interview by Daniel Varela"Free Link Music," as they like to call themselves, fits very well to describe music made by Palinckx, an extreme and interesting experimental band. We can argue that the group is strongly based in the "tradition" of radical new Dutch music started around late ‘60´s and early 70´s around free improvisers, some contemporary composers and the influences from rock music and counter culture. The band was started in 1983 and the current line –up is Jacques Palinckx: Guitar; Bert Palinckx: Double bass, bass guitar; Han Buhrs: Vocals and Alan Purves: Drums. Around a year ago, the author has begun a mail exchange with Bert Palinckx but recently in August 2003, Han Burhs finally had answers to my questions ready- "but we agree on it totally" Bert has said after.
Without a doubt, an adventurous trip through Situation Music, Neo Dub Swing, Swindle Swing, Traditional Sabotage Metal, Smirk Folklore, If-There-Was-A-Way-To-Say-It-We-Wouldn´t, Play-It-Pop Insecurity meets The-Fat-Man-Funk, Amoeba Mother Music, Organically Performed Synthetic Music-Eelpop-Frontal Doubt Rock-Serious We’ll Meet Again Stomp-Heavy Stop Metal-Muscle Art & Mumble Soul... and all sort of strange and wild musics.
PSF: What do you think about Dutch "musical life"? It seems that there flourishes certain experimental attitudes with rock music- I think of bands and people like yours, Blast, The Ex, Corrie van Binsbergen, Cor Fuhler, young composers like Arthur Sauer, Hubba de Graaf or American - neerlandse David Dramm.
Han B: If you're standing in the middle of a 'situation' it's pretty hard not only to overlook the 'movement' directly around you and also to judge your relation to various developments. I personally am a fan of Dramm’s work and Palinckx as a band very often cross paths with groups like the Ex and Blast in the European circuit. I guess that -within the framework of the "Dutch scene" (if it exists), these are the bands that have kept some relation with rock-music throughout the years, however shaky that relation may be.
Music here is somewhat 'segregated' due - I think - to the relatively good subsidy-options. Clubs and sometimes bands are subsidised from either rock-, jazz- or classical budgets, which seems to draw invisible lines between various disciplines, a thing that musicians would rather not deal with. In general one might state that -although booking a band is sometimes a rather grimm job- in general the atmosphere is intense and inspiring.
PSF: Another remarkable aspect is that many experimental Dutch groups are linked with improvised and / or contemporary music scenes. What do you think about the legacy of people like "old generation" radical improvisers (Mengelberg, Bennink, Breuker, Baars, Flemish Fred van Hove...) ?
Han B.: The Palinckx-band was indeed born and raised in the improvised scene and the people you mention have been sometimes and still are an important source of inspiration (along with Guus Jansen, Maarten Altena, in whose groups Jacq has been playing in the past). But since the Dutch conservatories have started to puke out ready-made-jazzmenn since the mid-eighties, attention in the improvised musicscene has somewhat shifted towards jazzrelated improv, (which is) not quite the main focus of Palinckx. So maybe we're drifting apart. The future will tell. The relation to the contemporary music scene is yet another matter: since we did the Henry-project with the ASKO-Ensemble (as well as earlier projects with Mondriaan Quartet) there's a very good relationship and a very good understanding of what we've got in common and how we can work together.
PSF: And what about the influence of rythmic - fortissimo kind of compositions á la Andriessen (or by youngers Cornelis de Bondt, Diderik Wagenaar)? His seventies groups like Hoketus or Orkest De Volharding seems an interesting point of departure for many Dutch independent groups (like, LOOS ensemble).
Han B.: I personally am a fan of some of Andriessen’s work and I'm sure also the other Palinckx members will freely admit his importance, if it were only for freeing the Dutch music scene from its boring (to say it roughly) Pre War romantic copying of French or German composer schools. On the other hand, I think that although Andriessen likes to refer to rock influences himself, he doesn't know thoroughly what it really is about. Loos definitely has a closer relation to what we call The Hague-school (Andriessen). Palinckx -as ever- has a freeer link to this approach. Apart from Dense and Intense we are occasionally also interested in smaller sounds and even songs...
PSF: Regarding links with old improvised scene, it seems that many musics are dealing with a sense of humour (for me, in Palinckx too), and a kind of "anything goes" overinclusive aesthetics. What can you say about this point? This seems the key to Palinckx´sound ...
Han B.: For me, humour is not something you're looking for, it's what you find... I don't know if you've ever been to Holland, but our country is terribly flat and organised, (over)populated by commercants. Now, I don't know if this has anything to do with what you brought up, but it just might be so that, because of this devastating flatness and normality, we are unable to make big statements without taking a look at 'the other side' of our selfproclaimed Truth. If you live below sealevel and have no mountains to climb, there's only one way to get a bit of an overview: keep moving, don't stick to one idea, one point of view. This might produce an urge for humour, I don't know.
PSF: Many times, Palinckx´s music seems related to some Dada/ Surrealist attitude, in which aspect couldn’t be possible to think about this connection? On web pages, you´ve mentioned a Dutch author Kok...
