Interview | Elegy – Henk van der Laars & Martin Helmantel
About The Past, The Present & The Future
One of power metal’s best kept secrets and most overlooked bands has recently reunited. Dutch progressive power metallers Elegy blaze back to glory and stun the masses with a show full of their classics, loaded with musical craftmanship and insane wizardry.
Why their career went sour has since been open to speculation. With founder Henk van der Laars’ sudden retraction from the limelight, Elegy’s remaining musicians haven’t opened up on the circumstances leading to his departure, until now. Their recent reunion immediately raised this question that since been on every fan’s mind. The question only Henk himself can answer. Refraining from interviews, the timid mastermind of the band has been dodging the bullet, until now…
AFTER 25 YEARS
Here we are and 25 years have passed…
Henk: ,,It is bubbling inside again.” Martin adding the band being back to fulfil, I ask with whom it started boiling the most, to which Henk immediately responds: ,,Things have always been bubbling with Martin the most, I guess. He has always kept the flame alive and drops by every couple of months bringing new reissues and stories. Frequently pulled my jacket…” He laughs and lingers before he continues: ,,For a long time I held things off you know… ”
Martin elaborates, much to my feeling, to keep his friend out of harm’s way and opening up: ,,We always stayed in touch, visit each other when your albums gets reissued. Every once in a while, a reunion comes to the table and at a given moment Henk popped the question whether it was time to start doing something again”, to continue, ,,I saw Henk frequently with his employer coincidentally being the sponsor of our indoor football team. The team went to get a beer together at their bar. As did Henk and I. Eventually everything in our lives boils down to music, always.”
,,Five years ago for the first time Henk mentioned it started to boil again. I told him; when you’re ready, give me a call… This whole thing grew over the years. Then finally, we were ready.”
Henk muses: ,,I believe at the beginning of this year matters suddenly got more tangible” with Martin calling out the time was right. It is the moment I want to get the timeline right referring to Martin’s European tour with Headless supporting Geoff Tate on the “Operation: Mindcrime anniversary tour” early 2023. Before he can answer Henk feels the urge of getting the story out as Henk dropping bomb: ,,I was suffering a depression man… For one and a half year struggling. I needed this, much like therapy. It’s my main motivator in finally pushing it forward. During my sessions I discovered it to be the one thing I needed the most. Have a goal in live…”
7 MILES TO PITTSBURGH
I’m baffled by his honesty. His eyes light up and his tone of voice strengthens, proving his choice to move forward, emphasizing his drive to reset. He laughs; ,,This is it”. I notice Henk is somewhat overthrown by opening up with Martin stepping in allowing the friendly guitarist to catch a breath: ,,The good thing is… we discussed it frequently, whether to do it or not. Our line with Dirk is short as he is also in 7 Miles To Pittsburgh together with me, and we just called. He immediately acknowledged. Okay, let’s do it!”.
“Same with Gilbert, he was immediately convinced”, Henk adds before Martin continues to paint the full picture: ,,…It was clear right there and then that we wanted to do it with two guitar players, no questions asked. It was very obvious whom to ask…” Henk chuckles laughing ,,Not Arno (van Brussel, who was their 2nd guitarist on the debut album), that’s oblivious…”
,,That was pretty easy. He has always been closest to us. The interaction was great with Gilbert, and him and Dirk also remained in touch over the years, making it an easy decision.”
To weigh in on the choice of their singer; ,,… Now we only needed to get in touch with Ian.’’
Before the question on everyone’s lips is even asked, both make notice of them also reaching out to Eduard Hovinga who was their singer on their appraised triplet `Labyrinth of Dreams’, `Supremacy’ and `Lost’. All 3 records are highly regarded by their fans as their very best, making this debatable.
