2009.03.27 – ULYSSES – Sylvester Vogelenzang de Jong (interview)

Dutch band Ulysses has new album. Sylvester Vogelenzang de Jong – band’s guitarist agreed to answer some questions for Rock Area. So we asked some questions regarding new album, and future plans of Ulysses. Feel free to read the interview below.

Your previous album came out 5 years ago. Why did you let your fans wait so long?

Yes you are right, it took a while. On of the reasons is the fact that we parted with Raymond (vocals), shortly after the release.. and later on also with René Schippers (bass). Having line-up changes takes a lot of time.. Most important, we wanted to have an album that could live up to our own expectations.. and that took a while.. haha..
We will do our utmost best to speed things up this time and not have you waiting for another five years..

Michael Hos came to the band soon after release of previous album. Didn’t you consider to record some old tracks with Michael’s vocals for EP or bonustrack mabye?

Infact we did.. in June 2004 we took three tracks of Symbioses and added the vocals of Michael. We only used these recordings for promotional purposes for booking agencies etc. On Symbioses there are a couple of tracks that we would like to record again,.. so maybe in the future..

„The Gift of Tears” tells true stories… so what are the lyrics about on your new album?

It al started with the song 'Anat’, the story about two young parents who lose their one year old daughter. Lot of the guys from the band have kids of their own, so we could really relate to this issue and therefore we felt that this story had to be told and written. On the other side Michael figured that it was a bit weird that the singer usually determines
what the songs will be about and has the exclusive right to share his demons with the world if he chooses. Just by looking around him he found so many stories much more interesting and powerful to tell than his own. Although it may seem that the stories are sometimes sad (How Much More) they are actually about finding strength in friendships which give you the power and courage to hang on and to fight for the future. So it an album about hope. Family Portrait explains a bit how we can achieve this. So all in all we
think it is an inspiring album in which people can relate to similar situations of their own and hopefully find some strength and wisdom.

When you were writing material for the new album, the band had two new members. So, was the process of songwritig different than previous times?

Mhhh.. the only big difference is that we worked from the lirics point of view.. We tried to ‘match’ the music with the contence of the lirics. Further more our writing process is very democratic and therefore timeconsuming, haha.

What is the meaning of your latest album cover artwork? I wonder, what is it all about with some lines of text in (I suppose) Hebrew?

The artwork is made by Michael. The hand gives you a glass ball filled with stories and tears. You can choose to accept it or just look at it. It reflects the title 'the gift of tears’. The parents of Anat gave (in figure of speak) their tears to us, we gave it to the world. The understanding and reactions they got from all over the world gives them strength to go on and stay positive despite what happened to them. A true gift! The lines of Hebrew text in the background is a passage from the Jewish prayer called Mourners Kaddish which you’ll here in the song Anat. On the funeral of Anat this was the prayer that the rabbi (jewish priest) told.
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaddish ) Anat is a very special song, which is very close to us personally, we needed to add this to the track to complete the story of Anat.

I saw a numbers of reviews of The Gift of Tears on the Internet. You also put some negative ones at your website. Are you happy with the response? And what were the main reasons of negative reviews?

At this moment we have over 50 reviews on our website and as you can see 90 procent is good or ok, just a handfull is bad. We like to give a honoust view on what the people think of the album. It doensn’t mean we agree with all reviews.. I have much respect for a review that is not positive, as long as the reviewer has good arguments. Writing a –negative- three sentence review on a 62 minute album, can’t convince me that the reviewer took the time to listen to the album. But to be honoust, most ‘bad’ reviews are really poor reviews in the sense of writing and argumentation. We put them up there so everybody can see that a review is mostly a personal opinion and that the majority really digs the album. The handfull of ‘negatives’ are mostly related to the fact that someone is simply not into our type of music. But we can’t please them all.. that is reality.

What are your musical inspirations? To tell you the truth I would compare some tunes of yours to Queensryche atmosphere.

Being compared to Queensryche.. w’ll take that as a compliment. But I think that at least two of five bandmembers only now the bandname and don’t have a single album in their collection.. It all comes to influences.. All bands, in the end, are influenced by other bands.. We don’t have one band which is our big inspiration.. Our musical tastes are very diverse and also we have a lot in common. Ron mostly on the sympho and neo prog side.. he is into IQ, Camel, Marillion etc.. me personally, I float between Whitesnake, Blotted Science, Zappa and Nevermore it all depends on the moment. Pretty divers..but also the ingrediënt for the sound of Ulysses..

This year Ulysses is turning 10 … What are your plans to celebrate it?

Of course the release of this album, is a small present to ourselves. Further more we are working very hard on promoting Ulysses and our album. Ofcourse playing live is a good oportunity to have a party with our fans..

Is there any chance for you to visit Poland in the near future? Are there such plans?

If it is up to us, we would like to come over at the end of the summer. We would like to do a small European tour and for sure Poland (the European capitol for progmusic !) needs to be on our agenda. In the end it is the public that makes it all come through.. So we can use all tips and support that we can get. Go stalk your local club owner and demand Ulysses on their stage.. haha..

Is Symbioses Music your own label? Are you gonna take care with other bands, or Ulysses only?

Yep, I founded Symbioses Music myself. Symbioses Music is the label for Ulysses. All marketing/promotion and production activities are done under this name. For the distribution of the album a agreement was made with Musea Records for Europe/Japan and with Burnside Distribution Company in the U.S.
The album is particly for sale in each and every store in the world. All the official download sites like I tunes and Lala also sell our album.
I build up a pretty solid network with a enourmous database of pressrelations etc.
My plans are to let other bands ‘use’ this information. I am already facilitating, distribution, album pressings, lay-outs for covers, promotional services (sending promos to press).
If any band is interested, the are free to contact me.

Thanx for interview. I hope to see you soon on tour.

Thank you very much and if it is up to us, see you in Poland !

Interviewer: Piotr Spyra

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