"After seven albums of original material – and his excellent, most recent release, Coney Island Wave (chronicled here yesterday), literate rocker Mike Rimbaud decided to do an album of covers. Which can be tricky. In order to cover a song that’s worth covering to begin with, you either have to do it better than the original – no easy task – or completely reinvent it. Which is exactly what Rimbaud did with Can’t Judge a Song By Its Cover. To call this record ambitious is something of an understatement: tackling mostly well-known, iconic songs, Rimbaud makes it seem easy as he nails them, one by one. If you’re willing to buy the argument that there’s such thing as a classic album of covers, this is it."
by Delarue 2012 (New York Music Daily)
2010’s “What Was I Thinking?” has 16 original compositions including “Miami High” which Mike also did a music video for. He started his career by performing in the bars and rock clubs in New York, but it was with record labels in Paris that he released his first 3 CD’s. He has been compared to Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello and Gene Vincent among others, but his songwriting style and voice have always been unique. Although his career has remained in the underground, he continues to be a prolific songwriter sometimes commenting on current events with songs such as; "One Percent Feeling Lonely, " “Stimulus Baby”, “Katrina Comes again”, “7-11 on September 11th” and “Mother Nature’s Nervous Breakdown.” He also speaks about New York life, “King of Staten Island,” and relationships, “You Make Love Like War,” “Girlfriend Lost and Found.” As a performer, he has toured Europe and the US with his band as well as a solo artist. Mike Rimbaud is also a painter who regularly exhibits his artwork, which have included as subject mater: subway scenes, cityscapes, dinosaurs and portraits of revolutionaries, burlesque and belly dancers.
Mike Rimbaud: What Was I Thinking? The Return of An Underground Hero By Jean-Pierre Simard
Mike Rimbaud's guitars don't look down on either electricity or percussion and even less on organ and crawling synthesizers. All that to draw, with a charcoal pencil or oil, whole vignettes of urban American life like a roof troubadour, an image that first burst out with his first album, in the 90's, "Mutiny In the Subway" on which you could see him walk by the water tanks that top the buildings of the Big Apple. His art is anchored in a reality that recalls Bruce Springsteen, the storyteller of everyday life ("Losing is a Victory"), as much as the Marc Bolan of the Tyrannosaurus Rex, ("Searching for Yourself"). Rimbaud who navigates between painting and music, slays you with all this in a slightly broken voice, the voice of asphalt, the voice of cobble stones and if he wins it all, it is because of his authenticity. Rare and valuable, Mike is the man-on -the-street of New York.
ROLLING STONE Magazine (French Edition) - Reviews- February, 2011
Lower East Side vet Mike Rimbaud took the name of his new band from a set of cute cartoon signs that reminded ’50s commuters not to smoke or spit. But it’s that dingy, subterranean, through-the-grate kind of glow that informs his scruffy-voiced rock songs, invoking ’70s Costello and Springsteen along with an improbable hint of Brazil—the Baiana guitar (a surfy-sounding electrified acoustic).
(Kamenetz) –The Village Voice
Mike Rimbaud, in basic black, wielded an electric guitar in songs that were terse, telegraphic and propelled
by urgent strumming. Mr. Rimbaud has a rocker’s rasp in his voice, and he knows how to get the most
power out of verses with few words. His songs crackle with New York’s nervy paranoia.
By JON PARELES The New York Times
Interview published in New York City's The Villager:
Rimbaud is an indie musician from New York City. He has released six CD's and he is also a painter who exposes his work. He is
performing regularly in the City and in other places. He has visited
Brazil many times although you can't
feel any "Brazilian" sound in his work, the influence
is present by the use of an electric "cavaquinho" (also
called "Baiana Guitar", a 60s invention by two musicians
from Bahia, used in samba and chorinho). He agreed to
give The Villager an interview after we met in person at an East Village
Ernest Barteldes : Tell us a little about your background.
Mike Rimbaud : I was born in New York, spent my childhood on
Crosby Street, in Little Italy. I'm a third generation American.
I took guitar lessons from Eric Darling, a folk singer who played
with the Weavers and the Roof Top Singers,starting when I was
six years old. With a couple friends I formed a rock band in high
school, I played bass in it and sang some original songs, we did
some gigs in Massachusetts where I was living at the time. I started
performing solo when I was in college, I played some coffee houses
and open mikes, and since then I never stopped. In the early nineties
I lived in Paris for a couple years and toured solo and with my
band all over Europe, including Russia. I continue to go to Paris
regularly and have a side project called "Adam Evening"
that I'm recording with a French experimental electronic musician.
Ernest Barteldes : Your working track, 7-11 on 9-11
gives your view of that day. Did the events of that day affect
your music in a deeper way?