,,He came back immediately telling us this was not for him.” After which Henk mentions ,,He is a formidable singer and would be a great fit. It was his departure that still stings however.” Quickly adding ,,I have since spoken with him. He even performed at the bar I am working at as a sound engineer. Yes, it was quite the surprise. There he was, suddenly… Well, everything is back to normal again, but we never really spoke about why he left.”
His eyes widen sharing the agony of the moment; ,,We had five gigs booked opening for Yngwie Malmsteen. My idol, you know. Taking that opportunity away from me felt like a kick in the nuts to me…”, when Martin reflects ,,… it was not great timing. I guess he felt how hard it would be to bring the performance he did on ‘Supremacy’ and ‘Lost’ to the stage. The threshold might have been too high” and Henk mentions he is, like him, a very determined musician with the same attitude and mindset. ,,It is amazing how high he can pitch on his album. So many octaves. Correct; helium high. You can’t expect us being able to bring that style of backing vocals to the stage.”
Martin gets back to the actual reunion having closed the chapter of Hovinga’s return.
,,With Ian the only question was how many of our old material he was able to belt out every night. Initially we spoke of focusing on `State of Mind’ and `Manifestation of Fear’ predominantly. Doing things right however you also have to bring those first 3 albums to the front.”
Henk: ,,Remember, this is why we recorded `Primal Instincts’ (EP, 1996) back in the days. Introduce him to our audience, in subtle and more open environment. Just check out his version of ,,Erase Me’. His performance is fantastic, almost better than the original album. I mean, I also love the original recording which is unequalled, maybe…”, he pauses when I mention it always feels more like Ian sings his lyrics to you, conveying the load and emotion of the songs when Henk acknowledges ,,… exactly. He brings it to you as where the original is more retained.”
“I guess Eduard will have a hard time singing that high live”, Martin re-joins ,,… and much to our surprise Ian mentioned a couple of the old songs he wanted to sing. We were really surprised. Surprised he could belt them out. You’ll find out tonight how well he nails them” continuing ,,the setlist is well balanced because of this commitment, making it a 50 – 50% of old and newer material.”
Henk: ,,He is not falling short of Eduard performance and even he mentions he won’t be able to nail those extreme heights anymore.”
THE STORY OF HENK’S DEPARTURE
The story shared I am specifically interested in how all of this impacted on Henk, having shared his deeper feelings. The threshold he has to cross to get back to the fold with his brainchild Elegy. Before I can even phrase my question right, Henk starts to tell the story of his departure from both, the band and the scene: ,,It all happened when I was in Japan together with Ian. I kinda kicked in the door. For years I heard of the volumes we were selling, but I wasn’t seeing any of the money. During the acoustic promotion tour with Ian, we were discussing things with our publicist. I popped the question wanting to find out where m money went when they told me they already transferred it.”
Cynically laughing Martin shares all of it was transferred into the wrong account!
Henk continues: ,,Ian was listening in total awe. I couldn’t comprehend it all, you know. The money was transferred and I had not seen a dime of it while in the meanwhile I had to refund them for costs.” I look at Henk who continues the story of him also being told at the same time their contract was terminated and he was led into the office later. ,,They brought me to their legal department. A big room full of lawyers, I believe twelve or so, at their desks. Not something you get excited about, believe me… They told me if I didn’t comply, I could file charges against them.”
,,There I stood, aghast… about to board the plane home. One hundred thousand dollar, gone! Knowing that whatever I would undertake as a musician in the future, I had to refund them first.”
STUCK BETWEEN ROCK AND A HARD PLACE
It tells the story of a musician stuck between a rock and a hard place, as so many others. What most fans do not know is that the music business can be very brutal. Signing a record-deal often included the band and musicians were held accountable for costs made, meaning they first had to refund the studio, personnel and everyone involved in the release. Promotional costs for staff, radio -and airplay, commercials and advertisement also would first be deducted from the revenue created, creating a powerful vacuum on the income for musicians. These contracts would lead to financial bankruptcy of even big selling acts with companies themselves hardly accountable. Contracts as long as 50 years restraining the musicians where no exception.
