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An interview with Flairck

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toroddfuglesteg View Drop Down
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    Posted: February 18 2010 at 10:11

 An interview with Erik Visser in Flairck.

Flairck is one of those genuine original bands which cannot be categorised. Their music is not this usual Mellotron/Hammond/synth drenched symphonic prog/fusion either. Flairck is only using acoustic instruments in their complex music. But they are as far from the likes of Jethro Tull and other prog folk bands as you can get. In other words; Flairck is a very original band even in the context of progressive music. Flairck is also a very active band, 30 odd years after the release of their debut album Variaties op een Dame. I therefore went on a mission to find out more about Flairck; past, present and future.

As per usual, my questions are in bold and Erik's answer are in red italian bold.

This interview is meant to be both an update and a “this is your life” type presentation of this band. So without any more boring introductions, I give you Flairck.

What is Flairck up to these days ?

We are busy right now, preparing a tour starting in march 2010 with a group of gipsy musicians, the Basily family and some other soloists, the Indonesian jazz violinist Luluk Purwanto, the Rumanian cymbalon player Marius Preda and percussionist Antal Steixner. In total 12 musicians on stage, we call it 'Global Orchestra', a sort of symphonic gipsy orchestra. The last concert is in may 2010 and the rest of the year we have blocked the whole period, as we are writing a new show called "The Battle" which will open in february 2011.

The next part of the interview is a mix of “this is your life” and “the record collectors dream” part where I ask you some more or less intelligent questions about your music and your albums before we talk about your future. When was Flairck formed and by whom ? Why did you choose that name and what does it means ?

I started the first rehearsals in 1976, with flautist Peter Weekers, guitarist Hans Visser (my brother) and violinist Judy Schomper. We called it Flairck, we were looking for a name that had something to do with 'hands', and the name carries three meanings: old Dutch for 'hand', common Dutch for 'wing' and also you could call a person a 'vlerk', if he behaves slightly nasty, but not in an unfriendly manner. Apart from this the Franch 'flair' is included, and the English 'air' (meaning both oxygen as well as melody). Complex name, hard to pronounce outside Holland.

In other words (from our publicity info): "The Netherlands has long experienced a variety of musical influences as befits a country of its cultural diversity. Flairck, formed by Erik Visser in 1978, has tapped into this confluence of musical inspirations, bringing with it its own originality. Like its music the name of the band is an original composition, coming from the English work ‘flair’ and the Dutch ‘vlerk’ which means a nimble fingered hand or wing, reflecting the instrumental speed and clarity of the music".

What was your musical visions/ideas ?

Flairck started as an instrumental group, playing acoustic instruments and composing the majority of its own material. In essence the music is a form of chamber music, classically influenced new ‘traditional’ music with touches of jazz and blues. However such a definition does little to convey the impact of Flairck’s performances, which draw on a variety of influences. The number of instruments the group has collected on its many tours has grown steadily over the years and quite a few of these instruments are used in Flairck’s theatrical stage settings.

Flairck was signed on a label which back in the 1970s was the biggest record label in Europe; Polydor Records. How did you manage to get a deal with them and what is your experiences with the music/record industry ?

First Polydor asked us to record our first album with them, we called it 'Variations on a Lady' (they briefly tried to make us change the title, but we wouldn't do that). We did not ask them, they contacted us after we started performing in a small theatre in The Hague where I was working. It was a big succes, the album went platinum very quickly and they signed us for another 5 albums. We did not fulfill that period as we switched to EMI after four albums, because Polydor wanted us to start playing classical music, in our own arrangements, which we thought was an awfull idea. We were of the opinion that classical music best be left untouched. They let us go without much trouble. We did a couple of albums with EMI, but the sales inevitably dropped, we are an instrumental band playing our own compositions, we are not hitsingle material.We were just lucky with the first few albums, but we never reached that platinum status again.
After EMI we went to an independent Dutch company, and the last 10 years we have been producing our own albums and DVD's. We will never work with a record company again, except for leasing out our productions.

- Please give us a presentation of each of your studio albums. The music, the recording, lyrics, the musicians, the artwork, the concepts.

- You have also released some live albums. Please tell us more about them.
- Please tell us more about the DVDs.

