The billowy white shirt, unbuttoned halfway, and the long, curly brown hair definitely helped to cement the image. However, it was during the plaintive opening strains of my first spin of the newly released single, “Kraken,” that I first thought of Jim. You have to understand something about me to get the gist of such a statement: I am a huge Doors fan. Have been since I was first introduced to their music at age 13. So I regard it as a compliment of the highest order when a singer reminds me of Morrison, and it happens very rarely.
I’d been in contact with Joseph, the founding member & lead singer of Musketeer, for about a month prior to the gig on the 15th of January at Horns Erben. It was the first leg of a mini-tour to launch “Kraken,” off the forthcoming album, The North Sea.
Having listened to it as well as a few of their tracks off the first album, I was really looking forward to the show.
The guys were having dinner as I arrived and promptly filled me in on their rating system for venues based on how good the band meals are. Horns Erben scores high, thus far. The other three band members are German, all of them based in Hamburg, and they gleefully take the piss with Joseph for his “shitty German.”
After a year of playing together, and recording the new album in an old school building-turned-studio, Watt & Sound, near the border with Denmark on the North Sea, they are comfortable with each other, something that comes across strongly on stage.
A young local lad named Tom Peregrine opened for them, performing a mostly acoustic, folksy set that set the tone and warmed up the gathering crowd. It was then that Musketeer took the stage and the conjuring of Jim Morrison was complete: Joseph’s posture, hanging off the mic stand, eyes closed, alternating between haunting, plaintive croons – passionately beseeching the audience – and raw, primal screams.
Jim never played the guitar, though.
I’ve never liked genres, don’t believe art should be boxed in and forced into easily demarcated categories for ease of filing. To call Musketeer a folk band is misleading. They move freely between hauntingly beautiful, plaintive and chilled and frenetic, guitar-driven, powerful and edgy.
The set was compelling from the start, with Eric on lead guitar like a barely contained demon of sound, egging them on, always pushing to the edge, only really happy when it’s loud and fast. Joseph is a compelling frontman, engaging and at times mesmerising. Felix on bass is the jokester, entertaining the crowd with funny anecdotes from tour life and telling bad jokes while Joseph tunes his guitar between songs.
What struck me most is how much fun these guys are having on stage. They really look like they wouldn’t want to be anywhere else in the world, an infectious attitude which seeps off stage and into the room, embracing every member of the audience in an epic sonic hug.
I posted a few questions to Joseph about the recording of the new album, life on the road and how the Baltics compare to the coast of Australia.
While some of the songs off Seven Long Years have a definite melancholy air, the new album seems much darker and more gritty – what do you think contributed to this?
It was a combination of things. I think I started listening to a bunch of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – I was listening to a few Scandinavian acts too, like Anna Von Hauswolff & Daniel Norgren – and I wanted to create something in the vibe of that. I had also moved to Hamburg and wanted to capture where I was in some regard. I wrote most of the new record in the city. In the end, the band arrangement came down largely to what the band and I worked in the studio to create. Eric’s electric work certainly set that grungy rock tone.
Where an album is recorded can have such an influence on its final sound and general ambiance. In this case, The North Sea is not just a catchy title, but the actual location where you recorded, isn’t it? How do you think it impacted on the final product in this case?
Yes! The boys and I packed our gear in the dead of winter and set up in a little schoolhouse (Watt & Sound Studios) five km from the coast of the North Sea. It was right on the German side of the border with Denmark. There was a warm stillness in that little house that we hope influenced the final recordings. The new single “Kraken” is a straight up rock piece, so it is a little hard to tell with that track. But in the slower pieces, it certainly comes through!
Joseph, as an Australian native I imagine that the ocean here in the North differs quite a bit from what you are used to back home. Has it always played a big part in your life?
Yeah it is very different. Not so golden. <winks> But no matter where you are, the water still hits against the rocks and drags back into the deep. For me, I grew up in the countryside in Australia, so it wasn’t really around much when I grew up, apart from when we went to the coast on the odd family holiday. Perhaps this is why I have always been somewhat terrified & mystified by the sea, and never really wanted to wade in.
I have tried to tackle it a few times, diving in on the odd occasion, but I have never enjoyed the feeling of being battered by the hectic waves, or being swept under, unable to breathe. Afterward you end up with sand in your swimwear! That’s the worst, haha! But maybe I have just been at the wrong beach. One time I was on a secluded beach in the Mediterranean and it was lovely! But most of the time I am happy to stick to the shoreline with a beer. Can’t beat that.
Musketeer is finishing off the “Kraken” launch tour in Hamburg at the end of January, and we can look forward to the release of the new album in the coming months. I, for one, am delighted to have found my first Favourite Band in Europe, and I highly recommend downloading their album, available on the Musketeer website, and keeping an eye out for future performances.