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Interview with Monsieur Dubois

— What influenced your decision to become jazz musicians?

Bart: When I was young, I used to listen to jazz records a lot and then I thought, that I really want to play an instrument. I heard the record of "Cannonball" Adderley, saxophone player. So I thought: "I want to play saxophone". That's how I started playing jazz.

Ruud Sanders Ruud: I started playing drums only when I was sixteen. That's pretty late. And before that I listened to a lot of music, my brother's records mostly. From the first moment I touched the drums, I fell in love with it and than I got deeper and deeper into it.

Kasper: I started playing music when I was eight, I really liked it and wanted to continue. Then I changed instruments from guitar to bass and then — to acoustic bass. Later I heard a little bit of jazz music and I liked it very much, so I started to play contrabass. I got stuck with it, because I liked the harmonies, the grooves and the mixtures you can make with the music.

Dirk: I decided to start playing the trumpet, when I was young. I saw some trumpet players and I really loved them. Later in life I heard some jazz records, Ted Baker and that was it.

Maarten: When I was very young, I discovered that I could make sounds with sticks, pots and pans in a sort of drumming. And later on I started playing the piano. My older brother was playing jazz, so there was always some music in the house. And I discovered I really want to become a musician.

— How did you become a group? How did you meet?

Bart Witz Bart: We met each other in Rotterdam and we had a common interest — jazz. So we started playing together and each of us brought something new to our music: drum'n'bass, funk, r'n'b, etc.

— And that's how you developed your unique musical style?

Kasper: Yes. Actually we started out as a hard pop group. But we had a few songs by Eddie Harris and Horace Silver, which worked out to be the best. So that's how we came to jazz.

Maarten: We wanted to be a jazz group and than we found out that jazz is on the same level for us as drum'n'bass or any other new music and that jazz is not really something we can do completely, because we are not that type of musicians.

Bart: We really felt there was a need for people to get in touch with that new type of music. And we really felt like bringing jazz music to the dance floor and keeping it alive.

— So that's why you named your music danceable hardjazz!

Bart, Kasper: Yes, it is one of the reasons.

— I heard that you cooperated with DJ Soul Rabbi? How did you come across him, what was it like?

Maarten Meddens Maarten: I once met him in a very small bar somewhere in the south of Holland. And there he was in a very small cafe, but he looked like as if he was in a big famous club: he sat up, he was wearing a suit and all his disks were in some wooden boxes. So this guy immediately impressed me, and then we got acquainted and started working together. He invites us to Germany, where he's from, and we invite him to Holland. He is a really remarkable person.

Bart: But it's not like we played together at the same time, we just made some evening programs.

— You've made a lot of evening programs, participated in different festivals, but only just now you are releasing your first album, why?

Bart: We have some albums actually. We've got two live CD's and also an EP on vinyl. This EP is distributed all over the world, it is more of a danceable album with four originals and two remixes. It's recorded under Unexpected Records label. So that's what we've already done and now it's time to put it all together in one studio album. So that's what we are doing right now.

Maarten: But I guess also that you must not forget that every day thousands and thousands of albums come out, so we had the idea that before we release our original studio album we have to be in top form and everything must be worked out, so we felt we were not in a hurry to release an album. And now, you will hear later on, that we have something we are really proud of.

— So you took your time to work out a really good quality of music?

Maarten: Yes, to bring out an album is not a very big deal, for us it was more substantial to bring something new to music.

— I noticed a big influence of 50-s and 60-s in your music and in the way you dress, what are those years for you?

Kasper Kalf Kasper: It's probably different for everybody, but we really like the classical feel from the 60-ies.

Bart: Yes, we started out with music, which is based on music from the 60-ies, but now we have developed an up-to-date style. Concerning the way we look: if you perform, you have to be open to the public, you have to represent something and that's what we do with the suits. It's not really because they did it in the 50-ies, it's about giving a good show for the audience.

Maarten: In the 70-ies and in the 80-ies musicians started to dress a little bit casual, because they were really fed up with the tight things, suits and so on...

— And now it's the other way around...

Maarten: For us it's very important to look good, when we are on stage.

Udo: We want to make it clear that this is a performance and not just a coincidental play.

Maarten: And also wearing the suits we look alike and Monsieur Dubois is really about one sound and not about individuals, trying to show off themselves.

— By the way, why Monsieur Dubois?

Bart: There was this myth about a famous bird spotter named Monsieur Dubois. We were the last six birds he spotted, and the day he spotted us, he died. So as a kind of respect to this guy we paid a tribute to his name and made it ours.

— Have you ever thought of having a vocalist in your group?

Dirk Beets Kasper: We used to play for about a year in a certain club in Rotterdam and we did have a vocalist then, because we tried to give the public some diversity. But having a vocalist was just a feature, a kind of a change.

— So it wasn't a permanent member of the group?

Bart: Right, we used to perform one week with a singer, the other — with some Indian musicians and then we had some extra horns. So every week was different, it had a special theme and we wrote some extra tunes. It was a very good experience for the band, because we really expanded our repertoire.

Maarten: But it's not only this... We had a special mission to make a non-vocal music popular, it was a real challenge for us. Our aim is to reach the public by music, not by some vocal or lyrics.

— And another thing we wanted to know. Is there a group, or a musician, whose music and career is a good example for you?

Bart: It's really different for everybody. And these are not only jazz musicians. A lot of things happen right now in music and every genre of it has something in it, has some influence on us.

Maarten: And another thing, which is very important for us, is the sound and doing something special with it: some effects made by the horns, the Fender rhodes and the bass. You will be able to hear it on our new CD.

— You've recently been in Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania and also here, in Saint-Petersburg. How was it like, was the welcome of the public warm?

Maarten: It's always really different and depends on the situation. Our first performance was in a concert hall in Riga, where another Dutch group played before us. So when we started performing, the public was already warmed up and immediately responded to our music. The second night we participated in a very large jazz festival in Vilnius, there was a very large crowd and it was completely different. Our performance was very short, so it was quite difficult to gain some contact with the public. But nevertheless it was also a good experience for us. And in Tallinn we, probably, had our best night, we played in a kind of an old theatre, where all the chairs were removed and people could stand and dance near the stage. We were very close to the public and the atmosphere was really warm.

Udo Demandt Bart: It was also very nice to play yesterday in JFC. At first everybody was staying really calm, but then the audience relaxed somehow and there was a really good exchange of positive energy between our band and the public.

Kasper: It's very important for us, because we are a real live band!

— Did you have some time to get acquainted with Saint-Petersburg? What are your impressions of it?

Kasper: It's really hard to get an impression of the city in three days, but we really liked what we've already seen. It's a really amazing city with some very nice people.

— And our last question. Did you have a chance to listen to some of the Russian jazz music?

Bart: In 1997, when we played in Moscow and in Saint-Petersburg, we got acquainted with some Russian jazz musicians and I must say we were really impressed with their talent and their really high quality of music. We tend to listen more to European music, we exchange some CD's and EP's all the time. And I think that it is a really good initiative to have an exchange of music experience between Holland and Russia!

— Thank you very much for finding some time for this interview. We hope to see and hear you again soon in Saint-Petersburg!

Anna Anisimova
Maria Rozhdestvenskaya

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