KERRANG ISSUE 33 JANUARY 1983 Feature by Malcolm Dome
Well, in contrast to the frugal humility of most Dutch people, this quintet (thank heaven) proved to be a right rare bundle of loveable loonies.
For a kick-off, during an intense two hour photo session, they managed to anger a director of Phonogram by harking about on his push-bike, consume about 70 crates of bottled Heineken, smoke their way through 100 packets of Marlboro and pour tomato ketchup all over the floor in a real blood-letting exercise.
All of which meant that by the time vocalist Shmoulik Avigal, guitarists Jan Bechtum and Chriz van Jaarsfeld, bassist Rinus Vreugdenhil and drummer Laurens ‘Bakky’ Bakker, were corralled into an ‘interview situation’ none of them was in a fit state to talk seriously about the band.
Still, at least their command of English was fair, so some semblance of sense did eventually vomit forth from certain of these Netherlands nutters. What follows, then, is a combination of their more printable quotes plus info gleaned from other sources about their past.
The story really began in the Autumn of 1979, when the rhythm section of Vreugdenhil and Bakker decided to form a hard rocking’ band because, in the immortal words of the latter, “normally we had to pay for our drinks. But when we are in a band, we knew we could get a contract that stated we were entitled to FREE DRINKS!”
So, the gormless duo teamed up with original vocalist Ronald van Prooien plus the aforementioned Bechtum in search of alcohol. “It was really terrible in the beginning,” quipped the half-drunk, totally-crazed Bakker. “Jan was a good guy, but couldn’t play guitar at all. Within a couple of months, though, we made him into a very good musician. Now, he’s better than Blackmore”
Are you keeping up with this nonsense? Anyway, after a very short time, Picture were discovered by Henk van Antwerpen, a man whose managerial pedigree included work with semi-successful Dutch new wavers the Nits (never really up to scratch on the international circuit, one might say!)
“Henk was one of the biggest problems in Holland,” asserted Bakker. “Since we’re a bunch of trouble-makers and he is one also, it was a perfect match. He’s not really up to much as a manager. But since he is smoking…we are smoking..and we like the brand he buys, Henk does have his uses. Look at the money he saves us on fags – we always nick his!”
With van Antwerpen on the case, the band were rapidly snapped up by WEA Records in Holland. However this union was never consummated vinyl-wise and the band soon split with the label. “They wanted us to sound like Kiss and become really commercial, even do a modern version of ‘Chirpy, Chirpy, Cheap, Cheap’, you know,” explained Bechtum.
Undaunted by such an experience, Picture were soon back in the frame with Back Door Records (a subsidiary of Phonogram in Holland). This deal led to the band, still in their original quartet format recording two LPs in 1981, viz ’Picture I’ and ‘Heavy Metal Ears’.
Now, neither album can really be classed as outstanding. Indeed, both have as much appeal as, say. Krokus in their pre- ‘Metal Rendezvous’ days. In other words, perfect bargain-bin fodder. However, the lads did manage to garner a surprisingly large following not only in Holland (where they’ve supported the likes of Saxon, Ted Nugent, April Wine and AC/DC on major tours) but also in Italy, Germany, and Mexico.
“In Mexico, particularly, they go mad for us,” revealed Bechtum in all seriousness. “Kiss are the most popular band there, followed by Black Sabbath – and then comes Picture.”
On top of that, the band were last year voted the top domestic act in two of the leading rock magazines in Holland – a positive pointer that at last true heavy rock is beginning to make a home-produced impact on the docile Dutch.
“We are the first really heavy band to come from Holland,” boasted Bakker with good reason. “Golden Earring and their like are very good people, but they’ve never been HM, more just pop/rock. We have been fortunate enough to get the support of the rock press in Holland and to have built up a good number of fans. But, there’s a long way for us to go yet. Neither the radio stations nor the television people want to know about heavy music at the moment.”
“To some extent, we’re in the same position now as the Scorpions were originally in Germany,” continued Avigal “It was only after they made it in England that they were accepted at home. I think to make it BIG in Holland. Picture is first of all gonna have to build an international reputation.”
All the signs are currently pointing towards Picture being able to do just that. And, as I’ve already said, much of this is due to the undoubted dynamism of ‘Diamond Dreamer’.
With Avigal being railed in for the departed van Prooien (a vital change as the former is a top-class Dio-like hard rock singer, in a different league to his predecessor), ‘DD’ could (in the potentially prophetic words of Bechtum) prove to be “as important for us as ‘In Rock’ was for Deep Purple.”
Already the LP has established Picture as the premier heavy band in Holland, ahead of pretenders such as Vandenberg, and provided them with the possibility of true global clout. Certainly the drafting in of Peter Hinton to co-produce the ‘Diamond….‘ sessions with local lad Ton van der Bremen (who was responsible for the sound on the first brace of Picture LP5) has drawn forth richly melodic and fruitfully powerhouse performances scarcely hinted at before.
“We got on swell with Pete, he’s such a colourful character,” laughed Avigal. ‘We only had 10 days to work on the songs in the studio, and considering all of that, it came out very well. Hopefully, the next album will be even better.
“But, whether or not we’ll still be with Phonogram in Holland by then is doubtful. As far as hard rock bands go, they’ve done very well in promoting us. But we’re an ambitious group, and we don’t think the company can really help us to make it in the wider context.”
Yet, if their Dutch label situation is a little murky, one thing is for certain – ’Diamond Dreamer’ will get a long-overdue UK release next month on Carrere, and the band hope to follow this up with a support slot on the upcoming Motorhead UK tour.
“We’re looking forward to playing England,” admitted Avigal with obvious relish. “Our music is basically English. Our influences are the heroes we grew up with Hendrix. Purple and Zeppelin. So the best place for us to go is England.”