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KAYAK (TON SCHERPENZEEL - 2011) on ANYWHERE BUT HERE (NL + E)

KAYAK (TON SCHERPENZEEL)
donderdag, december 1, 2011
KAYAK (TON SCHERPENZEEL)

Het Nederlandse Kayak viert binnenkort het veertigjarig bestaan, terwijl de band definitief leek te zullen stoppen in november 2009 na het plotselinge overlijden van Pim Koopman, mede oprichter, componist, drummer, toetsenist en producer van de band. Op het podium had Kayak's frontvrouw Cindy Oudshoorn al een enorme uitstraling en was en is steevast de gangmaker voor wat betreft interactie met het publiek. Het was haar initiatief om in Paradiso een 'tribute concert' voor Pim te organiseren in november 2010 en dat bleek het begin voor een doorstart. Met een prima nieuwe schijf Anywhere But Here met louter composities van Scherpenzeel en één van Reekers was er dus alle reden om weer eens met het enig overgebleven bandlid van het eerste uur te gaan praten. Onder het genot van een heerlijk kopje koffie bij Ton thuis werden de volgende vragen beantwoord:

In 2008 werd het 35 jarig jubileum van Kayak officieel gevierd, maar in november 2009 leek het er op dat het definitief gedaan was met de band. Wat zijn je overwegingen geweest om door te gaan?

Ik kende Pim toen al 43 jaar; samen in allerlei bandjes gespeeld, Kayak opnieuw leven in geblazen en dat liep gewoon lekker. Dan gebeurt er zoiets en vrij snel had ik al de gedachte om niets te besluiten. Doorgaan zou altijd nog kunnen maar ik voelde zowel persoonlijk als muzikaal zijn overlijden als een enorm verlies. Een jaar lang heb ik niet aan Kayak gedacht, want ik was ook op tour met Youp van 't Hek, toen Cindy contact opnam om te vertellen dat ze een tribute concert voor Pim wilden organiseren. Hoezeer Pim dat ook verdiend heeft, ik was er zelf emotioneel nog niet klaar voor. Natuurlijk ben ik niet de enige in Kayak dus op voorwaarde dat ik me er niet mee zou hoeven bemoeien heb ik Cindy gezegd dat ze vooral hun gang moesten gaan. Naarmate de datum van 22 november 2010 naderbij kwam had iedereen het gevoel van 'het wordt prachtig maar wat is het eigenlijk erg'.

Het 'Tribute' aan Pim Koopman concert in Paradiso heeft dus een belangrijke rol gespeeld bij het besluit om weer een nieuw album te maken?

Vlak voor het concert werd de berg steeds hoger en het eerste 'speelcontact' was ook pas een week voor die avond! We hebben twee dagen gerepeteerd voor onze eigen set en nog eens twee dagen voor de andere artiesten en ik zag zelf erg tegen die avond op. Het was zo'n dubbel gevoel en ik snap niet hoe Cindy en Edward iets uit hun strot kregen, dat was echt ongelooflijk, want zowel Edward en zeker Cindy hadden ook een heel nauwe band met Pim. Cindy stond muzikaal ook dichter bij Pim dan bij mij, werkte ook met 'm samen. In mijn beleving reageerde ook het publiek anders dan anders: echte vrolijkheid, de normale spanning tijdens een concert, voorzichtig meeklappen terwijl dat eigenlijk niet 'kon'... het voelde allemaal heel vreemd. Maar goed, toen we eenmaal over die berg heen waren kwam bij mij het heilig vuur ook weer terug.

Zoals gewoonlijk stond je op die avond in de achtergrond maar je was wel heel geconcentreerd bezig en ik heb je zelden zo somber gezien, nauwelijks een interactie met band of publiek... zat het je zo hoog?

Ja, ik vond het echt verschrikkelijk. Pim had erbij moeten zijn en spelen zonder Pim voelde voor mij heel raar ook al klonk het allemaal lekker. Het spelen van nummers die Pim geschreven of geproduceerd had voelde voor mij ook heel dubbel omdat ze nooit in deze setting bedoeld zijn geweest. Ik was blij dat ik een noot raakte! Na het concert viel er een soort last van mijn schouders.  Alles kreeg opeens een plek en de kennismaking met Hans Eijkenaar was in dit verband ook heel belangrijk. Wetende dat de rest eigenlijk gewoon door wilde gaan zag ik toen ook weer een toekomst voor Kayak. Pim had er gewoon bij willen zijn maar zou zeker niet hebben gewild dat we zouden stoppen. We vinden het leuk om met elkaar te spelen en ik vind het leuk om dingen te schrijven. Die zin om dat voor Kayak te doen kwam, toen ik mij na die 22ste november eenmaal herpakt had, ook vrij snel terug. Het leek wel of er een soort opgekropte energie in mij verborgen had gezeten die zich nu kon ontladen dus de bal ging erg snel weer rollen. Ik had eigenlijk een jaar willen nemen voor dit album maar doordat Edward begin 2012 andere verplichtingen had bij "The Best Of Britain" is het hele proces van componeren tot opnemen in een stroomversnelling gekomen.

Wanneer zijn jullie daadwerkelijk met de nieuwe plaat begonnen?

