The Hole Report (or at least part of it)

Yesterday I had a night full of holes. And it wasn’t about drinking to excess, but about attending the ‘On Portable Holes and Other Containers’ night at Felix Meritis organised by Paleisje voor Volksvlijt. Artists, philosophers, musicians and writers gathered to present and ponder such questions as ‘Is a hole a container?’, ‘How do we talk about something that does not exist?’ and ‘If you buy a donut, are you also buying the hole?’

It was actually quite enlightening. Lately I’ve been looking for new ways to perceive reality, and holes might just be the ticket. But I must admit I am still a little stuck on: ‘How do you successfully describe a knotted hole without refering to the immaterial?”

The night was partially inspired by the excellent and often hilarious book Gaten & andere dingen die er niet zijn [‘Holes and other things that are not there’] by the Easy Alohas. This DJ duo, comprised of Bas Albers and Gerard Janssen, were on hand for what must have been one of their easiest gigs ever: playing silence – or rather a mash-up of John Cage’s ‘4’33”’ and Mike Batt’s ‘One Minute Silence’. Because there was no turntable, the Alohas were forced at the last minute to download these tracks of nothingness from iTunes. This also meant we could not listen to the album they had brought along called The Best of Marcel Marceau – everyone’s favourite mime.  

Later I confessed to Gerard of the Alohas that my life is filled with huge, gaping holes. He reassured me as only a holy master of holes can: ‘You shouldn’t see that as a problem. These holes are just spaces that you can fill up with new people and ideas.’ I was suddenly filled with a huge sense of belonging. I was now truly part of the silent majority.

[Full disclosure:  You remember when the CERN Large Hadron Collider particle accelerator was first turned on in 2008 and it mysteriously shut down almost immediately, and it was theorised that a particle from the future had travelled back in time to do this in order to ensure that the accelerator would not form a black hole? I am that particle.]

Posted: December 1, 2011 at 4:42 pm.

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Buck Owens’ ‘Amsterdam’

American country singer Buck Owen’s only hit in the Netherlands: ‘Amsterdam’. In 1970 the song spent eight weeks in the Top 40. Now I’m wondering if his song ‘Made in Japan’ was a hit in Japan. Perhaps targeting specific spots to write songs about – and hopefully scoring a local hit – was his business model after his American hits dried up.

But whatever: ‘I picked peaches in a Georgia town / And I picked cotton down in Birmingham / At the day I’ll get out of Alabam / I’m goin’ back to Amsterdam. / Amsterdam, old Amsterdam…’ 

Posted: September 8, 2011 at 2:26 pm.

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Guardian’s Amsterdam City Guide

Guardian Travel playlist for Amsterdam by De Jeugd van Tegenwoordig by Guardiantravel on Mixcloud

The Guardian just published their online guide to Amsterdam. It’s quite fine indeed and features some fine local contributers — including the folks behind Unfold Amsterdam. My contribution involved asking the Dutch gibberish-hop collective De Jeugd van Tegenwoordig about their favorite Amster-songs. The interview was both hilarious and exhausting. Sadly much of what they said proved to be too racy for a family newspaper. My favorite part was when they claimed that volkszanger Andre Hazes was the nation’s Tupac and was actually black — ‘but you know how the history books always change everything.’

Posted: June 28, 2011 at 10:38 am.

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Geoff Berner in Amsterdam

Arise spirits! You will be able to reel and writhe as singer/accordionist/raconteur Geoff Berner and his Klezmer Trio play this Wednesday 30 March at Cafe Pakhuis Wilhelmina in Amsterdam. Don’t miss it. He’s a bit of a Whisky Rabbi and his latest album, Victory Party produced by Socalled, is really quite excellent. I particularly appreciate the more spiritual direction he’s taken with such tunes as ‘Rabbi Berner Finally Reveals His True Religious Agenda’. You can read an interview I did with him last year HERE where he also reveals much about the Odessa underbelly, an ex-Rastafarian mentor and how curling is making a comeback in Canada.

Posted: March 25, 2011 at 2:23 pm.

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Bad Buzz/Lost in the Space Age


My old friends the Anacondas have just released their third album of post-surf tunes: Bad Buzz/Lost in the Space Age. It comes with a story. After they recorded it a year or so ago, they asked me to help turn it into a ‘concept’ album. Since making a ‘concept’ album out of something that’s already recorded seemed pretty high-‘concept’ in itself, I naturally said yes. And anyway, I always do like a nice ‘concept’. And it’s really quite amazing what some liner notes, visuals and overdubs can do when it comes to fleshing out the ‘conceptual’.

