PICTURE has always been one of my favourite Metal bands. Their first three albums ("Picture", "Heavy Metal Ears" and "Diamond Dreamer") were absolutely brilliant. In '85, the line-up of PICTURE began to change and their sound started to become very commercial. There was more melody into their songs, keyboard parts were added and the rough edges of their sound were polished away, which eventually led to a break up of the band. However, in '97, Jan Bechtum (guitar) decided to reform PICTURE. Joined by newcomers Mark Maas (drums), Jos Adema (bass) and singer Michel Zandbergen, they played a few shows under the name PICTURE. The magic seemed to be back and everything sounded like it was in the good old days. Then suddenly, it was all over again. In collaboration with Jan, we thought it would be a good idea to tell you the 'untold' story about PICTURE and he gladly answered all my questions. Additions to this story were made by original singer Ronald van Prooijen (we met him at a gig of the newly reformed PICTURE), who's now the singer in his own band EXIST. Ronald also helped me out with the pictures for this story. I want to thank both Jan and Ronald for their time and their great support. Here's the story of the best Dutch Heavy Metal band of all-time. Here's the story of....PICTURE.
Who played in the very first line-up of PICTURE? I read something about a second guitarist in your early days.
Jan: "There has been a local band called PICTURE. They were from Rozenburg. I believe that was about a year before the actual PICTURE started and I wasn't involved yet. They had two guitar players, one of them being Harry Bruintjes (I don't remember the name of the second guitarist, though). Further there was Rinus Vreugdenhil (bass), Laurens Bakker (drums), Ronald van Prooijen (vocals) and a couple of female backing vocalists."
Ronald: "The name of this second guitarist was Jos v/d Poel. I still remember his big hands, which made him not always get the right chords…. He lived in his car day and night and peed in an old beer can. The smell in his car was really disgusting, because those cans tend to fall over sometimes. He once got thrown out of a club, because he'd peed against the brand new bar. He was very outraged about it, because he used to do it all the time. We were overcome with laughter!"
How did PICTURE actually get together?
Jan: "I'd put an ad in Music Maker, looking for a band. At first I didn't get any response, until Rinus called me one night. We made an appointment to jam together and we hit it off almost immediately. We all liked the name PICTURE very much, so we decided to take it over. In the beginning we had an Irish singer (who lived at Laurens' place), but after awhile he didn't show up anymore and we never heard from him again. We also tried a keyboard player, but he couldn't keep up with us and so we decided to stay a four piece. After many auditions, we met Ronald by accident (who'd come to help out one of the candidate-singers) and we asked him to sing something. To make a long story short: he became our singer and PICTURE was officially born !!!!"
Did you have any favourite bands and who were your influences back in those days?
Jan: "Definitely DEEP PURPLE and RAINBOW!! Laurens really liked LED ZEPPELIN and CACTUS. Rinus was into most metal bands and GENESIS. Because I used to write most of the basic riffs, my influences came from DEEP PURPLE and RAINBOW (although not deliberately)."
Ronald: "Like Jan, my favourite bands were RAINBOW and DEEP PURPLE. Our musical ideas matched very well together and usually this was the foundation for a good song."
Jan, according to the fans, you are the Dutch Ritchie Blackmore. What's your opinion about this and do you take it as a compliment?
Jan: "Because I teached myself to play the guitar by listening to the records of DEEP PURPLE, I think this was inevitable. You should be able to hear that. I always tried to play the solo and rhythm parts as precise as possible. Though I never wanted to sound like anybody (or in this case Ritchie Blackmore), I do take it as a big compliment! Still, I think I have created my own special sound throughout the years - one which is very unique, according to a lot of people. Fact is, I'll never be as good as Blackmore, but I'm glad to know my restrictions and I'll try to make the most of it. Also, my finger picking isn't quite correct and everyone must've noticed it. Still, it's the result the counts, right?"
In the early days, you played the DEEP PURPLE cover "Mistreated" in your set. Did you do more covers through the years or was this an exception?
Jan: "This local band PICTURE, I mentioned earlier, used to play a lot more cover songs. Later on, we just played our own material."
Especially in the early days, PICTURE was known as being a very notorious and rebellious band. Lots of fans took a scrap at your live shows and (according to a magazine) you even hired Hell's Angels as security guards to control everything. True or just rumours?
