Van Heugten, John and Erwin Boerenkamps (Ricocher) (August 2002)

Tracing Ricocher's Quest For The Heartland

This interview originally appeared at in October 2001

Ricocher - Quest For The Heartland (2000)Ricocher is a young band that seems to be making quite a commotion in the progressive rock scene, having already opened for acts such as Arena and Saga and participated in The Netherlands' much-acclaimed Bospop festival. Yet the band only managed to release a short debut album, Quest For The Heartland, before things seemed to take off for its members. Now, still without a record deal, winning more fans as each day passes by, and on the dawn of a new fan club for the band, Ricocher's keyboardist John Van Heugten and vocalist Erwin Boerenkamps were kind enough to talk to yours truly about the history of the band and what the future departs for it; something that you will also discover as your read on...

Marcelo Silveyra: Before Ricocher was officially named that way, the band used to play cover versions of other bands' songs, and it was still to be a while until you recorded a demo. In the middle of all that activity, which perhaps is a lot more obvious when one is inside the band, when was it that you guys said, "This is something that we definitely have to do?" When did Ricocher pass from being a cover band to an "original material band" and was there a time when someone actually said that the change should be made?

Ricocher: As you mentioned we started as a cover band. We were a couple of friends who played an instrument in different bands. After those bands split up we decided to start to play together. First we studied on some covers, but very soon we had written some [of our] own songs ... this band was called Truss. After a year we had written enough songs to fill the evening, but people seemed to remember that Truss was a cover band. When we planned to record a demo tape we decided that we had to change our name and throw away the cover image. After some discussions, Niels [Nijssen], our bass player, suggested the name Ricochet. This was a word that appears in several Marillion lyrics. After some investigation we learned that there already was a band called Ricochet, so we changed our name into Ricocher.

MS: Sometime before booking a studio for the Quest For The Heartland sessions, your previous guitar player left the band and a search for someone who was perfect for the fold resulted in Bart Van Helmond joining Ricocher. How did Van Helmond affect the way the band sounded, if at all? What was what finally convinced you that he was the perfect man for the job?

Ricocher: Our former guitar player, Kimmo Zegers, had a lot of blues influences in his style of playing. Bart had been playing in a lot of rock and soul bands, so the music became heavier as soon as Bart joined Ricocher. Because Bart had been playing in a lot of rock bands he didn't know there were other chords than the standard chords he had been playing in previous bands ... It was hard for Bart to study on the strange chords we used to play, so for him it was a challenge as well. We were convinced the first time he played a song with us. He had a lot of experience, it felt natural to play with him and he had the same kind of humor as we had. Another very important point is that he is a relative of John [smiles].

MS: You got famous progressive rock artist Mattias Norén to do the cover art for your debut album, and I felt that the results were rather impressive and reflected the musical contents of Quest For The Heartland quite well. Did he get complete freedom to design whatever he wanted or did you guys give him some pointers and concepts? If so, what exactly is the relationship between the album's cover art and its lyrics?

Ricocher: We sent Mattias the lyrics and the story behind the songs. After a few weeks Mattias showed us the first version of the cover. We were very satisfied with the result already; in fact it was much better than we could have ever imagined. The Quest For The Heartland album is about the search that each person will face at a certain point in life. We wanted this to be more accentuated. After some little adjustments, the cover was finished and Mattias started with the booklet. He used parts of the lyrics for his images. No adjustments were made on this after Mattias showed them to the band. We are so satisfied with Mattias that we asked him to do the artwork for our next album as well ... and fortunately he agreed.

MS: The comments for Quest For The Heartland from members of Everon, IQ, and Arena praising your music look very impressive. Has this affected the perception of people who are interested in the band and of record labels that you have tried to work with? Were you a bit scared when you first noticed that those musicians had sent you a reply before actually reading it?

