Posted On 28 Jul 2017
Dynamic French Art Rockers The Dukes were formed in 2010 by Lead Vocalist/Guitarist Francois “Shanka” Maigret – who has been a part of notable French Rockers No One Is Innocent. He is partnered with Drummer/Programmer/Vocalist Greg Jacks from the multi-platinum pop rock band Superbus, which won an MTV award, and 2 French Grammy nominations (winning in 2007 for Best Rock Album).
The band has 2 previous releases: 2010’s “Resilient Lovers” EP and 2011’s “Victory” LP (both recorded by Magnus Lindberg from Cult of Luna). Their first American full length album is “Smoke Against The Beat” (produced by Jamie Candiloro – REM, Ryan Adams) which was released TODAY by Concrete Entertainment on July 28th. The collection defines the band’s sleazy, sexy, driving sound and has established them as a successful touring act in Europe, both as headliners and as an opening act for international bands on arena tours.
The stage show has machines, scenography, projected animated video clips designed by Shanka, and an original light show that creates a visual presentation reminiscent of a Stanley Kubrick film for the intense live performance of this Indie Rock duo. They are showcasing these talents with June and July dates on the Vans Warped Tour.
The Dukes are also visual artists: their personage “Smoki”, drawn with a Sharpie marker, epitomizes the DIY fury and the subversive “Art‘n’Roll” spirit that animates the group. Available in all forms including animation, stop-motion, comics and action figures, the Smoki universe is an expansion of The Dukes.
The band recently signed a worldwide management agreement with Bob Chiappardi and Erik Baker of Concrete Entertainment, the sister company of legendary Concrete Marketing. They are currently recording more new material to follow up “Smoke Against The Best” with #1 rock producer Kato Khandwala (Papa Roach, Paramore, The Pretty Reckless) who coined their style as “future rock”. The new material is being recorded at the legendary Sphere Studios in Los Angeles. A Pledge music campaign to finance the new recordings and upcoming tour launched in June 2017.
Keep in touch with The Dukes:
iTunes order link: https://itunes.apple.com/mu/album/alright/id1246948151?app=itunes&ign-mpt=uo%3D4
Official Website: www.thedukesmusic.com
Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/thedukes54
Instagram : https://www.instagram.com/thedvkes
Twitter : https://twitter.com/wearethedukes
Youtube : https://www.youtube.com/user/THEDUKESVIDEO
Learn more about The Dukes in the following All Access interview:
Thanks for your time! Where does this interview find the band today? Is there music playing in the background? What music do you all like to listen to when you are relaxing or answering interview questions?
Greg Abitbol: Hi and you’re welcome!! Thanks for taking the time to ask us questions:) Today 50% of the band is in Phoenix, AZ (greg) and the other 50% in Paris, France (Shanka). We just came back from the Warped Tour and our other summer tour dates. We also cut a track for a big, big video game that will be released sometime in 2018 (we can’t tell you more right now unfortunately but we will share when we can). We’re thinking about going back in the studio to cut some tracks with our brother and producer Kato Khandwala. So as you can see, we keep busy. :)) Today it’s Star Wars music on in the background since my 7 years old is playing on the PS4. When I want to relax I listen to Afro-Cuban music, Bossa Nova, or the old Jamiroquai album.
Shanka : Right now I have YouTube in the background, playing a best of Soul Train (the 70’s TV show)! A few weeks ago, we’ve had a studio session for a video game with producer Jeremy Parker (Slipknot, Evanescence, Godsmack and he reminded us of that incredible show, so right now I’m totally into it! In general, when I have to write I prefer to listen to non-rock music : things like Ennio Morricone, baroque music, Irish folk music, old school blues like Son House or Leadbelly… It helps me focus more.
How does 2017 so far compare to last year? Did you approach this year differently then you did 2016?
Greg: I think we are in a better position today than we were last year. We have a great management team, last Tuesday our first U.S. single entered the Billboard (BDS Rock Indicator Chart) at #36, we played on the 2017 Warped tour, synced a track to a big video game that will be released in 2018, etc. It’s better than last year as we are moving forward and making progress.