Pas in januari 2011. Wij wonen vanaf april enkele maanden in Griekenland dus het album, althans het opnameproces, moest nog voor die tijd klaar zijn. Ik had zelf niet verwacht dat ons dat zou lukken! Nou moet je niet denken dat de hele plaat nieuw is. Elke componist, elke schrijver heeft wel wat onvolledige, niet afgemaakte stukjes liggen en mede daardoor hadden we toch voldoende materiaal voor een heel album. Dus wonderwel is het toch goed gekomen mede doordat Hans Eijkenaar een belangrijk aandeel in het mixen en de mastering heeft gehad.

Hebben jullie nog overwogen om al dan niet afgemaakte nummers van Pim op dit album te zetten?

Ja, dat is wel ter sprake geweest maar we vonden het ook op zijn zachtst gezegd ietwat vreemd om nummers die niet op het vorige album terecht gekomen waren, nu opeens wel te gaan gebruiken. We hebben ook overwogen om dingen die we samen lang geleden hebben geschreven te gaan gebruiken maar ook dat hebben we niet gedaan want we willen verder met de band en niet te zeer terugblikken want dat hebben we al genoeg gedaan, dus misschien toch nog in de toekomst maar niet voor dit album. We zullen Pim nooit vergeten en we zullen altijd nummers van 'm blijven spelen.

Je hebt ongetwijfeld het 'eindproduct', zijnde de DVD zelf ook bekeken: wat vind je er dan van?

Ik was blij verrast toen ik de DVD zag, want tijdens het concert heb ik weinig van het geheel meegekregen. Om dezelfde redenen die ik eerder heb genoemd hoef ik 'm niet vaker te zien.

Vrijwel alle composities zijn van jouw hand en bijvoorbeeld die mooie compositie van Joost die hij op 22-11-'10 aan Pim opdroeg staat niet op dit album?

Nee, wat dat laatste betreft: Joost zou die op z'n nieuwe soloalbum kunnen zetten want daar is hij bijna mee klaar; ik weet niet precies wat voor stijl je zijn muziek moet plaatsen maar vrij stevig is het wel. Ik heb op één nummer meegespeeld en dat zou je kunnen omschrijven als Pink Floyd op z'n ADHD's (lacht). Ik vond 't wel mooi eigenlijk. Voor Anywhere But Here heeft Edward een nummer aangeleverd. Rob heeft in het verleden goeie dingen geschreven maar vandaag de dag komt hij niet met iets aan voor de band en laten we eerlijk zijn: ik ben de hofleverancier binnen Kayak. Als ik niet zo kunnen schrijven dan zou het voor mij een stuk minder aantrekkelijk zijn, want schrijven, opbouwen, arrangeren dat vind ik het mooiste wat er is, dat is mijn drijfveer!

Er zitten behoorlijke verschillen tussen de composities, waar ligt dat aan:  verschil in tijd tussen momenten van componeren?

Nou ik schrijf eigenlijk altijd heel divers, misschien voor het theater nog wel sterker dan voor Kayak, want voor Kayak zit ik in een veel nauwer keurslijf dan daarbuiten. Van sommige van mijn nummers zegt men dat ze grenzen aan 'musical'' muziek en we moeten wel oppassen dat we daar niet overheen gaan. Meestal schrijf ik nummers met de vocalisten in m'n achterhoofd maar ik maak graag uitstapjes en die probeer ik dan in te passen in de sound van de band. Het zou goed kunnen dat ik me iets minder aan die grenzen heb gehouden en dat het album daardoor meer divers klinkt. Een nummer als Bang grenst een beetje aan Queen maar op Royal Bed Bouncer staat You're So Bizarre wat ook al aardig in die buurt komt. Ik probeer steeds rekening te houden met wat ik denk dat het publiek nog 'accepteert'. De inspiratie komt vaak uit onverwachte hoeken en dan krijg je bijvoorbeeld Balkan invloeden en dergelijke die dan misschien niet geschikt zijn voor Kayak maar wel weer voor een ander project en dat geeft me de mogelijkheid om mezelf  heel breed uit te proberen.

Heeft de band een grote rol gespeeld bij het arrangeren of bepaal jij alles zelf?

Meestal laat ik Irene (Linders, vrouw van Ton - MvBF) eerst een nieuw stuk horen, maar grofweg bepaal ik vier van de vijf keer zelf hoe en wat. Kijk, als niemand een nummer ziet zitten dan houdt het gewoon op, ik moet wel enige respons krijgen want zij moeten zo'n nummer tenslotte zingen en spelen. Die diversiteit komt natuurlijk ook voort uit al die verschillende persoonlijkheden en smaakvoorkeuren binnen de band. Iedereen heeft ook z'n eigen favorieten! Op de selectie van het repertoire heeft de band niet veel invloed. Ik heb voor dit album wel veel met Hans overlegd voor wat betreft de arrangementen maar meestal zijn mijn nummers zodanig gestructureerd dat er weinig ruimte is voor ingrijpende veranderingen. Voor de zang moet soms de toonhoogte worden aangepast, terwijl de keuze welke vocalist wat moet zingen niet altijd vooraf bepaald is. Bijvoorbeeld In Between Tides had Edward ook kunnen zingen maar omdat hij op de vorige plaat een dergelijke nummer zong, was het nu de beurt aan Cindy. Een nummer als Most Underrated Band kon maar één persoon zingen en dat was Rob, hij heeft die ironie ook om dat goed te doen. De sound van een gitaar, of je een reguliere bas of een fretloze bas gebruikt, dat zijn zaken die de individuele muzikanten wel degelijk mee bepalen. Daarnaast zijn de kwaliteiten en persoonlijkheden ook zo sterk, dat het op het eind van de rit toch wel degelijk een groepsgebeuren is geworden.

