James M. LaRocque (JML) is a Minneapolis, Minnesota-based multi-instrumentalist, singer, performer, and writer. In addition to playing in a variety of bands, including big band, jazz, country, rock, experimental instrumental, punk, weird, and lounge lizard, JML cut his musical teeth while attending music schools in Michigan and Minnesota. It goes without saying that many different artists have influenced JML’s original music.
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1. Can you tell us a bit about where you come from and how it all got started?
JAMES M LAROCQUE: I was born and raised in the United States and currently reside in Minneapolis Minnesota where I live about 2 miles from Prince’s Paisley Park. RIP. The music scene here is great with lots of impressive local talent.
2. Did you have any formal training or are you self-taught?
JAMES M LAROCQUE: Both. As a child, I wanted to learn the flute however since there was a guitar in the house that no one was playing I was given the guitar. It was an awful instrument and the action was so high it was painful to play but I stuck with it. I took lessons and also learned by ear. In high school I sang in choirs, played upright bass in the orchestra and played guitar in the school jazz band. Later, I studied music theory at several colleges. Outside of the schools I was playing in rock bands, single acts, some really weird original stuff and lounge lizard projects for money.
3. Who were your first and strongest musical influences and why the name ‘JAMES M LAROCQUE’?
JAMES M LAROCQUE: My original music is almost 100% written and performed by me so I use my real name. LaRocque is pronounced La Rock so why change that? My influences are really wide, Bach, Beatles, Zappa, Fripp, Squeeze, 10CC, Primus, Ramones, Ennio Morricone, St Vincent. David Byrne, Bowie, Imagine Dragons, Beck and Wild Man Fischer to name a few. I’ll listen to anything.
4. What do you feel are the key elements in your music that should resonate with listeners, and how would you personally describe your sound?
JAMES M LAROCQUE: My sound is eclectic to almost the extreme. I’m not following trends. I’m following the path that the song takes me. One thing that I admire about The Beatles is that you can find almost any type music in their repertoire. I’ve written songs that would be appropriate for a Spaghetti Western Film. Also EDM, country, folk , rock, classical, instrumental and some weird shit. I’m certain you will find at least one song of mine that you will hate and at least one that you will love. This wide variety is probably not a good tactic for selling music but it is who I am. The music industry, as it is now, seems to drive musicians to match the current trending sounds and avoids deviating from that sound. It seems that creativity is sometimes replaced with conformity. Of course there are many, many musicians out there writing some great original stuff. Unfortunately it is extremely hard to get heard. Hats off the ILLUSTRATE MAGAZINE for giving us creative types some bandwidth… thanks IM!
5. For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you? How would you describe your own development as an artist and music maker, and the transition towards your own style, which is known as ROCK?
JAMES M LAROCQUE: I’ve played in a LOT of cover bands which is a great way to learn what makes a great song. Occasionally I tap into the songs I’ve played for inspiration, not to copy, but to get ideas.
6.What’s your view on the role and function of music as political, cultural, spiritual, and/or social vehicles – and do you try and affront any of these themes in your work, or are you purely interested in music as an expression of technical artistry, personal narrative, and entertainment?
JAMES M LAROCQUE: Occasionally I will make a political or a social statement in a song. Unfortunately you are guaranteed to offend someone when you do this. If you do put a political or social message in your music you better be prepared some nasty comments from those that are easily offended. Thin skinned musicians might want to consider another occupation.
7. Do you feel that your music is giving you back just as much fulfillment as the amount of work you are putting into it or are you expecting something more, or different in the future?
JAMES M LAROCQUE: I’m a realist. There is a LOT of really good music out there and there is some amount a of luck involved with being successful. I’ve heard relatively unknown local bands that are good enough to be big in the music industry… but they never made it. With this in mind, I try to keep a good attitude while struggling with my meager numbers. I have jokingly said that “If I got paid minimum wage for all the hours I put into my music I would be rich”.
8. Could you describe your creative processes? How do usually start, and go about shaping ideas into a completed song? Do you usually start with a tune, a beat, or a narrative in your head? And do you collaborate with others in this process?
JAMES M LAROCQUE: This answer to this question could be really, really long. I will keep it short. My inspirations can come from anywhere. A lick, a phrase, a thought , an abstract concept, a laugh, a pain or anything really. I once wrote a song around the name of a band I heard. I generally write multiple tracks for the same section and keep the tracks that work I mute the ones that don’t work. I occasionally write with others but usually work alone. I find it’s very important to write everyday even if it for a short time. Consistency and persistence is very important in writing in my opinion.
9. What has been the most difficult thing you’ve had to endure in your life or music career so far?
JAMES M LAROCQUE: Working with people that are unreliable. Don’t get me started…
10. With social media having a heavy impact on our lives and the music business in general, how do you handle criticism, haters, and/or naysayers in general? Is it something you pay attention to, or simply ignore?
JAMES M LAROCQUE: If it’s constructive criticism I will welcome it. If it’s just someone being a jerk I take it for what it is worth and ignore it. Like I’ve said before, you can’t be thin skinned in this profession.
11. Creative work in a studio or home environment, or interaction with a live audience? Which of these two options excites you most, and why?
JAMES M LAROCQUE: I love playing in front of an audience especially when the music is solid and the audience is into it. Completing a new good song is also a great feeling but the live performance is the best.
12. Do you think is it important for fans of your music to understand the real story and message driving each of your songs, or do you think everyone should be free to interpret your songs in their own personal way?
JAMES M LAROCQUE: If my fans get enjoyment from my music I have done my job and I am happy.
ILLUSTRATE MAGAZINE rocks. Thanks IM!