Jan: "Stories full of rubbish! However, I remember there was a motor gang (no Hell's Angels, tho') who visited our show quite often. Those guys were frequently involved into fights with the people in the audience, but we had nothing (or whatsoever) to do with them. To tell you the truth, we'd rather see the back of them. When some stupid Pop newspaper wrote an article about it, we were very mad, because this wasn't our fault!"
I also read you could be guests at Alfred Lagarde's program "Betonuur" in exchange for a few bottles of liquor? And is it true that the amount of liquor depended on the length of your visit there?
Jan: "No, Alfred was always very sincere in his crusade and dedication for the Dutch Metal scene and he supported us in every possible way! We miss you, pal! Of course we were allowed to bring as much booze with us as possible, especially vodka with jus d'orange, which was his favourite."
You're included on the compilation album "Hard Rock Live" with "Bombers" and "You Can Go" (both live versions). How did you end up there? Where did these great live versions come from?
Jan: "Actually that was one of the few good promotion activities of Phonogram/Polydor, our record label at that time. The recordings (according to Kees Baars' descriptions) were taken from our supporting slot with TED NUGENT in the Jaap Edenhal in Amsterdam. To set things straight: we didn't make any recordings of it (which originally was the intention). We just used the bass and drum lines from the first album, recorded new guitar and vocals to it and mixed it with some live audience. I was never behind it in the first place, but (understandable) we couldn't say too much about it…"
You recorded a video clip of the anthem "Bombers". Where exactly did you record this and did you make any other videos as well?
Jan: "We recorded the video for "Bombers" in the Bonkelaar in Sliedrecht. The very old people you see in the video clip, were filmed earlier that afternoon at a show of The Havenzangers. We'd invited them over especially for the video. Except "Bombers" we never made any video clips."
Did you learn any specific things from the bands that you supported in the 80's? The list of names you toured with, is really impressive: SAXON, ROSE TATTOO, AC/DC, APRIL WINE, TED NUGENT, etc. Also, if you remember any nice stories from that period, please share them with us.
Jan: "We learned a great deal from SAXON. How to go about with other bands and that kind of stuff. The guys of SAXON were always very friendly and they helped us a lot. Our show with ROSE TATTOO was the total opposite: Instead of we supporting for them, most of the audience came to see us!!! I think our tour with SAXON had something to do with that. We only did one show with all the other bands (except of TED NUGENT, but nobody was allowed to come anywhere near him!). It was a lot of fun! I even got a handful of guitar strings from Angus Young (AC/DC). I still have some in my guitar case."
I digged up a few song titles that you never recorded, but they probably were the base to one of your other songs. Please commend to the following songs:
- My Gun Shoots
Jan: "This is originally a song by singer John Boutkan. We never used it, because we only wanted to record self-written material on our records."
- Midnight Away (or Midnight Highway?)
Jan: "I've no idea about this one…"
- Blown Away
Jan: "This was the working title of "You're All Alone"."
-The Blaming Ass
Jan: "The Blame Is On Us". We recorded it for Vara's Popkrant. We only play it live in the very beginning of PICTURE."
- Little Annie (one of the most known songs from this list!)
Jan: "Should have been recorded as follow up to "Heavy Metal Ears", if Ronald wouldn't have left the band. We did record it at a radio show in Steenwijk of KRO radio."
- Our Manager
Jan: "Yeah, I still remember the title, but that's about it, I'm afraid…."
Ronald: "This is actually one of my songs. It's written at first impulse and it's about one of the many disagreements between myself and our first manager."
- I'm A Drinker
Jan: "Nice song. It's from our second demo tape."
Jan: "Unfortunately, I don't have any recording from it anymore and I've no idea how it sounded…."
- Evil Ways
Jan: "A great song, but not ours, so we didn't record it."
Ronald: "It was called "Evil Ways, Evil Way" . I think it really was one of our songs, but written by Harry Bruintjes. If I'm lucky, I still have a recording of it somewhere (sound to sound), where Harry does the guitar parts, but of course I could be wrong here.."
Jan: "Unfortunately, a lot of those old recordings are barely listenable to these days. The quality has turned out so bad and you can only hear a bit of bass lines on them. I'm really fed up with this, but maybe there's somebody out there who still has some recordings we could use."
You were very well-known in Mexico. After KISS and BLACK SABBATH you were the third on the list of "Best bands of the world". How come you never played there? Did you know they released all your albums with different sleeves?
