Jeroen van Vliet talks to

The Groningen Report

Since some years I am interested in the music of the Dutch piano player and composer Jeroen van Vliet. One of my personal highlights is his solo-album “Wait”, published in 2012, that I love to listen to a lot. Just the moment, before he came to play in Groningen with a totally different project, the “Zeeland Suite Revisited”, I started to listen to “Wait” again and liked it so much. Then it was just natural to ask Jeroen van Vliet for this interview, which he directly accepted. We met one hour before his soundcheck, may 26 – 2016 in the Platform Theater in Groningen. His concert took place through an invitation by the foundation “Stichting Jazz in Groningen” ( That evening he played on piano, with Anton Goudsmit on guitar, Mete Erker and Joris Posthumus on saxophones, Joris Roelofs on clarinet, Frans van der Hoeven on bass and Pascal Vermeer on drums.

Interview: Bernd Ihno Eilts
Photo: Zoltan Acs

Bernd I. Eilts: Thank you very much for taking the time during your Dutch tour for making this talk possible. My first question is about your influences in music, but also in art, poetry, philosophy and classical music. What helps you to compose and perform your music?

Jeroen van Vliet: Interesting question! This is a question about life, the real one. First of all, in my early age, I was influenced by classical music. I was very attracted to the piano concerts of Mozart, to which I listened very carefully. Also Beethoven and Debussy. Then I got involved in playing myself and even started to write music at the same time, which offered me huge freedom and evoked my creativity. That was actually the best start considering what happened later on. I then got interested in other music, because of improvising and when I was about seventeen or eighteen years old, I discovered jazz. Jazz is a very broad open style of music, that gives you the possibility and opportunity to improvise. I was not affected by the style, colour or feel of jazz itself, but mainly because of the opportunity to improvise. Later on I embraced the styles, embraced to learn from studying them and discovered what’s happening there. I learnt how to use this music, to compose and discovered all kinds of performance possibilities.

In the tradition towards a more professional player in my twenties I saw some piano players, that were really interesting. My first big influence of that period was Paul Bley. First, because of his freedom and second, because of his very personal style. The other big influence was Keith Jarrett. That was more related to my classical background as being attached to a very controlled and deep instrument itself. Keith Jarrett is by far one of the best piano players in terms of managing the instrument and its sound. With him, the classical and improvised background comes together. On top of this, I always felt very attracted to modern art in terms of being sovereign, what seems to be disconnected from tradition. Not that I feel disconnected, but the motion of being able to stand back and create something new, even if you look back to the guys, who worked before you. But the motion to be free to use is something that I find easily within modern contemporary visual art, even easier than in music. Somehow I sense this in visual art. There it’s more like a first motion to be. Nowadays I have a good connection with the great Dutch painter Robert Zandvliet, who has much international success.

Last month I visited the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Denmark, it is world famous for its Modern Art Collection and exhibitions. Even after weeks I was still touched by that museum and its creativity, especially their way to create the possibility to think different, to think out of the box. That’s what I love so much! The difficulties I have sometimes are with resistant traditions. In many ways this often is a game of rules and statements about how things should be done or be developed. There, I do not feel really much freedom inside. Very often I am looking for ways to be out of the box, which is hard to find sometimes. But sometimes I am also really much into it of course. I don’t want to be arrogant about all influences of traditions. It’s more about looking for freedom.

Poetry also can touch me! Again: I’m not totally into one particular writer. I like Fernando Pessoa, a Portuguese writer (1888 – 1935) but I don’t hang into poetry that much. I have a good connection with eastern philosophy what nowadays is more common then twenty years ago, like non-duality for example. Also Deepak Chopra interests me.

Bernd I. Eilts: How did it start generating the wish to play the piano in the beginning?

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Jeroen van Vliet: It’s very common for Dutch kids to have music lessons, even piano. I just started learning piano when I was very young. The first two years I went to the music school and only played their instruments. Every single day after school!

Bernd I. Eilts: How did you become a professional musician? You studied in Tilburg and Utrecht. In Utrecht you graduated cum laude. How did it happen for you, the switch to become a real professional musician?

