The Folk Art and Blues Festival is a six day series of music and arts events taking place in Phnom Penh, Kampot, Sihanoukville and Siem Reap this week. The festival has been organised by The Cambodian Space Project bandleader, Julien Poulson.
The festival kicks off tonight at The Villa Grange in Phnom Penh, where bands The Kleps (France), Justin Frew Trio (Australia) and Frankie Teardrop Dead (UK) will perform poolside sets.
Leng Pleng sat down with Jean Luc Jousse of The Kleps to find out more about his colourful background in the world of rock’n’roll and what inspired him to bring his band to Cambodia for the very first time.
“The guys in the band have travelled from Europe. I’m based in Orléans, which is two hours from Paris. We have Lorenzo from Orléans, Ollie from Tasmania/London and Davide from London. The city where the show happens is the name of the band… so tonight we are the Phnom Penh Kleps! The same band will be playing in Kampot and Otres, and in Siem Reap as an acoustic trio.
The Kleps is a mix of Garage, Punk, Psych, Pop… The name ‘Kleps’ means a kind of a mean dog. It’s also a reference to the psychedelic scene of the 1960’s, you can look up a guy called Arthur Kleps who was a big part of that scene. My first band was in 1982, the Psychedelic Kleps. Then there was the Klepstones in 1985, in 1986 The Kleps. There was a big gap from 1991 until 2002 when the New Bomb Turks asked me to put the band together again to support them on tour. In 2003 we became the Cool Kleps, then the New York Kleps in 2013. Two years ago we did an acoustic band called The Justesse Social Kleps… and now the Phnom Penh Kleps.
I sing a mix of French and English… more English than French… songs with both languages.
The New York Kleps came about after we played with Heavy Trash [Jon Spencer’s alt-country/rockabilly band] – with Jon Spencer and Matt Verta-Ray. We got invited to record in Matt’s studio and we had a bunch of guys from New York come in there to record with my band. The name of all the guys are on the album sleeve.
At the very beginning of The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion I was their soundman, tour manager and driver in Europe. 1993 until 1995. It was cool to see the development of the band. The first tour was not even 100 people per show, the second tour was 300…
I went to Japan in 1994 and I was a soundman for a band called New Bomb Turks, that was where my connection [with Asia] started. I worked as a booking agent with Japanese bands the 188.8.131.52.’s, and Guitar Wolf.
I also brought guys like The Bellrays from the U.S.A. to perform in France. We are an agency, we promote the bands as much as possible. In France and Europe we do Garage, Punk, a bit of Soul, a bit of Blues… independent music.
The venues in France… the [government sponsored] SMAC venues (Scène De Musiques Actuelles) are modern, with great PAs, you have 150 venues like this in the country… but its hard to get there because usually they are like a 400 or 500 capacity venue so you need to be able to bring the people.
In France, I represent the Cambodian Space Project. I’ve worked with Julien for five years. I travel a lot but this my first time in Cambodia. In the beginning of the development of The Space Project in France we had a couple of festivals for them… the music is familiar to us, we like it… but we were very charmed by Channty’s singing and her Khmer-style dancing.
Over the next couple of months, we have a French tour coming up for The Bellrays and also a European tour for Guitar Wolf.
I’ll be on the bus to Kampot on Saturday. I’m here more as a holiday than a work trip. I’m very curious to meet Cambodian musicians. I hope for a good time, we hope to see people for the shows. Every single minute in Cambodia is great! They have good pepper in Kampot, I hear that in Otres they have an incredible beach, and I will see the temples for a short time in Siem Reap.”
Thanks Jean-Luc, we feel sure that you will have a great first trip and first live shows in the Kingdom of Wonder.