DIRK SPEKSNIJDER
The Man With Two Brains
(Chevalier D'Angleterre Records)

 

In the spirit of Robin Hitchcock and David Bowie, Dirk Speksnijder is a do it yourself pop artist but even as such, he hits a new height for the genre with his 2010 CD The Man With Two Brains. Dirk's comic klatch video for the album title track is a fab watch on YouTube but audio geeks will also get a great buzz off the studio version on the CD pressing. If you make it that far, also on YouTube.com you may want to catch Dirk’s brilliant video for the 1967 Bowie nugget, “The London Boys.” Ever the eclectic pop-conscious trendsetter, especially 45 years ago, Bowie would love this CD with Dirk mixing a musical composite of the essence of early Bowie, mid ‘60s Kinks and Pink Floyd era Syd Barrett. The only thing that’s missing in this picture is major label money and a push but musically, Dirk nails the snake on the head on a number of these wild rock solid rave ups. Syd may have lost it, jeez 42 years ago, but with Two Brains Dirk channels from beyond, the erstwhile Pink Floyd founder on several cuts here including the title cut and the lead off cut “What A Song And Dance!” which also sounds like a long lost Thunderclap Newman track. Enlisting the aid of drummer Tim Bragg, Dirk admirably handles all the instruments for the most part and when he cuts loose, his electric guitar fills, riffs and counterpoints are most compelling. Echoing the spirits of musical pioneers from a different decade, and filled with songs that spin round the room, The Man With Two Brains is Dirk Speksnijder's own self-styled, 21st century magical mystery tour. www.myspace.com/dirkspeksnijder


mwe3.com presents an interview with

DIRK SPEKSNIJDER




mwe3: Where did you grow up and what were some of your earliest musical experiences and major influences growing up?


DS: Although I’ve built up a whole false biography for ‘Dirk Speksnijder'—a Dutch theoretical physicist from Apeldoom from a long line of cheese manufacturers—I was actually born in a working class area of Birmingham England, not far from where Ozzy Osbourne came from. But heavy metal was never my thing; it was the Beatles, Bowie, T.Rex and the Kinks. I got my first guitar from Woolworths when I was 13, along with Bert Weedon’s ‘Play in a Day’. I was stuck on “Home On The Range” for about 6 months before I realized I could play along with “Apache” by The Shadows, so threw the book away.

mwe3: How did The Man With Two Brains come to be, how long did it take to map out?

DS: I hadn’t recorded a song for nearly twenty years. I’d got loads of tunes in my head but I wasn’t going to fork out hundreds of pounds to go into a studio, so they stayed in my head. But then along comes all this new cheap technology that made home recording possible and a light bulb went on.

The album was all recorded at home in my ‘music room’. The house is isolated, surrounded by cows and sheep and crows and no neighbors, so I could allow myself to go mad and not worry about the embarrassment of anyone hearing me—cows, sheep and crows excepted. I was able to experiment with the harmonies knowing that the neighbors wouldn’t think I was strangling the cat.

mwe3: You get some great guitar tones on the album. What’s the story behind recording the fab guitar sounds and the guitars you use on the CD?

DS: My whole recording method is very ‘Heath Robinson’. I use only one guitar, one bass and one acoustic guitar on the whole album. Real recording engineers would laugh. I record basic guitar, bass and vocal tracks on a Boss ‘Micro’ recorder to a straight drum beat or ‘click’ track. I then transfer each track as a separate MP3 track to a program called ‘Samplitude’, then I add more guitar, vocals, piano etc. Then my good friend in France, Tim Bragg adds drums. I manipulate all the sounds using the inbuilt effects in ‘Samplitude’. No pedals, amps, speakers. The guitar sounds are just my naked Fender Stratocaster twisted, bent, distorted, re-bent. Very ‘Heath Robinson’!

mwe3: You sound like Syd Barrett has come back to life again! How about the title track? Is there a story behind the song “The Man With Two Brains”?

DS: I bought Syd’s Madcap Laughs at a garage sale when I was fifteen and I was blown away by the lo-fi, disorganized sound—Syd’s tunes were enough to completely obsess me. I’m a total Barrett-head. I’m flattered to be mentioned in the same sentence as Syd.

Maybe “The Man with Two Brains” is about Syd/Roger. It’s just as likely to be about Dirk/Phil. As the song says ‘he’d love to take a holiday, but the man inside him makes him stay’. We all feel like that, don’t we? It’s about schizophrenia, maybe. Don’t know, can’t decide.

mwe3: Tell me more about the concept of The Man With Two Brains... You mentioned there was some type of story line running there.

DS: The concept and 'storyline' running through the album might be a bit impenetrable unless you grew up in '70s industrial England and more particularly difficult if you don't happen to be me. Track 2, "Beecham's Powders" sets the tone—it's an ode to the industrial world I was born into, where people happily got up at the crack of dawn to a day of drudgery in a factory, lightened only by Hollywood films and sex. "Hot Air Balloon" is an over romantized version of my parents' meeting. "Don't Tell the Missus" is my parents marriage falling apart. "Going Out" is about me at 13 going to see David Bowie and my sexual awakening—the two facts not entirely linked nor separate. "Glam" is the dream of being a pop star. Being in a band and getting rejected by every label in London is told in "Tracy" and "208" is the slow version of "Glam", which twists the theme from being one of optimism to disappointment that dreams don't work out. And The Man With Two Brains can be read as—well, what I am now and what I was then. There's something in all the songs that link in with the story...but I'll save those for my therapist!

mwe3: After playing the CD I was also watching your amazing videos on YouTube, including the one for “The Man With Two Brains”. What do you make of all the new social media spreading on the internet these days?

