Although the story as presented on www.ensemblepittoresque.net/story sounds pretty nice, the actual story isn’t that nice at all and if you read this version you will see that the way in which “The Art of Being” and the reissue of “For this is Past” were released can’t be considered as stand alone incidents. To not get confused it’s in my opinion advisable to forget all you have been reading on their aforementioned site for a moment, but please do not think that I want you to choose either side, just consider what you read and verify it if you want wherever possible. I will only refute and/or quote things they wrote to underline what I want to make clear. The source belonging to a quote is given by a number between brackets.
(1) Richard Neumöller in Vinyl magazine number 26, June 1983.
(2) Richard Neumöller in the Minimal Wave interview. (http://minimal-wave.org) downloaded 13-11-2007. Minimal Wave removed, on request of Ton Willekes, the Neumöller/Willekes interview from the Minimal Wave site approximately two and a half months after I published the Ensemble Pittoresque story here.
(3) Neumöller/Willekes version of the Ensemble Pittoresque story. (http://www.ensemblepittoresque.net/story.htm). Approximately two and a half months after I published the story here, Richard Neumöller and Ton Willekes discontinued this site (but maybe at the time you read this they continued it again).
(4) Neumöller/Willekes Ensemble Pittoresque site, chapter: memorabilia. (http://www.ensemblepittoresque.net/Memorabilia.htm). Approximately two and a half months after I published the story here, Richard Neumöller and Ton Willekes discontinued this site (but maybe at the time you read this they continued it again).
(5) Ton Willekes in the Minimal Wave interview (http://minimal-wave.org) downloaded 13-11-2007. Minimal Wave removed, on request of Ton Willekes, the Neumöller/Willekes interview from the Minimal Wave site approximately two and a half months after I published the Ensemble Pittoresque story here.
(6) Ton Willekes in one of his e-mails that followed in our correspondence after the re-issue of the “For this is past” album.
Please report broken and/or resurrected links at: email@example.com
Information between ==and== contain additional and/or a little more technical information. You can skip that if you want, it’s not really important for the story.
Here we go.
It was on a visit to my younger brother Ronald that Richard and I picked up one of his acoustic guitars and started jamming. It clicked remarkably well and we decided to continue in an extended fashion, so for a weekend we borrowed instruments and effect gear from several friends and started. I owned a Sony Tc377 tape recorder and borrowed a Sony Tc378. Both recorders had separate microphone and line level inputs and volume controls so I was able to make stereo sound on sound recordings. The results were beyond our expectations and a few months later we did a second weekend the same way as the first one. Richard lived in a house located in the middle of the dunes of Wassenaar at that time and not long after that second weekend Ton came to live there too. They knew each other from a place in The Hague (Bamboulee) where they had lived for some time. Ton showed interest in recording the music we made. That happened on and off and sometimes he would play an instrument too but it was mainly Richard and I that played together with or without other musicians. When they had to leave that house Ton moved to a house in Rijswijk and somewhere in 1980 we started to work more and more at his place. It were simple song structures, mostly based on one riff with one or two chord changes, that we would build on by using Ton’s Akai four track (simulsync) tape recorder. The simpler they were the more fun we had (in my view anyway). This started to change dramatically when Ton and Richard told me that they wanted to change the way we had been working so far and focus on making songs (I would have been happy to continue in the way we worked). The implications of this decision were wide-ranging (and its influence reaches until this present day). Although we already owned some instruments, we now started to seriously invest in music, effect and recording equipment (especially Richard and myself). After a number of “democratic” experiments that were neither very successful nor satisfying, we were asked to write a song for the first Theo van Gogh (†) movie “Luger”. His then girlfriend already wrote a lyric and would sing on it. We decided to record it at my place, so Richard and I traveled to Wolphaartsdijk and Ton would follow a couple of days later. Shortly after arrival I started to work on the song and suggested Richard several times to join in, but he preferred to continue with reading a book and told me to just go ahead. When Ton arrived the song was finished and he became angry with me and surprisingly Richard then became angry with me too, but they both weren’t able to come up with another idea.
Now for the first time it became clear that, much to my own surprise, I was the one who was able to perform what they suggested and wanted to do, write songs. More recently Richard and Ton tried it again but as Ton wrote me: “Jelle (=Richard) and I made attempts to make music but failed” (in Dutch: Jelle en ik hebben nog pogingen gedaan muziek te maken maar hebben gefaald) (6). Something best described as envy came in and that totally changed, in an ever increasing form, our musical relationship. For the very worst I might add and that became more evident when on the preview of the “Luger” movie I noticed that on the credit titles my surname was spelled largely wrong. Richard and Ton had given our names to Theo van Gogh and so I asked them why they spelled my name wrong. No apology or other reaction came, just two grim straight forward looking faces and it became clear to me that it was done on purpose as a kind of “revenge”, and more “revenges” would follow.
Who are the key figures in the Ensemble Pittoresque story?
