09 January 2009

ERiC BLiNG: What's Nu?

photo by Guillaume R.
Eric Bling hails from Bordeax, France. I first heard his music on the Not The Same Old Blues Crap sampler and I loved what I heard. His music has that depth, mystery, and sexyness that I'm always on the hunt for. Eric Bling's vision of the blues combines the past and future and brings it into the present where it lives and breathes on as blues just as vital as it's original form and not simply as a new style of dance music. It's deeper than that. MP3s are posted at the bottom along with a video. The MP3s I chose are as close as I could get to giving you an overview of his work but still do not really do him justice. If you dig him, and I know you will, please help spread the word. Thanks! 

What follows is an interview I conducted with Eric via email:

Eric, you live in the city of Bordeaux in South West France, my wild guess would be that considering your geographic location, perhaps you derive some of your influences from North Africa and Spain?

I believe that the first guitar was made in the Mediterranean around the VIII century. And it is the basic instrument for the Spanish music, the Flamenco. This music is moreover a sort of blues I find : melodies often filled with sorrow and lamentations, loaded with pure feelings. Just a guy playing, sitting on chair... It evokes images of Mississippi... As I am native of the South, I grew up with these sounds ! My father bought me my first guitar on the French / Spanish border. I had replaced the nylon strings by iron ones. It sounded almost like an old Stella!(I still have it, but the neck did not survive! Now I have a real old Stella!). It is true as well that rhythm rising from Northern Africa rocked me too. I have quite a lot of percussion instruments which come from Northern Africa that I use in my music.

I also hear in your music Jim White and Little Axe. Does that make any sense to you? I know other people have mentioned Leonard Cohen, which I can hear in the tone of your voice. Is Cohen an influence?

It's true that the sound universes of J.W and L. Axe are pretty transcending and enthralling. Music which tends to grab you, to take you on an imaginary journey, like a road movie... I feel like I belong to that category but perhaps with a more 'knocked up' roots sound. Titles like " Ride on" by L.A, with electro, machines, voice samples taken from old sound tracks of the Mississippi, a mix of modern and old blues sounds, that's what I love. I met Little Axe (Skip McDonald) in London a few years ago. We played at the same gig. I had started my set with a Skip James song. He began his set with the same song. After the show we got together and had a great discussion about the two different interpretations we made of the song; it was really interesting! At the time, he invited me to come check out his studio. I was at the very beginning of my solo project, and especially very shy and impressed! I never dared, like an idiot! Ugh! L Cohen is not really an influence. People sometimes find that my voice has the same kind of tone. Having said that, I like his poetry a lot.

How did your love of American blues come about?

When I was young, my father worked in a garage, and installed automobile radios. Every Wednesday I'd go to see him and I'd sit in the magnificent cars parked there, to listen in loop to, a tape of John Lee Hooker, and imagining driving down a dusty road. Since then, I never stopped listening to a multitude of blues artists from the last century. Especially Skip James, Robert Johnson, J.B. Lenoir and the first J.L.H. I 'm completely soaked in it. It's a timeless music. Beating to the rhythm of the heart. Brilliantly pure and sincere. I listen to all different kinds of music but if I don't get my daily dose of roots blues, I suffocate...

You have, among countless other samples, an R.L. Burnside sample on your first disc. How has the music of R.L. Burnside and Junior Kimbrough and the rest of the Fat Possum Records roster influenced you?

The music of R.L. was a real revelation for me! An undeniable transitional artist. The encounter of traditional and modern sound, with such freshness, such energy, such intelligence! I can remember what a bomb that 'A Ass Pocket 'o Whisky' was. (with J.S.B.E.)What a real eye-opener! I already had a couple of his albums, like the amazing "Acoustic stories". Albums that I've been listening to again and again for years. Respect Mister Burnside. You're sincerely missed. When I discovered Fat Possum in 95 I was ecstatic! The entire catalogue was incredible! R.L. , Junior K., T model, Asie Payton and all the others... It also enabled me to discover artists on the outskirts of blues like Twenty Miles, Bob Log, etc... A great thanks to Fat Possum, what great work! Fat Possum, it's true, reassured me with their ideas that there was lots to do in the experimental field of a resolutely contemporary blues.