Jeroen van Vliet: Well, that was hard and even now, it’s even more hard to be a professional musician. What happened during my studies, I started with little concerts and gigs, also participating in festivals. Then I won prices in those years, which was really helpful. But it was hard after my study at the Conservatory to start and to make a living from music. I got the opportunity, next to having performances, to compose for a modern dance company for many years. That period brought me very deep into art and dance. I love choreographers like Hans Teurlings and Conny Janssen. I also love music that is connected to other art forms, especially to modern dance and film. I’m doing my career as I’m doing it, but in a way, I’m still kind of a side-man. Someone, who wants to be added to other stuff or connect to other people, rather than being the front man, which is strange right now. Saying and realising this, before having a concert, where I am the leader, like this evening. But I am not a leader in that leader sense. I can easily be connected to other people’s projects. Although, at some point I do miss my own color and writing. That’s why I’m doing my own projects. I want to create my own music.

Interview with Jeroen van Vliet, jazz pianist from the Netherlands.

Bernd I. Eilts: That switch came more in a natural way, you became professional?

Jeroen van Vliet: Yes.

Bernd I. Eilts: You mentioned in a previous interview, that you are an improviser in the basic situation as a piano player. But you also compose music. What are the differences for you between these two activities or genres?

Jeroen van Vliet: When the people you work with and the state of the environment is set well, like you have a good connection with your fellow musicians and the piano is good, then it’s kind of easy or at least possible to get into a certain flow. The ideas you play are instant, your observations are instant, your decisions are instant and they call it instant composing. But there is another control afterwards, different than just the fact, you are just there, different than just seeing, what you created so far. I can sort of sense, where it’s all going to. Let’s do the next step. This is, what you are doing as an improviser.

Composing has a different reflection. You write something, you listen to it, you look at it and you can think: Maybe I should write it differently. Somehow it is the same process, since it’s possible to reflect afterwards. You want to construct it. It even needs construction. And on top of that, of course, improvising is also writing for other people. You are able to arrange other instruments. There are many other moments of positions in that process. For my idea, it’s much harder to compose than to improvise. By the way, I was surprised by the fact of a note Chopin wrote about his work. He stated, for him improvising was like it is for myself. A very easy and flowing direction, while composing was a harsher situation and extremely hard to do. I was surprised, but I really do recognize that. It’s a very different process.

Bernd I. Eilts: You are here tonight in Groningen, The Platform Theatre, to perform the Zeeland Suite. This work was a concept from the Dutch piano player Leo Cuypers and was first created in 1977. He played a lot with the Willem Breuker Kollektief. You were asked to write and perform your idea of this work. How much of Leo Cuypers is still in this work you wrote?

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Jeroen van Vliet: Of course, I wanted to honor him by using this piece, which was actually a request from the producer and a very nice idea and gesture. The only idea we really used from Cuypers was to go outside to the province and look there for nice locations. All was filmed on locations in Zeeland and recorded by the VPRO and NPO and we already performed there in different and very special locations. Very simple, filming all and playing this music and releasing it. It was a nice challenge to write this piece. I only had three weeks for it, but the concept was clear, it needed to be one hour long. Like this I created the Zeeland Suite Revisited.

Bernd I. Eilts: All was organised very well and you just had to write the music?

Jeroen van Vliet: Exactly. Then the main thing that inspires you is just the deadline. Even, it is not so nice to say, but it’s true! This pushes you towards a final result, you are absolutely forced to do your work. I just needed a small space with a laptop and a piano to write it all.

Bernd I. Eilts: So, to bring my last question back, there is nothing really to hear anymore from Leo Cuypers in this work you finally composed?

Interview with Jeroen van Vliet, jazz pianist from the Netherlands.

Jeroen van Vliet: What I took from his idea, from his version was a very much inspired Amsterdam 70s sound situation. Kind of activism music.

Bernd I. Eilts: You can see these structures also back in the art group COBRA, right?

