Nits articles in Oor

Oor 1978

Translation by Coos de Graaf.

Muziekkrant OOR 21 / 18 Okt 1978

[oor_1978.jpg] 'Noone recognized the elements in us that later on would become very important in the new wave. Now there's a revaluation towards popgroups writing compact songs. We are already doing that for four years. But you know, those radiobirds and those recordbusinesspeople are all too old', says Henk Hofstede, guitarist with the Amsterdam quartet The Nits. The boys are having difficulties with it.

Time on time the creators of the most beautifull Amstelbeat hit a wall of incomprehensibility. Now an LP has been released, their first, which they are on one hand very happy about, but on the other hand - because of the late release-time (the record was November last year more or less finished) - they had rather seen an album which shows a little better what the band is doing at this time. Because Nits are not standing still.


SOUND AS SHARP AS A KNIFE

With the success of a lot of nederpopbands (a result of their own hard working and not due to the media) there is more acceptation. This has taken a long time with The Nits also. Guitarist / pianoplayer / singer Henk Hofstede and guitarist / singer Michiel Peters left the band Midas, because the group wanted to go in a more technical direction. Henk and Michiel just wanted to play popmusic, because that was the only thing they could. At the coffeemachine of the Artschool Rietveld Henk got to know Alex Roelofs, who posessed a Revox and was capable of doing a crash course playing bassguitar. Rob Kloet, whom Michiel knew from elementary school, was persuaded to give up other musical activities, such as drumming on sunday mornings in church.

'We started playing Merseybeat, just because we could do any better. I thought Genesis with Selling England By The Pound was very good, but that kind of music we weren't capable of playing; our music wasn't a reaction on symphonic rock', Henk explains. 'A jamsession with us didn't last longer than three minutes, because we would have run out of material.'

The editors of OOR saw enough in the band ('A sound as sharp as a knife', the announcement read), to invite them in November 1975 to the group presentation, together with bands like Flavium and Massada. That official happening was the first big gig for The Nits. The worked for the first time with an o.a. system ('on stage it was as if the sound came from everywhere', Henk tells), so the first impression of them wasn't that good.

For they had send in a tape to OOR with own songs, referring strongly to The Searchers, the Kinks and Beach Boys, and it was audible that it was put together with great pleasure. A relief for listeners fed up with that symphonic crap, in which a song was only good if it lasted at least fifteen minutes.

The Nits were Searchers-freaks. The Searchers were after the Beatles the most popular Merseybeat group and scored hits from june 1963 untill april 1966. Michiel: 'Their vocals are perfect and their usage of the twelvestring guitar is splendid. I keep liking the song When I got Home.' And Alex: 'The Searchers have such a clear sound. They make very short, rounded off songs, which have everything in it. I still play their records.'

ROCKFIELD

Recording their own songs (with extraordinary results by the way) was the grouptherapy to keep going. Henk: 'And if we again weren't successful at a record company or with some other producer we would go back taping again. Before we used to do that on some attic at the Kattenburgergracht, which at one time led to a conflict with neighbour Jan Donkers. In the summertime it would get so hot in there, that you almost had to play naked, during winters it would be so cold, that through thick sweaters and jackets you almost couldn't keep your guitar.'

In February 1976 they meet Dureco plugger Jean Pierre Burdorf, who had found a financer to start his own production bureau with acts like Joe Bourne and Spirit of St. Louis. His quick and way of dealing impressed the average idiot in the Hilversum Paviljoen Drie. Burdorf arranged radio-performances, promo-discs and TV-performances. With producer Alan David a single was made, already regarded a collectors-item in Amsterdam: the beautiful, cheerfull Yes Or No. Indeed, with a nabbed Beatle-chordscheme, but it stayed a nice tune. It got them on TopPop.

In July 1977 The Nits got a chance to record in the Rockfieldstudio's in South Wales (Flamin' Groovies and Dave Edmunds had worked there too) for a fortnight under the leadership of Alan David. In style, Burdorf had people from the business like Krijn Torringa, Tom Mulder and Hitkrant's Mick Boskamp flown in to see the boys at work and enjoy a Burgundian diner in a medieval castle. Costs: more than a thousand guilders, but according to Burdorf it was worth it. Alex had made a tape of fragments of songs as an example of the sound The Nits had in mind. The pattern-card had pieces of Dwight Twilley, some 10CC and the drums of Supertramp. That final quotation got David off the track. David tried to fill all the ballads as pompous as possible; completely against the wish of The Nits, who wanted a much more bright sound. In The Netherlands the mix was done by Sytze Gardenier. He didn't knew the recordings, so he had to find out all the technical ajustment. Not only because some tapes were still in England, but also because Rails and Rain was recorded all over again, the mixing was delayed.

Bordorf thought that the LP only could be released if there was a hit-single on it. Record company Dureco, with whom Jean Pierre Burdorf was attached to in business, couldn't find that golden song.

Dureco released because of contract-obligations the single Looking For A Friend, after which Burdorf got the freedom to release the longplay album under whatever company he wanted. A mental lift was given in the form of a recording on the OOR collection Keihard en Swingend. Attempts putting together a hitrecord with Focusbass-player Bert Ruiter led to a Nits-collage, but not to anything commercial. Burdorf got in financial trouble and called 'I'm going to England!'

