Q&A with Rock n' Roll band from Croatia, The Red Roosters (Ljudevit Laušin) - 60's beat group kind of sound

"Rock music definitely had a big impact on the whole society throughout history. Take March on Washington and all the happenings in 1968 as an example. Take all those great gatherings of people and all those big charity concerts. Music was so important that it had the power to move the masses, to provoke them and make them use their brains."

Ljudevit Laušin: Let The Good Times Roll

“The Red Roosters” are a band out of Osijek, Croatia, and from their very first performances in local live venues, it was clear that this band was something quite rare in contemporary rock - a high energy, enthusiastic group that thrills audiences with their fresh original songs as well as their exciting covers of songs by their idols. They have paved their own way, and they did it patiently and thoroughly. The Red Roosters are Ljudevit Laušin, Josip Horvat, Luka Kolak and Marijan Gašparović. Firstly, they conquered their hometown audience, and when they reached Zagreb, the country’s capital, their reputation spread like wildfire. The Roosters are pure action; totally committed to the music they not only perform and listen to. They have held fast to their discipline of not only pushing original material, but by writing those songs in English, despite push-back from local record labels and managers who urge them to write more Croatian music in order to appeal to a more local audience.     Photo by Lukas Antičević

However, their persistence paid off, and the public got to see and hear the Roosters on numerous stages, radio, and TV stations not only in their home country, but in greater Europe as well. In spring of 2010, the band made a further step on their way to international acclaim. They received an offer to play in London after Rob Bailey - the promoter/manager impresario in the London rock scene. In July 2010, after 3 club gigs the band returned home with a morale boost from their critical acclaim and thrilling reactions from English audiences. After numerous club and festival shows, in 2016, the band was invited to play in a national theater house in their hometown as a part of their production of Richard Bean’s musical comedy “One Man, Two Guvnors” which introduced them to a new audience profile. The Red Roosters' latest single and video “You Can’t Keep A Good Man Down” was released by Intek Music (2019).

Interview by Michael Limnios

How has the Rock n' Roll Culture and music influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

Rock and roll influenced my life a lot. Even as a kid I was always drawn to rock and all other forms of "organic" music, meaning I never could stand dance music that was all the rage on the pop charts in the '90s. But when I was around 15 - 16, I discovered The Beatles and I went to my first Rolling Stones concert and that changed and defined my life from that point on! It was in my formative years and it influenced every aspect of my life - I got into the art, started to pay much more attention to my clothes, I grew my hair and I finally started playing the guitar. So the core values I acquired back then are still very much present in my life.

What were the reasons that you started the R&R researches? How do you describe band's songbook and sound?

You could definitely say The Beatles and Stones were my two foundations but they were also responsible for my interest in various other forms of music because I started looking for original versions of the songs they covered and that led to my interest in old rock and roll and, especially, via Stones, to my discovery of the blues. So, I started to learn and look further into the past - it was the begging of the fascinating journey that I'm still on today. I remember being totally blown away by the Stones version of "Little Red Rooster", that song singlehandedly got me interested in the blues - and it inspired the name for my band! So - when I was able to play guitar well enough to learn the songs I wanted by ear - the next logical step was starting a band. It took some time to get all the right personnel but when we started playing, our repertoire was mainly old R&B, blues, and rock and roll - I guess it was quite similar to the early Stones repertoire. Our sound was definitely unlike anything that was going on on the rock scene in our hometown at the time - it was stripped down, 60's beat group kind of sound with slightly overdriven guitars, harmonica, and simple but effective bass. Most of the people in the audience never heard songs like "Ain't She Sweet", "Around And Around" or "Fool No More". So we stuck to our favorite songs - some of them were big hits and some were quite obscure but the audience kept growing with every gig we played.

"R&R influenced my life a lot. Even as a kid I was always drawn to rock and all other forms of "organic" music, meaning I never could stand dance music that was all the rage on the pop charts in the '90s."

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

There are plenty of memories indeed - our very first gig was significant in its own right - it was in this rock bar and the people who held another bar came to hear us and check if we were any good, so we "passed the audition" and things kept rolling after the first one. Our first gig in Zagreb, our country's capital - it was some kind of rockabilly festival and the audience was all hardcore rockabilly fans dressed in real 50's style. We aren't a rockabilly band at all but we really won them over in spite of everything! Then there was one time when we drove to Zagreb to play at this big blues challenge - almost the whole of Croatian blues scene was there! But we came late and we missed our performance spot (the schedule was very strict!) so we ended up playing last and we really blew the top of the club! I have great memories from our first trip to London - just being there and performing our own songs to the English audience was an unbelievable experience. Just being there filled me with great energy and excitement. So many exciting things have happened during our years together that it's hard to pick just some of it. I do remember recording our current single - it was a very productive and hectic session. We arrived at the studio quite late - round 8 in the evening and we surely didn't start right away but once we started, we didn't stop until 6 in the morning, drinking some really good wine and taking a bit of guarana to keep us going! I think you can really feel that urgent energy when you hear the track.

