INTERVIEW WITH IAN DITTMAN 12/01
Q. Ian, the Bellhops have been on the Sydney scene since 1990. That;s almost enough of an accomplishment in itself! How did the band actually come together?
A. Three of us have been playing together in various combinations since 1980 and have shared many experiences and are close friends, the Bellhops evolved rather than being put together.
Q. It often strikes me that the music is often the easiest part and that actually holding the band together is often the toughest part. You know, people have different levels of ability - or often think they do -different levels of interest in the repertoire, different expectations about rehearsals etc. To hold a band together for so long.even with lineup changes.is a testament to someone's managerial skills. Whose been responsible within the band for that and what is that they have done that's proven so successful?
A. Myself , John Russell, and Mark Roulston, we enjoy each others company, sense of humour, and a genuine love of the music and playing together.
Q. Its great to see and hear a band with an array of saxes.and a big sound as a result which works really well. Has the band ever been tempted to go with a broader range of woodwind and brass?
A.On the new CD we used Tenor sax, baritone sax, alto sax, trumpet, trombone, bass clarinet, soprano sax, for live work a lot depends on the budget.
Q. It always impressed me the way woodwind and brass players are normally such good readers. Do you rehearse as a full lineup or do the saxplayers arrange themselves? Who does the arrangements?
A We usually work the songs up with guitars, bass and drums and then get the brass guys to come up with lines, all the arrangements on No Reservations are mostly by Steve O'Connell and Ed Schots
Q. I really dig the Bellhops track on BluesOzCD 2001 - which you wrote. The feel is superb. How much of its repertoire does the band write? Do you have any tips for aspiring songwriters?
A. Our blues set and most of the songs on our new CD are original. I can only speak for myself but the way I come up with ideas is just some days the antennae is up and some days its not. Although a good catchy title and tune helps a bit.
Q. The blues tradition has a respectable history of "covers" in the loose sense. Much like jass I guess.with the tune not necessarily being done the same way and providing improvisational scope. How important do you think it is to write original material?
A. Very!! Otherwise you are not taking the process anywhere. Where would we be if all the greats did not try to put their own stamp on things.
Q. I think up-tempo jump/swing blues is becoming increasingly popular here.and has been in recent years on the West Coast in the States, too, I guess. Obviously it's a style you enjoy? Who do you recommend listening too?
A.The master himself !! Louis Jordan, Brian Setzer, Royal Crown Review, Louis Prima and lots of others, however the swing thing is only part of the Bellhops story as we cover a broad range of styles from within the blues genre
Q. I know that your band has management. You've been around a while and got a great profile. I guess the norm for blues bands is that they tend to end up managing themselves - some better than others. What do you think managers look for before taking on bands to manage? What are the pros and cons of being managed? Do you have any words of advice for young players trying to make it by getting there own gigs?
A. Is it going to make money!!! Cause that is all anybody in the business side of things cares about, be flexible.
Q. Lastly Ian.what unfulfilled dreams for you and the band are there?
A. To record and write some more, to keep gigging, to appear at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, and a world tour supporting The Rolling Stones would not be too bad.
Q. If people want to find out more about the Bellhops, what's the best way of doing that?
A. People can contact us through our webpage at www.bellhops.com.au where there are lots of photos, bios, links, and even a few mp3 downloads, one of which is only available on the website