Jan : "We got the opportunity to go on tour with KISS in Mexico. Unfortunately, we couldn't afford the plain tickets and our record company didn't feel like paying in advance. I still consider this as a missed chance for PICTURE. Who knows how many more albums we could have recorded there? I still get a lot of fan mail from the South and the Middle part of America. We were very popular there. The same thing happened to PICTURE with a festival in Rio. Rinus told me they even got the necessary vaccination shots, but everything got cancelled last minute. I have some of the special South American sleeves of the PICTURE albums in my collection. They look very nice!"
Why did you almost glue "Under Your Spell" to "Rock & Roll" (from the LP "Heavy Metal Ears")? Not long ago, you told me they were really two different songs.
Jan: "It looked like a good idea to us to start a very fast song at the end of "Rock & Roll". "Under Your Spell" was the obvious choice, because they both fit very well together."
How come you didn't play at Castle Donington? I heard you were offered to play there once.
Jan: "That's right. The reason PICTURE didn't play at Donington was, I'd left the band and Henri van Maanen just wasn't capable to this yet. Their manager even tried to talk me into doing it and going to England with them, but I refused. The relationship between myself and the other band members wasn't that cozy anymore, so I didn't think it was such a good idea."
On "Diamond Dreamer" you replaced Ronald van Prooijen (vocals) with Smoulik Avigal (former HAMMERHEAD). How did that come about? Where did you find him?
Jan: "I've really no idea. Our manager, Henk van Antwerpen, suddenly introduced him to us and we got along just fine."
Ronald: "The reason why I left PICTURE was because I got fed up with the financial swindle by many different people. We'd earned a lot of money by touring and such things, but everything was already spend before we saw a penny of it…. It has cost my four marriages: my own, my marriage with PICTURE, the fans and the one of our beloved fan club (Frans and Tinie Lepelaars from Bergeik). They were the ones responsible for our success, but NEVER received any credit or recognition for all their hard work. PICTURE only cared for themselves and just didn't realize that a lot of this success was thanks to them - the people behind the band."
"Diamond Dreamer" was definately one of your best albums, but it didn't sell that much in Holland. Can you explain why? Hard Rock and Heavy Metal was quite popular these days, so that couldn't have been the issue.....
Jan: "I also wonder why….. When you look at the great reviews we received abroad, we should have expected something different."
You were interviewed for Kerrang! (UK) in 1982. On the picture Bakkie (nickname for Laurens Bakker) was cut into pieces and somebody stained him with ketchup. Whose idea was that?
Jan: "I think Kerrang! came up with it. I do recall, it was a very nice interview!"
After this great album, Schmoulik decided to leave the band all of a sudden. What happened? I never really figured out the real reason.
Jan: "Schmoulik started a fight with our manager, when he wasn't content with something during one of our gigs. We all thought this was the limit and we fired him. What the fight was about, I don't really remember."
Then (after Schmoulik) you (Jan) left the band. Your replacement was Chris van Jaarsveld (from HAMMERHEAD) and Henny van Manen. Why did you quit in the first place and do you know why they replaced you with two guitarplayers?
Jan: "That's not really the way it went. Chris was conducted to the band through Schmoulik, because he felt we could sound a bit more heavier. He thought it would bring the sound more up, when playing "Diamond Dreamer" live on stage. Laurens and myself thought it wasn't necessary and we already sounded heavy enough, but in the end he was right. I was thrown out of the band, because I did some business deals next to the band. You won't exactly make a fortune being a musician. The others didn't understand that and said I wasn't motivated enough. I didn't agree with them, because I'd written all the songs for "Diamond Dreamer" in that same period. Talk about motivation. After our Israelian tour, I got the sack…"
What did you do after PICTURE? I heard you played in a White Metal band for a while. Didn't that stroke with everything PICTURE was all about over the years?
Jan: "At first, I didn't do anything at all, except of playing a bit of guitar. Then I started working in the computer industry and I still do that as a living. I have my own company right now and I make a nice living, too. In Israel, I already started to turn back to my roots and I live like a true Christian now. The guys of the early PICTURE were all very sweet people, you know! Look at our lyrics: they're (a few exceptions to the rule) dealing about love and the pangs of love…. The lyrics began to change during "Eternal Dark". I didn't like the sleeve at all and they sounded too fake and unreal to me. I hate that kind of Satanic stuff! People don't realize what they are doing."
