Digging Up Dutch Undergrounds – An Interview with Rob Scholte – artist – and of The Young Lions and Suspect

May 4, 2014
by Richard Foster

 
 
Younger_Rob_Scholte
 

Rob in his younger days

 
Rob Scholte was studying at the Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam when punk happened. A short while later, maybe driven in part by a desire to show punk where it had messed up, he formed the fiercely uncompromising, avant garde post punk band, The Young Lions; along with Ronald Heiloo and Tim Benjamin. Later his art brought him international fame, and though anything after 1982 isn’t really the subject of my thesis (and consequently not something I can use) Rob’s gregarious and forthright nature meant that he didn’t hold back in bringing up his later escapades, covering a wide range of opinions on the way. And the interview went places that were at times personal, driven by an artistic interpretation on matters, and not what I’d imagined we’d be talking about, subject wise. Sitting in the office of his new base the Rob Scholte Museum (just opposite Den Helder’s train station), we began talking… about the idea of the Netherlands being held together and back by a power grid. Halfway through, when the subject began to drift towards talking about ULTRA, I turned on the tape.

 

Do you think Dutch bands were able to spread their message? Do you think there’s some weird grid holding people back here?
 

Rob: Well, you know you can get famous in Holland and then (raps his hand hard on the table) erm then it stops at the border. It’s very hard for people to get over that border, even to Belgium though it’s the same language – and as for England, it’s almost impossible. I think Wally [note: van Middendorp, Plurex records boss and chief Minny Pops] was one of the few people in that period who was able to make contact with Rough Trade and Factory and Comsat Angels and all those people with that whole thing [note: Plurex] that he started up.

…Also if I look at my own music career, I was first in The Young Lions and later on I joined Suspect where I replaced their singer, Charley, and erm… after I left they published a record I was on but under a different name, “Schlaflose Nächte” – a German title… but with The Young Lions I think we hardly played abroad, I think we played abroad one time. I’m wondering… We played…

 

Brussels?

 

Rob: I’m not sure where we did. With Suspect we played a lot more abroad. We played Belgium, Genk and I think Brussels… and then of course Germany because Suspect was a half German band. Gila, [note: Gröger] the bass player was from Berlin, and Bernie [note: von Braun] the guitarist, was from Berlin as well. And Peter [note: Essens aka Prima] the drummer, he was Dutch, same as me. No… with the Lions, we just had reviews outside the Netherlands!

 

This is really funny for me; this idea of interpretation. Between how Dutch people see their own music and how it’s seen abroad. Because you can see… I remember reading this article by Andy Gill, and he’s going on about all these great Dutch bands, blah, blah. [Note: in the article “Why Not to Hate the Dutch”’ NME November 1980] And yet it seems like it doesn’t get carried into the Dutch grid and…

 

Rob: Especially this type of music was not only outside the foreign grid but outside the Dutch grid, so we were beyond everything. And next to everything. We were never… I think this whole… let’s talk about this as a musical movement, and a youth movement [note: ULTRA]… we never really got into the mainstream; ever. Although the magazine like VINYL did it but by then the music was more or less dead anyway. The groups were important before the start of VINYL, and most of them didn’t make it. Minny Pops still existed, Soviet Sex, they had changed names, they started out I think as Interior. The Young Lions, well we stopping at the moment VINYL started. Plus Instruments or Nasmak… well they carried on but that went astray one way or another. And I think that had to do with the domination of punk… we had a very dominant punk climate at the end of the seventies.

 

The krakers thing?

 

Rob: Yeah that was very well established. The squatting movement. Also Paradiso had this punk night on a Wednesday, and of course we hated it we were more art school like in our tastes and music.

 

Shouldn’t that have helped, that art school thing?

 

Rob: No, no… not at all, they really didn’t like it. And it was not something that could be brought into in the music scene because the punk thing reconfirmed that awful thing about the music scene, know (gestures playing a guitar) that whole A-B, A-B thing (laughs). That whole scheduled way of just playing music. And the way we approached it was totally different; so, sounds… the repetition of sounds, the different layers, the manipulation of sounds, and melodies, even if they were not connecting, the contrast and different sound layers made our music, and of course, people couldn’t get used to that.

 

And the fact that it and you made existential music that was ignored. In that fairly existential time and in a country that is existential… (Laughs)

 

Rob: Ignored? Well, yeah I think it was never seen as existential music. I’m glad you use that term because that’s how I see it myself. But I think it was never accepted. I mean we were hardly getting by from the punk period, let’s say. OK you had Ian Dury and Talking Heads the sort of after punk thing, the new wave. But it was still…. and we were not real dance music either. We missed that, and that was to do with my rhythms of course. I was the drummer, without a drum! We started… I’m talking of when we [note: here Rob is talking of pre-Young Lions] started…. Ronald Heiloo, me and Tim Benjamin started, we were the original three. In the basement of the [note: Rietveld] art school. And I sold my first painting and I bought a drum kit and I started drumming, and Ronald played piano, electric piano, and Tim played guitar and we were… erm… called The Case that was where we started; we also made a magazine, “Dossier”, and another one, called “Magazijn”, and it was more of a businesslike thing, with the wording. So an artistic movement that was as dry and businesslike as possible.

…So we were well on the way, and at a certain point we met other groups at the Rietveld at that time. The other groups was Necronomicon, that was with Jan Willem Vaal and Ernst Voss who were also a duo of painters and of course there was [note: Peter] Klashorst and there was [note: Maarten] Ploeg. They were in the same year as me. And we had no rehearsal space so we did it at art school. So there we met up with other guys in art school, and I remember an art school concert where two bands, we, the Case, and Klashorst and Ploeg with Interior, think Peter Mertens had joined at that time, I think that was one of the first times Peter was there, We had the idea of doing two live performances, two full sets, of two bands at the same time. We played our set and at the same time Interior played the other set; so we were completely concentrated on each other [note: fellow band members] and at the same time trying not to hear the others. So the only moments that you could really hear what was going on was one of the moments that erm… one of us, or Interior stopped playing. So it was a conceptual performance.

 

There is this idea of concept comes up in Holland as well. And I don’t think it’s a substitution for…. but well… the Anglo-American rock industry has a very clear way of doing things, it’s very institutionalized. And even when you’ve got a band like Throbbing Gristle or Clock DVA, they will eventually go through the system.
 

Rob: They have to.

