Straight from the heart and soul of our island’s unique musical landscape, a new band has emerged. We speak to Belly of Paris frontman Daniel Cochran to hear more of their original sound.
Local music platforms such as Boho Baha have given rise to an interesting and varied musical landscape in Bahrain, as they offer a forum for like-minded, talented individuals to get together. Out of these depths, the newly formed ‘Belly of Paris’ emerged, fronted by British singer and organ player Daniel Cochran who joined us from the vibrant music scene of Newcastle. We were intrigued, so we went to find out more from the man himself…
Before all this, where were you and what were you up to?
I was in a ‘baroque n’ roll’ band called ‘By Toutatis’ in England. We’d just released our debut album and had a tour planned and then I had to leave in the middle of the promotion for it.The album is still on iTunes.
What brought you to our shores?
I got a job in Saudi and then made the short hop over the causeway. The music scene in Saudi is obviously more limited, certainly in the area I was.
How did the forming of Belly of Paris come about?
I started playing on my own but realistically there’s only so much you can do with a chord organ. I started putting ads out, asking friends, haranguing people I knew, blackmailing… that kind of thing. I was lucky to find a great bunch of reprobates who didn’t mind following unusual instructions. Now we all stir the pot, giving ideas, suggesting changes, playing impromptu Cure songs.
And what’s with the name ‘Belly of Paris’? What does it mean?
It’s a book by Emile Zola about the backstreets of that wonderful old city. The belly refers to the bowels – getting right to the seedy middle of the place. It seemed an apt name. It’s also the name of one of my chord organs – I name them all – specifically the out-of-tune and knackered one.
How would you describe the band’s sound?
It’s the sound of a very old, very rich aristocrat slowly wasting away in a crumbling mansion. It’s baroque, folklorish. It’s quite dramatic.
Personally, what are your musical influences?
I’m a fan of good lyricists – Tom Waits, PJ Harvey, Shilpa Ray. Anyone who lifts up the stone and peers underneath.
Who else is part of the group?
We have Bahrain’s own Yasmin Sharabi [also a Time Out Bahrain contributor] on vocals and various instruments, Indian post-punk drummer Sumit Sharma, Argentinian bassist Carlos Villarroel, Hungarian trumpeter/bassoonist Szabolcs Nigo, and Rob Prest on guitar from the UK. I think the different backgrounds help the sound. They’re willing to take risks which I like. Everyone’s always a little out of their comfort zone.
What plans are in the pipeline?
Lots of recording. We want to do an album by the summer. We have a lot of songs that are sounding really interesting. It’s got a very unique sound and I can’t wait to get it on record. Aside from that we have gigs in the pipeline and are looking for more shows.
What is your opinion of Bahrain’s music scene?
Boho Baha and MuseLand are doing wonderful things. They’ve provided us with wonderful opportunities. Majaz, Trio Aalaat and Flamingods [other bands that formed in Bahrain] are great talents who we’ve been very fortunate to play with. There’s a lot more starting up too. You just have to dig a little.
If you could introduce one thing, what would it be?
Dive venues. The ones where the walls sweat and nobody can move due to the crush. Also a little bit of quiet during gigs would be nice. I’ve had people having very loud conversations right in front of me while playing before and it takes great self-control!
What’s the best gig you’ve ever been to?
When I played with By Toutatis we were sandwiched on the bill between two astonishing solo artists – RM Hubbert and Richard Dawson. Completely different and utterly compelling. Hubbert won Scottish Album of the Year in 2013 and Dawson has a remarkable new album out called Nothing Important. I’m not ashamed to say I cried.