Richard (real name Jelle Dettingmeijer) and I were already close friends some years before we started to make music and similarities in our personalities were as prominent as differences. We are both 6,5’ tall, walked on clogs for several years, had the same sense of humor and we both couldn’t care less about leading opinions and conventions. We loved to watch the TV series Dallas and liked bands as Abba and Hot Chocolate just as well as the “progressive” Can, Slapp Happy, Television etc. and we weren’t afraid to say so. Only the idea of becoming a derivation of some popular band would make us sick and so we exactly did what we liked to do. We were quite different in character concerning things like persistence and preciseness.
==For instance: we both studied on the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague, Richard already pulled out after the second year but I continued until the second half of the fifth year, although I’m convinced that I stayed there two years to long (so it isn’t always a bad thing being a bit less persistent). Concerning being precise I can say that this difference was rarely a problem when we worked together, but if there was an other person involved with whose performance I wasn’t satisfied with, Richard would start to accuse me of being unreasonable critical and our discussion could become so intense that a room filled with people would fall silent.==
Richard and I were both intrigued by compositions as The Beatles song Revolution No. 9 (White Album) and before we started to make music together, Richard would already talk about how great it would be to make music on top of the sound of a stationary diesel engine. When the Sony TCD 5M, a portable high end cassette deck, which replaced in most instances the acclaimed Nagra portable tape recorder, came on the market, he bought one and then started to collect sounds and voices from all different kind of places. Ton gave him the technical assistance to even extend his thoughts and idea’s about using these sounds as a musical basis. So when they had finished making a track which comprised different combination's of recorded sounds, I would put it on music. Some alterations had to be made in the number of bars a combination would hold, in order to make it work as a basis of a song.
Ton was a friend of Richard and although we never became friends socially, in general we could get along fine. He was obsessed with all kind of aspects that had to do with sound and I think that in all the years that I’ve known him, we didn’t talk more then five times about anything else. His analyzing capabilities in that field were really amazing and I never have come across anyone whose understanding superseded his. No need to say that I’ve benefited greatly from what I learned from him, even until this present day. So it was no wonder that with limited equipment he could make excellent recordings. But to call him a “whizz technician” as Richard did (3) is not quite correct, for his work was too inconsistent for such a title.
==In the mid-eighties Ton started to design a loudspeaker cabinet based on an idea of a friend of his. It had the form of a tetrahedron, a specially chosen combination of tweeter, squawker and woofer from three different brands and crossovers designed by him. I immediately ordered a pair and never regretted it. With every upgrade of my audio components the limitations of their predecessors were clearly revealed by these tetras and I sometimes wondered when they would ever show their full potential. Finally that moment came this past year. With a new state of the art receiver and blu-ray player, some limitations of the tetras were revealed and I started to look for replacements. That wasn’t an easy task and from a wide range of floorstanders I listened to, the Mordaunt Short Performance 6 sounded best but weren’t really convincingly better and not very flexible in placing (the tetra’s are exceptional in that field). The Focal woofer in my tetras inspired me to investigate what this brand had to offer and so now I’m the ecstatically happy owner of a set Focal Electra 1027Be’s that do totally outclass my 24 year old floorstanding buddy’s (which they very well ought to do so since they cost five times as much as the tetras at the time) but make it very clear at the same time what a true piece of art these tetras were and very much still are.==
Although I think he very much wanted to be, he lacked the skills and attitude to be really a musician (he did could program a very fine rhythm track, as for instance on the song “The art of being”). The main problem I experienced with him was that he interfered in a rising way with the music without being able to come up with constructive alternatives. He then would start nagging and criticizing. In such situations he became a very unpleasant person and his attitude worked pretty much like that of an energy vampire.
My father was a drummer during his younger years in a party and wedding party band. They made one record with a Dutch cover of the song “I’ve got a lovely bunch of cocoanuts”. He and this one record have been my basic musical inspiration and motivation to pull through by getting the “For this is past” album released. My mother had a nice collection of 78rpm records that I played and a large pile of Tuny Tunes (an early pop magazine). The first single she bought me was “I want to hold your hand” of The Beatles and many would follow. I often listened to radio stations playing pop music too, so I grew up with The Andrew sisters and Glenn Miller as much as with The Beatles etc. One of my grandmothers often let me buy a single when I visited her and so one day I bought “Hello, Goodbye” (I’ve always been a big Beatles fan) which was a hit at that time. After playing that song a number of times I switched to the B-side and what I heard then struck me like lightning and I played it over and over. The name of that song was “I am the Walrus”.
Although my musical taste ranges from Grand funk Railroad to Trans-global Underground and from Van der Graaf Generator to Philip Glass, there is plenty enough music I dislike as for instance: The Doors, Mariah Carey and her thousands a like’s, reggae, jazz and all bands with a three piece female choir singing things like “doo doob doobie doob”. The last five to ten years there’s been one band that I found really refreshing, namely The Pipettes. I started playing bass guitar in a four piece band called “Hieronymus”. We were all incredible King Crimson fans and liked to make that kind of music but didn’t had, in any way, the musical skills that all these members did had. After the split up of that band my ambitions as musician faded until the aforementioned jam session with Richard. Although I played mostly keyboards and electric guitar in Ensemble Pittoresque and keyboards as a professional musician, I still see myself in the first place as a bass player with John Wetton, Mel Schacher and le grand maître eminent John Glascock (†) as favourites.