 Flairck has worked with several well known artist and symphony orchestras, touring in Europe and beyond, including Indonesia, Japan, Australia, and North and South America.  The group toured France with Georges Moustaki and recorded an album with producer Mike Batt and singer Maggie Reilly (“Sleight of Hand”, EMI)

 After two years of preparation Flairck released its first album in 1978. The album “Variations on a Lady” went platinum in the Netherlands and received three major awards including an Edison, which is the Netherlands highest recording award. The second album “The Lady’s Back”, released in 1979, went gold and received several distinctions including another Edison. Over the years Flairck has released 17 cd’s / albums. The third album “Live in Amsterdam” was released in 1980, “Circus” in 1981, “Flairck and Orchestra” in 1982, “Moustaki and Flairck” also in 1982, “Bal Masquè” was recorded in 1984, “Sleight of Hand” in 1985, “Encore” in 1986 and “The Emigrant” in 1988. In February 1989 Flairck received the Golden Harp, Holland’s highest music award.
“Alive”, a live double CD, was released in 1990. “The Parade” (1992) was based on the paintings of the Dutch mediaeval painter Hieronymus Bosch and the CD “Chambers” (1994) on the work of the Belgian surrealist Rene Margritte. In 1995 the CD “The Chilean Concerts” was recorded and released in South America. “The Golden Age” (1996) was set in the 17th century and based on the true story of a Dutch sailing vessel. In 1997 the group spent three months in Chile composing and recording music for the photographer Roberto Edwards’ project “Cuerpos Pintados”. In 1998 the tour “Lijf” celebrated the 20th anniversary of Flairck. In 1999 the “Symphony for the Old World” incorporated 9 musicians, including 4 soloists from the four corners of Europe.  The cd and video “Symphony for the Old World” were released in the year 2000.  
 “Circus Hieronymus Bosch” , a cooperation with acrobatics theatre Corpus and based on the paintings of the Dutch mediaeval painter Hieronymus Bosch, premiered on 8th August. “Circus Hieronymus Bosch” was recorded for a DVD production, which was released in september 2002.
Because of the succes of this unusual circus show the cooperation between Flairck and Corpus continued the following year, resulting in the opera “Lucia the Moucheron”, which premiered on september 21st 2002 in Middelburg, Zeeland. THis show has been recorded for DVD, but not yet released as the band has had not enough time to edit the material.
In the years 2003 and 2004 Flairck stopped touring for the first time in its (by then) 25 year old history. Erik Visser decided to take the time to settle some old scores: he prepared the final partitura’s of “Symphony for the Od World”, “Circus Hieronymus Bosch” and “Lucia de
Moucheron”. Flairck published these music books.
In 2004 Erik Visser prepared, recorded and released his first solo CD “One Man Parade”. He also published a guitar book called “Thirteen Guitar Solos” containing the written music of most of the tracks on the solo CD.
From oktober 2004 untill medio 2006 Erik Visser performed a solo tour called “One Man Parade” which will travelled through Holland, Poland (with Ania Faber and her band), Mexico (with La Mueca and Pablo Ortiz), New Zealand and Ireland (with Mary Coughlan) and Belgium (with Wigbert van Lierde).

The Symphony for the Old World double album is probably a good album to begin with for the curious minds who may want to check out Flairck after reading this interview. The concept behind this album is also very interesting. Please tell us more about this double album.

From an interview in Folkworld: It has always been a dream of Erik Visser, founder of flairck, to create an orchestra with musicians from different cultures. He traveled all around the world, met many different musicians and often thought how great it would be to play with them. Being tired of touring with big shows, he wanted to go back to basics. Visser: " It was like we were a kind of circus, always on the road with bigger and more effects. In 1999 I wanted to do again what I like most, create music"

'Symphony of the old world' is the first attempt to create a folk orchestra. Erik Visser took Europe as a starting place and divided the continent into four parts. Then he started looking for musicians who could represent their parts of Europe. Visser: "sure the instrument they play is important but more I choose the person. I see a musician play and I just know he is the one I want. They must have something unique in their style". And special persons he did find. The four parts of the symphony were called after the four wind directions. Part one, the west has uilleann-pipes player Roelof Rosendal as solo-musician. Because he played in different kind of music groups with musical influence from all over the world he has a very own style with influence from different places. The second part, the east, has the young cembalon player Marius preda as solo-musician. Visser: " The first time I saw Preda play I knew I wanted to work with him. His style is not pure folk, he mixes jazz and classical music through his improvisations and that makes his music sound very original"

Part three, the North played by Mirella Pirskanen from Finland, a great violin player and singer. She developed a fantastic way of playing violin and uses her voice at the same time. The last part, the south is played by the famous flamenco guitar player Erik Vaarzon Morel. He let the evening end in a very warm atmosphere. 

