We’ve dropped a few questions by artist guUs not long ago, and he’s graciously returned his answers. You’ll remember him from our articles about his recent singles, ‘Moonhangin Man’ and ‘Baron Saturday’, and, like us, you’ve probably been curious about how a man originally from The Netherlands comes to have such a world music sound. We hope your curiosity is satisfied with our interview!
Thank you for speaking to us guUs! First off, I’d like to ask about the unusual spelling of your name – how do you pronounce it and how did you come up with the styling for it?
I am from the Netherlands and this is one of the few (if not only) countries where this name exists spelled with two u’s. Furthermore, in Dutch, the letter G is a throat sound pronounced unlike anywhere else (maybe in Welsh? or some Arab countries?). So I can’t blame anybody for struggling with my name. I am not too fuzzy about how people pronounce it. It’s a good conversation starter.
The styling, a second capital “U” is mainly because it stands out visually. It’s the 3rd letter and 3 is a lucky number. But it is also to emphasises that my name is spelled with a second “u” unlike Gus.
We’ve written about two of your songs here on Essentially Pop, ‘Moonhangin Man’, and ‘Baron Saturday’. The two songs have quite distinct styles, yet they’re definitely yours. Do you feel attached to any particular style of music and if so why? What is it about southern blues, and jazz that appeals to you most of all?
I am inspired by the early roots of music. From the spirituals and gospel brought over from Africa, to early jazz and soul. This music speaks to me because it is timeless and it tells the truth. I have always had an interest in the Deep South and the city of New Orleans in particular. It is a place with a deep and painful history but it has persevered and overcome a lot and it still celebrates life whenever possible. This appeals to me personally. The “melting pot” of New Orleans means to me that the culture expressed in music, food and traditions, not only reflects colonial influences from France and Spain but influences from the Caribbean, Africa and the native Indians are very much alive and present. This makes this place even more interesting.
Who have been the most inspiring musical artists in your life? And who inspires you most of all personally?
Both my parents have been strong role models personally in terms of who I am and what I stand for. But I believe they have also helped me with my musical influences.
I come from a hippie household open to different musical influences. My father listened a lot to Lou Reed and Tom Waits. The last one is still probably one of the most inspiring artists when it comes to the music that I write. But the style of early greats like Otis Redding, John Coltrane, Robert Johnson have a direct impact on my writing as well.
In general I admire artists that are genuine, unique and edgy in any genre. Not only the early ones in jazz, soul, roots music, but also more current artists in R&B, HipHop, alternative and punk. In particular those artists who do most of the musical heavy lifting themselves (vocals, instruments, production etc), like for example D’Angelo, Mos Def, Billy Idol, Josh Homme, Prince.
You’re not just a man of world music, but also a man of the world, and you’ve lived in many different places. What’s been your favourite place to live, and why? Where would you most like to live in the world and what would be your reason for that?
Rio, Paris and New Orleans have been favourites for a while. We talked about the cultural and musical draw that I have to New Orleans. Paris is lively, romantic and has beautiful architecture. But one of the main points of attraction for Rio is the contrast between city and wild nature and mountains. You see this with more seaside cities like Cape Town and Hong Kong for example. I consider myself very lucky to now have landed in a place that has some of that, San Francisco in the Bay. So I am very happy where I am.
With my wife being from Zambia, we do also plan to spend some more time there later in life.
What’s the songwriting process for you? What comes first, the words, the melody, or something in between? Do you need to be in a particular frame of mind to write a song? What inspires you to write?
When I create new music, I am mostly a one-man-band. I do all lyrics, vocals and instruments myself. This means that a song can start with a concept or a poem, but also with a melody, a beat or a bass-line. Most of my songs are inspired by having to face challenges in love or life in general, persevering and overcoming them. Others are inspired by anger, like protest songs.
When it comes to frame of mind, I am a very visual guy. If I am in the right zone, in between consciousness and dreaming, little “dream movies” can pop up in my brain that initially seem absurd, but they often turn out to have symbolic meaning to what I am going through in life. Many of my songs are these little movies made into stories, lyrics, songs.
What’s next for guUs?
I have been working on some additional tracks. Particularly on the production part because I am looking to get some placed in film and TV. This means that not all of these will be released short term but I expect some of these tracks to be surfacing in not too much time. I have also been working with some HipHop producers to work on HipHop/ Boom Bap remixes and alternative versions of some of my tracks.
What question do you wish someone would ask you in an interview, but nobody ever does? And what’s the answer to that question?
It was a great interview with great questions, but I didn’t get to share that my favourite flavour by far, for ice-cream, cake and pie, is: lemon. Oh and yes, what books am I reading?: Greg Iles, ‘Natchez Burning’. I highly highly recommend it.
Check out guUs and his music online on his official website, Facebook, and Instagram. Follow the links to read our reviews of ‘Moonhangin Man‘ and ‘Baron Saturday‘.