My favourite synthesizer of all times is the Roland Jupiter 8, although I never owned one because I couldn’t get it with a full MIDI implementation.
== I lived in England for a while, in a little village called Kimbolton (Huntingdonshire), and one day I went to London to buy the Roland Jupiter 4 synthesizer. One of the shops I visited in search for the best price was that of Rod Argent. They had a Jupiter 8 on display and what I heard when playing a chord was so overwhelming that I ran out of the store knowing there was no way I could afford it (at that time) and I wished I never touched it.==
I haven’t been influenced by a particular wave or band, but if I had to name one it would undoubtedly be the German legendary band Can. For instance: they had a series of songs that were called EFS which stands for “Ethnical Forgery Series”. I thought that was a beautiful incomprehensible title and that inspired me to come up with the name HLT for a series of songs, which stands for “Heavy Levitation Techniques”, but I don’t think their influence reached much further then examples like this.
Ensemble Pittoresque: period 1981-1982.
So now we were in the situation that I wrote songs at home (from early 1981 onwards I’ve always been living on a considerable distance from Richard and Ton, so they had much more contact with each other then I with them) and then once every few weeks I would travel to Wassenaar and we would re-record the song and sometimes other songs. If the song contained lyrics, Richard would sing because he did it much better and with a lot less Dutch accent than Ton and I did. The atmosphere during these recordings was already regularly not that pleasant, but within more or less reasonable margins. Sometimes Richard would come over to my place and we would compose songs together for a number of days. These were always adventurous times and took place in a very pleasant and relaxed atmosphere. Somewhere during the fall of 1981 we had enough songs to fill an album with and decided, with the exception of “Just shine on me”, to re-record them. My wife calls me an association animal, because I easily associate things and so it has always been very easy for me to come up with titles and names for songs, albums, collaborations etc. Until then we worked with each project under another name. Composers collective (Componisten collectief), Components collective (Componenten collectief), Klompenisten (not translatable) are some examples. Because we would try to get a record deal with these recordings I thought it was time to have a steady name and imposed myself on two starting points. Firstly it had, in a plastically way, to make clear what kind of music we made and secondly the name had to be understood in three languages: English, German and French. So I came up with the name “Ensemble Pittoresque”. Contrary to the music I made, these names and titles were never a point of discussion. When we finished the recordings Ton told me (Richard of course knew that already) that he didn’t want to do concerts except for one at a local youth club. That was, to be honest, a blow in my face because the name was also made having in mind that we performed as a trio. Maybe it sounds strange, but that one concert is in my eyes the only real Ensemble Pittoresque concert ever given. It was too late to change the name again and Richard and I found our self in the position of performing these songs with just the two of us.
After some experiments it turned out that the best way to do it was by letting Richard do the triggered bass synth, vocals and occasional keyboard parts and me playing electric guitar. Idea’s for the traditional side of the composition of songs like Building Brains and Auratorium were largely developed that way. The other influence it had was that later, on the “For this is Past” album, I would play a lot more guitar parts. Richard describes the way we did the first few gigs very well in his Minimal Wave interview: “….we looked like a pair of paraplegic penguins on haldol” (2). On the third concert we did (Paradiso, Amsterdam) I threw of my focusing on playing perfect and that was the first gig that really “rocked” (in my view anyway).
You can read more detailed on my November 2008 contribution how the two record companies that we send the tape to reacted, but in short: EMI turned us down and Polydor asked us if we had an idea for a single. We decided not to react and later I heard from a person who was our manager for a short while (after the release of “For this is Past”) and was in contact, among other record companies, with Polydor, that they didn’t understood why we never answered their letter, and right they were.
Ensemble Pittoresque: period 1982-1983.
When we started to re-record newly songs that I wrote, I thought that Ton, having refrained from being a full member, would ease down with his criticism, but quite the opposite happened. Almost every note I had written and every part I played started to be discussed, with the only argumentation that it had to be different or shouldn’t be done at all. What made this situation even more grotesque was that Richard always agreed with Ton and I mean literally always. If Ton would change his mind within seconds, Richard would do so too. I never figured out why he did that, but it contributed to the utter idiotic atmosphere that we “worked” in. Until that moment it had always been the way that when we finished playing and stored away our equipment, the atmosphere would return to normal, but now, more and more, the nasty atmosphere started to linger on for a while.
One day I packed my equipment to drive off to Richard and Ton’s place, but sitting behind the steering wheel I couldn’t make myself starting the engine and then I knew I was totally fed up with it all, so I drove of to Wassenaar telling them I would quit our collaboration. We had a long talk and agreed to close down the collaboration of this line-up with having the music on record. That is why I called the album “For this is Past” (secondary it did also reflect on the title of Störung’s first album “This is future” which, as Richard puts it in the Vinyl interview: “We thought it such a pretentious title” (We vonden dat zo’n pretentieuze titel) (1).