 

But with the Dutch…

 

Rob: But the Dutch bands probably wanted it very much but they were never managed, or managed to come through the system here. (Silence) So let’s talk more about the Dutch music scene. I mean, you have Shocking Blue, T-Set, George Baker…. that whole 70’s sound. And then you’ve got very local bands like The Ex or other punk bands, and then you have the Volendam sound, BZN, the Cats and that sort of thing. And the domination was commercially from the Volendam sound and the punk was seen as the counterculture. And the bands of the 70s they had – what happened to a lot of those bands, they got better equipment, more expensive studios and consequently they were not connected any more with the basics and just went down.
…And we were between everything and we were scandalous! Everything we did caused concern amongst critics and whatever public we had. And when we performed… I remember once we did a contest, a sort of talent contest outside of Amsterdam. And these people didn’t even want to judge us, because we were totally out of their reference system. And the same happened with the public. The public was massaged by the Volendam sound, and the symphonic sounds of the left-overs of the 70s and then they were getting used to punk, but to have a different approach? That was not welcomed. I remember that we had the public throwing beer or climbing onstage or trying to break the microphone, things like that. Wherever we went was always some controversy [sic]. And also of course was, we did more show-like exhibitions [sic], a performance. And the places where you could play, all those youth centres, all fully subsidized, full of beer, every night and then these four guys came…

…I should say Harold [note: Schellinx] came a little later – we put an advertisement asking for a “wonder instrumentalist” – we copied exactly the ad Roxy Music used to get Brian Eno; done by Ronald and Tim and me because we felt we missed something in the sound. So then came Harold [sic]. He is from the south, from Maastricht, so he was talking with a soft g and… He fitted in because he was experimenting with everything that couldn’t fit in with normal band sounds…

 

All these youth centres… They sound like strange places culturally. I was reading all about the Stichting Popmuziek Nederlands recently, stuff about how they started up in the 70s, and it seems there was a problem with bands where – and I’m paraphrasing here – they had to compete with the local book club. So [note: as a musician] you are immediately made an amateur in this system, and the community has to have its recreation in this way and it’s all, you know…

 

Rob: Sure, sure. And they didn’t want us. We had no booking agency. The telephone number of me and Peter Mertens was the booking agency. It hardly happened that somebody called. I think we must have had twenty shows or something. In my documentation, which is still in boxes, I have files on the period, there you can see how much we performed, and it was not much. And the performances were hardly successful. We had a lot of aggression or people didn’t understand what we were doing.

 

It must have been weird at the time; you’d have thought that this funding would have somehow opened things up. [Note: here I mean that the funding could have allowed a broader artistic/musical agenda] I mean British people at the time, would have killed for this money, however little it was. [Note: the pop music budget from the arts funding was less than 0.04% by the end of the 1980s. Other budgets – social welfare or local council or arts budgets were also used, to fund centres or initiatives. See Van Elderen; Pop and Government Policy in the Netherlands (1985) 190-World Music, Politics and Social Change, Papers from the International Association for the Study of Poplar Music (1989) and Rutten: (1993)]

 

Rob: Yeah there was money, there was money. But there was money for all the known groups and for the youth centres, but there was…. we earned little money. I remember the five of us driving to the south of Holland for what would now be 400 euros a night and of course the petrol has to be deducted. And we had beer in the dressing room, which had a very bad side effect on our band because some of our members couldn’t keep out of it! (Laughs) And of course we had to wait for sound check and dinner, at the local Chinese and then we had to wait, wait and wait to play and in the meantime you were sitting there, and getting bored. And you played and got excited, and then you had to cool down… and then you had to drive back… and this was not a way of living. I remember we came back very late and still having to walk with amplifiers and stuff. It was really not my thing.

…So if you talk how good it was in the Netherlands as a welfare state, then that was not really the case with us at that time, because we were all very poor. I have a wealthy daddy but erm… he was insecure after a heart attack and he wasn’t sure about his health insurance, so the first three years of art school I had to work at night, and that was the case with everybody. There were a lot of public subsidies going into the youth scene. But it was more social worker types who got that money, you know what I mean?

 

Leading to some form of control?

 

Rob: Ja, ja…. complete control. The state controls through its monied tendrils, and that was surely the case at the end of the 70s. That era was called the “Me, Myself and I Period” [note: Ik-tijdperk], so it was really about introspection, finding yourself… so social academies were very popular at that time. And that was not our game. We were into a different type of game. We dressed up as military men; we had military costumes and one of the first video tapes we made was published in NEON [note: by Bob Visser for VPRO Television], the television program of that time. We were lying behind our amplifiers and shooting with our guitars, so we were like a special fighting unit, or a task force of the army (laughs) more or less. And that’s how we performed. And this whole myth, [note: here Rob means image] of course, came because we were The Young Lions. “A milestone in the twentieth century,” we called it. And we also called it, “Through training and battle,” so we posed as people who had scars and had fighting spirit. We also did it on stage. On the other hand, privately and offstage, we were more attracted to the way The Jam, Paul Weller, looked; and that whole revival way of dressing instead of punk. Punk, for us, was not our game. If you compare it to Wally, and one of the Lions members, maybe Harold? I don’t know, I don’t think it was Harold actually, but one of us liked it [note: punk] but on the whole it was really too simplistic for us.

 

The_Young_Lions

Listen to: The Young Lions Through Training and Battle

 

Wally did the Tits single [note: “Daddy is My Pusher”/ “I’m So Glad Elvis is Dead”] didn’t he?

 

Rob: Haha Wally… I saw him a lot because the period that punk really started in Amsterdam was the first two years of my art school, so I was a weekly visitor of Paradiso. Of course I didn’t want to be photographed by Max Natkiel I didn’t want that, (laughs) but I saw all the changes people went through. And I myself thought it was also great chance to reflect of a newish movement. Because what started out as something that took a lot from paraphernalia like safety pins and buttons, and it all got very easily adopted by the mainstream. So it was sold in Bijenkorf, and in Hema. And there’s a great book by Theodore Roszak, maybe you know it? “The Making of a Counter Culture.” And that really showed how original youth expressions are completely taken over by the mainstream and reproduced. I hated things like buttons. I hated names on jackets and stuff like that. A lot of people needed that stuff to identify themselves in the city. And for me I was actively doing speeches and performing as a talker, as a Hyde Park figure. I was talking about these youth movements and why they needed things like buttons. And what my idea was on this – I mean how I wanted to be anonymous and how I didn’t want to be recognized, and how I thought it was unfruitful to distinguish yourself as a group. Because you were much easier to be preyed upon by the mainstream [sic] and by people who wanted to control you.

 

But it leads onto a classic system of identification which a lot of Dutch people really like.

 

Rob Yeah it was very easy to take the force away because at that one time everybody who had that button… it was easy for authorities to then put you in a corner.

 

Because you can be led – or controlled.