Ricocher: When we gave our albums to those bands we were very curious what they would think about Ricocher; they are our "heroes." When we received their e-mails I was very nervous, "what would they think about Ricocher, what if they don't like it at all." Fortunately their reactions were so much better than expected. I think it will always help a little band like Ricocher when someone like Everon, IQ or Arena says they really like it. Everyone inside the progressive rock scene knows these bands. The reviews that are written by people all over the world are helping bands as well. They are placed in magazines on the Internet and many people have the opportunity to read these reviews. Internet is growing to become one of the most important media in the progressive music scene, maybe even the complete music scene.

MS: For many young artists out there, touring comes as an extremely important part of being in a band and promoting it. How important is touring for Ricocher, both regarding professional needs and personal ambitions? And how has opening for Arena and Saga and partaking in a summer festival helped expand the Ricocher fanbase?

Ricocher: Playing live gigs is very important for any band, because it's the way to get in contact with people and we really love doing it. To be the opening act for Arena and Saga was very important for Ricocher. On these nights we sold a lot of albums and the audience that liked Arena and Saga seemed to like Ricocher as well. We reached a lot of people, which we would never have reached all on our own. Because of this, more magazines and people got interested and with the help of mouth to mouth advertise we became a more known name in the progressive rock scene.

Playing at the Bospop Festival was different. Not only people who like progressive rock music came to the festival, but also the fans of bands like Megadeth and Living Colour. We had to play very early (11:00 AM), but there were approximately 1000 persons watching us. After these gigs we saw that the visits on our homepage were increasing heavily. These gigs also help a lot to get other live gigs in the Netherlands. Bookers seem to think: "Ricocher played on the Bospop festival and in the big venues, so it has to be good."

Because we sent a copy of our album to the Classic Rock Society, we were invited to play on their big Rotherham Rocks Festival last weekend (20th October) between bands like Pallas, Threshold, and Landmarq. Most people over there didn't know Ricocher, but they all seemed overwhelmed after our gig. A lot of enthusiastic reactions were spoken afterwards and again a lot of albums were sold. Yesterday we've been invited to come to Hamburg, Pennsylvania in the USA to play there on the Inter Fest in September 2002. [Postponed to Spring 2003 {and to be honest, I think the fest never happened} -ed.] So because of these live gigs we seem to reach a lot of new potential fans, which we would never have reached without these gigs. We're very grateful to the people who gave Ricocher the chances, it just seems like a dream that might end some day and then we'll find that this all hasn't happened...

MS: You talked back in November 2000 with a record label that seemed interested in working with Ricocher ... what happened? How hard is it to obtain a beneficial record deal for a young progressive band and what kind of experiences have you come across while looking for labels and distributors to work with you?

Ricocher: The label that seemed interested and Ricocher couldn't come to an agreement that was satisfying for both. They wanted us to pay the costs for the recording and if they liked the mixed and recorded songs, they would take the pre-master and design their own artwork. After that they would pay [for] the manufacturing of the discs and would distribute and promote it. We would receive a small percentage from the selling price of each sold album. We weren't satisfied with the offer and we decided to find our own distributing points.

On the Internet we found several addresses of distributors all over the world and we sent them e-mail. A lot of distributors reacted and are now distributing the Quest For The Heartland album in their country (i.e.. Japan, USA, Netherlands, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, and Canada). We hope to enlarge the quantity of distributing points with our next album

It's very hard to get a record deal that a band can be satisfied with. The big companies think that they can't sell enough records to give you a deal and the smaller companies can't give the bands a deal that will give the bands a real benefit.

MS: Now it's time to shed off this veneer of seriousness for a second and move onto the beloved series of oddball questions! We promise the madness is only temporary though! One: How old is Elizabeth Taylor and how many times has she gotten married?

Ricocher: Elizabeth Taylor looks like she's 280 years old, but she behaves like a 4 year old kid (at least when she's with us), so she must be somewhere around 70 years. Hasn't she been married with almost every famous guy?

MS: Two: Are you a progfreak?

Ricocher: Maikel [Van Deer Meer] (drummer), Niels (bass player) and John [Van Heugten] (keyboards) are progfreaks, Bart is an old rocker and Erwin is very much into Lionel Richie ... so these two aren't really progfreaks, although they like progressive rock music.

