Tim Vantol Interview
Tim Vantol is a Dutch musician who released his debut, “Road Sweet Road” in2010 and has just released his new album “If We Go Down, We Will Go Together” over here in the UK. Those releases have been supported by years of touring the whole of Europe. It has also given him the chance to tour with many of the icons that have inspired his music. We got the chance to catch up with him for a few words following his brief visit to these shores supporting one of those icons, Chuck Ragan, at his gig at the Institute in Birmingham.
PH: Did you enjoy the gig tonight?
TV: Yeah, sure this one and the first one last night in Newcastle. I’ve been here a couple of time before, but then it has always just been DIY shows, which were good as I made a lot of friends doing them. This was very different as it’s the first time I have toured since I hurt my shoulder so it was like .. oh shit I’ve got to play again!
PH: What was wrong with your shoulder?
TV: It literally just popped out, it happened a few years ago as well but I’ve needed more surgery. Hopefully, this time, it will work out.
PH: Was it hard going back to playing the guitar then?
TV: No, not really, even though I’ve been out of the running for nearly half a year. I have been playing these songs for years so I don’t need to practice them, although maybe I should! Today was just perfect and I was really happy but yesterday I just fucked one of the songs up! I had to stop the song right in the middle, which is the worst thing that can happen to a musician. I felt so embarrassed as in the middle, after the first verse, I just thought…shit I’ve forgotten the lyrics! So I started again from the beginning but just fucked it up again so I just had to admit to the crowd that sorry this just isn’t going to happen tonight.
PH: I thought today you were brave as you introduced a sing a long section when the crowd was generally very quiet!
TV: It’s a tricky thing and I did think, this is stupid and I shouldn’t do it, but things like that and when I step away from the microphone to sing, I just go ahead and do it. I know it might be a bit cheesy but it’s fun and I enjoy it as it helps to get the crowd going which is my job as an opening act.
PH: Is there a big difference between English crowds and Dutch ones?
TV: Yeah, yeah (laughing)..Oh god.. Don’t ask me that question, I have to be very careful with what I Say!…. Holland can be very difficult, although so can England, whilst in Germany it is just really crazy. I have to admit that since yesterday, these are totally different shows and much bigger than the ones I’ve played over here before. Both in Newcastle and here today, the people are just so respectful and quiet when listening to the songs. It’s hard to compare the crowds though as before it has been much smaller, but we have a few gigs now and then I come back next month with the full band to the hit the deck festival and a few shows around it.
PH: That will be a full band rather than solo?
TV: Yeah, this a new world and a whole team and group around me rather than just phoning up a few friends to play alongside me.
PH: So have you played in bands previously?
TV: I went solo as I got sick of trying to form a band but then you miss having guys around you to share with. So, after a couple of years, I decided that once a year I would do a full band tour. I just got a group of friends and people I’d met together for two days of rehearsals and then we started touring. We had people from Holland, Austria and Germany and it was a real challenge with different people and different cultures. Three years ago, we had a tour with eight people in one Mercedes Sprinter with only one or two days off.
PH: I guess you’ve got to be got to be good friends or you’ll end up killing each other!
TV: Well, yeah, let’s just say we had some moments, but we made it! I’ve done that for a few years now. I love playing solo as you can just take your guitar and play anywhere, even a toilet (and I’ve done that!!) but I love the energy of a band, especially when you are at a festival. I love playing alone, where it’s more fragile and naked but also playing with a good group of guys and you’re having a great time.
PH: You’ve just released your second album, it really reminded me of Frank Turner, is he an influence?
TV: I’m aware of what he is doing and many think that he’s a big inspiration but he probably isn’t as much as people might expect.
PH: So who are your inspirations?
TV: Well, Chuck Ragan was a huge influence. I saw him playing in front of fifty people. At the time I was struggling to get a punk band together and I saw him and realised that I can just get my guitar and get out there and play. You write the same sort of songs but it may just be a little less aggressive and with less reverb on the guitar. So he opened my eyes and I toured with him two years ago and he was just a really great guy.
PH: There are a lot of guys coming out of punk bands and going solo.
TV: There are lots who have come out after Frank did it, but many of them don’t do it full time and just do solo tours in breaks from their bands. There are a bunch of them but it’s only really Frank that has become really big.
PH: Yeah, well Frank Turner has gone from pub gigs to the Olympics!
TV: I know, I played a gig a few years ago and the owner showed me a video of Frank playing to about 10 people. I’ve played with him a few times and he is just great, so good luck to him.
PH: Would you like that level of success?
TV: I’ve had that conversation a few times recently, look, if it happens … I don’t want to be the guy saying I want to be small. If tomorrow I play in an arena and then do that for the rest of my life then, of course, that would be fine. At least, I think I could handle it. On the other hand, if I’m playing to a hundred or so people that’s fine, just as long as I’m playing the type of music that I want to play. You will always get signs from the outside but no one is going to tell me what I have to sing or have to wear or whatever. People can influence me and I can think about it and maybe I will do it. I enjoy what I do, even yesterday a guy who was old enough to be my dad came up to me and said he thought I was amazing, which I just really loved and appreciated. I want to be the person that I am now now and realise every moment.
PH: I suppose you have to stay true to yourself?
TV: Well…. I see guys who don’t follow that and I’m not sure that they are really happy. If you listen to a lot of music, especially pop music, on the radio, it’s not all about the music!
PH: They’re not ‘real’ musicians though, are they?
TV: I don’t say it’s not real, every person must make a decision about what they want to do. I want to sing my songs and if I am going to scream as loud as possible it has to be for a reason. If that reason isn’t there, I just don’t want to do it. Of course, I sometimes say the same things at shows, like when I thank all the people involved, but I really mean it. If you don’t mean it, people will see it…..although I do see some people pull it often even if they don’t mean it but I can’t act!
PH: Playing your songs is what you want to do?
TV: For now, but who knows what will happened tomorrow. I’ve been doing it for five years and it’s a hard life, even though people just think it’s party, party….but it’s not, it can be really shit, especially for family at home. I feel sorry for my girlfriend, because it’s mainly about the music for me. I’ve been on tour for seven months now and she’s just sitting back at home. Of course, she knew that from the start but it’s not easy. Without her support and from people like my parents then I wouldn’t be able to do this. My parents turn up at my shows without even telling me, they just fly in and surprise me. Things like that really keep me going when times are tough. It’s great that they are behind me, although even if they weren’t I would still have done it, given I was a rebellious punk rock kid! I wouldn’t have got as far without the support of lots of people which I really do appreciate.
Having spoken to Tim, one thing which is very clear is his sincerity and his desire to do the thing that he loves. The music he makes obviously means a lot to him but he also appears very concerned about ensuring that the people who hear it enjoy it and want to participate with him. Therefore if you get the chance to see Tim on his next visit to the UK then make sure that you do it. In the meantime check out his new album, the review for which will be on http://www.thesoulofaclown.com very soon.