Ronald: "After PICTURE, I started my own business. I own a gas station, car wash and cleaning service in Sliedrecht. I'm expanding the place right now. Like Jan, I didn't do much in the music scene after I quit PICTURE, but I played 'easy listening' tunes ("My Way", "Fly Me To The Moon" and "You Never Walk Alone") at weddings and parties from friends just to get rid of my emotions. I lived one year at Aruba where I tried to sing in a Marenge Salsa band, but it never worked out because I couldn't understand the Spanish language. In between, I also played in a cover band. We rehearsed at the musician centre Get Rhythm in Ridderkerk together with a lot of other people. There I met EXIST, a very heavy and solid Metal band, who were looking for a singer but couldn't find a suitable one. After a lot of talking (they knew PICTURE very well), we decided to give it a try. We have a CD on sale right now, which is called "Beware". You can get more info about the CD by sending an email to EXIST at: HYPERLINK mail to:firstname.lastname@example.org. With EXIST, I get that old feeling back I once experienced with PICTURE. Like Jan Bechtum had in PICTURE, EXIST guitarist Ab de Gelder (or Appie, his nickname) also has his own sound. I think the two of them would get along just fine!"
Jan, did you also record anything after PICTURE? And what did it sound like?
Jan: "I recorded a MCD with the band CHANGED. It's guitar Rock with good lyrics."
How did PICTURE get in touch with Pete Lovell?
Jan: "Pete was also brought to the band through our manager." In the last PICTURE line-up (with Michel van Zandbergen on vocals), you also played songs from the "Eternal Dark" period.
How close were you still involved with PICTURE, when this album was released?
Jan: "I co-wrote a few of the songs and we also played them live."
During "Traitor" Laurens Bakker got replaced by ex-SAD IRON drummer Sjaak van Oevelen. Is it true he worked as a drum roadie for PICTURE once (after SAD IRON)?
Jan: "Yes, that's right."
PICTURE gained a small hit success with the song "Fantasies" in 1985. What was your reaction to this? Do you agree with me, it doesn't come near songs such as "Bombers" or "Hot Loving"?
Jan: "After "Eternal Dark" I already felt PICTURE didn't sound like PICTURE anymore. The lack of steady song lines made it all sound very messy. There was no real concept anymore."
Rinus Vreugdenhil remains the only original member of the early PICTURE line-up. When the band hired Bert Heerink (ex-VANDENBERG singer) in 1986 (who sang on "Every Story.." & "Marathon"), PICTURE got more commercial than ever. Despite the fact that Heerink was responsible for a few hit singles, his arrival had its pros and cons, I think. Do you agree with that?
Jan: "Like I mentioned before, this didn't sound like PICTURE anymore. PICTURE stood for Metal and our motto was 'Let's be heavy for eachother'. It didn't sound like that on the last two albums."
Ronald: "I think it's a good thing, when a company joins forces with another company! It could work out very successful! This will certainly not always be the case in combination with a band and a new sound…"
For most part, those two albums were played by people from Cat Music (CATAPULT/ RUBBEREN ROBBIE). Do you think it was a wise descision of Rinus to use the name PICTURE here?
Jan: "PICTURE had signed a record deal, which legally obliged them to record a few albums, so they did. Further, it didn't matter much. There was no competition from the other PICTURE members because of the name."
In '88 PICTURE played a reunion gig in Sliedrecht with EMERGENCY. How did you accomplish this and what are your memories about this rather memorable night?
Jan: "The idea came again from Henk, our manager. We rehearsed a few times together before that show and we all enjoyed it very much! Looked like all our differences from the past completely disappeared and we had the feeling that this was the one and only PICTURE."
Ronald: "I agree with Jan."
Did you ever had the intention of a permanent reunion back in those days?
Jan: "If it had been up to us; yes!!!! We immediately were asked for more gigs, but without our knowledge, our manager asked such a huge amount of money for those gigs, the promotors decided not to go through with it. A pity, really…."
Why did you never release a live album (despite of many rumours)? After your reunion in '88, we'd have expected something like that.
Jan: "Our record company didn't think it was such a good idea."
You reformed PICTURE in '95. Who was in it and please tell us a bit more about their musical backgrounds and the bands they've played in.
Jan: "Mark Maas came from the band CHANGED. We got along really well and also muscially we spoke the same language. Johannes Adema was known as a local bass player and he studied at the academy of music. It took as a while to find singer, Michel van Zandbergen."
