A GENEROUS HELPING OF SWAMP RHYTHM
AND BLUES, SOUL BOOGIE AND BEDROOM FUNK
MARK THE BAND’S STONY PLAIN RECORDS DEBUT
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (three musicians speak up):
Where’s the band from, and when did it start?
Ottawa, Ontario – Canada’s capital city. And it began on a casual basis to play some Sunday gigs, back in the spring of 2008.
Who’s in the band?
Steve Marriner (vocals, harmonica, keyboards, guitar), Tony D (lead guitar), Matt Sobb (drums).
What, no bass?
No. Hound Dog Taylor didn’t have a bass player and Little Walter often didn’t as well.
Where the heck did you get the name from?
A chance remark Son House made. “I’m talkin’ ‘bout the blues. I ain’t talkin’ about monkey junk,” he said. We love Mr. House, and we get his point, but the word stuck with us. And we use it as one word:MonkeyJunk, with a capital J in the middle.
How do you describe your music?
Swamp R&B. Soul boogie. Deep blues. Oh, yes, and bedroom funk. Dark sometimes, rockin’ at others. You can dance. Does that tell the story?
So what’s the band’s history?
All three of us started out as players on the Ottawa blues scene. Played solo gigs, played with a dozen different bands between us, met up over beers years and years ago. Ottawa’s got a really supportive blues scene. It started out informally between Tony and Steve. Then Matt got told he was in the band, whether he knew it or not. Between us, we’ve got over 60 years of combined experience.
How did the breakthrough happen?
Six months after we started, we were nominated for a Maple Blues Award for best new artist. Well, we were new — we hadn’t released a record yet. Then, in February 2009, we represented Ottawa at the International Blues Challenge. We competed against all those killer bands from Poland and Croatia and Australia and France and who knows where else —and, of course, from all over the US and Canada. And when the smoke cleared on Beale Street we had placed third overall. We were staggered.
When did you release your first record?
We put out an independent CD called Tiger in Your Tank in April 2009. People liked it; CBC Radio in Canada played it a lot; Dan Aykroyd’s House of Blues Radio Hour named one of the tunes, “Small Time Evil” as “blues breaker of the week” six months later – well, he would, wouldn’t he? He’s Canadian too. And we got airplay reports from all over Europe, and even South America.
Did you tour?
Did we ever! We played nearly a dozen major festivals all over the country. We put a lot of miles on the van — and then we played the Blues sur Seine festival in France. MonkeyJunk plays Europe. Cool!
Did all that work pay off for you?
Sure did. We got nominated for six awards at the Maple Blues Awards the next year. Heck — we won five of them, too! Electric Act of the Year, Entertainer of the Year, Tony won for Guitar Player of the Year, and Steve took the prize as Vocalist of the Year and Harmonica Player of the Year. And a month later we won Best Blues Artist at the Canadian Independent Music Awards. It’s almost embarrassing to list who we beat out for that one!
Then the CD got nominated for the 2010 Blues Music Award for Best New Artist Debut; we won that and got to perform at the awards show finale. Phew! Later we found out we were only the second Canadians to win a Blues Music Award — Jeff Healey won an award last year. Then, we won 3 more Maple Blues Awards the following year for Electric Act of the Year, Steve for Harmonica Player of the Year, and Matt for Drummer of the Year! In January of 2012, we were nominated for 7 more Maple Blues Awards and won three of them – Electric Act of the Year (3rd year in a row!); Drummer of the Year (second in a row); and the prestigious Recording of theYear for To Behold! The count now totals a collective 12 Maple Blues Awards!
So, d’you want to talk about your new record?
Well, of course. It’s on Stony Plain, which is a Canadian label with real clout internationally — it’s distributed by Warner and so people will be able to get it in the U.S., Australia, Japan and just about everywhere else. In Europe and the UK it’ll be on the Dixie Frog label and they’re really excited about it. The latest news on the record is that is has been nominated for a 2012 Juno Award (Canada’s equivalent to the Grammy Awards) for Blues Album of the Year. We are over the top excited – an incredible honour!
Any plans for the near future?
We do. Get in the van. Tour. Get back to Europe. Play big festivals. Crack into the American market. And, most important, play our asses off, all the time, every night.