Q&A with Dutch Blues-Rocker Julian Sas, one of the greatest artists in his genre in the Netherlands and Europe

"We as musicians have to tell stories, give people stuff to think about, make them aware of the politics that influence our lives. Inspire each other and communicate..."

Julian Sas: The Electric Netherlands 

Julian Sas is one of the greatest artists in his genre the Netherlands has ever produced and as a guitarist he belongs to the absolute top of Europe. Julian made his name and fame with a series of very strong albums, but especially as a live artist. Sas is inspired by legendary musicians such as Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck and Johnny Winter. Together with his band, the sympathetic guitarist guarantees an authentic blues show time and time again. In 2019, almost 20 years later, Julian Sas proved it again with his band, with a special set list, full of Hendrix material, made for a Woodstock Anniversary. Stand Your Ground (2019) is the title of the new studio album, features 8 new songs and was analogously recorded in the completely renewed The Van Studios of Jan and Paul Schuurman in Spakenburg, The Netherlands in 2018. It is the tenth studio album of the Dutch Blues-Rocker and his sixteenth if the various live albums are included.

The lyrics reflect topics that Julian wonders, thinks and worries about; politics and how it is 'sold', the power of money, relationships, twists of life, the love of the working class hero; the common man, the unrest in body and soul, the passion for traveling and being on the road. Sometimes autobiographical, sometimes written as an observer. Firmly Julian Sas and his musical partners have been sailing their own course through the musical landscape for almost 25 years. No compromises has always been the thought behind the band. Honest music based on heart, soul and hard work. The rock 'n roll idea - its revolutionary aspect - is deeply rooted in the soul of this band.

Interview by Michael Limnios

How has the Blues and Rock Counterculture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

It has influenced my view from an early age on. Because a lot of the music I listened to was political and cultural influenced and had very different lyrics in opposite to the disco stuff that happened in my youth (which was and is absolutely not my thing)...when I was 12/13 years old, I listened to a lot of old delta blues, Frank Zappa, Rory Gallagher and so on....and a lot from the Woodstock area...Hendrix, the dead and so on...so, if I look at the lyrics most of it was based on political stuff, a different view and mostly about freedom and oppression and trying to get away from the system...these are the keywords in my life today why I became a musician,...to go out there and try to tell a story about these things that still happens today, which is a shame, but it is the truth...As a young child I was really attracted to this material and also the fact that I was completely  interested in history in school so Music, lyrics and history seemed to be the best combination for me... So, it was very obvious that I would go and make the journey I had to make, becoming a story teller and a travelling musician with a lot of guitar work hahaha ...so the influence was big.

How do you describe your sound, music philosophy and songbook? Where does your creative drive come from?

My sound is based on classic rock music...distorted sometimes clean (depending on the guitar volume level) and heavy big Marshall stacks lost of sustain and low and a raw massive energy. It is warm and has a certain feel which is mine completely...I never perfected it, was there when I bought my first Marshall ...magic. My music philosophy is that I am always searching for guitar licks riffs, hooks and a melody lines when needed...it depends on the lyrics (which topic the song is about) for me it is easy to write songs because I see every song as new, I am not captured in a style thing...so the song tells me what is needed ...that is how I communicate with music, so it has to be absolute freedom in the writing process. I think that is  the reason that I have written so many songs and different styles within the bluesrock style, and in the end it becomes you own style...most people that have my music say always this...you never know where he comes up with on his next album only that it is typically a Sas song.

I have a naturally high level of energy, which is great, being creative was already there in my youth from an early age on. My parents always gave me complete freedom about it...painting drawing reading...and Music...so most of the time at home and on the road I write ..small pieces that later come together and become songs...sometimes I do not play for days, then I pick up a guitar and write two or three songs...whatever you do creatively ...never push it ...just let it come...that is also a life philosophy of mine...

"Jimi Hendrix played in Berkley Community center on the 30th of May 1970. That is a day after I was born. For me as a Hendrix collector the Berkeley shows are one of my favorites...So if I could make a trip in a time machine I would love to go and see the Berkley shows instead of watching the DVD...that would be the real deal."

Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

I have many memories to share...over the years it has become many. I supported Gary Moore once and I was watching his performance form the side of the stage and I was standing where his roadie was standing. In his guitar rig was the legendary 59 Gibson "Greeny" Peter greens guitar, which is one of my favorite players...so I asked the roadie: Can I touch it? he looked at me, and said; Yes, but only touch it! hahaha Man I did and I felt so happy and thought that I had become a better player in one minute...I felt the energy coming from that guitar. So, this week I saw this picture of Metallica's Kirk Hammett and Peter Green with that guitar and I was smiling...you know why now...

