Demetris "All Around"
A band with 40 years of prog history having released two great albums in the years 2010 and 2013? They absolutely deserve the title of the “Guy Roux”* of prog (and ROLLING STONES and a bunch of other bands along with them)! A model of patience, creativity and inspiration, PBII, aka the second phase of the older PLACKBAND band, is fairly known as the GENESIS of Netherlands! And Alex van Elswijk, responsible for the bass guitar in the band, unfolds the maturity and the consistency of this highly sensitive band that touches deep lyrical issues (see child cancer). Enjoy a prog band like the old good wine!
*He was a key figure in the football club of the French team Auxerre from 1961 until 2005!
Well, dear PBII and Alex, thanks a lot for your participation in that interview! It’s our honor to host your point-of-view in our radio (www.justincaseradio.com)!
Where are you now? Where this interview finds you exactly?!
I'm writing these answers from my homestudio in the Netherlands. Our band is based in The Hague since all of our members live nearby the city.
The band’s initial name was PLACKBAND, right? Is PBII an abbreviation of PLACKBAND (era II, I suppose)? And why did you prefer initial letters as a band name?!
Yes, you got that right.. PB stands for Plackband and we choose to refer to Plackband since the band has a 40 year ( ! ) history. You don't just throw that away and there are still three original members of the first Plackband in PBII today. The II stands for the second life of the band .. new members and a fresh musical course makes it complete.
Alex, could you give us a brief presentation of all regular members of PBII?
Ronald Brautigam is our guitar player and composes a lot of the music. Besides making music his second task is as spokesman of PBII.
Michel van Wassem plays the keyboards and also composes the music of PBII. Besides playing and writing Michel also does the artwork.
Tom van der Meulen is our trusted drummer. He also takes care of the finacial part of the band and is part of the technical crew which finds solutions to the technical questions that raise when we design a the stage for our rockopera.
Ruud Slakhorst is our singer and lyricist. He writes all the vocal lines.
Nathalie Mees is the soprano which we asked as a guest on the 1000Wishes album. Once we got to know here better it clicked so well that we decided to ask here as a bandmember.
Alex van Elswijk ( me ) is the bassplayer and co-composer of the band. Besides playing bass, bass pedals and composing he's also in charge of the social media and blog on www.1000wishes.org
Alex, you actually substituted Harry den Hartog on bass, right? How did you find PBII (or they found you for PBII)?
Well actually, I kinda knew Michel from years ago when we both played in a band which accompanied students of a local music school. Years later they contacted me if I was interested in playing in PBII but I was busy playing in a prog metal band at the time. Funny thing was that I new that Harry was looking for a band. Harry joined the band and I went my own way until 2010. Harry decided to leave the band due to musical differences and they needed a new bass player. Since I have my own music school for bass players Michel contacted me if I had a student that would fit PBII. Timing could not have been better... my band just quit a few weeks earlier and I was looking for a band in the prog genre. Took me about 1 second to decide that I wanted to play in PBII. Once we jammed for the first time we knew that we matched beautifully and the rest is history!
You had a change in lineup during the transition to your second album. What do you think: What are the factors that make a lineup change constructive?
The one thing that makes a solid lineup is.. respect. And what makes PBII so special (in my opinion anyway) is that everybody does his and her task. Everybody contributes to the success of the band and nobody's falling behind in his or her duties.
Your music covers a wide spectrum of progressive music genres including Neo Prog with jazz-fusion elements and symphonic touches. How would you describe your sound to someone unfamiliar with your music?
That's a tough one to answer.. most of the time I play them the album hahaha ! I'd like to call it progressive rock … and I would add keywords like, organic, catchy and from the heart. One of the reasons this album sounds the way it does is all the love that's gone into it.
What are your influences as musicians and, further, as artists?
Well.. here goes: Beatles, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Ten Years After, Jeff Beck, Frost*, Genesis, Dream Theater, Flying Colors, Neal Morse, TransAtlantic, Queen … Personally as an artist I get excited when music really hits me. Sometimes I listen to music and the next moment I find myself in tears... Beautiful what music can do to you .. most of the time it's a melody that really touches you. And that's what inspires !
What is your vision as an artist with PBII in the contemporary era of music?
When I speak for myself I think that music as a whole has become a byproduct . The 'music' that's on the regular radio these days has one purpose and that's to make as much money as possible in the least amount of time.. and.. the mainstream public is buying it... In the 80's we had pop music which, most of the time, was based on very good musical ideas. That's what I really miss. On the bright side.. there are loads and loads of good bands which produce quality albums in their home studio's and release them themselves through the internet. I'm sure that in time true music will come float to the surface ..
I like both of your albums, but I’d say that 1000 wishes is more mature and solid concerning arrangements and lyrics while the concept that deals with is a breathtaking one (the cancer of a child). Give us a brief description of the making and the concept of both albums (My faves from “1000 wishes” are “A perfect day”, “Never old”, “Land of 1000 wishes” and “Parental thoughts”).