Han B.: We once did a small poetry-program around texts of Anthony Kok (an interesting but not decisively important Dada poet from Tilburg, Palinckx' hometown). Apart from that one might acknowledge that the Dada-movement has made one of the major and lasting impacts on the state of the arts today. But institutionalising the ideas of Dada and then using them as some sort of a bible would be like putting a concrete layer over a source. It's there, somewhere in the backgroud, just like Beethoven and the Beatles, like Russ Meyer and Robert Johnson, like Kagel and Tintin, etc. etc.
PSF: Could you comment about which aspects of rock culture has been important to Palinckxs´ sound?
Han B.: There's quite a bit of rock music we like. On the other hand: we are simply unable to obey the rules and the laws that make people stick to their -in our view- regrettably narrow concept of popular music. But we keep trying!
More serious attempt: we absolutele adore the aspect of story-telling (both musical and lyrical) that lies on the root of rock music, be it epic or just anecdotal. The 'birth 'of rock in the sixties has in our view been one of these major events that frees art of former straightjackets. We 're still hoping to help broaden that development... but this might be a somewhat grotesque statement.
PSF: How about The Beach Boys?
Han B.: (That’s) a typical question for Jacq.
PSF: How about kosmische & krautrock?
Han B.: I myself am not so profoundly cosmic but I do like some of the German ideas, some...
PSF: Any others?
Han B.: Don't ever ignore the importance of Afro-American music, be it blues, funk, soul, hiphop and also jazz: the cradle of any important recent music.
PSF: Did you know psychedelic Dutch bands like Martin van Duynhoven´s Group 1850?
Han B.: I know Martin, I've played with him and I know he played in that Group 1850, but I don't know their music
PSF: In which manner is it possible to think Palinckx as a product of Dutch counterculture?
Han B.: It must be possible, but I don't know how since I'm a musician, not a historian.
PSF: Has been of some influence for you ‘60´s and ‘70´s events like Provos or Amsterdam´s Electric Circus?
Han B.: Provo was fun when I was young and that bunch (it's too much to call it a movement) has definitely changed a few peoples’ minds here. I mean: I can hardly imagine a duller place to be than Holland in the fifties. The Provo's sure brought some life into that. Electric Circus is unknown to me.
PSF: How do you work the pieces? Do you have charts, scores or diagrams? Is there a lot of improvisation?
Han B.: Jacq makes scores, sometimes very open and vague, sometimes very precise. I make lyrics and vocal lines. We gather and the two of us set up some sort of a framework. The band comes together. We play the pieces, we improvise around them, change them, study them, play them, record them, change 'm again and so on. It's a never ending process... And yes, there's more improvisation than people usually think, because song-structures are very often open in length, tonality, tempo or all of it (and still people think: it's a song).
PSF: Could you describe the "lyrical" aspects of the group?
Han B.: Hardly. What do you want to know? I write every day. Sometimes inspired by things I've read (Like John Berryman's Dream Songs that started me off to write the Henry-cyclus) or things that happen around me. As I mentioned earlier I find it hard to make Big and Heavy statements. Moreover I tend to make a plea for Doubt and Insecurity, put some questionmarks around the sometimes bizarre aspects of what seems to be accepted as our all day reality. And though I try to be personal in my lyrics, they are not necessarily about me. My lyrics are not an attempt to write poetry, these words are meant to be sung, so that sound, rhythm and tonality are as important as their formal meaning. Tim Hodgkinson, producer and liner note writer of an LP I made with another band back in the eighties wrote: ‘If we didn't print the words on the cover, it's because their meaning often belies in the way Han sings them, crossing and recrossing the edge of coherence.’ Although I think he wrote that with a bit of a tongue in cheek, I still tend to agree with him. I write to sing, I sing to communicate by means of sound.
PSF: What do you think about radical/alternative experimental rock bands from the Eastern Europe mixing in different cultural elements? (i.e. Prague and Budapest scenes, the post - Kuryokhin scene, or even Swedish groups)
Han B.: Because we tour a lot in Czech and other Eastern European countries, we run across the local scenes regularly. It's a vivid scene that beautifully combines a long stretching cultural history with information and influences that have become available for them relatively recently. You'd wish that they would be able to deny themselves the superficial success that may come with accepting the rules of mass-communication, but then again they might take that as a nasty, paternalistic and therefore, a shitty remark.
Selected sources about Dutch scene:
The definitive source in english language about Dutch radical music is the book by Kevin Whitehead : New Dutch Swing. Jazz + Classical Music + Absurdism. Billboard Books, New York, 1998. It includes an extensinve bibliography & discography.
Other interesting articles to read are:
Potter, K: "The Music of Louis Andriessen: Dialectical Double Dutch," Contact 23, Winter 1981
(an excellent profile about the most important living dutch composer)
Koopmans, R: "Guus Janssen. The Interaction of Composing and Improvising." Key Notes 7,1978
(a good account about one of the core principles in Dutch radical music)
Links to some artists and bands above mentioned:
Maarten Altena Ensemble: http://www.xs4all.nl/~altena1/
Corrie van Binsbergen: http://www.sofa.demon.nl/eng/ukindex.htm
David Dramm: http://kalvos.org/drammda.html
The Ex: http://www.xs4all.nl/~exrcrds/
Cor Fuhler: http://www.euronet.nl/users/fuhler/
LOOS Ensemble: http://www.loosensemble.nl/
Arthur Sauer: http://kalvos.org/sauerar.html
X – OR records: http://www.xs4all.nl/~xorluc/indexII.html
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