Het Droste Effect were one of the “gateway drugs”, in my personal epiphany with the resurgence of independent, experimental, underground psychedelia.
I caught up with ‘Hermann Blaupunkt’ from the band, for the low-down on all things Het Droste Effect…
Can you give me a little history lesson in the genesis of Het Droste Effect?
I used to be in a stoner rock band called Lupu Negru in the 90’s early 00’s, but I quit because I felt it was going nowhere, a combination of self-doubt and we were all too good friends to tell each other the truth. Long story short; I got into analog recording which grew to a real studio where I recorded dozens of bands. A few years ago I really wanted to rock out with a drummer again and asked an old friend to join me: Thompson Dube. We agreed on having no rules or expectations, as long as we both liked it. The rest is HDE history. We recorded rehearsals for ourselves and finally put a few tracks on Bandcamp. And now we have 3 EP’s and 1 LP to our name. Especially in the beginning, the positive response was quite overwhelming. It almost made us forget our ‘agreement’.
What was your own journey into playing music, where did that begin?
As I said, I was a stoner, coming from grunge and hardrock before that. But I also really like experimental, electronic stuff, like Blanck Mass for instance. I am a big field recording enthusiast and made tons of ep’s for obscure cd-r labels with highly experimental stuff on it. But my roots lie in the second half of the nineties. My city, Eindhoven, was known for its good rock scene back then, called Eindhoven Rockcity. Bands like Peter Pan Speedrock, 7 Zuma 7 and Candybar Planet were really taking rock music to another level in The Netherlands. They all knew each other well and they were all from Eindhoven. The band that really opened my eyes and ears was Loose, or 35007 as they were later called. Thick groove driven instrumental tracks, with synth explorations I never heard before and to top it off: they had amazing live visuals!! They really were ahead of their time in every aspect of psych rock. I feel blessed to have seen them live a couple of times. Around that same time I was in love with the band Motorpsycho as well, and the first album by Queens of the Stone Age never really left my stereo. Nowadays I listen to all kinds of stuff. Old, new, soft, loud, whatever ticks my box.
I think ‘We Are All Hallucinating’ was my first introduction to Het Droste Effect, it is a track I still play regularly, how did you arrive at that timeless formulation?
I must confess, my weak point is my memory, so I’m afraid I can’t go into detail on that. It must have been me trying different riffs and my drummer saying stop when he heard something he could work with. After that it’s usually hours of repetition of that same riff with some minor changes and different tempos. After we track a song, usually live guitars and drums, I spend hours and hours on it in the studio experimenting with mixing and adding keys, effects and other stuff. An important part of our sound is the format we record to: cassette. I cannot work with a computer and be creative, so there’s none in my studio.
My first HDE purchase was the limited edition, ‘Het Droste Effect / Lingerland’ vinyl. I am proud to own the copy that came with composite slide LP#5! I particularly loved the packaging – opening it felt like an event in itself, can you share the artistic philosophy behind it?
Well you actually did that just now. That’s the honest truth. We always hope to add some mystery, so it feels a bit more special than your average Spotify playlist. I could go on about a very deep artistic theory behind it all, but then I would be lying. Our name is very carefully chosen, because it sums up our love for repetition (google it). But the rest is having fun with music and trying to keep it special, and if we can – add mystery and confusion.
Would I be right in describing Eindhoven as being the Dutch Manchester? The music in a way defined by the industrial heartland setting?
Yes, very much so. Because of the big companies (Philips, DAF), Eindhoven has been a town for ‘the average men in the factories’ for almost a century. I live in an old Philips house myself, as do many of my friends. It’s a no bullshit, DIY kind of town. But it’s changing over the last couple of years. It’s all moving towards the brain now, it’s a true laboratory kind of town. Creating cutting edge technology and design are very much on the way up here.
Can you tell me a little about having a landmark venue like De Effenaar, on your doorstep as a music fan?
Well, any musical venue is great, but Effenaar has treated Eindhoven to some incredible music over the last 40 years, so yeah, blessed. As I said, my formative years were in the nineties and I couldn’t imagine a better place for me and my friends than the Effenaar to have hung out. Nowadays, I think the relationship between young people and music venues has changed, but still it’s great for them to get on their bikes and get crazy in a cool venue. Eindhoven was made out of tiny villages before the big companies came, but I thing we can finally say that we’re living in a real city. And you know, every real city needs a real venue.
I understand you have developed a longstanding relationship with the venue, can you tell us about that?
I grew up in the Effenaar. From a really early age I attended concerts and dance parties there. I took my first drugs, saw my first life changing concerts and now I work there. And to top it off, my father was one of the people who started organizing stuff there in the 70’s, he used to sleep in the attic for years.
What has it meant for HDE and for Eindhoven, to have now hosted two groundbreaking Psych Labs? For me easily the best indoor gigs I have ever attended.
Thanks! For HDE it meant a little bit of confused times as a matter of fact. I felt we needed to become a live band and play there. For various reasons, that hasn’t worked out, but I’m fine with that now. For me EPL means a lot. It’s like being part of something so cool, you can’t believe it sometimes. I remember checking out and salivating at the line up of one of the first Austin Psych Fests (Levitation), thinking – It would be amazing to have a festival like that in Eindhoven, but really do it in a way that suits our city. I guess we have arrived at that point, and I’m thankful for that, and the fact that I am organizing it with my colleagues is cool.
You recently released your latest album, ‘Soar’ – can you give some insight on the recording process?
Again, we worked really long on the songs, then we recorded them very quickly in my studio to 8 track cassette tape. We never expect to deliver super tight or very ”produced’ music, it’s about, the right feel. That may sound hippie, but that’s not really a problem for me. For SOAR, We bought some synths finally and I am very proud to have used them, in a way which I feel took us to another level. The combination of rock music and electronic music still has a very long lifespan I think. It’s such a cool thing to combine and experiment on. Like a sound lab really.
What is next for HDE?
Well, actually, that’s always the question for us too, untill we agree on rehearsing and recording again. That may never happen again. So, to get back to the question, I really don’t know.
When am I finally going to get to see you play live?!?
It all depends on what the answer is to the last question. Het Droste Effect can become a one man recording project by myself, or a live orchestra. Even both. But now, my focus lies on a Hermann Blaupunkt solo record and an analog techno project called S.T. Cordell, I’m doing with some friends. It’s really cool to be making music with friends. I recently added some of my field recordings to the new Radar Men From The Moon album, after a short run of gigs I played with them last year. I am blessed. Getting all hippie again, haha.
A big thank you to Hermann for his candour.
Hippie is a word I am extremely comfortable with – I believe the world will only begin to heal itself, when the majority openly embrace a holistic culture.
Thanks again to Hermann for everything, the music, the Psych Lab, the insight and the camaraderie!
This Interview will feature in the forthcoming edition of the Optical Sounds Fanzine.