Jeroen van Vliet: It was also a political statement. They used a broadcast company from Germany that time, the ZDF. Plus a record label from Holland, that spent so much money on this project and it was the first time it also succeeded, a project for this type of music which was free improvised jazz music. It was recognized as a ballad for a countryside called Zeeland and its Zeeuwse landscape, located in the south west of Holland. That was maybe even more important than the music itself. It was a remarkable project and when you see the energy there, standing in front of the ocean, it was so special. In the past, in the 70s, they went to one location there, where they put all instruments, even the grandpiano, the drums, all saxophones for only one concert in front of the sea, played one gig and after that they just moved away, which is such a great statement. In that sense I really enjoy and value this project. But that was totally different from what I did. The only thing I did was take a tape with me and I loved the energy, that pureness. Of course, now it’s not as free as they did it. But there are many moments in our version that also create a lot of fun and freedom.

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Bernd I. Eilts: Did you listen to his version in that period of time already?

Jeroen van Vliet: I heard it indeed before, I listened to it once but decided to leave it, because it was just not my type of sound. But right now, I understand much better my own direction.

Bernd I. Eilts: You recorded your solo work “Wait” in Oslo, in the Rainbow Studio. This studio belongs more or less to ECM, many ECM related artists recorded there, for a very long time already. How did it become possible you could record your fantastic album there and work with Erik-Jan Kongshaug, the sound engineer? What were your experiences there?

Jeroen van Vliet: As you mentioned, the sound even in that studio is kind of a fingerprint for ECM Records. But very much Erik-Jan Kongshaug’s invention. Besides this, he is a specialist for the piano. I knew this for quite some years. My first album recorded in Oslo was a piano solo record as well, called “Who’s afraid”, published on Kip Records. I have been listening to many recordings from Paul Bley, Kenny Wheeler, John Taylor and Keith Jarrett. They all own that feeling from that studio. Those earlier years, while we didn’t had internet, it was just two years after I graduated from the conservatorium, I felt like jumping in there and make a solo piano recording. So I just made a phone call! I found the number of this studio in the phone book, called and Jan-Erik said: Yes, you can come! And there then, being there, it’s just a normal studio. They make a living by renting out this place, by recording and mixing music. We just needed a date to plan and then I went there. That’s how it worked. I brought a friend, kind of a producer, next to Jan-Erik. I remember I was nervous like hell. But it was a great experience. It really shaped my observation of music, pushed me towards a certain direction, by experiencing this myself and knowing that kind of feeling, what happens with the piano, while you are playing and you have that fantastic sound in your ears. That was so amazing! I was impressed by this first experience having such a good sound, such a great piano, such a great environment and then, what happens to your music, when you have all that. That’s really special! It also made me realise, that environment, sound and of course the instrument, has such a big influence on how to create a process gradually developing. That’s a big thing. You cannot underestimate that. That’s why I went there four times!

Bernd I. Eilts: As a piano player I think it is very special to present a solo recording. It’s just you there. You are the band leader and you are the band in relationship with the piano. Now you did this already twice. Also you have this sound of the Challenge Records, your label that period. A really nice and warm, soft, transparent and powerful sound it offers. There you are also able to hear the space between the sounds. For example, also Tineke Postma is recording for Challenge Records.

Interview with Jeroen van Vliet, jazz pianist from the Netherlands.

Jeroen van Vliet: Challenge is really a very big company in Holland, one of a few that produce a lot. In my perspective the fact of my album sound they did, had nothing to do with the label. The label didn’t really interfere with the music. They just took the master and that was it. So there was no production, no reflection. We just agreed and I have been my own producer that way of these albums. I’m really happy Challenge released it. But I’m gone now, I’m moving on.

Bernd I. Eilts: Then they have to be thankful to you, for creating such a sound.

Jeroen van Vliet: Indeed! There are not that many people that recorded for Challenge and go to Oslo for that. I think, I’m one of the few who did that. So, maybe I should be thankful for that, it’s a good idea. (Both laughing)!

Bernd I. Eilts: You also play a lot in Trio settings. You recently told in an interview, when you play in a trio, with a drummer and a bass player, you feel like being in a nice bed. Can you please explain, what you really mean about this? Between playing solo and playing in a band with more members?

