. Now I can count at least 3 other than myself who are both female and queer just from the top of my head. That’s a big change in a tiny country. Almost any music school I have studied at, I applied to 3 times before I was accepted. If that means that I am delusional or just very stubborn, I’m not sure. And the applying process, itself, was strange and fucked up; at the interviews the panel consisted only of guys, as I recall, which means even before studying music at any institution or conservatory white cis guys have been judging my abilities as a producer/musician.

Besides from seeing more queer women producers like yourself entering the game, what are some tendencies/changes you’re following at the moment?

So much is changing in the industry. Both nationally here in Denmark and Internationally. Representation of all sorts of people are growing and support both mentally and financially for this to happen is actually there currently.

There’s a lot of focus on building communities for female, trans and non-binary producers and musicians in general these days. One of these communities is called 2% Rising – which refers to the fact that only 2% of the world’s producers are female, trans or non-binary. How crazy is that to think about? This is not a field of work with any physical challenges that would make it harder for females to do the job – this is just a matter of outdated traditions and lack of effort to include new people into the exclusive men’s club that is the music industry.

I think we’re done with the ridiculous assumption that only men are able to sit by the computer and press the keys and turn the knobs by now. Every single person in the world is capable of doing that and should be given an equal chance to do so if they work equally hard. But if men are selecting who get to do it (read: major labels directors, A&R’s, radiohosts, publishing bureaus and also the people judging my application at the conservatory) they are more likely to pick someone they can identify with or a good beer buddy. But they don’t identify with me, and we don’t hang out the same places.

Vakle by Sofi Hellberg Olsson

“I think we’re done with the ridiculous assumption that only men are able to sit by the computer and press the keys and turn the knobs by now. Every single person in the world is capable of doing that and should be given an equal chance to do so if they work equally hard.” – Vakle

Here’re some more super awesome organisations who try to inspire and better the gender gap in the music industry.

You mentioned that being a producer has also meant being broke! I know it was said with quite some humor, but I also know it’s the reality for you and so many other women producers. What’s up with the money flow?

It’s hard getting paid for your work in the music industry. It’s ironic that the people producing the product (artists) get a very little piece of the cash cake and in general, there’re few people getting a lot of money and tons of people getting very little money.

A report last year showed that 19% of the people collecting royalties from KODA (the collecting society for songwriters, composers and music publishers of Denmark) were women, which is not a lot, but on top of that, those 19% only got 10% of the money. So that means women in general earn about half of what men earn on royalties (this is very binary gendered, I know, forgive me for a second). Most of the artists that come to me are either women, trans or non-binary, so that pool is already pretty small and then they also have less money – so I get less money. It’s all tied together, you know? But it’s not like gear for recording and producing is then cheaper for me. That would be nice right?

This leaves me with having to work more with other jobs outside of music, for example, to afford the gear I need in order to produce professionally and build up my studio. On top of that, I also have to put in as many hours in the studio as the male producers to compete with the 98% of producers that are men of course. I’m not trying to sound whiney or complain too much, but I want to highlight some of the challenges that are still very much a thing in this industry – everything is not fixed yet, there’s still a lot of work to do.

You mentioned that, growing up, you didn’t have many role models in music production that looked like you. How was your way into the world of music production?

There are two people in my life that are a huge part of why I am a music producer today. My aunt, from whom I inherited some money, and the guy I had an electronic duo project with when I was a teenager.

I never really had a lot of friends who played music up until my late teens when one of my friends, Lars, started producing music and asked if I wanted to write and sing on it. A short while after that I wanted to start producing myself and we went together to a music shop to buy my first set-up for my first home studio. Some time later I’d, sadly, inherited some money from my aunt who passed away. I decided to spend it on moving to London to take an introduction course into music production. These first years of producing are still such a big part of my sound today. I’ve been through many different genres and fixations, but I seem to hang around mostly r&b, soul and hip hop when I produce. It’s not that I don’t work in other genres – what’s most important to me when I say yes or no to a project is that I feel the music and feel like I have something to bring to the table on the project.

I’m currently working with a pop/punk band called girlcrush which is quite outside of the genres I usually work in – but I love their unique sound and their unapologetic honesty so much. I could never dream of saying no to such a project.

To sum up: in general my route into music production is based on having support from my family and from, not only myself, but also people around me believing in my ability to do it.

What would be your best advice for someone who’s dreaming of becoming a producer but can’t quite figure out how to get started?

Find a community and figure out how to be part of it! The best thing you can do to get better is to surround yourself with people with the same interests as you so you can learn from each other, grow together and be the support system everyone needs.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

First single from the album is a r&b anthem featuring ESPICHICOQUE, and it will be out on sep. 10th! You can pre-save the song here

In the meantime you can check out ESPICHICOQUE here!

Since you’re here, we assume you like music. So do we! And that is why we’ve created a playlist that is updated every Friday with the best new music we’ve come around during the week. Find it on Spotify here and check out our other music related content here to never miss a beat.


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