Born a restless spirit and after seeing the movie the Toronto Rock ‘n Roll Festival – Julian Sas was inspired by the energetic performances of both Jerry Lee Lewis and Chuck Berry (more importantly Chuck’s guitar), and at the age of 6 Julian knew he wanted a guitar. His parents gave him a toy one.
By the time he was 10 he was into bands like Motorhead, AC/DC, Judas Priest and Iron Maiden – Loud guitars and big Marshall amps and again a lot of energy. At the age of 13 he got his first real guitar, an Ibanez Les Paul copy which he still has today.
Often called the “Dutch Hendrix,” Sas has become the semi-official guitar hero of the Netherlands. He is not Hendrix, but he doesn’t need to be: being Julian Sas is good enough in and of itself. Backed by the rock solid rhythm section of Rob ‘Animal’ Heijne on drums and the blues power of Tenny Tahamata’s bass – Sas and his band mate’s are bringing blues rock to new audiences while inspiring and setting the bar higher for future musicians.
Please introduce yourself, and your band.
I am Julian Sas, guitar player and singer. Bass player is Tenny Tahamata and Rob Heijne on drums.
I have been a professional musician for the last fifteen years, playing blues rock music with a lot of influences. Been traveling the world, and playing a lot of gigs. Recorded many records and DVDs, and we have a large fan base.
For me playing this music (blues rock) is a passion, and it is something I have to do. I don’t want to be a star, not looking for fame, just want be a good guitar player and create good music. That is the reason I am doing this.
Who or what inspired you to pick up your first instrument and how old were you?
Peter Green and Rory Gallagher. Jimi Hendrix and Roy Buchanan. The first guitar player I saw was Chuck Berry, he was on TV and I was completely in awe with what I saw. That was something different – amazing!
Got my first guitar when I was 13, and started playing. I saw Jimi Hendrix and Roy Buchanan on TV – unbelievable! I started practicing everyday until my fingers started bleeding (laughs). When I was 17 I saw Rory Gallagher, the greatest influence in my life. Seeing him changed my way of thinking and I decided to be a guitar player. Later, I played with Rory’s band a couple of times so you can call it a full circle. (laughs) Great fun and for me a great honor.
Remembering back to your first time in front of a live audience, what comes to mind?
The small amps not getting the loudness I had in mind – now I use Marshalls so no worries (laughs). The most important thing that comes to mind is the way I felt, it was like coming home. I felt that I was born to be on stage. It felt so natural. Even to this day.
My parents were very nervous, because I was a very shy boy, who was always in his bedroom playing guitar. They saw me walking on stage and taking the stage – they couldn’t believe it but it felt like home for me.
What has been your biggest triumph as an artist? Greatest challenge?
I started playing this music, when it was really unpopular, but I knew that I had to do it. I always had this strong belief in the music; its history, power and will to survive. The blues will never die. It is something I believe in. So, for me it worked out fine.
It was a struggle at first, but you could say we proved all the critics wrong, that makes me proud.
If the whole world were listening, what would you play? And why?
A million miles away, my favorite Rory Gallagher song and one of the most beautiful songs/lyrics ever written, for me personally. I played in Ireland, Ballyshannon where he was born. Went to the harbor and looked over the ocean and there was the song. Amazing moment in life. This song came to life in front of my eyes. Rory’s guitar on this song – cold chills. Over and over.
Your album Bound to Roll was recently released – what was the inspiration and concept for the album?
Two and half years of my life with ups and downs, loss of a child, the birth of a son. It is my most personal album to date. It was a period I had to write about, and had to share it with everybody who wants to hear it. Blues is the healer and music is salvation for the soul. I wanted to play my own songs and do some cover songs that had lyrics that felt/matched with all I went through. A great album to record and something I had to get out my system.
As your music as evolved, comparing Where will it End!? (1996) and bound to Roll (2012) what do you think has been the most significant change and do you consider it a positive or a negative?
The change is positive in a sense that when I am listening to my playing, it became better, which is what I am working for. Just getting better and better, that is my only goal. Not only becoming a better guitarman, but also composer, lyric writer, and so on. Fans tell me, critics tell me. So it has to be true. That is what I am living for – Becoming better in what you do, makes it more interesting for the listeners and for yourself.
You are a big Jimi Hendrix fan, what was it about him that inspires you?
The sound, technique, and the harmonics in his songwriting. This man had it all at such a young age and he is still the best guitar player after 40 years. That says it all – Wherever you are in the world when you talk with a guitar player you will talk about Jimi during the conversation (laughs).
What was the most awkward/embarrassing moment in the band/on the tour bus/on stage?
We played the Fehmarn Festival in Germany, with 11000 people in front of the stage. That is a large crowd. Jimi Hendrix on his last European concert was there in 1970.
We played there in 1999, and were the headliner. The organization gave me the same hotel room Jimi was in ‘70. But Jimi always had trouble with his equipment and I thought I hope my amps will be good tonight. We played this long set with a 19 minute version of machine gun and what do you think? My amps broke down in front of 11000 people. Now, I know what he must have felt.
I can laugh about it now, but then I was furious and nervous. It was fixed real fast but I will never forget that moment.
What should we be looking forward to in the coming year from Julian Sas?
Lots of gigs, touring, and a hardworking band – As always. Working on a new album and trying
to become a better musician.
The last words are yours, please say anything you wish and thank you.
Thanks to all the people for all the years of belief in what I do. Giving me faith and giving me the chance to play my music. If I knew you all personally I would shake your hand and we would have coffee. (laughs) Thank you – hope to see you soon. Julian.
I would like to thank Julian Sas for his participation in this interview.
~Denise Smith (interview 2012.03.15)