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Jeremie Coke – Putting Paris on the Funk Map by Steve Gregory

Photo - "Stella-K"

Photo – “Stella-K”

Several cities come to mind when you think of those associated with funk and soul:  Detroit, Philadelphia, New York…the list can go on and on.  However, what about Paris?  If Paris is not on the tip of your tongue when you think of funk and soul hubs, perhaps it is only because you have not yet heard bassist Jeremie Coke and his band Electro Deluxe.

As the six piece Electro Deluxe (which added a big band for their album, “Live in Paris”, as shown in the video above) weaves their way through funk, R&B, soul, and fusion sounds, Jeremie’s bass work provides the perfect foundation for every situation.  For the uninitiated, a quick stroll through Electro Deluxe’s YouTube channel provides an excellent overview of the band and Jeremie’s bass work.  A special funky treat can be heard on the fantastic remake of the Bee Gee’s “Staying Alive”.

Electro Deluxe has recently released their album, “Home”.  This record highlights an ever evolving Electro Deluxe funk and soul sound, this time showcasing the song format and vocalist James Copley.  Jeremie’s solid bass foundation is heard throughout the album, switching seamlessly from old school R&B (“Twist Her”), instrumental jazz-funk (“Ground”), funk (“Devil”), to soul (“Home”).

“Home” and all of the Electro Deluxe albums are available in France and also worldwide via the Electro Deluxe website and iTunes.  Watch out, world… Jeremie Coke and Electro Deluxe are putting Paris on the funk map.

Tell us about how you got into music and into the bass.

I started with violin when I was 6, classical music and all that stuff.  When I was 18, I started bass with my friends when I started my studies – I wanted to an engineer. I got the diploma…on the paper I’m an engineer!  At that time, I was playing bass with my friend more and more.  When I got the diploma, I wanted to try music with my bass. We were doing covers of funk music: Jamiroquai, Incognito, Brand New Heavies, that was the kind of music that I really liked. A little bit of reggae too.

What attracted you to funk music?

I didn’t like rock and metal and stuff; I like rhythm, I like to dance.  Before I started with bass, I used to listen to rap.  French rap and US rap, too.  That was in the 90’s – that’s a long time ago!

So, it was really rhythm that drew you in?

With the violin, I didn’t know much about electric music or modern music.  I started in classical music and I didn’t know much about drums, electric guitar, or electric bass.  Then one day, I saw this drummer. I just watched him play and it really touched me. I was drumming on the table, trying to play with my foot and my hand at the same time.  I think rhythm is something I like, so the bass is a link between the notes and the rhythm.

How did Electro Deluxe begin?

We started in 2001.  I met Thomas, the saxophone player, with my band when I was a student.  He moved to Paris and I went to his house and he had two friends [there] – a drummer and a keyboard player. The day after that, I told Thomas that I wanted to meet musicians in Paris. I didn’t know any musicians in Paris and it’s really difficult to make a network with many contacts to play with.  I said, “Why don’t we play with the two other guys?”  He said, “Yes, I know them very well and they are really good!”  We had a jam session together and they wanted to play also, just like us.  They had just ended their music school, so it was good timing for everybody.  At the first jam session, some of them proposed some new songs and new compositions of their own.  We started like this.  A few weeks later, we added electronic sounds and samples and the first gig took place in that [style].   One year after, we met a small label in Paris. They were looking for new bands, so we gave them our demo and that’s how they started.

Was it just instrumental at the beginning?

At first, there were no vocals at all, but when we started to record the first album we recorded with friends and we met a lot of singers.  We invited them to sing on our compositions, so that’s how we made it. At that time we had no vocal leads, we just had many features.

This is the first year we have our own vocalist.  We met James 3 years ago when we invited him to sing on our album, “Play”.  After the studio session we said, “We should work together on stage”.  We needed vocals on stage, always, because it was difficult to play just instrumental music on the kind of stages we used to play.  We always had Crystal Petit, who used to sing with us, or HKB Finn, from London, for rap.  So, we found James and we have been playing with only him since that time. He’s now part of ED.  We recorded “Home”, the new album, only with him.

He was also on the big band album, “Live in Paris”.  Did your playing have to change during the making of that album?

