Digging Up Dutch Undergrounds – an interview with Oscar Smit and Marcel Harlaar of Vinyl Magazine
March 7, 2014
by Richard Foster
Oscar Smit and Marcel Harlaar oversaw the creation, editorship and promotion of ViNYL magazine’s 2012 “celebratory” edition; Oscar was part of the original early VINYL editorial board, and now works – amongst other things for GONZO and OOR magazine. Marcel for his part was one of VINYL’s early readers.
A brief note: As I will use the interview for research purposes, I’ve tried to edit as little as possible, to keep the feel of the original interview intact; but any reference to what I consider personal, or legal matters, and names of partners and family have been omitted. And some of my rambling questions have been shortened, and a number of interjections and “conversational gambits”, (noted down when transcribing the interview) have been reorganised to create a more readable and coherent piece. The full transcript is in my possession and available on request.
Richard: I’ll quickly say what it’s about before we start. I’m trying to understand whether… what the cultural links were say between Britain and America…
Oscar: What do you mean by what the cultural links were?
Richard: Well the impetus or the inspiration was between here and, say, Britain and America…
Oscar, Ah ok…
Richard: And how that erm… became important to Holland as a sense of identity. Because, as you know I spend a lot of time with Dutch bands and you always hear; “oh well it can’t be like Britain it can’t be like this and it can’t be like that”… [note: it here refers to issues in the music scene in Holland] and I’ve always thought that there’s been erm… a sort of inferiority thing going on and I don’t know if that is true or not. And I want to know in the past whether that was also the case in the late seventies and early eighties. Especially since you did the VINYL [note: here I mean reissue] in 2012… all the things in 2012; and the way that whole memory of that period is being recreated. So there’s this whole idea of recreation, and seeing exactly what did happen at the time, and seeing whether the idea of then is different now. How it’s been changed. And it’s about how Dutch identity really forms. What is Dutch about this? Is it a creation this new memory or is it actually the truth. Because, and certainly in the way British people look at things, they look at things in a very different way from the Dutch. And sometimes you’ve got to say that sometimes the British interpretation of Dutch music can be very different from the Dutch interpretation of the British, and their own, music.
And I’m trying to find out what the truth is!
Everyone’s got a different opinion in Holland. And not everyone’s interested in talking about it; in the sense of being open about it. And I find that very interesting.
So, In terms of today) I wanted to talk mostly about the fact that VINYL magazine was started specifically to cover ULTRA and then they remade it in 2012 to look at what was about then. I think that’s really… erm… the parallels between what you did two years ago, and what you did in the 1980s is really fascinating for me. That’s the bit that I’d like to talk to you two about today. I talked to Wally because he was the guy behind Plurex, Ronnie because she saw it from the outside as well but for you two it’s more a case of what was VINYL magazine was about. So, think about in terms of VINYL in terms of 2012, and in terms of the 1980s, and how you put those two things together.
Oscar: In which direction is the thesis? What’s it called?
Richard: National identity and it’s about how national identity works. And in terms of the 1980s Dutch music scene, no-one’s really touched that period outside of literature, because there’s been a lot of books on Lebowski [note: Lebowski Publishers, Amsterdam] about it. It’s not really written about academically. The fact that it’s been sat between Germany and Britain and it’s a black hole! It doesn’t have [note: in terms of music] that “big” identity. People don’t sing about it you know…
Marcel: Well… what started VINYL magazine erm… I think Oscar is best to talk about the birth of the magazine.
Oscar: Almost, almost.
Richard: Why was it set up?
Oscar: Well it was basically set up because… well the people who set up the magazine, they were musicians themselves and they noticed that there was no attention being paid on what [sic] the music they made. And because OOR magazine was like a rock magazine. And so they said well, “we start our own magazine” and that was the beginning of erm… VINYL. And they were all musicians and they all learned themselves the… how do you call that… how to make this magazine. Because in the beginning there were no people who had experience with magazines. And erm like Stephen Emmer and Arjen [note: Schrama], they were the most involved with it. And also Marc [note: Tegefoss] and André [note: Bach]… nowadays they play in DeNeuve. They just started writing articles, and they were like the hardcore.
