Interview with Jaap Van Eik
Menno von Brucken Fock
Jaap van Eik was born on the 17th of October 1944. In the late sixties en early seventies he made fame as bass guitar player for several bands. Among others Blues Dimension, Cuby (Harry Muskee) + The Blizzards, Livin’Blues, Solution and finally Trace, with one of Holland’s most renowned keyboard players: Rick van der Linden. Van Eik began studying at the art academy in Arnhem, just as Herman Brood did. From 1966 he played bass with a group called the Moans where he teamed up with Herman Brood (keyboardist, painter). He went on playing bass for Blues Dimension. He decided to leave the art academy and become a full time musician instead. Herman brood was already playing with Cuby + Blizzards when he persuaded van Eik in 1968 to join The Blizzards, as the successor to Willy Middel. In 1969 however, van Eik returned to play with Blues Dimension again. In 1974 he was invited to join Trace, a so called super-group with Rick van der Linden (Ekseption) and drummer Pierre van der Linden of Focus fame. Van Eik played on the first two albums (Trace & Birds). Although he played a few gigs with Rick van der Linden and Ian Mosley to promote the third album The White Ladies, he quit playing bass around 1977 and became a journalist. Because of his talents, education and his insight in the music industry he managed to become chief-editor of the Dutch magazine Musicmaker from 1977 until 2000. Subsequently he started working for the magazines Aloha and Revolver’s Lust for Life. In recent years he wrote a book on the Dutch super-group Focus (van Leer, Akkerman, van der Linden and a.o. Havermans/Ruyter). Because the Dutch record label Centertainment recently released all three albums by Trace, re-mastered and loaded with extra material, there’s renewed interest in ‘Dutch EL&P’. Jaap invited me to his home and together we went back in time to explore his adventures and experiences with the late Rick van der Linden, Pierre van der Linden and Ian Mosley.
Menno: Jaap, can you tell me something about your musical background?
Jaap: I can’t remember music played a big role in our family. I think my father did play an instrument and my mother used to play violin but that was all long before I could remember anything. My father was a cartographer and we lived in The Hague. He worked for Shell and right after the war he was sent to Venezuela. The family had to move with him so I lived part of my youth in Venezuela and of course I spent my schooldays on an international school. I was raised in an environment of classical music: all the time I had to listen to things like The Traviata, it drove me mad!! From my early teens I had been interested in pop-music and of course I wanted to play guitar! My idols were Elvis, Little Richard and the The Everly Brothers. Later the Ventures and from the UK bands like the Shadows. At some point I got really ill there and I was in a hospital for quite some time to undergo treatment for peritonitis. Our family went to Holland when my dad was on leave and I ended up in a Dutch hospital to undergo further treatment. The family went back to Venezuela but I had to recover for a longer period in The Netherlands so I stayed with an aunt for several years and part of the time in a boarding school, Kasteel Scherpenzeel, near to Amersfoort. I think it’s the City Hall now but it used to be a castle owned by Maarten van Rossem a notorious marshal who lived around 1550 in this area. It was there that I got in touch with an older boy named Ferrie -I was around 14 at the time- who taught me my first chords. At the time of my final exams at secondary school in the early sixties, just like most youngsters, no one knew exactly what he or she wanted to do. My grandfather was an artist, a painter and my father cartographer. People always said that I inherited that talent because I could draw quite well. Logical choice seemed to send me off to an art academy, so that’s how I ended up in Arnhem. I started out playing in a band performing music from the Shadows. Only problem was they already had a guitarist but they needed a bass player. At the time the blues guitarists were the rising stars: Eric Clapton, Peter Green and so on, so I thought that playing bass wouldn’t be such a bad idea. It was great fun you know but not everyone was equally enthusiastic about my tendency to use the bass as a solo instrument.
Menno: You began your musical career with the Arnhem based group The Moans?