MS: Three: Who actually deserved to win in the following 1998 World Cup matchup: The Netherlands vs. Mexico?

Ricocher: That's quite simple: The Netherlands, no doubt about it [smiles]. [Remind me to give Ricocher's next album a really low grade!!! - MS {*}]

MS: Ok, I promised, it was only temporary ... it's a real shame that your recorded video of the Ricocher performance opening for the Arena fan club meeting didn't come out with the quality that you expected and thus could not be put out to the public. The attempt is duly noted however. In fact, younger progressive rock bands normally don't shoot videos, as they're bound to get little exposure outside the band's fanbase ... do you think this is bound to change in the future? [recall, this is pre-YouTube -ed.]

Ricocher: The reason there was a video recording was because the Arena fan club, The Cage, wanted to record the fan club meeting. They asked if we were interested to have our show filmed as well. So it was something we accidentally ran into. When we received the tape it was very obvious what we already expected, the lighting engineer had really messed it all up. The first two songs were acceptable, but afterwards it went only downwards. During some songs only three red lights were on, so it was really dark. Indeed it's very hard to get some exposure outside the band's fan base. On the other hand it's another opportunity to show a booker at a venue what you're capable of. A video, which shows a band playing live, is something completely different than a studio album. Maybe at a special occasion (next CD presentation) we'll think about recording the show. It's very expensive to hire cameramen who will shoot your show professionally.

MS: Something that struck me as rather peculiar on your latest news [release] was that you mentioned the creation of a Ricocher fan club, to be called The Quest. Just who came up with this marvelous idea and how does it feel to have an actual fan club after so little time has elapsed since the release of Quest For The Heartland?

Ricocher: Wil Engelen, a guy who saw us live at the Arena gig, was so impressed by our performance that he wanted to create a fan club for Ricocher. He contacted us, to see if it was OK with us. Next to that he's helping us out with some ideas he and we have about future performances. We are very honored to have our own fan club. But it's very difficult for us not to interfere too much. We normally handle everything that has something to do with Ricocher and this is the first item that we're not in control of. He is building an Internet site for The Quest. At this moment it's only in Dutch, but it's quite likely that it will appear in English as well. [As of 2011, it no longer exists -ed.]

MS: A lot of people tend to say that progressive rock died because many of its bands didn't know how to write accessible songs and instead chose to develop overly bombastic material. Yet with your album, it is obvious that progressive rock can produce catchy material that people outside prog rock may take a liking to. When this potential is there, is it more important to try and grow strongly within progressive rock circles, or to try and reach larger groups of people out there?

Ricocher: I think as a musician it's just a matter of playing the music that you like to play. There will always be people who will like it or who won't like it, that's just a matter of taste. Personally I like a lot of bands, from pop to metal and from classic to modern music. Ricocher isn't a band that thinks in terms of "we only want to play for progressive rock fans;" we like to play for the people who like our music and are enjoying the music they hear. People tend to put things in boxes with a label on it, and their approach to these boxes is with a prejudice. I know people who told me once that they didn't like progressive/symphonic rock because it was so boring. When I let them listen to songs from bands like Jadis, Arena, or Marillion they told me they liked that music. I then told them these were progressive rock bands as well, and they were astonished. With Ricocher we hope to reach as many people as possible, also because the group of people who call themselves progressive rock fans isn't that big.

Ricocher - Cathedral Of Emotion (2002)[In 2002, Ricocher released their follow up CD, Cathedral Of Emotion ; the album artwork, again by Norén, appears to the right. This past December, the band won the "Best New Band" award from the Classic Rock Society. {In 2004, they released Chains; they seem to have since disbanded... -ed.]

* so... I never commented on that comment before, but here in 2011, I should maybe point out that Marcelo has lived in both Mexico and the US, and was routinely moving back and forth (don't know about now) ... but I can't say which locale was the very first -ed.

Quest For The Heartland (ep) (2000)
Cathedral Of Emotions (2002)
Chains (2004)

Added: August 24th 2004
Interviewer: Marcelo Silveyra

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Language: english

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