Incendiary listen to music with Rats on Rafts

I don’t think that a lot of people will understand what we’ve done, but you know what, this is a record that will survive, long after all the other stuff around has been forgotten. I am convinced of that.

I don’t think that a lot of people will understand what we’ve done, but you know what, this is a record that will survive, long after all the other stuff around has been forgotten. I am convinced of that.


I’m sat in singer David Fagan’s flat in North Rotterdam, a quiet, solid, working/lower middle class suburb, “drinking tea and talking” in time-honoured rock and roll tradition. David’s a friend, but there is another reason I’m here; we’re talking about the forthcoming Rats on Rafts LP, Tape Hiss. The record is an absolute riot; tough, uncompromising and belonging to no particular time or scene, it is one that is bound to split opinion. What some will see as commercial suicide – unsuitable for ‘consumption’ this digitally processed, nanosecond age – will be hailed by others as a brilliant affirmation of what made rock music such a durable and fertile medium. We will see. In any case, the new singles / harbingers of doom that are 1-6-8 and Last Days on Earth (at least I think that’s correct, sod it if I’m wrong) are going to be released soon. Tin hats on.

David is an intense and thoughtful chap, and, though always polite and attentive and a very likeable cove, he is the antithesis of the music imedia robot who will trot out prepared texts or recycled attitudes. As ever with any conversation with David, we start to talk about records. Of all those who play lip service to the new interest in vinyl, I think the lads from Rats on Rafts are the only ones who take more than a passing interest in the medium. It’s not about cool. They know the sleeve notes, they talk about the artwork. They seem to spend their lives round listening to records and talking about records. And somehow, because of this total immersion, they seem to live in another space entirely than their peers. Bassist Florian turns up, quietly sits down and has a brew. We listen into a BBC Radiophonic workshop Horror compilation (1 euro) and David’s new interest, Lee Hazlewood and Scott Walker. Scott 1 if you must know. He even shows me a copy of Climate of Hunter he’s found (10 euros).

And we get chatting. Funnily (and I can’t remember why but we do) we start chatting about the madcap poets from Rotterdam. There’s a long tradition of these addled geniuses, the gifted flâneurs who paced the streets of Rotterdam, soaking up the atmosphere, gin, jazz, speed, smack and beer in the city’s quirky boozers. Jules Deelder, Frans Vogel, Cor Vaandrager, Riekus Waskowsky…
David places a copy of CB Vaandrager’s collection, De Reus van Rotterdam (the Giant of Rotterdam) on the table.

IN: There was a bit of competition between the two wasn’t there?

DF: Vaandrager used to say everything else was shit. And he’d be very jealous of other people. Jules Deelder as well. Deelder’s poems are ok, but his literature is not that interesting to me really. As a person he is. But not necessarily for the literature he’s done.

IN: He’s a door kicker a showman, the hawker – someone who lets people into this other world. The world of Vogel and the rest.

DF: And Loesberg. I really want to read that book…

IN: Enige Defecten?

DF: Is that the one that has the same story five times or something? I’d love to get that. I think it’s very rare.

IN: Lebowski republished it recently.

DF: Did they? I got the first Vaandrager book. I got that from Kees de Koning from Top Notch. Kees de Koning is actually a really big Vaandrager fan.

IN: Rats have similarities to these writers. You’re like cats, wandering round Rotterdam, marking off your territories, a bit like these poets.

DF: I do sit in my house a lot these days! I’m not aware of those connections. I’ve never really thought about that (laughs). But I do like what they did and it’s something that captures the character of this city in a way that a lot of musicians have done with other cities in other countries. I think that Kiem was the only band that really made a music that captured the city. And the Rondos had something to say about Rotterdam but the other groups didn’t really get it.

IN: How do you see The Rondos?

DF: I just listen to their music. I don’t really think too much about them as people or their artistic side.

Florian: I’m interested in the Rondos as people and I’m interested in how they moved about the city, the things they made. I think they are really cool to be honest.

IN: They are a silent band for me. I’ve never really listened to them. It’s more about the stuff they do, their art statements; making all those cardboard tanks.