Jaap: Yeah that’s right. Some of the classes at the art academy I used to sit right next to Erlend Jospehy, a guitar player and at the time we began to talk about making music together, young Herman Brood enrolled at the academy as well. We began to rehearse and after several changes in the line-up we started to play in Arnhem and I must say we were reasonably successful until at a gig all hell broke loose when people started to fight during a gig in the KAB building in Arnhem. Somehow we were held responsible and we weren’t allowed to play in the community of Arnhem anymore (grinning). In the early sixties things were quite different in the music industry compared to today. Back then most of us were a bunch of amateurs, traveling around in shady vans with a few amplifiers…. There was a lot of work and it was fairly easy to make money in the evening hours or during the weekends. When you’re living with your parents, costs are low so we made more than enough money for a living! Through several contacts we eventually got in touch with a German impresario called Willy Schenken. His primary job was to look for bands in the genre of ‘Die Englische Beat-kapelle’. He provided a number of gigs for us in Germany, even monthly contracts from Northern Germany and The Ruhr area up to cities like Frankfurt. Especially because we were playing so many gigs it became impossible to combine playing in a band with going to the art academy so I quit the academy. For personal reasons I quit the band I was playing in and went on to play with Blues Dimension thanks to Herman Brood who at the time was already playing with Cuby + The Blizzards. At the end of 1967 Cuby + The Blizzards were having trouble. The band almost broke up and Herman Brood ended up in jail after that notorious raid in The Hague, when fellow musicians like Polle Eduard were busted too. Cuby Guitarist Eelco Gelling stated he demanded another bass player and Herman suggested I would be suitable for that position. Again, we had good times although I was only a member of The Blizzards for 15 months. I recorded two albums with them: Trippin’ Thru A Midnight Blues and the Live album, both in 1968, in my opinion the heydays of the band.
Menno: What did you do then? It seems you don’t particularly like to be a band member for a very long time?
Jaap: Well, I guess that’s the story of my musical career in a nutshell: don’t be a member of the same band too long (laughing). What you need most when you are a musician is a girlfriend with a good job: luckily for me, I had such a girlfriend at the time. Anyway I quit The Blizzards and went on to play with Blues Dimension again for a short while. Herman left the Blizzards too and was replaced by Helmig van der Vegt, who was the organ player in Blues Dimension. Subsequently Herman and me even lived together for a few months in a summer cottage in a lovely area with wildlife and forests called “De Veluwe” where we tried to start a band with Herman van Boeijen on drums. It didn’t work out unfortunately. I played in a number of bands to make ends meet: The Motions, Livin’ Blues and Solution. I knew Tom Barlage and Willem Ennes and because Hans Waterman, the drummer, played with Cuby at the time I was in that band too, I knew him really well. Ennes, Barlage and Waterman were from Groningen, up north in our little country and they had that typical student-like approach while Guus Willemse had a totally different personality. For some reason Guus wasn’t available while Solution was booked for quite a long tour in the UK. That’s how I came to play with Solution and I must say: it was a very fun period in my musical career because these guys were very friendly, got along with each other very well and the atmosphere was truly great. We lived together in a house in the north of London, close to the tube station Seven Sisters. In our van we drove to places like Liverpool and so on….. marvelous time!
Menno: Still you didn’t keep that job for a very long time?
Jaap: Well you know, I can’t remember exactly how or why. I know I was very uncertain at the time and I wasn’t convinced I would like to play this music forever. Having said that I still think of Solution as one of the best bands I’ve played in.
Menno: Then Trace, a trio started out as Ace… how did you get involved?