Yes, a little bit, because each instrument reduced the room to express. It’s such a big sound!  It’s like a super tanker – if you want to turn, you have to think about it in advance. The arrangement has to be that way, because our music can be very fast. This big band is so good that the space they take is not that big, but especially on the bass and on the keys and on the drums, we had to reduce our vocabulary and concentrate on the principle, the main notes.  Concentrate on the essential, that’s how we changed. For the rhythm section, we moved to being like a pop musician –we learned to be more efficient in simple things.

Do you think that thought process translated to the making of “Home”?

Yes, a lot.  A lot of fans will a little bit disappointed because there’s no big demonstration, no difficult things to play.  It’s more simple, more efficient, but it’s songs now so the most important thing is the melody, the vocal.

What was the writing process for this album?

It’s the same for all of the albums we have made.  Everyone comes with a demo or ideas; sometimes it’s almost finished, sometimes it’s just an idea.  Everyone comes with something.  We put it all together, we try to play it, and sometimes we change some things, sometime we don’t. That’s how we write. After that, we propose all of the music to James and he can influence the choices.  He will say, “I like this one, I could write lyrics on this one, I’ll try it!”  That’s how we make the choice.

What about your parts specifically?  What is your thought process during writing?

It depends. If someone proposes a bass line on their demo that is good, I just take it and I try to stick to their demo, because the original is always the good choice.  But I always think about it and think about what can I add or what can I subtract to make it better.  Most of the time, it’s what can I subtract, what can I take off.  Sometimes [the demo line] is played on the keyboard and you can’t transpose it to the bass, it’s not the same. Most of the time, when we play together we take off some of the things and it’s more simple after our work.

Is that especially true now that you have James as your full time vocalist?

Yes, especially now. When you play a song sometimes, you don’t have to play something difficult, just get a big sound and it’s perfect.  Just one note in the bar and it’s OK

You mentioned fans might be disappointed that there is nothing difficult, but it also sounds like you have refined your thinking to really enjoy getting that “big sound”.

Sometimes we have master classes and we meet young music students that are playing very, very well.  I’ll say, “You’re playing so good, but let’s do something.  Imagine you’re in the studio and the producer wants you to play this song for somebody. Just listen 10 minutes and think about what you could play on it.”  They often propose difficult things and the song is a mess – you don’t hear anything.  “OK, now just try to play half notes, in time.”  They can’t do it in time! The song is not good; their time is not good. When they try to do a fill at the end of the bar, it’s out of range. We try to teach them to play the right thing at the right time. Even if he or she is a very educated musician, they realize, “I can’t play half notes right now!  I can play very fast, very complicated things, but I can’t play half notes for that style.”   I say, “Go back to work!”

For me, for bass and drums, that’s the good idea.  The more simple and the more efficient – that’s the way it should be, in my opinion, in the music that I like.

Are you distributing the new album worldwide?

We are trying to, but we are self-produced.  We don’t have a label; we founded our own label.  We are trying to be distributed outside of France, but that’s very difficult. We are trying to contact distribution in Germany and UK, but at the moment, there’s nothing.

What’s the best way for non-French fans to get your music?  iTunes?

Around the world, yes, iTunes is the best way

What basses are you using now?

I’m using a P bass, ’68.  It’s very old and very difficult to play!  The action is very high, but I like it!  I play that P bass or a Jazz Bass, ’73.  For the next tour, I’m using P-Bass, and for the “Home” album too.

What about amplification?

To be honest, I don’t have any.  I’m always renting in the venue I play. I ask for SVT Classic. I don’t use any effects or compressor, it’s direct.

A lot of people ask me when I play in concert, what amp do I use?  I say, what do you hear when I play?  Is it my amp that you hear?  No. It’s the bass in the mix table, that’s it.  The amp is just for me; the sound you hear is the DI.  They realize the sound is made with the fingers, not with the amp.

Once, when I brought the P bass to a friend he told me, “You can buy any bass, you will always have the same sound with every bass!”  It’s kind of a frustration for me, but it makes sense because the sound is not the bass, it’s the fingers.  The most important thing is to have one sound, your own sound.  If you find it, with your fingers, you will have it everywhere!

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