And when the magazine evolved… well yeah… When we started; I mean we knew you should have a vague idea of how to earn something. To get money in. I think after the third or fourth issue we had discussions; can we have advertisements from Shell in? I mean they can pay us but… And we had these discussions and then one moment, Marc and André they were fed up with these discussions and they stopped because I think I said we can have Shell, or maybe not Shell but we wanted Phillips of course, because they were in cassettes. So, gradually we turned out to be a real magazine but it was started by musicians who did it for the first time. And I was one of the only not [sic] musicians which was very strange; because then, I was working in Boudisque, [note: a record shop in Amsterdam] because I was interested in music. So I was working in Boudisque. And suddenly there came two people, Stephen and Arjen; and they were asking for Richard, Richard Zijlstra. And they wanted to ask him. But he wasn’t there and I said, well I can write too; (laughs) I like to write about singles. And, erm.. okay; erm… so that’s how it started with me. And when I came at those meetings, they were all talking about bands I’d never heard of because they were all underground Dutch bands, which if you didn’t go to Oktopus you didn’t know them. So suddenly this whole world opened itself for me. And then I came into places where I’d never been. Because I lived in Heemsteede which was… (smiles) yeah? So that was the beginning. And there I noticed there was this whole blooming scene of Dutch underground bands. And sometimes a single would reach the record shop where I worked, but there was a whole thing under it which didn’t reach the record shop. And at that time, Boudisque was like one of the important meeting places, but still not for the underground. That was Oktopus and some of the squats.
Richard: So it’s like almost the case that… a lot of the distribution, and a lot of the ways of distribution… and I mean physical product; it was very much kept apart from the mainstream distribution.
Oscar: Yes! And talking about distribution, and the distribution of the magazine; we didn’t have a real distributor in the beginning. In the beginning, Arjen with his car went to record shops outside Holland, outside Amsterdam. And I did Amsterdam, on my bike. I had this whole list of record shops and I went with my bike, all the VINYLs hanging on… on… aan het stuur, in bags, and then I went to all these record shops and then I said… well… in the beginning it was difficult but then afterwards, well I knew all the record shops and what they would take and what they would sell, and only Athenaeum because they were so big… I didn’t do Athenaeum; that was Arjen. And the rest sometimes a little bookstore… that was a beginning. I don’t know when the big distributor first arrived.
Marcel: A lot of literary pamphlets were being taken in that way with Athenaeum bookstore.
Richard: Well Ronnie [note: Ronnie Kroes, see interview] did mention that; a lot of underground pamphlets, lots of punk pamphlets.
Oscar: They were all in Athenaeum bookstore.
Richard: What I’m picking up on a lot is that it’s all coming from a desire to do something that is very individual. And there are only one or two places they met up at. And they didn’t really know many people but when they did meet up they said, ‘oh yeah you also like this’… [note: as in there was commonality] That sends me back to a question based round before VINYL, before ULTRA, before the punk thing…. was it such a kick; what was the tipping point that made people want to try something different in Holland do you think? Was it punk or was it something older, or was it something that came out of the Provo thing that Amsterdam was always a bit left leaning always interested in being ahead of the game…
Oscar: Well… I don’t know if it was that… but the people who started VINYL, Stephen and Arjen, they came from Amstelveen (laughs). But Amsterdam, of course, Amsterdam already there was an underground scene and there was a scene in little squats and big squats with concert possibilities. And I think the people who started Vinyl were in that scene. And that scene was there because Amsterdam was a liberal city and there was a lot of squatting in Amsterdam. But I don’t know whether there was more squatting in Amsterdam than other cities in Holland, and I think Nijmegen had the same thing. But I don’t know about Haarlem and Groningen and these cities.
Marcel: I think there was more in the media that erm… places are being squatted or that the squat movement was rising in Holland, to create awareness for itself and for social erm… imbalances in society, and that was when it was picked up because it took on a huge part of everyday life; and they were coming more into the open. Maybe squatting had been done years before but now it was more violent, more involved with music, youth culture, and erm… well…
Oscar: And more political as well.
