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Interview with Frans de Waard

img  Tobias

Hi! How are you? Where are you?
When I start answering this, this is the first answer. It’s Sunday evening and I’m at home. I had some young friends (half my age actually, as I have mainly young friends) over for a cocktail party yesterday evening so a bit of a hangover. A bit of a typical way to spend the weekend actually.

What’s on your schedule at the moment?

I hardly plan things ahead. On April 10th I’m supposed to deliver a small lecture in ‘s-Hertogenbosch about how I work with an example composition and at the end of May Roel Meelkop and me will go to Russia for some concerts. Otherwise I just continue to work at home. Strange to believe, perhaps, but I hardly create new music. Now that the new Beequeen CD is out, we are starting on a new one and I have plans to record another Goem record. Other things come as they are. I hardly ever create music for the sake of creating it. There is always a purpose, usually a concert or a release. And oh, I just finished something entirely new, which is called Pick-up, a new duo of me and a great local guitar player Martin Luiten, with whom I just recorded a great CD. Spacious guitar music.

Finding out about electronic music and the tape culture of your homecountry the Netherlands was a revelation to you in the early 80s. Can you still remember what it was that fascinated you so much about this discovery?
Much like punk the thing was you could also do it. That was a moving point. I have never been in any real band because it seemed rather dull to do rehearsing every week or so, plus I was never interested in learning any chord, let alone three. But electronic music sounded very easy to make, and I could work alone which appealed to me very much. My first musical partner in Kapotte Muziek, Christian Nijs, and I hardly ever worked together. He would give me tapes of sound to work, which I treated electronically, looping, slowing down etc. which would then become the release. But it took until 1984, when I met Christian, before I really started. From before that there are hardly any recordings available.

Today, noise and sound art are hardly the most trendy genres for teenagers. How did that work for you back then? Did your interest in these fields automatically place you in an outsider position?
Up until I met Christian nobody in my direct environment was interested in any of the music I was playing, which was all quite normal by today’s standard (Joy Division, A Certain Ratio, Throbbing Gristle). These days it seems younger people are more interested, not in the very extreme things, but the teenagers I know do like Beequeen or Zebra or they come to my concerts if they are locally.

You’ve mentioned that a lot of what you do is in the spirit of your father, Joop de Waard. What did you learn from him?

My father had a wide interest in art, music and history, and he had always something to tell about it. Not the sort of art and music that interests me now, but he had a big knowledge of these things. He was a strong debater and loved extreme opinions, so we had good clashes on all sorts of things, music, art, politics etc. which would drive my mother and brother nuts. So I learned from him to be open and get to know things, which I still do. And, unlike him, I am always open to change an opinion. I can state for instance that I don’t like the music of Frank Zappa, but eventually I know I will have to hear more and see what it is that I don’t like. Or perhaps change my opinion.

You’ve also described how you could get excited about the sound of a refrigerator, listening to its constantly morphing noises for an entire night. Was this completely different way of listening to music the basis for interesting debates with your father or rather something that seperated the two of you?
I think that experience I had was after my father died, so I never discussed it with him. My father was deeply into classical music, the romantic area and a bit beyond, and he wrote two books, one on Dvorak and one on Bartok. So he had strong opinions on how music should sound, how compositions are made and that without any formal training it was simply impossible to do any music. He never understood what I was doing, although he had a couple of Cds that I made. He told me he hated the first Goem CD but Beequeen was something that he liked.

Growing up in between these two worlds, the world of sounds which you discovered yourself and classical music, did you feel these two worlds had more in common than many would think - or rather that they were indeed mutually opposing each other?
I think there are more connections, more than my father would have admitted. Quite early on I found out about Stockhausen, musique concrete and such like and talking with Jos Smolders, who was a great influence on my way of thinking and working in the 80s, certainly expanded that feeling. He would raise the right questions, like “nice sounds, but when do you make them into a solid composition?” and that got me really thinking about why and what I was doing.

