Interview: The Inspector Cluzo
Interviewer: Paul Hutchings
I recently reviewed the seventh album by French Blues Rock duo The Inspector Cluzo. Brothers in Ideals, an acoustic remake of their 2018 release, We, The People of the Soil. The band are keen farmers, having bought a farm in their home region of Gascon, Lon Casse in 2013. The opportunity to have a chat with Mathieu Jourdain and Laurent Lacrouts was grasped with both hands and I hooked up with them at the farmhouse in the sun whilst it poured down in South Wales.
I started by finding out a little bit more about the region of Gascony and the uniqueness of the area.
The Inspector Cluzo: The Wascons gave both the Basque and the Gascons so it is a unique region [plenty more on Wikipedia too!]; The Gascon had been invaded by both the Romans and the English which is what gives the Gascon people the richness and sense of humour … and also the blue eyes!!
The Razor's Edge: The community looks [on the Rockfarmers documentary] like how a lot of people would love it to be, with neighbours looking after each other and working your farm when you are on tour. Is that traditional for the area?
The Inspector Cluzo: Oh yes, in the past all neighbours had to help each other, sharing the tools, tractors, every task, but there was also a big party after every big task, so harvesting the corn, the grapes and the wheat. We still do that at the farm. We invite friends and neighbours to pluck the geese and after that we have a big dinner altogether, and spend time together.
The Razor's Edge: How long have you known each other?
The Inspector Cluzo: We met at high school around 18 years of age, and we were studying physics and maths, but we were playing our instruments so naturally we came together and we did a band, a classroom band and we gigged and then we formed another band [Wolfunkind 1994-2007] and we were eight in that band! That’s why when we decided to go to two, we had the experience of being eight in a band.
The Razor's Edge: There was a slightly different sound with Wolfunkind to how you play now. Did you manage to tour much having released four albums?
The Inspector Cluzo: Not that much, getting abroad was harder. But The Inspector Cluzo actually started in Glasgow at King Tut’s in 2008, so we really started abroad, and then we went to Japan and we started having success over there and finally friends woke up and said “okay, we are going to give you the chance” and they booked us in some local festivals, two of which were the first for us to play our music in France.
The Razor's Edge: And from there it has progressed to what appears to be a very successful venture which has resulted in you self-producing and self-releasing your music.
The Inspector Cluzo: Yes, that’s correct. We have our own label, F*** the bass Player records and we are self-financed. We use distribution deals for the worldwide release, Caroline International UK. We control everything.
The Razor's Edge: That must give you a great deal of pleasure; trying to get away from the whole corporate approach. Does it give you satisfaction?
The Inspector Cluzo: Exactly. It brings satisfaction as well as freedom to do whatever we want to do. So from the farm, we are self-sufficient, and we eat from the farm but also for the music, we can do whatever we want, and that’s a global thinking. That’s how we came to release Brothers in Ideals. We didn’t plan to release it originally what we recorded in Nashville but we had feedback from friends and from fans that said “hey guys, that was very nice, you should put that out”. So we shall see how the fans react when we put it out. Because of the sales of We, the People of the Soil, which sold almost 25,000 copies, we thought about maybe we could target a natural audience for this one.
The Razor's Edge: Yes, that was one of my questions which was what prompted an acoustic version of an album that is not that old but you’ve answered that, and I’ve got to say congratulations because having had an advance copy to review I really have enjoyed the album. It’s great because although the songs are familiar if you know We, The People of the Soil, it is certainly a very different album. You know the lyrics but the acoustic side gives it a completely new feel.
The Inspector Cluzo: Thank you. That’s what we tried to do, so thank you for that.
The Razor's Edge: I’m intrigued by the farm. I know I’m meant to be talking about the music but have you always been interested in farming and agriculture, self-sufficiency etc?
The Inspector Cluzo: Not always but we grew up close to farms. Laurent’s great grandparents did own a farm and they were raising geese and they were self-sufficient. Mathieu also, thanks to my family, they were growing their own vegetables and raising their own meat and stuff like that. We experienced that when we were very young, and then travelling the world with The Inspector Cluzo we could see how urgent it was for us to do something rather than just let it go wrong. The farm is our way, our answer to global warming.
The Razor's Edge: And because of where you play, with concerts in different parts of the world, you have to fly, so is this the balance in return?
The Inspector Cluzo: Exactly. You know, we heard of some bands, like Massive Attack and Coldplay who are not going to tour unless we can balance our Co2 emissions and our answer is okay, we grow our own food. That’s more than a balance because we don’t have to go to the supermarket!
The Razor's Edge: So I suppose I’d better get back to the music. You’ve been around for some time now, starting back with Wolfunkind and then over ten years with The Inspector Cluzo. Who are some of the major influences of the band?
The Inspector Cluzo: We have been influenced by all hard soul music. We are massively influenced by Neil Young, not just for his music but his approach to Farm Aid and his position about the environment and activism. Also Ry Cooder for the same reasons and blues music and everyone who talks poetically of the countryside.
The Razor's Edge: That is evident in your music. You said you’d played King Tut’s in 2008. Have you played much in the UK [apart from the 2018 dates with Clutch?]
The Inspector Cluzo: We opened for Fishbone for a few gigs, but the feedback was so positive in Japan so we toured a lot in Asia and then Europe and the US and then South America and we are now trying to come back to the UK as we feel that the UK as well as the US have a big crowd for rock n roll. They understand the message.
The Razor's Edge: How was the reception when you toured with Clutch?
The Inspector Cluzo: We had a very good response and that’s one of the reasons why we want to come back as the audience understands the music more than in Asia or even France, because we sing in English. So we get better feedback from the audience.
The Razor's Edge: You played Download last year and you’ve got Ramblin’ Man Fair this year, where the weather will probably be a bit better
The Inspector Cluzo: We were lucky, we played Download between rain showers!
The Razor's Edge: You’ve got the UK tour coming up in about a month, which we are looking forward to. What are the plans for promoting the album then?
The Inspector Cluzo: After the UK we focus on the US and release the music over there. We have Bonnaroo festival just about confirmed and we will tour around that date. We’ll be available for festival and then back to Europe for Ramblin’ Man, then Europe for festivals in Italy and Spain, and then Japan.
The Razor's Edge: A busy time coming up and a lot of work on the farm. Do you sleep much?
The Inspector Cluzo: Haha! We sleep enough but of course, it is busy. In between music we have to plan the farm and how to harvest the corn and plant the wheat. We have the rhythm of the farm to work with.
As discussion digressed into more farming talk about how the land works, we touched on how the band has given up on growing bananas. But they are still planning to try to grow rice, much to the amusement of their neighbours. Massive thanks to the band who proved to be an absolute pleasure.
The Inspector Cluzo hit the UK for a short tour in February. You should really be there too.