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Interview with Honcho

The beast within: an uncomfortable journey into the deeply disturbed psyche of a somewhat renowned rock band

The first few weeks of January are traditionally a time of reflection and depression. It is also a great time for an interview with any rock band you're still on professional speaking terms with, and look back on their accomplishments of the past year. But what was supposed to be your average, run of the mill interview with progressive rock band A Liquid Landscape, became something much darker and overly prosaic.*

By Richard Kootstra

The abandoned factory somewhat reminds me of booming, artistic Berlin, shortly after being hit by a serious crack epidemic. It strikes me as either the ideal place for the most exclusive house parties, or a not so exclusive meeting place for carnal encounters of people with no real understanding of the concept of house, both as a music genre or as a place of dwelling. The duality of this place is also illustrated by the band's touring bus parked outside, which seems to function as transportation for Eastern European migrant workers when the band is not touring.

Inside, you can hear faint echoes of fluttering and cooing and shoes screeching on the floor, sounding like a game of basketball for pigeons. The walls are adorned with not so well painted murals, the paint still wet upon closer inspection. Almost as if someone desperately wanted to underline the artistic significance of this place, and was very much in a hurry of doing so. I decide to follow the trail of paint imprinted feet and hands on the floor and walls, leading deeper and deeper into the factory and, hopefully, the inner sanctum of A Liquid Landscape HQ.

A game of chess, a song of silence and tension

After countless flights of stairs and narrow hallways, the trail ends with a crude, freshly painted sign on a door that says 'oficce.' Inside is a collection of cardboard boxes, an unplugged fax machine and four startled band members, one of them visibly exhausted and breathing heavily. After about a minute or so of extended eye contact, expressing fear, surprise, disinterest and aggression, frontman and lead singer Fons Herder, invites me to sit down on one of the cardboard boxes.

Drummer Coen Speelman excuses himself, softly mumbling something about a bathroom and, after he slowly closes the door behind him, a rapidly increasing succession of footsteps can be heard. "I'm sure you have many questions", Fons says, in a thoughtful, solemn manner. It has begun. It is all about subtext. This is the opening move of a very elaborate game of chess, where both opponents are thinking at least ten steps ahead.

The counter move is very important. "Yes...", I respond, with a pause for dramatic effect. "I do..." Horse to B1, suck on that! "Good... good." A cunning and worthy adversary, indeed. I decide to unleash a new interviewing technique I've been perfecting, called The Silent Treatment. I ask a question, but no follow-up questions. The silence and my look that says I'm not content with the answer, will throw the interviewee off balance, causing a mental breakdown. The interviewee will then say just about anything to fill the howling void of silence, completely at the mercy of the writer.

I could see it now; Fons on his hands and knees, begging me not to publish about his peculiar and incredibly specific sexual preference for the primate inhabitants of Indochina and his increasingly uncontrollable daily intake of Gin Fizz cocktails. Here goes...

Axl Rose, African Child and other borderline psychotic illusions of grandeur

"Fons, the five readers of my hugely successful Prog Blog want to know: is the new album ready?" "Almost", he answers, with an intense and accusing stare. I cannot help but feel that some accusement is directed at me. I was present at two or three recording sessions and the tension was just incredible. They were lost in a dark forest of creativity, but I think my feedback gave them a sense of direction, out of that dark place and into the light of Apollonian bliss.

I resist the urge to talk about it, waiting. The following 10 minutes are very awkward, the deafening silence occasionally broken by the disturbing sounds coming from lead guitarist Niels van Dam's stomach. He either is very hungry, or he was very hungry and made some very unfortunate culinary decisions. Either way, it doesn't sound healthy.

Finally, Niels decides to end the Mexican standoff, meaning my strategy is working, or he wants to divert the attention from the active volcano that is his colon. "It was a two month recording hell. We originally intended to record the album in two weeks and another two weekends. We really struggled to get the guitars sound just right, but I think we pulled it off. Bruce Soords, producer and lead singer of Pineapple Thief is currently working on the mixes. It's gonna be awesome!"

"Part of the delay was also because of the creative feedback we got from a certain someone", Fons adds, really emphasizing the word 'creative.' "Glad I could be of some help", I answer. "Constantly interrupting the recording, shouting that this would be a great place to add whale sounds and secretly adding them to the mixes at night, wasn't very helpful," Fons replies.

"Maybe space whale sounds are the sound of the future, especially if you harmonize them", I answer, thoughtfully. "Why are you still doing this?" bass player Robert van Dam suddenly shouts. "It took us weeks to rearrange the mixes! We had to record the drums again and Coen sprained his wrist in the process!" I know that initial hostility is all part of accepting great ideas. It just has to sink in, and when it does, I'll pitch the idea of putting my name on the album cover. "Water under the bridge, let's talk about what the future has in store for you." Fons remains silent, Niels' bowels violently agree with the change of subject.