 

Rob: And I think that identification politics had a lot to do with the squatting movement – that was also strongly connecting with the earlier liberalization of sexuality – and you also see this switch in aesthetics in the area [note: Rob here means the Red Light district in Amsterdam] from a feeling of 1950s nostalgia to a new, heroin dominated, sex slave-like period. From 1980-81-82, this was also a period where there were parts of the city where the police didn’t come. The Zeedijk and Red Light was completely taken over by the drug dealers.

 

The Doctor Rat aesthetic?

 

Rob: Sure, sure, nah… the Doctor Rat, erm… Doctor Rat was for me representative of this movement of punk kids that distinguished themselves through buttons and texts and he was one of them, he did it very much. I didn’t have very good relationships with him.

 

I don’t think many did.

 

Rob: He was one of the people who really fucked up our concerts. He was one of those who threw beer, or plugged us out and he was quite aggressive and at that time I didn’t really make much connection to the smack, but he was on smack of course. And but this [note: aesthetic] was also a bit of the vision of the alternative scene in Amsterdam; on one side there was punk but also supported by a certain group of artists like Klashorst and Peter Giele, and on the other hand was a more intellectual grouping of people that were more on sounds, more on classical music, more on erm… art ideas. And that was connected on one side, but on the other, not. I think we were all part of the riots that were taking place [note: I think Rob means the general “Geen Woning Geen Kroning” or the “The Battle of the Blauwbrug” / Stopera / Vondelstraat squat riots, 1980] and one set of people were throwing stones and the other group not. And that’s a big division; do you see what I mean?

 

I wonder what the legacy is of that period and those groups now because you look at that and you actually transcended that but people like Wally, like Minny Pops just disappeared and that’s a shame as the music was great.

 

Rob: Me too, I admired Wally’s work.

 

But he disappears and you see they turn into these curious little side notes now, like Crèpuscule and Factory Benelux, and it’s a shame it’s not better known, or that it carried its legacy through the last 30 years, really.

 

Rob: But Wally, Wally is a special story. Wally started out as an asocial punk character. He looked so crazy at that time. That experience of seeing him play…

 

He still looks crazy! (Laughs)

 

Rob: His whole long body and pale skin and this strange hairdo. But then he was the first to adapt the rhythm box because rhythm was such a problem in that scene. I mean I was a drummer but I couldn’t drum a thing. I was not a Robert Wyatt; that just didn’t function. At a certain point I had to decide, and I was always dancing and singing. And I wanted to sing very much, so we chose to have an electronic bongo which I had on my stomach like the “Man of Steel” comic and I could play very simple rhythms, and the sounds functioned through a radio contact. So sometimes if you pushed a button you’d get Radio 3 on your machine! It worked with a radio transmission.

 

A bit like Holger Czukay used to do with Can!

 

Rob: Exactly! The rhythms were always a little bit of a problem in the part of the scene I found interesting. So soon enough, what happened was people took the easy, organ-like rhythm boxes and later they got more functional and you could program it. Later they got too expensive. There were hardly any drummers. Suspect was one of the few bands who had great drummer, Peter was a great drummer. So for me it was very refreshing to do a performance after my step over, [note: to Suspect]. The projects got a little bit thinner in the end by The Young Lions. We had a set of about 2 hours of music which we wrote ourselves and we were performing and rehearsed that but we were never really a live band, we never had reactions and weren’t able to sweep up the public. And that really never happened. And I missed that, I saw the power of the mass psychosis with other bands. I saw that The Young Lions could make good music and they could make good albums and make interesting pieces. But we were never able to do that magic thing that music also does that group trans… transformation.

 

That whole traditional showmanship. That’s what most bands work on. But… The more research I do for this thesis, the more I get the feeling that all these ULTRA bands never sorted that showmanship, “reaching the public” thing out.
 

Rob: That was the big problem we had.

 

And almost in compensation, VINYL magazine turned out to be the public face of…. failed bands!
 

Rob: You say the right words! Failed bands. And also – for us – [note: The Young Lions] we were five individuals. There was no real leader of the band; it was more that our personal influences [sic] distinguished [note: Rob surely means created] the ambience of The Young Lions. But we stayed five individuals. Nobody could ever put themselves in the positions of supporting. We were never supporting each other, we were always in contrast. And this was also in our sound, and only when we decided to change the format could we develop. OK in the beginning we jammed and we found things we connected on and everyone was happy with his part and we made music.

 

On a purely aesthetic level.

 

Rob: That… that was it. And we were not able to develop it further because we were all thinking we should have the same influence. There was no one ready to say “ok now the drum should go down, and the voices should go up”, and there was no producer. This was the problem with our first record. We played all the sounds in a line, you know and it sounded all the same and then came Wally and he taped it and we got the tape and we didn’t know how to mix it! And then came Wally and he sat in the studio and he had an empty suitcase with an apple and a toothbrush (laughs) but that was him… And anyway he mixed it. But we didn’t even… we knew that we were lacking this, erm… final conception of the total image of what we wanted from the music. And that was a problem.

 

The_Young_Lions_Cassette_tape_Cover

Cassette cover of The Young Lions

 

I think it’s very interesting you say that because another problem that seems to come out of this scene [note: as a reason as to why it fails] is that there are no middle men; you know, Tony Wilson or Andrew Loog Oldman. In the British-American scene there are always fixers.

 

Rob: Absolutely. Fixers. And producers also, and that we missed completely [sic]. There were just individual bands, and if anyone fitted that description it was Wally. But Wally was free and he just said “turn this up a little bit” and things like that.

 

But Wally is an artist, a conceptualist, not a professional middle man.

 

Rob: That’s why and in this way he worked with us and with Soviet Sex / Interior in the beginning and with other bands and he produced and of course he was the publisher, which gave a hell of a lot of power in one hand. And in a concert, we were not able to perform in a good way, outside the studio. All these inconveniences with tapes and backing tracks… and the sound changed onstage. And then the feedback was not as we expected. So then we thought of other solutions – there were combis coming out of this. I was playing music with Tim Benjamin and Maarten Ploeg. Ronald and Harold started to do things together. I was joining in with Suspect. So there were all these combinations. And then for one last time we came back together for this project, “Lost Weekend”. And we had a studio [note: Octopus] for one day. And in that one day we had twelve songs, and recorded them, and it was beautiful. Maybe it was the weekend, maybe the title was also connecting to the time we took to create the songs and tape them [note: the record’s title is also attributed to the Charles Jackson novel of the same name] But it was a conceptual group of songs that we could perform together, at one time. And then we came together and did the ULTRA concert. And I think the ULTRA gig was our last performance. [Note: October 22nd 1980, as one of the weekly ULTRA concerts, Oktopus club, Amsterdam. A clip – with the track “Like the Dreaded Sunday” is here].

