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We can go wherever we please and everything depends upon how near you stand to me

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interviews, conversations

Child-like & mature, dreamy & aware, easy-going & active, melancholic & funny, ainsi sont décrits les auditeurs heureux des Trespassers W, les TW-people, nous dit-on dans l’interview qui suit. La musique ? Autour de la guitare/basse/batterie, on entend du trombone, du violoncelle, de l’euphonium, de l’accordéon ou du melodica. Ce sont les illustrations sonores des textes du chanteur Cor Gout, un esprit libre qui va où il veut, et conte des histoires d’une richesse toute ‘européenne’.

Dans l’entretien (de 1998, mais toujours pertinent), et pour notre bonheur, beaucoup d’explications sur les textes des chansons (presque des nouvelles –Cor Gout en écrit aussi) et les personnages qui y vivent. On n’en démordra pas, les récits des petits mondes sont passionnants. (A.A Milne et son Winnie l’Ourson abondent dans notre sens, sans le savoir)

Les Trespassers W enregistrent toujours, préparent une tournée en France et en Italie en mai. Le chanteur Cor Gout a publié plusieurs ouvrages et prépare un recueil des textes de ses chansons traduites en français par Thierry Galai.

Apart from Sébastien Morlighem, who designed the cover of the LP ‘Roots and locations’ amongst others, do you know other French painters/drawers/cartoonists or musicians that you like or don’t like?

Topor is (was) great. He cuts my soul with his cartoons and stories. I also own a magnificient record with gags and nonsense and noises.

Films : Carné, Chabrol, Godard, Resnais. Les enfants du paradis is a masterpiece.

Music : I like Klimperei and a pop-band called X-Ray Pop (dark female voice, light accompaniment). Some older things : Marie&les garçons, Magma (not everything), Gainsbourg, B.B., Marie José Neuville, Claude Nougaro, André Popp-arrangements and orchestral productions.

A « list » question : can you make a list of books and records you’re deeply attached to, because they’re an important part of your world ?

Books :

Antoine de St Exupéry : Le petit prince (and his pilot stories too)

J.M. Barrie : Peter Pan

A.A. Milne : Winnie the Pooh

Lewis Carroll : Alice in Wonderland

Shakespeare : Hamlet, King Lear, Macbeth, the Tempest

Paul van Ostayen : Music hall (Belgian dadaist)

Franz Kafka (everything)

Hergé : Tintin (everything)

Films :

Derek Jarman (everything)

Serguei Eisenstein : Potemkin, Ivan the Terrible

Jacques Tati : Mon Oncle

François Truffaut : Jules et Jim

Fassbinder : everything

Ingmar Bergman : Wild Strawberries, the Silence

Fellini : La Strada, La Dolce Vita, The Clowns

Antonioni : La Notte

Resnais : Marienbad

Godard : Made in USA, Deux ou trois choses que je sais d’elle, Pierrot le Fou and this film recently made about him (saw it on TV)

Kaurismaki : everything (great Finnish talent)

Music :

Brecht&Weil sung by Lotte Lenya or others

Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald together

Bob Dylan : Blonde on Blonde

Van Morrison : Astral Weeks

First LP’s from : Kinks, Animals, Them and Zombies

Fats Domino : old singles

Coasters : old singles

Brel : ‘Brel’ (record with clouds over a blue sky on the cover)

The Ex : Aural Guerilla

The Adverts : 1st LP and singles

Attila the Stockbroker : ‘cocktails’ EP and first LP.

Have you fulfilled your dream by playing and writing in Trespassers w or what would you have dreamt of doing if you weren’t in trespassers w ?

Yeah it’s more important than anything else I’ve done (studying Dutch language&literature, teaching at school and university, writing, organising cultural events), because it mixes all my capacities and it can give form to my ideas, dreams, history and most hidden facts of life, from my emotions and awareness of what’s going on in the world, in the best possible way, (to me, that is). If I hadn’t been in Trespassers W, I would have written poems and short stories and I would have tried to connect these with theatre or film.

How important is the place where you live?

My hometown, the Hague, is my most important literary theme. Most of my literary ideas actually grew out of it, were born there… when I walk the streets or ride on my bicycle through the city…then facts or stories or faces or words appear and speak to me. The streets and the houses whisper information in my ears, revive my memory, feed my imagination. They are like ghosts, jailed for a long time, but now released by my open ear.

Your favourite place on earth?

the Scheveningen woods (Scheveningen is a small fisherman’s village at the North Sea Beach, the Woods are between The Hague and Scheveningen), because I was born in a small park in the middle of it and I still walk, ride the bicycle and jog there. Occasionnally I get that ‘sunny day in the woods feeling’ there, when everything seems to fit together and I disappear completely in this unity, being an invisible element of it, just for a few seconds.