Tijdens het toeren met Kayak ben je vaak in het weekend op pad; hoe ziet nou voor jou een 'gewone' werkdag er uit?

Dat is heel verschillend maar door de bank genomen ga ik meestal 's morgens de studio in (wijst op het pand achter het woonhuis) en daar kom ik dan 's avonds uit. Momenteel leg ik de laatste hand aan de muziek voor de oudejaarsconference van Youp van 't Hek. Voor de laatste optredens met Kayak gaan we voor de theater van Youp repeteren en ik ben ook nog met wat kleinere dingen bezig dus de komende weken worden best heftig. En, ondertussen denk ik natuurlijk ook alweer na over de volgende projecten met Kayak.

Hoe staat het trouwens met Bert Heerink: heb je daar nog contact mee? Hoe kijk je op die periode terug?

Ik denk achteraf dat 5 jaar genoeg was. Laat het duidelijk zijn: hij heeft hele goeie dingen gedaan en in 2000, toen het -laat ik maar zeggen- niet helemaal goed ging met Max, heeft hij ons gered. Met Nostradamus heeft hij zichzelf overtroffen en over de periode daarna wil ik het liever niet hebben (meesmuilend).

V.w.b. het nieuwe album: pas toen ik goed naar de tekst van November Morning ging luisteren viel het kwartje pas bij mij: die is natuurlijk voor Pim. Zijn er verder nummers op het nieuwe album waar je een korte toelichting op kunt geven?

In zijn algemeenheid moet ik zeggen dat teksten voor ons steeds belangrijker zijn geworden de afgelopen 10 jaar. De rode draad binnen het album is 'vergankelijkheid' in al zijn facetten. Ik denk dat de band, en ikzelf als schrijver ook, ook op een kruispunt staan van het leven dat achter ons ligt en de hopelijk nog mooie toekomst die we te gaan hebben en dat je het nu van twee kanten kunt zien: Passing Cloud is een mooi voorbeeld van vergankelijkheid: 'de veranderende vorm van een voorbijgaande wolk' .... hoe vergankelijk wil je het hebben? Dat zijn teksten die je niet schrijft als je twintig bent, maar die komen pas als je mensen om je heen weg ziet vallen, je ouders verliest en ziet wat ouderdom kan doen met mensen. Edward zingt dat ook fabuleus, ook echt op hem geschreven en het typische is: je kunt in de zaal een speld horen vallen, het publiek voelt dat. Credible Lie begon met de titel, daarna had ik een refrein en dan weet ik zo'n beetje welke kant het opgaat en stuurt de rest van de tekst zich als het ware vanzelf. Het handelt over een relatie die allang stuk gelopen is en waarbij hij zijn toevlucht zoekt tot de drank en zij er een andere relatie op na houdt en zij probeert dat goed te praten, terwijl hun onderlinge relatie voor de buitenwereld een geloofwaardige leugen is. Overigens typisch een nummer voor Cindy die uitstekend in staat is om die kwaadheid er in te leggen.

Het lijkt me ook een geweldig nummer om live te spelen en voor het publiek om te horen!

We spelen het ook live! Het grappige is dat die nummers eigenlijk pas echt gaan leven als je ze live speelt want het proces van op de plaat zetten is vaak toch een bundeling van individuele activiteiten. Als je gaat repeteren leer je de nummers pas echt kennen. Eigenlijk zou het veel beter zijn eerst de nummers live te spelen en ze daarna pas op te gaan nemen, maar zo werkt het natuurlijk niet want je moet eerst een plaat hebben om te gaan toeren... Je ziet dat bij theaterproducties die ik schrijf ook, zeker bij jongere artiesten. Ze gaan die nummers repeteren maar meestal is het pas bij show 30 dat je merkt dat ze 'zitten'... Bij November Morning, dat uiteraard over Pim gaat, ga ik ook in op de relativiteit,  het moment dat je zo'n mededeling krijgt. Ik was op dat moment aan het helpen om kasten te sjouwen en ik zag uit mijn ooghoek hoe Irene de telefoon aannam en ik zag onmiddellijk dat er iets ernstigs aan de hand moest zijn. Terwijl iemand mij vroeg of  'die tafel ook uit elkaar kon' kreeg ik na enig aandringen bij Irene het hoge woord er uit: Pim is dood! Het gaat dus over het doen van totaal onbelangrijke dingen terwijl er andere dingen gebeuren die je leven veranderen; hoe vervreemdend zoiets is en uiteraard gaat het ook over Pim en hoe wij zijn overlijden hebben ervaren. De muziek heb ik bewust niet te 'zwaar' gehouden, want anders ga je een toneelstukje opvoeren: nu is het puur, oprecht en ingetogen.

Een track als Life Is Good en het titelstuk?