The Netherlands has renowned institutions offering studies in sonology. Did it ever cross your mind to study this academic angle to sound art?
Actually it did. Martijn Tellinga with whom I worked in Staalplaat, went to study Sonology in The Hague and he told me what he was learning. I asked him if I should go there, and he argued that since I already had so much music that it would be hard to learn anything, other than perhaps a few extra technical tricks. But perhaps I can pick these up somewhere else if ever the need arises.

What I found interesting about your recent release “298” on Tosom is that it dissects a very restricted pool of source material, bringing up a lot of information invisible on a first listen. Are you fascinated by how much detail can be contained in a small chunk of sound?
I think the basic sound material per track is no more than 10 seconds each. Overall that aspect is something I like very much, to constantly reworking sounds until I have enough to compose with. And I’d like to add that I hardly use plug ins, but mainly the sort of the thing that I did when I worked with tapes: looping, reversing, EQ-ing and layering of sounds.

The album also seems to suggest that it can be just as interesting to observe someone transform sounds in a certain way as the actual result itself. Would you say that, both as a listener and as a musician, you enjoy the process-aspect of music, i.e. the  different ways it is made?
Yes of course that is something I always am on the lookout for. However, it’s not that the process is what ultimately interests me. I rather try to see the end point and hardly care ‘how’ it was made. In that sense I am not a purist in any way. ‘Oh it’s laptop, so it’s crap/good’ or ‘oh, all analogue, brilliant’. What matters in the end is the end result, that’s the only thing that matters. For my own music I use various techniques to work, various processes to come to what I want to achieve. Each new piece suggests a way of working and for that I pick the technique from the big book of techniques. For instance, this year I will make a new collaboration with Howard Stelzer and I will probably record it on many analogue machines.

With the possibilities of digital technology, you have millions of samples and sounds at your disposal. Still, you often restrict yourself to a small palette. What are the benefits or ideas behind minimalism for you personally?

What I like about minimalism is that you can do so much with it. For me there is hardly a difference between the guitar based minimalism of Shifts and the beats of Goem. It is almost made in the exactly the same way. And personally I like minimal music, art etc.

“298” was recorded “on the road”. Has the advent of laptop culture been a benefit to you in the sense that you are now able to catch creative moments much more easily and as they happen?
Surely it works like that. For ‘298’ and also the new Freiband release on Monochrome Vision, I found peace in hotel rooms to work on it. I am not really a tourist guy when abroad, but the change of environment and the fact that I am not disturbed by phone or mail, gives me the possibility to rework or listen to what I am doing. So for ‘Replicas’ (the Monochrome Vision release), I entirely reworked everything in Tokyo and make it more what Asmus was suggesting: to make it more micro. It was the right place to work on it, in separation from everything in a hotel room.

In your reviews you often stress the importance of musical innovation and pushing the boundaries. With the amount of music you actually know, is that putting a lot of pressure on your own pieces?
Not a lot of pressure but its something that I think about a lot. I really see no point in repeating one thing ad infinitum. If it has outlived the idea one should move on. So with Goem in 2001 we reached that point and since then we haven’t recorded together, or hardly, but in trying to find new approaches to the Goem concept, I made a solo version (the CD for Atak) and Roel did his version on a CD for Small Voices. Roel and me see Zebra as the logical extension of Goem. Also with Beequeen, the same thing happened in 1999. We felt that we wanted to move away from the ‘ambient industrial’ tag and do something else, which has resulted in three more pop oriented Cds until now. If all is said a project will die out. That happened to Shifts, Captain Black and Quest for instance, which I all stopped doing.

A question in the same vein: Some passages of your recent Beequeen album reminded me faintly of your compatriots The Nits. How aware are you of your influences in general, would you say?

The Nits! Good one, never would have thought of those. They aren’t any influence on us, even when I think ‘Tent’ is a brilliant record. The funny thing is that with Beequeen we hear people speak about references like Piano Magic or Belle & Sebastian, but it’s all stuff we never hear, well hardly. I am not sure if we have any influences for Beequeen at all, now I come to think of it. There is lots of music we like, but not always by the both of us. We are both great Beatles fans, though, and their paring of pop song and good sense of sound experiment is, I think, quite an influence.