Who/what’s your favourite monster ?

Modern : the Martians in Tim Burton’s hilarious film ‘Mars Attacks’. Not only because they look devastating, but also because they don’t have any sentimentality or morality, which is not like Hollywood cinema at all!

Old : ‘Thing’ in the Adams Family, the Riddler in Batman.

Classic : Jekyll&Hyde, Dr. Caligari, the Tell-Tale Heart (Poe)

If you could turn someone into a gargoyle, who would you choose?

A Chippendale ?

Where do the characters in your songs come from and does their story continue after the record is released?

The characters in my songs come from: real life, fiction (books, plays, films, arts), history, tales the city of The Hague tells me (or some other environment, like Prague, Oslo…), silly thoughts popping up in my head, politics (when I get angry at certain decisions or plans or movements or actions). But all these characters, from whatever background they may originate, will get a life of their own in my songs and stories.

Do you sometimes have what I call a feeling of « belonging” (when you feel totally well, your feet standing firmly on the ground and your head buzzing with ideas, just « in tune ») ?

Once again : the sunny day in the Scheveningen Wood feeling.

Also : on a stage, when everything seems to fall in its place and things seem to be going on just by themselves.

Or : riding on my bike, hearing the voices from the houses and the pavements tell me all sorts of secrets.

Or : late at night, when segments of imagination come together in a totality with a ‘sound’ and a ‘rhythm’.

Apart from the people you meet at concerts, do you imagine what the people who listen to your music look like ?

Yes, I do. Now and again I meet a ‘fan’ and he or she is never far away from what I thought he/she would be. Not in detail, of course, but in general traits. TW-people are a mix of child-like&mature, dreamy&aware, easy-going&active and melancholic&funny. They are walking paradoxes.

Do you have a best or worst concert memory to share with us?

(I take a paper from my scrap-heap and it reads : ‘MUNCH/Heldere lic’ (MUNCH/Bright lig’). This can’t be a coincidence.)

Our best concert ever was in Oslo at the Manefisken (Moonfish) in January 1991. We played for about 300 people, who were floating away with the music. We had a new line-up and hadn’t been able to practice all that much, but the ambiance was so fantastic that we were not nervous, but gave it a go, thought : ‘we have nothing to lose’, and won. It was Munch (‘Tiny bright lights were my feet go, shimmering silver in the grim snow’) all around. Worst ? some gigs for people who stayed behind at the bar and looked at us with eyes that seemed to ask : ‘what on earth are you doing there ? Can’t you see we’re chatting and drinking beer ?’. After then we asked ourselves :’what on earth are we doing here ?’ after a few of such occasions, our ambition to play in the ordinary rock circuit tended to shrink considerably.

How do you spend your spare time?

Spare time ? Hardly. But most of the things I must do, having to do with my music and writing, are not bad at all. Like : watching films, seeing exhibitions, reading books&magazines, listening to music or radio, watching television (not often) and talking with my two sons (13 and 11 1/2) or going to the light house with them. One of the few hobbies which has nothing to do with my ‘work’ is playing football for a Scheveningen club called ‘JAC’, which I like enormously, even though I don’t play as well as I used to. Once.

Are there words that helped you to grow up properly and not get lost among the adults?

First, your questions contains a statement : in order to remain self-sufficient and not to merge with convention one needs certains conditions to cling to, certain ‘anchors’ to stay afloat and not go under.

These conditions may have to do with time and space. One special thing is the element of the woods (part of the scenery of my chilhood years) which I use in the song ‘Trees’ (it’s on : ‘Who’s afraid of red yellow & blue ?’). Climbing the trees in this Scheveningen Wood, I could look down on (attain a perspective on) our house which, until then, presented me my outlook on the world. Since then my view doubled, I could relativize the adult world. The circle between the trees and my parental home was a no-go area for adults and it contained familiar elements as well as my stories, which I wanted to honour and cherish as my own, and which I didn’t want to use in a utilitarian way or know of in a cognitive way. The way I understood these elements was the way adults could never understand or grasp in a literary sense. Some of these elements were words or more and more became so.

There’s a good example in the song ‘The neighbour’ on the LP ‘Roots and locations’. This song deals with the former German no-go area, which means that during World War II, this part of The Hague (the part where I lived after the war, sited next to the woods), was no-go (‘Sperre’) for citizens and reserved for German officers. For many years after the war many houses in the park remained empty, because the Germans had neglected them or even half-ruined them and also because some of them were too large for people to sustain. So my neighbour opposite and I used to enter these houses (secretly, cunningly) to investigate the interiors and to play (secret, forbidden) games there. It remained no-go area, but this time a no-go for adults or outsiders from our ‘secret garden’. In one of those houses we discovered a small blackboard with German words on it. On top of this board it read : ‘ Wäschezettel’. We didn’t know what this meant (laundry list) by then, but for us it functioned as a magic word, a formula to avert the threats of the adult world. Some of the magic words we used were chosen as symbols to ward off the enemy, others proved to be such tokens. For instance, in the next part of ‘The neighbour’ the mother of the little boy opposite (‘an enemy’) appears to be ‘shocked’ and even ‘hit’ by the word ‘herridan’ (in Dutch : ‘vel’) which I didn’t completely understand when my father used it in reference to this woman but in which I sensed a certain power. And this sentiment proved to be right !