 

Again… this links into another thing I wanted to ask you. Because you later “escaped” the “kleinschaligheid” of these sort of erm… these small music scenes.

 

Rob: Not with my music.

 

No, not with your music, but you were able to sidestep that and find another path. What would you think is the main thing? I think this scene is very artistic; it has a strong artistic side. But what do you think in terms of legacy, came out of that scene is of use, or worth now?

 

Rob: (Long silence) I was astonished when I heard back on this scene. Three days ago, last Friday; Ronald Heiloo was here, my old friend. And we hadn’t seen each other for four years. And both of us, we had seen some publications of Harold who was publishing things online. And we don’t like that of course because we don’t get a penny of anything (laughs). And there was especially some stuff made by Ronald and Harold and Dagmar Krause so this situation was not very comfortable. And I myself two years ago [sic] noticed a lot of tape material being released by Harold and as I didn’t have the original tapes, I listened back to this music that we’d made in 1981 or so. And I was astonished by the clarity of the sound, so erm… I was also astonished by the clarity of the texts and the whole idea behind it; and I thought it was very modern, very up to date, very now. And this is something we always had; the feeling that what we did at that time needed more time to grow and be accepted. The good thing was that we never got into problems as a group. We stopped it at the height of our development. So Ronald went on with Harold, and with Tim. Peter Mertens, he went his own way in typography and design; and I did my art things. Also Ronald did art things and Tim has always been a painter, one of the best painters I know. So we kept developing the relationship.

…In ‘88, six years later after this whole fame thing started here – you know here when you become a star in a fortnight -I moved out of Holland and moved to Brussels, and lived in Sint Gilles. And after that I had the attack, and my car was blown up, and then I decided I really wanted to be out of this [note: the Netherlands and Belgium] So I sold my stuff, gave my house back that I was renting, and moved to Tenerife. The strange thing is that music always stayed an important factor in my life. So I have a Yamaha keyboard and I can program things. Anyway I was doing a big project in Japan that lasted four years there. I was painting all the time then.

Rob_Scholte_Mural_in_Huis_Ten_Bosch_Nagasaki_Prefecture_Japan

Rob Scholte – Mural in Huis Ten Bosch, Nagasaki Prefecture, Japan.

 

Rob_Scholte_Apres_nous_le_deluge-mural_in_Japan_detail

Rob Scholte – Details of “Apres Nous le Deluge” mural – Japan.

And shortly before the bomb, I just thought it was good to go back to performing. I wanted to do solo shows. So I bought singing equipment with reverb, with my keyboard. And I thought I can play myself and do shows myself. So I wrote songs for myself, but then this bomb went off. And then I had to get so used to my uhm…. my new body, to the physical environment of my new life. Like the idea that I could not dance on stage, the idea that I could not stand there. That was something that took me a real long time to accept and to erm… to get used to. And so I gave up on music at the moment that I wanted to start again.

…And then in 2004, after I came back to Holland, Tim came back to Holland from San Francisco. Completely unexpected we were, all five in the same city again. And then we talked about restarting the group; and more or less we restarted it. Apart from me. I was still not talking to the press and I had closed down any relationship with the press from 2000 until this year, so in that period there’s been no press contact; no talks, interviews, or television, no nothing. I had very good reasons to do that because the press always went in certain directions that I didn’t want it to go. And I could not escape it. So always it came back to the same subject. And anyway they got a rehearsal space and started recording but the recording studio was a non-smoking place and I didn’t want that because I’m a heavy smoker. So I said, guys, not now. But I know all of us… we very much want to take up the concept again.

 

This music is – from the outside, from where I grew up for instance – really great and challenging and a lot of people in Britain like to pick up on exotic or weird things in music, and they want to know what it’s about and I was thinking, because…

 

(Rob pours me another coffee and interrupts my question)

Rob: One thing you should not forget – look it does not really matter if you talk about music or art with the Dutch. I mean when I came up, let’s say the height of my career was the late 80s, early 90s. And I came up together with people like Jeff Koons and Ashley Bickerton and we were famous in our own right at a certain point. But there’s a big, big difference of course if you’re on the front cover of a Dutch magazine like “Vrij Nederland”, etcetera, and the cover of the British “Esquire”, where you have a chance to go round the world. And this is the same with the publicity we had with the music. It was only when it came through the “New Musical Express” with the Andy Gill article, which meant Kim Fowley was coming our way. And that sort of stuff. But it never spread. There was always this problem with translation. Even if we made English texts, the press stayed Dutch. And it was not readable. You have great writers here, who are of an international standard but nobody knows them. Poets the same.

 

Still; while that is true, I still have this issue with interpretation. This issue about why people about why people are so dismissive in Holland of their own culture and dismissive of a system [note: the subsidy culture] that in some ways could, if people worked together and worked it out properly, be really great. Of course there’s an issue with the language…

 

Rob: We are… at once it is a very double thing happening here in Holland. On one side we believe we are the greatest country in the world. Especially in that 70s period, we were the greatest country in the world, because we were trying out liberties concerning sexuality, concerning drugs, concerning individual freedoms…

 

Even your bloody football team.

 

Rob: Yeah we had Cruyff as a sort of mad philosopher king on the field.

 

And he was important.

 

Rob: Of course! And then we were proud of the Netherlands. And on the other hand we have a sort of complex about being small. It’s that whole thing about a small guy trying to compete with the big guys and he knows he’s the small guy. And this self-image is harmful. On one side it is completely overloaded and on the other side we see ourselves as very unimportant. It’s strange.

 

Is that a border thing? Because you’ve got borders that haven’t really changed much over time or is it a language thing? I mean neither should stop Holland from being a bit more…. I mean you’re from a sea faring nation; the Dutch built their money on trading with other people.

 

Rob: We were great traders, but mostly we were pirates and we stole everything. We deal in transit. Goods come in, goods come out and we earn money.

 

A creative black hole?

 

Rob: I think that is the situation although I have to, I think, look at the Golden Age, this was the moment that the lower middle class got richer and they could buy themselves into art. And it became almost like a stock market, like the tulips did. So there is an enormous development at the time and we are at the height of culture. But then we lose our colonies, the republic gets fucked up, we go into war, there is Napoleon, the royal family comes back. Then after the Second World War we have the same thing again. Because the time we talk about now was the most luxurious time for us, in the world of art media and development of a western culture. There was a sort of New Golden Age. And I can compare it to my own life because we had the same kind of system as we had in the golden age of Rembrandt, because the middle class has enough value in their pocket to buy art, records and express itself through entertainment.