Jeroen van Vliet: When you play solo you are allowed to do anything at any moment. Nobody calls you back or says something about it. That seems to be freedom. But when circumstances are different, it’s not freedom. It is just a feeling to be transparent and fully aware to how the music evolves in the moment. Sometimes I need some time to get into this flow. And then anything can happen. With a band, especially with a trio, it’s different of course. It is very nice when you have the kind of smart compositions and you are open enough to have almost the same freedom as in a solo situation. When your fellow musicians feel the same kind of direction, then this all allows you almost like staying in a nice warm and comfortable bed. There exists communication at that point and you can build things together. There exists a kind of extra reflection from the other musicians, which makes it easier to decide. On top of that, many times with my new trio now, but even with the former acoustic trio, even we played compositions, it felt and feels like a really safe haven. Then when you play solo, you start and hope, that something nice will come out of your play. Maybe it will happen, maybe it will become a total disaster. Anything can happen! I had some gigs, where afterwards I thought, it was so bad, it maybe went nowhere. Both environments have their positive and negative sides.

Bernd I. Eilts: Another album of you, called “Thin Air”, you played a lot of electric instruments, like the Fender Rhodes electric piano, samples and sounds. Why do you play electric and what interests you in playing electric?

Jeroen van Vliet: As I said before I’m very much attracted to aesthetic sounds and as a piano player I love to play grand pianos like the Steinway Grand Piano with good sound engineers around that are always available. Then I’m very much inspired by orchestral music, also some pop music, but mainly, on top of the aesthetics, am much interested in the cinematographic quality of music. That means, the music refers to something outside of the music. It sort of comments on the world in a very different quality, it doesn’t necessarily want to speak about music itself, how interesting it is constructed or how the arrangements look like. No, it wants to create an environment for something outside of the music. That for me is the quality of cinematographic music. The aesthetics that I use I can find easily in electronics and are very simple to work with. What happens next to that, when you use sound, like very digital synthesized kind of sounds and samples, the fun is, that on their own they are already interesting. What I do is, when I place these “plastic” kind of sounds next to the acoustic instrument -as beautiful as any instrument at this time- the piano, the piano even flourishes more. That’s all within that idea of cinematographic music.

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Bernd I. Eilts: What is your situation before a concert? You once talked about rituals that musicians have and how they are those moments before a concert. What is your special ritual?

Jeroen van Vliet: Yesterday we had a concert in the Bimhuis in Amsterdam. What I like to do after the soundcheck, the rehearsal and after dinner, is just to go outside a bit and walk around. Later in the dressingroom I try to feel comfortable relaxed and go a bit more inside myself. Then I do just one or two different yoga exercises, like stretching. And that’s it. Nothing too fancy.

Bernd I. Eilts: So, you don’t need to drink half a bottle of Jameson?

Jeroen van Vliet: No, better not! I try to avoid any alcohol. Sometimes, when I feel very relaxed, I can have a beer before or a glass of wine during the dinner. Most of the time I try to avoid alcohol.

Bernd I. Eilts: What does your life look like as a professional musician here in The Netherlands? You never thought about moving maybe to New York or any other bigger place, where it all happens? How is it for you to be here in this small country?

Interview with Jeroen van Vliet, jazz pianist from the Netherlands.

Jeroen van Vliet: Well, I cannot really compare with other countries. I can only tell how it works here. It’s up and down, a bit like a survival battle, a struggle for life in a way. But maybe if you compare it to other European countries, we do quite okay here. If I talk about the climate here, I have to say, the cultural climate here in Holland has gone down a lot the last five years. Nowadays there is less money, less opportunities, even less audience, which is actually one of the main things to be worried about. My colleagues and I try to be creative and find out how to be in this system, what is not easy at all. Last year it was really busy, because of the prize I won in 2014, The Boy Edgar Prize, that really helped a lot. In December after receiving that price, Tineke Postma came to me and warned me. She said: “The year after your price will be horrible!” Which was true! But there are nice things coming up, am very happy with my new album, that will be released in October this year 2016. So, I’m working on it. It’s not always easy. But this is, what I want to do. I want to create music and I know, it has been appreciated really enough to continue and if I can survive with it, I’m fine.

Bernd I. Eilts: What is your connection with Germany? You played in the past with the German clarinet player Theo Jörgensmann?

