This time, musikgraph.de interviews the British Band The Original Rabbit Foot Spasm Band. It is a seven-piece jazz band based in Oxford, England. After the release of their first CD “Gin & Sympathy” (2009) on their own Rabbit Jazz Label and several broadcasts on BBC the success does not end. Enjoy the interview!
As always, would you present yourself in a few words to our readers?
We are drunk painters who play jazz. We are reclaiming the suit for a glamorous working class.
How would you describe your style of music?
It’s a Parisian car crash of 1940s and 1950s black Rhythm and Blues, New Orleans Jazz, Rockabilly, Soul and Punk – played through a Reggae Soundsystem!
Are you influenced by other artists or rum cake bakers?
The band are influenced by Louis Armstrong, Louis Jordan and Louis Prima. We’re also influenced by Viennese Aktionism, Martin Kippenberger, Gilbert and George, Andy Warhol and in particular a gentleman called Arthur Cravan, who also influenced the Dadaists. Our favourite modern singers are Iggy Pop and David Bowie.
Seems that you are famous for your “extraordinary enthusiasm”. Is it true that you bring people to dance jazz?
Discovering the Louis Armstrong Hot Fives and Sevens at the age of 12 was a pivotal moment in my life. Those groups were formed for studio performance only. They weren’t catering for dancers. They could play whatever they liked. We also play whatever we like. But if people want to dance then we are thrilled. The audience are always the most exciting performer in any show. But for us it’s about writing great songs and putting on a brilliant spectacle.
What is your secret joy – playing jazz?
Playing in front of a full house of excited people is the best feeling. It is better than falling in love. But after a good show sometimes it can take me a long time to come back down to earth.
There are seven people in the band and we would all answer this differently. To me a club or festival with a loud sound system is the best. My favourite audiences in England are people in Oxford and Bristol – they know how to enjoy themselves, and if they drink enough booze they are as wild as the audiences in Germany.
On hearing your band name for the first time I was a bit startled and had to read it again. What is the history behind your long and funny name?
Many of our musical heroes, including Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey and Louis Jordan, worked as part of the Rabbit Foot Minstrels, an American touring troupe. “Spasm” is an American word for “skiffle”. So really we see ourselves as the skiffle band who are performing on the fringe of that show. Unfortunately we formed in the wrong century and all our heroes are dead.
However, are you rabbit fans?
Yes, they are beautiful. When I was a child I used to pretend I was a rabbit.
Since Spasm bands back in New Orleans made music out of homemade instruments: What is your connection to it?
We formed as a proper spasm band with homemade banjo, ukulele and a washboard. I used to keep a kazoo around my neck which was attached to a coat hanger. Eventually I persuaded people who could play proper instruments to join the band – but we kept the name.
All of your band members do have impressive nicknames! What is the idea behind it and what is their history?
The names are about anonymity. They are mostly famous jazz nicknames but they all tell a story.
In Germany, the release of your new album “Year of the rabbit” starts on 22nd August. Why are you coming to Germany?
We’re excited to have the album released in Germany. Although our songs are very much about the life and landscape of England I think people in Germany are more likely to understand the joke.
All of your songs convey a feeling of happiness and sunshine – on purpose?
I think we are just euphoric about performing. I never thought of this but I am glad you can hear it in the songs.
Does the album have a message?
The album starts with a train journey from London to the sea and ends with one of us jumping off the pleasure pier. It more or less charts a year in our lives and takes in suburbs and cities and transport. I think we are escapologists, whether we escape by train or through drink of the stage show. And when people come to the show or buy the record I hope they can escape with us. Let’s all run away together – we don’t like the modern world. It’s horrible. Offices are ugly. Let’s run away together and get drunk in a field!
Your song “PIRATES!” is my personal favorite. It suits your smoky vocal parts best! What is your favorite song and listening advice?
PIRATES! charts the River Thames from Kemble to Southend, and I can imagine myself dressed up as a Pirate travelling along there and frightening the passers by! I think my favourite is O Dreamland which is a litany of sexual conquest set against the English coast. Dreamland is a theme park in Margate where TS Eliot wrote the Wasteland. The front cover of the album shows us on Margate Sands. My listening advice though is just enjoy the rhythm, the brass, the vocals and the beat of the tom-tom!
Are you planning to tour through Germany or The Netherlands?
We’ve played in Germany and the Netherlands. A large number of people have told us we must, must, must come to Germany for a tour. So that tour is an ambition of ours. To my shame, I have never been to Berlin.
What is the story about you inspiring a Fashion Range courtesy of a student in London? I read about it on Facebook…
We’ve been called fashion icons! I don’t understand it. Suits are the only clothes I have to wear. I wouldn’t consider sleeping in anything else.
If you are not performing – what are you doing?
Four of us play music for a living. The other three are a fireman, a physicist and a chef. All of us do a lot of swimming, especially in the sea.
Did I forget to ask something important? If yes, here is your chance to say it!
Yes of course – please buy our record. Ideally from our website www.rabbitjazz.co.uk but you can also order from your local record show or www.amazon.de.
Last but not least, a good advice for our readers?
Always dress up as though it’s your last night on earth, never wear jeans on stage and ensure you polish your shoes.
Thanks for the interview!