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Just before the CD-presentation of Mennen on the Rock Inc Festival in Weert (NL) I'm talking to the sympathetic bassplayer Alex about the band he joined about six years ago, their activities and their surprisingly refreshing new album "Freakazoid".
What has kept you busy in the years between the previous studio-release
"Age Of Fools" and the new "Freakazoid"?
First of all we recorded a live-album which kicked in a lot of doors for
us. By that album we were able to tour in France and Portugal. After
that we created our new rehearsalroom and studio, what took us some
time, of course. Then we started to write for the new album and we wrote
so much material... By listening back to the songs we created we decided
that they were not good enough to record them for a new album. So the
whole story started again and we came up with 14 songs and 11 of them
ended up on the album "Freakazoid".
"Freakazoid" turned out to be a very refreshing rock album, very
inspired and strong songs! Was that just a matter of maturing or having
a lot of time, or did you change something in the way you guys write
Thanks for the compliment. The main thing that changed in writing the
new album was the fact that we did it as a band.
Before the albums were recorded based on the ideas of Erik and Joss. It
was about time that that was going to change. I had a lot of ideas and
my ideas pulled out Fonny from his cave. We decided to do writing
sessions and that is what makes this album so strong.
How did the recording go?
First we recorded demos and listened them over and over again. Then we
would take those demos home and work on them at home. After that we
returned into the "mushroom" and polished them over and over again
untill they became the songs you will find back on the album. We took
our time for that, to create a relaxed atmosphere and you find all of
those contents back on it. The vibe we felt was like being a "Band Of
Brothers"as we became friends for life with all we had been gone through
How did you get a man like Erwin Musper to mix the album? How was it to
work with him?
It is kinda funny, but Joss ran into him in the basement of Universal
The first plan was to let Peter de Wint do the mix but he became sick and
he was very busy so he couldn't fit this mix into his schedule anymore.
After we got that message Joss made a phonecall to Erwin and as he was
in Holland at that time he wanted to do it after hearing the first
demos. The only thing that we had to wait for were the Scorpions. Erwin
was doing their new album and there were 10 days in between that were
available to do our mix.
To work with Erwin was very inspiring and educative. He has so much
experience and still he remained so down to earth.
He took his time to explain why he was doing stuff and how he was doing
them. It was a real pleasure to work with Uncle Erwin.
Hehe cool :) What or who inspires you when you work on new songs?
That is a good question. I think for each member in Mennen it will be a
different person or group.
There is a lot of old bands that I listen to but also a lot of new (nu)
bands that I listen to, but I also like to listen to the Rasmus for
example. The real goal in Mennen is to put all those influences in
Mennen. What inspires us to write lyrics or music has also to do with
what you do in your daily life. "World Stopped Turning" is written after
the chaos in New York in 2001. "Believe" is inspired by the killing of a
Dutch politician. The art of writing a lyric and song is to leave it up
to the imagination of the listener to make his own story up. You don't
have to feel the same as what we feel.
What does the titel mean, is it a word or did you make it up?
Well it is kinda funny. The working title of the album was "Band Of
Brothers" but we thought that this title was not fitting the album.
After a lot of discussions about a title we still didn't find one.
Lately I travel a lot to France and I spend a lot of my nights in hotels
over there. During one of my visits I spent the night in a hotel in Paris
with the cartoon network. In the middle of the night there was a cartoon
coming up by the name "Freakazoid" and my alarms started to ring. This
could be the title we were looking for. I mailed this title to the rest
of the boys and they all reacted the same; cooool! So that is where we
stole the title.
The coverartwork is very interesting, it really seems to visualize
Mennen-new-style very well!
We are very pleased with the artwork. It fits the title and the
"new" Mennen. We are still the same persons only our hairs are more
short. Haha. With the new album we also wanted a new style in artwork
and Eric Phillipe did a great job on that. He became a member of the
band of brothers as I can say.
I heard you ended up doing some backing vocals on the new Scorpions
record, how did that come about? Did you know the guys before this?
Yeah that is great isn't it? When we were bringing the disk with the
album on it to the studios, Erwin was waiting for us with a great dinner.
During the dinner he asked us if we had some time that evening, because
he wanted to make us sing something. We didn't know what for it was.So
we sang those lines and we heard some of the music. When we were
finished he told us that we were going to be on the new Scorpions album.