We planned to record in Marion’s room, who was Richard’s girlfriend at the time. To preserve the quality of the songs I knew I had to adopt an attitude that was unlike me but had to be done. So like an old Soviet communist hardliner I answered nearly all Ton’s “propositions” with a simple njet (which means no), the only exception being Ash grey as Sunday. Richard played the strum guitar part on it and Ton suggested that he played it on an acoustic guitar. Richard of course immediately agreed. Now this is an excellent opportunity for those of you who own both “The Art of Being” as well as the “For this is Past” album to make up your own mind about this subject. The version on the “The Art of Being” is the one that I would have preferred on the album and the one I think is much more in line with the rest of the music than the New Age meets Techno Pop version that is now on the “For this is Past” album.
During the recordings I re-wrote the lyrics of the song “Earthbound Paradise” (which is on “The Art of Being” album too) and called it “Better Life’s”. These lyrics reflect the way I felt about the whole situation and part of the lyrics are addressed to Richard. “Say no more, say no more, say no more don’t die” reflects the still ambivalent way I felt about the (inevitable) ending of this line up. “Guitarlicks, guitarlicks, throwing dope on ice” means that something that should be a thrill to do wasn’t, due to the far below zero atmosphere and the long guitar feedback at the end of that song reflects my frustration of that whole situation.
A thing to mention is the terrible flea plague that ruled in the building and room we recorded in. Flea’s and other stinging insects are font of the taste of my blood, so at the end of the three weeks recording my legs were almost fully covered with fleabites.
==I have to give some additional information about the production of this album, because Ton did a really unbelievable job here. The room we made the recordings in was very large and had an approximately four meters high ceiling. Maybe that gives a nice acoustic for a concert, but for recordings it isn’t a benefit to say the least. Above that, Ton used mainly my Rodgers LS 3/5A monitors, which are very fine but limited in reproducing the lower frequencies. The recordings were made on my Teac 22-4 (four track recorder) with two stereo Nakamichi Dolby B/C units (and mastered on Ton’s Tandberg TD20A SE), so the quality of the recording equipment was good but the number of tracks limited. More then once Ton had to mix these four tracks down into two, so there were two tracks available again. If you ad up all these factors, it is truly amazing that the album sounds the way it does.==
With the recordings ready we had to find money to get the albums printed. Richard and Ton weren’t willing to spend a single dime, so I had to find another way to get the money together. Hans Rooijakkers, an old friend of mine who also played (12 string electric guitar) in my first band “Hieronymus”, had the courage to finance the album for more then half and for his own risk. The remaining amount I had to borrow from the owner of a shop. In order to borrow it, I had to make a design for his shop-window, which took me a week to complete and was alone worth the amount I had to borrow from him, but I had no other choice.
Gathered the necessary amount, I designed the cover (Richard designed the inlay that came along with the first one or two hundred copies of the album) and then drove of to Belgium where the album would be pressed. I delivered the mastertape and cover design at the pressing plant and returning home in my Reliant Robin (a polyester car with two wheels at the back and one in the middle of the front) I took a wrong turn somewhere and found myself on a silent, very long straight road. I drove way too fast, so I noticed a bump (of probably hard clay) too late, the front wheel hit it and lifted, the back of the car broke away and I rolled over three times. During the last rollover I hoped to land on its three wheels so I didn’t have to crawl out of the car and it did. I untied the safety belt (which absolutely saved my life), stepped out of the car (which was a total wreck) and saw a man approaching who’s face turned very pale. I asked him if he was all right but he only mumbled something. Later he would tell me that he had seen the whole accident happen and was convinced he would find a dead and bloody person in the car, so when I stepped out he was shocked. Travelling the remaining distance home by train, I suddenly started to tremble all over my body and it was only then when I realized that I had been extremely lucky (only my left shoulder was a little painful).
A week or so later we picked up the records from the pressing plant and I decided to take a vacation, but I made a firm agreement with Richard that he would call me if there was reason for me to come back to do concerts or anything like that and I told him that I was able to return within three days. He didn’t call me and started to do the concerts that were booked as a reaction on the publicity the record gained with Ed van Hoven and Le Biquo (I don’t think they were aware of Ensemble Pittoresque’s preceding history). This is what Richard said in respect to this subject in the interview he did with Vinyl Magazine: “Paulus did put himself in an authoritarian role. And he was absolutely welcome by it. We are still good friends. Although there was less room to develop my own idea’s during that time. I gained enough inspiration now to produce my own firm fart. …… Paulus asked me to call him if something important happened. But I can hardly put up with it. What do I have to say, come back soon or something like that? He will fall of his chair if he hears what is going on. The reactions are overwhelming, really. I can give everybody a fat kiss.” (Paulus had zich tijdens de plaat wel de autoritaire rol opgelegd. Maar dat gun ik hem van harte. We zijn nog steeds goede vrienden. Het was natuurlijk wel zo, dat ik al die tijd minder ruimte had om mijn eigen ideeën uit te werken. Ik heb nu genoeg inspiratie opgedaan om zelf een flinke scheet te laten. …… Paulus had gevraagd of ik hem op zou bellen als er iets belangrijks gebeurde. Maar er is gewoon geen bijhouden meer aan. Wat moet ik zeggen, kom snel terug of zo? Hij zal wel van zijn stoel vallen als ie hoort wat er allemaal in gang is gezet. De reacties zijn overstelpend, echt waar. Ik kan iedereen wel een dikke zoen geven) (1).
