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Friars Interviews

FERDINAND BAKKER
Alquin
friars appearances:  15/06/74  friars dunstable 18/03/74

Alquin were described as progressive by some, but in truth were a great amalgam of many styles influenced by British and American favourites of theirs. They were getting very big in Holland before setting out on their first jaunt of the UK supporting fellow Dutchmen Golden Earring including a gig at Friars Dunstable in 1974.

Making a great impression on the tour, they came back in the summer and headlined at Friars Aylesbury. They disbanded in 1977 and reformed in 2003.

We caught up with Ferdinand Bakker at his studio in Holland in February 2013.

Hello Ferdinand, thanks for talking to the Friars Aylesbury website, let's go back to 1974 and two Friars appearances. The first was supporting fellow Dutch band Golden Earring at Friars Dunstable, which was your first UK tour.  Were Alquin well received in your view?

Yes, we knew Golden Earring as we were on the same record label and we took the opportunity to tour England with them. It was our first encounter with the British audiences. This was around the time Golden Earring had a big hit with Radar Love so they were getting some big audiences .It was great for us as a lot of people could see us which is how we got the opportunity to tour England again so quickly in summer 1974.

By the time you came to the UK, your first two albums were out, "Marks" and "Mountain Queen" - revisiting these records now, some people were calling you progressive rock, but for me that's too general. There were so many elements to your music, how would you have described yourselves?

It might be called progressive nowadays, but there were definitely different elements in there. We had a very eclectic crossover of styles. Pink Floyd for one. It was a funny combination of the hippy culture and a lot of other elements like Santana with the South American beats. We were quite wide with our (musical) orientation and also some jazz.

There's definitely some funk in there too!

Yes, what I would call the American influence. There was some Indonesian stuff in there too. There was a wild music scene there in the 1950/60s and there were good R&B bands there. There were bands in Holland who came from there and some great R&B bands who were also an infuence. I started out playing my favourite bands, such as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Byrds and that kind of stuff. After playing that, you find out you want to do your own thing and I'd had classical training too, playing violin. One of the saxaphone players in Alquin was very jazzy based and combined with the Hammond organ, a get a big melting pot of influences. So we didn't fall into any trends, we picked out what we liked. We were happy not be following trends and doing our own thing and playing.

Before the UK Golden Earring tour, you were really starting to get noticed in Holland weren't you in 1972/1973?

It was the Pinkpop festival. The biggest music magazine in Holland had the headline of "Alquin and Pinkpop - great success" which was ridiculous to have a cover like that! (laughs) But they were really into the music we did and that magazine really put us up there and that was a magazine which people in Holland read to catch up on British and American bands. That was amazing for us. That gave us a kick and we started to tour a lot and we got a support slot with The Who in France, one of my greatest experiences in rock and roll! (laughs)

I would imagine it was!

But when you stayed in hotels and had breakfast with them, you saw them in a different way. They invited us to "see the city" as you'd call it. (Musically) our standards were quite high and we actually didn't want to be commercial. At that time it was forbidden.

I guess part of the reason for the record company getting you out on the road here was that Dutch bands were starting to make inroads - the likes of Focus and Golden Earring for example.

I think the music suited the English audiences. We were quite different though, not like say Golden Earring.
The first thing about the tour was that we were put on the spot in front of British audiences so they could see what we were. That was about twenty dates on that tour.

After the Golden Earring tour including the Friars Dunstable gig, you made such an impression to come back to the UK later that year in June 1974. You headlined our fifth birthday party and I think this was actually the last UK gig Alquin ever played.

I do recall those gigs and a British support band. It could very well have been our last UK gig.

You made two further albums before stopping the first time, four albums in total.

We recorded them in England although we didn't tour them there.

When Alquin stopped in 1977, was it a case of the band fighting the tide against changes to the musical landscape and people's tastes?

Yeah, but we had a misfortune when the third album ("Nobody Can Wait") came out when it was released in the States with RCA. We were supposed to tour the States to promote the album and the first gigs had already been scheduled and they had a change of A&R management. He put everything on hold to take stock of what the label had. That killed us. We couldn't tour without the label support and the promoters thought that if the record company wasn't backing us, then they wouldn't put the gigs on. The tour got cancelled two weeks before we were due to go out there, so the momentum had gone. So we had some problems keeping up good spirits but we did and we did the fourth and last album which took us in a new direction. Then New Wave and the punk change came in shortly after. Did that finish the band? Not really. We could have gone on (despite the change in music tastes)  despite America not working out and we toured Holland every year. We were voted the number one band in Holland and we thought "let's split!" It wasn't a quarrel or anything, we'd just had enough and couldn't see how we could expand it abroad easily and just end up playing Holland for another ten years which wasn't what we wanted. So the drummer and me started a new band called The Meteors which was a bit new wave. (not the same Meteors as the UK band) Michel van Dijk the singer was really into rock and roll so did something else.

How was it in The Meteors?

We got to tour England again which was very nice and we did three albums. We recorded the second album in Germany with Conny Plank (Ultravox/Kraftwerk) with good musicians. When you look back at it now, it wasn't that different to Alquin. Alquin fans were shocked though as we had shorter hair and looked different but we were a different band. Alquin fans coming to our gigs had a bit of a shock.....!


A bit of a culture shock!

Yes it was! But when you have new songs, record them and go out and play them, we were always having to be 18 months ahead of ourselves and when audiences heard something new, it had been with us for a year. The change of music we were doing, there was a change in the times and we had to adjust to that, there was more energy.

You did three albums with the Meteors?

The third one wasn't very good, but the first two were very nice. We had a single out that was covered by Lene Lovich who we had supported in Europe and another chance to see England and tell people how nice Liverpool was and how close the hotel was to the venue! It was nice to do that with a different band.

What did you do after The Meteors?

I started producing, working with Kim Haworth (who played on America's Horse With No Name) from The Meteors and working in theatre doing soundscape work and writing. I also had my own studio for 25 years where we did commercials, film music and diverse projects and Alquin went on to do more albums.....
.

Just getting on to that! How did Alquin get back together in 2003? Was it just the right time?

It started with a young guy who heard some our vinyl in a record shop and he said "shit! who's this" and he was told it was a band from the 70s called Alquin. He then bought everything! The guy bemoaned having never seen us play. The record shop owner said he knew us and the record buyer asked for our numbers. He then organised it and we said we'd do a few gigs as a reunion. It was nice to see all the guys and play together again. Once we started rehearsing and the first few bars were played, it felt like nothing had changed. It's still good material to play.

You've made two new albums since you reformed.......

I had a lot of ideas and having a studio at the time helped make it all happen.
 

The music Alquin made was great and it's good news you're making music again.

I'm also working on a project involving myself and Michel van Dijk,  the band's singer, based stylistically on Alquin to a degree but more R&B and some different elements in. It should out in six or seven months time - we call ourselves the FM Band. Our initials and a reference to the radio.

Ferdinand, best wishes to you from all at Friars Aylesbury.

Cheers.

Official Alquin website

This interview and its content are 2013 Mike O'Connor/www.aylesburyfriars.co.uk and may not be used in whole or in part without permission.

 

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