It is also why so many bands have decided to re-record their classics, as those original recordings and masters where still subject to the contractual agreement. This is also why Prince (in the first place) took matters in his own hands and renamed himself to The Artist Formerly Known As Prince, shaking off the contractual limitations for his creational rights.
Henk continues: ,,Back then this was my neck-breaker, ruining everything for me. I mean, I loved playing music, but it is the business behind it that was the offset. Look, on a band-level there was nothing wrong. The occasional rift of being stuck in a van on the road together for weeks. The occasional fallout, but that was about all.”
,,It wasn’t like I did it for the money or something, but like Prince and George Michael already brought forward; it can’t be the creator becomes the slave to their system.”
I acknowledge the above and it is the agony that strikes me the most. How a company that benefits from your creation can recoup on everything and generate revenue while bankrupting its creator. You must be able to relay on the company for which you sell all those units.
,,Exactly that! Knowing you aren’t treated fair, that is a deal-breaker” Martin adds before Henk delves deeper; ,,Axel (Thubeauville, Shark Records) fucked us over in Germany, but the biggest issue I have is that they (JVC) solemnly comply with this! Believe me, they did know this, I’m convinced, otherwise they won’t immediately lead me to their legal department to disband our contract. Simple as that!”
His hands turn to fists displaying the agony of what happened, the injustice laid upon him. ,,If you want to sue us, go ahead. I checked in with a lawyer to investigate possibilities. He made me aware of the small chance of winning. He was bluntly honest: Henk, we can take them to court and sue them. It is probably taking years, and if we win, you lose all the money to cover my costs and expenses.”
REASONS TO QUIT
The honesty of his lawyer set him back emotionally, but it wasn’t without him reaching out and helping our guitar hero. ,,He offered me his help drawing up a letter at zero cost, to try and claim some of the money. He ensured me however it was better to lay it to rest and put it behind me…”
I ask what this did to him and Henk responds ,,Everything. It was at the same moment I lost my mom as well. She died only a week after me returning home from Japan. Bam! One day she was there, the next she was gone. In my head things started spinning out of control.”
Sharing the impact and how his eyes were opened by a friend who pointed out the whole charade of the recording artist going into the same motion again Henk made the inevitable decision to quit.
,,I know I disappointed them deeply…” he seeks words to put his decision into perspective and Martin admits ,,Looking back I totally understand his decision. Henk lost his mother AND lost his motivation, plus his trust in the music industry, not speak of the money. We had the same issue when we recorded the later albums with Patrick (Rondat) and the Internet started booming. 6 Weeks prior to the release we were made aware by friends that the album was already on Napster! What the f*ck! It means that the album, which in those days was only distributed to the press for reviewing purposes, that those people who do get the music for free, share your music on the Internet!”
Henk adds; ,,… that’s 10.000 sold units lost right there” when Martin shares, ,,…that moment we knew continuing was pointless.” ,,Look, you get a budget based on your previous sales. Meaning, that when you don’t sell any copies, there will not be a budget for the next record”. ,,Let’s not forget I became a dad myself prior to that, and it would enable me to see her grow up”, Henk tries to degrade his choice.
THE EMOTIONAL IMPACT
The situation spiralling still impacts deeply on his persona, I notice. ,,Yes, it still does…” as Henk admits conveying the emotional impact of this decision: ,,Every time I’m onstage playing ,,Anouk” (dedicated to his daughter), I am choking up inside. Nobody sees it, and I have to detach from the emotion otherwise I start crying”, and I notice Henk’s struggle.
,,Understand the situation…” Martin ads volumes, ,,Nothing ever went to the way it once was. How long did it take for me to resurface with 7MTP? It took me years to get back on the horse. We were a popular act, and suddenly you have to get back to square one (no pun intended).”