One critic, the German Drederich Diedrichsen, wrote, quite rightly : « A man and his son are orientated on places and spots which don’t exist anymore. Or if they do, have different meanings from before or still the same and amongst these suddenly the word ‘Wäschezettel’ pops up »….

This word connects this orientation with its condition. That’s absolutely the case.

Another example. In one of my short stories, « The wig » (translated by Thierry Galai) I mention the fact that my aunt (the protagonist) Ann (Anna) doesn’t wish to get into details concerning her illness, because this isn’t ‘appropriate’. But she uses the word ‘proper’ (Dutch) which has strong connotations with ‘clean’ and ‘what’s one’s own’. She refers to an area around the person which shouldn’t be trespassed or infected, because it would diminish the worth of both trespasser and trespassed.

First example is to be found in the song ‘Silence’. (on ‘Straight madness’LP, but also on ‘Red, yellow and blue’ k7), which I wrote on the occasion of the birth of my oldest son Cedrick Ace, 13 years ago. Of course, what I wish him to own, silence, is the aural equivalent of the special no-go area. Silence, not being talked to or commanded before he can form his own world of sign and meanings.

As metaphors for this ‘gift’ I use elements from Ingmar Bergman’s film ‘The silence’ and from short films (in particular ‘The shadow of the sun’) and paintings by Derek Jarman (a very fine independent film maker, also a friend, who passed away some years ago…he had AIDS). The small boy in ‘The silence’ steps into the sensual neurotic and ambivalent world of his mother and his aunt, but protects himself within the words of signs in the train compartment or written on a wall, noticed by him from the train, passing the buildings or written down for him by his aunt. The words like ‘NITSEL STANTNJON PALIK’ and ‘LUXEMUDO’ never reveal their true meaning, but offer their charm and strength, which help him to make it through the nightmare.

In Jarman’s work, there’s always this relation between gold and ‘autonomy’, ‘ownness’ and more indirectly : silence : SLNC is GLDN (detect the vowels, the sound !) I also introduce Jarman as a ‘painter of words’, that is, someone who connects his own images with word-signs, so cannot be caught by convention (in language/in any field).

Do you tend to become more tolerant in terms of ‘letting people find their own ways alone, knowing they will eventually find what’s good for them’ ?

In fact this question comes quite near the subject of the song ‘Silence’. What I strongly wish all (young) people to have is this no-go area which means of course : no intrusion.

The other day I read an article written by a man I know rather well, Willem de Ridder. He was the editor of the first Dutch artist rock&underground magazine, called ‘Hitweek’, he was a Fluxus artist and he is a story teller, a performance artist and a radio-maker. He writes in this article that minding other people’s business, or getting irritated from what other people do or not do, only gives ‘bad vibes’ and proves to be ‘counter-productive’, because ‘you’ start’ feeling bad & stressed and not the person who is the object of your anger or irritation.

And he has a point, but it is an egoistic point.

I find reasons for anger or irritation when people for whom I feel responsible degrade themselves unwillingly (not being able to see all the consequences) or indulge in activities which are damaging or dangerous. And I even get irritated when I see that people fail to exploit their talents and opportunities. But I try not to be dogmatic or moralistic about it (even though it has to do with morals, sometimes). The best way is to challenge other people in a fair way, to install some more pride or to offer them a tree in the wood to look down on their own house. The most difficult thing is : how to teach other people to live in pain. Because all these changes on the lives of people who got ‘stuck’ in one way or another, costs them ‘pain’.

To start doing things in your own way is painful, you have to fight convention and habits and the easy ways of living. I wrote a new song about a ballet teacher called Sonia Szewcjyk, in which she explains to her pupils what true art in dancing really means : lying, she says, that’s what it’s all about..Lying is the extacy which lasts longer than a second, smile at the audience, your first lie, and pretend your body doesn’t hurt, but it does hurt and that’s the price of extacy. Hurting people is not evil (breaking them down, obstructing, nagging, belittling are), hurting people in ballet, in sports, in teaching, in conversation can be good, as long as it’s not unfair and as long as it doesn’t kill the seeds which are ready to be developped.

It’s not bad to be cynical now and again.

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