A few weeks ago we posted about The Dark Blue Orchestra's gig at Alimentation Générale. The Paris-based, 7 piece band performs in English - mixing classical orchestral sounds with dark, jazzy undertones and a touch of poetic redemption. Eclectic managed to catch up with the band's front-man and criminal mastermind, Don DiMartino to pick his brain on music, creative expression and a preference on superpowers.
eclectic: How was The Dark Blue Orchestra formed? Can you give us a brief introduction of the band members?
don dimartino: The Dark Blue Orchestra was formed in 1995 by Don DiMartino (vocals) and Salossin Freeman (guitar & piano). After several names, several cities and several line-ups, the band is now existing in Paris and composed of Valentino Mussou (cello), Stephen Harrison (double bass), JJ Laine (drums), Julien Bienaimé (piano/organs), and Pierre Favrez (sound).
e: Can you describe to us the band's style of music?
d: Difficult question... It is a melting pot of everything we ever got moved by musically. From Kurt Weill to Ravel, with a pinch of Ziggy Stardust and a hint of Howling Wolf.
e: What was the most memorable concert/gig you've done?
d: Our first ever concert is the one we will never forget. It was in 1995. We got the gig before we had anything really written. We had 6 days to find musicians, compose 8 pieces and put them down on paper. Some of these songs we still play today.
On that day, the sound engineer didn't show and we had to find another one. Long and short of it was that we finished the soundcheck the second the doors opened. Some of the songs were so fresh that we did not remember what we had written, so much of it got improvised, which made for a very spontaneous - and a little surreal - gig. The footage of this gig made its way into an arty movie that was shown all around Paris. If anyone stumbles upon it, we'd love to get our hands on that film reel.
e: What is the significance of classical orchestra in your music?
d: The very essence of The Dark Blue Orchestra's music is to mix classical music with the roots of rhythm and blues. We aim to take the best of both worlds: the rich harmonic arrangements and lively structures of classical and the trance-inducing repetition and heart-felt simplicity of old rhythm & blues. This is very much of a challenge as this gives us quite a big playground.
Of course, having strings in our line-up makes for different arrangements than one would expect with a more conventional 3 or 4 piece rock band. We usually put a lot of work into the arrangements and end-up removing anything that does not convey the concept of the song. The Beatles were master at that art: making a very complex piece sound extremely simple.
e: Does the band have a ritual they do before any performance?
d: Salossin and I usually look at each other to make sure that we are feeling good and that nothing will adversely affect the vibe we put out on stage. We generally look after each other in the band.
e: If you could rock out with any musician, living or dead, who would it be and why?
d: I think doing a gig with Hendrix on guitar, Mozart on piano and John Bonham on drums would be a lot of fun. We’d love to hear what kind of music these guys would be doing today.
e: You get one super power. What would it be?
d: The power to touch even the hardest soul with our music. We're working on it.
e: What can we look forward to from The Dark Blue Orchestra?
d: The full-blown musical with the first part of the triptych coming out with full libretto and in a very unexpected format.
e: And lastly, share with us a dirty little secret.
d: Only 90% of the story we tell in the opus is true. The remaining 10% has not happened yet, but surely will.
Photos by Julien Favre, courtesy of The Dark Blue Orchestra