As you know I joined PBII just before we started writing for 1000Wishes so I can only tell you about this album.. The whole idea behind 1000Wishes is that when we write music we try to bring a message to the listeners. Music is a powerful way to get your message across and why not use that power to make people aware that there are things in society that needs attention. Cancer in Children is such a topic that is scary to talk about. We wanted to get attention and raise money for Kika (foundation which funds the research against cancer in children). Since I have kids of my own the theme really appealed to me (thankfully all our children are in good health) and while walking kids to school the storyline came to me.. We started writing and got in touch with a very talented arranger which translated our musical ideas for the orchestra to paper. Once we had the demos our producer engineer Chris Muller joined us in the process and recorded and mixed the album beautifully with a really powerful sound. There's a lot more to tell but you would need a whole lot of extra paper to write it all down.. What it comes down to is that we have a band that really has the chemistry when it comes down to composing.
In “1000 wishes” album you had also some gust appearances like THE HAGUE SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA and STEVE HACKETT between others. Tell us a few things for the collaboration with all those amazing artists and people!
Since our topic concerns children we found it suitable that we would use a Youth Orchestra. We heard about their reputation as decided to ask them to participate. Was fun to work with them. About Mr. Steve Hackett .. Ronald is a huge fan and once he got in touch with Steve and told him what we were up to he wanted to do a solo on the Evil Weed song. We're very proud of the fact that Steves on the album!
I think you have almost the perfect music for concept albums! Are you gonna do it again or this is not your cup of tea except from “1000 wishes”?
At this moment we are examining our next move.. nothing is certain at this stage. We are all about to re-invent ourselves every time we write new stuff. Writing music is a journey and the music takes you places.. not the other way around and that the beauty of writing music.. you never know were you are going to end up :)
I am also fascinated with your album cover (“1000 wishes”)! Is there a GENESIS hint in the font with the four people walking (see for example the cover of GENESIS’s Live - The Way We Walk Volume One-The Shorts) or is just my associative thinking? Could you give us a description of its concept?
I think that you mean the Plastic Soup Album … well Plackband was called the Genesis of the Netherlands in the 70's :-)
How do you compose music? Music first? Lyrics first? Or, both? And what are your routines while you compose or and record?
We always start with writing music. Most of the time Ronald or Michel come with a demo or a bunch of ideas. In this rough state it's time for Ruud to add some vocals and backing vocals are made by Michel. Then it comes to me. I get my best work done when guitar, keys and vocals are there as a demo. Every part you write must support the next part. Arranging drums and bass parts are the final stage and in this stage I like to add some new ideas ... Once ready the whole goes to producer Chris Muller and after battling with him the final demo is finished and ready to go to the studio.
Do you have any other independent musical collaborations? Any projects?
Noop.. PBII takes up a lot of time.
We've done the 1000Wishes rockopera live with full orchestra, Actors, Animation, dance and Live band for soldout theaters. That was very exciting to do. We also perform as a band while we play with a backing track for some orchestral parts when the stage does not allow a full orchestra. The reaction of the audience was and is overwhelming. We get so many really positive reactions on what we do. At the moment we are looking into the possibilities to get into the theaters as a theatre show.. 1000Wishes scaled down so to speak. We hope that we can play a lot in 2014.. working hard to get it done !
Do you collaborate with a label and, if yes, how is that going? Or, are those albums self-released?
The Plastic Soup album was released on the Progrock records label and for the 1000Wishes album we got Freia Records interested. Freia records does a part of the promotional work for us. We are busy trying to finds the right label to release globally.
What’s your personal philosophy in life? How do you cope with barriers? And, simultaneously, how do you build/use your strengths?
My personal philosophy in life is that nothing comes without hard work. All that's worth, comes through effort. And, more importantly, there are no shortcuts to get things done... work hard and stay honest! There are no barriers, only challenges... built strength by staying curious and re-inventing myself every day. Besides that I go to the gym to keep in shape. Strong mind in a strong body :-)
What is prog rock for you? And prog music in general, anyway? We think this is a concept and not a genre, as many believe.
I don't look at it that way.. it's music .. I love layered music … it makes it so much more interesting when you hear something new every time you play an album. Prog rock is just a label on a whole lot of music which we cannot categorize. And by the way .. my favorite bands / artists are Dream Theater, Peter Gabriel, Neal Morse (and everything the man touches) Sting.. all quite progressive in their own way.
Also, what do you think about the future of prog rock and prog music in general? Are there any ways for the betterment of its promotion through internet and other means?
Prog will find its way to the listeners because Proglovers are fanatic people hahaha! The Internet really opened up new possibilities for new bands to present themselves. Problem is that there are so many new releases these days that's it hard to find the real gems. Radio stations like Justin Case Prog Radio helps a lot in finding these gems.. so keep it up!
Is there any possibility to record with a major symphonic orchestra? We strongly believe that this would be a completely “must listen” experience!
I'm sure it would be.. Nothing is impossible :-)
What are your plans for the short and long-term future?
Short term .. getting 1000Wishes on the road and play live .. long term future.. writing and releasing a new PBII album
A message from your part for the listeners of JustIn Case Prog Radio and for all prog’n’rollers out there is…
Thank you very much for being out there.. without you we would have nothing to share … And we hope to see you all on the road in 2014 !
Anything that you might add?
Thank you very much for your interest in PBII and 1000Wishes ! It's great that we reach so many people from all over the world... really appreciate it !
Dear PBII, thanks a lot about answering those few (lol!!!!) questions!
Demetris “All Around”
Founder and Progducer of JustIn Case Radio (www.justincaseradio.com)