Eigenlijk een heel ironisch stuk over alle ellende die je maar kunt hebben en dan keihard het refrein met 'life is good' : niet dus! Alleen als er een speciaal iemand voor je is die voor jou heel veel betekent, kan het daadwerkelijk 'goed' worden. Anywhere But Here gaat eigenlijk wel en niet over Pim. Het gaat over wat je kunt doen om jezelf in bescherming te nemen tegen vreselijke dingen, dingen die je niet wilt, liefde die niet wederzijds is, enzovoort. Most Underrated Band is een term die ik heb van YouTube, want dat zie je zo ongeveer bij elke band staan: ze zijn allemaal zwaar onderschat! Uiteraard cynisch bedoeld en het kan alleen maar cynisch overkomen als het in een stevig rockjasje wordt verpakt: het is live ook onze uitsmijter. Bang gaat over de schepping en dat het eigenlijk een ongelukje was tussen God en de duivel, een tekst in het verlengde van 'ach, we zijn nu toch aan het relativeren'. Messinian Skies beschrijft een avond, nacht en ochtend vanaf de plek waar wij enkele maanden per jaar zitten in Griekenland. Zo'n 2000 jaar geleden waren hier de Romeinen en die hadden, zij het met wat minder lichtjes, nagenoeg hetzelfde uitzicht als wij nu hebben. Deze prachtige archaïsche kust, met zelfs in april nog besneeuwde bergtoppen, tegenover een stedelijke omgeving die elke 5 jaar totaal verandert. In Between Tides handelt over een soort oergevoel dat alles terugkomt, zoals eb en vloed en de eeuwigheid die daarin zit. Als beschaving komen wij als organismen voort uit het water. Onder die deinende massa zit van alles, ook aan ideeën maar we zien ze pas als ze boven de oppervlakte uitkomen of het nu sociale bewegingen zijn of politieke, maar daarnaast meer gewone ideeën voor liedjes die bijvoorbeeld na lang borrelen opeens boven komen drijven.

(Ton heet nu Margje welkom, de weduwe van Pim, die de band trouw is gebleven ondanks het voortijdige overlijden van haar man. Zij bestiert 'de merchandise' en de webshop voor Kayak en komt de laatste details doorspreken met Irene voordat ze gedrieën naar Lelystad vertrekken).

Jullie doen nog steeds alles wat Kayak betreft zelf?

Ja, hoewel dat niet altijd makkelijk is maar we hebben gelukkig veel contacten. Je merkt soms dat je er bij bepaalde uitgeverijen niet aan te pas komt en dat is wel eens lastig maar tegelijk ook vechten tegen de bierkaai. We hebben wel een distributiekanaal in Nederland (Heartselling) en de plaat is in Japan uit via Marquee en in de USA op Renaissance Records. We willen nog steeds graag buiten de grenzen maar met een zeskoppige band waarvan de leden allemaal andere verplichtingen hebben, is en blijft dat gewoon heel lastig. Als we van Kayak zouden kunnen leven dan deden we het meteen! Mijn aversie tegen vliegen -de laatste keer was naar Amerika tijdens de opnames voor Periscope Life- nog even buiten beschouwing gelaten!

One of the Dutch flagships in the genre of progressive rock music is certainly Kayak, founded by Pim Koopman (RIP) and Ton Scherpenzeel in the early seventies. Although the band took a hiatus from the scene from the mid-eighties until the late ninenties, Kayak is still alive & kicking for over 10 years now. When co-founder and drummer/composer/producer Pim Koopman suddenly passed away on a stormy night in November 2009, it looked like Kayak had come to an end. After the reunion with Max Werner as lead vocalist, the band couldn't continue this cooperation and former Vandenberg lead singer Bert Heerink stepped in. The band recruited another vocalist however to fulfill the dream of becoming a band with more theatrical characteristics: Cindy Oudshoorn, a gorgeous, good looking and cheerful lady. From a modest role as second vocalist and backing vocalist she developed into a truly radiant stage performer. In the current line-up, most of the time it's Cindy interacting with the audience and sharing lead vocals with the second former lead singer of Kayak: Edward Reekers. The man with the beautiful voice, nicknamed "Bel Canto" by the late Pim Koopman for a good reason, returned to the fold some years ago, making many fans very happy. It was Cindy Oudshoorn who came up with the idea to organize a tribute concert for Pim Koopman, the man who made his mark on Dutch pop & rock music. This concert to honor Pim as band member of Kayak, but also as composer and producer of many Dutch acts, in November 2010 in a sold out Paradiso (Amsterdam, NL) was the first time the members of Kayak came together since Pim'passing away. The spark ignited the fire once again and Scherpenzeel began to write songs for Kayak. With one contribution of Reekers, the new album Anywhere But Here proves Kayak is able to continue making good pop/rock music with a progressive/symphonic touch and everybody feels that's exactly what Pim Koopman would have wanted! Ton Scherpenzeel was kind enough to invite me to come to his home and with a tasteful cup of coffee we discussed the latest album and ended up -inevitably- talking about the past as well.

Well Ton, in 2008 there was a celebration of  35 years of Kayak but in November 2009 it seemed the curtain would fall. What were the reasons to go on with Kayak?

At the time I knew Pim Koopman for 43 years! we played together in numerous bands, we revived Kayak and everything went smoothly. Then something like the terrible event in November 2009 happened and I knew right away that there was only one decision to be made: not to decide anything at all. To continue with Kayak could be a possibility at a later stage but I really felt the passing away of Pim as a great loss, both musically and personally. I didn't think about Kayak for almost a year because I was touring with Youp van 't Hek (famous Dutch comedian - MvBF). Then Cindy contacted me and told me she wanted to organize a tribute to Pim. As much as I agreed the man most definitely would deserve such a tribute, emotionally I wasn't ready for this kind of event. Of course I'm not the only one in the band so I decided to participate on the condition I didn't have to be involved in the organization whatsoever.  When the date of November 22, 2010 was coming closer, everyone felt like "oh my, it's going to be magnificent, but actually it's truly dreadful.

