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  Barikada - World Of Music - Interviews

Interviewer: Dragutin Matošević

Jan Akkerman, January 2002
Jan Akkerman
Interviewer: Dragutin Matošević

Jan Akkerman, Holland - musician (guitarist) and producer
(Interview performed on December 11, 2009)

- The world of music met you as member of famous Holland band Focus. It seems that the critics and audience were not ready for the high level of quality music you were playing. Is this right conclusion? What observation you have about it now - from long time distance?

Well of course there's a lot of eclectic material but somehow, the dustbin noise seems to be more sticky then the more ethical stuff. I mean, listen to the Stones or Hendrix or all the epigonists, Because Blues is comprehensible and people can anticipate on three chords and an artist can go bananas over the fact that he rediscovered the E chord on stage with the appropriate lyric's to go along. Like eh [slow shuffle] "How can I miss you, when U don't wanna go" :-) and a whole stadion goes nuts because everybody is exited they all rediscovered the E chord at the same time the artist does... in their name... of course! I thought I invent something like that in the form of "Hocus Pocus", but I don't sing. So the flautist took care of the honors and started yodeling instead of singing. Once again, please, don't ask me why, I still try to figure that one out, but it was very necessary he did otherwise nobody would recognize my lousy playing :-)

- "Sylvia" - Focus' greatest hit brought to you worldwide recognition. In the same time - you were requested to be more commercial (and less artistically). Did you accept those suggestions?

I think "Sylvia" or "Hocus Pocus" were highly commercial but as the saying goes "if U don't shoot U always miss" and by watching the "Deer hunter" right now U probably catch my drift. The problem is, like with Mozart, if he didn't write so much crap there wouldn't be the great stuff neither, so what's commercial?! At least, it didn't stop me from exploring a lot of other areas in Music, like the lute or very experimental stuff with Joachim Kuhn or Mark Nauseef, U name it. It didn't make the charts but I really don't give a damn, never did something against my will, how could I, Music has always been my way of life. Sometimes they called it Focus or Brainbox or God knows what, but that's just labels, or selling arguments if you like.

Focus, 1974

- What caused that you left that band (Focus)?

Oh that's a long boring story of envy and jealousy, but in the end the problem wasn't in the music, at least not for me.

- Decade or two later you had some joint projects with Focus' colleague - Thijs van Leer. Were that such a "must do" or "wanna do" cooperation? What is, according to your opinion, key achievement of these cooperation?

As I explained before, I never ever did something against my will and this was after 20 years or something and I made a mistake in thinking that Mr van Leer changed and became a little bit more humane. But alas, false hope and he was even crazier then I thought was possible, so after that one I decided to never play with him or "Focus" ever again. That was my key achievement.

- Later on, you continued to play as studio musician. Which cooperation would you mark as very important and why?

In fact the whole record business doesn't interest me at all. I did a lot of session work but as soon I left the studio I forget about it all... still do. I like to play live for an audience and if they record that fine with me, at least that's the most honest thing to do as far I'm concerned...

- For the people in our region the most important cooperation of yours was with Vlatko Stefanovski. What meaning it have had for you - or business, or pleasure, or...?

I dunno, he wanted to do a blues album and I said fine, just book me a ticket and I'll play for U. Later he asked me to to a small tour through the Balkan and I agreed. That's it. And what I found strange is that he wanted to prove that he could play in 9/4 or 11/4 or 13/4. or whatever for. So, I wounded up playing the backing chords to "Sylvia" and some other pieces which he and his backing band where able to crab. He just send me an e-mail he was doing the support act for the "Sample Minds" I think thru the same places. Good for him.

- You are writing for the Dutch magazine GitaarPlus. What is focus of your interests (articles)?

Actually that's a crazy thing because I'm not into gadgets so much or this or that amp. I find it very boring to talk about Guitars etc. So I talk about the whole polychromatic social scale of the Music business, the part I understand of it. It's a bit Zappianic, I have to admit, and a lot of people think it's hilarious but some really take offence at my point of view, but it never leaves them untouched. The nucleus of the story is that the editor in question got sacked from on day to another and he had nothing left. His wife got cancer and his daughter was in peril and sick, so I offered him to start a magazine for him and promised him to write a monthly column. So that's the main reason I write for a magazine, otherwise I wouldn't have dreamed of it.

- The music brought you in every corner of this world. Do you feel consequences of nowadays global (financial) crisis? How do you beat it?

No, man, there's always a place to play and I'm not into 5 boats or 10 cars or God knows what... like a mausoleum with a golden turd on my rooftop. One could compare it with Elephants, beautiful animals, but I never like to own one. But don't get me wrong, I still make more a year then the 1st president in my own country. Besides that, I just love to play.

- Is there anything you did not achieve yet in the field of your music activities?

I achieved everything I wanted to achieve and that's playing the Guitar worldwide. As a little boy that was my dream and some tell me I managed fairly well. That I had to be famous for that I didn't know and in what kind of incredible assholes I would run into I didn't know either but alas, live's to great to get bothered about that for too long, I just feel privileged and blessed to be able to do what I want to do. Amen.

- What are you planning to do (related to the music) in 2010?

Oh well, according to the prophets the world will stop in 2014 but what counts is what I learned from survivors of the holocaust. I made a lot background Music behind documentaries of the holocaust in 40/45 and in fact, I'm working on one right now and one survivor told me: "My dear Jan, live every day one day to the fullest, that's enough"! That's good enough for me.

- Happy New Year to you Jan and thanks a lot for this interview.

Same over there my man, take care and all the best wishes for the New Year. Jan.

FOCUS - Sylvia (1973)
FOCUS - Hocus Pocus (live, 1973)

Dragutin Matošević
Tuzla, Bosna i Hercegovina

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