Henk explains: ,,Patrick admitted he would have wanted to play together with me. Looked forward to the idea actually. But if he had to carry the band, he passed on it. This was too much of a responsibility, which I can relay to.”
That being said, I make a quick side step to find out whether or not Henk has ever listened to the albums recorded in his absence?
,,Yes, I did, of course. The songs on `Forbidden Fruit’ where still my songs. I stood amazed how he managed to pull it off so quickly. He’s an impressive musician, I don’t need to tell you that. ‘Forbidden Fruit’ features songs I wrote, of which one was rebuilt from the debuting days with Arno. ‘Don’t fool me with Promises’ we rearranged and reconstructed. We did this with Ian at his home. He was very creative in pasting and copying fragments in those days. It is what he also did on ‘State of Mind’. Impressive how he took a riff and melody and constructed a new song.”
Martin: ,,Back then we also got confronted with the sudden departure. I had to call our record company to inform them our guitar player quit, when they asked what our remaining options were. There weren’t I lot, I made them aware as we were on the verge of breaking up…” he continues; ,,…they simply told us news in the press broke of Patrick Rondat joining prior to Henk’s departure, with them simply telling us to record with him. It was either continue the recordings or pay back the money spent. That wasn’t much of an option.”
,,We headed into the studio to record, but it wasn’t what we set out for it to be. I acknowledged, from the moment of Henk’s departure, things changed. No matter what we tried, it had changed” for him to explain ,,We had a lot of people over the years requesting us to play at a certain venue or festival. Loud Park in Japan, for instance. Mentioning there was no band they continuously pushed to perform with Patrick, but we always held it off.
It is either the original members doing a reunion, or we don’t do it at all… and that is why all these old guys are now together again”, he laughs when Henk ads: ,,I also didn’t have any projects brought forward, nor did I want to work on anything. I have only one musical child and that is Elegy, and that is why we do it the right way.”
THE IMPACT OF `MANIFESTATION OF FEAR’
Wandering off in different directions we return to form on the therapeutic story behind this reunion and me repeatedly harkening back to his state of mind to which Henk quickly responds ,,As long as I am not walking away from the interview, feel free to keep drilling the nerve”, accentuating the impact certain questions might have. His gentle presence as a person however makes me respect his standings once he refrains from addressing. I bring forward the ominous presence of ‘Manifestation of Fear’ for which I was jotting down notes for the vinyl review the day before, when it occurred to me the story of the album’s protagonist hit close to home for Henk growing up. I try; ,,Is this your album primarily?”
Henk responds; ,,Manifestation? Hmmm. I’m really a fan of ‘Lost’, but that’s mainly because of its musical content. The album hosts a variety of songs that are very closely connected with my style and technique, like on ‘Everything’, for instance. Yeah, the close harmonies obviously, and its epic characteristics. But also, the way it is composed. Some call it cinematic music while others can’t really put it all in perspective. It really is more of a gathering of styles from Dream Theater to Pantera.”
He belts out notes and re-enacts the drum and riff patterns to carry across the range of styles, before pressing on the impact of ‘Lost’. ,,It still has me. ‘Spirits’ is another one of those songs still with me. It is channelled from deep inside me, like ‘1998’ as well.”
,,But ‘Manifestation…’, yeah, it is a cracker. I mean, last month a podcast from the USA, with people discussing for one hour the impact of ‘Manifestation of Fear’. Pretty bizarre, these two presenters addressing it as the album their album of the month. Can you imagine? Our best album we did, they called it. Playing and discussing songs like ‘Angel without Wings’, which became their song of the week, cranking it out frequently. Fans listen to our music differently.”
Martin: ,,Just check out those guys in Headless. Huge Elegy fans. Each and every one of them has their own favorite Elegy album, all different, and all for their own specific reasons.”
Henk: ,,In the balance I guess ‘State of mind’ is the band’s most representative record.”