DF: These things are really nice, all these stories; and I really like the fact that they had a company and did loads of things, but at the end of their day I really like their music and that’s primarily why I like them. But there are more sides to The Rondos. They also released a lot of records, and Bunker, they are really great. But you’ll never find them. That’s the stupid thing.

Florian: All these small pressings.

DF: Yeah and it’s annoying. Only the collectors who pay loads and loads of money get them. And those kinds of people don’t even listen to those records. They just want them because they’re rare

IN: That’s the real bullshit about the vinyl revival isn’t it? Paying through the nose for the obscure stuff that’s now considered trendy. Things like The Ex’s early records going for small fortunes to the urban hip. I saw a copy of Minny Pops’ Poste Restante for something like 50 euros in a shop in Leiden recently. 50 fucking euros!

And no fucker’s going to actually listen to it. And anyway you can listen to it for nothing  online… or on a cheap CD comp or something. The Ex’s LPs are available for a good price on CD. Nothing wrong with CDs.

DF: You can see that really quickly in Rotterdam. I do remember when we started collecting Kiem’s records, they were 5 euros a piece, maybe 10 euros, tops. And after we did the Money Man single, our friends were buying them, just a very small group of people really. And suddenly the prices for them went up to 20 euros. I also saw this with other Rotterdam bands that everyone had forgotten. I once went into a store, and they had the Willy Nilly single. And they’d stuck it in the window and it was 20 euros. Luckily we already had it, but the owner of the shop pointed that out to us, like it was an achievement (laughs). It is a rare single, but you don’t really need to pay 20 euros for it.

…There was this particular winter where we all bought the first four Echo and the Bunnymen LPs, because this shop had piles of them, and they were all 5 euros. We bought ’em, us and all our friends. And I remember being in the shop and the owner turning round to someone and saying “this is so strange those Bunnymen records are all selling and I don’t know where it’s coming from.” And suddenly he got a new bunch of them in and guess what the bloody price went up (laughs). And it was us four and maybe a friend buying them for us. And they all went to us! (Laughs).

IN: Let’s talk about your record then. Even though I’ve only heard it on a file, I was thinking this is bonkers! It sounded like an outer space rock record.

Florian: Rats in Space!

IN: Yeah! It sounds like nothing else around. It sounds like you’ve left this country in a rocket and you’ve slammed the door on the way out.

DF: It does sound different… (Laughs) And I guess the b-side does sound like Hawkwind.

IN: I thought it was a scally Hawkwind or a scally Sun Ra. I remember we were chatting about this and you said, Killing Joke with flange.

DF: Yeah early Killing Joke, but it’s different as well. It’s less straightforward than Killing Joke. But yeah; it’s very different to the last one. And it was a lot of work as well.

IN: Why? Because it sounds like a record in a hurry, and I know how good you are at getting things in 1 or 2 takes.
Mainly because we had a deadline… Otherwise, the record would have to be finished in the summer and that would have been a nightmare. And we were working on tape. So if something breaks, or the tape snaps, or there’s one dodgy cable somewhere, that can cost you a day finding out what’s happening. We were doing different mixes.  We have two recorders but we have 16 tracks and they were linked with a time device. So you’d rewind one recorder and then the other one would only  lock on after the other had stopped. So it was a very slow process; so you were waiting for two tapes and when you press play they have to lock into each other, so that takes another few seconds.

…And then when you’re mixing that thing, God… I mean the b side of the record, that 22 minutes of music was done in one take. And then we decided to cut them up and mix them separately. And yer man Niek Driesschen, he cut the tapes brilliantly so you can’t hear it. I guess it was tough looking for the right sound for every song and tried to make them fit again. It had to sound like us live.

IN: You built it like a rocket! Like one of those Soviet Space  programs from the 50s, this guy the Chief Designer. He was so important not many knew his name. But he built the early Sputniks. And in the Soviet Union of the late 40s and early 50s if you fuck up you die. So Korolev builds these rockets in quick time, over and over. With no messing about. And that process is a bit like your record! You it’s like this record; you chop and change and make this thing that is looking to be tough enough to take all the shit.

DF: I guess it was… ach, we had to finish it because we just wanted to get rid of it and start something new.

Florian: It was taking too long.

DF: We kept having these breaks and when we came back we needed to be in the mood, but we were a step further away from  it every time we came back. So then we all took a decision to finish it. Sprint to the end. And I’m happy now. Now we’re really curious to see what people think of it, and… (starts giggling) I think I already know.

IN: This record will split people right down the middle.

DF: Which is what the first record should have done in the first place.

This is what the new record sounds erm looks like.

IN: Another thing I really like is the fact that you had Rat Poison at a position on the record that will drive people mad.

DF: The loud song?

IN: Yeah, it’s like something off Tago Mago, something like Peking O,  or Aumgn which throws everything off kilter. If you’d have started the record with that you’d have had people turning the thing off instantly, a sort of My Bloody Valentine Loveless moment to mythologise (laughs).

DF: Yeah, lots of people know the first song (Sleep Little Child). And the reactions are so funny. One of our closest friends Paul, we played that record to him. He came into the studio to listen in, and when we played him the record his face went very serious. Normally Paul is very enthusiastic and he lets you know very quickly what he thinks. And normally he would say something like “Argh it’s great man!” But this time he just sat there totally silent. And he said something like, “it started out a little weird but I now like it.” I think it’s a record that needs a few plays. The first record he never played, even though he was at all our gigs… because he thought it wasn’t interesting.

IN: That’s the dichotomy right there isn’t it? Rats live and Rats on record. The first record is a nice easy way into the band, but you go to a gig and it’s totally different. And I still think that people who buy the LP and then see you live can’t deal with the gap…

DF: And yeah, that happens the other way around. A lot of people see us play, buy the record and are disappointed by the record. That doesn’t happen with the last single, Powder Monkey (also on the new LP). It’s better to have the record sounding a bit too nasty than a bit too nice.

IN: Talking of the nasty / nice thing why have you buried your voice on this LP?
DF: I think we were doing the same thing on the first record, but I think we didn’t know that we were doing that on the first record. (Laughs) That was the first thing that we fully produced ourselves. And no-one was around to tell us what to do, which was really great but at the same time we were looking to work out what we wanted. And we didn’t have a lot of experience in the studio. But at least we did what we wanted to do. I always thought my voice was buried on it. On this record I still think it is very loud as well. I remember when we played the Powder Monkey single mixes. Florian and Joris immediately said the voice was too soft and I really had no idea. But it sorted itself out.

IN: Let’s talk about the ending of the record. The ending is incredble the way it builds up as one shifting piece. I can’t think of many examples. I think Abbey Road is one and another that sounds similar is Neu! 2.

DF: That’s the record they made because they didn’t have any money isn’t it…

…It’s just music really at the end of the day. It’s like Scott Walker isn’t it. But yeah… I think Joris and Arnoud like Neu! and Can and Amon Duul II.

IN: Yeah you can hear that with the second side of Yeti, with the long drawn out kick offs. But are people ready for another take on side two of Yeti? Does that bother you, that this LP will split people?

DF: Well, it bothers me that people are stupid in that way. it’s so obvious that this record is more interesting than the first one, even if you don’t get the sound or like the songs… and even I can see that we’ve developed and made a step forward whereas a lot of people in other bands would just …

Florian: …Do the same thing.

DF: We have just gone a step deeper now. But it’s something that people won’t want to deal with, with us. It’s already happening I think.

…And the main problem is that this is an LP that you have to listen to from start to finish. And only then do all the puzzle pieces fit together, and you can then see it as a work.

IN: Talking about LPs as works in their own right, AS music, is “over” David! (Everyone laughs) All I hear about nowadays is news over devices or mediums that music is pushed through, or is related to, as another information device or information that can then help sell the medium! So things like WhatsApp or digi-wristbands or streaming. All these people going ON and ON about Spotify! Or when people do talk about the music it’s these indigestible nuggets of reheated pr info with a million adjectives and references to bands that are trendy. It’s so timid, and passive. And thick, in a strange hyper-developed way. People acting out parts the technological age demands from them…

…I may be an old and out of touch cunt talking about what things sound like, and how it affects you as a sentient human being.

