Written and translated by guest contributor Lore J.
Freshly back from their USA tour, The Dukes released their new album Smoke Against The Beat. After having given a listen, I got curious. I discovered a new kind of music and wanted to know more about the people behind it, to know about their process of doing an album, what they learned from being world wide musicians, and what this record has to teach us. I choose to share these secrets with you guys. Join me behind the scenes in the lines below!
Francois “Shanka” Maigret
Shockwave Magazine: You’re a French band back from your USA tour. It’s often said that it’s hard to put your music out of your country. What do you think about that and how were you welcomed in the US ?
Greg Jacks: I live here in the US, so to me its normal. I’m a musician. I put music out wherever I am. I must admit that it is unusual for a french band that plays rock n’ roll to get that much attention in the states.
Francois “Shanka” Maigret: It’s true that France isn’t very known for its rock n’roll. Probably not a good thing because we have a lot of really good bands, but the french show business world rarely crosses the way of the english one. I think it’s mainly because of the language difference, but also the way both these systems work is really different. Personally, I’ve really enjoyed the american crowd. It reminded of the german one, due to its enthusiasm.
What did you discover from this tour ?
Greg: Never go on tour in the south of the US without AC on your bus or RV. It’s too brutal and almost too dangerous for your mental and physical sake!!
Shanka : The economy of the tour is really different in the USA. The merchandising has a more imortant place than in the french one. Luckily for us, we both have more than 15 years of experience in the music business so even the hardest conditions don’t scare us. It’s precious especially when we have to really quickly set up our material, which can be a tough thing because we’re using video visuals .
What did you learn from the previous albums to build Smoke Against The Beat ?
Greg: Music is a scream coming from your guts…
Shanka : Creating songs is an exigent process. Each album we’re a part of or building ourselves make us learn some little thing that help us compose better songs. It takes time to find your own musical personality, the one making a band special. For some people it’s a natural thing, for me it’s an every day work!
What does this album mean for you, and is there a special message you hope to communicate?
Greg: Smoke Against The Beat means going against the flow, trend etc etc… And that’s who we are and what we do. We are not trying to be like someone else, or fit somwhere. We create our own style. We want to be trendsetters not the other way around. In life don’t be a follower, be a leader!!!
Shanka : Exactly. Lead, follow, or get out of the way! My generation has been affected by the horrible realistic dimension of the Orwell’s novel 1984. As we forward in time that book tends to appear like a documentary … Police state, intolerance, normalization of people’s minds, and domination of the right. The commitment of our band consist in trying to encourage our audience to thinking for themselves, being in their own. Replaced by productivity, intelligence isn’t a valued quality anymore.
Which song do you think is the highlight of the album?
Greg: It depends. “Don’t Die a Copy” is what I try to tell myself everyday…be unique, be yourself, true to yourself and I think that fits the concept pretty well. “Smoke Against the Beat” is one of my favourite songs…gritty but melodic… Sweet and sour…like The Dukes.
Shanka : “Smoke Against the Beat” is to me the best one. But I do have really bad taste so don’t care about what I said and make your own opinion!
What inspires you to combine visual art and music in your universe?
Greg: It started has a necessity. We had nobody to do our visuals, it was too expensive. So Shanka suggested trying to do it. And what he did was so amazing that we decided pursuing in that direction and developing our artsy side.
Shanka : Absolutely, it has become a necessity, but I think that in the end I really like it. Liking a visual to a music is for me a very interesting process because it creates the bridge bewteen every art form and leads us to ask ouselves the right questions about the message we want to communicate. When it’s done in a honest way, it gives such a strength to the music that afterwards, it’s impossible to remove it !
Smoki is your mascott. One word to describe it ?
Greg: Smoki looks friendly and nice but he has a also spooky and scary side…he’s like our music; “sweet songs with unsweet sounds!!” A swedish producer said that to us a few years ago:)
Shanka : Greg, she said ONE word ! I would say “ambivalent.”
What advantages and disadvantages are there in being a duo?
Greg: Making decisions has never been easier. Traveling has never been easier. No drama, no BS, just two friends that love playing and hanging together.
Shanka: The bad side is that we can’t hide when we’re playing on stage. It’s a very exigent way of doing. You can’t go like “tonight wer’re gonna play quietly.” We always have to be at the top of ourselves.
What are your long / short term projects ?
Greg: Back on the road in the US ASAP and then back in the studio with Kato Khandwala to cut more tracks for 2018.
Shanka : C’est un long chemin quand on veut faire du rock’n’roll ! ( you can leave this one in french hahaha)
I hope you learned as much as i did! If you wanna know more about the album itself its here : http://shockwavemagazine.com/the-dukes-smoke-against-the-beat/
And you can get in their universe following the link: http://www.thedukesmusic.com