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 Dirks 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 thats
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
mwe3: Where did you grow up and what were some of your earliest musical
experiences and major influences growing up?
Although Ive built up a whole false biography for Dirk
Speksnijder'a Dutch theoretical physicist from Apeldoom from
a long line of cheese manufacturersI 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 Weedons 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 hadnt recorded a song for nearly twenty years. Id
got loads of tunes in my head but I wasnt 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 mecows, sheep and crows excepted. I was able
to experiment with the harmonies knowing that the neighbors wouldnt
think I was strangling the cat.
mwe3: You get some great guitar tones on the album. Whats 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?
I bought Syds Madcap Laughs at a garage sale when I was
fifteen and I was blown away by the lo-fi, disorganized soundSyds
tunes were enough to completely obsess me. Im a total Barrett-head.
Im flattered to be mentioned in the same sentence as Syd.
Maybe The Man with Two Brains is about Syd/Roger. Its
just as likely to be about Dirk/Phil. As the song says hed
love to take a holiday, but the man inside him makes him stay.
We all feel like that, dont we? Its about schizophrenia,
maybe. Dont know, cant 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 toneit'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 awakeningthe
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 aswell, 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
DS: I really love making those videos. Again, only possible with todays
technology so there are definitely upsides to the 21st Century.
I guess all my videos infringe someones copyrightold film
clips, images, etc. Theyre 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? Its 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,
Bowies first classic, I think...all those key changes. And its
a narrative song, unlike most of Bowies later output, which
are generally imageries. He must have read The Waste Land
in 1970. But its a great song with a great build and climax.
Bowies there with Syd, constantly in my head. I was a young
dude as a teenager. I love the images in the video. Im
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. Therere great
TV shows from England back thenThe Prisoner, Jason
King, Randall and Hopkirk. If you dont know
them, check em out. Brilliant stuff.
mwe3: I know your mom just passed away. If its not too painful,
what impact did your mom have on your music, in any form?
Oh, towering above Syd and Bowie in my head is my mom. She was the
main influence on everything in my life in many waysincluding
and probably especially music. She loved musicthe radio was
blasting out all day. Its 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 collectionthe 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 musicfrom Bartok
to Beatles, so listening to those records was a really broad-church
musical education. She was just great and Ill 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
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 didnt have the guts to say hello. Kim my wife couldnt
understand the fussbut this was the bloke who wrote Blackberry
Way and Fire Brigade etc! He still looks completely
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 Hallpeople such as George Formby, Max Wall and
Arthur Askey definitely influenced Lennon, Ray Davies and the Small
Faces. Theres 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 topbut
Id 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 theres some scary voices in the background! (lol)
Because of my mom and the James Last Orchestra, I love instrumental
music, particularly if theres a great tune and spine-tingling
hooks. "Ted Robinson" started off as an attempt to write
a good old fashioned TV themeI dont think they bother
with them anymore. I got my old friend Gary Stokes to do the scary
voices. Theyre meant to throw and unnerve the listenerand
they do! Hes a fantastic mimic. A genius overlooked!
Without sounding too nostalgic or lightweight, my favorite instrumentals
are all film and TV themesMurder She Says by Edwin
Astley, Man from Uncle, The Saint...brilliant!
mwe3: I cant believe whats 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. Theres 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,
There are no conspiracies. I dont 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 Im too
mwe3: What are you future plans and can we count on more music from
Dirk in the future?
DS: Yes, Im 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. Id 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 Im not working to any deadlines.
Thanks to Dirk Speksnijder @ www.myspace.com/dirkspeksnijder