In a spacious apartment, not far from the lakes in Copenhagen’s Nørrebro district, lives Rasmus Littauer, one of Denmark’s most successful young drummers. He answers the door and we pick up a thermos of coffee he has prepared in the kitchen, and retire to his bedroom for the interview.
“I finally cleaned up my room, so that I can sit here and think about things. This is a new period for me,” says Rasmus as we walk into his room.
A drum kit is stored on top of his closet and his desk is a clutter of mixers and keyboards. He sits on his bed beneath a paper lamp that hangs from the ceiling and starts to talk about life as a drummer for some of Denmark’s most acclaimed pop groups – and his decision to take some time off for his solo project School of X.
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“I have huge ambitions with the art itself – the expression and vision inside of it. Right now I really am finding my own flow.”
A 27-year-old multi-instrumentalist, he was brought up in a family where guitars were toys, and the rehearsal room a playground. They always encouraged his dream of a career in music, and he continues to collaborate with his two brothers today – the three live on and off together in the Nørrebro apartment.
“I started playing drums when I was five and my feet finally reached the pedals,” he says.
“My parents played folk and the blues so we had a rehearsal space at home where me and my brothers would spend all our time in. Me, Simon and Jacob started our first band called Blue Cheese when I was eight. I still remember our first show during the summer party at our old kindergarten.”
This was in Aarhus, Denmark’s second city, where Rasmus lived before moving to Copenhagen as a teenager with his friend Aske to live in his aunt’s houseboat near the Danish parliament. Like most young people in Copenhagen, he had trouble finding a stable place to live, and was forced to move house often. At times he didn’t have anywhere to live, so he stayed in a rehearsal space that he rented with some friends.
“For many years it was super tough and hard, economically speaking. But you know, when you are passionate about something, it doesn’t really matter. When you’re super young and you move to a new town and nothing else but doing what you love matters, then that’s what it was about,” he said.
On the road
His life has changed since then and in recent years Rasmus has played around 100 shows a year all over the world as drummer for major Danish bands Reptile Youth, The Asteroids Galaxy Tour, and MØ. The latter artist, Karen Marie Ørsted, is a global superstar and appears on the second-most streamed song on Spotify, Lean On, with over 900 million listens.
He recently returned from MØ’s North America tour and while he remains in the band, he hopes to focus more of his time on School of X, which he started almost a year ago. Despite his time as a touring drummer it feels like brand new territory, and when his first EP is released this spring it will mark a major turning point in his career.
“It’s the first time in some years that I have actually finished something,” he says, adding that he still managed to find time to make music while he was on tour, though there were limitations.
“When I’m on tour we would arrive at a venue at 11 in the morning and then I would have until five or six in the afternoon before the sound check to work. But I could only bring my laptop and a small mini keyboard with me, so it was very limited what I could do. At home I can grab a guitar and drums, which I find very intuitive to work with – I’m more of a musician than a producer. On tour I mostly create sketches, small melodies, one-minute songs,” he says.
School of X has so far been well received by critics at leading music and lifestyle magazine Soundvenue. He was also selected to perform at one of Copenhagen’s top venues, Vega, in their annual showcase event Vega’s Udvalgte in January. Still, it’s evident that Rasmus struggles to acknowledge his talent – both as a drummer and a songwriter.
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“I have to prove to myself that I can continue writing songs. It’s not about one, two, four, six songs – I have to be able to write 100 or more super good songs,” he says.
“I never had high thoughts about myself in my professional career as a drummer. I never believed in myself – that I was picked because I was a good drummer. I always made excuses for myself – it was because I was nice or just looked good while playing. I have to get very far in what I do, before I believe that I am good at what I am doing. It really takes some convincing for me – I am still not convinced, but it’s a process.”
Luck and talent
Despite his creative anxiety, he seems to be happy at home and focusing on the writing. Not just because tour life can be physically exhausting, it can be emotionally and socially challenging too.
“Travelling and meeting people all the time is the best thing that ever happened to me. I’ve always tried to be open-minded and it helps when you talk to people all the time and see new places,” he says.
“But some of the parties I went to while touring with MØ didn’t feel very personal. Some people think too highly of themselves – I don’t think success makes anyone more interesting. You need to stay true to yourself in this world,” he says.
“I never really focused on success. What makes a really good song a hit is when it is written by someone passionate and who put their personality into it. It’s about doing what you love – working hard and staying on the track. I had so many friends who had my same interests, but they had other interests too, so they ended up doing something else. But there was nothing else for me, just music, so I ended up naturally doing what I do. I’ve also been super lucky – it’s a mix, of being at the right place at the right time. But you also have to work hard. Sitting on this chair in this room and making music – not trying to make a radio hit. It has to be – otherwise, your passion dies.” M