STRANGER is a Dutch, hardrock/metal band, that became famous in the Netherlands in the eighties and nineties, because of their amazing live stage performances containing a mix of rock and lots of humour. They supported band like MOTORHEAD, VENOM, ANVIL, URIAH HEEP, HELIX, MEAT LOAF, LAAZ ROCKIT, CORONER and played at various festivals with for instance THE GATHERING, SAXON and many others. STRANGER recorded several demos, which resulted in the CD “Legal”, that was recorded in Holland and the USA and mixed and mastered by SKID ROW producer Eric Rachel in New Yersey, USA.
Marco van Empel of Headbangers Records released the new self-titled CD of STRANGER in 2017, which contains never released tracks from demos and the CD “Legal” from that period. Recently, the band reformed and played live at some festivals and they are ready to rock again.
When did STRANGER get together as a band and did any of the band members play in other bands before they joined STRANGER?
“After leaving ELISE, guitarist Willem Pas started STRANGER in 1987 with his former CONCRETE members Arjan Jansen (bass player REVENGE) and Gerrit Tijhof (vocals). They were joined by REVENGE drummer Menno Menzo and guitarist Henri Hagen. Very soon, Gerrit left the band and singer John Scholing (RAVISH) took over. After a few gigs supporting for FRANKENSTEIN, Menno and Henri left the band and drummer Corny Vinke (RAVISH) and guitarist Jean Hofman (BLACK OUT) joined up. In 1990, Willem Pas left the band and the line-up for the next eight years was there.”
How would you describe the music of STRANGER yourself?
“Hardrock / heavy metal with a humoristic touch and a ditto live show (happy metal)”.
Who can we see as your main influences and maybe you can point at some personal influences of each band member individually as well?
“For all of us, our influences are from the hard rock/metal scene of the eighties and nineties in general. For example VENGEANCE, IRON MAIDEN, JUDAS PRIEST, SAXON, MOTÕRHEAD, ACCEPT, etc.”
Who came up with the band name and why was STRANGER the best option?
“I really don’t know and probably it came up after a few beers and we all liked it.”
“Legal” was the name of your (demo) CD, which was mixed and mastered by Eric Rachel (SKID ROW producer). How did you get in touch with him and why was he the man for the job?
“In 1994 we got a contract with record company Rock The Nation, for which Eric Rachel at Trax East Studios (in South River, New Jersey, USA) did do the mixing and mastering for the bands. Because we also wanted to do it ourselves, we arranged a trip to the US to produce, mix and master it together with Eric Rachel and Steve Evetts.”
Did you also go to New York to record it there or was the album only produced and mastered there?
“It was recorded in Holland at Soundlab Studios and mixed, produced and mastered at Trax East Studios in the US. We had to record some guitar work though in the Trax East Studios, because some tracks where lost during recordings in Holland, which we noticed over there.”
Did you also play in the US or was this not possible at all?
“Unfortunately, that was not possible. We only went there for ten days to do the mixing in four days and the other days we went sightseeing in New York.”
I remember, that the song “Stranger” was played on Dutch radio in ‘Vara’s Vuurwerk’. Did you get any good response after that?
“As far as I can remember, the response was very good and we did get some nice gigs, because of it.”
Who did the artwork for your demo covers and for the CD?
“The covers for the demos were designed by a few guys and also by Jean’s father, who was a good painter. He made two of the demo covers. The artwork for the CD was done by Hans Bloemendaal (Bloemendaal in Vorm, a design studio in Rijssen).”
You’re really no strangers on the Dutch stages, I guess. Having shared the stage with names like MOTÖRHEAD, VENOM, LAAZ ROCKIT, MEAT LOAF, HELIX, ANVIL, CORONER and URIAH HEEP must have given you an awesome experience. Did you learn anything in particular from any of these aforementioned bands?
“Not in particular, but you always learn from other bands you play with. Of course the stages with MEAT LOAF (De Bonte Wever, Slagharen) and MOTÕRHEAD (IJsselhal, Zwolle) were huge and there were a lot of stage crew and technicians and everything was very professional, so we learned quite a lot here.”
What was the best band to hang out with before and/or after the show? And the worst?
“I can’t remember any band we had worse experience with. With all the bands, it was fun. VENOM was touring with a touring bus and when we were invited in there, we could not see them because of the smoke of weed. MOTÕRHEAD where very kind people and let us use their gear and mixing console. Lemmy even kept the door open for Jean, when he arrived with some guitars. With URIAH HEEP we had an argument not being able to put our gear on stage. After we said we would leave and skip the gig, their backline was moved backwards of the stage, so we had some space for our backline and show.”
