There aren’t many artists who can say they wrote an album with the military. Danish singer Peter Voss-Knude (PV Knude) co-wrote his first two albums in collaboration with the Danish army, one part of a larger artistic project with the armed forces to open up a universal conversation on terrorism, war, and other harsh subject matter through art. His third release, The Anti-Terror Album, out Jan. 20, written as a response to KRISØV17, a fictional, xenophobic narrative used in Danish national crisis management exercises, will coincide with his first solo exhibition at Museum of Contemporary Art in Copenhagen.
When Knude first entered into a four-year collaboration with the Danish army, the lengthy partnership entailed two studio albums—initially under the moniker Peter & the Danish Defense, Volume I-II—a series of concerts, exhibitions, and other artistic projects. Throughout the past decade, the artist has made it a point to partner with major institutions through music and art, exploring complex fields of world politics.
When the army approved his initial project proposals several years ago, he visited the largest barracks in Denmark and was given a working studio situated right next to a tank workshop, where vehicles returning from Iraq were repaired. There, he co-wrote his first batch of songs with members of the military. “I was really surprised by how welcoming they were to a person like me,” Knude tells American Songwriter. “[I was] an outsider walking around asking stupid questions like a pigeon caught in a muddy trench.” Despite his greenness to army life, this previous collaboration, and the 21 song written, opened the door to The Anti-Terror Album.
Dance floor beats mixed with elements of pop, spoken-word, and other moody, dub-step states, The Anti-Terror Album’s 14 tracks shifts through different extremes, each weaving a powerful message. Hollowed vocals on “An Evening Prayer,” a question about the true messages of religion, echo as if Knude is singing inside an actual church. Throughout Anti-Terror, he somehow makes palatable the heaviness of lyrics drifting from school shootings, racism, nuclear warfare, hatred and fear mongering, and says once people listen to the album, they will be less “terrorized,” in a sense.
“I believe that through understanding of the nature of terror and understanding the reasons why some people become marginalized to an extent that leads to horrifying violence, we can form long term, feminist and humanist investments in making a world in which no one is oppressed, humiliated or stigmatized to the extent that will lead to terror,” says Knude.
Second single “Alchemy Expression” speaks of unison as the video features plasma artist and glassblower Kamila Mróz in a flame workshop in Poland as she’s crafted Knude’s piece for his exhibit. Inspired by more new perspectives in ending terrorism, “Jacinda” is a tribute to New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who introduced The Wellbeing Budget, following the attacks on several mosques in Christchurch last March. The plan will give billions of dollars towards child poverty, mental health services, and tackling family violence throughout the country. “All her efforts are carefully initiated though languages of inclusion and strength,” says Knude, who says the opposite is responding to terror with retaliation, which he believes is a more short-sighted defense.
Currently working on his MFA at Bergen Academy of Art & Design in Norway, Knude, who once applied to be a police officer so he could write poems about the work, has more to unravel along with the album, including various concerts, specifically more intimate venues, in Denmark and abroad.
The Museum of Contemporary Art exhibit, entitled The Language of Terror is Terror Itself, which runs Jan. 23 – May 10, features a 1.1 Tonnes Rose Quartz Terror Barricade centerpiece, which the artist will eventually install throughout various cities in Europe, including Norway following this exhibition.
Last spring, Knude traveled to Grand Rapids, MI, then took the crystal to New York City. “I cried when we drove past Ground Zero, and the tears smudged the ink from the pen in my hand,” says Knude. “Some of those smeared letters turned into lyrics for the album. I love when words turn abstract, because it reminds me of our universe bends in space and time.”