1983 - Protest and survive the (cold) war


1983 was a year where our routine, skills and experiences in many ways increased. Although practice didn’t make perfect it all, we made more progression than we could ever expect when we started our band. Gigs in 1983 were less numerous to the previous year 1982 and most of our gigs found place in our home land. Although we didn’t make much progress with tours over the borders, an extension of our international network grew through contacts with members of foreign bands on several Dutch stages. Most of our musical playtime was filled to hype all kinds of political goals, so we put most of our time and effort that year in all forms of charity. By then fun in playing music and expressing our ideas was enough to keep us going.  Those days we could live simply without competitions and scoring for others teams was fully in line with the idealistic nature of our band. In 1983 we all found ourselves historically facing a dense cold war. Times seemed very uncertain in many ways. In daily life discussion choices were most simply to be reduced between Soviets and Yanks or between 'freedom' and 'human equality; what is less complex than today's complex political reality. In retrospect we must have lived our lives as all the other days. Although the currently widespread accepted history now is to say that 1983 was a year in a period of everlasting nuclear threats and economic crisis. We remember all sorts of tensions and upcoming conflicts and clashes and we cannot deny that riots and strikes we fairly common that time. As a band we may now remember that some of our daily conversations were filled with political idealism. It was easy for us to pinpoint the real culprits of the world. As a group we were easily infected by the prevailing dominant morals and so we made ourselves to split the world into good and evil ones. Later we found out that good and evil have too many fathers. Although the atmosphere radiated sometimes pure drabness in 1983, which was perhaps strengthened by the greyness of the buildings at that time, it sometimes turned out to be a fine breeding ground for a gloomy song; we may now call this typically eighties.

Distressing shortage on the housing market was still extending and even worse than times before. The shortage of housing was opposed by fierce squatting. A call to join a riot with fellow squatters in an event of evacuation was fairly common, and so riots with rubber bullets and teargas were never far away. As Zowiso members we were still very young that time and we tend to be careful and not so brash militant, so we weighted our chances and risks. As a result we didn't act much in the front lines as we were feared to end up as fodder on the streets. As an alternative we safely fought our riots by microphone. We also had to accept some disturbances in our audience during our gigs and not because of the way we performed our songs. In July 1983 for example, we played with Frites Modern from Amsterdam in a huge squat in the Dutch capital, a former building of a furnishing company called Weijers. Within the audience a huge mob of skinheads was disturbing the atmosphere. Among this group of terrifying skinheads was the assassinator of the 15 year old black guy called Kerwin Duijnmeijer. He was killed because of his black skin, only one month later in August 1983. This racist murder led to a historical massive consternation in Dutch society. Another dubious historical person, Hans Kok, not only joined our audience but also our stage, during a gig with The Outlawz in a youth centre in Amsterdam named Oktopus, in April 1983. Hans Kok, squatter and former member of the band Lol en de Ellendelingen, later died in a prison cell. There have been wide spread concerns among the squatters and other progressive groups that information about the circumstances he died has been suspiciously witheld. Not all protest were militant and fearful. The possible arrival of the cruise missiles on Dutch ground drove various denominations, including all members of GRRR, Svatsöx and Zowiso, on the 29th October on the streets, in an unprecedented mass protest demonstration in The Hague. Our musical support among all the protesters was an extraordinary once in a lifetime experience, with permanent shrinking and extending crowds. 1983 was also the beginning of a friendly cooperation with the band Anthrax from Kent UK. The Ex arranged some gigs in Holland, after The Ex had seen Anthrax playing in the UK. On the 9th of April 1983, Anthrax and Svatsöx shared a stage in youth centre Para in Breda. Anthrax was known for their EP 'Capitalism is Cannibalism' as well as their song "They've Got It All Wrong". The personal contact with Lawrence Windle, bass player of Anthrax even led to some friendly and great stays in Lawrence's parental home on 55 Paget Street in Gillingham, Kent. Another band from the UK we shared stage with in 1983, is the band The Nightingales from Birmingham (which re-grouped in 2004). This happened on New Year's Night, together with the Swiss bands FDP and Draske in club OJC Shiva in Uithoorn, which was founded by a member of Eton Crop, Erwin Blom. The Nightingales toured through Holland after they released their widely sold record Pigs on Purpose in 1982.

