What we have here is the extract of a funny interview we conducted with Wieman, the collaborative project of Roel Meelkop (R) and Frans de Waard (F) after listening to their recent album entitled “The Classics Album” – a brilliant essay of their so-called “melt-pop” – released by the awesome small French independent label Baskaru. They recently released “Trenkel” on Ukrainian label Kvitnu.
You can listen to the full interview here: https://soundcloud.com/baskaru/wieman-chain-dlk-interview
Below is an extract of that interview:
Chain D.L.K: How did you guys meet? Your previous name was Zebra. Why did you change your name and why choose Wieman?
Wieman: F: I remember, but do you remember?
R: Yeah, I do. First time we met? Do you remember when? ’87 or something like that?
R: 86?! At V2, in Den Bosch.
F: Yes and why was I there?
R: There was a cassette event. No, you were working there and THU20 had a gig there or something, is that right?
F: Close, close, close, no cigar, almost a cigar, small cigar. No, I was supposed to be playing with Kapotte Muziek, my band, and you were supposed to be playing with your band, THU20; both of them at this event of independent cassette producers, with my label Korm Plastics and Jacques van Bussel’s label, Midas Tapes. We were asked by someone to come there and talk about what we were supposed to be doing and we met up at a concert by a French guy called Vivenza.
R: Ah, that’s it. Right.
F: And this was the 1st time I met you and Guido, of THU20. Peter and Jack I already knew and Jos I probably also knew. I’m not sure that I met Jos there
R: Jos wasn’t yet part of THU20, then, was he?
F: Well, he was at the concert we did at V2.
R: Yes, that’s true, enough!
F: Maybe it was not there. The guy from V2, Anton, had a problem hearing your name. You said Roel Meelkop and then he said Meelkop and then you said Meelkop like Mailcop. Afterwards, that became your monniker for your solo’s on Midas Music
R: That’s true.
F: So, that’s how we met. Long time ago, we saw each other over and over when you were playing and I was playing and in 1993. No, 1995; you became a member of Kapotte Muziek.
R: Yeah, exactly!
F: And in ’97 we did the first recordings as Goem, together.
F: I did the first recording, because the second recording was with you. Peter Duimelinks joined us a little bit later. So stuff like that.
R: Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah!
F: And then, of course, when we were working as Goem, you and me started to talk about a project called Zèbra.
R: Oh, no. Actually we started…
F: No, true!
F: No, we started to talk about something else: Wibra… or not?!
R: No, no, no. When we were still Goem, we were actually thinking of a way to sort of popularize Goem’s idiom.
F: Oh, ok!
R: At least that’s … ha, ha, how I interpreted it.
F: All right, ok!
R: At some point, we discontinued Goem and later on we decided to initiate Zèbra.
F: My version is little bit different.
F: …because I thought we were talking about doing a project called… cause Goem is this super-expensive store in Moscow and we were talking about doing some sort of cheap laptop punk sort of music called Wibra, after the cheap clothes stores here in the Netherlands. And then my ex-wife came and said well, in our school there are kids with cheap clothes bought either at Wibra or Zeeman, so they are called Zebra kids and then we changed the project name to Zèbra.
R: Yeah, this relates more to the name given to the project.
F: Yeah, we also talked about it for a long time and then we decided to make some music because we were invited to play in a concert in Amsterdam. We thought, “oh this is a good idea! Now we can really start Zèbra”, that’s how I remember it.
R: Yeah, that’s true. It was in our minds for a long time already, before we finalized it. That is something I agree upon completely.
F: And then, of course, we changed it into something else.
R: Yeah, Yeah, Yeah.
F: There was this American guy, sending e-mails out of the blue saying, oh I have this band called Zebra and I have the right to use the name in the entertainment industry since 1974 because I have a beard and play progressive rock, so people might get confused and buy your music instead of mine. So can you please change the name into something else?
R: It wasn’t actually our music that was under their name in I-Tunes, or something? That’s what I remember.
F: If you type in I-Tunes Zebra there’s a lot of bands coming up with the name Zebra, so… We probably wrote to all of them and tried to explain that what we were doing was not interfering with his progressive rock audience, but somehow… Well, of course we gave in and then we used all the letters of the words Zeeman and Wibra and came up with Wieman.
F: Yeah. So what are we waiting for now, Roel?
R: Yeah, well… you know, Henk.
F: Henk Wieman!
R: We are waiting for Henk, the famous Dutch piano player and composer Henk Wieman. Actually, we’re using his name now, as well, so it’s entirely possible that he will stop or try to stop us from using his name. In which case, not many options are left open for us, I suppose.
F: No, true!
