Friday, 1 May 2015

Hans Diepstraten

Washed ashore on a lonely island in the sea is my latest guest, DJ and radio presenter Hans Diepstraten.
Since 1993, Hans (with co-presenter Harry Van Vliet) has run the weekly soul radio show Fingerpoppin' Soul out of Amsterdam with a guest list that reads like a complete "Who's Who" of soul music.

Over to you Hans...

Starting Out
"I was raised in a middle-class family in the college town Tilburg in the South of Holland. My parents were not into music at all, and neither were my brother and sister both younger than me, but I was hooked from an early age. The first record I ever bought was Gilbert O’Sullivan’s 'Nothing Rhymed' which I bought when I was about ten years old. Or rather, I bought the picture sleeve cover because inside was Dave Edmunds 'I Hear You Knocking', another hit at the time. It was as if someone was pointing me towards R&B from the start. 

After that I started buying the lead 45s in the hit parade. LPs were beyond us financially at that time. Then when I entered secondary school it was time to get serious: Deep Purple 'Live in Japan', Pink Floyd 'Umma Gumma' as well as Tom Waits with 'Closing Time' and some of the country rock records by Poco, the Eagles and CSNY. 

No soul records entered my universe until at least 1975. Actually the first soul records I acquired were Motown records: the compilation LP 'The Big Wheels of Motown' and (incredibly) Marvin Gaye’s 'What’s Going On' which I received as a birthday present and which went way over my head at the time."

Punk and Reggae
"Then came Punk, which changed my whole musical frame of reference. The Ramones first LP on Philips, Blondie on Private Stock, The Modern Lovers on Beserkley, The Damned on Stiff… I really was a punk before you were a punk. 

With that territory came (Punky) Reggae, and records by Culture, Steel Pulse, Burning Spear, Israel Vibration, Pablo Moses and the Heptones. At that time I was still not truly bitten by the Soul bug. There was no (Northern) Soul scene in Holland, and there was no access to this music in the Dutch media, or at least I was not aware of anything. However, UK music magazines such as NME and ZigZag did mention soul music and I started investigating here and there. I would like to be able to say there was some sort of revelatory moment where I saw the light but I must admit that my immersion in Soul Music was a gradual affair that took maybe some five years. By that time it was the 80s, possibly the worst era in soul music so it was a small miracle that I ventured that way at all."

Clubbing and Pirate Radio
"When I seriously started clubbing it was the 80s (I was late to the game) and at the time soul and funk were the main styles played in clubs, together with the post wave sounds of things like PigBag and Tears For Fears. You could always count on Marvin Gaye’s 'Sexual Healing', Chaka Khan’s 'Ain’t Nobody' or the live version of Maze’s 'Joy and Pain'. Those really were the records that drew me in. They made me start looking for similar records as well as other styles of soul music I had ignored before, or which maybe had not really clicked in my head. I discovered Kent records and before long I was buying mainly soul music LPs and the occasional 45.

In the mean time I had taken an interest in (pirate) radio and the station I was always listening to (RVZ) was advertising for new DJ’s. This station was a superb quality non-commercial affair run by a close group of music addicts much like New York’s WFMU. Anything was possible there, as long as it was real. I applied and after a shaky and nervous few try-outs I was accepted, mainly because I chanced on the tune 'Heaven Must Have Sent You' by the Elgins, a Northern Soul classic and a favourite of one of the leading DJs at the station. 

So that was the start of my radio “career” which has now lasted for nigh on thirty years. Initially I played anything that fit in the broad format of the station (from alternative rock to African music, Black music and Reggae) but at some point I started a shared show “The Soul Squad” with the soul-oriented guys and then my collecting passion fast became black music only."

From TeenBeat to Fingerpoppin’ Soul
"After a few years the pirate station RVZ was raided by police and that was the end of that. The core group of DJs started a legal local station and after some changes I was asked if I wanted to take over a specialized show with a focus on early sixties pop music called TeenBeat. This show played a lot of late fifties and early sixties pop music, with a focus on girl groups, Phil Spector type sounds and early soul like Barbara Lewis. 

