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Julien Poulson Q&A

Julien Poulson is the band leader, lead guitarist and keyboardist of The Cambodian Space Project. The band are currently embarked upon their 'Motown to The Mekong' tour of Cambodia. Leng Pleng fired a few questions at Julien to find out the latest news from mission control. All photos via Julien Poulson Facebook Page.

 CSP have recently been touring in Australia, Taiwan... How did you enjoy the home-coming gig at The Exchange last weekend? It's been a while since you guys played in Phnom Penh...

It was great and is always great for us to do a homecoming show. Lots of old friends and of course, new people we haven't met before, that's the nature of transient Phnom Penh and it's local scene. Over the years we've played many 'homecoming' shows and always love the feeling of being back in town especially now we're away more than we're home. This year we'll be in Europe, Australia, USA and back again around the end of the year.

'Motown To The Mekong' is not just a tour but a whole series of panel events, filming, recording... can we expect a 'Motown To The Mekong' live album? … a movie?

Motown to the Mekong is a recording project for CSP and it's also something that is being filmed and documented for a movie. It's not your regular 'band goes to studio to record album' project as we're opening the studio door to the public and sharing the process through blogging and writing. It's an unusual, but really amazing, opportunity for CSP. As a music recording project, it allows us to work in Cambodia with our Detroit based record producer Jim Diamond. The US Embassy in Phnom Penh are a part sponsor of Motown to Mekong and see that there's a cross-cultural 'music friendship' outcome - something that looks into the back catalogue of Cambodian rock'n'roll and at the convergence points of Western (Motown) and Eastern music cultures: This is mostly music that we'd today describe as Vietnam War era soundtrack. 
CSP spent time in Motor City recording our third LP "Whisky Cambodia" with Motown guitarist and producer Dennis Coffey. He was surprised at the Cambodian songs and how much they were reminiscent of both his own work at Motown and of earlier work with Del Shannon. It was kind of like the music from once upon a time had come full circle and arrived back in a studio in Detroit - where music had once been such a big export it even reached the ears and caught the attention of Cambodian bands of the 60's and 70's. 

While we were in Detroit we also met Jim Diamond who produced newer acts like The White Stripes. Jim's since worked with CSP too, recording our 4th LP "Electric Blue Boogaloo" and this project allows us to work with Jim in Cambodia on an album. Another very interesting thing about this project Motown to the Mekong is that we have a non-musical creative team onboard the bus to the studio - 60 Road in Siem Reap. This includes Clinton Walker, biographer of AC/DC's Bon Scott and author of an important book on Australian indigenous music "Buried Country", so while we have musicians and studio engineers we also have a creative team that includes writers and filmmakers who join the conversation and add to our process. It's a sonic exploration of the points where Western rock met and merged with the sounds of the Mekong and a great opportunity to update this with new music produced and recorded locally to reach and connect with an international audience.

You recently acquired a Yamaha YC-20 vintage keyboard. How would you describe the sound of the band right now... which sonic galaxies is the spaceship exploring at the moment? 
Well spotted! Yeah the YC-20 was a lucky find. I broke my shoulder in a moto accident just before Christmas but had a CSP tour booked so in-between surgery I moved to playing pretty basic one-armed keyboards while Jason Shaw took over guitar duties. On the way out to Sydney for a show I started looking around for a vintage sounding keyboard, eventually I found the YC-20 near our rehearsal studio in Redfern, Sydney. It was owned by a guy from a cool Sydney band called The Cops - so yeah... I called the Cops and they delivered the YC-20. This is a classic sounding instrument - think 60's garage with Question Mark & The Mysterians or early 70's ska and reggae and the sounds of The Specials etc.  It's a cool thing (all 30 kilos of it) to play with and add to the CSP sessions.

You put together the The Kampot Writers and Readers Festival last year with great success. The arts and music scene down there seems to be growing, with more and more expats moving down to Kampot? Any plans for a second festival in 2016? 

Yes, it was a real success and the KWRF is an annual event that will run from Nov 3-7 this year. Again it will have some amazing songwriters as well as a eclectic and vibrant program to promote literacy and share stories. We're just getting to work on KWRF program now and I can tell you that there's a special Cambodian songwriting competition that is about to be launched and will also be one of the big events at this year's KWRF. Last year's music highlights were many including a great collaboration between Aussie legend Paul Kelly and Cambodia's all-women garment factory band The Messenger Band. It's a hard act to follow but one that's already attracting some equally great people to the festival.

The CSP have their own psychedelic, spacey sense of style. If you could suggest a special dress code for the audience at your next gig at Here Be Dragons in Battambang, what would it be? 

Well yeah... dress in bright primary colours "Jungle Boogie" style and bring your own space helmet and/or suit if you're inclined. For Friday 13th in Siem Reap it would be good to see some monster and horror get-ups. We don't really care what you wear but I do remember the moment a fancy dress party turned up at a CSP gig in South Australia - there were quite a few Star Wars costumes in the crowd and a Storm Trooper really getting down on the dance floor - funny, surreal, trippy!


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