R: Or we could call it Hanskop or something.
F: Yeah…oh, hmm, yeah!
F: Meelworm… Waard-Kop
R: Yeah, something.
Chain D.L.K.: There’s a reference to something old-fashioned or should I say “vintage”, both in your debut and in your last release. What’s the link between Zebra’s “Black and White Album” and the “Classics Album”?
Wieman: F: I would say that the link between both albums is that we sample everything. So we look for a specific theme and we’ll find samples that go along with that. So, in “The Black and White Album” we were looking for samples from songs that have to do with music and then we make music out of that; for the “Classics Album” we used samples from all these pop songs dealing with rhapsodies, ouvertures, fanfares and stuff like that. And we have more stuff like that, like the “Live In Leugen” CD. There we used samples from the work of Martin Hannett and we played a concert early. Oh no. Earlier this year, not 2014. We had all these futuristic sounds from Luigi Russolo, Vivenza, industrial music and Afro futurism, so… that!
R: Yeah, so our music is essentially conceptual and the vintage part of it is something that may arise because we use the history of pop music without… uhm…
R: Yeah, without restraints! You’ve got really old music in there. Also, there can be really new music in there, absolute pop, non-pop music. Basically, it’s a declaration of love for pop music, that we know, I think. Right Frans?!
F: Yes! It’s also because we don’t use everything. We don’t use stuff that we don’t know.
R: Yeah! But we do use stuff that we also hate?
F: Yeah, but the idea is not to make fun of it. Look at this, finding this really cheesy stuff and then… uhu!
R: And then making some new really cheesy stuff out of that.
R: No, no, no, that’s entirely not the case. For me, if there are songs, pop tracks that I really hate, I hate them really because they are so well written they get stuck in my head and I cannot get rid of them. There it is. And to get rid of them, I have to transform them into something I have created. Afterwards, I can accept it. So, it’s dealing with success really. Not my success, though.
F: No, no. Our success.
R: The success of others.
Chain D.L.K.: Each track of “The Classics Album” sounds like a possible intersection of two different tracks, as well as two different approaches to composition. Is it so?
Wieman: R: Well, not consciously, obviously because. Well… Is that true Frans, consciously? I think consciously we do. We did decide to make different types of tracks.
F: Is that so?
F: Didn’t we just try to make one long track which we could play live and then we played it a couple of times live and then did a good recording of it?
R: Yeah. I mean… Because we need to be able to play live, we need a certain flow for the whole piece, which means that you have to create short compositions that are different from each other. Or I’d start to become bored, you know!?
F: Yeah. I’ve no idea, I don’t know what the question means, so…
R: Wow… then read it again!
F: Read again?
R: Yeah, do it!
F: No, we don’t have two different approaches to composition. We have just one approach, which is making a good composition that has a nice flow and sounds good. We take care so that it’s not too long or too short and try to find the right balance.
R: Yeah, I agree. We always divide the tasks, you know. This is audible in the tracks, so maybe, you know, if we say: Frans, you will do the rhythms for this track and Roel will do the melodic parts or whatever; maybe it’s audible in the tracks, I don’t know. And again, we decide on this together and it is essentially one approach.
F: I would think that…Yeah, it is one approach and…
R: I think if you use more than, I mean, it’s not as if we use two tracks that are intertwined, because there are lots of different samples in one track.
F: True, true.
R: Well, so I guess the answer is no, then!?
Chain D.L.K.: Why did you open “The King Ist Queer” on a distorted sample of Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue”?
Wieman: F: I would say because it was part of the concept of the album.
R: I would say: why not?
Chain D.L.K.: I could expect to find everything but a heavy metal riff, in your sonic cauldron? Is this another sample of the mix you use?
Wieman: F: Well, yes it is!
F: Everything we use is sampled.
R: I would love to be able to play it myself. Maybe I could, actually! But it wasn’t necessary because the sample was already there, so the sample came forth from the concept, because we had a title in the song that was in line with the concept and everything that is in line with the concept is usable.
F: True. And we sample everything, so we don’t play it ourselves. In my case, I also couldn’t play it if I wanted to.
R: I probably could; maybe, it’s not that… I mean… Yeah.
F: Maybe a heavy metal riff is not that difficult.
R: It would take quite some effort, so I prefer that it’s not necessary.
Chain D.L.K.: How do you define your style? Is there a connection with the so-called mish-mash or plunder phonics?
Wieman:F: And how do we define our style? Do we call it mish-mash or plunder phonics?
R: No, we call it Meltpop.
F: We call it Meltpop, yes. Why don’t we call it mish-mash or plunderphonics?
