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Interview: Juan van Emmerloot



Fotos: Tixie Doo


Well,

Meeting Juan was something of an experience, we had agreed before to do this interview after the Spirit of 66 show, in Verviers.

And so he invited me in the backstage to do that. Backstage, it was relaxed, and so it began.

Juan is really a funny a guy, and he loves to speak about his different projects, because he loves them.

 

So here it is, the whole interview because I think it wouldn't be fair to cut it...

 




Ok Juan, Why did you choose to play the drums?
Why? I don't know, it's been a long time ago... In fact I always wanted to play a different instrument. I was 10 years old, and my mother... then when I was 15 I discovered that she actually made me play the drums when I was 10. Because I was a hectic little guy and I wanted to play organ and she promised me that I could play organ but first I had to do a couple of years at the drums set. So this how it started, actually I didn't choose to play the drums, she did.

That's Strange, because usually parents just say to the child: you will play the drums, but first play a quiet instrument...
Yes, this is the other way 'round. Actually, I first played on the snare drums, classical music for 3 years. I was really bored to death with it. But I thought I had to do this for discipline exercises and that I might get the organ. And then the first drums kit came at the music school, because they didn't have the money for it, and when I got behind the drums set, I was really impressed by the instrument, 'cause I was a small guy, and behind the drums set, the hi-hat was on the left, the bass drum here in the middle and the snare, the cymbals... Everything was around me. It impressed me to be inside of the instrument. and then after that, I totally forgot about the organ. So I didn't choose the drum kit but once I got behind it, I was really happy to do it.

And so did you learn to play others instruments later on?
Yeah. The main instrument I always did was the snare drums, timpany, and then the drums set. And when I was 15, I started to play bass, because when I was 13, I started playing in bands, and I was always impressed by the bass guitar. So I borrowed a bass guitar from a friend. And I had a mono cassette recorder, so I recorded the drums on it, then I played back the tape, and then I heard the drums and I started to play bass on it. And I had another cassette recorder from my brother, which I borrowed, to play off the tape on my cassette recorder, add bass to it, and then record it on the other recorder. This is actually when I started to record stuff. And after that,I started to use the piano, and I started to play accoustic guitar, when I was 21. So it was more like, I wasn't really learning to play, but I was really enthusiastic while I recorded, and I was getting into songwriting, you know starting to use instruments.

What are your main influences?
I think the main influence for me is the sound of music. Well, It may be too vague. It's the impact of what the musicians play and if they manage to play with a certain impact, which has to do with the soul of playing, that comes out of the speakers, and I was always very much impressed by that. And it didn't matter: Earth Wind & Fire or some jazz music, Tony Williams playing drums, you know that stuff, but also Rock music, not all the rock but some of it. When I listened to it, what always gave me the goose bumps, was the way they always manage to put a certain amount of energy on tape. It is something you don't only hear, you can feel it. So there's many stars of music that influenced me, but it needed to be played with a lot of soul and energy.

You are really involved in teaching the drums, with the project Drummings secret ( www.drummingsecret.com)?
Yes, oh you've studied the website, all the stuff, that's good, cool.

Can you tell me more about that?
I started teaching drums early, when I was 19, 'cause I felt that it gave me so much pleasure to play the drums that I felt like I would love to share that with other people who decided to start playing drums. That's how I started teaching. And of course you start with 2 people, and I started a school, became big. I think after 12 years of teaching, I discovered that I was too young to teach actually. I mean I had 45 students weekly and it was really a hard time, 'cause in the evening I played from wednesday 'till sunday, and on monday , tuesday, wednesday, thursday, I was teaching in the afternoon, friday also, saturday also. It was too much. So I decide to quit teaching for a while and then I toured a lot, with Snowy and others artists.

And then, I think 7 years ago, I was asked to teach at the Rotterdam conservatory, and there I got in touch with young talented guys and girls, that really chose to make a profession of playing music, which is great, I mean if they are stupid and crazy enough to do that, somebody has to show them how things work and yeah, i really love to share things.

If you watch the Myspace thing, there's lot of things I just put there, I give tips and tricks for free and I hope to get some ideas back at some stage. I give a lot, because I think it's great to do it. I could talk about it for hours...







Fotos: Philippe


You seem to know Walter Latupeirissa for a long time now...
Yes, we've played together for 20 years. That's a long time.

For some years now, you're together in an improvistion project called Art Impro, What is it actually?...
Art Impro, it's something we started 3 years ago, and it's a very interesting project Because Walter and I, we've played with many artists, Steve Lukather, Walter Trout, Popa Chubby just to name a few, and we discovered that we are able to adapt to the styles of the main artists. Once we did a big tour and we did a festival, the main artists were Steve Lukather, Mick Rogers, and Tony McAlpine.

Walter And I did all the shows with them, but we were able to sound differently with the three of them. So we started to think about it, we talked a lot, and we said why don't we try to change around the idea of us being able to switch over to main artists style of music. They must be a lot of musicians that do that also, playing in the shade of the main artist.