In other words the tribute concert in Paradiso played an important role in the decision to go on with Kayak and to work on a new album?

The nearer the date of the concert came, the higher the mountain we seemed to have to climb and the first rehearsal was only one week before the show. We rehearsed two days for our own set and two more for all the guest appearances. Actually I was quite reluctant to be on stage that night and there were a lot of mixed feeling on my part. I still can't understand how Cindy and Edward could sing like they did: amazing! You know, both Cindy and Edward were also very close to Pim and Cindy was definitely closer to Pim musically than to me, she even worked with him in his studio. For my perception the audience responded differently than to an ordinary Kayak show: no sheer joy, more than the usual tension and the hand clapping seemed to be 'low profile' instead of enthusiastic: yes it felt kind of weird indeed. But anyway, once we overcame this mountain and got safely on the other side all the pieces of the puzzle fell into place and I could handle the situation much better. That's when I felt like writing for Kayak again.

Now I know you always  are a modest musician on stage, hardly ever in the spotlights, no solo spot  and you seemed utterly concentrated that night ... was it that difficult for you?

Oh yes! I really felt terrible. Pim should have been with us on that stage and performing without Pim felt really odd in spite of the sound being so good. Playing songs from Pim or songs Pim had produced felt also strange because they were never meant to be performed in that setting.  I was glad I was hitting the right notes! After the show it was like a burden fell off my shoulders and I have to say the meeting with Hans Eijkenaar (guest-drummer that show) proved to be really important. I knew that Edward, Cindy, Joost, Jan and Rob would want to go on with Kayak and with Hans I saw a new future for the band. As I said, I would have wanted Pim to be part of the band but I also know he never would have wanted us to stop playing because we love to play with each other and I love to write music. After that November 22, 2010 the inspiration to write music for Kayak came back very quickly as if a sort of blockade had been taken away. Then the ball started rolling very quickly again. At first I was planning to release the album in the year 2012 but then Edward told me he had obligations to fulfill for a show called "The Best Of Britain"  early in 2012 so the whole process of writing and recording had to be accelerated all of a sudden.

When did you actually start working on Anywhere But Here?

As late as January 2011. We live in Greece for several months from April until July so I knew the whole recording process had to be finished by then. I really hadn't thought we would pull it off in time, but we did! Now you shouldn't think the whole album consists of brand new songs: every composer has some unfinished pieces of songs in some drawer. Sometimes there 's music and no lyrics, sometimes it's just half a song or a chorus. So together with all these raw pieces it was possible to come up with enough material to fill an entire album. To my surprise we got the job done, also because Hans Eijkenaar took care of an important part of the mastering process.

Did you consider to put one or more songs by Pim on the record?

Yes we did, but it seemed odd to allow songs to be put on this album we decided not to use for the previous albums. We also considered to record songs we'd written together in the past, but in the end we decided not to, because we want to move on with the band instead of looking back all the time: we did a lot of that already, but you know, maybe in the future? We will never forget Pim and we will always keep on playing his music.

I presume you watched the DVD of that tribute concert, once it had been finished?

Yes I did and it was a pleasant surprise I can tell you! During the show I had to concentrate really hard on my own 'job' so I missed a lot of the magic that was happening on stage. Nonetheless, for the same reasons I mentioned earlier I don't have to see that DVD ever again.

Almost all compositions for Anywhere But Here were from you and I must admit it surprised me that the beautiful instrumental by Joost Vergoossen that he played on the tribute and dedicated to Pim wasn't on the album...

No, that's correct. I don't know if he will put it on his forthcoming solo album he's about to finish one of these days. That might well be. It's a rather heavy album as far as I know. I've been asked to play on one track , which I thought sounded quite okay, like Pink Floyd but "ADHD", if you know what I mean (grinning). The only none-Scherpenzeel track is Demon In Her Eyes by Edward.

It struck me that there are a lot of differences between the compositions. What's the cause? Have they been written in different decades?

Well I suppose I'm writing my music in different styles anyway and for my work for the theatre maybe even more than for Kayak. Of course there are boundaries for my writing for Kayak I'd rather not cross. I wouldn't want people to have the opinion that some of the Kayak-songs should have been used for a  musical. I know with Merlin and Nostradamus there was a thin line between pop, rock and theatre and I certainly don't want to cross that line. Usually when I write I already have the vocalist in the back of my mind, but I like to experiment and go off the map a bit, you know. Afterwards I try to make such an extravagant song fit in the 'genre' Kayak is supposed to belong too and it might well be that's the reason my songs are so diverse. A track like Bang sounds a bit like Queen but on Royal Bed Bouncer is a track called You're So Bizarre which is that same vein. I try to imagine what people will still accept as 'Yes, this is typically  Kayak'. Inspiration for a music can be from unexpected corners of the earth like for instance from the Balkan countries. Obviously I would use that sort of song for a musical rather than for Kayak, but it gives me lots of opportunities to extend my musical horizon.  

Did the band play an important role in the arranging of all the songs or are you the musical director from a to z?