We sang on 2 tracks, "New Generation" and "Borderline".
We didn't know them personally although we played with them during
their last tour. We just met with them for a couple of minutes after
their show, I can say that they were very nice. After that our new album
was finished we met Klaus and Mathias and they wanted to have our new
album, we spent a wonderful afternoon with them before they went back to
Snakebite is also re-releasing the older albums as well as the Zinatra
(Joss' old band) ones. Why all around the same time with the new album
and not earlier?
The first Mennen album came out in November. After a long battle we got
back the rights for that album. We also found out that this album was
not avaliable anymore, only in Japan for too much money. We decided to
remaster the album and put demos on it. This is for the fans in the
first place and for the people who wanted to have the album and couldn't
find it anymore. Last Monday there was the release of "Freakazoid" and
the both Zinatra albums. It is all in the same time, because we want to
promote all products in one time. They also promote each other so that we
find markets that we were not on with Mennen before or markets that
Zinatra was on before.
For Zinatra in fact it is the same story as with the first Mennen album.
They were not available and there were still a lot of people asking
when those albums were going to be released again.
Even though I think that the new album is by far your best to date, I
believe the others should've brought you more success than they did. Do
you have any idea why you didn't reach more people with them?
You are right but ain't that the way the story goes? I know that Mennen
always worked very hard and didn't get what they deserved. I think that
it is also true if I say that Mennen, since we became a 4-piece band,
grew more than before. You can taste and feel that in het new album.
What my experience is in the bizz is that nowadays it is not that
important anymore to be talented but everything is scaled on marketing.
I think that kills a lot of creativity. I know for sure if we were on a
bigger label that we would have been a much bigger band. Look at Within
Temptation for example, we cannot compare us to the music style but they
also struggled for years and all of a sudden they came up with the right
song and the band rocketed into the sky. Maybe this album will be our
Roaawwwk, fasten your seatbelts! ;)
I don't suppose you can live off the music just yet, so what do you guys
do for a living? Is it difficult to combine jobs with touring?
I still have a part time job, Eric combines a job with webdesign. Joss
works for a recordlabel and promotion office and Fonny is a full time
drummer. So the situations became better and we all have arrangements
that it is not a problem to go on tour.
Are you gonna support this album with a lot of touring? I like the name
you already have: the "Unless Something Better's On TV" tour :)
We hope so. Currently we are working on some bigger things that can
happen, but we have to be patient for that. In the meantime we will try
to play as much as we did on earlier tours. We know already for sure
that we are going again to France, Portugal, Spain and we are working on
other countries in Europe. We have already some dates confirmed yet and
more will follow. That is for sure.
What is your dearest wish when it comes to touring: country, bands...
I would like to tour all over the world, inspiring people like my
favorite bands did to me (although times have changed...) It would be
great to play all the big festivals and big veneus all over the world,
already for the memory of it, but also to be able to entertain people
all over the world.
Who inspired you to become a musician?
It all started with Steve Harris (Iron Maiden) but during the years I
changed my mind and followed nobody in particular. Mainly it was myself
who stimulated myself to became the musician I am today, of course I am
not 100% the one I want to be, but it is coming closer day by day.
Who are your (guitar-)heroes now?
I still like the guitarheroes from the 80's like Eddie Van Halen, Steve
Vai and stuff, because I cannot say that there are so much real
guitarplayers anymore. I mean there is not really innovative
guitarplayers anymore. Maybe it is because I listen to different music
styles and don't follow the real metal bands anymore. I prefer good old
Although Rob Flynn is doing very cool stuff.
What has been in your CD player lately?
The new Machine Head and Brides Of Desstruction, followed by Nickelback,
Adema, Linkin Park, Godsmack, Murderdolls, Motley Crue.
Are you looking forward to the Rock Inc Festival next weekend?
Yes yes yes, finally we are able to show the people what we stand for
nowadays and that is rock 'n roll combined with good songs and
entertainment. Still serious but also with a smile.
Good luck at the festival and your future plans! Anything left you'd
like to say to our readers?
I hope to see you soon on the road in a place near you.
Thanks for reading and support. Greetzazoid Alex Jansen
submitted by Marlies 18.03.2004