He was so happy with all the attention the record attracted, that he couldn’t be bothered with breaking his agreement with me and just wanted to give everybody a fat kiss. But not everybody were that pleased with him, as history would show. For the third time Richard and Ton proved that when it concerned Ensemble Pittoresque, their “friendship” towards me suddenly meant nothing anymore and for those of you who have been reading my previous contributions on this blog know that this same sneakily attitude would be repeated in the release of “The Art of Being” en the re-release of “For this is Past” albums. I became such a nuisance for Richard that he didn't wait for me and did the Vinyl magazine interview two days before I returned from my holidays. Being so open in that interview about his questionable behavior, makes it clear why he calls it now: “The worse interview I could think of” (4). But the saddest thing is that after more then twenty years he tries to hide behind “To overcome a lack of dynamics on stage, Neumöller and Wieland turned to three fellow musicians; Ed van Hoven, Marion Prinz and Biko” (3). Who are you trying to fool Richard?
With his urge in acquainting the world with his firm fart, he totally forgot that now he had an obligation towards the people who would visit an Ensemble Pittoresque concert and that is to play the songs of the album. In the Vinyl interview he said he did three songs of the album, although on a concert I visited I would only hear two. Anyway, the rest of the concert was filled with what Richard called in his Minimal Wave interview: “(‘Frequenz’) was the impulsive result of on-stage developed songs.” (2). Now the songs on the “Frequenz” album in itself are already quite different compared to the songs on the “For this is Past” album and it needs no explanation that these experimental versions were far from what the audience would expect to hear. A friend of mine who booked them (I was of course not a part of Ensemble Pittoresque on that moment) for a concert in a major youth club was so displeased with what was performed, that even after fifteen years he would become very angry again just talking about it. This is only one example that reached me but there were more. Now don’t let me be misunderstood, I’m not judging the quality of the material they played, it was just not the right moment to play it.
After four weeks I returned from my vacation and went straight away to Richards's house (Ton had moved to The Hague meanwhile) and I was speechless after hearing what had happened and within an hour returned home.
In the weeks to come I considered what position I would have to take. People around me advised me to take control again, friendly or if necessary by lawsuit. I came to the conclusion that the damage already had been done and fooled myself with the thought that Richard took his actions in a weak moment and I didn’t want to put our friendship at stake. It’s easy to get paranoid about it now, but I have every reason to believe that there was true friendship between Richard and myself, but it has become obvious throughout the years that if it had to do with Ensemble Pittoresque suddenly other ethics (or the lack of it) ruled.
Marge and the Marvelous.
Several weeks after returning from my vacation I coincidently met Ton at the youth club “Tent”. Because of the attention that Störung and Ensemble Pittoresque had attracted, the Dutch pop press came up with a name which was a derivate from the then popular “Neue Deutsche Welle”, namely the “Wassenaarse Welle” (welle means wave) and that youth club, where most bands used to practice, decided to bring a record out comprising a song of every band that practiced there. Ton just finished recording these bands and suggested right away to let me hear the results. It was not different at the time in Wassenaar then in other places, so there were many bands of which I thought (o no, not) you too, complete with Bono-fide singers and guitarist that played on the Edge. I suggested recording something that was a little more untrendy. The song Distant Dance, which we recorded for the demo but didn’t made the “For this is Past” album, was in my eyes perfect for it, although I did made some alterations in the composition and lyrics to let it be more suitable for the project. I suggested that Ton’s wife Marga would sing on it (which she did excellent and with a lot of courage). Her hard Hague-ish English accent, combined with the razor-sharp way Ton produced the song, made it in my eyes an original and successful project. I was a little afraid at first that it might be misunderstood, but I only received positive reactions. It also showed that Ton and I were capable of working very well together, as long as we would stick to our individual strong points.
==The name Marge and the Marvelous reflects obviously to the names many fifties and sixties bands used to have, but was in the first place my personal little tribute to one of my (two, the other being Evander Holyfield) favourite boxers of all time, the former middleweight champion of the world from 1980-1987: Marvelous Marvin Hagler.==
Ensemble Pittoresque: period 1983-1984.
Ton was now no longer part of Ensemble Pittoresque and since history proved that I could work very well with Richard as long as Ton wasn’t there, it seemed a nice experience to me to just function as a musician within a band. I didn’t want to get involved in composing with Richard again, so I suggested that when they finished with turning the “on stage developed” songs into compositions, I would join them. That was a big mistake. The first three concerts, beginning with the “Paûpop” festival, I played syndrums, but mainly to extract attention of the drumcomputer or to put it differently, for visual reasons. Unlike my dad I’m not a drummer at all, so it became soon unsatisfying to do and I switched to playing electric guitar. Maybe some of the parts I played added a little here and there, but I noticed more and more that it was hard to come up with something worthwhile in a creative sense.
I had made a solid promise to myself to take the role of subordinate to Richard, this was his project and I wanted to support him with it. I kept this attitude during the recordings of the “Frequenz” album too. On one song he was dissatisfied by what I did, so I asked him what he wanted me to play (and if he didn’t want me to play anything at all, it would have been fine with me too) and then played it that way.