…......And those who likes that double album may want to buy your very reasonably priced box with 22 CDs. Please tell us more about this box.

The box contains all our audio recordings, both live and studio albums. Poster attached

….But for those who want to buy single albums, I guess all your albums is available from your own website Is every one of your studio albums still available from your online shop ?

No, not really, it is best to buy the 22CD box. We sell the cd's "The Emigrant", 'The Parade", "One Man Parade" and the 2cd"Alive". Also the DVD 'Circus Hieronymusch Bosch" is for sale.

I have seven Flairck albums, but I have still problems describing your music because it is so barrier breaking. Is Flairck a world music, a folk rock or a acoustic symphonic prog band ? How would you describe your music (because I cannot !) ?

We have heard interesting paradoxes from journalists: "Symphonic folk music" and "Chamber music for the open air". We can not be more clear than that, after all these years.   

There is a wide varieties of instruments you have used on your albums. Everything but Moog, Hammond organs or even synth; the stable fare for us progheads.
You are using instruments I did not even in my wildest imaginations believe did exist. But I recognize the Harding fiddle from my homeland Norway and pan pipes from Chile. How do you source these instruments and how did the many previous and existing members of Flairck learn how to play them to your usual very high standard ?

Well, we travel and in stead of souvenirs we buy glassharmonica's, koto's, a complete Balinese gamelan, an organ-hurdy- gurdy, a theremin, a large 200 wooden pipe street organ, we have an invisible accordionist in our storage room, we are still looking for a invisable drummer but we have established contact with someone in Belgium so it won't be long, we have many Mexican guitars now, because our new bass player is Mexican. We have hundreds of instruments, it is our life to collect and play them.    

You have done more than 2000 gigs, toured diverse countries as Chile, Belgium, Mexico and Holland among others. What is your audience and your fan base ? Jazz, folk, progheads ?

Yeah, we are at app. 2500 now. We play everywhere they want us, the audiences are not from a specific group or age, I think. We meet many musicians. Worldmusic I guess, but not the yoga and esotherical sounding stuff, we do not like that. 

Is Flairck your main occupation in life or do you all have other jobs ?

It is all I do really, except for teaching music to the kids in my village one day a week. 

And I produce for Mary Coughlan, a good Irish singer. Seven cd's so far I think.

What is the plans for Flairck this year and in the future ? Gigs or any new albums ?

We have three DVD's on the shelf and no time to edit.

We are preparing a new show 'The Battle' fo 2011. 

Anything you want to add to this interview ?

I must get my little daughter Isabel out of school now and I have a meeting in a theatre later on this afternoon, about sand sculptures. After all we have never played in between sand (or butter) sculptures.

Thanks for your interest and if I can do anything else, let me know!

Thank you to Erik Visser for the interview and thank you to the rest of Flairck, past and present members, for their twenty-two utterly mind boggling albums.
If anyone here have their own questions for Erik and Flairck, please post the questions here and I will put them to Erik.
The 22 albums compilation box cost only € 75 from their homepage, which I guess is around $ 100 and £ 65. In my view; a bargain which would fascinate the mind of the buyer for the rest of his/her life. And that my friends, is the essence of Flairck.

Edited by toroddfuglesteg - February 18 2010 at 10:14
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Easy Livin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 18 2010 at 12:59
Another fine interview Toro.Clap 
For a band with such an extensive catalogue, I am ashamed to say I'd never heard of them.Embarrassed
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toroddfuglesteg View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote toroddfuglesteg Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 18 2010 at 13:38

.............or Torodd as my mother prefer to call me.

Flairck is a bit unknown here so I have added a Youtube clip and another one which should get your blood boil. Plenty more of Flairck at Youtube. 

I am getting some money in September and that box will be one of my first purchases. That box should keep my brain boil like water in a kettle for the next 40 years.  

Edited by toroddfuglesteg - February 18 2010 at 14:26
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Bonnek Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 18 2010 at 15:10
Great interview Torodd. Flairck was one of my favourite bands in the 80's but I haven't kept following them after the astounding 1990 Alive album.
I think they don't get the attention that they deserve here on PA!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote SaltyJon Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: July 12 2010 at 21:45
Interesting interview!  I decided I had to find it and check the band out a bit after seeing you mention the band in one of your other reviews (Aranis' debut, I think).  I'll definitely be looking more into these guys. 
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