10-15 years ago, I did two massive shows with Rory Gallagher’s old band in The Netherlands as a tribute to Rory, I have great memories about these shows to...long sets and a lot of jamming on stage...like it should be. I supported Lynyrd Skynyrd once in Germany and had a very nice talk with some band members...very nice people...so I can go on for hours...but good memories indeed. Studio sessions for me have always been relaxing. I like the environment of a studio, although I am live player. Being in the studio feels natural and all the sessions I did were always good fun…

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

It became for me personal a more commercial thing. I know that the music industry has always been a commercial thing, but I do believe that in the early days Artists had a bigger musical vision and a thing to say...like Zappa and those guys. So what I miss in most music nowadays is a meaning, a different view...give the people something to think about...I am talking about pop music now off course...but I have to admit that my opinion is mostly based upon what  I hear on Dutch  radio…which is very poor radio...that is why a lot of listeners go out and search internet radio and find music out there that is not played upon the mainstream radio I think. Rap music and Heavy metal still have strong views and opinions about the world. It is not  a "lalalalala everybody happy song" if you know what I mean...My hope for the future is awareness of what is going on in the world and that people open up their minds for the world and each other....and see what we need and not...maybe it is a hippy thought, but hey what is wrong with that...nothing I think...

"My music philosophy is that I am always searching for guitar licks riffs, hooks and a melody lines when needed...it depends on the lyrics (which topic the song is about) for me it is easy to write songs because I see every song as new, I am not captured in a style thing...so the song tells me what is needed ...that is how I communicate with music, so it has to be absolute freedom in the writing process."

Make an account of the case of Rock n' Blues in the Netherlands. Which is the most interesting period in local scene?

I think the early seventies, in that period the blues and rock came out strong and young Dutch bands start picking up the music throughout England and Radio stations that would transmit from ships on the North Sea...Than it all went away in the nineties. Rock and blues guitar players died Vaughan, Gallagher...terrible days for the guitar addicted. I started my band in 95 when the whole blues rock scene was in a total gap, the bands from the seventies were searching for sounds and were trying to keep up with the music of that day... I never thought about it ...I just started playing what I loved and thought was real...I still do it today...I never thought anything about commercial stuff...I am only a player as far as I am concerned! So, I guess I do not know what the best period is. I t started in 65 and ended somewhere when the punk area came, I guess...then it was searching for most of bands...and it lifted after Gary Moore came out with that massive hit record in the nineties. The scene these days, is very small and maybe some promising bands can come out of it, but that is something the future will show...it is harder for them these days, cause a lot of places you could play are gone...but that happens everywhere I think...

What would you say characterizes Jimi Hendrix's music in comparison to other musicians and guitarists?

He gave freedom to the song in my opinion, great melodies and still be able to jam in it...that is what I love about Hendrix. He also laid down Sounds, octavia, wah and fuzzy tones...and played many times loud but brilliantly clean....I have studied many guitar players and they all have their own way...what I do know is that I do not really know a guitar player who is not influenced by Hendrix...I think that still makes him the greatest of all. But Jeff Beck, Frank Marino and many more were true magicians to in my opinion... they were all painters in some sonical way...

"I think the early seventies, in that period the blues and rock came out strong and young Dutch bands start picking up the music throughout England and Radio stations that would transmit from ships on the North Sea...Than it all went away in the nineties. Rock and blues guitar players died Vaughan, Gallagher...terrible days for the guitar addicted."

What is the impact of Blues n' Rock music and culture on the racial, political and socio-cultural implications?

I don't know; I only know that there are people. Memphis Slim, one of my favorite piano players said: I need the black and white keys to make beautiful harmonies and play music...so here you have my opinion to. What I said before...we as musicians have to tell stories, give people stuff to think about, make them aware of the politics that influence our lives. Inspire each other and communicate...So what the impact is I do not know. What I do know is that we have the responsibility to tell about it in our songs and hopefully get the message thru!

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

I don't know; I don't change anything I think...because it is what it is! I would probably say that every musician should be paid properly for his work hahaha but then again, that is also part of the deal, and a lot of musician jokes of not getting paid were gone forever. So, the loss of humor is always the worst-case scenario in my opinion! But to be honest...I really do not know what to change. The only thing that comes to mind is that I would love that there were more places to jam, perform and play for upcoming bands...small and bigger venues...so that young bands have a better future...

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?

Jimi Hendrix played in Berkley Community center on the 30th of May 1970. That is a day after I was born. For me as a Hendrix collector the Berkeley shows are one of my favorites...So if I could make a trip in a time machine I would love to go and see the Berkley shows instead of watching the DVD...that would be the real deal. Hendrix Live...that would be amazing... two shows one whole day...somebody out there? who has a time machine at home...tell me hahaha. That is where I would go to...

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