Recordings of the Frequenz album were made in a newly opened studio in The Hague. A deal was made that for a low or no rate, I didn’t made the deal so I can’t remember exactly, we could record the album and in return the studio owner was allowed to write something about his studio on the inner sleeve if the album would come out. At the end of the first time we recorded the songs, it was clear that the bass drum sounded too loud, so we had to do it all over again. When we finished the second recording session of the songs, a cassette copy was made for each one of us. On the way home we played it on the cassette player of Le Biquo’s car. After hearing a couple of songs it became in my ears clear that again these recordings didn’t sound well. To be certain I played that tape at several places, all with the same result. It was already totally unlike Ton to make a wrong judgement the first time we recorded it, but to do it for a second time I really couldn’t understand. I awaited a call from Richard with the message that we had to do the recordings a third time around but that call didn’t came. When I visited Richard I gave my opinion, but he said “You leave that to Ton, right” (Laat Ton dat maar uitmaken, ja) and the grim face was there again. Maybe it was arrogance, maybe it was disinterest or maybe it was something else, I don’t know, but there was something not quite right with Ton in this respect and that is underlined by the fact that he never bothered to pick up the mastertape of that album again after it was pressed, so that tape became lost. This is what Moze Jacobs of Vinyl magazine (June 1984) said in her review about this issue: “…but for the moment I rely on the notification of my ears that the recordings sound rather thin and not very transparent.” (maar voorlopig houd ik het op de mededeling van mijn oren, dat de opname nogal dun klinkt en niet erg transparent).
On Frequenz there is a song on the end of side one that is composed and performed by someone else (I don’t want to embarrass anyone, so try to avoid mentioning names). Richard wanted to put it on the album but that didn’t sound like a good idea to me, because obviously it did not had anything to do with Ensemble Pittoresque and people where already confused enough because of the change in music that had taken place. When I asked Richard why he wanted to put it on the album he said “I want to give him a chance” (ik wil hem een kans geven) followed by a grim look, so I got the message and asked no further. After the album was released people often asked me why that piece of music was on the album, but I couldn’t come up with an answer, so they looked surprised and I could hear them thinking “Strange band”.
Maybe so far it all sounds like a complete misery, but that wasn’t the case. The concerts were often fun to do and everybody in the band could get along very well.
With the recordings ready we waited for our manager to come with an offer from a record company, but apart from his enthusiastic stories no concrete deal was offered and I could see Richard starting to doubt if his firm fart would ever hit solid ground. I suggested that I would contact VIP (one of the companies we knew the manager was in contact with) and Richard immediately agreed. I made an appointment with VIP’s director Richard Denekamp and within two hours we rounded out the deal. I designed the cover again and the album was released April the 6th, 1984.
I think that we all expected the album to become some sort of success but it turned out to become a bummer. We were only asked to do one interview as far as I can remember and the reviews, with one exception, weren’t all that enthusiastic. This is one of the conclusions of Moze Jacobs in the Vinyl Magazine review which is labelled on (3) as “pretty good”: “The music means nothing to me. I would play the record at the most to drive away the silence during an impersonal conversation” (De muziek zegt me niets. Ik zou de plaat hoogstens opzetten om de stilte te verdrijven tijdens een onpersoonlijk gesprek). Richard told me that he had sent her a letter in which he disagreed with her opinions. It is my opinion that he should have done that in consultation and agreement with the whole band, because in my view such an action is “not done”.
I think the album deserved a little more then it was credited for. Some of Ed’s bass lines belong to the finest Dutch bass players ever had to offer and LeBiquo’s contributions on the album were fully underrated in the reviews. His unpretentious and fully functional keyboard parts made it possible for others to shine out. But at the same time I think it would have been a much wiser decision if Richard had done this project under another band name. The music would then have come much more into its own right, instead of now so often being compared with “For this is Past”.
The release hardly attracted bookings for concerts so we went to a newly raised management in The Hague, but they did not want to manage us.
Not long after the album came out Richard sacked the person who did the sound mix during our concerts and although I didn’t agree with the reason he sacked him on, it was his decision. With only a few concerts to go I suggested that I would do the sound mix with which Richard agreed.
At the end of June I applied successfully for a job as keyboard player with the music theatre group “Werk in Uitvoering” (Work in progress) and in July we did the one before last concert. On August the 6th I started working with Werk in Uitvoering. I phoned VIP shortly before, being the representative of Ensemble Pittoresque towards them, telling that I would leave the band and when I asked how the sales of “Frequenz” went, they told me that only 335 copies were sold. On October 7th Ensemble Pittoresque played their last concert (of which Ton, in my absence, did the sound mix). Almost exactly half year after the release of “Frequenz” Ensemble Pittoresque seized to exist.
Somewhere in 2005 Richard called and told me that Ton only had six to twelve months to live and wanted to start an Ensemble Pittoresque site. I saw the proposition to start a site about this band already coming for several years and had the intention to firmly resist against it because the past proved more than enough that it would only lead to trouble. But how could I resist the wish of a dying man? So I agreed, providing that I would be informed upfront about anything that was placed on that side. Richard agreed but didn’t kept his word. Since I had no internet connection I would sometimes hear from my brother what they published. If I had any remarks Richard would simply say “That is not so” (Dat is niet zo) or “You said that before” (Dat heb je al eerder gezegd) but changed nothing, so I was completely left out of that site. That was no surprise, as they had a lot to hide. Along with “the star in your own fairytale” story, they offered a shitload of songs for download that had as much to do with Ensemble Pittoresque as The Move with E.L.O.