Well said. I think Fat Possum opened up the ears of a lot of people who, like me, wanted to like the blues but just couldn't find anything that really hit 'em. I saw, listening to the Fat Possum artists, that the blues didn't have to be antique precious or Chicago white-boy lame. You didn't have to be a musicologist to dig their stuff. It could be fkd up and have some mystery, some danger to it. And that sense of mystery is one of the things that attracted me to your work. How did your use of sampling evolve? I see on You Tube you've played with a harp player but have you always played basically solo or have you been in bands in the past?

Someone asked me one day, a few years ago "Hey! You who like the blues, can you play us an old J.L.H song?" As I felt unable to sing it, I began to cut up a tape with scissors (at this time, I didn't have a computer!) and I stuck the voice on my music. The result was so exiting, that I then took all my records, not only the blues ones, and I cut them up, saying to myself : everything was already written and composed, all I have to do is to mix them all together, and see what will happen...( a kind of homage to all the music I love) All my friends said that I was a madman! The result was my first CD (get out of here). Except for some guitar riffs, everything comes from my discotheque. Yes, in the past, I played with some bands. But it was hard for me to express personal feelings and it didn't really take off. As you said above, it was probably missing a bit of madness, and it was sounding like a lot of stuff already done, even if it was nice...I like playin' alone. In itself it's already a sort of risk take. But I play again from time to time with friends like "harmo Jeff" to try and experiment different stuff. Now, I've got some projects with the Hell's Kitchen, we are friends and have toured together. We are certainly going to "knock up" some tunes soon. I like their energy and fine madness. They are talented. "Hey guys!"

Hell's Kitchen are a very wicked band. That should be an interesting combo. I can totally see how that could work. One of the things I like about them is they don't sound like a European band copying American blues. Because that can be pretty horrible as I'm sure you know. Like you, they twist it and make it their own. The alt-blues scene seems to have really taken off in the last couple years thanks in a large part to the guys involved in London's Not The Same Old Blues Crap scene and America's Deep Blues Festival, among others. I don't want to say exploded because I think it's still fairly underground at least as far as the U.S. is concerned but I do I see it slowly growing. You've mentioned being a fan of Scott H Biram (who I saw recently and I am delighted to report has got his mind right, he's out of his self-imposed night in the box and is back to kicking ass again). Who else have you seen that have knocked you out via your gigs for London's N.T.S.O.B.C. scene and elsewhere?

Dogbreath, a Swedish band, are excellent! We've become friends and I hope to do something with them someday too. There is also Dennis Hopper Choppers, Son of Dave, from England, Delta Head, also Swedish, Giant Mat in Belgium, Legendary Tiger Man, from Portugal... We're all in touch and have the same passion for neo blues. It's true that even though it's all still quite underground here in Europe, the scene has started to move! In London the team of "Not The Same Old Blues Crap" is doing a great job to help in the discovery of the modern blues scene. Thanks to Rupert Orton! Thanks too to Joe Cushley, who is also working to defend this 'borderline' music, as well as David Isaac from "borderline blues" here in France. Otherwise I have met Scott H., he's incredible! I was also lucky to meet T. Model and recently John Hammond. I have a lot of respect for these artists, they are the ones that give me the energy and desire to prevail. The Deep Blues Fest is a great idea! A festival for new blues, in the States, at the roots. It would be a great privilege filled with emotion if ever I were able to play there...

Well that's one thing that I've found fascinating about the alt or neu blues scene is that, unlike other music scenes I've been around there is a very familial supportive vibe to it. Everybody seems to be a fan of everybody else which works to make them play at their best. Like Van of the Black Diamond Heavies said about The Deep Blues Festival it's like a family reunion.Let's talk equipment and process. With the sampling you do how do you go about building a new song and how then are you able to bring that song to the stage for live performance? Can you take me through somewhat of a step by step of how you work?