Jeroen van Vliet: In the 80s I was asked by Paul van Kemenade to play in his band and a couple of years later I joined Willem van Manen and his band, a modern in Amsterdam based big band and Theo Jörgensmann was in there too. Even the German bassclarinet player Eckard Koltermann. They had a clarinet duo and Eric van der Westen, a friend of mine, bass player and myself, we started a quartet called “I.I.Q.”, an impressionistic improvised quartet, a really nice group. We released an album with the same title in 1996 on Nom Records. Theo Jörgensmann was and still is a big name in the avantgarde music scene. That was the first time, we got into Germany and that happened many times again. With Paul van Kemenade I also played very often in Germany. I did some projects in Cologne later on, with a violin player, and the last six years I have been working with a great German/Afghan singer, her name is Simin Tander. Her record company invited me to release my new album at their label, Jazzhaus Records. (Jeroen van Vliet MOON TRIO “Earth-Time” with Cord Heineking on double bass, bassguitar, effects and Mark Schilders on drums).

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Bernd I. Eilts: Simin Tander recorded an album with Tord Gustavsen on ECM recently with the title “What Was Said”.

Jeroen van Vliet: Yes, I’m happy for her, she’s doing great. Now she is into ECM Records as a musician. But so far she hasn’t released her own album with her own quartet on ECM, the idea is still, to record on Jazzhaus Records.

Bernd I. Eilts: Did you compose today?

Jeroen van Vliet: Today? No. I was in the car all day.

Bernd I. Eilts: How is it for you being on tour when you have to deal with different pianos? What do you ask for, what do you need? What brand do you prefer?

Interview with Jeroen van Vliet, jazz pianist from the Netherlands.

Jeroen van Vliet: Well, the brand I prefer is Steinway & Sons. Not necessarily the Model D, the concert grand piano which is always the best choice, but I love beautiful YAMAHA pianos too. But there exist also very ugly Steinway pianos. It really depends. What I can say, mainly good theatres most of the time have good pianos. It’s mainly Yamaha and Steinway what I prefer to use. I’m not really into Bösendorfer, that’s quite different in terms of sound and in modal skills. Sometimes a Kawei can be okay. But Steinway is THE brand, when they ask me. Most of the time, I don’t have a choice. If you can get a gig somewhere, I always hope, it’s gonna be alright with their piano.

Bernd I. Eilts: Do you ask before, if it’s tuned?

Jeroen van Vliet: Yes of course, it has to be tuned. Sometimes of course you get into a place, where the piano tuner is not a good professional and it’s badly tuned, what I hate. I always bring my own tuning devices, but this is only for some single notes, if needed. I cannot really tune a piano professionally. That’s a different profession.

Bernd I. Eilts: Do you also play the church organ?

Jeroen van Vliet: I did, a couple of times in a very creative manner. I’m not a organ player, but I love that whole magnetism of that big organ and everything around that instrument. There is a great place in Amsterdam called “Orgelpark” ( There is a great guy who shares his passion for organs and I had the opportunity a couple of times to play concerts there. But really, I’m not an organ player. It’s just an experiment, a beautiful one for sure.

Bernd I. Eilts: During a concert, do you feel the reactions, the vibrations of the audience? And how do you deal with that? Does it influence your performance?

Jeroen van Vliet: Oh yes, this influences my performance. For example, tomorrow I will have a concert in my hometown with Kinan Azmeh, he is a clarinet player from Syria and lives in New York ( and Eric Vloeimans, we play as a trio a couple of gigs. Tomorrow it’s sold out and I know in advance, that a sold out concert, in De Paradox, in Tilburg, is a great vibe! And a great vibe makes us musicians fly! That’s one simple way to look at it. But even a smaller crowd can do that, if it’s a good atmosphere. If it’s a bad atmosphere or you feel the audience is a bit introvert or they don’t show some emotions, that is sometimes hard work. But of course we do our work, it’s our profession. But all vibrations influence a performance of course, that’s a big thing.

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Bernd I. Eilts: How do you see yourself as a piano player? What is the typical Jeroen van Vliet sound?

Jeroen van Vliet: (Laughing). I don’t consider myself as a virtuoso, my sound is harmonical rather rich, poetic, lyrical, aesthetic, those are the words.