It was not all political turmoil these days. In the meantime people in science silently made progress in further spreading our human creation, so by 1983 also the first Dutch test tube baby was created. This development unsurprisingly did not remain unnoticed; in fact it was a fine reason for creating a new song about it. The song about impending human breeding by a test tube took shape during our stay within the studio walls of Joke's Koeienverhuurbedrijf; 31 years later we are still waiting for the superman we do not need. Studio Joke's Koeienverhuurbedrijf in Schellingwoude (area of Amsterdam) was also used to record our first and only EP, a release with three songs (Blacks Prison, FAO Show and Mailbox) named 'Beats per Minute', which was distributed later (1984) as an attachment to an anarchistic irregular magazine (nr. 43-44) called Gramschap. 1983 was also the year for playful political attention in a more funny way. The half day beard of Prime Minister Ruud Lubbers could survive the encroaching association with little fish bones. When John managed to collect some posters bearing the portrait of this prime minister wearing his famous beard, with the accompanying playful text: 'Of fish bones you can cook good soup' he got the idea to stick these posters in his area together with some friends of De Zwembaden. But John's night time attempt to stick posters can be counted amongone of the less successful political contributions of 1983. Unfortunately his free promotional action to spread his fine ministerial soup recipe led to timely intervention of the police. The less thoughtfull action failed showy in the garden of a local old people's home. Despite the darkness in this garden, it offered too little protection to conceal John's body than expected. Also the extensive media attention he hoped for was limited to three anonymous lines with initials in a local newspaper. We remember some notable gigs in 1983. The first one took place on 15 January 1983 in Vlissingen. This night we performed together with a delegation of the Wormer band De Zwembaden (The Swimming Pools) and another Dutch band called D-Control, coming from a place called Goes, situated in the same province of Zealand (Zeeland). They were locally known for their One Hit Wonder: Fuck the Bartender 4 bear please and other local hits. There has also been a British version of a band with the same name D-Control, famous for their record: Never Mind the Boobies. Except for their shared musical taste and their suspected love for a particular kind of studio mixer, both D-Controls had no further agreements. The band De Zwembaden found them that evening on occasion represented by stand in's Dennis "Bubbe" Vet, former band player of other bands The Hangdogs and Absurd and on drums Aad Zowiso Hollander were this one evening substitutes. 

In June 1983 we returned to the same province as earlier mentioned to perform in youth centre 't Beest in Goes, where we played together with members of another Wormer band called Absurd. Young and naughty as we were these days, some of us were caught in the act near a petrol station on our way back home, lowering a hoisted Shell flag. People from the restaurant behind the petrol station must have seen us wandering around suspiciously and called the police. It didn't take much time for the police to arrive. Because we were all suspects, we were all brought to the nearest police station. Because we had nothing to fear, we reported our real names and addresses at the police station, except for Rick. He managed to give up a totally different family name. He reported the name Stroobach instead of his real name Veken. In reaction to this the others burst out in laughter. When the policeman asked to repeat his name correctly, Rick confirmed again that Stroobach was his real name. Moreover his explained that because this family name was rather odd to justify the laughter of the others involved. A few hours later we left the police station with any consequences, but some left the building with a free hat and new free police blue towels. The name of the band De Zwembaden (The Swimming Pools) was popped up in the young brains of Laurens Vreedevoort; he dreamed in many languages about his glorious musical future of his band, by writing the name De Zwembaden in many of his school note books. We actually never caught him swimming. He even never showed any fondness for swimming. The same year we shared more with De Zwembaden. We shared a gig together at St. Michaels College in Zaandam. The same year brought us together in the studio for the creation of our split album 'Stop the Stopera'. The solidified annoyance took shape on the precious black vinyl. Because both bands didn't have enought songs to fill the whole record we decided to launch this coproduction. Eventually it became an album were we traditionally were pointing current policital events, like statements about unjust wars of any kind, police interventions as well as waste of money at prestige objects. Finally the songs were plenty enough to fill one sides of grooves on this special split album. An odd man out was our songs 'Test Tube Treat', an ethical song about a moral issue test tube babies; a human candy that seemed to us as too hard to digest. The other odd thing about this song was that it was made spontaneously within the studio walls, which never ever happend again. De Zwembaden, with the always solid-looking singing predecessor Frank van der Maden, was never too lousy to guide us along their mysterious views on the world. The members of this band swam all the way through their grooves. Their opening plunge, a cover version of the classic 'Carmina Burana' by Orff, proved to be too original, so authorities angled for reimbursement in case of official broadcasting this song. Further on they subtly expressed their love for the German language with songs like 'Schwimm Baby Schwimm' and 'Kalt gestelld'. Eventually some time later De Zwembaden split up. André Berkhout and Laurens Vreedevoort, still bursting with musical ambition and longing for bigger stages, transcended the local furore after joining the band The Gentry; unfortunately with a less frivolous look on the world.