Whenever I come up with a new piece, I usually let Irene (Linders, Ton's wife - MvBF) listen to it first. In general it's about 4 out of 5 times that I'm the one who decides how a song should be arranged. Of course the band plays a role: for instance if no one digs what I came up with it all stops there. I need to have some response, some positive feedback to be able to have people sing and play my music with a certain degree of satisfaction and self-recognition. No vibe, no joy! Because there are such different personalities in the band it's only natural the songs sound diverse. That also means everyone has his or her own favorites. There's not much influence of the band on the selection of the repertoire. However I must admit I talked with Hans (Eijkenaar) extensively about how to arrange all the songs but the bottom line is, most of the times my songs are structured to a degree where there is next to no room for major changes although occasionally it does happen nonetheless. Because my demo's can be in a different key than the appointed vocalist would be able to control, or feels comfortable with, there can be an adjustment in key for example. Sometimes there's a change of vocalist and most of the times that requires a different key. A track like In Between Tides could have been sung by Edward just as well,  but because he had a similar song on the previous album , it was Cindy's turn for this one. For instance Most Underrated Band could be sung by one person only and that was Rob. He 's got the irony in his voice as well to do it right. The sound of the guitar, whether Jan would use an ordinary bass or a fretless bass are  choices the members of the band decide themselves. I would say that especially because we have such strong and different personalities in the band it's really a group effort.  

During tours with Kayak you are mostly at work during the weekends. What does an ordinary working day through the week look like for you?

It differs from day to day but usually I make my way to the studio (points at a separate  building behind the house Irene and Ton live in) and I stop working in the evening. At the moment I'm busy with the last details for the music for the tour with Youp van't Hek. He 's been invited to do the special show on TV on New Year's eve. Before the last dates with Kayak we start rehearsals with Youp for this tour. I'm busy with several other smaller projects as well. In between I'm planning what to do with Kayak next year (2012).

What about Bert Heerink (former lead vocalist); did you stay in touch with him after his demise?   

Ton looks a bit puzzled : Well, looking back I think five years were enough. Let's make it very clear: Bert did a lot of good things for Kayak, especially when things weren't working out with Max (Werner) in 2000. You might say he was our savior at the time. With Nostradamus he surpassed himself and what happened afterwards I would rather not talk about at all.

Let's go back to the new album: only when I started paying attention to the lyrics, I realized November Morning must have been written for Pim. Are there any other songs on the album you'd like to comment on?

Of course! In general I'm beginning to realize that the lyrics are becoming more important as the years go by,  especially these last ten years. The common theme throughout the album is 'transitoriness' in all its forms. I think that the members of the band , me as a songwriter included, find ourselves on the crossroads of the life we have lived so far and what kind of future -hopefully a beautiful one!-  lies ahead of us. We've come to a point in life that you can look both ways . A good example is Passing Cloud: "the changing shapes of a passing cloud".... how transitory do you want to have it? You know, you don't write these kind of lyrics when you're twenty, but these are feelings one gets when friends or family begin to pass away, when you lose your parents, you see what old age can do to a human being. Edward sings it brilliantly and when he performs this track on tour, it seems everyone in the audience is holding his breath and no one even whispers. A song like Credible Lie began with the title, then I found a suitable chorus and subsequently I usually feel in what kind of direction the music should be going . The remaining parts of the lyrics seem to write themselves. It's about a relationship that has ended a long time ago. The man seeks comfort in booze and the woman starts another relationship and tries to justify this to her husband. For the outside world their relationship is a 'credible lie'.... Cindy knows exactly how to express herself with that anger in her voice.

Oh yes I agree, looks to me this is an outstanding song to play live!

In fact we do perform this one live! Funny thing is that songs tend to come to live only when we start performing them live: up to the recording process it's often a combination of individual activities. When you start rehearsing them they begin to become a 'group activity'. Actually it would work a lot better when we could perform the songs live before recording them, but unfortunately that's not the way it works in the business, because you need a new album to go on tour.... It's the same with theatre productions especially when young artists are involved. You can see they really have full control over a song when they're doing show number 30 or so. November Morning of course is about Pim. It's also about the relativity of things happening around you. I was lending a hand with cupboards being moved from the studio. From the corner of my eye I saw Irene pick up the phone and I realized something awful had happened. Someone was asking me whether a table could be dismantled or not while I urged Irene to tell me what the phone call was about and ultimately she cried out: Pim's dead!!  So it's about doing things that are totally irrelevant while at the same time things happen that turn your whole life upside down. How alienating this is and of course it's about how we have had to deal with Pim's passing away. Because I didn't want to make it some kind of play, the music is not too gloomy. This way it all sounds pure and upright.

What about the track like Life Is good and the title track?

Actually the lyrics are quite ironic. It's about all the misery a man can get and then there's a chorus with "life is good": in fact it's not! Only when there is that someone special, someone who really cares and loves you, then life can be good. The title track Anywhere But Here is not directly connected to Pim.  It's about how you can protect yourself from all the hideous things that can happen to you, unanswered love, the kind of things you don't want to get mixed up in. Most Underrated Band is a title I got from YouTube, because this kind of phrase you can read when you open most band-pages: they are all underrated! Of course it's meant to be cynical and it will sound cynical when the music is more of a solid rock tune: at the moment it's our encore for the live shows. Bang is about the creation of earth and that its presence has been a mere accident when God and the devil had an argument. Lyrically it fits in the template of 'oh well, we 're toning down anyway'. Messinian Skies pictures an evening, night and dawn from the place in Greece where Irene and I reside a couple of months each year. About 2000 years ago the Romans were here and believe it or not, they had practically the same view we have today. This beautiful Archaic coastline, even in April some mountaintops covered with snow compared to a urban environment that changes completely every 5 years or so. Of course this is a source of inspiration too: delightful weather, no interruptions, a sea of tranquility....