Why don't we try to start a project and invite those collegues to come on stage with us and be totally free, without rehearsing anything, and what we do is we come together, we eat together, we talk , we go on stage, we do a little soundcheck but we don't rehearse, we don't exchange chords sheet or something... Somebody starts with something from the heart and the others join in, then we try to bring it to an end. And then the next guy start something...

And the great thing about this project is that we keep on meeting well-talented musicians that, like us, are touring a lot with others stars, and to create new music together, but only once. So the most interesting thing about it is that with my little record company, I record every concert, and we know that each concert is the only one we'll do with this group of people, so every time it's unique kind of music. Sometimes you end up playing Rock style things, with others people you start playing jazzy things, some others it sounds like metal, but it's not. It really depends from who we are playing with.

I have to say that we do a maximum of 3 concerts a year because it eats a lot energy and it needs to stay special and if you start doing this too much, the magic's gone then. I would play and then start thinking about hamburgers, and this not what you want, you know. It good because it keeps us fresh, it gives us new ideas, new influences...







Fotos: Tixie Doo


So now, we come to Snowy...
Yes

So when and how did meet him?
Oh that's funny, that's a long time ago... also. I think we've played together for 17 years, which means, I stepped out of the band for 2 years, so it's 15 years.

We met on a festival, actually Snowy was playing with a Hungarian band, and Walter and I were playing with Arthur Lee. That was the guy who said he was the best friend of Jimi Hendrix. But he was totally drunk and he was on drugs, so he messed up the concert, and Walter and I we kept on playing music. I think Snowy thought it was funny how we played and you know, did our performance.

The next thing was months later, his management phoned us: would you be able to do a tour with us? So we played together for a tour, That's how it started. It came out of the air.


What do you like about working with him?
The great thing about working with Snowy is that he's very open to anything you play. In those 17 years we've played together, I discovered he really knows what he wants to hear and although he's not the type of guy who says: "hey I want you to play this!", in a way, it finally comes down to it but without taking away all the good stuff and ideas you bring in. And the great thing about him is that he is still able to play everything he wants to play without actually forcing us to just do what he thinks we should be doing. Which is great.

What I really admire the most about him is , I think this is one of those guys: He's a legend, he's big time, but he's got both feets on the ground and he's down to earth, and he's a very nice guy to travel with.
He's got a good sense of humor. I love the guy, He's great!


And now, about the Live Flames album. I can see that did the recording, the mixing and the mastering. I was really impressed with that.
Oh Thank you.

Can you tell me more about this side of your work?
As I told you before, I started to get interested in recording with cassette recorder. And I was always impressed by sound I had heard on records. So I started to work on it and that has always been one of my hobbies to do it. Once I got into many recordings sessions, I thought, Hey I want to do this also.

So the engineering side, i got really into it. And i took my chance with many others artists, working late, and then the engineer got home, and I took over, this is how it started.

And now I've my own engineering room, I don't have a live room but I do have mobile equipement, not a mobile studio, but equipment I have in Flight cases, which I can take on the road.

I think what I like the most about it is working together with people. I also worked a lot on my own, you know it started : hey I can do all myself. But after a few years, I found out it's not what I like about recording. I like to catch the energy and the vibe of people playing together. It always comes back to that.


That's what I could read on your studio website about all these people your worked with, who says that you'are good to work with and stimulating them to do good music...
Yeah, I think recording is about trying to get the right energy on tape, and it's not about having great equipment, its about the people. If I had to do with a cassette player, I would do it again...

And so for the next White Flames record, will you be just the drummer, or also a engineer?
I don't know... That really depends on what Snowy has on its mind. In fact we are in the middle of a recording session of a proper album, but We started to work on it, and then Snowy went on tour with Roger Waters, so we had to delay it a little bit. We will work on it soon again and he has got all kinds af ideas that he wants to do, so...

I think what I like about playing on his albums is I have to concentrate on playing the drums. The Live album was easy, because I know the equipment works, so once it all installed, I just press the record button, leave it, and I concentrate on playing.

But in the sudio, it's different, you have to concentrate on creating new stuff. So it's very important to have a technician, a guy who knows what it will sound like, and when knows when to hit the button or not...


My last question is : you know how to record, how to play a lot instruments.
Did you ever think about doing some stuff on your own?
oh yeah, I thought about it a lot, for years and... No! ah,ah,ah... There's one project, where I do a lot of things, apart from playing drums: I write songs, and i've got a great singer that sings them, a guitar player who do the leads, I play only the chords... I see that as a project I'm involved in. But it's not playing drums, it's not like that. I can't think of a project playing the drums and call it my project because it ends up in doing your own music... What's the use. There's lot of great artist I play with anyway, so...

Well thank you Juan, Bye, Bye.
Bye, see you in Paris next Time... ...


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