Touring, a music video and gentle giants of the ocean

After an eloquent series of stomach roars, Niels explains what the future has in store for A Liquid Landscape. "We're not really sure when the album comes out, but we are currently planning a European tour, which should be in May. We're really looking forward to play the new songs."

"I also heard something about a music video." "Where did you hear that?" Robert asks. "I have my sources", I answer. "Can you tell the readers something about it?" "Well, it'll be directed by Lex Vesseur, who made the short film for the previous album. He's very talented and we love working with him."

"What about the script?"I ask. "My sources tell me you've found an incredibly gifted writer." "Yeah, we don't really know much about him. He goes by the name of Honcho P. Vidal and he's very secretive about the script. We haven't met him but he says it going the be a very pleasant surprise. It's going to be an aquatic love story of gentle giants, that's all we know. Very vague."

"I'm sure it will be great." I thank the band for their time and just as I leave the room, Fons suddenly looks pale and troubled, as if he was slapped in the face by the cold, sweaty hand of realization. "Oh god. It's you, isn't it?"

*The opinions and events in this article may or may not represent actual facts, opinions and/or the cocaine-fueled state of mind the author was in at the time of writing.

A liquid landscape tour journal

A liquid landscape tour journal - part 1

A liquid landscape tour journal - part 1
Heerlen, Zoetermeer, Den Bosch, Hannover, Essen, Hamburg, Berlin

Touring is without a doubt the coolest, craziest thing any of us has ever done. And we're just one week in our four week adventure, out on the road. We could tell you about how the Polish roads turned the bunks on the bus into very rough massage beds, or how a drunk German fellow wanting to... buy our new album turned out to have no money and ended up asking us for cab fair. We could also tell you how one of the lights on the bus set Lex' hair on fire, while he was brushing his teeth. Or of course the one about the pumped up guy who asked Coen if he wanted to live to see 29, right before giving him a big old hug. There's many stories to tell and we will surely find ourselves in many more of these situations over the course of the next three weeks.

So far, the venues were downright amazing and the people working there have been very kind to us, spoiling us with good food, plenty of beers and great work ethics to put on the best rock show imaginable. There's no way to fully describe what it feels like to step out the bus with a toothbrush in your mouth, walking into the venue and finding all kinds of goods in the backstage area. In Hamburg, for example, I asked for a nice, big cup of hot water for some tea I bought in a local health store. The woman I asked came back with fresh ginger, lemon, honey and a range of herbal teas.

It's because of all of these minor efforts combined, and the comfort of our nightliner, we are able to kill it on stage night after night. We're playing the best shows of our lives and the set gets a great response, for which we are really grateful. Every night there's a couple of hundred people in the room, who bought tickets to see the band we're opening for, Crippled Black Phoenix, not for us. So every pair of hands clapping, every smile and every CD sold feels like a major victory. Throughout our set, the response gets better every night, until the applause at the end goes on for at least a minute. Those long minutes, are the minutes we're doing it for.

So is there a downside? Well, the tiny bus kitchen looks like someone threw a hand grenade in there, going number two is not allowed on the bus, which is a real pain in the arse sometimes (pun intended), but overall we're getting by just fine. Everyone in Crippled Black Phoenix and their crew have been showing us the ropes as we went along and the whole group is already starting to feel like one big family. And if one of us has trouble sleeping, we could always turn to Chris to tell us bed time stories. He most definitely has the weirdest rock'n'roll stories you'll ever hear, except for maybe Lemmy from Motörhead.


A liquid landscape tour journal - part 2

A liquid landscape tour journal - part 2
Gdansk, Warsaw, Bratislava, Vienna, Munich, Frankfurt, Köln

It's funny how quickly you get used to the touring routine. And since we travel mostly at night, the lack of space and privacy on the bus doesn't really seem to matter. By the time we arrive at the venue, most of us are starting to wake up, getting ready for either load in, or lunch. The latter, ...is part of the holy trinity of rock'n'roll: good food, clean toilets and clean showers. One could argue WI-FI should be added as some kind of fourth dimension, then again, so should beer. The essentials for good quality touring are all in the holy trinity.

Right after, it's time for Crippled Black Phoenix to set the stage. We usually, then, have about two hours to spare before our soundcheck, depending on what time doors open. Personally, I like to kick back for a bit instead of running into town for a few snapshots of the local sights. Most of the venues we play are outside of the city, away from the city centre's bravoure, and being the diva extraordinaire that I am, I prefer to stay close to the bus and backstage area. Just get me that fresh ginger tea with lemon and honey before soundcheck, or some words will be had.

When it's time for us to get on stage, the venue is slowly filling up with people as our amps hum their hissy songs of anticipation. Not a show has gone by without us grinning from ear to ear as we walk on, ready to play the songs we hold so dear in front of a couple of hundred fans of CBP, and the genre. After the set, I rush off to the merchandise stand as the other guys get our gear off stage and into the corridors. The post show ritual then continues with a hot shower, more time at the merchandise stand, load out and the infamous post show pizza. By that time it's already past 1 am, so most of us wander off to their bunks, to do it all over again the next day.

