The new "Merlin" seems to open a new creative rebirth of the band that, after the reunion and 2 average albums, get closer to the golden days of the past. We talk about this with the keyboard player Ton Scherpenzeel who anticipate us something about the new ambitious musical project inspired by Nostradamus.
How did the idea of the reunion come out?
Pim and I had already been making demo's, not for Kayak especially, just for a yet unnamed project. When Max Werner joined, it was inevitable we should call it Kayak. Then the project was shelved for some time until in 1999 a popular Dutch band called de Kast asked us for a reunion gig. They were also involved in starting a new record label. They heard our demo's and wanted us for their label. That's how it started again, we played a lot and made 4 albums since then.
Is the new Kayak different from the old one and (if yes) how?
Yes and no, in many ways. The basis music ideas still come from Pim and myself, and we are the same persons only older now- hopefully wiser and more experienced. Thirty years of music business change you, whether you want it or not. Musically spoken we have evolved, we have a much broader horizon. We have done so many things since the first break up of Kayak- Pim has done much production for other bands and artists, I have written many stuff for theatre productions. You can hear that in the new Kayak, I think.
Why did you think to take again, change and expand the old "Merlin"?
We were looking for something special. Just making another 'Close to the Fire' or 'Night Vision' with only moderate success, did not have much sense, and we wanted to get more theatrical and orchestral as that is an important factor in our music. And Merlin gave us that chance, for as the original wasn't really complete we could add a lot of songs. The old version had only the highlights of many stories and legends around Arthur, Merlin, the Round Table etcetera. Now, it's finished, the story has come full circle with a beginning and an end.
Why did you choose to have few singers for the characters of the Merlin story?
We should in fact have had more than the ones we had: Guinevere and Lancelot should have been performed by other singers, because they are other personalities. And with so many good singers in the band, who will complain? It was a more or less practical solution we decided to have Bert and Cindy do these roles as well.
All in all, what lacks and faults had the old Merlin and which corrections or changes did you make?
Production wise it could have sounded better. But that's something I feel about most of our records.
The songs themselves were fine, I think, nothing wrong with that. We have succeeded in inserting new ones that match the old songs, it's hard to tell for people who don't know it which are to old ones and which are new.
The only thing we changed dramatically was the approach for The King's Enchanter. That track was sung by Merlin in the original, but that wasn't what the song was about really. It is about the end of his magical powers, and the music was too happy for that purpose. In the legend, the only person who is really happy about the end of Merlin, was Morgan Le Faye, so we decided it should be her song.
Did you ever think or make theatrical play of this work?
We did so, more or less with our tour. Video, dancers, orchestra, it's all on DVD. It's a concert registration, and has its faults, because of the lack of budget, but it shows the beginning of what we had in mind. We have even done a concert of Merlin with a real orchestra for 7000 people, with Bobby Kimball of Toto doing the role of Lancelot. It was one of the best things we've ever done.
What do you miss of the old Kayak?
The simplicity of the old days. Not knowing what you're doing and still getting things done, musically and commercially. Now, it's much more planning and thinking. Everyone has his own thing, other bands, other jobs. It's a problem getting this band together, even for rehearsals.
Can you give us some anticipation of Nostradamus? What fascinates you about this person?
His person is fascinating, because he has really two faces. One in this world, the other one in the future. On the other hand, recent discoveries have made it clear that a big part of his fame is based on a book that he probably didn't write but a monk in the 14th century. That makes it even more intriguing. That's the angle of our rock opera. It's a very big work, a 2CD with almost 2 hrs of new material. It varies from symphonical to cabaret, from rock to ballads and everything in between. Six (!!) lead singers this time.
Since the reunion the Kayak line-up already changed several times: is nowadays' Kayak an "open group"?
We have always had many line up changes, so that's nothing special for us. We have had three lead singers, three bass players, three guitarists, three drummers. Only one keyboard player.
It's become a project more and more, especially after the new Merlin. As a 'regular' band we can not exist anymore on the level we would like to. Not enough work and sales to pay the bills, it's as simple as that.
To turn it into a project and exploit our musical and productional possibilities and experience, there is a good chance we'll survive. It's the only way not to become an amateur band. But it will change the character of Kayak, I realise: everybody is replaceable, it's all about the music now. It's hard to say who's a member of Kayak now. The band performs, while Pim, Irene and I write. I'll do whatever it takes to get Kayak going. If I didn't Kayak wouldn't be around anymore.