Interview with Progpower's René Janssen
by DPRP's Dries Dokter
Normally we interview the people that everyone knows, the people on stage, the artists, the band members. This time we took the opportunity to talk to some one that plays a role behind the scenes, not actually on the stage. Someone that does play an important role in the prog (metal) scene. 10 years ago he started organizing ProgPower Europe and this year the festival is celebrating it's 10th anniversary. A good reason to interview René Janssen in our opinion. Of course René is not a stranger to us: he used to be a DPRP team member for 5 years.
DPRP: First of all, although you have been acting behind the scenes for such a long time can you please tell us something about yourself?
Well, where should I start. My name is René Janssen and I was born on 17 july 1970. Since almost 12 years I live in the beautiful small town called Baarlo, before I lived in a town about 12 kilometers from Baarlo, called Panningen. But my wife (Claudia) comes from Baarlo so I decided to move, just before we married in 1997. We have 1 little girl called Kim (for those interested, she has her own website, www.kimjanssen.eu) and a second child will see daylight early December. I work as an account manager for Gemeenteweb (www.gemeenteweb.nl), a company that develops internet software for the local government. Besides music, my hobbies are playing soccer, hang around in the pubs and from time to time I travel a lot. But the most important is that I try to have fun in whatever I do, life is too short not to have fun!
DPRP: Can you please tell us, how it all got started and how you started with Progpower?
I will try to keep this short. On the internet there was a discussion on a forum that there was no festival fully concentrated on the progressive metal scene. So with a few people we decided to go organize such an event, that is how ProgPower was born. Of course we had many meetings before we really started, but the internet is where it all began.
DPRP: Are there other people involved that were there from the start?
Yes, Martijn Balsters is in the organization from the first minute. Martijn is a musician himself (he plays in the band The Dust Connection) so he takes care of all the technical details for all the bands. Since 5 or 6 years, I am not 100% sure, Christian Rademaker joined us after Annemiek van Dijk decided to quit because of personal reasons. Christian has done a lot of work for Edge of Time, a magazine that does not exist anymore, so he is probably not that unknow to many people. In fact we are very satisfied with the situation we have now, the 3 of us take care of the organization, in close cooperation with all the people from Sjiwa. Without them it would be impossible to organize a festival like ProgPower.
DPRP: Why Progpower? What is your reason for it?
Since the first minute it was sure that the main focus was progressive metal, so when someone came up with the name ProgPower we immediately decided to take that name. It is very good description of what we offer, the more harder site of the prog scene.
DPRP: How much time are you spending on PP?
I have really no idea at all. It is something I am not busy with, it is a lot of time, that is for sure. But as long as I am having fun I will not complain.
DPRP: The first years progpower was in 013 Tilburg, why did you move to Baarlo? (what happened)? Why not another venue?
The first edition back in 1999 was in 013, Tilburg, that is true. Of course that was the perfect location, a brand new venue with a lot of possibilities. We had made some agreements with the venue, but after the festival the people from 013 disappointed us a lot. Because of that we lost a good sponsor and therefore we decided not to go back to 013. We discussed a lot what to do and I have had some meetings with a few venues. In the end we decided to organize the event in Baarlo, the venue had a good reputation and it was also completely rebuild. Also for financial reasons Sjiwa was a good choice, and above all this Baarlo is my hometown.
These days we are on a good shape with the people from 013 again, so there are no hard feelings anymore. But we will stay with Sjiwa now, else we might loose the atmosphere of ProgPower Europe and that is just what makes us different from other festivals.
DPRP: Could you imagine another place for PP EU?
After the first couple of years in Baarlo I could, but since we have improved the event a lot the last 3 years I donít think we ever will move. We have build up such an unique atmosphere, I donít think we will get this back in another town. And of course we know that there are many other places that are better reachable by public transport, we will not move from Baarlo because than we will loose the power of what we have now. And those of you who visit ProgPower for several years know what I mean.
DPRP: Whatís your opinion on the other PPís? (UK, Scandinavia, USA, us etc.)
