THE HECK : INTERVIEW MAY 2023 WITH HENRI KEEFMAN
Could you please introduce yourself with a few words?
Henri Keefman : Vocals & Guitars, loves vinyl records and vintage gear
Erik Berends : Drums, loves cool, big cars and mostly always drives us to shows
René Katerbarg : Bass, loves to shoot/ edit his own short movies.
Your band name is The Heck, why this name, is there a particular meaning behind it ?
We were looking for a timeless, nowadays name, that could also give the impression that it came straight out of the sixties. And it had to be like a punch in the face to represent our vicious side and our hectic live shows. And it had to be short, so it would be easy for stamping/ printing DIY releases. The name THE HECK, combined with the !!!! logo, checks all boxes!
Can you tell us about your previous bands, your musical background (which bands did you play in, which music styles, have you released some records etc.) ?
Before The Heck I played in The Miracle Men (sixtiesbeat), De Keefmen (sixties garagerock) and The Sensational Second Cousins (garagerockabilly). With all bands I released multiple records (CD’s LP’s and 7 inches) on labels such as Teen Sound Records (IT), Dirty Water Records (UK), Kuriosa Records (NL/ESP) and Independent Future Recordings (NL).
Apart from the Sonics and Reigning Sound, what are your influences ?
There’s a whole range of influences in between them like The OBLIVIANS, GORIES, REATARDS, COMPULSIVE GAMBLERS, THE REMAINS, THE REAL KIDS, RADIO BIRDMAN, DEAD MOON, THE PAGANS. I also like OTIS REDDING, JOHNNY CASH and BOB DYLAN a lot. And I listened a lot to NIRVANA and NOFX growing up. The list goes on and on.
Is there one record, one band that is above any other band or record for you? Your greatest musical crush.
It’s impossible to pick just one. But the first three that come to mind are :
THE REAL KIDS (same)
THE REMAINS (same)
COMPULSIVE GAMBLERS (Bluff City)
I learned to play the guitar by playing the songs that are on the Bluff City record.
If we ask you to name your music, would you say you play Garage Rock, Punk, Nederbeat or something else ?
We started off with sixties, garagerock and punk, but evolved along the way to a more garagepunk touch.
Your first album was released by Dirty Water Records, the last ones by Soundflat Records and you have also worked with Sour Bomb Records and Waaghals. Is there a special reason for these changes?
Dirty Water Records I knew from my other band De Keefmen, since they released our LP Mirror of Time. They were so kind to help us get a kick start. I started Sour Bomb Records myself, with the main goal to release my own records. All DIY, just the way I like. But since that’s also a lot of work, we were really pleased when Soundflat Records contacted us after our 7 inch single MOVE! which they liked so much, that they told us they wanted to do a whole record. Which turned out to be HECK YEAH!! At the time and more recently ON YOUR NERVES. We recorded the song Bad Christmas to release as a ‘digital’ joke, but when Waaghals heard it, they liked it so much that they asked us to record a couple of songs for a special X-mas single.
For a band it’s always good to release records on multiple labels, so more people get the chance to get in touch with your music.
All these records are available on vinyl only, no CD. Is it your choice or the choice of the labels ?
We don’t have anything against CD or cassette, but a vinyl release is our main goal with each release. Once that is done, we’re done and on our way to the next vinyl release.
For your last album, On Your Nerves, you have worked with Bernard Gepken who also produced your previous album, Heck Yeah !!. How did you get in touch with him, maybe you already knew him and had already worked with him in your previous bands ?
Bernard is a long time friend of our bass player René (they played in a Ramones coverband together). My second cousin Jerk (who is the drummer of The Sensational Second Cousins) and Bernard played in their first band together. Next to that the local music scene isn’t that big, so you know at least everyone by face. So we all kinda knew each other already in one way or another.
When we got the idea to record an LP in my garage at home, which is our practice room as well, we asked Bernard to do the recordings. Luckily he really liked the idea as well, but he never recorded a complete band at once. So he rented, and borrowed some equipment to get the magic started. Since he’s a real professional behind the knobs everything went really smoothly. With the successful recording session of Heck Yeah!! In mind, we decided to team up again for On Your Nerves. It was a great trip of exploring our possibilities together and getting to know each other better. Especially during dinner.
