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BABAJACK – Roots, Blues ‘n Percussion

 

BABAJACK play a highly original mix of electro acoustic Roots and Blues based music that has earned them a fast growing base of enthusiastic support. They are Becky Tate – vocals and percussion (Djembe drum, Cajon, stomp), Trevor Steger –guitars / harmonica (acoustic/resonator & wine-box guitars & Harmonica), Marc Miletich Double Bass. They’ve just completed recording their third album for release in March 2012.

 We caught up with them following a great weekend at the Upton Blues Festival in late summer 2011. They were looking forward to recording the forthcoming album. It was a pleasure to travel up to Pershore, catch with their latest news and down several pints of real ale plus a few whiskey chasers. Despite being tired from a busy schedule the band were very enthused about their plan. As Trevor went to the bar to order a first round Becky Tate opened

 

 

The new album…

 

“We’re really excited about this album!  We’ve been working on the new material for some time and we’ve feel there’s a cracking album in the making. We’re lucky enough to be signing with Krossborder Rekords [that’s a new blues label affiliated to Blues Matters Magazine and Proper Music Distribution, the spelling is to avoid confusion with Cross Border Records]…

 

The producer

 

“…to top the lot, a top producer, Adam Fuest, has invited us to record our album in his studio ‘Twin Peaks’ (www.myspace.com/twinpeaksstudio ).  We’re thrilled – he’s worked with an amazing array of artists and has 17 platinum discs to date. We’ve Googled the studio since – it looks amazing- right in the middle of the Brecon National Park – It’s a magical place, we start recording on 1st November and we can’t wait!”

 

Progression to a settled line-up this past year

 

“We’ve had a few changes but now we have found what we’ve been looking for in our double bass player Marc Miletitch; he’s a great player, classically trained and with a background in folk roots music..”

 

Becky and Trevor are a strong partnership really the core living together, writing together and playing pretty much every day… it can’t be easy  for someone else to find their place in their set-up?

 

“Marc played on our second album, ‘Exercising’ Demons, but wasn’t available to join.  We really wanted the rootsy acoustic sound of the double bass that he provides and we’re delighted that he has joined now. He’s very much a member of BabaJack, perfect!”

 

Marketing & finance for the new album

 

“…we are financing it ourselves. Although we are signing with Krossborder, the reality is that there is not a huge amount of finance around, and revenue from album sales, particularly at shows is the big part of our income.  I was made redundant in Oct 2010, a year ago, and I have run the band full time ever since, and the good news is that the mortgage is paid, and the kids still have shoes on their feet!  So we’re doing alright! We just need to keep it that way.  Thus the decision to raise the finance ourselves…  So, we are going to try our hand at pre-sales of the new album, and we have some pretty attractive offers!  Trev is even prepared to make 2 winebox guitars for anyone out there who would like one! (link)

 

The new albumis to be called ROOSTER

 

“…that sort of gives a clue to where we are coming from.  There was never an agreed theme when we started, but what has emerged is that we are exploring blues to its roots and really have been inspired by the very early stuff…”

 

“.definitely not an early blues album, but very much BabaJack: rhythmic, powerful, lyrical – but I think you’ll recognise some of the field song rhythms and structures, delta influences and so on.”

 

Winebox guitars

 

“…feature highly… Homemade guitars really shaped early blues: people didn’t have the money to buy fine instruments so they made their own very often out of a cigar box. They used coke bottles and rum necks to play them and that’s how Delta slide was born.

 

Trevor…

 

“…has made 2 guitars himself, out of old wine boxes (cos that’s what he had!) and anything else to hand.  They are a hybrid between the rough naïve homemade instruments and a beautifully crafted guitar.”

 

“…is a woodworker and furniture maker, as well as a musician, and so put all his craftsmanship into forming the neck and the instrument itself.”

 

“… They’re beautiful instruments and have become a central part of our sound.   That gritty, dirty semi-acoustic sound is great to work with.”