In fact it's a real steam factory! It's really tinkered. I have a little sampler, on which I've recorded a lot of different voices taken from old records. I hook it and my little wood guitar up to a loop pedal. On stage and at home when I'm composing, it's semi improvised. Each song is put together step by step. I throw in a sample, I play, I play over the whole.... I resample everything live, put it in loop... Even though I use machines with my old guitar, it's all still quite rustique. Always on the line, that's what I like... It's like in a kitchen, a spoonful of this and a pinch of that and a whole lot of feeling, that's what makes it sound like it sounds and makes it different every time, the ingredients aren't always exactly the same!

Your stuff sounds organic and natural in spite of the sampling involved. Do you just use the one acoustic guitar? I don't think I've noticed the sound of an electric.What can you tell me about the new album? When will it be completed and what do you feel are the differences between the album you are working on and the previous two? From the rough tracks you have posted on myspace it seems like the new album may be more of a cross between the first two?

I have several old guitars and amongst them a Stella from the 1950's and a Marcia from the 30's. Two grannies I saved from becoming firewood! They have a real old tin can sound and are really powerful, I love it! To make old guitars that I bought from a flea market ring out loud, is a real pleasure! Especially since they have their own stories! Maybe one of them was recorded on an old record...? In any case that sound mixes well with my taste; with the sound universe that I want to develop: to mix the old with the new. A sound nicely 'damaged' mixed with a 'clean' sound. I find that it opens up a lot of interesting sound perspectives. Yes, in fact my next album is situated somewhere between the first two. It's been done on purpose. The first was a bit more "electro blues" recorded in my kitchen and the second more" intimate roots blues" and live... Since then I've played quite a few more live gigs. Now I'd like to try to play in a different way, always of course keeping a very personal color and of course I hope just 'shifted' enough to not sound like something that has already been done. To do your own music is so much more exciting and passionate. The album should be released mid 2009.

You have some new songs on MySpace. "These Are Hard Times" is one that just really moved me. What can you tell me about it? Who'd you sample for it and did you have an idea of what you were doing...what you wanted to express... when you put the song together?

Concerning "These are hard times", it's a homage to Skip James 'Hard time killing floor blues' is a song that I venerate. I used it a lot on the first album and this time I wanted to give it a much more personal touch. Moreover 'Hard Times' is a theme that is very much a sign of the times! The collage of my melody and the tears of Skip James is not an coincidence ; I feel I've come quite close to the sensitivity that he possibly wanted to express. And it's in this style of musical sensitivity that I feel the best. Light, breezy and a heart down tempo.

One last question Eric,  if I came to your house today what five albums would we be listening to?

Tough! I listen to a lot of different music, but today:"Worried" Asie Payton, "The dock of the bay" Otis Redding, "American V" Johnny Cash, "Joshua" Peg leg Sam, and John Hammond playing some Tom Waits songs.

If folks want to get your recordings where can they do that?

For the moment only available on french webstores like Amazon Otherwise is to order by mail at BORDERLINE BLUES MANAGEMENT.  Coming soon to cdBaby!

Eric Bling @ MySpace
Eric Bling OnLine

You may steal these tracks from Eric Bling. 
You have his permission:

Eric Bling -(previously unreleased)- These Are Hard Times MP3

Eric Bling- from Get Out Of Here (2002)

JLH Part Two MP3

Cryin' MP3

Plastic Head MP3

Eric Bling- from What's Nu? (2007)

Seeing Clear MP3

What's Nu? (Nu Take) MP3

Video of Eric Bling playing Wood Guitar from What's NU?

The gran Rail road / eRic Bling

Eric Bling / Loves n troubles live Ste hyacinthe Quebec 07

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