Knight Area Email Interview – Jan 2011
DPRP’s Phil Chelmsford
Back in January dprp had the extreme pleasure of talking to Mark Smit and Gerben Klazinga of dutch Prog masters ‘Knight Area’. We chat about the new album ‘Nine Paths’, look back into how they started out and who they admire outside of the realms of Prog.
Mark & Gerban: Happy New Year as well!
Phil: Ok let’s start at the very beginning… The band’s name…. where did that come from?
Mark: You aren’t the first one to ask that question because it is kind of an odd name.
Gerben: It is a literal translation of the street where I live and have my studio.
Phil: When you first started in 2003 ? (Album released 2004 according to website) Gerben was the main artistic force behind the project. How hard was it to get a new album by a new project known and recognised?
Mark: With our label The Laser’s Edge we had world-wide distribution, which was one of the reasons it was chosen by Gerben at the time for the release of The Sun Also Rises. I have the feeling that this has helped getting recognised, if it would have been released in the Netherlands only, it would probably have taken more time. It was very well received by the press, and we were lucky enough to get the opportunity to play at Nearfest which was an exciting challenge for the live band Knight Area, which wasn’t formed until after the release of the album.
Phil: Gerben I read you lost your dad in the same year the first album was launched…. That must have been a dark and light year for you?
Gerben: Thank you Phil for doing your home work! We took a song from the album to play on my dad’s funeral. That was a special moment for me because I knew at that time that the album would be released by The Laser’s Edge. The song that was played was Saevis.
Phil: Knight Area had settled into a band (rather than a project) by the 2nd Album Under a New Sign… how did that change the dynamics of the music and approach?
Mark: Of course it was a very different situation. We needed to create live versions from the material of The Sun, and write new material for the second album. It must have been difficult for Gerben to allow other musicians to influence his compositions for the first time. I think what lead to success was the enthusiasm of the new musicians for the material, which allowed us to stay close to the original sound and create the coherence (both musically and on a personal level) that you need in a band.
Gerben: All the band members helped to get the best result and I think, Under a new Sign is the first album with the typical “Knight Area Sound”.
Phil: The band went from 7 to 5 for the Realm of Shadows album…. What happened there?
Gerben: Guitarist Rinie had other plans to continue his musical career, more as a studio guitarist, and Joop (second keyboards) chose to leave due to private circumstances.
Phil: Have you been with Lasers Edge since day 1?
Gerben: You’re right, from day 1 we are pretty happy with Ken Golden from the Laser’s Edge. He is a nice guy and knows a lot about the music business.
Phil: I believe you all have full time jobs outside of music? How do you fit gigging and recording into and around your working and home lives?
Gerben: I am the only band member who makes a living from his studio and music teaching. The other members have full time jobs and that isn’t always easy to get days off for a Knight Area trip, but the good thing is their partners are very flexible 😉
Mark: We have very busy lives, but with our passion for Knight Area we always find a way to fit it in!
Mark: It came about naturally really, when we started as a group we already had some international gigs, and this has never changed. I think this is because as prog band, we have a relatively small, but international audience.
Phil: Playing gigs in America / Canada… did that pay off financially?
Mark: No trips to the USA and Canada are extremely expensive. We have spent years paying off the costs for our trip to Nearfest by playing new gigs.
Phil: Realm of Shadows saw you get a bit of a heavier edge to your music. Did you purposely go in that direction or was it the theme that drove you that way? Or are you just evolving artistically?
Gerben: Besides Neo Prog I also love bands like Deep Purple, Opeth and Porcupine Tree so they are an influence. Besides that, we know that a concert has some drive with some heavier songs.
Mark: Everything in Knight Area comes naturally. We don’t sit down and say: “hey, let’s write a heavy song!” I do feel that it works very well especially in a live setting to have a mixture of both heavy and delicate songs, I like variety. (Phil: I agree)
Phil: Coming right up to date….. Tell us about the new album Nine Paths.