Are there any nice or funny stories, that you would like to share with us? There must have been some hilarious situations, that you will never forget?
“Well, there was a girl, who said that she was from Aardschok, but during the interview she talked a lot about sex. Apparently, she was not a reporter of Aardschok at all, but she liked us very much. And once, after a gig, a few girls were waiting for us in our dressing room. They wanted to have a shower with us. We did not know we were so popular! Also, when we were looking for the studio in New Jersey and we couldn’t find it, we thought we would see a big building, but the studio was situated in an upper apartment. On the street in front of that house were a lot of rednecks. Eric Rachel had arranged a hotel for us, but the last night it was fully booked, so he brought us to the Hilton at his expense! Jean tried out the ice machine there in the middle of the night and that made such a noise, that half the hotel woke up, so I’m sure they will still remember us (lol).”
What’s the largest crowd, that you played for in those days?
“MEAT LOAF and MOTÕRHEAD for sure. There were thousands of people out there.”
Did you play any cover songs back then and if yes which covers did you play?
“Yes, we did play “Higher Ground” of the RED HOT CHILLY PEPPERS and “Killing In The Name” of RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE and also a song from VENGEANCE.”
You also played with a second guitarist, called Marijn Makkes v/d Deijl at your live shows. Why didn’t he become a steady member?
“At that time, we also played a short time with Jannes Bloernert and later on with Tonny Duiveman (both ELISE), but because of different reasons (work, study, distance, etc.) it didn’t last long. As I remember, Marijn at that time was studying in Groningen, so it was difficult to come to our rehearsal room during the week, because of the distance.”
How does the writing process go in STRANGER? Do you start with the music first or the vocals or perhaps your songs start spontaneously, while jamming?
“The guitarists came up with some ideas and riffs and by jamming it resulted mostly in a new song. The lyrics were made by the singer and some by the guitarist.”
Who writes (wrote) the lyrics for STRANGER and what are they about?
“John wrote most of the lyrics. Some came from BLACKOUT songs (“Ice Age Hunter”) According to John all his lyrics are mainly about liquor, women and a lot of nonsense.”
What’s your favorite STRANGER song and why?
“Our personal favorite is “Blow Your Brains Out”, because it’s an up-tempo song with a lot of variety and when you hear it, it will immediately stick to your mind. It has never been recorded, only played live, but at this time (May 2018) we are in JBStudio of Jean to record this song and another one (“Ice Age Hunter”), which was written by Jean in his BLACKOUT period. We have changed it a bit and have been playing that song live ever since.”
Why did the band actually split up?
“After eleven years, we all had the idea that we had seen it all. Everyone did have other projects at that time, so one day in 1998 we decided to do a final gig supporting VENGEANCE and then split up, which we did.”
John also sings in JURASSIC PARK. How did you become the singer in that band and what’s it like to play with two former FRANKENSTEIN members? These guys are f*cking living legends!!
John: “I knew Berthus for many years and we already had the plan to try out something. After a performance with "Berthus and friends" at a festival, JURASSIC PARK was born! For me, it is still a party to be allowed to play with these guys!!”
Jean plays in THE BOTTLENECK ROCKERS, together with partner-in-crime Niek Mollen. You guys play acoustic songs. Is there a special reason why you like to play acoustic?
Jean: “There’s not a special reason, but we play rock/metal songs acoustic in a ‘Sons Of Anarchy’ style and we don’t know any other bands in the Netherlands that do the same. So we play a lot and recorded a CD last year at my JBStudio in Almelo.”
Jean, you’re also the owner of your own studio (JB Studio) in Almelo. Can you give us some names of bands, that recorded at your place?
Jean: “Well, I recorded/produced our own CD of the BOTTLENECK ROCKERS and a lot of other local bands. I also recorded a song with DILANA SMITH and the drum tracks with Anikka Nilles (Germany) and Stacie Collins (Nashville) and so on…”
What do you like best, your work in the studio or getting on stage with one of these bands?
Jean: “I really like both, I like the diversity of playing acoustic/electric and I do a lot of different stuff in the studio too besides recordings. It’s a live stage too for all kind of bands and band promotions and I organize music boot camps and there’s also a possibility for recording lessons or guitar lessons. Some foreign bands stay at the studio for a week or so (rehearsals/recording/sleeping), so I’m very busy (lol).”