DF: You know, my favourite hobby, even more than making music, is listening to music. I think that’s what we four all enjoy the most. We just suit down and listen to a record. We take a few records to Arnoud’s place or Florian’s place and we play them and just listen to them.

Florian: And don’t talk…

DF: Well we eventually drink a beer and start talking! (Laughs)

IN: Let’s talk about Rotterdam. Rotterdam is such a schizophrenic city, it can be dead hard and friendly, a multicultural city that backed Pim Fortuyn… it’s got a lot of conflict and contradiction running through it. And in a way you’re quite like that as well!

DF: Yeah that’s true because we know all sides of that because my mother is from Ireland and my father would have voted for Pim Fortuyn. And you meet a lot of hard people here. I think Newcastle’s similar because people can be very harsh and hard but at the same time be extremely friendly and helpful. Maybe that’s an extreme example because Dutch people aren’t so expressive. And yes a lot of foreigners moved into the city, but it’s always been like that because it’s a harbour city.

…And there are a lot of people, white Dutch, “echte Rotterdammers” who moved out of the city because they wanted somewhere to bring up their kids, and the city centre had nowhere for their kids to play, so outside, in places like Prinsenland – where I grew up – Ommoord zevenkamp, Hoek van Holland, Maasluis, Spijkernisse…. they all seemed more interesting to them ‘cos they’d get a bigger house, and maybe a garden. And when they moved there, a lot of Turkish, Morroccnas, Surinamese and Vietnamese people moved into the city centre. And these original inhabitants who moved out start complaining about that, saying stuff like, “oh they’ve taken over our city”. And I have to remind them, “you moved out, and why do you think something is a problem when you never see these people anyway? You don’t communicate with them, the only contact you have with them is when you hear about them on TV. Pim Fortuyn was different in that respect because he lived in the city.   

IN: Pim Fortuyn is such a weird character. Because if you heard him, you’d think this is an extremely intelligent man. He came over as pretty sympathetic, charming and funny. If you didn’t know anything about is politics, you’d think he’d be the classic lovable urban gay guy that would normally be held up as an example of multiculturalism, you know his multi-racial boyfriends… And then you heard about his politics…

DF: I think Fortuyn was so passionate about what he was doing that he lost sight of the consequences of what he was saying. He was the first person that made me think that politics could be interesting. I used to think, who is this guy? Everybody was talking about him. And you’d be interested about what he was going to say because he was honest and passionate about his beliefs. Obviously I didn’t agree with him at all, but it wasn’t like watching an idiot like Wilders. I mean Wilders’ views are just completely retarded.

IN: Let’s talk about the record again. The rhythms are pounding on this new LP.

Florian: We jammed a lot, all these long jams where we were looking for freedom in the music, we wanted to find some sort of contentment from these long jams.

IN: What’s it like playing with Joris? I stood on stage doing that video with you, (soon to appear in the Daily Indie) and the whole stage was moving! You can get seasick  on that stage. He hammers the drums doesn’t he.

DF: He always plays really different when he plays live. Louder. I think he gets really nervous.

(All laugh)

…Sometimes we have to say to him slow down… He’s like… he just turns up, he plays his drums and that’s that. He’s not really bothered with the mechanics of it all. I mean he’s interested in what we’re doing, but he’s like…. you’d go into the studio and we’d be mixing the record and he’ll say, “I’ll hear it when it’s finished.” He’d say stuff like “I’m no use to you here in the studio, I’ll just get bored.” Occasionally he listens and he likes it. He’s very straight forward like that, and he’s never any trouble.


IN: Does he still ride his brummer down to the Hoek van Holland to work?

DF: No man, he lives in Schiedam.

(Everyone laughs. This Schiedam thing must be a bit of an in joke.)

DF: Did you hear that story about his father being the bird man? His father saves crows from being shot. They have this really strange law that you can kill crows. They say these crows are a pest and upsetting the balance of nature in that area. So there are a few guys around the Hoek van Holland shooting crows and they often get the wrong birds. And his father tries to stop them shooting these crows. There’s a photo in the Algemeen Dagblad of his dad holding up a dead crow… So he’s the bird man!

IN: Another angle to throw at you. Rats on Rafts; the scally stuff, the football and the music, the working class stuff. It’s still a defining image of you isn’t it?

DF: Mainly because of you I think! (Laughs). People like Scouse Paul got into us ‘cos of you. He still comes to our gigs when we play round Leiden.

IN: But you do like it though, the footy? Excelsior isn’t it?

DF: Yeah, Excelsior and Feyenoord. But it’s only me really.

Florian: I have nothing to do with football at all, man… (smiles)

IN: Rotterdammers who don’t like football, are there many of them?

(All laugh)

DF: Well a lot of Rotterdammers who make music don’t like football. I noticed that when I started a band, that anyone who played a guitar, or played music… none of them liked football.  So naturally my own interests in football got buried a bit. But everyone in Rats on Rafts has different interests. I have got the football and I really like cooking. And Joris is into games and horror movies and stuff. Arnoud is into running and super foods.


DF: No, joking. But Arnoud is running a marathon. You need to get rid of your issues with music somehow.

Florian: You’ve got to get out of the Rats bubble.

DF: So you can keep on having fun when you’re making music. I mean I can listen to music all day. As long as it’s not Rats on Rafts!

IN: And we are sat here listening to wild music. (We are sat listening to Chrome.) Lots of other bands just play scene records.
We like different stuff but we all seem to like the same stuff. But we’ve always been about digging. I used to hate reggae music, like Bob Marley. But then Florian played me the Congos and then I really heavily got into reggae music. And Arnoud also hated reggae music but Florian and Joris used to like reggae. And eventually Arnoud and me started fanatically collecting reggae and we couldn’t get enough! (Laughs). So we always take note of what people listen to because we then catch up. We like different stuff and recently, we’ve been listening to lots of Scott Walker, Van Dyke Parks, and more Scott Walker. And lots of diverse African stuff.

Florian: We all like Van Dyke Parks, and Lee Hazlewood.

DF: When you have new interests, new worlds open up.

IN: I like checking out how cities react to music. You can hear certain attitudes from certain cities. There are lots of good things coming from Eindhoven and Nijmegen for example that have a particular mood. Things like Korm Platsics and Barreuh or Norwegianism, they seem to be really into experiment and abstract, jazzy ambient stuff, whether electronic or bands, like Dead Neanderthals. And Groningen’s always a guitar city isn’t it.

DF: Groningen’s always been a music city. But there’s no real tradition in Dutch music. Especially when you compare it to other countries, such as Ireland. I mean you know what Irish music, or Trinidad music is about. And if you think of the Netherlands you go back to German-style schlager or chansons.

Florian: Frans Bauer… “La-la-la-la-la!”

IN: Ach come on Frans Bauer is a genius.

DF: You know I think he’s a really nice man. I’d be happy to meet him.

IN: I’d much rather listen to Frans Bauer than Herman Brood. I think Brood’s music is ridiculously overrated.

DF: Oh yeah. Definitely. I really, really don’t like his music. I think he’s famous for everything except his music. Someone at the shop I work at said that he should have never made music but should have started painting straight away. But he played in Cuby and the Blizzards as well and that was all right. I’ve heard that Herman Brood was ‘something’ that was marketed. Good management with good people and good ideas behind him. I think it’s ridiculous that someone like that is seen as “real” rock and roll in this country. There’s absolutely nothing punk about Herman Brood.

IN: It’s cabaret.

DF: Yeah. And Nina Hagen. Hagen had that thing with her voice didn’t she.

(I imitate the Nina Hagen squeak)

DF: Yeah, and now write a song please… (Laughs)

IN: Drugs innit

DF: Yeah. Ah, it’s the same with bands that you meet on the road. Bands that are only into drugs are terribly boring people. Really boring.

IN: Tell me about your drugs… It’s like the Robyn Hitchcock song. You heard it?

DF: No.