Mike Rimbaud : I don't think it changed the way I play guitar
or write songs, I've been playing since I was a little boy. I've
written political songs before, for example, "American Terrorist"
and "Blacks sea, Red Light" from my "Red Light"
CD, or "Police State of Mind" from "Mutiny in the
Subway" my first CD. My song "You Make Love Like you
Make War" was inspired by the Gulf War. I'll probably write
a sequel for Gulf War 2. It's important to have songs that speak
to current events, topical songs are pretty common throughout
folk music history. Unfortunately there are very few outlets for
many people to learn about and listen to these kinds of songs
today, unless you hang out in folk music circles and can tune
in some college music stations. Pop music today is so poor and
artistically bankrupt, I think it's cheating the public out of
the real healing power of song. "Beast of "Broadway"
is like my folk music album, it's very minimal, I wanted to record
it like an old blues session. My last three records were all rocking
with a full band, and here many of the tracks are only my guitar
Ernest Barteldes : You recorded a Springsteen song, "Atlantic
City". Coincidentally, he released a new album this year
as well. Is there any particular reason to include this song in
your new album?
Mike Rimbaud : First of all, I'd like for him to hear it, and
second, I hope he digs it. He's a busy guy, so I'm not waiting
by the phone for Bruce's call. This is the first time I put a
cover song on one of my albums. Maybe it's like a little wave
to New Jersey from the other side of the river. I originally recorded
it to be included on a Springsteen tribute album, and I liked
it so much, I thought it could go on my CD too."Nebraska"
is one of my favorite Springsteen records, and "Atlantic
City" has a fantastic atmosphere. I tried to shine a different
light on the song, especially the phrase "maybe everything
dies someday comes back." Also I always wanted to do CD that
was only guitar and vocals like "Nebraska," maybe I
should have called it "Beast of Oklahoma."
Ernest Barteldes : You use a "cavaquinho"
in the CD. Has Brazilian music influenced your style in any way?
Mike Rimbaud : I've been going to Brazil regularly for the past
twelve years, I hope it has. I bought a used Cavaquinho in Salvador
last summer in a little shop. It's a black one, and it's electric.
I didn't buy it when I first saw it, but I was haunted by it and
I went back a few days later to get it, all musicians understand
this feeling, I think. A friend of mine who lives in Gavea in
Rio plays the instrument professionally in a great group that
specializes in old Brazilian songs from the 1920's. Anyway, she's
given me some tips for the Cavaquinho and guitar. Three of the
songs on my new record were written in Brazil, "Angry in
Paradise," "Without sugar", "Turtles have
Shells." I wrote the words for "Mind Eraser" in
New York and the music in Rio. You can go all over Brazil and
find bars and restaurants where there is a lone singer with his
guitar, no band, singing beautiful songs. It's not like Bleecker
street, in Brazil it's in the air, the way they play guitar, wi!
th nylon strings, and those sensual melodies.
Ernest Barteldes : I understand what you mean about Brazilian
music. People look at you differently when you make a sound that
is completely different from what they are used to hear. Anyway,
how influenced are you by Brazilian music today?Are you considering
incorporating it into your kind of sound?
Mike Rimbaud: Whenever I go to Brazil I want to listen to new
music that coming out over there, weather it's Pagode or Rock.
I like "Televisao de Cachorro"(by Pato Fu) and "Chico
Science" (the late Brazilian pop fusion artist) but also
"RevelaÁ„o" and "Falamansa".
I'm really not sure how much it has influenced my music, but I
know I'm heavily influenced by the Brazilian lifestyle and attitude,
which must touch my songs somehow. My first CD, "Mutiny"
was done with only bass and percussion, so I've always loved Latin
American percussion, but I think I'm a rocker at heart. when I
was a kid I wanted to rock like Jimi Hendrix or Elvis(Presley
and Costello) and I still do.
Ernest Barteldes : In some of the tracks, I can hear
that you ran an acoustic guitar through an amplifier, but you
can hear the sound of the guitar's strings that were probably
picked up by the voice mike. Was that intentional, to create a
sound somewhat like Eric Clapton did on the Bluesbrakers album?
Mike Rimbaud : That's exactly right, I actually recorded some
guitar tracks using a POD, by Line 6, it imitates tube amplifier
sounds. Yes, I recorded the vocals live with my guitar playing,
so it picked some guitar too. When I started performing around
New York, I played solo with a Fender Telecaster and a Twin Reverb
amp, very heavy, I like the sound of solo electric guitar too.
I used to listen to Billy Bragg a lot, who recorded albums with
only electric guitar and voice, like a Punk Woody Guthrie.
Ernest Barteldes :You released your album through an
independent label. Are you independent by option or do you intend
to shop around larger labels or distribution companies?
Mike Rimbaud : Yes, I'd like to find a larger label and distribution
company, but a lot of larger labels won't even listen to your
CD if you send it to them. Maybe if I taped a hundred dollar bill
to the jewel case, and stuck a joint inside, I'd have better luck.
(photo by Pierre Dufour)