Marcel: I had a historical turning point [sic] I moved from Vlaardingen to Hoofdorp in 1980 and then suddenly there was a new magazine that created something. And it had articles on cassette music and I was oh well there are more like me! (Laughs) I was recording in my attic studio, banging on drums and suddenly there was a magazine which paid attention to cassette music. And that’s how I got my subscription.
Marcel, back in the home taping days
Richard: Again… This idea [note: of being alone]… Ronnie said this. Wally didn’t because Wally has fingers in every pie. But Ronnie said ‘oh I didn’t know about what was going on outside Amsterdam I knew a few people in Haarlem’… [sic] And I talked to a few other people… One thing that I can say is very Dutch from an outsider’s point of view is that you all seem to be spread out and individuals and there was [note: voicing a hypothetical situation] ‘I didn’t know what was going on in this place but then I found out there was this’…. it’s all very much… whereas in a place like Liverpool you wouldn’t have that. You’d have a case of [note: voicing a hypothetical situation] ‘there’s history here about this, and this is what we do’.
Oscar: I myself I have the idea that in that time people knew what was going… that punk was starting, but that they were all looking to England and America. And that is, they knew that because of the radio. They listened to the radio, and they heard the first punk songs and they knew there was something going on. But the radio, there was hardly no [sic] (any) attention for local initiatives, for local bands; that still had to come. So that’s why they all individually started… with punk… looking to England and America, and not to Amsterdam. Or to their neighbours.
Richard: Do you think then that that was a practical thing rather than an aesthetic thing. I mean I love a lot of Dutch music; it’s as good as music from anywhere. Music doesn’t need a passport in my opinion. But it’s erm, was it something that you needed to come from somewhere else to start…
Oscar: I think in the end of the 70s it was still that the best music was being made in England and America. And of course we had some good bands, Golden Earring, but there were only a few bands considered international in Holland, and for the rest it was ‘they’re a nice Dutch band’. They wouldn’t make it anywhere outside Holland. And with the whole punk thing you leaned… looking back on it that at that time also people saw it that ‘we can also make good music and why can’t Dutch bands make it in England or America’ and things like that.
Richard: Was it the practicality of the thing… that you only needed 3 chords, that it (note: the idea of making the music) was stripped back, and that you don’t need distribution, middle men… blah blah. Was it this practical thing or was it more aesthetic do you feel?
Oscar: No I think it’s more like ‘we can make music and why shouldn’t our music be as good as the American or English music’. I think around that time people started brand new and they were wanted to make music and I don’t think they were thinking Dutch music isn’t as good. No that was a fresh start and they started thinking without prejudice.
Marcel: Like you were saying this thing had something to do with inferiority? You listen to music from Mecano at that time. What happened was, the press immediately put on the stamp of Euro wave. Not Dutch wave. Because these bands are from Europe. [note: Marcel’s point needs corroborating] And I don’t think any British band would get a stamp of ‘that’s Euro wave’ [sic].
Richard: That’s very true and I think there was a lot of ignorance, also in the British music press of the time. I think that sometimes people didn’t know whether Cologne was in Holland or in Germany! (Laughs). What is very interesting about that period is the amount of British bands that begin to play with glamorous ideas of Europe. You know the Associates’ “White Car in Germany” […] they’d mention all these towns in Europe like, oh I don’t know, Düsseldorf or Strasbourg… and hint that they were much nicer than Dundee… which is true.
OK. What is also interesting to me is that in 2012 you both put together a 30th anniversary edition if you will, the box set, and you invited a lot of young bands, a lot of people we both know [note: e.g. Rotterdam band Rats on Rafts] who weren’t born when this whole thing was finished. And what was also interesting to me is that it’s [note: VINYL 2012] a very mixed magazine – there are articles of Adi Newton in there, pictures of Nick Cave in there. There’s something with Marc Almond, David Sylvian, etcetera, etcetera. And at the same time you’re also balancing it with things on Rats, and pictures of Maarten Nauw, and Adrienne Groen who was talking about Centraal [note: “God Save the Queen” Centraal museum’s exhibition on the period]. So it’s a 50-50 split in many ways. Do you think that when you created that 2012 edition, thinking of it as editors, did you feel that was the correct balance to strike as the message?