Suddenly there was the message that the LP would be released after all (without hitsingle, and above all at Dureco), after which a lot of trouble followed about the sleevedesign. The long waiting caused frustration. Rob: 'You get the feeling that someone is trying to delay something. Everytime it is said that the record will be released next week, and then again nothing happens. This happens five, six times in a row. No wonder, that you start thinking that someone is trying to thwart things. The frustrating feeling of being powerless is growing bigger.'

The Nits kept developing and under the influence of punk the newly composed material got more vast and solid. Henk: 'Jean Pierre didn't have the image of us as a golden hitgroup anymore. And when you can't work on something enthousiastic anymore, things come to an end.'

Michiel: 'Formal, we are still under contract, though Burdorf Booking is a paper business more or less. But that indistinctness leads to trouble finding another recordcompany.'

'That doesn't mean however', Henk says, shading the issue 'that we didn't appreciate the chance to record and mix in a professional studio. We are still unknown and haven't had a hit, so for a starting band that already is something. Now the record has been released. Why? We don't know. Maybe Dureco, now they had that smash-hit with Vader Abraham, thought they might get some money out of it afterall. They have made their costs as well.'

Burdorf could not be reached to comment and Marc de Raff, manager of Dureco, says: 'We don't do anything about that record. The product is Jean Pierre's, we only distribute.'

A strange but true story about a record, that's above all, a good one.

On this record The Nits show they are capable of writing beautifull, catching songs. Though in some places a Beatle-run is to be heard, that isn't disturbing. Michiel's guitar solos are lacking any finery, a thing that hightens the directness of the song.

And considdering this, the group has already written a lot of new material, leaning to the a typical nits-sound, with a blink of the eye to Beach Boys and bubblegum.

The songs are written from a professional attitude towards popmusic, in which in the texts the colour of sound is considdered very important. The nonsense-lyrics from Tutti Ragazzi is a good example. Henk: 'Italian is a beautiful measured language, in which it is good writing Rock and Roll songs. And Yes Or No is a bundle of slogans, that sound good. Something like instant poetry. That's why there are no lyrics on the inlay, because we don't have any pretentions of writing poetry.' The repertoire also consists of considering songs. Michiel: 'Caravan could be from the Kinks. Everyone buys such a mobile home to get away and in the end he meets his neighbours back on the camping.'

The songs about women usually warn for that breed and most of the time they have a bad ending. Symbols (trains for example) are used heavily. The girls described by Henk (26) are quite young: 'O yea? I never stood still at that. But in rock and roll you talk about teenagers, because those girls of 21 and such, they already live together. That's what Randy Newman should write about. The younger agegroup however is still open for all kinds of entanglements.'

10CC

The similarities between The Nits and a group as 10CC are striking. Both groups have a background in the arts (Henk and Alex both did Artschool Rietveld Academie). The members from 10CC also have their roots in sixties music, because they themselves were part of that as songwriters. Especially the first works by 10CC, where short were dominating, are showing resemblences with the work of The Nits. Both groups adore the Beach Boys. Also they have show interest in teenage problems. And very important: both The Nits and 10CC were better in the studio than on stage in the first. The Nits certainly are four expert-tapeartists, slowly finding a good stageact.

Fer Abrahams

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The Nits In Moscow

Translation by Coos de Graaf.

Oor 7, 8 April 1989

[oor7-1.jpg] The quartet from The Dutch Mountains survives every preliminary race for the Europa Cup. After Germany, France, Switzerland and Scandinavia the S.C. Hofstede kicked as far as Russia. Correspondent Corné Evers and photographer Rob Marinissen followed the winning team beyond The Curtain that seems to opens further and further for western musicians. The coverphoto was taken by Rob Marinissen.

The Nits in Moscow

This article was removed because the original author, Mr. Evers, contacted me and threatened me with legal action. Mr. Evers does not respond to my mails asking for permission. You can reach Mr. Evers at cornell@xs4all.nl. [oor7-3]
[oor7-2]
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Dutch Alankomaat review

Without Robert Jan Stips the Nits seemed close to death, as their playful instrumentation earned a lot to his fabulous keyboard work. Henk Hofstede and Rob Kloet seem to have miraculously survived the departure of the soundwizard though, as the colorful sound of the group hasn't become any duller. Still on Alankomaat the two are supported by only a few guestmusicians, amongst them the here unknown ambient-keyboardplayer Kimmo Kajaste and the also from Scandinavia hailing throatsinger Wimme. Even for the Nits there are a lot of conventional popsongs on this 15th album, which Finnish title means something like Low Lands. Characteristic of the lightfeeted-artistry of the Nits is their witty sequel to Mrs. Robinson by Simon & Garfunkel, while elsewhere they refer in the same subtle way to their own classic In The Dutch Mountains. As ever the ghost of the past is constantly wandering through the imagerich lyrics of Henk Hofstede, whose lonely self on the way regularly meets up with partners in distress who likewise are visited by nostalgic memories. Especially the serene melancholy of the last twenty minute gives Alankomaat the necessary surplus value, which shows the Nits again as one of the most exceptional popgroups of the European continent. (review by Geert Hendrickx)

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Last modified: 02-12-2003