Picture, the timeless band which is synonymous with European hard'n'heavy style, is back with the new album “Wings”, already reviews here, which will
be release on 16Th August 2019 via Pure Steel Records, after their recent release of the live album “40 Years Heavy Metal Ears - 1978-2018” with which they celebrated forty years of honorable
Thanks to their label, I have the opportunity and the pleasure to interview Jan Bechtum, the band's eclectic guitarist.
Hi Jan and welcome on Rockers And Other Animals, first of all you have to know that it's a real honor for me to have this opportunity, to be a fan of a band and to find myself asking questions to
musicians you've always followed, has a certain effect.
Starting from your brand new album "Wings", I have to say that I find you in the same great form with which you have always carried on your music.
Thank you so much!!
How and when was this record born and how much fun did you have to record it? I ask you because you feel a very compact spirit musically between you and the feeling that you can
Well, we have talked about it for a year and we tried to choose the songs that best represent Picture as we meant it to ben in the early 80’s. A mix between hard rock and power metal. We picked a few never recorded old songs and wrote a couple of new songs as well. We had so much fun doing it because it really feels like coming home
You are a stainless band, after creating several productions you are back with this album that, apart from my judgment as a fan, is really spectacular, very full of energy and powerful. What is
the soul that characterizes you most?
Personally, I am a classic rock addict and I think you can hear that in my riffs and solo’s. I am especially proud of my solo on “Wings”. Together with the power of the drums and bass, and also the more metal approach of Appie de Gelder and the versatile voice of Ronald we still create that unique Picture style.
Apart from the fact that of the ten songs contained in "Wings" there is not one in particular that stands out for its brilliance, as they are all exceptional, I fell in love with three songs in particular, "Never Enough", "Still Standing" and the closing song "Stroke" that in my opinion can summarize your soul purely hard rock and metal. Broadly speaking, considering that the album hasn't been released yet, can you tell me how these three tracks are born?
Never Enough and Still Standing were both songs I wrote a couple of years ago and with the coaching of our producer Jonathan Merrelaar became really hooky songs.
Stroke was built on the theme of an old song from 1980. It was adjusted to match the story of the stroke that bassplayer Rinus had a few years ago. Therefore it consists of 4 parts, everything ok before the stroke, the stroke, the fighting to revalidate and finally the successful return as bassplayer.
Your playing is particular, very intense, what is the characteristic that distinguishes you from Appie in the technical approach?
It was Ritchie Blackmore that made me pick up the guitar after being a drummer. That’s why I learned to play his staccato style and my feeling for rhythm is audible in my playing. Appie is a great match to my playing. His timing is spot on and uses more Iron Maiden-like influences to his playing.
I was 12 years old when I discovered you just with your release “Diamond Dreamer”, what has changed since the 80's, how has the band evolved and what is the added value that distinguishes you
from the other bands that have still marked an era with you?
We always stayed faithful to the olds-school early 80’s approach (at least on all the albums I was involved with). The fact that we are playing in the original line-up now (with the addition of Appie) is proof that we can pull that off and the fans really appreciate this.
A long career behind you, with "Wings" you've come to your tenth album. If you were to look back, is there anything you might want to change in retrospect? What was your greatest satisfaction,
both personally and with the band?
I would like to do the mix of the first album again. It was destroyed by the technician we think. We believe our tour in 1981 with Saxon was the best that has happened to us. Perfect fit and they wanted us to come with them on their world tour. Unfortunately our record company wouldn’t invest in plane tickets etc. to do that. I missed opportunity (one of the many) that would have changed our future for sure.
Still talking about "Wings" what are the emotions you want to convey with this album? For example, I had the feeling of an incredible band that manages to convey good vibrations, powerful and energetic, a band that entered the studio obviously for work but also for fun.
You are exactly right. We had so much fun doing this. Almost all lyrics are about personal experiences. You can hear that. It is pure emotion.
In "Stroke" for example you are much more introverted, almost initmistic in the sound and what I got from it, in terms of sensations, is that Picture is a group that still has a lot to tell to their fans and tell itself, obviously without proving anything to anyone regarding your artistic validity.
In my guitar parts in the middle section I tried to portrait the fear and sadness. I think that worked very well.
Is there a song that you feel particularly attached to on your latest album?
That must be “Wings” because of the “Deep Purple” feel to it. I am very happy with the Hammond sound Appie has added to it.
In this month of June you are in Brazil for three live shows, after which you will return to Europe, is there the remote possibility of being able to see you here in Italy?
Not in 2019 anymore I think but in 2020 we will be doing a few months of shows in June and July (including South America again). We were in Italy last year (in August).
Internet era, we all know that it is a system that has revolutionized the way to search and listen to music, honestly I keep going around the few remaining music stores, just for the pleasure of discovering new bands and find the goodies of artists I follow, I’d may sound ‘vintage’ but for me the music should be sought and not a click of the mouse. For you musicians, what has changed, badly or well, in the music world?
Well, the sale of LP’s and CD’s have obviously collapsed but we get a reasonable amount of streams on Spotify etc. Unfortunately they pay very little for our work but it is creating new fans. Facebook is a great help too.
We're in the home straight with the interview, acne if it were for me I would still have a lot of questions to ask but I realize that I can't take much of your time.
As a seasoned musician, and so you objectively have a musically technical vision, how do you find the new hard rock and heavy metal scene? Is there any band that you find innovative or that you appreciate anyway? Or do you find like me that the current bands continue to draw on what has been the NWOBHM phenomenon?
I like the Dream Theater stuff a lot and also love Porcupine Tree and Steven Wilson. Those bands play it all. From Very hard hitting metal to melodic rock.
Most modern guitarist (for me)
play too many notes and miss telling a “story” with a solo.
I think a band that started as NWOBHM band should not drift too far from that. Otherwise choose another name for your band hahaha.
Thank you, thank you very much for your time in answering these questions, is there anything in particular you want to say to who is reading this interview? Something you think is important and I didn't ask you?
Thank you too. I am honored to share my views with you and your readers. If you are a Picture fan: Thank you so much for your support for all these years. If you are not a Picture fan (yet) and like old-school rock and metal: Give us a listen and let me know what you think!
Hope to see you somewhere at one of our shows!