(Fuck it, this interview is long anyway, it won’t be ruined by some Robyn Hitchcock lyrics. Who knows it may come as a welcome relief.)

DF: He used to take drugs didn’t he? He’s a strange man.

IN: The Soft Boys were brilliant.

DF: I remember seeing him for the first time in a Syd Barrett documentary and I thought he was really annoying and normal. But later on I discovered that there was this totally different side to him.

IN: Let’s talk more about Rotterdam. You’ve always been vocal about the city’s architecture. You liked the old Central Station didn’t you?

DF: Yeah. I like ugly buildings.

IN: Do you think there’s some sort of PR power game in Rotterdam at the moment?

DF: I don’t really know what they’re doing. I do think they are thinking really big. I have seen all these quotes in these glossy magazines saying that Rotterdam’s one of the best cities in the world, and that you should go and visit. I heard a lot of money was put into that. Hugo Borst says that he welcomes tourists to Rotterdam, but you know I really don’t want tourists who come to the city. I want them to stay away! (Laughs) I want them to go to Amsterdam. I want them to go there and smoke their weed and get conned on every corner of the street and go back home. And you don’t want that happening in Rotterdam. Because that’s what makes Amsterdam really annoying, I think. Too many bullshitters, too many tourists. I always feel that Amsterdam will rip you off at every corner.

IN: It’s all about your money, that town. Not about you, but your money. Remember that time when we first went to De Wereld Draait Door back in 2011, and we were all concerned we wouldn’t get fed?

DF: We did get a lovely dinner though! (Laughs) That day I was very nervous about everything. But I remember that I had duck. And you know when we went back (on DWDD) and did that 3fm award thing, we were all motivated by the fact that we could have dinner there (laughs). We could have this really cool food. We did ask if we could take everyone to have a meal and they were really nice about it and let us eat there. (Laughs) I had some fancy fish or something.

IN: The only problem backstage over there is that they have those tiny beer bottles that wouldn’t even serve as a mouthwash. Still, while you lot were sweating on stage I was backstage watching the football sat drinking with Wim van Hanegem and Johnny Rep.

DF: I went into the dressing room and I saw Wim van Hanegem. And he saw me and I gave him a thumbs up and he winked; and that meant a lot. And Chris (van Velde, Rats’ sound engineer and guiding light) went up to him and asked him for his autograph. Those are the real people you want to meet though.

Sparta & Ajax fans, please turn away. They’ve scratched Feyenoord on the record. Or buy the CD version.

(The phone goes. It’s Jaap from The Homesick; they are going to turn up at David’s and then record at Chris van Velde’s studio. There is a strong bond between these Klei-niet-Zand-Frisian teenagers and Rats.)

IN: OK back to the record and the wider, shiny happy world of Dutch rock music (giggles). I thought it was funny that there’s this new “Dutch Garage” tape being brought out by Burger Records with the help of whosoever in the Netherlands. With acts like Jacco Gardner, Earth Mk II, or The Homesick, who aren’t garage are they? Unless garage means something else nowadays, or something different in the Netherlands.  Ach it’s good news and I really hope it cracks the market for all concerned; as there are a number of bands and people on there I really like. But I find your absence instructive here. You actually have made something that fits into the “classic” garage template; independent, home-made, garage ethos of – well – a classic psych/garage band that would be on Nuggets or Rubble or Pebbles. And you are not on it. It’s a bit like Banquo’s ghost. (Laughs)

DF: Yeah… I can’t speak for the tape – I’ve got no views on it one way or another – but as regards how we make things, well, don’t underestimate that recording this record the way we did is very important to us. We’ve wanted to do this since we were small, but we’ve never had the possibility to do this. But that’s a part of a process of making something, of making art, and you use that to your advantage. I don’t think that a lot of people will understand what we’ve done, but you know what, this is a record that will survive, long after all the other stuff around has been forgotten. I am convinced of that.