What I find interesting about your work with Beequeen is that it is really “Pop” in a very pure kind of way. Yes, it is still explorative, but there is nothing ironic about it. Is that something you can enjoy about Pop music, that it is so straightforward, unashamedely emotional and sometimes touchingly open?
Well yes, I do like that kind of pop music. On my ipod you won’t find hardly any ‘vital’ music, but only pop music, almost all from the late 70s, early 80s. I like new wave a lot, but also over the top music from say Ultravox or Sparks.

You’ve stressed that Beequeen was a duo affair between you and Freek Kinkelaar and if anyone else were to join the picture, you would have to rename yourself. So does that mean that the input of Olga Wallis was not big enough to warrant that change or merely that the next album will feature a completely different line-up again?
Olga is a great singer and surely has input on what she sings. But the music and lyrics are all ours. In a live situation Freek sometimes sings them. I think these days the fact that we work more with other people, like Olga or Erik, who produced it, we won’t say that the duo affair is so strict anymore. But we both have to agree to something or else it might not happen. For our next CD I think we’ll have other guestplayers. Freek plays in a ‘party orchestra’ so we happen to know a lot of good musicians on instruments that we don’t manage. One unrealized idea for Beequeen is that we recorded music as a demo and then have other people re-play each track on their own instrument. Then we remove all our input and mix that. I am not sure if we will ever realize that.

It is interesting to observe that the question of why you never too on classical training on an instrument keeps returning in interviews and whether this leads to difficulties in your band projects. What is often forgotten is that someone like Tori Amos; for example, could vice versa only ask her producer for a “blue sound” instead of providing more detailed infos on the effects she wanted. What has working with classically trained musicians taught you personally? And what, do you feel, have you been able to convey to them in return?
To start with the latter: nothing I guess, but they get a copy of the result and hopefully it will expand their ears to other music. Hopefully. I am not sure what I learned from them, but I love seeing them at work and hear them play, and getting input on what we are making. That brings fresh ideas to the table.

What’s the current subscriber count for your Vital Weekly Newsletter?

2653 and going up with 2 or 3 a day.

Interview conducted by Tobias Fischer


As Frans de Waard:
TREIN Bake Records
TORN TONGUE Absurd cdr #18
OMGEVING Bake Records 053

As Freiband:
MICROBES ritornell rit 25
STPTHE limited christmas
HOMEWARD Bottrop Boy 011
SIJIS RMX Sijis Records
DRONE WORKS #5 Twenty Hertz re-issued by My Own Little Label
LEISE Cronica 026,
ALL IN A DAY'S WORK Pineapple Tapes
298 Tosom 029
REPLICAS Monochrome Vision mv 19

As Shifts:
PANGAEA Elsie & Jack Recordings 002
SONATES & INTERLUDE Korm Plastics KP 8198
LEAVING Korm Plastics KP 8298
TWO DATES Bake Records 017
8 LINE ERS Records 12/05
Flenix Re-issued by Bake Records 030
ONE PIECE FOR CYMBAL Bastet Records BR 022
EQUAL/UNEQUAL Fourth Dimension FDTEN 59
SEVEN MONOCHROMES Betley Welcomes Careful Drivers
MODAL Americantapes
THE SHIFTS RECYCLINGS (2CD ­ 2002) Soleilmoon Recordings Sol 116
VERTONEN Freedom From
VERTONEN (CDR ­ 2003) Humbug 015 (remastered version of the previous Freedom From version)
VERTONEN 10 Verato Project verazität 022
VERTONEN 12 Authorized Version av 016
VERTONEN 13 Beta Lactam Ring Records
VERTONEN 15 The Locus Of Assemblage mini-assemblage 14
VERTONEN 16 EE Tapes ET 86
VERTONEN 9 Public Eyesore 82

With Goem:
Stud Stim, Rastermusic
Twaalf Inch,
Reduktie, Noisemuseum
Locatie, Microwave
punik, Staalplaat
Mort Aux Vaches, Staalplaat
Disco, Fourth Dimension
abri, 12K
Goem, Atak

The sizeable discographies of Beequeen and Kappote Muziek are available on the website of Frans de Waard and Beequeen


Frans de Waard
Frans de Waard with Beequeen

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