Which I can relate to as their benchmark calling card. It is the best way to new listeners to bring Elegy forward as it features all of their typical ingredients. But to me, ‘Manifestation of Fear’ is so much more. This statement starts a quarrel and certainly displays the differences in taste and style of all three of us.
Martin puts the light on his previous statement referring to the differences in taste within Headless before van der Laars questions his own standings while writing the music; ,,I hear what you say. The ominous presence and its deep channelled emotions. I was already developing my depression”, to which Martin elaborates ,,… fans mainly look at it as a dark and ominous concept album. People however tend to forget it also features some really positive moments. It is the story of your (Henk) childhood intertwined with Ian’s childhood knitted into the spawning concept.”
Me: ,,That’s what I mean. The album brings so much emotions forward and agony breathes through its fabric. Dialling back on my notes I listened to the guitarparts of the album with utmost attention, as it lures me deep into the context of the record…”
Martin chuckles: ,,Just how well did you listen to them? Well, enough to play them tonight?”
Not being off balance by the remark I put forward my stride; ,,Bring it one, strap me up!”. Well aware of my inability to play and instrument or even hold a guitar-pick, Henk bursts into laughter over my confidence. It is what brought us so close during their founding days, the humor. It is that humor that always had me when I travelled together with Martin. The laughter that sees Henk opening up on my questions. ,,… speaking of harkening”, he muses.
,,The title says it all, yes… a ‘Manifestation of Fear’. It is what it conveys. Fear manifested inside of you. Hm…” Martin ads; ,,In Japan it became a serious thing. This dark concept was hard to put in perspective. They prefer lighter music” when I state the band was ahead of their time decades Henk agrees, ,,That is exactly what they said in the podcast. It is something I have heard frequently over the years. Pretty often our music has been dubbed as such. Looking back, I have to admit that ‘Labyrinth of Dreams’ is still pretty special.” Martin: ,,Every album has its own atmosphere and specific style. Its own spirit of times, so to say.”
Whether or not the reissue of their back catalogue is the push for this reunion, Henk is very outspoken now: ,,No, it definitely is what we discussed previously. I was done being silent. Done being stuck in that place.”
Edwin: ,,Now finally we are here. Eindhoven, home crowd, after the first gig in Italy.”
Martin: ,,Yup. When we play a home game, we play for the win! Always been like that. Italy was a warm up gig. The right way to get out there again.”
Henk: ,,Playing Dynamo is a serious thing in our career. I played my first gig in the old venue (point in the direction of the old concert hall), where I did Yngwie Malmsteen. I was terrified. Packed venue, there I was playing ,,Evil Eye”. 300 in the venue, 50 people outside. A Christmas gig, if I remember correctly.”
He re-enacts the Yngwie tune with his hand flying up and down the air-guitar. ,,Entire audience silent, I guessed that wasn’t right. F*ck! When I finished the crowd went crazy, I felt relieved. That was my first gig here. It since became home. 5 Minutes away.”
Martin: ,,This really comes full circle, with us returning here. In the early days we rehearsed up here (2nd floor), and this was the place where Ed (Warby, Ayreon, Vulture, Gorefest, etc) had his try-out with us.” Henk weighs in mentioning he never performed at the Dynamo which is easily overruled by his bass player: ,,We played here numerous times. Opening for Annihilator, Angelwitch, as well as playing several festivals in those years”, to which Henk now agrees; ,,Right! We never played the Dynamo Open Air. I was the first volunteer to help the festival take shape. We worked there, all of us. Looking back, I regret we never played there….”, he smiles it off.,,No, we put all of that behind us now. And, Dynamo has the Dynamo Metal Fest now, so maybe….”
THINGS FROM THE PAST
Speaking of things from the past; some things apparently never change. As spectators from around the globe gather for this reunion, the Dutch themselves remain sceptic as always….,,There’s fans from all over Europe traveling to see us. Saw the post from Japan of someone boarding to make it here? Japan and Greece have always been our territory. There are even people from Japan flying in for tonight’s gig. Unimaginable!”
