First of all, let me take a moment to praise Jan, for many exciting moments of excellent guitaring both via Focus (magic moments) but also via his solo albums!
It is with proud and humble sentiments I open this interview, with one of my absolute guitar heroes and a master of his trade, making me and many others (I guess) in a situation, juxtaposition if you will?!
When at his best....you wanna burn your guitar, but on the other hand you really want to play (learn) that six stringed thing!!
1. If I say FOCUS! What ´s your immediate thought?
To me, it brought Dutch progmusic on the worldwide map.. big time! yes I realise that Earth & Fire, Golden Earring etc. were there...but you as FOCUS made a difference!! Why is that..in your opinion?!
Well, I thought we weren,t good enough to do the Led Zep thing and certainly not in copying it, but I also had a maybe even stronger feel or love for Jazz&Soulmusic&Gospel&Black Rock like Chuck Berry, Otis Redding, Mahalia Jackson & Ray Charles etc. It had beauty and taste and it swings like a barndoor in the wind. At the same time I was interested in Classical Music, Marching bands like music from Da Sousa etc actually I was interested into in any kind of music[still]
In a sense that it culminated in a club called *Focus*, where I could combine all these things in a way that I hoped people would appreciate and it did, even now ;-) Later on, I realised I owed a lot to the British, specially in their appreciation for my efforts to give Rock-Gtarplaying another twist, so I'm not complaining.
2. Does it matter to you as an artist (Focus days) to be labelled a progband? or you couldn’t care less, the music is always the most important thing of course, but labelling is that a good thing?
Depends, If the thing is genuine and authentic, why not. But genuine or not after 40 yrs de dato and start yodeling again you can't say...... that's a progressive Rockband.
It feels a bit like this Belgium child molester *Dutroux* who they released on parole just for a weekend, under 1 condition. He was only allowed : "to rape women over 50 yrs old"
Some handy business guy had it filmed and the called the video "Dutroux goes Classic"! So sometimes labeling is not a good thing, in my opinion. That's why I have a problem with the expression :*Classic Rock*
It's a matter of ethic's, which is hard to find in the music industry. All in all in reality it is a balance btween playing a 200 chords for 100 people or 2 & 200 chords for 5000 people :-)
3. Do you find cover art important, if so why?
Sometimes it's hard to understand but cover art has always been of interest to me.
It shows what group or niche they're aiming at, so that's very important people can indentify with the believes or music of the artist whoever that may be.
The only danger is that the cover can be misleading, i.o.w. you can't judge a book or record by looking at the cover.
I find the arty ones the most interesting and sometimes of rare beauty. Music and picture has always gone hand in hand especially the old blue note or verve covers.
4. I guess you were very young, when you realised music was your life!?
How did that come about? Was it always (initially) the guitar you wanted to express your music through?
Yes, I believe so. I once asked my mum when it started and she said since I could crawl the first thing was grabbing an old Ziter [an Austrian instrument] and started banging with spoon on it until my grandmother gave me a baby piano.
I found out it was corresponding with the church bells just around the corner of our house on one of those Ansterdam canals. Every sunday morning the carillion played the same tune called "Frere Jacques, dormez vous" and I found out that they were all the white keys on that little baby piano tuned in the noble key of C . The black ones were painted on them they didn't have any function. I was 2 yrs old. Later, when I was 5 or 6 I picked up accordeon playing and that was a tremendous joy like playing bass&chords and melody at the same time. It sort of triggered my interest more into harmony and counterpoint and later Jazz and how to get around the chords and melody.
My mum always said, while I was "studying" :Your not playing what's in the book"! And I misused the situation by saying "Oh, what does it say then"?
She couldn't read notes so I had her there ....end of the conversation, and I could go on "Improvising". Still do,
I must have been 6, when I picked up the Guitar. The blacksmith on the corner had one and thougt me my first chords and as soon I heard a record by Django, I was sold.
Later I did the conservatory for Guitar but I'm still a bad reader in fact I was spoiled allready by playing R&B with the blacksmith on his doorstep.