R: We didn’t think of it, we were too late, we already called it Meltpop, so we can’t. Yeah well… We can’t go back now, but I mean…
F: No, also I think, because something like plunderphonics is more like a political statement, that you can do on the nature of copyright and stuff like that, which I don’t think is very interesting. I don’t necessarily care about copyrights or stuff like that, or to make a comment on something political through the use of samples from somebody else’s work, so I would say: Yeah. What do I care? And I’d rather play something that is, maybe, a bit more like pop music, called Meltpop. Mish-mash is something, a term that I never heard about.
R: Yeah, me too. I agree with you, Frans. Plunderphonics does have a sort of mission that… well, it sounds a bit like a mission statement.
F: Yes. It sounds a bit too much like John Oswald or Negativland or something like that.
R: Which is fine, of course. I mean, politically or artistically, it’s fine to make statements.
F: And also what we don’t do is…
R: We just want to try to make pop music and because it’s derived from pop music that has melted into a pot of sounds, it’s meltpop!
R: Does actually make good sense!
F: Yeah, something else. It’s also not a mash up, where you take the one song and put it in another song and then you utter: ah, that’s great, this is Kylie Minogue and New Order; how great. This is something we don’t do, because… not because it is lame or easy to do, probably it’s very difficult, but you don’t actually make something new, you just… what we want do is re-compose; do a new composition based on all these samples and throw it together. If you do this and that and this, it will be a new composition and can be a form of pop music. That is what I think.
R: We just want to make our own music, instead of making some art project like ‘musique trouvée’ or something. Nothing wrong with that, but why make that sort of thing? Then again, why do we make Meltpop?
Chain D.L.K.: I’ve read that you assembled the “Classics Album” over six years. Why so long?
Wieman:R: Ah, good question, very good question.
F: We didn’t work for 6 years, everyday, I think.
R: No, no.
R: I think we worked on it for 6 years, 1 day per year?
F: On average, yes.
R: And I think it fits a classical piece more than… If you use the term “classics”, you have to make it work, you know, as something classic, so you have to take some time to produce it.
F: This is not a question of bragging about how we worked on it for 6 years, so, you know, it must be good. It’s just that we started in 2008 and it was ready in 2014, so what can you do? All together, something like 6 years. That doesn’t mean that we worked all day, every day, all year.
R: Yeah, it just took us 6 years, that’s all!
R: Yeah, but we didn’t work on it for 6 years.
R: No. But then again, maybe it doesn’t matter.
F: Or it took us 8 minutes to work on a record that lasts an hour.
R: We never, we never worked that fast. Did we actually ever make a track in 8 minutes?
F: Well, I did once.
Chain D.L.K.: What’s the most fascinating aspect of sound?
Wieman:F: I would say sound, but…
R: Uhm, I think we should go deeper into this one, Frans.
R: There’s a problem, I don’t have an answer, to be honest. I mean, sound is fascinating in all its aspects.
F: You know; I like sound; I like music. I like the combination of both. For me, any sound can be music, although I hear the rain outside and I think: oh, I have to leave in an hour, so… crap; I don’t like to hear the sound of rain at this time, but I can listen to it as music, I can listen to this as sound. I don’t know; for me; I can’t imagine not listening to anything. For me sound is always there. Even when I’m sleeping. I can’t imagine not listening to sound or music.
R: Yeah, I agree. Sound is so important. In my case, sound reaches deeper layers than visual does. It touches different layers, I can’t explain really. It sounds kind of vague, so that’s good.
F: For me too. If I had to choose between reading a book, watching a movie, watching a painting or music? I would always choose music.
R: Yeah. Preferably making it, instead of listening to it. Listening is also good actually, but making it is top notch.
F: Making it is important for me also. Making it in solo or with some other people, with one, with you or others like Beequeen or others: Tobacconists, THU20. And every aspect of making music, for me personally, is always something to look forward to; if I have to do it solo, I can’t think about it solo, but if I work with you… I have a specific state of mind that I know: okay, Roel works this way so we work in this way and with Beequeen it’s a totally different way, so everything I do uses a different method of working with sound, in order to create music. For me, that’s okay. I can do it in purely the analogue way. I can make it in a purely digital way or in combination with something else. Whatever interests me at one point, so… Yeah!
R: There are always new territories that need exploring.
F: All these new technology influences that I hear… I think: oh, it’s interesting. I can use it for myself or I cannot. At the same time, going back to old technology, I can as easily take out my old four track machine and do something with that and then the next day pick up my iPad; pick an app and create some music with that. For me, there’s no boundary or limit to what I want to use or how I want to use it.