Martin: ,,There’s a variety of nationalities heading to Eindhoven. Italy, Portugal, Greece and South America, as well as Japan. There’s someone from Canada dropping in, and of course Limburg: Bas Maas (Doro, ex-After Forever) will attend. Apparently, we’re worth it.”
I imagine it is rather strange for a band to be respected abroad while your home crowd doesn’t even seem to allow you the attention needed. Like Vandenberg first breaking big in Japan before being fully embraced in our country itself. ,,Not at all” Martin shakes his head, with Henk raising the fair question ,,It depends on what you prefer. Being big in your own country, like Vengeance, but not selling abroad, or being famous worldwide with your own country not bothering. I know what to pick!”
,,But yes, it took some time to get accepted. With the Stratovarius tour we noticed there were quite a few people coming to see us at the two Dutch shows. Keep in mind that when ‘Labyrinth…’ was released, we were flown to Japan for a four-day promotion trip and gig, only weeks after the release. Returning home, we played in front of 16 paying visitors. There’s a difference.” He laughs.
Support band Starscream joining in the backstage, they look flabbergasted. Martin quickly explains their different status; ,,In Japan we sold 35.000 records in the first week after release and over here no less than 125!”
Henk: ,,We outsold Aerosmith’s ‘Get a Grip’ in that first week! They came in 5th while we were on 3rd position in the rock charts.”
Martin: ,,Of course, we only were in those charts for 4 weeks while Aerosmith lasted more than a year. Let’s not forget our country is a difficult market. I remember Phil Collen telling us they only sold 25 copies of ‘Pyromania’ over here and the album went platinum everywhere else.”
,,But things over here changed as well. We got a couple of dates lined up in The Netherlands, so we can’t complain.”
,,There’s a demand for us. We want to play everywhere, play where they want us. We take every offer serious. There’s a big market for us in South America, where we have never played. We are open to that. At the moment we have gigs mapped out until September 2024, with requests coming in daily.”
Henk: ,,Judging the demand and extend of the tour we will also consider to record new music”, having said that Henk rapidly curbs his enthusiasm ,,Let’s proceed with caution, having said that. People might start to raise expectations. For now, we take things on a day-to-day bases. No promises. But yes, it starts to bubble.”
Martin: ,,With the old material we can fill a stint of gigs easily, but upon that fans and bookers will request new music once you get the touring gears in motion. Just look at Geoff Tate; again, the same ol’ set? Let’s skip this year.”
A DEMAND FOR NEW MUSIC
This is obviously what keeps fans and bookers enthused, new music brought forward. Though there’s a lot of bands that refrain to their classics and legacy, most see an increasing demand for new music. ,,After a year of playing the same music, I think I’m pretty much fed up with it, I think” Henk emphasizes the durability for music for a performer. ,,Look at it from my perspective. In the meantime, we had 18 repetitions for this reunion, with a couple of run-throughs for the songs every time. You inevitably already know your stuff by now.”
Of course, we understand the dynamics for a performer impacting on a different level than for a fan who will undergo the experience only once, or a few times only. The dread of performing old(er) music is different than creating new material. I urge to mention they still have it though.
,,It is still there for sure”, Henk nods proudly with Martin adding, ,,Had to look for it, but it definitely was still there.” He laughs, upon Van der Laars muses when I mime the fretboard arpeggios, ,,Yeah, and that is certainly a key ingredient, as is the motivation reoccurring every time since.”
,,It is different than writing music though. I have to get that in order as well. I’m currently checking in with my old ideas. Tons of old riffs and fiddling that I have recorded over the years as well as in the old days. Them resurfacing I already find myself taking to the drum computer to lay down ideas for rhythms and groove, to support the riffs and melodies. For me everything starts with this drum patterns…” when Martin joins in ,,Eventually there’s more musicians involved of course. Gilbert has collected ideas, as did I. Dirk, of course, also has ideas and themes collected.”