Can you tell us about the artworks of your records. How do you chose the people you are going to work with, do you have a perfect idea of what you want before doing anything or do the designers show you the way the cover will look, etc?
We did a lot of artwork of the first records ourselves to save costs. Along the way some good friends, we met along the way in one way or another, helped us with the artwork. Most of the times they did some great gig posters we really like, or a great sleeve for another band we like, or they are just really nice people with great artistic ideas. What usually helps is that they like our music as well. So we appreciate from each other what we do artistically.
Usually we have an idea about the feeling the artwork should represent, or the specific song has a theme that we like to see back in the artwork. But it’s always the artist him or herself who makes it into magic.
Do you use the same equipment in the studios and on stage ?
Yes we do, we intend to keep as close as possible to our live performance and sound. Though on a couple of songs we do some additional stuff in the studio because it suits the song and it’s obviously fun to do. We always do a couple of songs with a Philicorda organ, or an acoustic/ 12 string guitar. Most recently I even played the accordion on a track. If it works, it works!
What is your equipment ? You play Fender guitars ? Vox amps ?
I’m really into vintage gear but not specifically VOX or Fender. I got myself a couple of Hagstrom, Hopf, Eko, Welson, Hofner and Harmony guitars. My most recent discovery for a great avordable amp is the HH Electronics 212 which the Buzzcocks and Undertones used back in the day.
Back to the question: in The Heck I always play my EKO 500 goldsparkle guitar together with my Music Man 212 amp. My main pedals are an Ibanez TS808 Tube Screamer and a VOX Wah Wah. During recordings I use a Colby or Schaller Fuzz pedal.
René plays a Crucianelli bass with an Ampeg Portaflex fliptop amp.
Erik got two second hand cheap ass drumkits: a Concorde and a Pearl.
How long do you spend in the studio to record an album ?
We start off with setting everything up for recordings in the morning. Do a couple of test runs etc. When it’s all good, we start with recording drums, bass and guitar of each track all at once. That’s usually day 1. Than the 2nd day we’ll do overdubs such as my lead vocals, guitars (solo’s, 12-string, acoustic). After that we do some additional overdubs (tambourine, backing vocals, organ those kinda things). Depending on how much overdubs we wanna do we get everything on record in 2-3 days.
Do you spend a lot of time on the road, playing concerts ?
Not as much as we wanted to since we all got full time jobs and families.
But we try to combine it all together as good as possible.
Is it easy to play/tour in the Netherlands ? Is it a « Rock country » ?
The Netherlands has quite a lot of venues which is great. But most of them are quite hip and happening. Just as the younger bands who are almost all into the latest postpunk hype right now. There isn’t a real underground scene like it is in Spain for example. Dutch radio is one of the reasons I guess.
But hey, I don’t want to complain to much. We can do enough shows, so that’s cool. When on tour in Europe as a band always try to pick one or two shows in the Netherlands and then move on to the next country. With Vera Groningen we got the best venue in the world with great hospitality, so always try to play there!
We have interviewed musicians who have a full time job with their band (The Courettes, for exemple) and others who have a job apart from their band (the Nomads). Is The Heck your main job or do you all have works beside it ?
We all have full time jobs on the side. Music is our passion, but with the genre music we make it is almost impossible to make a (decent) living.
What is your best memory of a live gig since you started playing music?
When we ‘re talking Heck-shows I remember falling of the back of the stage through the curtains on a fully blown big air Dinosaur (‘fun gear’ of the band after us) which broke my fall so I could continue playing the guitar. Haha, no kidding. It was hilarious and I was quite lucky I didn’t break my neck there. Erik running of the stage, straight to the toilet because he had diarrhea is a close second.
But the best memory that comes to mind was a great show I saw myself when Th’ Losin’ Streaks played the Luna Bar in Munster (Germany). The drummer hit his head straight through the snare drum! Unbelievable, what an incredible live band!
You shared the stage with The Queers and The Courettes. Do you have good memories with them, some stories to tell us ?
Hey: what happens on the road, stays on the road! Haha. What we can tell you is that they both were really kind, warm and friendly people. But then again, you (almost) never meet assholes on the road.
Will you play in France soon ?
We would love to! Do you think you could help us out to set up a small ‘weekend’ tour?
LES MONSTRES SACRES (merci pour vos commentaires)