Jaap: Also a nice story! I knew Peter de Leeuwe (former drummer with Ekseption) but he also played in a group called The Bintangs. It’s all quite complicated, but anyway, Peter and Herman Brood were longtime friends. In the Hague there was a bar where they did these jam-sessions and I used to play there quite often with Peter de Leeuwe. Peter and Rick van der Linden, who was recently fired by the rest of the band Ekseption, were still in contact and Peter found out Rick was planning to start a new band and was looking for musicians. Peter was to be the drummer and he named me for the position of bass player. So we started rehearsing in Rick’s place in Den Dolder. One evening Rick phoned me and said: Jaap, we can get another drummer. He told me that drummer was Pierre van der Linden who wanted to quit Focus or had already left, I can’t remember exactly. I knew Pierre from Brainbox because one of the many bands I played in was Island, a band led by Ferdi Karmelk (of Herman Brood’s Wild Romance fame) and we shared the stage at some occasions. Of course I knew of Pierre’s reputation so I thought: this could be really good! Rick was busy fighting a legal battle with his former band-mates but in the end he won and because of his major role in the successes of the band Ekseption, their record label Phonogram (currently known as Universal) were very supportive towards Rick and were eager to offer him a deal with his new endeavor. Rick was full of ideas, as always based on music by the great classical composers. At some point they offered us a day in Luc Ludolph’s studio in Nederhorst. That’s where we recorded that Swedish Largo, one of the bonus-tracks included on the first album. Furthermore Phonogram offered us a record deal for several years and… with a nice cash advance, in those days quite unique! Because of that cash advance we could afford a decent truck and high quality gear. We were all set to show our trump card: an ACE!
Menno: How did you have to learn your parts to play? Did Rick make a demo or did he actually write down all the notes?
Jaap: A little bit of both I guess, but mostly he played the bass parts on one of his keyboards. He was a very patient man and he would help me practice until I got it right! In those days I had a reasonably good memory for notes and I had the advantage of having been tutored classical guitar for a few years and that proved to be very helpful. Performing live was another matter. Many bands were already performing with PA systems, but Rick refused to use those: he wanted absolute control over all his sounds and that caused a lot of problems. Pierre and me couldn’t get through to him and persuade him to make a change there. We knew the sound on stage is quite different from the sound the audience hears, especially in the back of most venues. Rick denied that and therefore in many of the early gigs we were having major problems, mostly bad balanced sounds from the different instruments. Eventually Rick came around and things got much better then. Another major problem was tuning the ARP 2600 synthesizer. Rick had two of these and for years I really hated synthesizers because of these instruments because they always got out of tune during a gig. Mellotrons were another problem, but I guess you are familiar with the ease they used to break down. Rick was able to do his own repairs though and I even caught him tuning his piano himself!! In the UK our gigs were quite successful, however in our own country we didn’t get much recognition. We toured the UK for months with Curved Air and that’s how we got to know Darryl Way and Ian Mosley. Sonja Kristina and Stewart Copeland were a couple at that time and Stewart’s brother Miles was our international agent and he took genuine interest in Trace! Another brother Ian Copeland was involved too. Anyway, Miles was managing Curved Air and arranged for us to be introduced to BTM (British Talent Managers). Through these contacts our first album was released in the States on the Sire label, who launched Focus earlier on. It seemed that we had everything going for us but in spite of our own ambitions and the high expectations from our record label it didn’t work out as we all hoped it would. Looking back I think Phonogram focused too much on Ekseption’s success. Ekseption was more like a pop band while Trace was far more progressive, a trio like Emerson, Lake & Palmer, with a different audience. Unorthodox transitions, odd meters and so on and so forth.
Menno: From the numerous bands you were in, Trace was the one you played in for the longest time while symphonic music wasn’t your true love wasn’t it?
Jaap: I guess that’s true, but on the other hand, I just loved that music because it was a huge challenge to play Rick’s compositions. Besides, I do love classical music and as you know almost every single one of Rick’s ideas was based on a classical piece. All of a sudden I remember I used to listen to Berlioz’s Symphony Fantastique with Harry ‘Cuby’ Muskee, another fan of classical music! After our debut Trace we did Birds, an album with more melodic music. Nice thing about this album was, I got to play the guitar as well. Another thing with Trace was, we got to play live a lot: that big tour in the UK, but also in Scandinavia, Spain, Switzerland, we did festivals in Germany where we met Earth & Fire or Golden Earring … we played everywhere. Rick insisted we’d play Peace Planet every night to emphasize the relationship between Trace and Ekseption. I guess we played at least a hundred shows, but not too many in The Netherlands. You know, Rick got always a bad reviews in Holland’s most prominent magazine at the time: Oor. They always gave him bad critics, in my opinion absolutely wrongly, mostly because of his physical appearance and his somewhat luxurious and glamorous lifestyle.
