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Friday, April 23, 2010

Inspector Cluzo mix rock, blues, funk — no bass


Special to The Japan Times

Last year, French rock group The Inspector Cluzo played 185 concerts in 23 countries. Despite linguistic and cultural differences between the guitar-and-drums duo and their audiences, they had little difficulty spreading their basic message: "F-ck the bass player."

News photo
Kill rock stars: The Inspector Cluzo may raise eyebrows with a song about Michael Jackson, but they say it has more to do with rock-star attitude than the man himself.

A belief shared by both guitarist Laurent "Malcom" Lacrouts and drummer Mathieu "Phil" Jourdain, their humorous "F-ck the bass player" ideology has become the URL for The Inspector Cluzo's Web site, a song on their 2008 eponymous debut and the slogan for their band T-shirts.

"We became fed up with bassists while we were playing in our old band, Wolfunkind," explains Lacrouts. "We changed bass players four times. Every few years we had to teach a new bassist our music. We got sick of this and one day decided it would be simpler to just play together.

"We now are a two-piece band. It's guitar and drums and it grooves without any bass, so f-ck the bass player."

Pals since high school, where as students Lacrouts and Jourdain both planned to one day become engineers, they began making music together after classes and formed Wolfunkind upon graduating. The funk-rock act operated for 13 years and included as many as seven members before disbanding as a quartet and giving birth to The Inspector Cluzo.

"We were not trying to be fashionable, or a fake copy of The White Stripes," Lacrouts says. "We just didn't want to play with other musicians anymore."

The group's sophomore full-length, "The French Bastards," was released in Japan by Kanagawa imprint Surfrock International on April 21. The album was recorded at Lacrouts' house in the southwest France city Mont de Marsan. Angelo Moore from the long-running U.S. ska and rock band Fishbone provides spoken-word vocals on one track and funky French act Ceux Qui Marchen Debout added horns to a few cuts. Of course, no bass players were invited to appear.

"My kitchen has the best sound in the world," boasts Lacrouts. "It is better than a studio, and we can cook the best duck breasts in the world while we are working. We tried a lot of combinations of putting microphones in different places to get the right sound. We had microphones behind closed doors and in the bathroom."

Further developing the rock, blues, soul and funk hybrid presented on their first album, with "The French Bastards" The Inspector Cluzo have temporarily stopped picking on bassists and instead take shots at overblown rock 'n' roll celebrities on the disc's second single "F-ck Michael Jackson." Obviously some of the pop icon's die-hard supporters may take offense with the song. But to Lacrouts' credit, his high pitched, Jackson-styled chorus is pretty damn catchy.

"We love Jackson's music, but we are upset by what he did with children and about his rock-star attitude," says Lacrouts. "You can be a genius, but you need to treat people correctly and be polite and respectful. Saying 'F-ck Michael Jackson' is our way of saying 'f-ck rock stars' and to remind people to not forget the kind of person he was or the things he did."

Although The Inspector Cluzo have no qualms with becoming successful, they don't have any intention of ever changing who they are.

"There is a difference between being a rock star and being famous," offers Lacrouts. "We are just musicians and need to stay humble. Everyone is equal, so f-ck the rock star system."

Like its predecessor, "The French Bastards" is a very fun listen. And while it provides a good introduction to the band, The Inspector Cluzo are best experienced live — something they easily proved during their three concerts at 2009's Fuji Rock Festival.

Definitely one of the highlights during the always awesome free Thursday night prefestival bash, despite playing to several thousand extremely enthusiastic attendees at the party inside a packed Red Marquee, the guys enjoyed their Friday Fuji Rock set for a few hundred fans more.

"Naeba Shokudo was our favorite show," Lacrouts says. "It was raining and there was a great atmosphere there. It is a small area, so U.K. bands and other crappy groups will have likely refused to play there, but we love being able to play on small and big stages.

"We are the kind of band that really improvises a lot. We try to create a unique relationship with the crowd every night, unlike U.K. bands that are not good onstage and play the exact same notes every day without taking any risks."

Their strong showing at the renowned event will no doubt help pack venues for The Inspector Cluzo's return visit to Japan in May.

Lacrouts and Jourdain always wear suits when performing. They only have one each, though, and do not wash them while they are on tour. Before you push your way to the front in hopes of getting as close to the group as possible, remember they'll have been gigging in support of "The French Bastards" for a month by the time they reach Japan.

"When the suits start to stink, they make us think of France and good smelly cheese," laughs Lacrouts. "This is cool because it helps remind us of home."

The Inspector Cluzo play at Live House Soma in Osaka on May 6 (7 p.m.; [06] 6212-2253) and Daikanyama Unit in Tokyo on May 7 (7 p.m.; [03] 5459-8630). Tickets cost ¥5,500 in advance. For more information, visit www.smash-jpn.com or ter.a.terre.free.fr/ftbp. The band will also perform a free acoustic in-store performance at Shinjuku Tower Records in Tokyo at 2 p.m. on May 8.

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