Shanka: In 2016, we were in the studio recording music and we also started working with Concrete and our managers Bob Chiappardi and Erik Baker. We were under the radar, recording music and making plans to take over the world, totally “Pinky and the Brain.” 2017 is the year we started touring the US and also started to have feedback on what we do, which is a pretty big deal : today’s music business is very much like speed dating, if it’s not love at first sight, you’re out. Luckily, we’ve only had very positive feedback so far…
The two amazing things that happened to us in 2017 are the Van’s Warped Tour and the fact that we made our debut with “Black Hole Love” on the Billboard mainstream rock indicator chart… Without a label. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yqQCoqZ4jHk
Growing up, did you always want to be musicians?
Greg: Yes – pretty much so!! But I also remember stating that I wanted to be a secret agent, I swear it’s true!!!
Shanka : Nope, I wanted to be a mountain guide! I started rock climbing in the Alps with my dad when I was 8 or 9 years old, and I was all about it. But then my brother had me listen to AC/DC and, well, that was it. I saw a video of Angus rolling on the floor, shredding like a madman, and I said, “This is what I wanna do”. Then my parents bought me my first electric guitar when I was 14, I learned how to play that thing on my own. After I graduated, I moved to the capital (Paris) and started my career.
Can you recall the moment you realized that you could really make music together and be a band? Why do you think your name truly represents this group and the music that you create?
Shanka : I knew it instantly. The first time we played together, it was with the French rock band No One Is Innocent. I was the junior guitar player, it was my first “professional” experience and Greg was already in the band. The very first time I played with this guy at the rehearsal space, I was like “My gosh, I totally understand his playing, I can even anticipate his drum fills!”. It is so funny, because it makes the musical dialogue so easy, it’s ridiculous. The fact that we’re a duo is demanding because you can’t hide or cheat, but it’s also fantastic because I feel like it’s kind of like a friendly tennis match. I just love it.
As for the band’s name, to me it’s plain sarcasm : we define ourselves as “Sixpenny Millionaires” (a reference to Charlie Chaplin and his tramp character), which means we don’t have much money but we always maximize what we can do with our six pennies and make it look like it’s a million-dollar production. That’s an effective way to boost your creativity and your skills. So, the reference to second-rate aristocracy is totally ironic!
Greg: Ditto ;o)
I always like to ask artists how their hometown has been an influence on the kind of music they make and what kind of a band they are today. So how do you think your hometown(s) has affected you?
Greg: In my case, I don’t know if it has much to do with the music I’m playing right now. I grew up in a pretty wonderful place that was not that “rock n’ roll” – so I can’t hide behind that 🙂 In my case it’s more about the life I live and lived every day and the experiences that came with it/them that influence me on the way I approach my music and the way I express it.
Shanka : In the song “Alright”, there’s this line : “I really hate my hometown / when the sun’s coming down.” Here’s an explanation: the city was so polluted by the industry that every building that used to be almost white (everything in the city was built out of limestone) quickly became a dirty dark gray. During the day, it was just ugly and depressing, but as soon as the sun went out, it looked creepy. I grew up in what could be called the French equivalent of the Rust Belt here in the US, a landscape made of hundreds of old factories left to rust and countless military cemeteries. I think growing up there gave me a very strong working-class spirit and a deep sense of survival. There are many symbols that refer to where I come from in my drawings, for example : there was this huge artificial black mountain by the city called the “Crassier” (literally, “the Dirt “) that was made of all the slag coming from the mines and factories around. In the 70’s when the iron industry went down, there were some massive strikes and some union guys went up that shit mountain and put up a huge “S.O.S.” sign that they lit on fire. You could see it for miles. Sometimes I put it in the background in my drawings…
How do you think The Dukes has grown since you first formed in 2010? What has remained the same?
Greg: What remains the same…? Our love for playing music together. And actually – the 2 of us!!! Shanka and I started the band back in 2010. At some point, we were 4 band members, then 3, then we decided to keep going with just the 2 of us…
Shanka : I think our music is getting better and better. The personality of the band is also becoming strong, compared to where we were when we started. At first, it was just a recreational project, but when we realized that the potential was huge we started taking it very seriously. When I started doing all the visuals myself, it changed a lot of things. We gained a lot of attention and the band’s aura really started to expand. The fact that we have now started our career in the US is pretty much a dream come true for both of us, but what’s the most important thing is that we still LOVE to perform together, and that’s not gonna change anytime soon!
