Mennen interview February 2005.

Mennen - Freakazoid from 2004!The former frontman from Dutch melodic rockers Zinatra Joss Mennen has got new energy on this - the bands 5th studio album! First they got a deal with Swedish multi media firm Escapi Music - formerly known as Escapi New Media, who also will be recording Cornerstone's forthcoming live DVD. Second after ten years of seperation singer Joss Mennen and producer Erwin Musper have renewed their cooperation resulting in in the very dynamic album "Freakazoid". Musper has managed to put all the creative ideas and little sounds and noises from the four musicians in to a structured and crisp and clear music environment.
From the very first track you can hear that you have something very special between you hands - someone is whistling in the chorus riff! On this record vocalist Joss Mennen, Eric Van De Kerkhof on guitar, Alex Janssen on bass and Fon Janssen on drums combines the melodic anthems from the Zinatra-era with the more metallish and experimantal riffs from the first Mennen records into a magic sound picture. After the whistling on the first track they have recorded a stripped down ballad called "Above the Waterline" which i think is very beautiful. But also the more dark/industrial/experimental tracks like "Rain" works really well!
In some strange moments Mennen reminds me of Mathias Eklundhs Freak Kitchen - spanning from funk to metal from ballads to melodic rock ... all delivered with elegance and lots of attitude. Try and get a listen to the guitar solo on the track "Bob" and you will know what I mean.
I have had a correspondence with keymember Joss Mennen, and these are the words:

The Interview:

Q: You have just released a new CD under the Mennen moniker called "Freakazoid" and as far as I can see it got pretty good reviews all over the Internet Community and in several magazines, too - What is the story behind this band?

Mennen on stage. A: After I left Zinatra in 1992, I needed time to find the real issue about making music again. Zinatra was a project , were the pressure on producing hitrecords, was realy high. Besides that the musicians in Zinatra were not realy close outside the band , meaning that after a gig, you didn’t go to the bar together to have a chat about different common things, but everybody went their own way. So the main thing I was looking for after Zinatra was a bunch of friends , who were willing to play some music, just for fun and with no real ambition what so ever. We started to write songs and fooled around in my home-studio. This is how the first Mennen-songs became a fact and after one year it started to itch inside and I started to let companies listen to our material . This eventually succeeded in a deal with T & T records in Germany .

Q: The album "Freakazoid" has a very significant international sound – can you describe the work process doing this very elegant new album? How did it start? And how did you end up with producer Erwin Musper again?

Mennen and Scorpions - Mathias and Klaus. A: It all started with building our own studio “The Mush Room”, which gave us the possibility to work as long and as much as we wanted without a tight time schedule. This situation gave us the space to experiment with songs and sounds. “Freakazoid” is the first Mennen album , which we wrote together as a band . In the past most of the songs were written by Eric and I and now Mennen was really a team in writing. After the recording was done, engineer Peter de Wint (Glenn Hughes / Harem Scarem) got sick and was not able to do the final mix of our album. That was a tough situation , as we didn’t wanted a shift of the planned release-date. I contacted Erwin Musper in the states. Erwin recently opened his own studio in Cincinnaty and I hoped he would be interested in a renewed cooperation. Erwin and I always stayed in touch after our cooperation with Zinatra , but never had a chance to work together again. I found out that Erwin was in Germany working on the latest Scorpions album and lucky for us there was a break planned in that production, which gave him a chance to come over to Holland were he did a brilliant job in mixing our album in the Wisseloord Studios .

Q: You are all well known and experienced musicians in Mennen how did you all end up in this constellation?

A: All the musicians in Mennen, have been playing in bands, since they were little kids and through the years everyone found a way to survive as a musician and to keep on playing to get better and better. I think there has to be a little madness inside as you have to give up quite something to realise your dream.

Joss Mennen. Eric Van De Kerkhof.

Q: How do you see the CD's chance on a very complex market of today? To me "Freakazoid" is a great input on the melodic genre. I really liked the multi layered sound from Mennen – it seems that you have taken the best of your past (in Zinatra i mean) and put the expression up-to-date?

A: Thank you for your compliments! The main thing we were looking for, during the making of “Freakazoid” is that there is enough space in our arrangements for doing other things with guitar and voice than usual in hard-rock music. This resulted in an album, which is interested for a much wider range of audience. Hopefully this will be a positive contribution to our success for the upcoming period . Especially with the USA release ahead (march 2005).

Q: What are your main influences in music? I'm as mentioned not a hard-core connoisseur of Dutch hard rock, but I can hear the before mentioned extracts from the melodic sides of Zinatra to the progressive new acts like Freak Kitchen how did you start up in the first place?

Alex Jansen. Fon Janssen.

A: We are all into very different kinds of music which inspires us in what we do within Mennen. I think the unique sound of a band is caused by the fact that it’s a unique combination of four people creating this sound. I’m a very big fan of new bands like Alter Bridge and Linkin Park, but my roots lies in the early eighties with bands like the Police and the Jam .

Q: The hard rock genre as well the more melodic genres has suffered from less attention the last 5 years, but I think I can sense a certain optimism nowadays with new record companies, lots of websites, and lots of discussion groups on the Internet - how do you see the genre? And do you think the Internet is a help to promote your genre in general?

Mennen in the good ol' dayz!

A: Internet is a very big help indeed, if I only mention the possibility of internetradio via streaming audio. In spite of the newest trends through the years , we always sticked to melodic rock without ignoring the excistence of new bands . Anyhow ,as long as we will get an honest chance in exposure through airplay and live-shows I think we will survive.

Q: Can you give a detailed describtion of the tracks on the album? Do you have a concept or are the tracks fragments from a life in Holland? I am very much into tracks like “Above the Waterline” and “Rain” – what’s your favorite?

A: I didn’t follow a concept writing the lyrics for the tracks . Some are based on actual happenings in the world , some are autobiographic and some are made-up love stories. I will give you a short description of everysong to give you the right impression:

1. Down / about a one-nightstand solution for someone who felt lost and lonely.
2.Above The Waterline / This song is about a someone who can’t get over the loss of the love of his life.
3. It’s Over / typical love-song.
4. Rain / This is a very complicated story about someone who is confused about his feelings about love.
5. Secrets and Lies / This is a song about the loneliness caused by a secret relation-ship.
6. Bob / Band Of Brothers descripes the teamspirit we feel within the band !
7. Freakazoid / We are all Freaks and give everything to get where we want to be.
8. These Good Times / a song about someone who asking himself how his past love is doing.
9. Believe / About the unbelievable fact that there was a politition shot in The Netherlands.
10. The World Stopped Turning / About 911.
11. Whicked White / This song we were inspired by drinking many bottles of Belgium White beer.
12. Blue / Song about someone who was safed by another.
13. Loose Somebody / a real “cheer you up” song.
14.Taste of Paradise / About loosing grip on democracy and the terrible concequences.

Mennen and Thunder.

Q:How about yourself? What are you up to these days? And how about a tour in the future for Mennen – including Denmark of course! ?

A: Momentary we are doing clubshows in the Benelux promoting our album and we will support Thunder on their European tour. In march the album will be out in the USA, the upcoming month we will shoot a promovideo for the states . Hopefully we will get a chance to play in Denmark. I can remember the last gig I did in Denmark was in Kopenhagen in the K.B. Hallen. .

Fon having fun?

Q: I hope to see you in Denmark again - as far as i remember you were supporting our melodic band FATE in Saga, too...
Thank you very much for your time. I hope that Mennen will give it a go in 2005!
Steen Peitersen

© Steen Peitersen 1999-2005