Did Arjan (bass) and Corny (drums) play in any bands after STRANGER fell apart?
“At that time Arjan already played in a cover band (SPANISH FLY) and nowadays he also plays in the classic rock cover band AMNESIA and a U2 cover band. Corny played in STAAL (with John) and later on (also with John) in JURASSIC PARK.”
You played a reunion show in 2017 at the Very ‘Eavy Festival in Stadskanaal. How was that experience and how long has it been, since you were on stage together?
“It started with a private party in December 2015, where we were asked to do a couple of songs as a reunion. We wanted to do this for fun and to play together once more after seventeen years. After this first reunion gig with STRANGER, Corny decided to retire. However, this reunion gig was an unexpected success and because it was later published on Facebook, we were asked to do it again at the Very ‘Eavy Festival. Because of the retirement of Corny, we decided to ask Ric Brand (drummer CHIRAW, THE HERITANCE) to play the drums and it was a great experience to play at VE. We had lots of fun and it felt like old times, so we have decided to do a few gigs a year in the future.”
It all came together with the CD release of “Stranger”, how did this deal with Headbangers Records come about?
“After the gig at the Very ‘Eavy Festival, they contacted Jean if we had some songs to put on a CD for them. We liked that idea and took some songs of the CD and some never released songs from demos, which Jean refreshed in his studio.”
How are the reactions of the press towards your reunion and the CD in particular?
“So far, there have been only good reactions, also international. We even had to order a second amount of CD’s for the Japanese market. The CD will also be available on Spotify in the near future, as Jean is working on that.”
You did a CD release party with LOVELL’S BLADE in Ommen. That must have been quite a thirsty evening. I kind of know these parties in Ommen by now (lol).
“Yes, it was, the Calluna stage is well- known for that (lol), although we had to keep concentrated, because there wasn’t much rehearsal time before. However, we did have a great time together with LOVELL’S BLADE.”
Will you go on tour through Holland at all or will STRANGER go back into the freezer, as far as live show are concerned?
“STRANGER has never been a band, that toured a lot. We played a lot of support slots for famous bands that time and festivals and that kind of performances, so we keep doing those gigs. We have a couple of gigs to go on big festivals in June and July, because it feels great to be on stage again with STRANGER and we will see what happens next…”
Can we expect any new STRANGER material soon or was this CD a onetime only experience?
“At this time we are recording two songs, which have never been recorded before. These songs will be available on Spotify and social media, just for fun.”
Is there anything you’d like to add to this interview that will make the story of STRANGER complete, or do you think we’ve covered it all?
“We want to express, that if you like making music it’s timeless and that’s what music is all about, not only technical stuff but it has to move your soul, after so many years STRANGER is still alive and we are still friends in every way!”
Do you have any messages for our readers?
“Enjoy the music and let’s keep the hard rock and metal alive!“
The final words in this interview are for STRANGER……
“We hope that you’ll enjoy our music and hope to see all of you at one of our gigs. Keep on rocking in a free world! Come and see STRANGER at Elsrock Rijssen (June 09) and at the Hobnop Festival in Almelo (July 07), supporting VUUR (Anneke van Giersbergen’s band).”
(interview by Toine van Poorten 2018)
John Scholing - vocals [1987 - current] (JURASSIC PARK, ex-STAAL, ex-RAVISH)
Jean Hofman - guitar [1988 - current] (THE BOTTLENECK ROCKERS, ex-BLACK OUT)
Arjan Jansen - bass [1987 - current] (AMNESIA, SPANISH FLY, U2 FACES, ex-CONCRETE, ex-REVENGE)
Ric Brand – drums [2017 - current] (CHIRAW, ex-THE HERITANCE)
Corny Vinke - drums [1987 - 2017] (ex-JURASSIC PARK, ex-STAAL, ex-RAVISH)
Gerrit Tijhof - vocals [1987 - 1987] (ex-CONCRETE, ex-ETERNAL FLAME)
Willem Pas - guitar [1987 - 1990] (ex-CONCRETE, ex-ELISE)
Henri Hagen - guitar [1987 - 1988] (ex-SARATOGA)
Menno Menzo - drums [1987 - 1987] (ex-REVENGE, ex-FIGHTER)
*Legal (CD 1996 on Rock The Nation)
*Stranger (CD 2017 on Headbangers Records of Marco van Empel)
SOME RECENT LIVE PIX: