Cis Deman: a blues adept in the body of a metal rocker
He avoids listening to the radio too much, enjoys playing the Mexican vihuela (a mariachi kind of guitar) when no one is watching and describes his current mission as “getting a positive balance on his bank account”. Cis Deman, lead guitar player of the Belgian post-rock band Steak Number Eight, sat down with us for an, eh, rather versatile chat.
“The ten minutes before every show of the last tour were, without a doubt, the most laxative moments of my life.” Now that’s what we call an introduction! Cis Deman just finished touring in Germany with Mastodon and doesn’t mind sharing his experiences with us - the good, the bad and, apparently, the ugly. After having been a member of Steak Number Eight for 13 years, we wonder whether he still gets nervous before a life gig; the answer is, surprisingly, a ‘yes’. “Those final moments before getting on stage were nerve-wracking. I’m not naturally a nervous guy, but seeing my bandmates stretch, jump and move around… that just made me lose it. But once I had my guitar and I was on stage, all of this disappeared. It’s Mastodon, you only have 45 minutes… there’s no time to focus on the movements in your bowels, you know?”
From Linkin Park to blues It’s a crazy realization that this guy, who seems to have been born with a guitar in his hands, nearly missed out on his current life path. What were his first steps in music, we ask him. “When I was 13, I asked my parents for a drum set. They took me to a music store and planted me in front of the guitars; there was no way I’d be getting a drum set, for they found it way too loud.” And so, little Cis marched home with a (slightly forced) guitar under his arm. In the years that followed, he slowly but surely learned to appreciate the instrument and taught himself to play – by means of his dad’s vinyl record collection. Cis: “In my early teens I was still listening to Linkin Park and Xzibit, after which I progressed to real metal. Later I got into Led Zeppelin and learnt about Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters. Blues was my big love at that time. When Brent (lead singer of Steak Number Eight, red.) asked me to join the band at age 19, I was in fact a blues guitar player.” He emphasizes that blues definitely continues to have an effect on his music up to this day: he still pops in “funny licks” every now and then during live shows, for the sake of his own enjoyment.
Messing around with a banjo For a guy who seems to be so eclectic in his musical background, we wonder whether he plays any other instruments. “Not really”, says Cis. “I own a vihuela, which is a Mariachi-instrument. It’s basically just a guitar without the first string. I also tried playing banjo once. But that requires too much finger practice. It’s fun for messing around with, though.” What about other genres in music; how does he feel about the current popularity of electronic music? We could’ve probably guessed the answer: he’s not that big of fan (to say the least). “It requires me some time to understand and get into a piece of electronic music”, says Cis. “Overall, it’s not my thing, but there are bands out there who incorporate electronic influences in an interesting way. Rumours is one of them.” He adds that, when it comes to hearing other styles of music than his own, he actually doesn’t even listen to the radio that much. “I try to avoid it. There are good songs out there, even electronic ones, but they get repeated way too often, up to the point of the song being ruined by it. I sometimes listen to Studio Brussels or Radio 1, but for no longer than 30 minutes a week.”
Playing air guitar in front of YouTube It’s clear as day: Cis Deman is all about rock ‘n roll. Even to the extent that next to Steak Number Eight (yes, guys, it’s happening… They’re working on a new album and are “raising the bar high”!), he’s involved in two other side projects –what else would he do with all that inspiration?! The reason for Cis being on fire like this? He tells us that it definitely has to do with the successful last year he had with Steak Number Eight. “The shows with Mastodon were incredible; they were all sold out. It’s strange to realize that they’re not (only) our heroes anymore, but friends before that. We talked about shoes, food… Also, the gig at Graspop was amazing, we had a full tent – filled to the brim with over 14.000 people. Goosebumps!” It’s seems like the teenage kid who was playing air guitar in front of YouTube is living his dream. Does he have any tips for youngsters who aspire the same? “Set your priorities. You could, for example, pay 250 euros for a festival ticket… But you also could buy a good guitar pedal for exactly the same price. Also, develop your hearing by playing along with the radio or with some records you love. If you have a good hearing, you don’t need all the theory from YouTube or other apps.” He hesitates, and adds: “It’s obvious, but don’t do anything you don’t want to do!”