I have been to the 2 previous editions of ProgPower UK before and we also went to Bristol this year, but unfortunately it was cancelled because of financial reasons (still we had a good time in Bristol at the Beerkeller, haha). The people who organized ProgPower in the UK are really great people and it is a shame that they had to cancel, but I know how much money they have lost, there was no other choice for them than canceling the event. Too bad. ProgPower Scandinavia sees the second edition this year, I am not sure if I will go this year because my wife is pregnant, but I definitely will go someday. I have never been to the USA, the main reason is that they book a lot of bands from Europe that we can see on many other events here in The Netherlands. But next year they also celebrate their 10th edition, so I better safe some money right now (laughs). I think it is really cool to see that there are some other ProgPowers around the world, we never thought this ever would happen. And who knows where it will end, maybe in the future there will be a ProgPower festival in Asia, Australia or South America, we will see.
DPRP: This years Symforce was rather heavy, what did you think of that?
To be honest, we we really surprised. Opeth and especially Textures are too heavy for an event like Symforce, or maybe they had changed their policy. It is good to see that more people try to promote the progscene, because it is still a small scene and it probably will ever be. But it would be not such a good idea if there will be too many festivals concentrating on the same scene. Luckily we are in touch with the organization of Symforce and they most likely will go back to the more softer side of the scene, like Symforce I.
DPRP: Do you think the market for prog(metal) concerts have changed over the years? How?
It has changed, at least in The Netherlands, and I am not sure if it is all that positive. Right now there are many prog concerts in our country, many many more than 10 years back. This means a growing interest in the progscene, but on the other hand if you look at the number of visitors on concerts you can ask yourself if there isnít an overkill. Because there are so many gigs in The Netherlands people do not want to travel more than half an hour anymore to see some bands. I am not sure how the situation is in other countries, but here in The Netherlands I personally think there is almost an overkill, so I am really wondering how the situation will be in about 10 years from now.
DPRP: What in your opinion is the influence of downloading and the internet on all that?
It definitely has changed the music business. As some of you probably know I also was the owner of DVS Records, the record label that tried to release some quality bands such as Wolverine, Into Eternity, Heavenís Cry and so on. In the beginning it went well, but downloading influenced the sales. So in the end we decided to quit, because for a small label like we were it was impossible to continue. And with us many other small labels closed down their business. That is the negative part of it. I also see a very positive side, especially for bands. Through it is much easier to get discovered because you put your music on the internet and everyone in the world can hear your music.
DPRP: Which band do you think had the best performance throughout the history of ProgPower?
Hmm, that is a very though question. If I do not look at it too personally, I think the first performance of Riverside, when they were added to the line-up after the cancellation of Amaran, has made the biggest impression. That was their first gig outside Poland, and from that moment we all know how their career developed. But I think that many bands gave a very good performance, my personal highlights definitely are Opeth (2000), Heavenís Cry (2002), Devin Townsend (2004), Alchemist (2007). And of course Jon Oliva last year, what an incredible performance that was, just entertaining!
DPRP: You have had many bands through the years, there must be hundreds of stories, what band have you got the most fond memories of and why?
I think that is the Russian band Nova Art! They traveled by train from Moscow to Baarlo and they had the time of their life. They stayed at Castle de Berckt with many fans and some other bands, some of the Nova Art guys where drunk all day. And at the time they had to go on stage they noticed that they forgot a few things to bring with them, so we had to arrange these details at a last minute. And just before their performance, the singer gave the light technician some signs when he had to spot the light on him or on some of the other members of the band. It turned out perfectly well, I donít think that anyone in the audience noticed this (laughs). And they gave a great performance, Nova Art definitely was one of these unknown surprises you hope to discover.
DPRP: Please describe the funniest thing that ever happened during a ProgPower?
There are too many, so I really cannot pick a moment that I think was the funniest of all. If you force me to mention one, than I would say the after parties (laughs). Have you ever seen progmetal freaks (fans, press and musicians) having a lot of fun on boring Dutch songs, German schlagers, Abba songs, and a lot more? That happens on the after party at ProgPower the last 2 years, I canít describe it, you have to be there!
DPRP: Of course there must also have been bands that have disappointed you, any stories you want to share about that?
