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August 2018

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(also published in the magazine iO Pages)

Some musicians who have lasted a bit longer in the trade and who have not been too careful with their ears are plagued 24 hours a day by chirping bird nests, sawing crickets or oncoming oceans, in other words: tinnitus, an irreversible hearing damage that will make your life hard. can make. And don't think I'm just talking about rock bands: the average oboist of a classical orchestra, who spends his working life right in front of the trumpets, can talk about it.

Although my hearing has not remained completely noise-free, I still managed to get rid of it in that respect. Especially when you consider that for years I was playing on stage with Kayak next to Pim Koopman, who almost made it a sport to produce as much sound as possible with as little power as possible.

I will never forget that we once placed a decibel meter in the hall. At a distance of 15 meters from his drum kit, that thing scored 105 db for his snare drum alone. Pim was proud of it. "Then I won't hit really hard yet," he shouted, rubbing hands happily as only he could.

When we performed the rock opera 'Nostradamus- The Fate of Man' live, we worked with extra bands on which choirs, effects and some other instruments 'walked along', because we wanted to perform the CD as faithfully as possible. To be able to play in sync with this, a so-called click track was needed, or a separate track with a metronome. The drummer is the most important link for the band: if he cannot hear the metronome properly, it will certainly go wrong.

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Pim en Ton.jpg

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At that show, Pim was safely stored with his percussion in the bottom layer of a three-story tower, surrounded by 3 plexiglass walls. During a pause in the sound check I walked past it (Pim was somewhere else at the time) and heard loud and clearly relentless ticking, as if somewhere a woodpecker was fanatically puncturing the walls of the theater. That sound turned out to be somewhere from the headphones of Pim, who was lying on a stool somewhere in that almost enclosed loft (the headphones, not Pim). I went in and put the thing almighty! What came out of those headphones was unbearably hard for me. But Pim did not dazzle or lose out, he apparently needed that sound level to rise above his own drums and was 'used to it'. He absolutely must have paid a toll for that. It was therefore a miracle that you did not notice that in the studio: if there was someone who heard everything and missed nothing, it was Pim.


Another bizarre phenomenon in that regard was keyboardist Ritchie Close, with whom I played in Camel around 1984. I always have a tendency not to put my own keyboards into the mix too hard: I prefer that it sounds to me as it should sound in the hall. So in balance, as a total band mix. We lined up that tour next to each other. However, when Ritchie was soloing, I really had to turn my head to avoid his shrill synthesizer. He himself was not bothered by anything. Regardless of whether he could still hear the rest of the band, I didn't understand how he physically tolerated that volume at all. Incidentally, some of Kayak's bandmates weren't very happy with my lesley at the time either, and the thing was disappearing further and further away from the stage, even into the dressing room. In that respect, I am happy with the 'ears' of today, so that you can adjust the balance yourself and eliminate 'nuisance' from the outside. (yes, public, you too).

Of course, I also like volume. It should and should be able to sound solid, you should also feel rock and (especially) not be able to talk through it. All those decibel measures in some rooms in recent years, I don't like it. And mufflers in your ears isn't everything, either. But it has a major drawback. Let me put it this way: as long as you hear a squeak after returning home from a pop concert, that's a good sign - but a warning. If that doesn't bother you after a concert, well, well… you might have to scratch your ears.

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