What's funny about this routine, is that the days are starting to look alike. Don't worry, I've not had the touring cliché of mixing up city names on stage yet, but memorizing all the venues is getting more difficult by the day. Maybe it's because of the eleven day stretch we've done before our second day off and pit stop in Hamburg, on our way to Gothenburg. We've only been away for two weeks, but it feels like two months, or maybe it was just two days. It also could've been two years. Two wonderful years.


A liquid landscape tour journal - part 3

A liquid landscape tour journal - part 3
Gothenburg, Oslo, Stockholm, Odense, London, Manchester, Edinburgh, Bilston

"I want to dedicate this next song to the owner of the food place next door, because he is a FUCKING asshole. Seriously, never eat at his place." Strong words for our, normally, so polite and calm Daniel, but I think the entire road crew agreed with the Swedish singer. Just befor...e we wanted to do load in, a guy parked his car right in front of the venue. It had taken us all morning to get cars to move from that spot, that was actually reserved for us in the first place. "What you're doing is illegal and I will call the police."

"We just got off the phone with the police, they know all about it. Tell them we said hi." The man got out of his car, grabbed his phone and went straight to his restaurant, but not before Daniel walked up to him and laid a hand on his shoulder in order to prevent him from running away. "Move that car!" The restaurant owner responded by shoving Daniel aside in an aggressive manner, so the rest of us, roughly fourteen road dogs, went: "wow, wow, wow," eventually convincing the guy, without further shoving our punching, to move his car. Now, maybe I'm just a sentimental romantic, but I'd like to think he was just one of the many colorful characters we encountered, out on the road.

Like the fabulous and slightly awkward guy, who, after flirting with Robert, told me he would bring his mother to the show next time. "She's totally hot and she will like you." "Well, if his mom's fit, I'll have a go," was sound engineer Lee's response when I told him the story. Lee, the man who could whisper across a football pitch, and his Manchester wisdom, especially late at night after a case of crisp golden truth serum. It was in Köln when his true feelings about me and the way I spoke came pouring out. "Your American accent annoys me, boy." Having the next day off, I was also getting my drink on, so I just laughed and let it pass. Later, when I was cutting his hair into a tour mohawk in Gothenburg, I thought it was the right time to bring it up again, trimmer in hand. It probably was the only time during the tour our king of the North with a heart of gold ran out of words .

I might even have run into this alleged mother in Edinburgh, if she was indeed as fit as we were promised. She was also very drunk. We were doing load out at The Liquid Rooms as this very attractive woman in her late forties asked me to take our drums and guitars and put them somewhere fabulous. I replied we could take them to San Francisco, but I don't think she really got the joke. Her daughter, about 20 years younger and equally attractive, was trying to get her mother to come along, as their travel party was already heading for the next bar. "Honey, this young man wants me to come with him. To San Francisco! Give me the dream baby!" She then leaned towards me and quickly pressed her lips against my cheek. "Stop talking to the young man with a bottle in his pocket.'' Well played, hot daughter. I did have my fair share of Badger ales, so, unfortunately, I failed to come up with a follow up to my first witty remark and watched the two stumble down the street.

Too bad for us, not every drunk person we met on tour was as charming as my cougar flirt in Edinburgh, or smelled that good. In Manchester I stumbled upon an outrageously drunk man backstage, who reeked of alcohol and something I couldn't make out at first. He didn't respond to my calls, in fact, he waved them off as he continued his booze fueled exploration down the hallway. I warned a security guard, but he was unable to find him. When I walked to the merchandise stand in a stairwell on the other side of the building, he suddenly showed up again. Another security guard upstairs had just denied him access to the venue and he passed the merchandise stand on his way down. It didn't take long before Niels, Belinda and I turned to each other and wondered were that awful smell came from. As we looked down the stairwell we could see the man, passed out in a corner. He had soiled himself in every way possible and was laying there in pool of his own excrement.

It wasn't the first time we smelled something nasty on this tour either. Every time I got out of the bus I thought we were in a bad part of town because it always smelled of urine. Watching a scruffy guy downing a bottle of beer across the street from the bus one morning, also added to this idea. Another time, I crossed the street with my cup of ginger tea and whipped a spoon out of my pocket as I passed a smiling homeless guy. "Always carry a spoon!" Judging from the rotten teeth in his mouth he probably used a spoon every day. And not for eating cereal, if you know what I mean. It was only until the end of the tour I found out the bad smell around the bus was caused by our own urine leaking out from under it.

Conclusion? You can't teach a road dog new tricks, for it was born a road dog and it will always be a road dog. That may sound pretentious for someone who's just been on his first international tour, but anyone who lived on a bus for a couple of weeks and was doing their part for the sake of the gig will understand. I found a part of myself that I had to leave behind, rather abruptly, when the road crew parted after close to four weeks of touring madness. It only exists in my mind until we head back out again. One question remains. Is there anyone who cares to come to my house and rock my bed around midnight? I can't seem to fall asleep for some reason...