French duo, The Dukes, set to release their first full length LP in the US this Friday!!! Drummer Greg Jacks sits down with The Rust Belt Chronicles.

There is no doubt that music is a form of art, hence the reason musicians of all types are called artists. But a two-man group from France that call themselves The Dukes is taking the artistry of rock-n-roll and actual artwork to a whole new level. Actually they’re taking it to a place that they refer to as the Smoki Universe.

Francois Shanka Maigret (vocalist/guitarist) and Greg Jacks (drummer/programmer/vocalist) partnered with each other in 2010 after each had successfully runs in other bands. Maigret was a member of the French rock band, No One Is Innocent while Jacks played in Superbus, who was a multi-platinum group that won an MTV Award and was nominated for a pair of French Grammy Awards, winning the Best Rock Album of 2007.

The Dukes first American full-length album, “Smoke Against the Beat”, hits the shelves this Friday, July 28th under the Concrete Entertainment label. According to their press release the LP’s sound has a sleazy, sexy, driving sound.

Their live performances feature the tandems visual artistry through the eyes of a Sharpie drawn character known as Smoki. They use machines, scenography and projected video clips which were created by Maigret. The stage presentation is intensified by an elaborate light show.

Looking to build their US following, The Dukes just completed a short run on the Van’s Warped Tour and are currently working on new material with industry guru, Kato Khandwala, a producer who has collaborated with the like of Papa Roach, Paramore and The Pretty Reckless.

The Rust Belt Chronicles recently had the pleasure of talking with Jacks to get a little more insight into what The Dukes are all about.

TRBC: First of all thanks for taking the time to sit down with us. Can you explain to our readers what ‘art-n’roll’ is and how it came about?

 GJ: It’s a pleasure; we appreciate the time you’re giving us to get the word out. Anyway art-n-roll began back when we were putting The Dukes into motion. My partner Shanka was on a retreat over the Christmas holiday and he called me with this idea. He had remembered back from his high school days about drawing. He had sent me some drawings and I was like ‘this is insane’. I thought it was fantastic. It was something no one else was doing and we like to be different. Five days later Shanka had 78 drawings and voila’, art-n-roll was born. It was our Pandora’s Box you might say. Now we do drawings, sculptures and painting. The thing just came to life.

TRBC: What exactly is the Smoki Universe and how does it relate to The Dukes?

GJ: Smoki is pretty much our alter ego. It helps deliver the message of what our music is all about. We like to say that we produce sweet songs with an unsweet sound. It’s sleazy and sexy but it is definitely rock-n-roll. Or should I say art-n-roll.

TRBC: Smoke Against the Beat comes out this Friday. How would you describe your sound on the album to your fans or potential new fans?

GJ: It’s most likely different than what most people have heard but that’s what we want. We wanted to do something different. Like I said earlier we have a sleazy sound with a dirty blues mix. We have incorporated a lot of things into it. We have a true synthesizer to incorporate an 80’s sound as well as electronic. We love writing music that will make an audience shake and move their bodies.

TRBC: You’re sound has been coined as “future rock” by some and it caught the attention of Kato Khandwala, a big time producer. What’s it been like working with someone of his stature in the business?

GJ: He is one of the hottest producers around today, so when he wanted to work with us, it was very exciting. To have someone of his caliber believe in what we’re doing is a really big deal. What we were bringing to the table was new so I’m sure he might have been out of his comfort zone a little bit but everything has been working out well. It is a great opportunity for us and has been a huge learning experience. Something that is almost surreal.

TRBC: You just finished a run on the Van’s Warped Tour. What was the experience like and how were you received by the fans? In addition is there any follow up plans of another tour to support the album release?

GJ: It was a good opportunity for us and I think the fans liked what they saw and heard. Touring is a big part of the business, so it is imperative to be out on the road to get as much exposure as you can. We’re diligently working on finding a tour to do in the fall. Playing in front of people is a big part of being an artist. You want to get your music out for everyone to hear. Not everyone is going to like what we do but they’ll never know unless they get the chance to hear it.

TRBC: Speaking of touring; what is the difference between touring in Europe as opposed to the US?

GJ: You know it may sound strange but touring in Europe is a lot easier and perhaps not in the way you would think. Most bands that are on the road aren’t always making top dollar and are usually just trying to make ends meet. You know, having money to pay for gas, buying food, the essentials. In Europe it doesn’t really matter how big of a band you are, there is always someone at each stop who is willing to ensure you are fed. In the US there are some places like that but most stops are usually just snacks, you know. Most of the bigger bands that travel to Europe love it over there because they are treated like royalty. That’s not meant to knock things in the US, that’s just the way it is in Europe. But, we are here to get our art-n-roll out to as many people as we can. So we are truly grateful to any band or venue that allows us to share it.

TRBC: I know you currently have a Pledge campaign going on to help with the new recording. Where can people go if they want to make a donation?

GJ: Oh we have a lot of places on the internet that they can go to. They can go to our website at or visit twitter @wearethedukes. One of the things we are proud of in regards to the Pledge campaign is that donors will receive unique items as opposed to the usual pics, drumsticks and such. On our site they will get actual artwork from our shows. We also have drawings that were used in some of our videos. It is truly unique to be able to offer these items to the fans. It’s very cool and something that they don’t normally get when making a donation.

TRBC: Once again we thank you for taking the time to speak with us. In closing is there anything you want to share with your fans or potential new fans?

GJ: OH for sure. We want to thank everyone who has been supporting us and encourage others who have not had the opportunity to check us out, to do so. You may not like what you hear but it isn’t going to hurt to give it a shot. The music industry can be a cruel business and any support that you can give to the smaller bands is greatly appreciated. Local bands are out there giving it there all and they need your support. And like I said, you never know what you’re going to see and it just may be something you’ll like until you see it for yourself. Hopefully we are able to book a tour and get out there to see a lot of new faces.

Different shouldn’t be a deterrent from checking out something new. After all, bands like KISS and The Beastie Boys might not have made it to the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame had they not chosen to do something no one else was doing at the time.

I personally like the sound of “Smoke Against the Beat”, especially the song ‘Black Hole Love’ a tune that has climbed into the Top 50 on Billboard’s Mainstream Chart. The rest of the album has a variety of sounds that range from bluesy to punk. As a whole it is an impressive piece of art. It is made even more so considering there are just two band members. I definitely recommend you give it a listen and judge for yourself.

I’d like to thanks Greg Jacks for taking the time out to do this interview as well as Ed Bunker of No Problem Marketing for all his help setting it up.

Until next time this is Big L saying ‘keep those horns up and rock on’!! \m/ \m/

Keep in touch with The Dukes:
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Official Website:

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Larry Ritter About Larry Ritter

Hello my name is Larry Ritter, or “Big L” to most of my friends. I’m a production supervisor for a major manufacturer of auto parts here in northwest Ohio. I received an Associate’s degree from Owen’s Community College where I graduated cum laude honors. I have a true passion for music, sports, photography and riding motorcycles. My love for these things are surpassed by just one thing, family, which includes two sons, a daughter and eight grandchildren.

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