Bernd I. Eilts: Very often you play with the same musicians again. Even tonight you play with long time fellow musicians Anton Goudsmit and Mete Erker for example. Why is that?

Jeroen van Vliet: That’s true. With them I played in a group called Estafest ( Well, to begin with it, it’s a small country here. And you know, we grew up together. I have known Mete for thirty years now. With some people we stay together and keep developing. We keep evolving and looking for stuff and getting better. And of course, there are still connections and reasons, to keep playing together. It’s more like a group of people, who are in the same train. We switch here and then, but we are still in the same train, it’s our generation. And it’s a small country, that’s what you have.

Bernd I. Eilts: You become a family.

Interview with Jeroen van Vliet, jazz pianist from the Netherlands.

Jeroen van Vliet: Yeah!

Bernd I. Eilts: I would like to talk about your solo album “Wait”, recorded in October 2012 at Rainbow Studio in Oslo, Norway. The interesting opening at first sight, is the cover and the art of Robert Zandvliet, you mentioned him earlier in our talk. What is your connection with him and art in general?

Jeroen van Vliet: I explained this already a little bit in the first section of our talk. My love of art is also related to what I said earlier about cinematography. To me, art opens up some different experience of the world. Good art for me is like a sixth sense. I can connect to great visual art in a way, I just cannot understand with my hands. Of course, I can think about it, but that’s not the way it opens up something. That’s the connection I feel and it’s actually the same source that I try to connect to when I play music.

Bernd I. Eilts: What is the meaning of your song titles?

Jeroen van Vliet: This is why sometimes people tell me, I am impressionistic. Impressionism refers to me to the same thing that we said about movies and cinematographic. What for example Debussy did and the Impressionists, is that he gave titles to his music afterwards. First it was just a number. But when someone played it, at the end of the piece on the paper, he gave that piece a title. The idea was probably that you decide by yourself, how the atmosphere is and you put it into words. The titles of my album “Wait” do have the same meaning. This solo piano album is 80% improvised and all those times the titles are thoughts from afterwards. Sort of trying to reconnect what the atmosphere is, what we or myself want to refer to and what the fantasy is about. Maybe it’s more like this or like that. Quality of life or some images, or whatever to me connects to that atmosphere.

Bernd I. Eilts: What is your connection with Norma Winston, the singer?

Jeroen van Vliet: I did a very nice project with her, in the time, she was very known with her band called “Azimuth”, with Kenny Wheeler on trumpet/flügelhorn and John Taylor on piano and synthesizer. Now John Taylor and even Kenny Wheeler just passed away very recently. In that time, the end of the 90’s, Eric Vloeimans asked me to form a band with Dre Pallemaerts, the drummer from my first trio and Erwin Vann, who was also the very beautiful saxophone player from my band called “Sikeda”. We all did a little tour and recorded an album, called “Thin Air”.

Bernd I. Eilts: Do you also teach?

Jeroen van Vliet: Yes, one day every week I teach at the Conservatory in Arnhem. Recently I was asked to do some lessons here in Groningen at the Prins Claus Conservatorium (PCC), but I couldn’t do it. It’s very far away from my place what makes it difficult for me to teach here in Groningen. One day per week is perfect for me, I don’t do more, even I could use it very good for my income, but teaching is also intense. And somehow it has the danger to get you away from your own atmosphere or process in music which I find hard. That’s challenging. In Arnhem I teach jazz and pop music, this is how they call it there. But I coach piano players in what I do with the piano, which is a very honorable helpful thing to do.

Bernd I. Eilts: What in general is music for you?

Jeroen van Vliet: Well, it’s funny and a very personal question actually because I can only answer this in a very personal way. I have this funny notion that this physical reality is not the real thing. Music somehow is the gate to open all the rest. I don’t know what it is. I don’t claim to have any knowledge of what there is more between heaven and earth. For me music is the gate to that other experience, that other experience and/on how life can be. This is mainly because I started with music as a kid. For me it was kind of a hiding place to loose myself in. That’s what it is.

Interview with Jeroen van Vliet, jazz pianist from the Netherlands.