One day Richard called and asked me if I still had Ensemble Pittoresque concert videos. I did and had copied them shortly before on my DVD recorder. Being naive again, thinking he wanted it just for home use, I send him a copy of the disk and guess what happened. I didn't want these songs and videos to be published as they were never meant to be published. Astral awareness for instance, is presented as “a bonus song from that period”. This is what it actually is: I bought a Roland CSQ600 sequencer and to try it out I suggested Richard to do a Klaus Schulze type of improvisation. That’s it, a jam session, not a song at all! It’s no wonder that all this lead to so much confusion of what the band was.
On a certain moment Richard called again and the conversation took such a turn that I never spoke with him again. So now Ton started to call and just as with Richard I could very pleasantly speak with him for hours on, but in the end it always turned out he wanted something that had to do with Ensemble Pittoresque and the conversation immediately became unpleasant. The last time he called was at the beginning of May 2007.
January the 19th 2006 I received sheets comprising a series of questions of which Ton said it was for East Village Radio and I had to send it back to him. Firstly I wondered what a radio station wanted to do with a bundle of written answers and secondly I knew that my answers could become censored by him and there would be no way for me to check that out. In the third place I didn’t feel the urge to seek publicity and let the whole Ensemble Pittoresque story come out in the open, so I didn’t fill these question sheets in. Would they have passed my version unaltered if even now they still don’t mention anything about the controversies within this band on their Ensemble Pittoresque.net site? In November 2007 when I was connected to the internet and found out that way about the existence of “The Art of Being” album, I saw that these interviews were published on the Minimal Wave site.
In the accompanying letter I received with a copy of the re-release of the “For This is Past” album Ton wrote: “Think that it has been meant well and a number of people on the world will be very pleased with this release of which you are the undisputed heart” (Ga er van uit dat het goed bedoeld is en dat een aantal mensen op de wereld erg blij zullen zijn met deze uitgave waarvan jij het onbetwiste hart bent) (6). How “meant well” it was became clear sometime later in our correspondence when he wrote: “The re-release of “For This is Past” indeed has been achieved without consulting you. You know, I can imagine that this tremendously bothers you. Yet by your attitude in the past: Never received a reaction on the written interview of your “friend” Veronica (=Minimal Wave-PW). Your inaccessibility (I phoned you several times in vain) And: The fact that your brother reported with me saying that you had enough of the whole EP thing and that your brother from now on would look after your business. Made me decide to not consult you concerning the re-release”. (De heruitgave van "For This Is Past" is inderdaad tot stand gekomen zonder jou te raadplegen. Weet je, ik kan me voorstellen dat je dat enorm dwars zit. Echter, door je houding uit het verleden: Nooit een reactie gekregen op een schriftelijk interview van je "vriendin" Veronica. Je onbereikbaarheid (ik heb diverse keren tevergeefs gebeld) En: Het feit dat je broer zich bij mij meldde met de mededeling dat je van het hele EP gebeuren genoeg had en je broer voortaan de zaken liet behartigen. Hebben mij doen besluiten je niet meer te raadplegen inzake de re-release) (6).
If he wanted to contact me he could have send me a fax or a letter, he has my address and I already pointed out the situation concerning my “representing” brother on my August 2008 contribution, so I won’t repeat that here, but I can add that of course my brother and Ton on a certain moment came in conflict with each other, the first denying and the latter accusing. What made me decide to stop corresponding with Ton was the fact that even after that conflict he wrote: “My impression is that Ronald doesn’t see any interest in representing your business…”(Mijn indruk is dat Ronald geen belang meer ziet je zaken te behartigen…) (6). I think he lost track with reality a bit and it was of course not up to him to make any decisions about leaving me in or out in the re-release of the "For this is past" album.
Earlier on I mentioned that “something best described as envy came in”. Now there is a very good example that shows that this envy is still prominently there. Although Richard knows it very well, it seems hard for him to admit that I have been working professionally (and I still have one of my salary specifications as proof), as he says in the Minimal Wave interview: “We never had the ambition or skills to be professional musicians as such.”(2).
I think that I have been very reasonable towards Clogsontronics. I could for instance have put a claim or a lawsuit on them for using my lithograph without permission (and out of its original context) for the cover of the re-release, but it is not my wish at all to get financially better from it, on the contrary, as I wrote them that I would donate my share of the money to the World Wildlife Fund. Until now, even after eight months of it’s July 2008 release, I didn’t receive a single eurocent, nor have I been informed in any way about the development of the sales.
Just as in 1983, they made it their thing and forgot that they had an obligation towards the fans and buyers of the album too.
Am I angry with Richard and Ton? A couple of times I have been angry with them, but only shortly, because I think they victimised themselves mostly. The only time I have been really angry was when Ton started threatening me in such a way that I knew what I had to do with him if he would suddenly show up before me. That was not a nice idea to live with. I warned Richard and Eugenius to talk him out of it and maybe that made him come to his senses.
