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Articles » Artist and Singer. Interview with Marcel Bontempi

Artist and Singer. Interview with Marcel Bontempi
Date of Publication -20 May 2016
Topic - Interviews
Author of the article: kitti
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Rockabilly Bash: Let's start from the beginning. You were born in Frankfurt and have both German and Catalan blood in you. Which one filled you with creativity?

Marcel Bontempi: I guess very much, the craft and arts stuff come from my Catalan father - he was a sculptor, later changed to architect when he settled down in Germany. He was very quiet and serious, always enforced me to enhance my drawing skills, he was not so keen about my musical stuff. So was my mother - but she's the one I got my musical temper from I think. She's a great singer and always shakes her body when listening to music. By the way: she is a brilliant yodeler! I once listened to a professional yodeler, and he was nowhere near my mother's yodeling.

RB: Your artist name is Bontempi. Does it mean anything or just a cute word?

MB: Naw - it was a joke in fact - I searched for an artists name and thought: "OK, what is the sense of life? Having a good time, no?" - so "good time" in Catalan means "bontemps" - like in french, but I didn't want it to be pronounced french somehow, and i added an "i" - that's all. It might be stupid or cool, but now it is too late, the name is in the slot.

RB: I could also find you on the internet under the name of Marcel "Artsy Fartsy". Will you tell us a story behind this name?

MB: Oh? Yes, but Marcel "artsy fartsy" Bontempi then? Well, I make fun out of the "art thing". I studied in art university, you see, and there were all this snooty "artists" taking themselves very serious. I swore never to be like them - maybe the opposite just will do! So whenever I can I'm making fun out of "art" and really try not to take me too serious.

RB: If you had only one choice, who would you be: art designer or musician?

MB: Aw... I simply can't tell. I was a born a twin, but my twin brother was born dead - in Germany they say that when this happens, all the talents and possibilities of the dead one join the living one. So maybe this is exactly what happened. I have the music and the design thing melted together, and like twins, they can't survive without the other one. They are ONE!

RB: If you were an animal, what kind of animal you would be and why?

MB: A cat, a pug - but mostly a chimpanzee I think!

RB: From your music I understand, you have a very broad spectrum of interests. So a very simple and routine question: what and who are your influences?

MB: Well - EVERYTHING that is good and criminal or criminal good from the 20's till 60's. I really like rocksteady a lot - love latin stuff like cumbia or mambo - hell, there is simply sooooo much good music out there - it would be too boring for me to say: i just listen to THIS. Throughout my life I collected musical moods, melodies and rhythms in my mind. I really listen closely to music I love - on the one hand I feel the emotional mood a sound or song gives you, on the other hand I really scan the music: what instruments play? What kind of rhythm is it? What lines plays the bass? How is the recording sound? etc. Whenever there was a song that grabbed me I asked the DJ or tried to figure out what song it is. Generally you can say: old sounding music is my influence. But when I go back to my childhood, I was very fond of classical music I remember.... maybe without knowing this, is my main influence at the end of the day.

RB: Tell us about your previous music life before you solo project?

MB: Oh, I had many bands, some I founded and some I simply played in. But it was simply too much, so I recall that I quit all bands, searched for like-minded musicians and finally founded the Montesas. We toured and played a lot, we recorded at many different places, only tried a proper studio out once - I soon found out they'll never provide the sound I have in mind. We have like 8 releases on different labels, played a lot of festivals all over in Europe - oh, this was a great time. The first flight tickets for the band, the first real LP in our hands... these are moments I'll never forget.

RB: Which projects are you still in?

MB: Time passed, and the Montesas are settled. The musicians changed a bit and moved to other cities. So we rehearse very seldom now. And since I always did recordings alone, I released some of them. And then another solo-single, another solo-EP - and so it went til today. The solo shows or "Marcel Bontempi" concerts are me and Ira Lee, backed by a band with bullfiddle, drums and additional electric guitar. You never know how it will sound on stage - every band has another focus on the songs I send them. They all read them differently - this makes every concert something very special. It makes me proud to be backed up by so many great talents - it is a true honor. Also I always dreamed of having a hillbilly or western swing band - so I finally met some like-minded people and founded the dr. Bontempi's Snake Oil Company. I just wanted a weird name and some connection to the advertising world - thus the name.

RB: The Montesas. Do you still play there? I understand that the band has
changed a bit recently... Why the girls left you? Who is the one to blame?

MB: Of course I still play with the Montesas - I think we'll never stop... The Montesas is my baby somehow, and I really love the folks in the band - like a band of brothers. We play seldom, but we're still there. We plan to record a single somewhere down the line. The Montesitas, oh gosh, we love them - but Maria Mariachi got pregnant (blame her boyfriend!!!) and therefor she stopped. And Ira Lee (the other montesita) just thought this could be a good point to just quit the montesitas. We started it when we were young - we're getting older, and so does Ira. And I think she started feel uncomfortable on stage as "montesita", so we all quit it with tears in our eyes a little bit.

RB: I think I have to ask one question which might be very interesting for
your (girl) fans: Who is Ira Lee? And how important part does she play in
your solo career?

MB: Hahahaha... OK, she is my wife - this brave girl is messing with me, and she plays the rhythm guitar and does second voice at my solo shows and with the Snake Oil Company. Many people said: "Don't mix that". It always depends how you get along with it. We're just lovers and friends - and we're giving ourselves the freedom to just feel comfortable on and backstage. We're not the typical couple hanging around with each other.

RB: Where did you find inspirations for your songs?

MB: EVERYWHERE! It can be a song I randomly hear somewhere on the radio, it might be a song a DJ plays, it can be a song I find at the flea market - hell, it can be a noise of everyday life that inspires me to a song.

RB: Which rockabilly festivals did you already play at and which ones to go?

MB: Oh, there are so many... so you say "rockabilly"? Let's Get Wild in Stuttgart on new years eve is a great one. I am there regularly, as musician or as a guest. I just can recommend everyone to go there. Then there is the High Rockabilly in Calafell, the Rockin Race in Malaga, the Senigallia festival, the Hangar Rockin' in Switzerland, Hemsby and the Rockabilly Rave. We also were booked for the Rhythm Riot and the Atomic festival in the UK, but the first one couldn't be reached because of a pilot strike and the second one had to be cancelled due to flooding. The Rocking Gone party and the Tours Rock'n'roll show in France - oh - there are so many of them... many local rock'n'roll festivals we played in Holland and Germany, the Midsummer Jamboree in Finland, Live & Jive festival in Sweden and recently the Nashville Boogie in Nashville, Tennessee - the very first time we stepped outside of Europe... We gonna play the Blues at Moonlight in Benelmadena/Malaga this year and really are looking forward to it!

RB: What kind of creative plans are on your mind right now?

MB: I have soooo much recordings here - I really have to put 'em all in line and release them - there is work to do!!!!!!!!!!

RB: Any plans to perform at the Eurovision Song Festival in the future?

MB: NEVER EVER IN A ZILLION YEARS!!!! Well, maybe just to save the life of the ones I love... if I could get back my dead father for it, i would do that.

RB: What will you be doing in 10 years? I think I will interview you again
in 2026 and we will see if everything comes true?

MB: Just God knows - we might be all dead by a strange new disease - or just one of us... Or we're still alive and nobody can hear Dig A Hole anymore. We'll never know...

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