Henk: ,,In Gilbert I always had a creative counterpart. Sitting in his living-room together we penned ‘Supremacy’ in its entire in less than four weeks. ‘Lost’ took us 2 -3 months to complete.”
Martin: ,,Let’s not forget Joshua (Dutrieux, alias J DX). If we throw him into our mix, things rapidly speed up” to which Henk speaks in admiration of their old/new keyboard player who joined during his absence recording ‘Principles of Pain’ (2002); ,,… he is one of the only producers in Europe who has his own Dolby Atmos studio. Man, that is some serious sh!t right there….pffff”
Martin: ,,Josh is another one of those creative minds in the band, when it comes to songwriting. This guy can do everything in his studio”, with Henk mentioning the man’s impressive network in music.
BEST FRIENDS AGAIN
Having touched the departure briefly I wonder how things are within the band. If the guys like each other again, after all that was said and done in the past. I refer to this typical glimpse I noticed on stage when Dirk was setting up and Henk was fiddling his notes, blasting straight into Dirk’s ears.
,,I’m sitting right next to him again, don’t I. Doesn’t mean I like him…” Henk laughs to continue. ,,No, our relationship has changed and things are back to how they were once. We’re all best friends again” to which Martin responds ,,We all have our own thing. Everyone is different and we know that from one another. It is like it has always been. The typical irritations are always there. Dirk for instance…”
Henk bursts into laughter and Martin explains: ,,Dirk is and always was the professional in our band. He is super committed and always very focused. I know, we all have to find our ways again” with Henk pointing out their production manager Niels’ quote of earlier that afternoon; “There’s a lot of meat outside of the doghouse.”
,,You see we haven’t worked together onstage for a long time. There’s this chaos surrounding us on our journey. But once we had this rundown of the setlist and soundcheck, things started to clear. The chaos halted and ending with the instrumentals we were rock solid again.”
Martin: ,,Niels takes control. He sends off the dissonant and is very clear in his approach. Drums first. Bass, floor, toms, cymbals. Then he starts to build the sound to where it has to be, very in focus.”
What can we expect this evening, I try?
,,It’s going to be pleasant” with Henk stating ,,It’s going to be very emotional, it already was rehearsing ,,Anouk’’ during soundcheck. Tonight, my kids are going to be there, so that will impact…”
Martin: ,,Everything is charged. Tonight’s show was supposed to be a live-stream for one of our friends who was terminal but unfortunately didn’t make it. It is sad but we want to dedicate something to him. A lot of his friends, who were all supposed to him watching the live-stream of the show, will come to see us tonight. You know, it is something as we all lost friends and family over the years. So instead of just dedicating it to him, we want to salute of them up there.”
“But there will also be friends who are still with us. Like one of our friends who wasn’t supposed to make it, given up on. He called us yesterday to confirm; I’ll be there. I’m gonna drop by.”
Henk: ,,But in terms of what to expect; Let’s say we will bring our A-game!”
Walking into the doghouse afterwards I run things by Dirk briefly. We get into the discussion of reuniting after all those years. How it is to be reunited with Henk, after all that had happened, Dirk being very clear and direct: ,,You know, Henk has changed. Since he sobered up and found himself again, we started off at the right foot.
I told Martin as well as Henk that I keep track of it. Three strikes and it is over”, after which we also discuss the little irritation onstage. ,,You know, it has always been like this. Guitar players always start to blast through their backline as soon as they are set. They don’t see we are still building our kit. They are the spotlight kids. Turn away that freakin’ amp or turn it down. Makes it easier on all of us. But hey; we’re all good man. It is fun.”
It is the little marker underneath the reunion. Comradery radiates off the stage this evening and the energy is electric. Funny enough it is Dirk and Henk who seem to be closest once performing. Something worth fighting for.
All photos by Edwin van Hoof