Of course there are always bands that disappoint you, but we never want to talk about that. We always try to talk about the positive things, and luckily there are not that many disappointments at all.
DPRP: It seems to be part of PP that bands do last minute cancellations. How do you deal with that?
It simply happens and probably will always happen. We always have a few bands on our so called Ďreserve listí, so if a band cancels there are a few other bands that want to play. We are not worrying about this anymore, other festivals have the same problem.
DPRP: Is there any good excuse for that?
We donít think so, but there are always 2 sides of the story. And because we respect every decision we do not want to say more about this because it makes no sense. Next question (laughs).
DPRP: Is there anything you are really proud of..?
Yes, we are really proud that we celebrate the 10th edition of ProgPower this year. And we are proud on the festival how it is now, 2 days (ok, this year 3 days because of the 10th edition) with some well-known bands, but also a lot of unknown talented bands. I think that is the power of ProgPower these days, we are always looking for these unknown bands to give them a chance to play for a bigger audience. We do realize that this is probably not a formula that sells out ProgPower within a week, but we hope that more and more people see that we have a lot more to offer than several other events that only book the bigger names. There are so many good and talented bands, we easily could organize ProgPower twice a year. But let us stay with this concept for the future, and let us discover more bands such as Riverside for example.
DPRP: Or ashamed of?
Not really. Of course there many things we are not proud of , things that went wrong in the past. But we always try to learn and even if we are not proud of some details, we are not ashamed at all.
DPRP: Could you describe the process of selecting a band for PP?
Every year we receive over 200 CDs from bands all around the world. We listen to every cd for at leastÖ.as long as we can (laughs). You probably can hardly believe, but sometimes we do receive CDs from bands that absolutely have nothing to do with ProgPower at all, so these CDs will be in the player for 5-10 seconds. But we listen to everything we receive and we also do a lot of research ourselves. And if we hear an interesting band we will listen to a couple of songs and start a pre-selection. For the headliners we also make a sort of pre-selection, before we start contacting the bands. That is the start and it finally ends in the line-up for ProgPower.
DPRP: You have had many bands on stage any band that is still high on your wish list? Why that band?
At the moment there is not a particular band that is really high on our list, some of the bands we did have in the past are on our list for a return to Baarlo. As you see on the line-up we always have some bands that have played before, that is also part of the selection process. Of course there are a few potential headliners on our list that we would like to see on stage some day, but I am not going to mention these (laughs).
DPRP: If you only take your own taste into account which band would it be then?
why that band?
A band that we all definitely want to come back someday is Heavenís Cry. This is probably the most underrated band in the world, so letís hope they will ever enter the stage at ProgPower once more.
DPRP: When you are at home what album are you listening too
That differs from time to time, sometimes I listen to the more heavier bands such as Opeth, Soilwork, Textures, Strapping Young Led, etc. These days I listen to the bands that play at ProgPower this year, but there are also periods that I get back to the roots and listen to some old Saga, Marillion, Rush and Led Zeppelin. And there even some weeks that I simply canít hear any prog music at all (laughs).
DPRP: Whatís the last album you bought?
That was the new Journey, based on a lot of good reviews. Unfortunately I was a bit disappointed, it started great but in the end I lost my interest. Right now on my list to buy is the album of Alpha Galates from Canada. What I heard on the internet is absolutely great, one of these new discoveries!
DPRP: Anything you else you would like to share with us?
Well, I just realize that this is a rather long interview, so I am wondering who is still with me, haha. To end this interview I would like to thank everyone who made it possible that we celebrate the 10th anniversary of ProgPower Europe. There are so many people I would like to thank in person, but I guess that these people know I really appreciate all their help. And of course I hope that more and more people discover ProgPower Europe, the last few years were absolutely fantastic and we hope to continue this for many years. I think that this year we have a lot to offer, because we do have many exclusive performances. Check out all the details at www.progpower.eu and be sure you will be there if you like progmetal and related music, you wonít regret it. And of course many thanks to DPRP for this interview, it was a pleasure to answer all the questions, I hope you enjoyed it! Cheers.
DPRP in conjunction with Progpower
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(or a refund if you
already have your ticket).
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Official ProgPower Europe Website
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