In addition to the coolness of the cold war we sometimes had to experience some real cold. After performing with The Ex in Vera in the Northern city Groningen we shared the bus with the members of The Ex, when a heater in their bus broke down. This coincided with a nasty night temperature; we had to survive about 200 KM all the way back home in a fresh -16 degree Celsius car. Total numb we arrived in Wormerveer. Wormerveer was also home to our rehearsal room and breeding ground of many of our songs. Originally this room was used by youth members of the ANJV, a Dutch youth league, originally a Dutch Communist Youth  Organization. Althought it never came to a warm Alliance between Zowiso and the communism comrades, these were great training grounds for the creativity of our spirits. We shared this room with a large number of other bands from Wormer and surrounding area, with a true schedule. Zowiso managed to make a permanent reservation on the Sunday afternoons and evenings. The key of the rehearsal room was kept in the White Villa in Wormer, Terrie, guitarist of The Ex, was accidently one of the key stakeholders. We clearly remember one of our wasted search tours through the streets of Wormer. After a few hours riding our bikes along various local addresses from members of others Wormer bands, the key was eventually found in the White Villa, carelessly hiding in one of Terrie's  pockets. Our rehearsals made hungry and so we had to feed our Sunday stomachs. Snack Bar Ruud Patat turned out to be our favourite place for fresh junk food. Ruud was situated on an ideal turn of our bike wheels away from our rehearsal room. This Snack Bar was invariably choses over his neighbour Snack Bar Java,  which nevertheless lasted without any problem by exploiting the same fattty edibles. We preferred Ruud due to his famous orange croquettes, despite the suspect colour. Moreover, the croquettes contrasted strongly with its less attractive but also prominently exposed liver sausages in the acid. On the eve of the Orwellian year 1984 we close our series of performances in club Babylon in Woerden, and make ourselves up for new stages.

1984 - Exploring mines without dirty hands

A grim picture was already painted long before the Orwellian year 1984 was a fact, so we were mentally prepared to the virtual scenario that would unfold when we reached the completion of a totalitarian society just this very year. Eventually Orwell's 1984 seemed one of history's failed prophesies of doom again, so we could ignore the book and await new history, safely rooted in our dry swamp under the sea level. Of course new disasters popped up in 1984 that functioned well as fuel for songs. So now and then we had to dug deep and generously in our endless virtual pits of world problems. As there were enough environmental issues to discuss in the peril times of this century, we seemed to demonstrate a stronger engagement for the suffering of our fellow citizens elswhere. Consequentially we also adopt a clear position in case of the striking workers of the British coalmines in 1984-1985.

 

The UK long miners strike of 1984-1985 was a major industrial action affecting the British coal industry. Fierce action took place by picketers due to a proposed series of pit closures. As a consequential result of the strike it also effected the financial situations of hundreds of families, who were depended of the income of the coalmines in an area without any alternative labour around. In response to some tremendous consequences which occurred, like the poor wellbeing and health of the children of the strikers, members of the band The Ex successfully initiated two sort of holiday camps for a group of young children of mine workers from South Yorkshire in and around our home port Wormer. It all happened in good  cooperation with fellow-squatters and members of Zwembaden and Zowiso, who provided their squats (named Villa Zuid and Jacob Vis) as temporary holiday chalets.

In line with previous initiatives, Zowiso, The Ex, Vacuüm and Morzelpronk (in cooperation with poet and songwriter Nico van Apeldoorn) planned a tour and hit 11 towns for 12 gigs around Holland during September and October 1984 to collect money for the poor miners. The tour itself was a back breaking success, as it was an enduring exercise for all of us due to the miles we had to travel up and down to Wormer every day. Especially Rick, Eric and Aad suffered a lot due to a great lack of sleep, because they had to combine this tour with a strict school scheme. The miner's Tour was also our first long cooperation with members of the band Morzelpronk. The way they played and performed their music was in some ways very good entertaimnent. The band name itself means fake jewels and is taken from a story about a retired whore who brought her morzelpronk (fake jewels) to a pawnshop. A great deal of The miner's tour was done with a very old coach with questionable motoric qualities (sometimes the thirsty radiator survided due to the bottles of mineral water, after removing the bubbles). Despite all this, the touring car's interior was comfortably furnished with chairs and tables, which were perfectly right for a good game of playing cards. Due to this comfort during our series performances, it sometimes felt like a month long merry school trip. The old coach was previously used by members of a band named Drukwerk, with whom Dolf Planteijdt, the left handed guitar cult hero of the band Morzelpronk, maintained both a friendly as a businesslike relationship, while Nico was accountable for Drukwerk's greatest success in Dutch pop music, for writing the lyrics of the song "Je loog tegen mij" (You lied to me). As the name of the band Drukwerk was still printed on the outside of the bus, we unexpectedly draw some suprising reactions on the road. One day, on our way to one of our gigs, we were excitedly greeted by the famous Dutch folk singer André Hazes, expecting to see some fellow musicians from Drukwerk. Hilariously he did not find any familiar faces of Drukwerk behind the windows of the bus, but had to deal with some unknown faces of fellow musicians from the obscure alternative music circuit. Besides playing guitar in Morzelpronk, Dolf Planteijdt acted as an energetic music producer for many bands like Zowiso. In Zowiso's history Dolf was involved in nearly all of our projects. This should in particular apply to his work as a producer in his own studio Joke's Koeienverhuurbedrijf (Joke's Cow Rental Company). Dolf Planteijdt manages to bridge all different kind of music and seems never be troubled by an overdose of borders, heavy principles or prejudices. Although Dolf's own music is far more complex than ours, we never experienced any cavalier approach towards our more straight forward and simple approach of making music.

