After the chat we had after the release of “The Swimming City” – focused on his hometown of Amsterdam – we talked again with the brilliant Dutch songwriter and performer Arnold de Boer, aka Zea, who recently come out with another album “Moarn gean ik dea” (entirely in Flemish, with an English translation of lyrics included in the booklet). Enjoy the album and Zea’s words about it.
Chain D.L.K.: Hi, Arnold! How are you?
Zea: Fine, thank you; how are you?
Chain D.L.K.: Busy as usual, but fine. Thanks for asking. I’d like to give my compliments for your entire artistic path. The new album followed the previous one after three years, but in the meanwhile, you also had the time to get some notoriety in Ghana, as well!
Zea: Thank you very much. Yes, I did spend quite some time in Ghana and also on tour with King Ayisoba, who released his Wicked Leaders album and produced the new 1000 Can Die album, which was all great and good fun.
Chain D.L.K.: Did you sort all the issues with all electricity-driven objects at last?
Zea: Ooh no, that is an ongoing story, although I am doing relatively well. I still don’t have a smartphone, and my 8-year-old cell phone has a battery that holds for almost a week. And my car did not break down for a while, but I need to get a new one anyway because it’s too old and not allowed in the big cities anymore. But I won’t complain.
Chain D.L.K.: I know you joined The Ex, right? Before or after their amazing gig in Ethiopia?
Zea: Yes, in 2009! After the great Zea tour in Ethiopia, which was in 2008, together with Terrie and Andy; it sure made our connection stronger, and we became good friends. It was an amazing trip indeed.
Chain D.L.K.: You and The Ex are some of the voices in a scene that someone keeps referring to as post-punk… I have a different idea, as artists like you preserved the genuinely anti-system message of the punk movement in different environments…what’s your viewpoint on something like that, that might sound a little odd?
Zea: Anyway, I and we would never give our music a label like that. I understand those labels can be handy for the shop owners, and I see how journalists like to label music, but I would never think of putting my music in a bin and telling people, “Oh, well, it’s more or less the same as another 200 albums over there.”
That said, I think the mentality of autonomous, independent-acting people goes way further than punk and does not only consider the music world. Punk has always been there, since the first spitting lady met the first burping man. And music is part of life, and acting free-minded in life for me automatically means you play and treat your music (recorded and concerts, etcetera) as a valuable entity and not as a commodity.
Chain D.L.K.: You also wrote lyrics for the awesome debut by Fire! Orchestra… Related to the last question, would you say that so-called Free Jazz is punkish somehow?
Zea: See above. The free minds in music are at all times. Free Jazz musicians in New York and Amsterdam were releasing records on their own labels long before punk was born. And Moondog and Big Bill Broonzy were selling their own sheet music on the street.
Chain D.L.K.: I remember you singing “We’ve Got A Crisis”…would you expect it could be somehow actual for so many years?
Zea: I am quite surprised it’s still not out of date, but then again, the song itself refers to the idea of the continuous crisis, which seems quite a crucial element for the disrupting way casino capitalism works these days.
Chain D.L.K.: What’s your favorite kind of crisis?
Zea: I must admit that the so-called “media crisis” that seems to have been started by some recently elected politicians is creating a good wave of new eyes in and on journalism. It’s never bad to check the batteries, reach, goals and attachments of your “media.”
Chain D.L.K.: The very first question related to your last album that many people may have asked before me. Why in Frisian?
Zea: It’s my first language. After my mother died, I started writing songs in Frisian; it felt strange to do it in English since Frisian is my mother tongue.
Chain D.L.K.: Can you explain to our readers any charming aspect of Frisian “musicality” as a language that a non-native wouldn’t immediately catch?
Zea: Frisian is closely connected to English, we also use the “EA,” like in “bear.” See the title of my album “Moarn GEAN ik DEA.” In the EA is a little hub, a wave. And that is something that happens in different ways in Frisian; there are quite a few of those waves. There is also a lot of water in Fryslan.
Chain D.L.K.: Is there a song on ‘Moarn gean ik dea’ you keep on humming sometimes? Don’t tell me the title track, please…! 🙂
Zea: See, in PLEASE, you have the same. That’s how James Brown could sing it 17 times.
Chain D.L.K.: Is there a sort of a plot behind it? Is the main character of this plot – if so – that egg-headed drawn boy in the notes?
Zea: That egg-head is walking through all my albums, but it’s not one person; it’s just my bad drawing that makes all the characters look the same. But the red line in my new album might be the factor of time. I admit that in a few songs the fight with time is a subject. To me, time in music is elastic, so I try to fight it and turn it.
Chain D.L.K.: What’s the reason for insertingthe oldest Dutch human image in the artwork of ‘Moarn gean ik dea?’
Zea: First, I think it’s a great image, and I would like everyone to see it. Second, it’s thousands of years old but not dated, not out-dated; it has survived time. Third, it’s a sculpture, like the other pictures I put in my artwork are also sculptures, and for me, they represent a time-pause.
Chain D.L.K.: Three places to visit in Amsterdam – unknown to tourists – you’d recommend…
Fort van Sjakoo
De oeverlanden bij de Nieuwe Meer
Chain D.L.K.: Any work in progress?
Zea: Everything, always. New songs, English and Frisian, but first, a lot of touring.
visit Zea on the web at: www.zea.dds.nl