You recorded a demo tape with your new singer Michel van Zandbergen. How would you describe your music here?
Jan: "Pure PICTURE, but with a little bit more rhythm and melody."
During one of your last shows in '98, I spotted something of the old PICTURE fame again and you all seemed to have a great time. Why did you suddenly decide to discontinue PICTURE ? I don't understand this very well.
Jan: "I experienced a much more threatened atmosphere than I'd expected. I think the night life of today is completely ruined, partly because everything starts so late (you're lucky to be able to play at twelve o'clock). Also there's much more booze, drugs and violence these days. The death of the two girls in Gorinchem really made me think and was the last straw for me. I have a family and a responsibility. I don't feel like becoming a victim of some stupid jerk, who fires a bullet for no reason. I would like to play in a band, who can start at let's say half past nine and finishes off at twelve o'clock."
At the same time, Laurens Bakker, Rinus Vreugdenhil. Chris van Jaarsveld and Pete Lovell reunite at a show of Swedish youngsters HAMMERFALL with a spectacular performance of "Eternal Dark". What's your opinion about this reunion and how come you weren't present?
Jan: "I would have liked to, but my father had died a week earlier and I just didn't feel like going. I didn't call them either. I'm sure they'll understand."
Ronald: "I think this was one of the biggest failures, that PICTURE has ever done! A huge promotion stunt of the manager of HAMMERFALL. This wasn't worth to be called a PICTURE reunion in the first place and shouldn't have taken place without Jan (or me). Please don't ever call this PICTURE!! I talked to Rinus and Laurens before the gig and Chris was also nice, but what I'd hoped for, just wasn't there. I knew about Jan's father - awful - I'll certainly call him in the near future and maybe we can get together with our families."
HAMMERFALL also recorded "Eternal Dark" on one of their CD singles. How do you feel about this?
Jan: "I feel honoured of course."
Is this definitely the end of your musical career or are you still going to do some session work in the near future?
Jan: "At the moment I'm working on a Christian Rock album for children. I only want to play on festivals and maybe abroad now and then."
Apparently, Rinus and Laurens want to get PICTURE back alive again. What's your idea about this and would you ever be willing to cooperate with them on this?
Jan: "I would certainly cooperate with them on a reunion gig and maybe a few shows. Possibly even record a CD with them…"
What's your best memory after twenty years of PICTURE?
Jan: "Definitely our show on New Pop, Rotterdam, but also the tour with SAXON brings back great memories."
Please name your favourite PICTURE songs.
Jan: "Bombers", "Lady Lightning", "Little Annie", "Nomore" and "Umemployed"."
Ronald: "Fear", "Bombers", "Umemployed" and "Nomore"."
I understand they want to release the albums of PICTURE on CD. Can you still us more about that and are you going to add any bonus tracks as well?
Jan: "At the moment, Double Dutch is working on it. Unfortunately, it isn't as easy as it seems to obtain all the old master tapes. We could perhaps take bonus tracks from old demos or early recordings from the Popkrant (radio broadcast. Maybe Henk van Antwerpen, our former manager, has some of the original demo tapes? I don't have them. Also perhaps there's somebody out there, who has a good recording of our radio show of the KRO."
What are your future plans?
Jan: "I want to expand my business and if I can find the time, I want to build a home studio behind my house. I already have all the money and space, now I still need the time."
Ronald: "After building my gas station and car wash in a period of five-eight year, I want to lease everything and start doing fun things and enjoy life with nice people around me on a nice place. This would be an heritage of this moment: to live and think in a positive way."
Do you have anything to add to this interview and perhaps a message for the readers of Snakepit magazine?
Jan: "This would sound very common, but I just want to say THANK YOU to all our fans that supported us through the years!! And to the people that still write me and say they love PICTURE: Thank you so much!!! You're the BEST!!"
Ronald: "I'm glad PICTURE still has a special place in the hearts of our fans and I thank you for that! I love you!!!"
Interview by: Toine van Poorten
(originally appeared in SNAKEPIT, issue #6, 1999.)
Picture (1980; Backdoor Phonogram)
Heavy Metal Ears (1981; Backdoor Phonogram)
Diamond Dreamer (1982; Backdoor Phonogram)
Eternal Dark (1983; Backdoor Phonogram)
Traitor (1985; Backdoor Phonogram)
Every Story needs Another Picture (1986; Backdoor Phonogram)
Marathon (1987; Touchdown)