Dutch agency, producer and guitarist Jan Mittendorp talks about his projects and European blues scene

"Europe sees blues as culture and in the US it is entertainment (to sell drinks)."

Jan Mittendorp: Blues & Groove

Jan Mittendorp is a Dutch blues guitarist, mainly known as booker – Crossroads Agency – with his own record label – Black and Tan Records. Since 1993 also touring Europe as a guitar player with USA artists like: Percy Strother, Smokey Wilson, Byther Smith, Burton Gaar, Roy Roberts, Larry Garner, Boo Boo Davis, Erskine Oglesby, Jody Williams, Roscoe Chenier, Clara McDaniel, Boyd Small, Billy Jones, Hosea Leavy, Percy Strother, Harrison Kennedy and many others.

With Boo Boo Davis he performed on all major European festival like North Sea Jazz, Jazz a Juan, Montreux Jazz Festival and Peer Bluesfestival. Since 2011 also very active with his new solo (DJ) project miXendorp.

Black and Tan is an independent record label & publishing company. The company was founded in 1998 and we're based in the Netherlands. We are passionate about music and look for artists that can sing and have something to say. You'll find story telling music that is created by artists who write and sing their own songs about their own life. The voice and the story are the roots of this original, honest and handmade music. 

Interview by Michael Limnios

What do you learn about yourself from the blues and what does the blues mean to you?

Blues is music and music is a very important thing in my life. Most of the things I do are connected to music.

How started the thought of Crossroads agency and Black & Tan Records? What is the mission of label?

As a musician I started doing my own bookings and since I was pretty successful at it more musicians asked me to do their booking as well. Then later I found out that for niche market (like blues and roots music) it is important ot combine the live shows with CD releases and so I started my own label. The records help to promote the shows and the shows help to promote the records. At this moment live shows are the only place to sell records.

How do you describe Jan Mittendorp sound and progress, what characterize your music philosophy?

My Philosophy is simple. There are two styles of music. Good music and the rest. I don’t think in styles. So I like jazz, blues, rock, pop, techno, world and anything in between if it is good. Believe me there is a lot of bad blues too.

"I try to mix the sound and the energy of the blues with more modern dance music also as way to find new audiences for this great music." 

Which is the most interesting period in your life? Which was the best and worst moment of your career?

This moment always is the most interesting period. I discover new music and possibilities every day.

Which meetings have been the most important experiences for you? What is the best advice ever given you?

Meeting with great musicians and great people like Smokey Wilson, Boo Boo Davis, Roscoe Chenier, Ernie Payne, Byther Smith. They really learned how to look on music and life.

Are there any memories from your rooster artist on the road which you’d like to share with us?

Too much. We have fun almost all the time when we are touring and recording. The traveling and waiting etc can be tough be usually we enjoy ourselves. Touring is Murphy’s law. Everything that can go wring will go wrong.

I have been touring for over 20 years now doing 1000 – 150 shows per year so that are 2500 – 3000.

What’s the best jam you ever played in? What are some of the most memorable gigs you've had?

I don’t go to jams. Some of the most memorable gigs are Montreux Festival and North Sea Jazzfestival.

"Blues is music and music is a very important thing in my life. Most of the things I do are connected to music." Photo: Jan with Little Smokey Smothers and Elvin Bishop

Why did you think that the Blues music continues to generate such a devoted following in Europe?

Well the current following is getting older quickly (I do not see people under 50 at blues concerts) so we need to find new audiences for this great music. My miXendorp project is an attempt to get the music across to young people

From the musical point of view what are the differences between European and American Blues scene?

Europe sees blues as culture and in the US it is entertainment (to sell drinks).

What do you miss most nowadays from the blues of past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of blues?

People trying new things like Muddy Waters, Elmore James, Howlin Wolf, They really created something new. Most modern blues bands try to sound like an old record. In that case I’d rather listen to the old record.

Would you tell a little bit about your project miXendorp? What is the relation Blues & Beat?

I try to mix the sound and the energy of the blues with more modern dance music also as way to find new audiences for this great music. Young people that have never heard blues before like my remixes a lot. As opposed to some of the blues purist who hates what I do. ON stage I combine DJ’ing, playing live guitar and video images.

Crossroads - Home    Black & Tan - Home

Jan, Jasper Mortier and Boo Boo Davis, photo by Mischa Scherrer

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