In Between Tides is about the primal feeling that things tend to come back, like water in the tides, an eternal movement so it seems. Mankind is the result of an evolution from organisms that eventually succeeded to live out of the water. Furthermore you could say that underneath the ever moving surface of waters there are creatures you don't see until they surface. The same way there are lots of ideas but people don't seem to notice until they come out in the open. It might be political ideas, inventions but also more trivial things like songs that suddenly pop up after having been hidden deep within for maybe some years.  It might sound surprising but sometimes these tunes are 'almost finished' songs and that's because they have been stowed away in that hidden chamber for such a long time. Many songs of Kayak are about water, about the sea or the ocean, because I simply love the ocean and the perpetual element of the tides.

(Ton now welcomes Margje, Pim's widow who remained with the band to help with the merchandise and the web-shop. She and Irene discuss the last details for the gig in Lelystad later the same day).

So with Kayak you still do everything yourselves?

Pretty much yeah, although it's not always easy. Fortunately we have a lot of contacts! Sometimes you're not noticed when you aren't represented by  certain publishers. That means you're last in line and that can be a real pain in the butt. But you know, there's no point in making a fuzz about it, because you'd lose anyway. We do have a distribution channel in the Netherlands, a company called "Heartselling". In Japan our latest album has been released through "Marquee" and in the USA via "Renaissance Records". We would like to tour outside of the Netherlands but point is, we are a six piece so that means a lot of expenses. All members have their own agendas and obligations outside of Kayak so it's rather difficult to get everyone available at the same time for, let's say, a few weeks. If we could live from Kayak alone, we'd surely do that but unfortunately that is not the reality. And I'm not even talking about my reluctance to travel by plane.... last time was when Kayak recorded Periscope Life! When I was with Earth & Fire, the band was asked to play overseas  frequently and then I would have had to say: "I'd rather not", but somehow it didn't happen anyway. Once we were asked to come to Ghana because there was an opening of new Tulip Hotel. The plan was that Flairck, Earth & Fire and another band would come there, stay in the new hotel for three days -for free- and in exchange would be performing one night each. There were two little podia and only one Yamaha DX 7. I didn't think this was a real offer so I accepted, but when the date came closer I began to worry! I would have to take loads of pills so I got a little scared. We would be leaving on a Tuesday, but what happened was the Sunday before that Tuesday - perhaps you remember- that plane crashed on that flat in "de Bijlmer, Amsterdam"! Next thing is this message from Ghana: "because of the many Ghanese people presumed dead after the crash, any kind of festivities are not allowed at the time. So the whole plan fell apart in the end ("Yes" says Irene who just strolled by "and it cost me a very nice trip to Africa. We already got all our vaccinations and I was really disappointed we didn't go. We would have flown 1st class so I was kind of curious how that would be and I was really looking forward to this journey! -not Jerney, Menno thinks- ).

You write a lot of music for Kayak, also for Youp van 't Hek and you used to write for Opus One (musicals).... any others?

Youth theatre "Hofplein" and several other less time consuming activities.

In the past you have been involved with Camel. There are rumors something is about to happen: do you have any information on Andy Latimer's condition?

Every once in a while we "skype" and I know that he is writing and planning, but I don't think it'll happen soon because he's not in a hurry anymore. It might be related to his health issues but in my opinion it could be about being motivated enough as well. When you have been ill for such a long time I think it's difficult to push yourself really hard. I know he plays here and there as a guest and I believe he's recording demo's now & then, but it doesn't seem like he's planning a new album just yet. Andy knows he can call on my if he wants to record or play live. I know for sure he doesn't like the organizing side of touring: he felt it was a terrible burden the last time I toured with him. Constantly coughing, not in control over his voice and a lot of stress. It would surprise me if Andy undertakes anything, as far as performing live is concerned, that would last more than just a few days in a row. Anyway: I'm not aware of any specific plans of Andy's.

In your impressive career I counted 'only' three solo-albums of which Virgin Grounds by Orion in my opinion is the only 'real' solo-album because only on that record you did everything yourself. Are you considering making another solo-album?

Actually, looking back I think Virgin Grounds was not my best work, I like the other albums better although you're right: Heart Of The Universe had a lot of Chris Rainbow on it and large parts of the Carnaval des Animaux were written by Saint Saens but I still consider them to be solo-albums nonetheless. I'm contemplating to do a solo-album, but if I do, it'll be classically orientated. You know, my roots lay in the Renaissance : late middle ages, 16th and 17th century. I do like the harmonies and the 'feel' of the music from that era. There are some links to this kind of music in Merlin and Nostradamus by Kayak and I would like to make an album filled with this genre of music someday.

You already mentioned Earth & Fire. On your website we can find the album Phoenix by Earth & Fire with you as a band member. Personally I thought it was unusual to be calling the band Earth & Fire without the Koerts brothers....

Well, I can understand that.  Fact is I was asked to join the reunion band because both Chris and Gerard Koerts were not interested. One thing led to another and the next thing was we were to record an album. Now it would have been strange if I hadn't written for that album wouldn't it? One thing I'm sure of is that the combination Jerney Kaagman and the Koerts brothers worked better than the combination Kaagman-Scherpenzeel. Sometimes it happens that a vocalist has a magical relationship with a writer and then it just doesn't work that well if he or she has to sing songs from another writer...

How do you look back to those late eighties? Did you feel comfortable in that band? Did you feel the material you wrote was okay?