 

“…it will be all percussive this time, with cajon, djembe, stomp and a little foray into brushes and snare.”

 

The percussion instruments and the band’s African interests / background / experience…

 

Bec – “I play a Djembe, a big African goat skin hand drum, and a Cajon, a box drum which originated with guys playing packing cases on the harbour side in the West Indies… both are powerful percussive drums: the djembe has a deep booming base and tom tom sound and the Cajon has a snare, toppy sound. They complement each other well.  I add the stomp box for the bass sound.  I love the raw quality of the sound, and the sheer groove you can get from playing and combining these simple instruments.  So I play the African instruments and…

 

Zimbabwe… Trev spent 3 years living and working in about 20 yrs ago, and picked up some great African influences in his guitar style from there…

 

Zimbabwe

“…is where the name of the band came from…he was living in the Shona lands, and his first son was born, and the Shona tradition dictates that you are renamed ‘Father of your 1st born’ so in this case, BabaJack!”

 

A rising profile and several festivals…

 

“We’ve had a great year, there is no doubt in our minds that acoustic/ roots/ blues/ folk music is finding its place in the blues and folk circles, and in the mainstream.

 

…don’t think that the electric blues sound is defunct, far from it, but we have found a real rise in interest for a different acoustic kind of blues.  I think we offer a powerful, energetic take on acoustic blues and fuse it with other genres and that’s what people are enjoying.  And there is no doubt that with the huge mainstream success of bands like Mumford and Sons, Laura Marling, Seasick Steve, that acoustic roots music is on the ascendant.”

 

Genre?

 

“…blues roots folk and whatever else we become inspired by.  Blues forms the basis for sure, but we take in all of our experiences musical and otherwise.”

 

Origins of Babajack…

 

“… Trev and I met 10 years ago, when he was playing in a duo with a mutual friend.  We got together, fell in love and starting playing and writing.  But then we had our son, John and so we took time out.  But John is 7 now and comes to gigs and on tour as often as he can!”

 

 

The several religious references in Babajack songs?

 

“…really there is no deep and meaningful theological statement intended… I think the religious references in the songs came about by chance…if religion figures it’s because it is part of our experience, life and very much part of blues music.

 

The ‘Jesus was Jew not a white man’ statement in Big Man Blues was in response to a young lad I met…shorn head, black denims – distinctly right wing anti-Semitic – very British views disguised as Christian.  The song is about meeting this guy and the fact that he got up and did a full Nazi salute!

 

The song ‘Religion’ was born out of horrible drunkenness!  One New Years Eve Trev was so drunk but he was able to walk up the stairs feet first,  he got to the top and swayed, raised his hands and cried ‘Honey, I am the way, the people will follow me and if I had religion I would sing a gospel song.’  Great line for a song!  The song is about Trevor’s elderly grandmother and how, towards the end, she lived almost completely in her memories.

’Dog Tired’ makes reference to Jesus and the church but really this is used to reinforce the sense of isolation of the central character, it’s based on a woman I know, who had been completely broken by a relationship.”

 

“…we had no idea that the Well was a metaphor for the Holy Spirit!  It’s about our allotment!!  We have moved since, but we used to have an allotment and it had a Well on it. It was a simple hole in the ground and when you pulled the cover up it had a dark, dank, disturbing feel and I always had a fear of falling in…”

 

 

Apart from preparing the album what are current Babajack activities?

“The new album is pretty central to our lives, but we are still playing a lot of gigs.  We have to keep earning.  No rest for the wicked!  So please come along to the shows.”

 

How the songs developed…

“Most of the tracks had been brought to life in the live arena and therefore had already been developed in performance –.  We developed them from live to studio.  The only exception to that was Big Man Blues which was pretty much written in the studio, and had to be arranged for the live performance. The next album will be a mixture of the two.  Some songs that have been part of our live set for some months and some very new ones!”

 

Finally here’s a link to a track off of the new album

http://soundcloud.com/babajack/07-sunday-afternoon

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