Menno: You just mentioned listening to classical pieces with Harry Muskee.. Have you ever been to ‘his’ museum in Grollo?
Jaap: I recently turned 70 and my musical background is catching up with me… In the spring I was contacted by Albert Haar who asked me if I would be attending the opening of a special Herman Brood exhibition in that Harry Muskee Museum and he interviewed me for over an hour about Herman. I went there and met people I hadn’t seen since 1968: Jan Venhuizen and Koos van Dijk among others, former managers of C+B. People from the museum asked me to talk to a group of ‘friends of the museum’ and I agreed to do that so I took my eldest son with me and we spent the whole day in Grollo.
Menno: Since you played bass, guitar and sang on the second album Birds, I presume this is your favorite one?
Jaap: Absolutely. Not solely because I played guitar and sang, but also because of the collaboration with Ian Mosley. Pierre van der Linden, a second cousin to Rick, is a world class drummer with a unique style but I had trouble to keep up with him. Mosley is the typical example of a rock steady British drummer with a great sense of humor and an equally great personality I might add. While Pierre was always introvert, literally living with and for his drums, Ian was the amicable guy, easy to get along with and much more predictable in his drumming, which made playing so much easier for me.
Menno: You were talking about drummers but how hard or easy was it to work with Rick? Since he wrote all the music I expect he knew exactly what he wanted from you, Pierre and Ian?
Jaap: Rick always knew exactly what he wanted and it was hard to make him change his point of view. On the other hand he was a very generous man, patient as a mentioned before and always reasonable. I used to play in bands with all kinds of tensions between the members of the band. Jealousy steadily led to quarreling and the ego’s sometimes clashed. I never had this with Rick. The only problem I had with Rick was his way of working on the pieces to rehearse: especially with tracks like the Birds suite. I like to start rehearsing and continue a piece until we would get it right. Rick on the other hand usually used to do a three minute piece and after one or two takes go to another piece, for my perception quite chaotic. But as a band we were really fanatic and certainly during recording sessions we would play until deep in the night: very intense! While Rick showed me how to play the bass lines in the classical pieces, he let me (as well as Pierre and Ian, play in all other parts as I would think to be appropriate. He just gave minor directions. He even encouraged us to come up with ideas, use a particular sound we’d like best and he really made us feel we were able to bring something to the table too. I respected Rick both for his character and most of all as a musician. He could play ragtime piano like no other and he was a great admirer of jazz celebrities like Bix Beiderbecke. And how about classical piano….. when it was late and we finished our rehearsals in his home studio, most of the time Pierre went home but I used to stay overnight and then Rick poured some whisky-cola’s and started to play classical pieces for example works by Chopin or Beethoven’s 3rd piano concerto: shivers down my spine, just awesome!! At the time he was married to Penney Jager and he was living in this nice bungalow with their son, goat Bertus and a dog named Oscar. Only disadvantage was the house was quite close to the runway of Soesterberg airport, used by the Dutch Air Force. Can you imagine the noise when one of the jets was taking off? Anyway, one day Oscar disappeared, never to be seen again. I also remember Rick being sewed by his neighbor, a surgeon, because of noise pollution. Rick claimed: well how about all those jets? The justification was that the jets were a necessity in order to be able to defend our country… so Rick lost that lawsuit!!
Menno: How about the changing of drummers?
Jaap: If I remember correctly Pierre wanted to leave quite soon after the first album. From what I heard was that he got in touch with Jan Akkerman again, but I don’t know the details. This resulted in both an awkward and unpleasant situation because we had a partnership for all the gear and the truck. Pierre couldn’t leave just like that because of legal obligations. The only way was to expel him from the band. We were still in the UK when this happened so the atmosphere got below zero and we were all feeling very bad about the situation. I think Darryl Way suggested Ian Mosley, because Ian played in Darryl Way’s Wolf. The moment Ian took place behind his drum kit, everything fell into place. At the time we had two English roadies so only Rick and me were still talking in Dutch!