IN: I’m only trying to wind you up. But yeah this LP is like a capsule from a Sputnik. Rats in Space! The space thing again. And you could take it further. Like a cockroach it will survive in a corner after the satellite wipes out mankind; long after the bigger lifeforms have copped it. (Laughs)

DF: I’m sure that if we had played the game from the beginning, in that “Dutch way” and been poppy, or shut our mouths, we’d have taken a different path regarding which label we’d be on, and maybe be on that new Burger Records tape. But would we really want that? It’s not for us. I’m happy for those who are on the tape, especially The Homesick, but I’ve never been much into being mates with people in bands, or in the music industry. The only Dutch band that have struck me in recent years as being extraordinary are The Homesick. There are a few people you meet that are really nice; like Harry Merry of course, who is brilliant, and Niek Hilkmann and Ricky de Sire, but these are all people who will never be heard anyway – certainly in the way they should be. Niek Hilkmann does some very poppy and clever things but no-one wants to put out his record.

IN: And Jacco Weener.

DF: I find Jacco really weird on one level. I really like Jacco but I can imagine that people won’t. (All laugh)

IN: Jacco is such a nice guy, it’s so interesting to see the difference between some of his art and his personality off stage.

DF: Oh yeah, when I speak to him he’s a really intelligent, nice guy. He’s got a fascination for Tiny Tim. And so do we. We talk about Tiny Tim a lot.

Florian: He’s our inspiration!

DF: My girlfriend got me the second Tiny Tim LP. Have you seen the sleeve? It’s mad. I also borrowed Metal Machine Music from Chris van Velde.

IN: It’s a great record to deejay with, stick it between other things, making mad, contrasting stuff.

Florian: That’s weird man…

DF: No man, I think it’s great! It is not as extreme as everyone thinks. I think it’s great. If you listen, you hear all these changes in the guitar and all of that. When I really like a record I want to know exactly what’s going on. People should really try to make up what they think of music themselves. It’s mad what happens when people don’t listen but listen to what others say about a record, rather than listening themselves. You know recently we released The Moon is Big in Germany and it’s doing really well. And someone found out that we supported Franz Ferdinand. And now it’s going about that we sound like Franz Ferdinand, I mean… (Laughs)

…Journalists do copy each other though. I may be naiive, but I think it’s a little bit strange that as a writer you have to first read what you are going to write about. And if you don’t have a strong opinion on something. Say you are listening to a record and you really don’t know what to think of it. If you said that and did it well, then that’s a good review in my opinion. But it seems more and more that journalists tend to read other reviews, just to have references and just to write something. Just to make content on time. Instead of playing something a few more times.

IN: All journalists are untrustworthy, even me.

(All laugh)

DF: Ah I think we are different because we don’t take that stuff to heart too much. It annoys us for a bit, for sure, but then we let it go. We tend to isolate ourselves from the music industry. We don’t have a lot of friends in that world. And that’s been better for us. We just want to make our music, listen to music, and play our gigs. And you don’t have to be friends with everybody because of that. We don’t have any friends!

(All laugh)

After this the three lads from The Homesick turn up to mix the single and the day dissolves into the magical world of the Dokkum trio. We listen to the new track Rats have done, with Arnoud singing, a cover of Some Velvet Morning, which sounds like a car crash of Toy Dolls’ take on Nellie the Elephant and side one of Bowie’s Low. Trust me, it’s incredible. We eat frikandel and cold pancakes with kroepoek. We are instructed in the ways of de Klok beer. We all agree that the hipsters should keep away from Febo and Smullers. We listen to the new Homesick single, being made, analog style. We go to Chris van Velde’s LGM studio, where David is producing the single. It’s instructive to see the band who do everything digitally reacting to the sounds that this recording process makes. They want it to be a crashing mix of pop and lofi – like the wilder elements of their live sound, as tough as the new Rats LP. We eat Chinese and listen to stories about taking up the cobbles in Dokkum and tractor ram raiding. If Rats have done anything that’s 100% ‘good’ in their tumultuous “career” (in my mind anyway) it’s probably befriending this bunch. The night runs on into a typically out there concert at WORM, where we hear brain music from Belgium. It’s all too much. Like the kid who passes out at a party after eating all the jelly, I call it a day.


My thanks to Shalita Dietrich, who sat in and snapped the pics!