bright young folk

Bellowhead Matachin interview #2 - Justin Thurgur

Posted by Christopher Friedenthal on 10 September 2008

We conducted a series of interview with members of Bellowhead in the run up the release of the new CD Matachin on 22nd September. Check back on Friday to hear from Paul Sartin but now it’s Justin Thurgur, founding member of Bellowhead and trombone player extraordinaire. We caught up with him as he’s just finished work on a CD with Lokkhi Terra and is busy with his own project which he describes as "Afro-Jazz with other influences thrown in". Photos by Alan Cole of MusicFestivalPhotos.co.uk

How did you hook up with Bellowhead?
My background has been mostly in the Afro/Latin/Jazz scene and shortly before Bellowhead was formed I had joined a group called The Very Tiny Little Kids which was a North African/Free Jazz/Funk Group lead by fellow Bellowhead musicians Gideon Juckes and Pete Flood . Brendan Kelly was also a member of the band but sadly neither of us recorded with them before they split up. Jon Boden knew Pete via their mums and approached him about being part of Bellowhead and also asked him if he knew any horn players.

Which track do you most like to play live?
It won’t be very familiar to audiences yet but I think my favourite track to play at present is Pete Flood’s version of the Widow’s Curse simply because it’s a killer arrangement. But there are so many great tunes that all have a different vibe so it’s a difficult one to answer. Frogs Legs and Dragons Teeth is a great tune set in terms of the audience response which is a real high to experience, Benji and Andy’s new track Unclothed Nocturnal Manuscript Crisis is very funky.... I could go on.

That’s not on the CD.
It’s Record company decision. It’s going to be a downloadable single.

What were your musical influences growing up?
My main playing influences were all the big jazz guys; Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Lee Morgan, Oscar Peterson plus funk bands like Tower Of Power and Maceo Parker. I was also into the Police and the Beatles, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Simon and Garfunkel, but Jazz was my big love.

Who would you most like to collaborate with?
From the point of view of my dreams, working with Herbie Hancock on something of mine would be where it’s at... But I would love to work with D’Angelo or Jill Scott for instance. There are so many great musicians out there but actually I’m very happy with the people I already work with.

How did you get involved in the African and Latin scenes?
I got into the African and Latin thing from a jam session that I discovered when I moved to London in 1995. It was being run by the pianist Kishon Khan who I still work with to this day. There were some amazing players at the jam and of all the jams I tried at that time the music resonated with me the most at this one. I met Dele Sosimi at a jam that he was running but by that time I was seeking the music out rather than finding it by chance.

What advice would you give to someone new to the African and Latin scenes who wants to explore your work?
Check it out but preferably live because that’s where the great music really happens. In all scenes there’s music that people will like and that they won’t, the main thing is to keep on exploring. I don’t currently have my own MySpace page but will do soon.

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Justin Thurgur Bellowhead