R: Another good thing about sound is that it doesn’t rely on technology. I mean you don’t need technology to produce sound; you can just start using your voice, for example.
R: That’s, I mean, the voice is the first instrument that you have and that anyone has.
F: I would one day like to do a totally acoustic concert by Kapotte Muziek, with no electricity at all. That’s how I would like to, maybe, prove that you can also do that. You don’t need any equipment at all; just sound and space will be enough.
Chain D.L.K.: A concluding word regarding forthcoming releases or projects…
Wieman:R: Right! Well, you’ve mentioned some already.
F: Yes. A CD that we did for…
R: A collaboration with visual artist Marco Douma.
F: On that CD we played, we sampled our old project called Goem, because Marco likes it so much and asked us to do so. I thought it was really interesting to do something like that, because we used the old Goem sound, but in our Wieman environment. If we would have continued to do Goem, we could have done this maybe also, at one point… or not… we don’t know. That’s what I liked about doing this gig. It was an interesting thing. Last year we also recorded an lp for a label in Brussels, a label called Ini.itu and that’s going to be released in the next few months, I think, somewhere. Do you remember what it was about?
F: Tell us!
R: Cybe, Cybe! Dutch guy, right?!
R: He released some tapes and some CD’s.
F: No, just tapes.
R: Just tapes… ah ok! Yeah, you know this better than I do. And Cybe was quite heavily influenced by Indonesian music, so he incorporated traits of Indonesian music in hys own synthesizer; new wavy, poppy kind of music and self released it. Ini.itu is run by Sylvain…
R: Who is also very interested in all things Indonesian and… One of the backbones of his label releases music that deals, in one way or another, with Indonesian heritage or leans against it. So he listened to these tapes by Cybe and somehow asked us, you, probably, to work with this material in order to come up with a new release.
R: Of course we immediately talked about Wieman, saying that Cybe is a kind of pop project and we actually like the music as well. Therefore, it was a good chance for us.
F: Yes. It’s going to be a good record. It’s going to be a little different, I think. It’s certainly different from what Wieman and Goem play., Last year, we also recorded and played live in a concert about futurism. But, we’ve talked about that. It is actually mastered, finished and ready to release, as soon as somebody jumps in and says: “Hey, I want to release this”.
R: It’s great stuff actually. We invited Jos Smolders with his new modular synthesizer setup to join us for this live gig, because we thought this retro futurism fell in very well with his concept, so we had some rehearsals and made a composition with Jos and it turned out really well.
R: I think that this record has probably the longest historical line of all of ours, right?!
F: Probably yes!
R: Starts somewhere in 1910? Early 20th century?!
F: With Luigi Russolo and then…
R: Yeah, and ends now, with Jos!
F: Yeah, true! It includes Vivenza, industrial music, machine recordings, hip hop.
F: Hopefully somebody will jump up and say they would like to release it. I think that’s it as far as our finished projects go. There’s nothing specific going on at moment.
R: Yeah, true!
F: Of course, I don’t believe that, if there’s nothing going on, then you should concentrate on doing something new. Maybe we should just wait until some opportunity arises and then we can do something else.
R: Well, I am still working on some things.
F: Oh, I was talking about Wieman. Otherwise no, I’m always working on a new stuff. What are you working on, Roel?
R: I’m working on an lp for Ini.itu, with Indonesian influences or, well whereabouts. And I am also working on a soundtrack for a kind of poetic documentary film about a Flemish writer. Or not really about the writer but about a book he wrote: De Kapellekensbaan, by Louis-Paul Boon. That should turn out quite interesting. And you?
F: Well, I’ve just finished doing an lp for QST/Quest, which is has been my solo project for 15 years now. I haven’t done much with it. I updated it and made it somewhat more ambient house like, more housy, more techno and rhythm like and there is going to be a new stuff with Howard Stelzer. We are also working on a new 7” by Beequeen, which could potentially be pop music, sang in German actually, Sturmwind. And we are going to start working on a new Beequeen CD pretty soon. I’m going to maybe do some concerts with Sindre Bjerga in the Netherlands, in April and I’ll probably be doing that as Modelbau, which is my latest more lo-fi project. So, yeah, there’s always stuff going on. I’ve also finished the book on my life at Staaplaat, which I’m trying to find funding for and get it out. So, Yeah, there’s stuff happening.
R: Good stuff. That’s all, besides the occasional THU20 reunion concerts that we did.
F: True. Last year we did three. We haven’t got any planned for this year, but you never know.
R: Hey, the year is young, the year is young, right?!
F: True. OK!
R: Well, hat should conclude this recording, right?
R: OK, I am going to press off now, so the recording will shut off… NOW!