DS: I really love making those videos. Again, only possible with today’s technology so there are definitely upsides to the 21st Century.

I guess all my videos infringe someone’s copyright—old film clips, images, etc. They’re moving collages. The whole concept of copyright is dead today. I want to try to do more original footage in the future but I need to buy a camera first.

The internet is brilliant of course but at the same time it has cheapened all music and video product because of the over abundance of product on the net. Market forces at work!

mwe3: Also amazing is your video / cover of the Bowie classic from 1967 “The London Boys.” How close do you associate with Bowie and more specifically that period of music history and can you say something about making that video? It’s always been a special song and your video offers a spectacular looking homage of sorts to that revered moment in music.

DS: Glad you like it! “The London Boys” is a strange song, Bowie’s first classic, I think...all those key changes. And it’s a narrative song, unlike most of Bowie’s later output, which are generally imageries. He must have read “The Waste Land” in 1970. But it’s a great song with a great build and climax.

Bowie’s there with Syd, constantly in my head. I was a ‘young dude’ as a teenager. I love the images in the video. I’m obsessed with Britain in the 60s and 70s...the golden years. Looking back at Britain then, even the old fellas in bowler hats and ties look cool. We all look a bit undressed today. There’re great TV shows from England back then—”The Prisoner”, “Jason King”, “Randall and Hopkirk”. If you don’t know them, check ‘em out. Brilliant stuff.

mwe3: I know your mom just passed away. If it’s not too painful, what impact did your mom have on your music, in any form?

DS: Oh, towering above Syd and Bowie in my head is my mom. She was the main influence on everything in my life in many ways—including and probably especially music. She loved music—the radio was blasting out all day. It’s a cliché I know, but she always said I was quiet in my pram only when the radio was playing. She had a great record collection—the Stones, Gene Pitney, Roy Orbison and so on. She was really mad on the James Last Orchestra. His albums are fantastic. He orchestrated every type of music—from Bartok to Beatles, so listening to those records was a really broad-church musical education. She was just great and I’ll miss her.

mwe3: Your music echoes geniuses Syd and Speedy Keen and guys like Danny Kirwan and Roy Wood, who were musical mentors growing up in the ‘60s and ‘70s. What was it about England during the war, that produced all these amazing musical geniuses in the aftermath of WWII?

DS: A couple of years ago my wife and I were in a pub in Birmingham and Roy Wood was in there having a pint with a mate. I was blown away but I didn’t have the guts to say hello. Kim my wife couldn’t understand the fuss—but this was the bloke who wrote “Blackberry Way” and “Fire Brigade” etc! He still looks completely bonkers.

I think the optimism that followed the war was a big factor in that creative burst. Of course the stuff from America was the main influence to the British writers, but also the musical and comedy heritage of the old Music Hall—people such as George Formby, Max Wall and Arthur Askey definitely influenced Lennon, Ray Davies and the Small Faces. There’s a lot of the Music Hall humor in their music. A lot of song writing today is too earnest and trying to be too worthy. I think most geniuses from that era eventually filtered to the top—but I’d love Robert Wyatt to have been better known!

mwe3: How about your favorite instrumental music? I was impressed with that piano instrumental “Ted Robinson” on the new album even though there’s some scary voices in the background! (lol)

DS: Because of my mom and the James Last Orchestra, I love instrumental music, particularly if there’s a great tune and spine-tingling hooks. "Ted Robinson" started off as an attempt to write a good old fashioned TV theme—I don’t think they bother with them anymore. I got my old friend Gary Stokes to do the scary voices. They’re meant to throw and unnerve the listener—and they do! He’s a fantastic mimic. A genius overlooked!

Without sounding too nostalgic or lightweight, my favorite instrumentals are all film and TV themes—“Murder She Says” by Edwin Astley, “Man from Uncle”, “The Saint”...brilliant!

mwe3: I can’t believe what’s happened over the past ten years. My favorite part of Manhattan destroyed, terrorism making us feel more unsafe than ever. Do you believe in conspiracy theories?

DS: What amazes me about Ground Zero is that the Century 21 Department Store is still sitting there, oblivious to the gaping hole next door. I was in New York during the blizzard after Christmas and I was in that store getting some waterproof boots and the place was manic, packed with people doing the same. There’s this huge reminder of what bad things people can do right outside and yet everybody is preoccupied with just keeping their feet dry! I find that really comforting. And together with the care my mom got during the last weeks of her life, my faith in humanity has been largely restored.

Like the folk in the department store, the best weapon we have in fighting our fears is to carry on regardless! No invasion needed, thank you!

There are no conspiracies. I don’t think the politicians, governments, secret agents or big business are clever enough to control their own bowels, let alone manipulate billions of people. And as for celestial alignment bringing the world to an end? Nah! I worry I’m too optimistic.

mwe3: What are you future plans and can we count on more music from Dirk in the future?

DS: Yes, I’m writing some tunes and thinking hard how these songs can be compiled together. The Man With Two Brains is a concept album with a loose theme running through it. I’d like the next album to be similarly a whole experience, rather than just a collection of songs. How I achieve that while still giving it its own character and a different angle is what will take time. The recording bit will be the easy bit. But I’m not working to any deadlines.


Thanks to Dirk Speksnijder @ www.myspace.com/dirkspeksnijder

 

 
   
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