…And we had a strong freedom of expression that was guaranteed by basic law. But this is all gone. This is completely gone; this favourable view of ourselves, and of our country, has gone. It was very shocking for me to witness this from the outside. I left the Netherlands in 1988, and the country I come back to in 2003 is a completely changed country. The self-image is…. it is gone. It is a country that is riddled with corruption, paedophilia, and with drug businesses in the highest public offices. [Note: Here I presume Rob refers to the issue over Princess Mabel of Oranje-Nassau and the Demmink case, both cases public knowledge] And not unlike other countries. But it looks to me now that in the 1960s and 1970s this country was like a test station for a new world – and you could add the word order after that – (laughs), a test area. You know, how far can you go with the age of consent, or drugs? I remember you could get free heroin – it was subscribed. I remember we were living in a tested situation. We were… an example; a painter like Walter Dahn, he made a painting of all the Germans sweeping the dirt to the Netherlands (laughs). And for this reason the pullback from all these liberties in the last few years is dramatic. Soon I cannot even smoke a cigarette on the streets. My liberties are gone.

 Rob_Scholte_What_shall_I_sing_about_ 1985_acrylic_on_canvas

Rob Scholte – “What Shall I Sing About?” 1985.

Why do you think this is?

 

Rob: It has to do with the fact that the harder they grow the harder they fall. So the more liberties, the more you feel hurt if it is cut off. Self-flagellation. We are in a big identity crisis in the Netherlands right now and you will have witnessed that if you have lived here for years.

 

The reason I’m doing this thesis comes from when I did the 2012 tour. I remember with Wally talking about how I liked Minny Pops and him sort of not taking it totally on board, or brushing it aside. But I remember this doubt with Wally about what he’d done.

 

Rob: He maybe needed confirmation? Because Wally… when I went into the art business, he also went into business he started to work with Boudisque, a record shop in Amsterdam. They were doing import and export, and Wally became a record boss.

 

And I was also struck by how little Dutch music from that era; especially stuff that is valued abroad – like Minny Pops – was completely ignored by the current media.

 

Rob: The support we had from radio stations, none; there we were never played. So this whole group was completely ignored by radio at the time, so if you can’t get played by a radio station then you can never be something that the public likes. And you never hear underground music from that time on radio. It took till 2005-6 to go into the books, like the (Dutch) Music Encyclopaedia. We were really neglected. And only through VINYL – that became the public face of the movement – and that was at the point when the movement was almost gone. And over time they [note: VINYL] became second rate, they lacked subjects.

 

You do notice they change over time. But the first 10-15 editions of VINYL were fantastic, really good quality.

 

Rob: Yeah, that is also down to the group of people that made it changed [sic]. Rob van Middendorp was the first designer and he was brilliant, and then it became Max Kisman, and it was also the same with the articles and pictures, with people like Wim van Sinderen, who was the director [sic, note: curator] of the museum in Rotterdam [note: Kunsthal, Rotterdam, now curator at The Hague Museum of Photography]. He was my assistant in the 80s and he was a good journalist too, and he had his own magazine, “Jonge Friezen”. There were people like Paul Steenhuis, he’s now the head editor of erm… the cultural supplement of NRC Handelsblad [sic]. I think it became more musical as well, the writing, later with people like Gerard Walhof, and Harold. He’s a great guy, Harold but he wasn’t a special writer then.

 

The writing though in those early issues of VINYL is very much alive and questioning. The questions are really great, really deep.
 

Rob: Ah but there is a connection there with the force of this whole movement. It was connected with politics, with art, with fashion, with theatre. Because at the same time the music starts down on the street. It starts on the street with music and dancing and fashion. And later it gets into art and theatre and literature. The information is handled in different media, but music is the most sensitive. Fashion and music are the most sensitive.
…But after two or three years the gut feeling from the street was gone. It became a sort of class of modern people.

 

“Daar Loopt an ULTRA!” Harold’s very funny in his book about that whole fashion thing.

 

(Both laugh)
Rob: Ach I don’t like the book so much… there are one or two things… and I got really irritated about some of my texts being used without being asked. And I was out of doing press about that period, or arguing about it publically, because I was involved in my own issues with publishing my autobiography about the 80’s.

 

This is… I mean this interview, most of this interview… I have to publish outside of legal things that get you or me into trouble (Laughs) But what I notice in revisiting texts and doing the interviews is that now there’s a story that is evolving alongside my thesis almost; about the story of the cultural renovation of this period.
 

Rob: You know why that is? Because there were very important elements then that are still influencing things. You know when we met at my exhibition? I called my exhibition ULTRA! Right, I did it for a reason, to make a little bit of a joke out of it. ULTRA was about the music style…

 

Ultramodern.

 

Rob: But ULTRA also sounds like it’s extreme. Like…

 

Football hooliganism.

 

Rob: That’s also it, exactly. These works are more abstract, more repetition like more erm… More ZERO art works. And I became friends with the grandson of Jan Schoonhoven who was the best known ZERO artist. And I made an exhibition two years ago with him and we called it ZERO+. I made some shows with Schoonhoven Jr. together doing abstract stuff. But this is the first show I do really on my own, so I looked to use this ULTRA thing. So then I could connect with the history of that “God Save the Queen” show [note: “God Save the Queen” exhibition of Holland in the punk era; in Centraal Museum, Utrecht, 3 March – 10 June 2012]. So there are three different shows [note: in Utrecht apart from KuuB, also in Galerie Bas Meijer and Galerie Wed, 28 February – 13 April 2014], and the curators now want to organize a night about me. But I’m only doing it if I like the programme. Because I’m not going to do it if I have to sit at a dinner in my honour only with people talking about me that I don’t like, I’m not a sitting duck you know?

…So they tried to sort out a night and the programme was about Hugo Brandt Cortsius [note: Brandt Cortsius wrote a preface to Rob’s portfolio of silkscreens Golden Horizon, published in 1995], the writer who died two weeks ago or so, and something about marbles, and something about Anne Frank ‘s marbles [note: In KuuB Rob shows marbles on led light panels] and I think what the hell has that got to do about me? And then I saw they’d invited Harold to do a speech about my work. So I read the letter that Harold had prepared and I saw that he had written that the work I present has its roots in the texts and the music I made. It is really nice to hear this, and I would love to hide away round a corner, and see him talking about this and about me in front of all these people; but I won’t be there because these nights are not my thing. (Laughs)

 
When a music movement becomes contested now, it’s very interesting. People contest things. You know the last night of this whole ULTRA thing at the Melkweg in 2012, and I couldn’t go, so another friend went and told me what went on. And there was a panel where they had a big legacy debate. And I think there was Marcel from WotNxt and Atze de Vries from 3voor12. Atze’s boss is Gerard Walhof, [note: Gerard Walhof ex Minny Pops guitarist and now Head Editor, VPRO] so you thought there’s got to be an agenda there somewhere, if not from Atze directly, or one that Atze would really know about. And my mate said there was this constant discussion over whether it, ULTRA, was important or not.