Marcel: Yes I think so because we also wanted to show what array of influences there are. From the early 80s to what’s happening now. And we wanted to show a little more than the obvious. Everyone’s referring to 80s music and what do you think of? You think of Modern Romance, Duran Duran, and maybe Simple Minds [note: Marcel talks here I think about the common Dutch perception]. But there’s a lot more coming from that area. And we wanted to show that in the new magazine. It was not only about looking back, that was the point.
Oscar: We didn’t really want to look back but we also wanted to make a magazine which would apply to the older people who knew VINYL from that time, and also to look for a new market; to reach the younger people. And so we decided if we have an article about somebody who made music in the 80s, we don’t want a looking back article [sic] but we looked for people who are still important now. Like David Sylvian who is very important now. And Adi Newton, he has sort of re-started to get attention for his artwork, and so that’s the way we choose our, let’s say older artist, and the new ones we just looked what was happening, and we tried to look with the glasses from VINYL [sic] in the 80s. So that’s why there are certain new acts in it.
Marcel: I had this conversation with Wim Dekker. Because I was attending his record store in Haarlem [note: Amigo’s] in those days. And he was always having new records. And the new VINYL magazine had to be like that. Someone presenting you with new music. And you can choose from it, if you like it or not.
Richard: I thought it was a very good magazine. I’m not just saying that but it was very well balanced between everything (what was and what had happened) and I liked that. Also, reading one or two of the articles how much the young people were mentioning England; much more so than the old guard. Did you feel when you were talking about it [note: “it” being the younger contributors’ pieces] that with the younger contributors – with Tonie van Ringelensteen [note: Dutch pop and media journalist] mentioning the Rats tour of England… and me! (Laughs). With Adrienne, maybe the first point of reference is to look towards or mention Keith Haring, or Tonie to look towards English things; more than you did. Did you feel at the time that it was very important to put down what was happening in Holland?
Oscar: What; in the 80s?
Oscar: Oh, yeah yeah yeah… Well for us it was important to show the outside that there was [sic] a lot of things happening in Holland where the normal person wouldn’t write about [sic]. And that was the basic thing, especially in the beginning. And then later on, when VINYL was more settled, the urge to write about Holland wasn’t there anymore and the magazine slowly turned into something commercial. And so, Dutch music wasn’t something so important commercial-wise [sic] anymore. But in the beginning, yeah it was erm a rule almost to write about Dutch things and to let people also; also we had some reports from other cities from Holland just to show there was a lot of things [sic] going on.
Marcel: It’s true the first, how you call it, the zero issue, was only Dutch bands…
Oscar: No Siouxsie was on it I think.
Oscar: It [note: the Dutch bands are being referred to here] was the middle pages of erm… VINYL number one and I think Siouxsie was on it as the main article, yeah.
Richard: What you pick up from this is that a lot of the younger acts didn’t really know what was happening in 1980s Holland.
Oscar and Marcel: No [note: in confirmation]. I think a band like Rats on Rafts hardly knew what happened in the 1980s [note: Oscar means here in NL] and they leant from comparisons other people made. And during their start in Rotterdam they learned about Kiem of course. I don’t know how they did, and so.. yeah… what was the question?
(Author’s note: Oscar, I think maybe Rats are the exception in that they know far too much about that period!)
Richard: About the appreciation of younger acts for the period. I was reading the piece from Adrienne and she was very honest and open in her piece about how she wasn’t aware of many of the things that were happening at the time. They remember certain words – like doom denken. And maybe there is one person, say Leonor Jonker – who probably knows more than everyone combined, but outside [note: of her], a lot of the bands don’t really get that. When I talk to these young bands, they all mention England and bands like New Order and the Bunnymen, blah blah…
Oscar: Yeah because that is easy to find and a lot of those bands are still happening. But a band like Mecano…. they are the only survivor but they’re still quite underground too. But of course punk and new wave when it started they all look for their real heroes and examples and they’re all not Dutch because they’re all more known [sic].
Richard: Do you think that’s just because of the practicality of the big industries of the established industries coming in [note: coming into the picture].
Oscar: Yeah! Because I think you can more easily find a New Order record than a Mecano record. When people look in the second hand stores you hardly can find any Dutch bands from that era. Yeah, Herman Brood and Gruppo Supportivo, but they are not the real ones.