Menno: Why the end of TRACE for you after Birds?
Jaap: Rick, with whom I’ve always been best friends, wanted to tour less and he could afford this because of the money he made and still was making with Ekseption and also because he was the composer of Trace’s music. Ian Mosley and me depended on playing live or in the recording studio, so there was just not enough work for us to make a living. Another issue on a regular basis was that when we played live, there were always these technical problems: Rick used to have a whole lot of keyboards and he refused to play when one of them wasn’t functioning properly. That caused a lot of stress and irritation on our part. We used to say: “c’mon Rick no problem if one of the thirteen keyboards isn’t functioning right, you still have twelve left!” and Rick would arguably state he couldn’t perform the show as he planned so that was it… the repertoire was quite difficult to play and the best way to go about this is to play by instinct. Only once I made the mistake to start thinking about the next part I would have to play and all of a sudden I realized I wasn’t sure how I should play that next part at all. It happened during a radio-show (on the record by the way) but to my utmost relief it all went well.
Menno: After you left Trace you were asked to step in once more for a few shows?
Jaap: That’s correct. Ian and me were hired as sessions musicians and we played in Germany, the famous show for ‘Musikladen’ also available on YouTube and in 1977 a gig in the Stokvishal in Arnhem. We also played in the Eusebius Church. Rick was a real virtuoso on the church organ and I remember how I admired him for being able to play such a complicated instrument so well! We played with Johan Slager (ex-Kayak) and Kaz Lux but I don’t believe that particular recording has been included. Maybe because Johan -as far as I recall- didn’t get my guitar parts quite right in that Birds Suite, but I’m not sure. Suddenly I remember something else: Rick had always special deals going on: you know about the Yamaha GX1? He was using it with Trace and after Trace he recorded a solo album just using this GX1. That instrument cost 150000 guilders at the time (£ 50.00), but Rick was allowed to use it without having paid a dime…. He also had an agreement with RIHA organs and things like that. His biggest source of income however were the revenues for all the Ekseption songs. He was able to use all those classical compositions, for which he didn’t have to pay anything himself, but because all the music for Ekseption bared his name as composer, now and then he got a check worth £ 35.000… You see, everyone has his or her peculiarities, but apart from these minor disagreements on the sound systems to be used live Rick and me were getting along great. When a few gigs were cancelled he paid me from his own pocket: that’s the kind of man he was.
Menno: You never had any ambition to start writing music yourself?
Jaap: No, never. I’m the typical example of an instrumentalist. I did try to write a tune on one or two occasions but obviously composing was not my cup of tea and I never developed any ambition to start writing my own tunes. In those mid-seventies I came to realize I began to become more and more dependent on someone who needed my instrumental skills and that was one of the reasons I decided to change jobs. After Trace I played in Herman van Boeijen’s Vitesse for a short while but ever since the art academy I felt deep inside that journalism would be a good alternative. Through my contacts I managed to get a job as editor with a regional publisher of several professional journals: “De Gelderlander Vakpers” in Nijmegen. At first I tried to combine this new job with playing bass in the weekends but soon I found out that wasn’t working for me so I stopped playing my bass. One of the few occasions I took up my bass again was in 1990, when Cuby + The Blizzards had this reunion concert in Vredenburg Utrecht. After a while this publisher offered me an opportunity to create my own music magazine, and that’s how Musicmaker was born. This magazine turned out be a huge success and I had such good times I worked for Musicmaker for 23 years! I traveled the whole world, visiting guitar factories like Fender and Ibanez, I went to Japan and it really was an awesome and joyful stage in my life. I also got to interview all my heroes, so I met Jack Bruce, Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck to name a few. At the end of the eighties the publisher was taken over by Reed Elsevier. Times were a changing and the budget for music magazines got less and less and frustrations started to get the better of me. I was in my fifties when they offered my an early retirement but I wasn’t ready to quit working so initially I turned them down. It led to a court case around 2000 and at the end of the day I didn’t have a job anymore but they were obliged to give me a severance pay. Then I decided to be a freelance journalist and because I was longtime friends with Tjerk Lammers I got involved with ALOHA magazine and I did a lot of editing. Recently I edited a book about Queen Tjerk wrote and I did some articles for Lust For Life.