If they had changed the cover and the inlay of the “For This is Past” re-release I wouldn’t have put this story out in the open, but now I had to draw a line. I refrained to do so in 1983 when Richard broke his promise, in 2005 when the Ensemble Pittoresque.net site was established and after the release of “The Art of Being”. Before the re-release of “For this is Past” I begged Ton several times to stop it all (site and re-release), so we could keep on having a normal relationship together, but he simply refused.
I realise that I have to blame myself to a certain extent too. For too long I’ve been too soft, tolerant, forgiving or whatever you want to call it and with that I gave them the idea that they could get away with it all.
Although there where a lot of not-such-nice-things that Ton wrote, I committed myself to give as few examples as were needed and with them I think I made my point. But I’m fed up with this whole thing too and as I told Ton, if he ever denies one of the sparsely quotes that I have used out of his e-mails, I will not hesitate to publish the complete correspondence here, so it is fully up to him.
The Ensemble Pittoresque.net site does still refrain from placing a direct link to my blog at their introduction page. Instead they place a link under “Friends” , isn’t that a little cynical? (They changed that some time after I published this story in "Misc: Paulus Wieland's hate-blog about his vision on the EP story. Prepare yourself reading a lot of slander on other members of the band"). On the Clogsontronics site you are directed to the Willekes/Neumöller site if you click (on the photo of) “Ensemble Pittoresque”. Both sites are firmly established and although I asked several sites that are somehow related to them to name the URL of my blog too, almost none did. I can understand that it is not in their best interest, but is it fair?
I can’t say I experienced much joy in writing this story, it was like dragging an old cow out of a stinking mud pool and I can think of nicer ways to pass time. The Ensemble Pittoresque period comprised less than half of my musical career. During the time I worked with “Werk in Uitvoering”, I met and worked with actor/director/musician Hein-Dik Barentsen. With him I would do several (music theater) projects (which he directed) in the years to come. By then I had my own little but well equipped studio where I composed, played and recorded all the music for these projects. Where Ensemble Pittoresque formed the dark age of my musical career, the collaboration with Hein-Dik represented undoubtedly my golden age and I produced my best work during that time.
After the split of Ensemble Pittoresque Richard and I kept on being the best of friends for many years (in my view anyway). I would regularly stay a week with him and his hospitality was always proverbial. For a short period of time we made music together again, but the sparkle was gone and the results not worth while mentioning.
Very recently it came to my attention that Ton Willekes had send a very incomplete piece of music I made somewhere in 1979 (called "Verstokte Glamour") to East Village Radio, which he presented as a song of mine. I had certain plans with this composition back then that I never pulled through because the basis in itself was far too weak. Again he did that without informing me and without my approval (which of course I never would have given). I can only guess how many things he posted that way or things he wrote (also) out of my name and it is therefore that I ask everyone who received something/anything from him (also) out of my name, to strongly disregard that.
There have many things taken place in the whole Ensemble Pittoresque history that I really can’t comprehend. Why did it had to be this way, was that very tiny little bit of fame and attention Ensemble Pittoresque attracted worth putting a good relationship at stake? We all had clearly our different opinions about that and with this conclusion I end my contributions on this blog and rest my case.
Richard Neumöller and Ton Willekes have now discontinued, as Ton wrote me, their website ensemblepittoresque.net/theartofbeing.info (after they made several changes in the text and content of the version that I quoted from), but there is not much reason for joy. Their legacy comprises amongst others a disgraceful re-release, a totally screwed up album with prior to the “For This is Past” album recorded material and a load of published songs, incorrectly presented as Ensemble Pittoresque music, that is now spread all over the internet. And what good did it do to anyone of the three us in the end? Its bizarre history has now been publicly unfolded and the two sides within this band revealed themselves as strong as during the worst period in the band existence. It must have left all three of us, again, with a terrible hangover. Better leave this band for what it was, forever.
On 05-30-2009 I received an e-mail from Ton Willekes in which he calls this blog a “hate blog”. He ends this e-mail with “Stop with it or accidents will happen” (“Stop ermee of er gebeuren ongelukken”). Yesterday I handed this mail and the earlier in the Ensemble Pittoresque story mentioned threat-mail over to the police. These last few days I made arrangements that in case I am the one who falls victim to an “accident”, another person will continue this blog and update it when necessary. For obvious reasons this person will stay anonymous.
Minimal Wave informed me that several weeks ago Ton Willekes requested them the removal of all Ensemble Pittoresque band information (including their interview) which resided on the Minimal Wave site.
After the removal of most of the things I referred to (the Neumöller/Willekes site's and their Minimal Wave interview) in the above story, it has recently been brought to my attention that large scale attempts to get links to this blog removed have been made too. Most of these attempts failed, but some succeeded and some partly succeeded.
If Richard and Ton feel that they have been treated unjust by me on this blog and that they fell victim to slander, it would be their own free choice to sue me and I would be well prepared for that.
Although new “smart” Neumöller/Willekes tricks and/or moves may be on the way, I leave it with this, enough said, time to let go.