 

Rob; Kijk… (Extremely long silence) Some people win the war so they decide the history. People like Gerard Walhof for instance; he’s become a very important guy on radio, so he can help decide what’s on radio and what’s on the TV stations for VPRO. And they rewrite history. Of course the truth is grey. Because we are completely made to believe things. Who writes the history gets to set the taste.

 
Which links into my hunch that in Holland there is this mania of controlling artistic stuff.

 

Rob: Hey, guy. This is control country number one. I tell you; I feel I live in a dictatorship. Journalists get killed and everybody who is bad mouthing the structure of justice and democracy here is in danger. [Note: here I presume by killed, Rob is talking about the death of Fred de Brouwer – Dutch language source]  People disappear here these days. [note: Rob presumably means Maud Oortwijn]. If you lift up something of the veil [sic] it is so dirty… It is like oxtail. If you lift the tail of the ox you don’t eat the soup any more. And this is Holland. And this is what you see, the people who are in control of the way you see the past are the people who are accepted by the powers that be. It could be the same with museum directors. If you are capable of dealing with the present power structure you are capable of being a museum director or a head of a cultural organisation. It’s all part of the same group and this is a group that is connected by a set of mutual sins, they are brothers in the sins they themselves commit. They lie and cheat for each other. The people not part of the group well… And you can be kept out by lies. And that is a dominating structure in the West now, a sort of Masonic thing.

 

(Rob has to take a call. We resume by talking about where to place music in Holland’s view of itself.)

 

Rob: Just listen to the music as well as the text of The Young Lions. We are deconstructing the views. “Mary and Jane”, [note: found on http://soundblog.bandcamp.com/album/no-news-strange-rumours] you’ve got to draw the line somewhere. The choice is arbitrary, where to put that line. It is all about deconstruction of the truth. I mean texts are cut out and re-sampled so there is no personal genius or interpretation, there are no solos of the guitarists to show how great they are; no. Not at all. Everybody is servile to the total result, and this is completely contrary to the ruling art idea that places people like Van Gogh as important, you know the texts he writes are coming out of his heart, that his work is individual etcetera. And the Dutch they have this self-image in this sense. So Cats is more the Dutch image than The Young Lions.

 
I always have this idea that the Dutch artists see themselves in this weird double light, wanting to be massive and at the same time not sure of their own work. My question is about cultural worth, you know. There’s no way that someone like Ian McCulloch from Echo and the Bunnymen will say “Oh well we were nothing special”. In England you can play with that idea.

 

Rob: In Holland you can play with it too, but we [note: The Young Lions] were different, we wanted to be almost absent. The word like bescheiden.

 

This absence. There is this in the identity crisis we talked about with Holland.

 

Rob: This is the strange thing. The Ik tijdperk… We grew up in it. And the group of people I grew up with, to us this was a very strange idea. Think of the painter Max Ernst. He said, “The only good thing that I learned in my life was that I never found myself.” This is the great thing of my life. People always think they have to find themselves. They forget they are themselves. It’s just like the glasses on their nose. (Rob pulls down the glasses onto his nose and we both laugh). And that is the main problem; a really weird idea that is dominating Dutch culture at the moment. And it is to do with control. Perception is managed and stability is functional. This idea safeguards people’s careers and lives; and it is safe to be stupid and to not know about things. I mean you cannot imagine the simplest things, the facts of life for me, are for others… cannot be part of our life, you see this in newspapers and magazines. Certain things are just not believable and people refuse to even consider them. The idea that people are sprayed by chemtrails [note: http://www.bariumblues.com/]. This is a fact of my life. I see people getting ill, I see nature changing, I see dumping taking place. People cannot take this on board. This whole modern nature thing… People are not willing to accept things and have to live with their own stupidity. Geo engineering; that weather is made and that it is used as a weapon; that war is already going on, through the climate. But people think of themselves in a box and they think they are free, but they are not free. They are within this box and cannot think themselves out of it.

… This goes for the whole Western world right now but Holland is a very good example. Here we got it really hard, this stupidity, because it looked like in the 1970s and 1980s it looked like a country that wanted to discover itself, it looked like a country that was experimenting with sexuality, it looked like a country that was experimenting with drugs. With social meaning and with significances. But I think the experiment is even stronger now because it is rolled back faster and we have the stupidity experiment going faster.

 

Rob_Scholte_IQ_Zwolle_2013Rob Scholte – “IQ”, 2013.

 

And yet the Dutch from my outsider perspective is that you can never really be direct here. And another thing I find strange is the way that people use language here because they use…

 

Rob: (Looking at me sideways) Most people use English with you, no?

 

It does drive me up the wall a bit, especially in the Randstad. I mean it’s very, very kind on one level, but…

 

Rob: And you should hate that; because then you are never able to really understand and learn Dutch.

 

Because they don’t want me in.

 

Rob: That’s the reason. They don’t want you in. You’re a foreigner.

 
The nice guy who loves Holland, it makes people feel better.

 

Rob: True. You do understand Dutch.

 

I do, most of the reading for this thesis is in Dutch.

 

Rob: We could change into Dutch if you want.

 

I’m not good enough in speaking, certainly to catch the nuances! And that’s also my own fault!

 

Rob: Ah I was joking; but I thought it is better to do this in English.

 
I speak Dutch most when I’m somewhere like Emmen, and after a day or two it’s sort of okay.

 

Rob: Or with your girlfriend in bed.

 

(Both laugh)

 

Rob: But they cut you short. Because it’s a control thing. It’s good you mention control. Now I have a question for you – how do you see this control in the music movement of this time? (Rob leans back, and lights another cigarette.)

The control has two different phases; the phase of the 1980s and the phase of now. The phase of the 1980s was very much a case of…. it’s not music that the taste makers of the time felt they could make money from. You can make money from punk. You don’t have to listen to punk but you can buy the clothes. And you can identify generally what punk music “is” quickly too, which you can’t with ULTRA.

 

But the only time this scene [note: ULTRA] becomes fashionable is after the music is gone.

 

Rob: Exactly. Don’t forget the magazine, VINYL, in this role, and the clubs, De Koer. The Koer with Eddie de Clerq. And later Roxy. Because then money started rising and people started spending again. And also the connection that started… talking about control, the spread of recreational drugs combined with trance music, you understand… there’s a sort of mutual interest and a mutual export capacity in, in, in ecstasy and famous deejays. This is going hand in hand. This is interesting because…

 

Because there’s no words involved. It’s a feeling you can’t properly explain, but you’re feeling happy.