Regarding the Miner's we always felt a sense of moral ambiguity, as we would never wanted ourselves to descent into the deep pits to dig some coal, risking your live and inhale your lungs with dust. But the experience itself was a good meeting of minds and some moral support did both well for a certain time of our lives. By way of conclusion we have to state that, despite all good efforts taken on the other side of the North Sea, it unfortunately ended with a great defeat for the miners in the UK. Thatcher's - no means no - government was able to break the power of the workers and their unions. It finally resulted in three deaths from events around the strike: two picketers and an taxi driver taking a non-striking miner to work. You may of course cynically conclude that it was another pie in the sky, and that is regrettable. People matter and so do we and above all: The Miner's Tour was worth it in any thinkable way!

1985 - A lemma about Emma and Swiss stories plugged and unplugged

A short hibernation passed when the new calendar touched 27 January. Unexpectedly we found ourselves preparing our stage debut for a new TV program named Jonge Helden (Young Heroes), eventually broadcasted on the 24th of February the same year. The recorded gig took place in a squatted warehouse in Amsterdam namend Emma. Perhaps the kind of program wasn't the most promising sort of television if you compare it with programs like Top of the Pops, but it certainly was an excellent opportunity to distribute the band's name. The program itself was presented by twin brothers, Daan and Willem Ekkel, their first job on TV as well. Besides his musical contribution, Aad also participated in the TV presentation. He guided the camera crew as an experienced reporter through the huge rooms of the squatted warehouse building. After his founding in 191, warehouse Emma was used by a bags trade firm. After a significant period of vacancy it was squatted ans used for several creative purposes. As soon as the warehouse was taken over, a great part of the interior was converted into living rooms, concert hall, rehearsal rooms for bands or other creative accommodations. The Building consisted of a basement, ground floor and three other floors. Most of these floors were sparsely filled spaces within huge stone columns and high ceilings, where residents had to build their own bricklaying spaces to live in. The warehouse particularly was used as a concert hall and known for its distinctive sound, due to the way this stage was constructed by one of the driving forces and resident of Emma, Dolf Planteijdt. We mentioned Dolf before as producer of our records and Morzelpronk's guitar player. Emma's stage was a plain wooden floor, while the ceiling in the room was made of stone and straw-cement plates. As a fine result not all noise turned away from the stage, but you could hear a great deal of the sound on the stage as well. The sound in the room itself was well absorbed and reflected from the high ceiling, which gave Emma its definable sound. Some of Emma's residents living in adjacent rooms of the concert hall must have stood up frequently wrapped in a cloud of vague body odors and bad smells of stale alcohol and smoke; now perhaps smells that evoke some of their fondest memories. Although an extensive range of snacks was usually no permanent part of the plateau of constituted taste, during one of Emma's musical events one could be struck by an attractive stall presenting buns with meatballs served with creative names like a bun of epididymis, next to other tasty sandwiches.