Richard; I found Nasmak’s “Four Clicks” in a record shop in Delft and the guy wouldn’t sell it me! It was in a record shop and I said how much is this, and it was not for sale, it was his only copy…. What interests me is…. I’ve maybe got this picture that Holland is a [note: in this context music industry] black hole where things come in from abroad and seeing that the country’s on a trade route to England and America or Europe…. And industries come in and they put their products into Holland, and Holland ferries them through…
Oscar: I think they [note: the Dutch] consume from all these goods, but yeah of course because these goods are interesting, but it’s always more, and especially in the 80s there was always more coming from the outside than from the inside and maybe some local band made a record that was locally distributed, but not through the whole of Holland. And record stores had this whole import system from America which was being led by a few distributors like Boudisque and Bertus; and they all knew how to order these records, and they all read in the NME what was the new thing [sic]. And for Dutch bands there wasn’t such a system. When VINYL came they could read about it in VINYL but they still didn’t know how to order these things.
Richard: It’s almost predetermined that you can’t create… well you can create an identity, but it will always be erm… under the radar.
Richard: I was talking to Wally about the radio. Did you find that the radio, because it was very split, very fractionalized over stations, did not allow (Dutch) music to come through or do you think that’s got worse now? Because I think a lot of mainstream radio is crap in this country to be honest! It’s very similar.
Marcel: Even Sky Radio which is pretending not to play the same single twice in a day plays a record
(All together) three times! (All laugh)
Oscar: I mean in that time the people who liked music, they knew when to listen. And it was one or two hours a week and two or four programmes a week and that was it – and outside of that if they wanted to listen to the radio they had to listen to crap, and so that’s why VPRO and VARA and there was a certain time with KLO as well, they had special listeners and then you heard the new stuff. And then you had the new names and then you could go to a record shop, and try and find something. And erm… I worked in a record shop so I know when people heard something on the radio they really came to a record shop and asked for it. But still the influence of there was a programme from the TROS and it was called the TROS album show or something like that. But that had the main sort of thing… when they played the new Supertramp record, the next day you’d have all these customers.
Marcel: But there was also from my experience in 1979 I think a TV programme called NEON, which was like erm… from the outside when you were not living anywhere near Amsterdam you’d watch a television show and that was NEON, which had bands like Joy Division, which was the first 30 seconds I ever saw of Ian Curtis.
Richard: The stuff about the Dutch TV really interests me; the TV and the radio is where the battle is being fought here; and determines a lot of the qualities of the Dutch and determines maybe how people behave here. There is very little television that uses Dutch music. And very little that seems to be outside the norm. You still get people talking about Iggy pop rolling around with the palm trees. And that’s nearly 40 years ago!
Oscar: That was TOPPOP on TROS? Something like that, but it was mainstream, it was not VPRO, it was not VARA. It was a programme where they heard about punk and I think they even asked him to do something about punk, or they… or Iggy Pop felt that they were so ignorant about what was really happening that he was doing what they felt or expected a punk to do. So it wasn’t natural at all. But it made such a wave because it was never done on Dutch television. And because most of the Dutch people had never seen NEON or any of these programmes on the VPRO.
Richard: So these alternative programmes, though national, were limited. Recently I was watching that “Andere Tijden, Jeugd van Tegenwoordig” programme (Note: the VPRO broadcast from 2009) about the doom denkers & punks… And it centered round that original debate on Dutch TV from 1982 I think. What struck me was that every piece of music they used on that programme was British, Kirk Brandon and Theatre of Hate, Joy Division, Siouxsie and the Banshees… and I thought that was very unrepresentative. Why do you think that the editors of these programmes, using the knowledge you have as editors yourselves, why do you think they use this music to make a point about Holland? Is it ignorance?
Marcel: Mmmmm I think it has to do with the viewers and the way they want to make that programme for the viewers. In that programme Siouxsie and the Banshees were there and if you have something like Tox Modell… If you put in a slice of Tox Modell, say the best known video on You Tube and then say that’s from Holland, it’s like people confronted with their own…
Maybe the director of the programme’s musical tastes.