 

Rob: In that sense this music [note: here Rob means ULTRA / early Dutch post punk] was still done without drugs, especially without cocaine. Because it’s a pre-cocaine type of music. The big cocaine habits started later in 1983 or so, that was when the first cocaine really came around. And in the end of the 70s it was maybe hashish or a trip now and then. No MDMA, no industrialised drugs was there [sic]. I think the connection between music and drugs has also an enormous element of control. Especially also if you combined with vee-jays, you know the images projected on the top of the music is all this new world order stuff, all beautiful stuff…

 

Like Leni Riefenstahl (laughs).

 

Rob: Yeah well done! Riefenstahl, good of you to say that, I never made the connection; it’s true.

 

And cos it’s silent! She controls the sound too. You never normally [sic] hear the actors speak.

 

 

Rob: They don’t speak and it’s strange to see a deejay perform. Because he’s not making music but he’s also doing the crowd like he’s Jesus Christ.

 

You don’t see the source of the music.

 

Rob: And, like a priest, you don’t see the source of music. Because it’s artificial. But you do feel it. So it’s a weird mix.

 

I remember listening to this debate on Dutch radio last year about why Dutch bands weren’t as successful as Dutch deejays. And I thought it’s a simple answer; because what Dutch deejays do is what the Dutch ships used to do way back, they carry the timber from Scandinavia or somewhere, and carry it to somewhere else, like France. That’s what deejays do; they take records from somewhere else and manufacture it into something that can be sold elsewhere in a new way.

 

Rob: By the way I feel I’m a little bit responsible for that; the whole idea of the sample – I was one of the first guys in Holland sampling, outside of the pop art guys – one of the first to reintroduce sampling material of others. Art is a culture that – like if you have the squatting culture, all those buildings they used. The moment some inventions are made, and then it’s accepted. The mainstream gets interested. The cultural intelligentsia start [sic] to accept squatting. This is the danger of art, because it is the vehicle that makes people accept something that is controversial. Ad that is also with this sampling or using the material of others. But you are right; you don’t know where this sound is coming from. You don’t know how it has been deformed.

 

And you can’t enjoy it without drugs (laughs).

 

Rob: This goes – these present day developments go in line with Holland’s position as a distributor of drugs, let’s be honest. It goes hand in hand with these ideas… but not many people discuss the link. It’s a silent market.

 

Silence and changing things. Talking about music from the 1980s in Holland, I was reading this book by Jouke Turpijn, 80’s Dilemma. He doesn’t know much about the underground music and I’ll mail him on this but he says one really good thing; he calls the process of looking back from now, the “feest de vervreemding.” A celebration of strangeness; where you have this thing where all different groups from an era form that era, and you can’t sum up eras by picking and choosing what you want when you look back.

 

Rob: Especially not in Holland; and you should also note that the linear development of history, the modernistic interpretations of history ends more of less with the era of punk music. Round that time, for instance in fashion; the re-use of all the 1950s clothing. It is in the way the start of post modernism. It began to appear in the art world, with lots of young painters using old paintings. And I saw it for the first time really happening with Eddie de Clerq, who started out doing parties [note: in De Brakke Grond]. He was working in a fashion boutique in the Hartenstraat, Lady Day, and he started to do parties, and it was at the height of John Travolta and “Saturday Night Fever”, 1977-78. These parties were incredible because it was disco, and everyone was dressing up. You say gay men in strange outfits and ladies in plastic and everything was exuberant. Then there came one guy and I remember that moment with the clarity of day. And he went with a white tee-shirt and a normal pair of Levis. And he was the centre of attention. You know why? Because he was the counterpoint! He had the attention in contrast with all the other guys who were fashionably dressed. The guy was doing something not original. And for that reason he was doing something even more original, you know?! (Rob bangs the table). This was the moment I think that post modernism started [note: Rob probably means in Holland, for him] and this was shock and I remember this shock. And punk music and wild painting did the same kind of thing.

…And there is a different kind of history that starts to be written. It’s not like Mondrian any more where he starts by painting an apple tree and you make it easier and easier, and you got a square composition… that is to say, modernism in a tea cup, you understand? But this whole postmodern idea came up, and it is a fact of life that we have in the experience of time. Where a guy with a mobile telephone in say India can still walk through a Stone Age environment, you understand? There are different times moving next to each other. That was really new, and not happening before the end of the 70s. This is really from what happens now. And those different time levels and the nonlinear elements of history is one of the main aspects now. That you can quote who you want…

 

Even more divide and rule. Because you don’t have a high critical theory any more, you don’t have a Walter Benjamin or Adorno anymore, who would say “I’m telling you now, what is good and what is bad.” People would never dare.

 

Rob: You know why? Because your judgement is the judgement that you form in a specific place in a specific moment of time. And you see that with human things. You know you love brown skin; you are tanned by the sun? This is now a way to look rich, you can afford a trip abroad. In the past people used to work on the land. And being brown was an expression of no money because you had to work outside. And being white was an expression of riches. And now it’s the opposite. So we see that there is not a defined significance of meaning that our perception has and I think therefore, people don’t judge like before. You mentioned the Frankfurt School. You see what happens in the end with that kind of philosophy and how its development is contrary to its original meaning (laughs) and therefore the effects are negative, even with the positive judgements [sic] that were at the start of it.

…So I think the most… ja… there is no dominant line of thinking, you have dominant thinkers. I think this whole period of post modernism is also very dangerous this idea of anything goes, “do as thou wilt…”

Rob_Scholte_in_Reproductie_Verplicht_a_film_by_Ger_Poppelaars_1986Rob Scholte in “Reproductie Verplicht”, a film by Ger Poppelaars

 

That still fits perfectly with the Dutch thing of “don’t stick your head up in the cornfield” doesn’t it [note: here I mean dovetails, complements]

 

Rob: That’s the bad side of that time I helped to create. There is now a website called pomo news [note: http://www.pomonieuws.nl/] and it shows the bad side effects of post modernism. And I see the same. Maybe it’s one of the reasons I stopped using the media. So of course after the attack there was a lot of media attention that had no interest to me as it had nothing to do with my art or anything else and I decided to stop this Warhol idea that everybody has to be famous. I am far more interested in the Banksy idea of how to be anonymous. How to live with the fact that you’re famous, and how the visual element of your fame allows you to exist, or can you exist without being observed, and that is for me very much the subject of my work and my life nowadays. So I had to react to the flip side of postmodernism, shall we say.

 

So, anonymity…

 

Rob: We at that time admired The Residents, of course… because the Residents did exactly that! There was no personality cult, not at all… and this will in the future also have importance, also because they were the first to do it.

