A heaving house of musical ill repute, inhabited by a horn section sharp as a razor, a top-notch guitarist, one hell of a honky-tonk piano man and a crazy stoker on drums. A regular wrecking crew guided by a captain on banjo and vocals who often is found standing aghast by his crew-members antics, but always reconciles to their crazy musical ideas in the end.
Front man JP Mesker owns a record collection that runs from Louis Armstrong to Tom Waits and all the way through to Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds. He started Maison du Malheur in the year 2010, initially as a solo/singer songwriter project. Within four years, his ‘project’ had turned into a wild rhythm-n-blues-jazz-jive band, that played hundreds of gigs for over a hundred thousand enthusiastic festival goers, sold thousands of albums, and saw their music being incorporated endorsing globally a Dutch bestselling beer brand (yes, Heineken).
Come 2015. Time for a new album.
Maison du Malheur like to celebrate every gig like it’s a jubilee. Eagerly they mount even the tiniest of stages, adjust their hats, plug in and away they go. Full throttle. The crowd hasn’t come all this way to watch a bunch of shoe gazers; they want to see and hear musical swashbucklers, top notch players that can build a musical safe haven in minutes. A free for all, for outsiders and insiders, for the found and lost, for tramps and tricksters, in short: for all musical vagabonds out there.
This calls for high energy and explosive musical dynamics, a rough ride that often seems to get dangerously close to the edge.
But herein exactly lies Maison du Malheur’s power: playing live, creating music on the spot, music that breathes, and in so doing they claim their rock-‘n-jazz hot spot in the universe -together with their audience. And this celebration isn’t about fame or money or the latest mobile phone. It’s about life and enjoying life. It’s about the bop till you drop rock till you stop, and then start all over again. Now the band have succeeded in capturing this raw live energy on tape, for all to hear on their brand new album Stomping Ground.
All Maison du Malheur’s band members have an astonishing amount of musical knowledge. These guys have got fast fingers and big ears, and know their chops from their stops. For years they have tucked into ancient musical sources like blues, jazz, jump, jive, soul and rock-‘n-roll. And they use all these influences to come up with their very own brand of good time music. Some of them are self-taught, others are seasoned jazz cats. Some of them -good lord!- even went to conservatory. What they all have in common is that they all are one with their instrument. These men have dedicated their lives to music, real music. You know the kind, music that’s got it all: rock and roll, beats and bops, solo’s and swing, pearls and pimples, screams and sighs, the whole bag of tricks. Music like they used to make, back in the day, before it became marketed and stale. Music straight out of the heart and gut.
That’s why Maison du Malheur recorded all of the songs on their third album Stomping Ground (vocals included) in a series of one takers during a four day stay at the famous Electric Monkey Studio in Amsterdam. Fuck the overdub! Get all the guys in one room, hand them a cup of coffee, position the mikes, press record and let it rip. So you can actually hear the music being made while it was played.
That’s why you can not only hear the vulnerability in a song like The Connection Is Fragile, you experience it. That’s why you can actually feel the Latin feel in Autumn Sundown, and you almost envisage yourself in a desert during the Morricone like-blues of Your Number Is Up. That’s why you want to dance along to a New Orleans second line during Crow and stomp your feet along to Stomping Ground.
With this third album Maison du Malheur finally and definitely stake their claim and create their very own Stomping Ground. A place where the rules of modern everyday life don’t apply, and listeners and crowds can drop their masks and just let go for an hour or so.
And Stomping Ground isn’t just a record, and it certainly isn’t an act. This is music the way music was meant to sound and what it was meant to do: make you feel good. A tonic for the troops, a relief to the ears, a balm for the soul and a cure for the heart.
But ultimately, Stomping Ground is the recording of Maison du Malheur’s continuing search for uninhibited musical and social freedom.
– Jaap Boots, 2015