Herb Cells

Draughtsman, illustrator, MC, producer and vocalist Herb Cells is a man of many arts with a soft spot for jazz.

Expo Jazzpresso Ristretto VIII

08.01 - 15.02: Marni + Jazzstation
09.0131.01: Espace Senghor



Who is… Herb Cells?

Herb Cells studies animation film at the RITS in Brussels (1996-2001).
His interest in drawing, however, slowly gets the upper hand. Currently, his portfolio contains illustrations and flyers as well as comics and sleeve designs.
As an aquarellist, he uses a peculiar and original technique – to the say the least. To create his drawings, he works with coffee grounds and moisture and combines it with Chinese ink to increase contrasts. He himself describes his work as caffeine caricatures. Think of it as a form of distorted expressionism clearly referring to Egon Schiele, Gustav Klimt and Permeke.
The combination of these water colours and his interest in jazz turned out into the ‘Jazzpresso Ristretto’ series.
The eighth part (with no less than thirty-five new pieces) is on display during the River Jazz Festival.

Prior to this, he already provided us with ‘African Graffiti’, a series of acrylic and watercolour paintings inspired by Michel Huet’s photographs (‘Danses d’Afrique’).Herb Cells is also a comic book author with an equally personal style. On his website, you can read the full work ‘Mon Python (senseless comics)’ the original drawings of which were made with a simple blue ball pen on plain print paper.

Herb Cells the musician expresses himself through the bands Wild Boar & Bull Brass Band (a hip-hop brass band) and Frown-I-Brown (cubist hip-hop with a Funkadelic touch).
Some of his drawings are integrated in Frown-I-Brown’s video clip ‘Triple R’, inspired by Luigi Serafini’s ‘Codex Seraphinianus’ (1981): hip-hop with an absurd, dark and surreal edge, somewhere between Hieronymus Bosch, Salvador Dalí and Flying Lotus.

Herb Cells also has his own record label NAFF rekordz which hosts groups and artists such as UTZ, Jawhar, Glü and Anja Kowalski. Usually, he takes care of the layout and illustrates the cover sleeves.

His website is an absolute must-see.



What is…

... your favourite spot in Brussels?

That is undeniably Brasserie de la Senne in Molenbeek (http://brasseriedelasenne.be). It is a craft brewery set up by two young guys from Brussels who – believe it or not – started their beer adventure at home in a bathtub. In the meantime, they have produced several beers including Zinnebir and Taras Boulba about which I wrote a number which is included on the CD ‘Hard Nouveau’ by Frown-I-Brown, one of my bands. I can only strongly recommend in their assortment a winter beer of the highest quality called Brusseleir.
As far as I am concerned, there are still too many Belgians who only know and drink industrial beer. That’s why I like to serve as an ambassador for craft breweries, especially when they are from Brussels.


… the last CD or album you bought for yourself?

I am a genuine CD junkie, although I must say my addiction has somewhat lessened since music is distributed online, which I am most definitely not a big fan of. Like many people, it is mainly the lack of space which motivates me. I started buying CDs as a teenager and when my collection reached about 700 CDs, moving on to vinyl seemed the logical next step to me. Finally, to answer your question, my most recent buy is ‘The Gentle Giant’ from 1972 by Yusef Lateef. I am a big fan of transverse flute in jazz. At the same time, I bought ‘Buhloone Mindstate’ by De La Soul. It was their third album with the fabulous piece ‘Patti Dooke’, not surprisingly including flute.


… your fondest memory of a recent concert?

I would like to mention Jawhar’s show a few months ago at Global, a club in Copenhagen. And believe me, I do no choose it out of self-serving opportunism (since, as you know, their CD was released by our very own NAFF rekordz); it just was a magnificent performance. In the course of the year, they ought to release new work. I must confess that initially, I was rather sceptical about my partner’s suggestion to sign with this group. Our goal from the outset was to concentrate on more obscure urban jazzy hip-hop and related styles. But to be honest, I very soon had to admit we made the right decision.


… your favourite quote of the moment?

The intro of Jeru Tha Damaja’s album ‘Wrath of the Math’:
“Let us now discuss the mental attitude.
The mental must always stay calm
You must let nothing move you be it good or bad.
But when the mental cannot be moved
There is no longer good or bad, there just is
When there just is
You have the power to form and shape.
So now witness
The wrath of the math.”
In addition, I would also like to add my partner’s motto: “The trick is not to care”.
It's all related to an artist’s conscious and unconscious doings and also the problem of social networks where everyone can express their opinion, good or bad, and furthermore does it shamelessly, feeling safe behind their computer screen.