Posted September 6, 2008

The King does it alone


French one-man band Jay Automatic – aka King Automatic – describes his music as “Primitive Big Band”. In a world that clamours for pithy, catchy descriptions, King Automatic’s self description is spot on the money, with a twist of irony for good measure.

The music is undeniably primitive – like everything else on the Reverend Beat Man’s Voodoo Rhythm label (catchy cry “music to ruin any party”), King Automatic is rock’n’roll stripped back to its indigenous elements; with an enemble that includes keyboard, drums, guitar and whatever else is in his current rock’n’roll kit bag, there’s stuff happening everywhere. But – and here’s the twist – there ain’t no-one but the dextrous King Automatic up there, swapping, balancing an dblending whatever musical tools lie before him. For those of us who struggle to walk and chew gum at the same time, it’s an absolute freak out.

Hailing from the town of Nancy, in the La Lorraine region of north east France, Automatic starting out playing in the beautifully titled Dracula et les Vélomoteurs when he was 12-years-old, before playing in various other bands (“I played in a lot of bands with often the same people,” Automatic remarks), the most recent of which being Sux Evulsors and Thundercrack. Some years ago Automatic decided to cut to the chase, and re-invent himself as a one man band.

“I ‘ve always played alone at home just for fun,” Automatic says. “I had done some recording on old 2-track tape recorder, but I decided to start playing as one man band in around 2001,” Automatic says. At the begining there was only guitar and drums, before the instrument collection branched out to include maracas, organ and harmonica (“I’d like to play all instruments if I could!,” Automatic says). Automatic infused his music with his eclectic collection of artistic influences, including Jaques Dutronc, The Specials, Howling Wolf, Ennio Morricone, The Sonics, English and French punk rock from the 70’s, rockabilly, soul, rhythm‘n‘blues, rocksteady, Calypso, and even classical music.

Former Hard Feelings band leader John Schooley once remarked that the best thing about being a one-man band was not having to worry about your band mates; the worst was having no-one to help you carry your stuff to and from gigs. For Automatic, it’s also a two-way street.

“Playing alone is sometimes more easy, you can play just what you like and when you want!,” Automatic says. “The worst is that you're alone to find songs and decide which ones are good or not . You're alone to go on tour , drive and move your stuff too! But I'm lucky coz sometimes, my girl or friend comes to help me. I like solitude when it's just for few days! Then it's now more easy to be alone to go on tour or find gigs coz you need just one car, promoters only have to find accomodations for one person, boss of the bar gets smile coz you 're not gonna drink as much beers as a ska band,” Automatic laughs. “But just talking about music, I think it doesn't matter if you're alone or not to create and play music. If I could play my own stuff with a big band of 40 people it would be OK for me!,” Automatic says. While there’s a notable blues sensibility that comes across in King Automatic’s music, Automatic says he’s equally motivated “by the music the blues generates , like blue beat, ska, rhythm’n’blues, rock’n’roll and soul”.

While it might seem that perfecting the one-man band might be a long term quest, Automatic says things fell naturally into place. “I don’t really know how long did it take but when you play drums, you get an automatic synchronization of your arms and legs so it's not a real problem for me,” Automatic says. “The most difficult is to stay concentrated before, during and after the song. At the end of the song I start to think about the different adjustments i'm going to do for the next song! I had to be in the habit to use sampler and try to do loops straight and start and stop it with the same foot than to play kick drum!,” he says.

Automatic found a musical soul mate in the Reverend Beat Man from Voodoo Rhythm records, on which label King Automatic has so far released a few albums. “He came to play in Nancy my own town, but we were in contact early by e-mail,” Automatic says.

King Automatic’s forthcoming tour of Australia, which will comprise an appearance at the Flip Out! festival together with a few sideshows, will be Automatic’s first tour outside Europe since he toured the United States with his previous band Thundercrack in 1999 and 2003. Automatic’s intentions while in Australia are simple – imbibe the local music and see if he can meet any of his musical heroes.

“Just see and know this country coz in France, the only time we can hear something about Australia, it’s for the new year,” Automatic says. “Maybe I can meet The Saints or the Easybeats!”

Saturday 6th September From 2pm

Wednesday 10th September (Co-presented by Route 66)
w/ The Exotics, Firebird + Burlesque by Miss Rosy Rabbit, DJ Ross from Route 66

Friday 12th September (Co-presented by Route 66)
w/ The Disbelievers, Deaf Wish (Melb), La Mancha Negra and Burlesque by Lorelei Lee & Lillian Starr.

Saturday 13th September

w/ Knife Fight (NZ) and Deaf Wish

Saturday 13th September