Gerben: Nine Paths is the first album where I didn’t write the whole thing. Mark Smit and Gijs Koopman wrote 2 songs. Also we had a new producer (Neil Kernon) and a new person Mastering (Alan Douches)
Phil: Nine Paths follows the theme surrounding Tarot cards. Is this a theme derived from experience, belief in their use or just an original concept?
Mark: I came up with the idea of the title/theme. There is no belief or religion or anything like that involved, it just seemed interesting and appropriate to give the album a general theme and coherence.
Phil: Are you happy at how the album is being received in reviews and more importantly by fans?
Gerben: Yes very happy.
Mark: The fans always have personal preferences for certain songs or types of songs, but in general they are extremely happy with the new album and we notice that our crowds get bigger every time.
Phil: Progressive music is riding on a crest of a wave at the moment with lots of artists fighting it out for fans to listen to and buy their music. Is that making it harder or easier for you?
Mark: I believe it has helped that we get good reviews from the press, we do think about how to get more attention and a bigger audience, but this is a time where record labels no longer dictate what their audience should be listening to. There are an enormous number of excellent bands out there, but I don’t really feel competition, but rather inspiration. I am convinced that if we continue to make good music, people will listen to it.
Phil: What has been the highlight of your Knight Area journey so far?
Gerben: I think the Nearfest gig for me.
Mark: There are many highlights. The moment that an album is finished and ready to be released is always great, the moment that you are rehearsing new material and know that it is working is great, seeing the effect on an audience is great, music is great!
Phil: Do you or any of the guys work on other musical projects?
Mark: I am keyboard player in the Queen tribute band Miracle.
Gerben: I play in a band called “Gravity Lab” which exists since 1987. Pieter van Hoorn (our drummer) plays is Extra Lars, which is a cover band playing rock songs from the past.
Phil: What other artists or musicians do you admire outside the realms of Progressive Rock?
Gerben: The band also listen to 80’s Popmusic, Steve Morse, Deep Purple, Sting & other songwriters.
Mark: My inspirations outside prog music include Queen and Iron Maiden.
Phil: Can you tell me about your first music experience that really sticks out in your memory?
Gerben: I was drummer in a coverband at the age of 14 that was cool ha ha
Mark: At college we sometimes played some music after class, which was probably awful but fun
Phil: Finally, and a little fun gimmick I have for all my interviewees…. I like to pose to you other musicians or well-known people with whom you share a birthday, or in some cases actually born on the same day. These are some findings….. Who do you think has the best birthday sharing credentials?
1 Mark Smit – Lead vocals/keyboard Birthday: 18/11/1968
Birthdays: Owen Wilson – Actor (1968), John McFee – Guitar Doobie Bros (1953), John Parr (1954)
2 Gerben Klazinga – Keyboards Birthday: 21/08/1967
Birthdays: Joe Strummer – The Clash (1953), Steve Smith – Journey Drummer (1954), Serj Tankian – System of a Down (1967)
3 Mark Vermeule – Guitars/backing vocals Birthday: 20/08/1972
Birthdays: Dave Brock – Hawkwind (1941), Robert Plant – LZ (1943), Phil Lynott (1949)
4 Gijs Koopman – Bass/Moog Taurus bass pedals Birthday: 03/04/1968
Birthdays: Sebastian Bach – Skid Row (1968), Mick Mars – Guitar Motley Crue (1955), Arjen Anthony Lucassen (1960)
5 Pieter van Hoorn – Drums/backing vocals Birthday: 08/05/1970
Birthdays: Eric Brittingham – Bass – Cinderella (1960), Chris Frantz – Drummer Talking Heads (1951), Philip Bailey – Earth Wind & Fire (1951)
Mark: I would say Gijs is winner hands-down here!
Phil: I actually think Mark Vermeule has the best birthday associations ha ha!
Phil: Thanks for chatting and I would like to wish you all the best for the new album and for every success for such a great band. You deserve to do great things.
Mark & Gerben: Thanks for your kind words Phil!