Bernd I. Eilts: Did you taste that other experience already?

Jeroen van Vliet: Many times! That’s why I make music!

Bernd I. Eilts: How is this taste for you?

Jeroen van Vliet: It is wonderful. It’s freedom.

Bernd I. Eilts: Then the next question also belongs to this topic. Are you a spiritual being?

Jeroen van Vliet: (Laughing out loud!) That’s a funny word, right? If you look at the word ’spiritual‘, it refers to spirit, which we might see as a living creature with a consciousness, then I have to say, everybody is a spiritual being. When you refer to it in a different way, I have to say, I am not an official religious person. To me, my music or music in general, including art in general is a very important part of the life and the world, that you might say has a religious reference or a religious notion somehow. But I don’t know how it is. I don’t need to put it in a church or a religion or a tradition or whatever. There exists a lot of suffering in the world because of these institutions. So, I don’t go there.

Bernd I. Eilts: But when you talk about music and its existence as a gateway to another dimension, I could understand, you are a spiritual being, because there might exist more than just that, what we understand there is, or we can touch.

Jeroen van Vliet: Yes, that’s true. You can say that.

Bernd I. Eilts: Music exists, even it is invisible.

Jeroen van Vliet: Yes, it exists.

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Bernd I. Eilts: When you compose, is that process also a reflection of the life, you have to deal with?

Jeroen van Vliet: There have been some compositions, which really came out of some emotion from my life in that time, very specifically, and I put them into music. But most of the time it’s just getting away from the world, getting to the piano and see what happens and what fantasy comes up. It’s always about feelings and emotions, but it’s not about wanting to write down my frustrations or anger. It’s not like that. It’s more like feeling what is in my system.

Bernd I. Eilts: In a video I saw, you told about your work with the vocalist Simen Tander. Before a concert or the work starts, you read and study the lyrics. But when the concert starts, you don’t even listen to her anymore, at least not to the lyrics she sings. Is this a bit like when you play in a big ensemble? How is this working for you? Is it similar?

Jeroen van Vliet: Well, lyrics are specific, because they bring another different world in words into music with a very literal meaning in it. That’s the reason why I want to know what the lyrics are about and to understand more how the music can feel, what kind of atmosphere, emotion might be there. In other settings and groups that’s more free, since there are no lyrics. And I can interrupt where I like. Of course, you want to have an understanding with your fellow musicians that needs to be more lyrical, more groovy or more warm or hectic or whatever. And that’s something, you can discuss. Most of the times, this is very obvious. Music itself is called a global language and most of the time, we understand each others. This understanding comes just through and from listening to each others.

Bernd I. Eilts: When I tried to contact you, I searched first the internet, looking for a management. But there is no management. Then I found on your website your personal phone number on through which I directly could contact you. Why do you choose for this way?

Jeroen van Vliet: Well, I do not have much choice. Because any management needs to make money. And if the outcome of my business is as it is now, for the last few years, then there is no profit to be made for any manager. That’s why I do not have a manager. It’s always the question between the chicken and the egg, what’s there first? Of course, if I would become bigger, then a manager could also knock at my door. But for now, this is how it works. I am not as big as it seems maybe.

Bernd I. Eilts: How are you in private life, if you want to share this of course.

Jeroen van Vliet: Good. Thank you. (Both laughing).

Bernd I. Eilts: When you are not connected with music! Even I cannot imagine this really. But, if, how are you then?

Jeroen van Vliet: I do have a motorbike and I like to travel with it. Also I do like to work in my house, making closets or that kind of stuff. I like to work with wood, with my hands. Then I like reading. Drinking a beer with a friend in a bar. That is also nice.

Bernd I. Eilts: And do you have already holiday plans for this summer?

Jeroen van Vliet: Yeah, probably it will be a vacation in France again. Maybe Spain. (Laughing)! You really want to know that?

Bernd I. Eilts: Thank you Jeroen! Thank you very much for this lovely chat!

Jeroen van Vliet: You are very welcome! And good luck with the writing!

Just after a really strong concert I heard from Jeroen, he didn’t like the piano sound really much.

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Interview: Bernd Ihno Eilts

Photography: Zoltan Acs