 
Actually I will tell you a funny story, another Bunnymen story, about the Residents. About Will Sergeant the guitarist, the band were on tour in America and Will and a mate found out where the Residents were, their headquarters or recording studios. So they went down, and Will found the eyeball heads lying on a table, and they put them on, and then felt freaked because there was no one there, and it was too much of a freaky trip, or a set up… So them getting freaked out by the fact no-one was there, is a bit postmodern!
 
… So this anonymous thing is very interesting too, because right now I’m trying to tell a story and trying to find out academically what happened [note: about ULTRA], at the point it is being written up again. My main argument, at this point, [note: in my thesis investigation] is because of the situations and conditions in Holland it was impossible for any sort of worth to be given to this scene.

 

Rob: Of course because there’s no personality cult, there’s no description, there’s no history, no personal history…

 

And no industry backing you. So the two issues, the context, and the aesthetics are absent.

 

Rob: And that’s important, it’s fucking important!

 

The two have to come together to make it work. But now, just like a mouse in a corner and someone shouts “kill it, we’ve got to kill it”, the attention comes round, and this big thing, the internet, and the original actors, and the actors in charge of cultural taste in this country all turn round and fight over it, so say “this is what it was, and this is the worth we give it to the society.” So when you asked me earlier about what this scene was worth and I said there was a then and now situation, I think “this” [note: I mean the “action” I just described] is the “now” part. It’s happening a lot in Britain to things like Factory Records. The Dutch want to look back now, you can see this with that Ramses Shaffey programme and the Johan Cruyff programme, and they can turn round and make – in my opinion, very facile, easy judgements about stuff within living memory, and you think, “why don’t you just be… honest?”

 

Rob: Because our whole present day society is built on those lies. Because once you start shaking the base, the whole thing comes down. And the whole thing unravels at enormous speed. I mean, for me, Alvin Toffler, he wrote that book, “Future Shock” [note: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Future_Shock] and also another book, “The Third Way” and it is about the way society is controlled. You have three ways. So, you have money, you buy opinions, or people, you pay them and you keep them quiet. Or you use a gun, you kill them, you threaten them and you use aggression; or – and the third power more or less – equal to money and force, is knowledge. So if you want to keep people in control, you control their knowledge. And the problem we have now in the Netherlands is we are a global village. I can for instance, see a border incident in Ukraine; I can see the live action stream on the computer. So, what Toffler says more or less, is that all the pyramids of power will be shaken and come down by this global community we have. And the longer they keep the internet moving as it is now, and I mean they try to have all kinds of influence in trying to control it… anyway the knowledge moving will bring down all the systems that are built on these three bases; money, weapons and withholding knowledge. And that is happening now and that is close to what you have just told.

 

I get the feeling it’s better to do small things now even if it’s dismissed.

 

Rob: For sure, stay out of Facebook, but that’s really strange nowadays. When people discuss my historical position or what I’ve done with my art and my music, I always say, we are pre-internet. What ULTRA is, is a pre-internet movement; and that is very, very important. So as a characteristic, it has something local, it has something small, it has something that is not spreading like wildfire, [sic] because it couldn’t spread like wildfire, because you had to invite people by mail. In 1980s we had the first fax machine; ten years later we had the first email. But we are 1978, 1979, 1980. I mean we printed posters, and put them up in the city… So one of the characteristics of this ULTRA movement is the fact it’s not, and never has been connected to the World Wide Web. So the quality is not changed by the reproduction or the spread of the information. No it is pure, it is local, it is limited, it is human in a sense that it is just there if you’re there, and nothing else. And it is strange to see how very slowly, and this will take an enormous amount of time, this develops now [note: Rob means assimilation into an “internet sensibility”]. And the same with my art career, because my art career is before the internet even though in a way my art is about the internet, about reproduction about copyright and so on. But it cannot be described from within the social media. It cannot be described from within the actual work, because it was made outside it! So you can talk about it or make things and you can see that with the tour you guys organized in 2012. It is not a real social media event, though you can try to make it fit in the modern way but it does not! It does not!

 

That’s a very smart point, because the tours [note: Ultra Nieuwe tour in NL and the Minny Pops UK gigs] were attended by the few people who were genuinely curious and didn’t seem to have any idea that We pretty much sold out the two gigs in Manchester and London, but the first two gigs were really quiet in Sheffield and Leeds, still those who did turn up at the first two were really different, you looked at them and you thought, God where have you people been this last 30 years?

 

Rob: Yeah, a sort of disconnection. Or fallen outside the social media system.

 
When we first did it, I admit, it felt incredibly odd to get hold of this thing and put it into the context of Facebook, Twitter, it just didn’t feel right…

 

Rob: You know why? Because; everything we did is characterized by the absence of reproduction! We were not played on the radio, we were not written about, we were not advertised we were not distributed we were not managed… everything was in our own hands at the time and we did not have to worry about the number of likes our Facebook page has.

 

Because your essence was not broken down into pixels and spread about.

 

Rob: You’re not reproduced in the sense of Benjamin. [Note: Rob means Walter Benjamin]. And that is very strange to see what happens with old timers like Ronald and me, to see our music selling on the internet, you know… download an album for 10 euros. It is strange, it is not fitting.

 

The one thing that I actually like about ULTRA is that it exists in the mists…

 

Rob: And it will stay in the mists, just like my own art career. It will last until people scan in all the archives of all the old newspapers, before 1998. And for my art everything is still not scanned in. And if we talk about history wider why not start at 1980 or so on? You understand? So it [note: Rob’s work] is still part of this Middle Ages style of reproduction. Interesting eh? (Rob leans back and smiles).

 

Just think, that whole printing media in the hands of Luther started an 80 years’ war…. (Laughs)

 

Rob: Yeah yeah yeah! You also see a magazine like VINYL, it is printed media and you really wonder how many people read that?

 

I was reading Harold’s book about a meeting of the editors and they had a max run of 15,000 a year in 1982.

Rob: And how many readers is that compared to an internet?

 
Especially if you throw half the magazines away.

 

Rob: That is interesting also. What remains, the visible remains. Tapes, maybe one or two video tapes left over… And you have to physically construct your information from that. So there’s almost no information on the members, nobody knows who these people are, where they came from or what they did!

 

You could almost feel on the tour, especially at the London gig, the internet turning round and looking at this thing.

 

Rob: It will come!

This interview transcript is published in Luifabriek with the kind permission of Rob Scholte. Our sincere thanks go to Rob, who retains the full right at all times to alter this transcript.

More Young Lions material can be found here.

http://soundblog.bandcamp.com/album/through-training-and-battle-1979-1980
http://433rpm.blogspot.nl/2007/12/young-lions-small-world-tape-amphibious.html

http://soundblog.bandcamp.com/album/no-news-strange-rumours

Tags: , , , , ,