On July 28th, you released your first American full-length album called “Smoke Against The Beat.” What was it like putting this collection together? What made you finally decide to release an album in the US?
Greg: If you’re playing rock n’ roll and really want to have an impact on the music market, it has to come from the US. France is not really credible when it comes to Rock n’ Roll!!! And, I live here in the US, so why not take advantage of that!!
Shanks: Putting all the songs together was the easy part, we always enjoy this creative part of the process. Composing and recording is not painful to us, far from it. When Concrete suggested that we release the album in the US, we instantly said YES : how can you refuse something like that? It’s an amazing opportunity for guys like us.
I understand that you are already working on more new material right now with the amazing rock producer Kato Khandwala. What has that been like for you all? What do you think is inspiring the new music that you are creating now? How is your Pledge Music campaign going?
Greg: Kato is an amazing dude. Not only he s talented but spending time with a human like him makes you better. After spending the first day in the studio together I felt that I have always known him. Working with him is a blast. And you know Kato did not decide to work with us because of the money (we don’t have any!) or because a label asked him or any of that… He decided to work with us because he’s a visionary and he thinks that what we are doing together is the “future of rock”. So, he wants to write history with us. Kato made our sound even more personal and unique. No one sounds like us. I can’t wait for everyone to listen to those new tracks… The pledge campaign starts on the release date of the album, July 28th – so as of right now I don’t have too much to say about it beside the fact that we are proposing is awesome. You can get very cool stuff that no one else offer…
Shanka: The fact that we met Kato will definitively bring us to the next level. We got along so well, he’s practically part of the band now! Our mission for the next album is to bring the sleaze back into Rock N’ Roll. And so far, so good : we already play a couple of the new tracks when we play live, and the audience’s reaction so far has been insane. As for the Pledge campaign, it will be launched on July 28th! We really picked our brains to offer original stuff to excite the fans, we really hope you’ll like it.
Why do you think Concrete Entertainment is the right place for this band and your music today? What was it like signing with them recently?
Greg: Time will tell…lol. More seriously it’s a great honor to work with Bob Chiappardi and Erik Baker. Bob is a legend in this business and Erik is on his way to becoming one. They have a unique expertise. Bob has been handling cutting edge rock band since the mid-80’s working with so many bands I love that it was almost hard to believe when I heard that he wanted to co-manage us with Erik. And Erik when it comes to radio knows what he’s talking about. We often heard from labels: “Do they have the song…?” Erik told them “YES”. It looks like they did not believe him. But guess what?? They should have because he was right!!! #36 on the Billboard indicator chart after only 3 weeks with nothing but the music is pretty amazing, especially on our first release here in the US. I can’t imagine what we’ll do if we’re fortunate enough to have the “Superpower” of a label behind us. Long story short: we are blessed and lucky to have signed with Concrete!!!
Shanka : Concrete has helped so many legendary bands to break through, when we signed with them we couldn’t believe it. When we met Bob Chiappardi, it was so weird because the guy has worked with all of our heroes : Pantera, Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam, Rob Zombie, Guns N’ Roses… But the dude is such an amazing and kind human being, which is quite rare in this business, he made it very easy for us. He was even with us on some of the Warped Tour gigs, which was just like having a guardian angel watching our backs! But seriously, it’s so important to work with nice people. It makes any project both solid and fun.
Your stage shows sounds incredibly entertaining and different. Can you talk about where the ideas all came from and what someone can expect from one of your shows?
Shanka: We wanted to offer the audience something original, and to build a setup that we could use in any conditions. Since we were on a budget, we invented an original video setup : we use mapping to project my animations on our gear, synced to the music. The result looks very impressive! The show becomes a full visual and musical experience, even in the smallest clubs. Today, the live music industry has become a (to put it crudely) a “dick-measuring” contest : it’s all about who’s got the biggest screens, the most advanced technology and the greatest light show. We obviously don’t have the resources to compete, and besides we believe this approach is vain. For example, I deeply respect Rammstein because they still don’t use video on stage : they chose to remain creative and use their resources in a smart way, without copying the other big acts. That’s what we’re trying to do within our capacities, because integrity is something very important to us.