Oscar: Yeah I think it’s more a case of that. In these programmes, the makers, they were not in the Dutch scene well enough to know that there was music they could use. So they looked to the music they could use and they immediately thought of the British and American names and not the Dutch names because they were hardly aware of it, even though they made a programme about it. And that programme was about the Dutch punks and most of the Dutch punks liked foreign bands erm… only in Amsterdam or maybe in Nijmegen there was a scene but not if you live in Kudelstaart (laughs)… in these smaller cities like in Limburg, and they were all waiting for a British punk band to come to their little club and maybe they thought local bands were punk… They maybe saw the Sex Pistols as punk but not for the support act. They maybe thought that wasn’t punk.
Richard: And do you think people think they don’t have to go too far to find an answer in Holland? If they can find a quick answer they think ‘oh that’s fine, that’s punk’.
Oscar: Yeah but the whole thing in Holland was that punk was also a sort of fashion thing and erm.. a fashion thing where PANORAMA dressed models as punks with all the punk attributes. That’s what Leonor [note: Jonker] has got in her book, those pictures, and she’s got them from me. They were not natural pictures. They were all models, they were all faked. And Plastic Bertrand was punk because he was a nice guy and had a funny hairdo and made a nice song. And that was punk. The real thing punk, in the beginning wasn’t the Amsterdam scene of punks. In the beginning in Amsterdam it was also a fashion thing but later on the real punks in the squats and the thing you see in the Paradiso picture book, they were all the real punks. And it as fed from the outside from England and America and the articles in OOR from Peter Van Bruggen who wrote about vomiting people and people with swastikas. But the real punk attitude started later
Richard: What we are also skirting round here is this idea of theatricality and behaviour; that people behave in a certain way. And that they like to look outside to see things and then they take it from there.
(Note: On a tanget…) Going to the way VINYL was made, I want you to think about how it was made and as writers who are genuinely interested in music, how you also pick up on the aesthetics and the creation of why things [note: here, things means music] were made. Do you think that going to the source of music or the understanding of creation is a Dutch thing?
Marcel: A sort of eclecticism?
Richard: Yeah. British writers always want to find “the bron”, where it really started… that’s typically British… and then they make a big thing about it. You have to be authentic in Britain. Which is sometimes silly but it’s clear. In Holland people don’t seem to be bothered about that.
Marcel: In Holland we have this mentality called erm… niet boven het maaiveld uitsteekt?
Richard: Don’t put your head above the cornfield?
Marcel: That’s maybe an underlying sentiment in a way but that’s erm… when you are a musician and some musicians want to stay really low profile, you only hear about them in 2012. But the ones on the Plurex label they were performers too, they had to show themselves.
Richard: And you both as writers you were looking at why things were the way they were musically. How did you present that to a country that really doesn’t want to know why? Why did you feel the need to write the way you did, in Vinyl magazine?
Oscar: Because from my side I wanted to let people know that there was so much going on, that was my basic idea, it still is my basic idea. I want to let people know if there’s something new, well, here it is! I want to present it to them. And it’s more of that than I wanna find out where it comes from I a more interested about it being something new something fresh so that’s why I want to write about it. And then more people know it and more people see that it’s something that should be experienced, which is better than its opposite, or of something else.
Richard: I think it’s different now, writing in Holland. I think people like Atze de Vries write in a different way than you did. And I think it’s much more industrialised now it’s more like a product, you have to be quick, you have to smell out a hype.
Oscar: Yeah but that is the era of course, with internet.
Richard: Yes but even if people didn’t question why Golden Earring or the Birdy Song was on the radio, you still were trying to do something different. Why did you ever feel that you were banging your head against the wall at the time?
Oscar: Well the thing is that VINYL was part of a bigger erm… movement and so and in that movement was VPRO, was the good record stores, were Paradiso [sic] and a lot of the clubs like Vera in Groningen. Every city much more than now had a club where those people could play. And nowadays in smaller cities it becomes more difficult for bands to play because they have expensive clubs and new buildings and you have to pay for that. But at that time when you arrived in a little club it was like erm… sometimes it was old but it had an ambience. So that was a whole scene of those things and it was part of a movement; a sort of an underground movement. It wasn’t just the magazine so yes; the clubs and the record shops and even the clothing shops who advertised in VINYL.