 

Another initiative launched by Dolf Planteijdt, was presented under the occasional name of Monsterverbond and preformed in Emma in Novemer 1985. His aim was to make a Dutch equivalent of Centipede's musical project: Septober Energy. Centipede was a Rock Big Band founded in 1970, with more than fifty musicians from the bands like Soft Machine, King Crimson and Nucleus. Dolf, not surprisingly, was one their inspirational fans. The occasional Dutch version was composed of many different musicians and singers of Dutch bands like Morzelpronk, Svätsox, Sjako, The Ex, Grin and Zowiso. Aad was one of the drummers and John brought some vocal contribution. Warehouse Emma and Zowiso got along very well this year, as we managed to be present in Emma for three times. The third and last gig in October 1985, we then shared the poster with the popular New York Noise Band Sonic Youth, visiting Holland to promote their just released album Bad Moon Rising. Although we didn't share many stages with international bands, the year before we met Sonic Youth, we played with the Britisch band The Fall in Paradiso Amsterdam. Althought front man and icon Mark E. Smith was enraged about his colleague's efforts that night, he managed to compliment us for our show. Coincidentally there's a link between these two bands, as Sonic Youth covered three songs of The Fall for John Peel's radio program in 1988. Above all, warehouse Emma is particularly associated with the release of a double album in 1986. In 1985 Emma presented more than 100 bands on their stage. Of all these hunderd plus bands, thirty bands contributed to this compilation album "Emma". Among these band were contributions of various international bands; Zowiso contributed one song for this album.

It's hard to make an adequate bridging formulation that covers a fine connection between our Swiss past and our return to our Swiss audience, but our fine experiences in 1982 certainly were a great launching pad for our returns in 1985 to Switzerland. Although our first Swiss recollections definitely belong to the happy firsts of Zowiso-history and revisiting memorable places is usually not a good thing to do, 1985 could easily compete with our happy sensations of 1982. By luck we had the opportunity to visit Switzerland twice within short time (March and April 1985). Our first trip brought us to Zurich and was just for a weekend, in the context of the civil war in El Salvador, with the occasional benefit to travel by an old coach. The sudden presence of a huge amount of seats made it possible to take a number of friends and fans with us. As a result of the fact that the number of bus drivers was negligible in comparison with the amount of passengers, one could expect a dominant presence of some predictable joyful elements in the bus. It is not jaw-dropping to conclude that it turned out to be a memorable weekend for the freed minds. The first gig was held in a cultural center named Provitreff, well situated on the Sihlquai in Zurich. Our Wormer fellows Svätsox and a band named If completed the program. The second night was reserved for our revisit to the famous Rote Fabrik, where we joined the bands If and Station Totale. Two members of band If were actually from Auckland, New-Zealand (Mark Webster and Dieneke Jansen). Of the thirteen times we shared stages together in 1985 and 1986, oddly, ten of these gigs took place in Switzerland. In 1987 Mark and Dieneke decided to go back to New-Zealand again. Due to alcohol and bad sleep our short Swiss trip turned out to be a very exhausting one, especially for the ones who had to go to school the Monday after. On our way back home freed minds among us unintentionally caused an extreme delay on the Swiss-German border. As not many people were crossing the border this Sunday morning, it provided an excellent moment for comprehensive control. While we were securely checked by Swiss customs, dogs barked their way freely through te bus, chasing different odd smells. Customs successfully stretched our unwanted presence to the maximum of bureaucratic possibilities. Eventually we left with an undefined warning and continued our way back to Wormer, where anxious stragglers were already waiting hours for us. 

 

Just one month later we were back again, joining The Ex and If on a tour through seven cities around Switzerland. Besides our first confrontation with young glue sniffing visitors in Geneva, most striking moment of this tour was the appearance of a rapidly mobilized police force that suddenly surrounded us. Local Genevan grumblers filed serious complaints about nuisance caused by loud music. Although the presence of audience wasn't of Live Aid-proportions, the main culprits were the effects of the usage of amplified music gear that affected the ears of the sensible neighbourhood. As it wasn't in our line of action to surrender to police's desire to stop playing, we decided to continue completely unplugged. By this way we clearly expressed what we wanted to achieve and gave the audience were they came for. We succeeded as we were able to complete our program unplugged, meanwhile the police force slowly retreated.

 

In April 1985 we also managed to record our last album "The Lust", with nine new songs, unfortunately not enough to complete both sides of a record to make the necessary 33 1/3 rounds per minute. Critics, who made their efforts to listen to our record, draw the positive general conclusion that this album showed great signs of noticeable improvement. Although you have to accept their judgements anyway we have no reasons to reject their save conclusions. Anyway, it did not stop us to go on.

 

Boxing Day 1985 ended up in "De Melkweg" in Amsterdam. Here we experienced our one and only opportunity to play our 'piano song'Happy End for live audience. To provide a good distraction and make as a smooth transition for Aad to change seats between his drum kit and his piano, we managed to arrange a fogger on stage. Despite the fact that John was aware of the effects of the fogger, hilariously enough he did not expect the smoke of the fogger to explode right in his face. And so 1985 faded silently in smoke.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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