Oh it was quite okay! I had fun writing songs for that album and I still think some of the songs are quite good and we could perform them with Kayak very well. On the other hand of course my role within Earth & Fire was not the same as my role in Kayak. For instance the songs that I wrote were subjects to debate: quite different from Kayak! A bit the same situation applies to Camel: of course I'm not Camel, Andy is. He is the main man, he determines what will be  the musical direction of the band. As a writer I hardly contributed but it has been an honor to play in that band. I understand perfectly what it feels like when you're 'just a follower', but I can tell you the members of Kayak were never happier! Maybe it's because of what happened, but they feel quite comfortable with me being in charge, organizing, writing and so on. We're all happy we're able to play again. Everyone plays her or his role in the band and feels content about this. There's a lot of energy on stage and we're very enthusiastic about the developments so far. The fans who still come out to see us, it's amazing in spite of all the changes in the line ups. I'm the only one left now from the early days, Edward joined some eight years after that but the others never knew the band at all! They heard most of the songs we play live for the first time during a rehearsal. It was the same for me when I joined Camel: I had to learn practically all the stuff because I only knew about three songs! It feels like a gift from heaven that we're still able to do what we like most: performing live and have fun, all those weekends feel like short holidays...

What about the financial side of all this and now I'm referring to the current lie up of Kayak?

We break even and fortunately often just a little more than that. Only when there would be a company who wants to advertise using a song of yours or something like that, you actually make some money. And of course a worldwide hit would be nice, but in reality we know where we stand and that's about it. It's all pretty much confined and there are hardly any surprises. You know we attempted a combination of a rock band with theatre when we did Nostradamus and we really felt confident that everything would be working out great. Still the people who came to see a rock band were thinking "ahh, theatre, rubbish!" because they didn't care about the story, they were there for the music. The people who were planning to watch theatre were a bit disappointed also. So, looking back, I wouldn't say it was a failure, but it wasn't enough to justify keeping going on in that direction.

Haven't you considered playing a few bigger venues instead of all those smaller theaters?

Financially it might have been more interesting but you know, we love to play and personally I like performing in smaller, more intimate theaters and clubs better than in a bigger festival hall. Main thing is, what we do is self supporting and we have a lot of fun. We are who we are and the music is what drives us and maybe we're in luck to meet someone with means to make a difference, in a position to push us to a higher level of popularity, but if we don't happen to find this person, there's no loss because we're not desperately trying anyway.

Another interesting project you were involved in, was the band Europe (not to be mistaken for the Swedish rockers)?

Oh yeah, that was as I recall by far the least successful undertaking of mine, commercially speaking. And I don't include Orion. It was a sort of a code name for Kayak. Still, there are some good songs on that album too but looking back I think we should have given it more thought than we did before we went ahead with this project. We were planning to release it as a Kayak album, but then we ran into troubles because of the financial mess that had something to do with our former manager. We had such bad times those two years before, that we were glad to be able to make music and we decided not to use the name Kayak. You know, we actually did a few shows with that line up with Philippo, Slager, Veldkamp, Wollaert and Westveen), but I realized this line up wouldn't last long and if it not had been another band I feel there's no reason why we wouldn't be playing some of the songs from that album today.

What's the story on Kajem, the project with classical organ musician Klaas Jan Mulder?

Ton: That was an invitation by Emile Elsen, the producer and engineer. We did several albums and we toured the churches in the Netherlands. I had nothing to do and the EO (Evangelische Omroep, a Dutch religious broadcasting company) paid well so that was it (laughter). It was a nice project, I never did it reluctantly, but it wasn't my favorite thing you know.

Now you're playing with Kayak and tomorrow you're rehearsing with Youp van 't Hek; isn't that difficult to make that switch?

No, not really. There were times I played both with Kayak and with Youp on the same day and I have yet to encounter any problems . These are all my writings so it's not hard at all to turn that switch.

What are your future plans?

Well at first the new years eve shows with Youp and in January another project with Youp. The plan is to go out on a tour with Kayak again but it's not a certainty at this point because we have to make sure it will be possible financially.  The aim is to play in theatres all over the country, celebrating forty years of Kayak. I know the first single came out in 1973, but we started the band back in 1972. At the moment there are two concepts as far as the contents of the show are concerned and there is a plan B if this theatre tour will not be happening, but all that is to remain a secret for the time being....

The clock had been ticking and Irene had already begun grabbing stuff for the show in Lelystad and looked a bit nervous. I asked Ton where he would like to be now. Anxiously looking on his watch he replied: Anywhere But Here!

Discografie/Discography Kayak

See  See The Sun (1973)

Kayak II (1974)

Royal Bed Bouncer (1975)

The Last Encore (1976)

Starlight  Dancer(1977)

Phantom Of The Night (1979)

Periscope Life (1980)

Merlin (1981)

Etewitness (1981)

Close To The Fire (2000)

Chance For A Livetime (2001)

Night Vision (2001)

Merlin – Bard Of The Unseen (2003)

Nostradamus – The Fate Of Man (2005)

Kayakoustic (2007)

Coming Up For Air (2008)

The Anniversary Box (2008)

Lettres From Utopia (2009)

Tribute to Pim Koopman (dvd -2010)

Anywhere But Here (2011)

 

Discografie/Discography Ton Scherpenzeel:

 

Le Carnaval Des Animaux (1978)

Heart Of The Universe (1984)

Virgin Grounds (1991, as "Orion")