Menno: Did you meet Rick after 1977?
Jaap: Only once in 2003 when Tjerk asked me to interview him for Aloha magazine. We met somewhere on ‘De Veluwe’, Inez was also present and that’s when he told me about his cerebral infarct which caused a temporary paralysis on one side of his body. Fanatic as he always was, he kept practicing until he got the control over his hands and feet back to the level that he could play all his keyboards again.
Menno: You recently published a book on the band Focus?
Jaap: Yes, I was approached by a publisher who has the intention to publish a whole series of books: “De Rock Klassiekers”. It was a bit tricky because of the disagreements between Jan Akkerman and Thijs van Leer, but I think I’ve done a good job there. Of course I had a chat or two with Pierre van der Linden and got a chance to catch up a bit. I just finished a book on Deep Purple. I’ve done a lot of interviews in the past so I have a lot of material of my own I have used and I was able to get access to a huge archive owned by Hans Verschoof (manager of Kayak – MvBF). I’ve submitted my script, a complete biography from the early beginnings until early 2014, in January 2014 but for some reason this book will not be published before the beginning of 2015. A nice anecdote is how I met Jon Lord, whom I consider to be the most amicable and gentle musician I ever met. With Solution we played in a famous Speakeasy bar in London, a rendezvous for all the famous artists. While we were playing I recognized Jon Lord and Roger Glover in the audience. After the show I was talking to one of the roadies in Dutch near the entrance of the bar and I felt a hand on my shoulder: it was Jon Lord who asked me if I was alright! When I confirmed, he nodded, smiled and said ‘good man’! Later I met him in Nijmegen where he did a show with Whitesnake in 1981. Now I don’t particularly like heavy metal at all but Deep Purple (and related) have always been the exception: because of the organ and the classical influences! I interviewed Jon until early in the night, while he kept pouring me Remy Martin cognac ‘because it was good for the interview’….. and he was right!
Menno: Do you have any favorites of all tracks by Trace?
Jaap: I’ve always liked Final Trace very much and I love Snuff too because of that gorgeous organ. I’m really fond of the Birds Suite, I think it’s a monumental piece. Furthermore Opus 1065, Gaillarde, although some parts are a bit neurotic, all of the Memories stuff I think was great too.
Menno: If you look back, what kind of highlights do you cherish most?
Jaap: To be honest we did so many shows with Trace in a few months so I can’t recall a show that really stood out. For me some of the gigs with Cuby were very memorable. We used to play so intense, totally into the music and I really can’t think of anything more satisfactory than a show that went well. It’s the ultimate reward and with Cuby that happened on more than one occasion! Another gig I never forgot was a gig in Hamburg, a venue that still seems to exist, the “Fabrik”. I was playing there with Livin’Blues and much later Ted Oberg and I met and we both remembered ‘yeah we really got it right there’!
Menno: In the meantime all Trace albums have been re-released and I presume Hans van Vuuren (Centertainment) contacted you about these re-mastered albums? How did he find you?
Jaap: Indeed Hans contacted me. It wasn’t hard for him to find me because we know each other for a long time. As a professional working for music magazines I knew him because he has this record label Pseudonym and he has been an active promotor of music from the sixties for a long time now. I must admit I was very pleased with these versions because I only owned the LP’s and I don’t have a record player anymore so I hadn’t heard that material for about 40 years (grinning). It’s nice there a renewed interest in this kind of music and I hope these re-mastered versions will do well although I can’t imagine they will sell more than a couple of thousands at most….
Menno: What struck me during this interview was the way Jaap spoke about Rick. It became very clear that Rick respected Jaap for his skills and cherished him as a friend. Obviously Jaap had great respect for Rick too and he absolutely worshipped him as a musician. People who have seen him play live have been as enthusiastic as Jaap: Rick van der Linden really was a phenomenon and probably the best and most innovative keyboardist of our time.