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

I miss the soul and warmth that the music from the past had and I just can't find that in today's music. I do try to give it a chance but every time I put on VH1 or some radio, I end up turning it off almost immediately! I must say that I think contemporary mainstream music is horrible - if we're gonna compare it, I'd say that we're living in the worst period of pop music in history! It's soulless, plastic and industrialized to the point it's totally impersonal. It's all overproduced and over compressed so the vocals sound terribly unnatural and there are practically no instruments playing - just some awful synths, noises, and drum machines. I thought that '80s were bad but the music back then had some great songs and melodies that were spoiled by obnoxious production but even that doesn't seem so bad today. Today we ain't got nothing. Compare modern stuff to, say, Aretha Franklin or Cat Stevens, it's like a million miles apart in quality and soul. However, there is some great new music - like Yola, whose debut album ("Walk Thorugh The Fire ", released in 2019) just thrilled me - but the problem is that it's so marginalized that the general audience rarely has a chance to hear it. Today, good music, played and sung by human beings has become underground. I'm afraid that things will get even more commercialized in the future but my hope lies in the ever-changing stylistic fluctuations - after synth dominated 80s things went back to the roots in the 90s - let's hope that similar thing will occur soon and the good music will rule the musical galaxy once again.

"You could definitely say The Beatles and Stones were my two foundations but they were also responsible for my interest in various other forms of music because I started looking for original versions of the songs they covered and that led to my interest in old rock and roll and, especially, via Stones, to my discovery of the blues."

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

I would change that cold-blooded, corporate and mathematical approach that major record companies and media have today. Since they're the ones bringing music to the people, they should be a bit more passionate about the music itself and not just look at the fastest way of making a profit. The less corporate approach would surely be beneficial for the "real" music! But that's just one side of the coin - listeners are way too uninterested in anything - they just accept anything that media serves them without any critical thought. I think they don't even bother changing the station even if the song that plays is annoying them.

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

There is a fairly good tradition of rock music in Croatia. It started out as it was the case all around the world - people were copying their idols and covering their favorite songs, singing them in their native language. But there are some great original songs that are scattered throughout the history of our rock scene. The thing is that no Croatian act ever made any notable success on the international scene. That's a shame but I'd say that singing in Croatian was the limiting factor. It's quite obvious when you see examples of other countries internationally successful acts - take ABBA or Aphrodite's Child. I found a lot of old Croatian rock records in my parents' collection and there is some great stuff there, mainly from the 60s and 70s but I'd say there are good songs in all periods, it depends on your taste.

Do you consider the Rock a specific music genre or do you think it’s a state of mind?

Well, I would say it can be both. Today, rock music covers a huge variety of styles but for me, rock music is Chuck Berry, Elvis, James Brown, The Beatles, The Stones, Dylan, The Who, Cream, Led Zeppelin, The Faces, Aerosmith, Queen, Oasis to name a few, the list goes on. That goes for the sonic part of the story. But - all those people had something else besides just music (which is amazing!). At their prime, each of rock greats had an attitude and aura around them that was just as important part of their charisma as was their music. I'm not talking just about drug busts and trashed hotel rooms, I'm saying that all real rock stars had interesting personalities that made them magnetically attractive. They were larger than life figures and that Led Zep biography has a title that perfectly describes that period - "When Giants Walked The Earth". I don't see anyone comparable on today's rock scene, it's all pretty dull and bland and it's a small wonder that rock slipped out of style.

"I miss the soul and warmth that the music from the past had and I just can't find that in today's music. I do try to give it a chance but every time I put on VH1 or some radio, I end up turning it off almost immediately! I must say that I think contemporary mainstream music is horrible - if we're gonna compare it, I'd say that we're living in the worst period of pop music in history!"

What is the impact of Rock n' Blues music and culture to the socio-cultural implications? 

Rock music definitely had a big impact on the whole society throughout history. Take March on Washington and all the happenings in 1968 as an example. Take all those great gatherings of people and all those big charity concerts. Music was so important that it had the power to move the masses, to provoke them and make them use their brains. But somewhere along the way that was lost. We still see the impact of the music in fashion and some other aspects of popular culture but the essence is unfortunately gone. Somebody's music taste was a matter of significant importance back then, to a point of being rejected/accepted by a certain group of people because of it. People really stuck to their style, they were fans in a true sense of the word. It could even lead to violence! Look at the mods and rockers and their conflicts. Today, it's all but gone. Music is available more than ever but I'd say it matters very little these days. It's all consumerism and social networks. Seems to me that a great number of people go to the concerts not so much because of the performer but to take photos for their Instagram profile. Technology and social networks made life (unnecessarily) very hectic and chaotic and people waste so much of their energy and concentration on superfluous things it's astonishing we can still speak in full sentences.

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

Hah, what an interesting idea - hmmm - I would travel to London in 1966! I just love the sixties in general but I'd say that in 66 everything was just great, all things were booming and blossoming and coming together. The scene was just unbelievable! I recently saw a top 40 from 1966 and it's hard to imagine such a time today - 90% of those songs are now considered all-time classics! So you had Dylan on tour with the Band, you had Stones coming with their all original material on "Aftermath", you could still catch the Beatles live, The Who were rising, The Yardbirds briefly had Beck and Page in their lineup, Cream just got together ... But that's just the top of the wave. Every aspect of the scene was truly developing and those ideas still resonate today and are as fresh as ever. London is still great but I think back then it was truly the center of the world.

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