Marcel: I think that is maybe a good thing to say that people were part of it, and most journalists of Oor, (note: in this context at the time) and maybe those nowadays maybe they are incorporated in a bigger magazine and they do as they are told and they…
Oscar: Yeah they look from the outside. Yeah.
Marcel: And I think that’s what you evolve to, like Vinyl in the end was very different to when it started. They were all part of it; they were all feeling the electricity of being part of something and then after a few years you tend to grow out of something.
Oscar: Yeas, that’s right.
Marcel: Look at erm… all these new bands that were playing Grauzone. There was all these new bands there and there were lots of young people there. Maybe they go and write a pamphlet at home. Spread it round and they feel like ‘oh we’re part of a movement now’.
Richard: Grauzone was interesting. I’ve been reading a few things recently in relation to this work, and there’s this guy called Andy Bennett who’s really worth reading. The idea that actually a lot of this stuff is quite dynamic, and although it’s easy to dismiss as nostalgia, and I know that Peter Bruyn from the HAARLEMSE DAGBLAD thinks it is (laughs) but if someone young goes to see Chris and Cosy and they’re 18 and thinks shit there’s something I can use, that’s a good thing.
Richard; You say you came from the inside and I find the insider/outsider thing interesting in that I feel like I’m an insider, or a friend with a lot of bands here and that’s why maybe feel like an outsider in Dutch rock journalism!
Richard: So I’m an insider pushing out and a lot of Dutch writers maybe keep a distance. Did you, on the inside still feel part of a Dutch mentality or did you feel it was anti-Dutch at the time, kicking against the idiots and all the rest? Did you ever feel that?
Oscar: I think we had more the feeling of doing what we wanted and not feeling that we would kick against something; we just thought, we’ll do it how we want it and not worry, who cares? And we did not deliberately do something to kick against something no, no. Well… only small things like VINYL had a few advertisement campaigns where we sort of made erm… (I help Oscar to translate here) where we wound up OOR. “Laat je geen oor aannaaien”; these things. That was one of our slogans. And those were the only sort of things where we kicked against something but basically no we went our own way and we basically didn’t think this, VINYL, was against something.
Marcel: I think that with the first issue of VINYL… that made an impact on the subscription to OOR. Because with Vinyl you really felt attracted to it, and you switched from OOR, and then you never bothered with OOR (laughs).
Richard: One last question; it’s about the idea of how you saw yourselves against British journalists; the likes of the Andy Gills, Dave McCulloughs, Paul Morleys… there are so many names of that period that had a style or idea associated with them. So Dave McCullough write about Zoo, Paul Morley writes about Factory. And these writers had crusades, and I remember people doing similar in 1987 and 1988 with writers encouraging you to go to these acid house clubs, blah blah. Did that happen with you, how did you feel about that sort of writing, when Andy Gill wrote that thing about Holland [note: Andy Gill, “Why Not to Hate the Dutch” NME, November 22 1980]?
Oscar: Well, the thing is that because we were a monthly, we didn’t have that much influence, erm… so erm… in Holland it had to be a combination of an article in VINYL and the radio and the attention of the VPRO. You could hardly do… at that time the English press was weekly. And at that time the English had a tradition of reading erm… music magazines, but not in Holland. That’s the example I always give; in Holland if you passed through the land by train you would never see somebody reading a music magazine. And in England when people took a train they were reading NME, Sounds and all those things. And the importance and presence of the British music press was so much bigger than in Holland. In Holland if you wanted to achieve something like if you wanted to get your band name more known or sell a concert, you couldn’t do that only by a magazine you had to get support from the radio or maybe television and that was it. And of course the newspapers; at that time the newspaper journalists had more influence and they had more space, also. So if you had a few journalists who could write about VINYL then that was the biggest thing; a combined thing. And not an article in NME but…. a…. a… a samenwerking.
Richard: That’s very Dutch in a way!
courtesy of Edwin de Melkboer
Tags: Amsterdam, Oscar Smit, ULTRA, Vinyl