What are your plans for the rest of this summer? How were your earlier summer tour dates?
Greg: We want to get back in the studio with Kato to cut more tracks for a 2018 release. We never stop writing music, it’s like breathing. Some bands have “writers block” – but luckily, we don’t!! 🙂 And then after that getting ready to hit the road and go back on tour this fall.
Shanka : We’re looking forward to touring again in the fall. For now, we’re focused on promoting the release of the album. We can’t wait to hit the road again; the summer tour was a blast!
Where do you guys think you are happiest- on stage performing, in the studio recording new music or elsewhere?
Greg: Tough question….both bring incredible pleasures.
Shanka : It’s so different, I don’t really have a clear answer to that. The recording process is great because that’s where the magic happens, that’s when the music is being crafted. Also, it’s a very safe moment : if you screw up, you just hit the “undo” button and start again! The live show is somehow a bigger challenge because if you screw up, you can’t undo it! You either have to repeat your mistake several times to make it look like you know what you’re doing (I do it all the time!), or have people forget about it by grabbing yourself by the balls and drastically improving your performance on the next song! But that’s the beauty of it. To answer your question, as a slightly taciturn person, I think I prefer the studio time. At least, they have unlimited coffee there. 😉
Who are some of your favorite artists? Who would you all to work with in the future – What would be a dream collaboration for this band?
Greg: I love Miro and Giacometti personally when it comes to painting and sculpture. My dream collaboration: actor Danny McBride. I’d love to have him on a video. We wrote a song for him and I sent him an email a few months ago but he never wrote me back… So, Danny if you read this, or if anyone knows him please call me or email me! lol
Shnka : I love so many artists, not only musicians, it’s hard to choose. But I’d love to ask my friend Gretchen Ryan (she’s an incredibly talented painter) to do a live poster for us someday! Or Patrick McGrath Muñiz, another painter who lives in Texas and is also a fantastic artist. As for musicians, I’d love to work with Alain Johannes (QOTSA, PJ Harvey…), we met a couple of times and I think he’s an amazing musician and human being. Then, I’d love to collaborate with Frank Carter, Jack White, Ian McKaye, Tom Araya, Ninja from Die Antwoort, Jaz Coleman from Killing Joke, or those two blokes from the British band Sleaford Mods. Those guys are brilliant and have a great attitude. At this point, anything can happen! If someday we can afford a music video shot and produced by Terry Gilliam (of Monty Python fame), I’d die happy.
What do you hope is the message of your music? What do you hope people continue to take away from your songs?
Greg: If we can get people to think – then that’s great!!! Critical thinking or just thinking would make my day if I can help people in the process of reflecting on their lives and the world around them.
Shanka: I think we ultimately try to tell people : Be smarter. Just think, for one second. Then question. Then offer solutions. That would be my ultimate message, if you read between the lines.
What advice would you give to a band just getting started? Or even to someone young that is thinking of becoming a musician one day?
Greg: My advice: Go back to school son!! 🙂 More seriously – I’d ask that person if he/she is willing to fail?? Are they a resilient person?? Because most likely this person will fail many, many times before succeeding. But not giving up is the key, in my humble opinion.
Shanka : In our experience, what matters the most is not the money, not the socials, not the amount of views or anything like that. What matters the most is the music. We couldn’t afford to pay for attention, so we just sent our music to people like Kato Khandwala or Bob Chiappardi, and what convinced them is the music itself. So, my advice would be try to offer the best music that you can, and then have it produced properly. In my opinion, composing and producing are the two sides of the same medal, and both are very important.
Is there anything else that you would like to share with our readers about yourselves or your music that you haven’t shared in other interviews?
Greg: I secretly watched the “Nashville” TV show, it’s my guilty pleasure… but please don’t tell anyone. 🙂
Shanka : I just want to say – I hope Rick & Morty’s new season will be out soon. I can’t wait!