The album’s ‘concept’ is really quite simple — like any good ‘concept’. It begins with the anger we all share: that the shiny space age we were promised never actually showed up (Where are our jetpacks? Where are our slow food pill packs? Who can we lynch?). Now try to imagine how pissed off and bitter a jaded and washed up astronaut would be. Of course: he would be really, really pissed off and bitter. And so Bad Buzz as a ‘concept’ was born. And from there we only told the absolute truth. And as Bad Buzz, I was given the opportunity to rant anti-hippie poetry while wandering the deserts high on Tang crystals, and sound like a psychobilly singer from Pluto (the non-planet) while grunting out the tale of a hotrod rocket race between Major Tom and Barbarella. And for these experiences I would like to say: Thanks fellas! But yes, it’s now best for all parties if they return to their instrumental ways.

The release party is at Amsterdam’s Paradiso on November 6. Oh, and the coolest thing: this album is also available in vinyl. Now there’s a ‘concept’! And a big thanks to Unfold for indulging the above advertorial. Maybe next time they’ll actually get paid — yet another ‘concept’.

Posted: October 29, 2010 at 2:16 pm.

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On Clowns, Ceramics and Aging























Lately a couple things have been making me feel old: the skyrocketing age of my friends’ children and witnessing the completion of urban renewal projects. (I noticed during Sail 2010 that Amsterdam’s Eastern docklands are officially scrubbed clean and shiny — not a squatter left in sight — and now finally resemble the maquettes I remember from a decade or two ago.

Now I have a new thing that makes me feel old: successful musician friends re-launching as painters. Richard Cameron’s portraits are being exhibited at the Chiellerie until 9 September. Check them out. Even though Richard, of Arling & Cameron fame, just started painting a year ago, he’s certainly not just clowning about. In fact, Chiellerie’s Chiel was again proven absolutely correct: after he predicted the rise of ceramics couple of years ago, Chiel’s now putting all his money on clowns breaking through huge this year.

But I wonder: do clowns ever really go out of style? It’s certainly hard to imagine when looking at Richard’s portrait of the enigmatic Malle Domoor (above).

Posted: September 15, 2010 at 10:12 am.

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Unfold Amsterdam hits the streets

Unfold_Vol01_01_COVERUnfold Amsterdam has officially hit the streets. Every two weeks, Amsterdammers will be able to pick up this free English-language poster/mag highlighting the work of local artists/designers and covering the best of what’s going down around town. Hopefully it will fill the gap left since the demise of alternative weekly Amsterdam Weekly. In fact, Unfold Amsterdam arises from the luminous efforts of some of the more luminary ex-Weekly staff and freelancers. So I dig it indeed. Especially this edition’s poster by Simon Wald-Lasowski. So check, check, check it out — or at least put your finger on the pulse by checking regularly at their sweet-looking website.

Also keep your eyes out for the Unfold special edition covering the mighty Klik Amsterdam animation festival coming up on 15-19 September.

Posted: September 15, 2010 at 10:00 am.

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Eurvision on Amsterdam

Eurovision song contestant Maggie MacNeal. 1980. You have been warned. But oh so scenic!

Posted: May 21, 2010 at 11:49 am.

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MOKUM – Trippel X ft. Sharla Sookha

Mokum – Trippel X ft. Sharla Sookha from Michiel Eijsbouts on Vimeo. Another heartwarming, and kind of  hilarious, love song    to Amsterdam with the video providing another fine, and kind of hilarious, tour of the city.  In Dutch.

Posted: April 22, 2010 at 12:25 pm.

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Conducting an Interview

ottotausk_by_marko_borggreveTraditionally, conductors have had a certain reputation. Arturo Toscanini and Gustav Mahler were untouchable gods alone on their mountains. Artur Rodzinski was said to bring a revolver to rehearsals to help with motivation. For me, the image of a conductor was formed by my 200-kilogram school band teacher who would bash her baton and munch on rum cake, hunks of which she would regularly tear off to throw at the head of whoever hit a bad note. She was very scary.

So it was refreshing to talk to conductor Otto Tausk about control for Nyenrode Now (pages 16-18). He’s not only the most acclaimed Dutch conductor of his generation, but also a nice inspired guy. And he could put things into perspective: “Having a conductor is like using a condom, it might be better without one but it’s definitely safer.”

Our talk made me realise how my musical development was perhaps somewhat stunted by my scary school teacher. Thanks to her I moved away from classical and took on a more rock’n’roll direction. But who knows? Perhaps there’s still time to take control. Thanks Otto.

And thanks to my conductor friend Greg Hubert who gave me a crash course on how to conduct a controlled  interview with a conductor about control  – he was my Deep Throat with a baton.

Posted: March 12, 2010 at 4:01 pm.

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