I did that weekly show for about a year and then a watershed event happened that actually changed my life in multiple ways. We had the great idea to start a nightly show called Vinyl Junkies and invited listeners to apply for a spot. A number of interesting characters applied (people specializing in Indian Ragas, obscure psych, dark wave etc) plus one guy who just wanted to play soul music. That guy turned out to be Harry Van Vliet, and he became a lifelong friend and my fellow DJ for what later became the Fingerpoppin’ Soul radio show, which we still run today. After about 4 weeks of Harry doing his Vinyl Junkies hour and my TeenBeat hour we decided to merge the show into a two hour TeenBeat. Then after a little more time we changed the moniker of the show, to better align with the actual music played on the show. And so Fingerpoppin’ Soul was born.

It was 1993."

Expanding the collection
"Once Fingerpoppin’ Soul was underway we initially had to fight constantly to keep it on the air. At that time the legal radio station was run by a set of decidedly “hip” people, without a clue about history or classic soul. Only the latest new imports should be played, and what we were doing was considered old hat and “music for old people”. That is why we had to attend every management meeting just to make sure we weren’t cut out of the schedule. In the mean time we had to feed the weekly radio show with interesting records to play. That meant that rather than just buying records at a relaxed pace there had to be new sounds to play every week. We could not play the same record twice of course. So over time, when the Fingerpoppin’ Soul format got established this led to an acceleration in the acquiring of soul records, and mainly LPs. In that period eBay started as well, giving unlimited access to a wealth of records I never knew existed before. I started a fanatical search for obscure records.

One thing to recognize as well is that, mainly through listening to other people’s great radio shows I developed an eclectic taste and broad view on music. This also fed into our radio show, where we play many different types of black music. This resulted in an orientation quite at odds with the mainstream of the UK soul scene, and this difference is still very clear today.

The arrival of on line forums on the web, such as Essential Modern Soul, the Southern Soul email group, Soul Source and Soul Strut made it possible to hook into other people’s knowledge and to grow the record collection through their posts and information. Especially the early Essential Modern Soul forum, blossoming around the year 2000, I believe, was a treasure trove of information as well as a collection of highly knowledgeable and opinionated soul collectors and DJs. I learned an immense amount from the people on that forum."

"Over the last few years I have also been buying Latin, Brazilian and Jazz records. By and large, this is because there are fewer and fewer soul albums still “out there” for me to find, with the exception of the occasional major Grail for which I have to fork out significant money. 
To feed my collector’s habit, I have had to expand into other genres like the ones mentioned. Currently for every soul album I find there are at least three other "non-purist" albums flowing into the collection. I do believe however that it ultimately all comes from the same well. My radio experience has shown me that these genres naturally flow together and form a cohesive whole.
...which leads me to the five discs that play and played an important role in my life."
The Modern Lovers - Pablo Picasso

"This record is the first one that really grabbed me from the start and never let me go again. Simple music, almost stark, heart felt, real, soulful without being soul, and resonating with the insecure teen I was at the time mainly because of the angst in Jonathan Richman's delivery. This was before his conversion to nursery rhymes, and produced by John Cale it remains a monument of expressive rock music."
Phil Flowers - The Mirror Cried

"When our friend Tom de Jong played 'The Mirror Cries' by Phil Flowers off his album 'Our Man In Washington'. It blew our minds. 
Phil Flowers was the ultimate “journeyman soul singer” and his discography is wider than the Amazon river. Beat ballads, Northern Soul, Heavy Psychedelic Funk, Two Step, Gospel, he did everything and did everything very well. We met him in Washington DC too which was great."
The Impressions - I'm So Proud

"I met my future wife at a friend’s party and on our second date we ended up at my place and slow danced to the Impressions. At our wedding party the first record played was this one. Nuff said.

The Impressions will be played at my funeral, although to be honest I probably will not care at that point… "
Eric & The Vikings - It's Too Much For One Man To Take Too Long

"This is another all time classic for me. I first heard it played by Brian Goucher on a UK radio station and the lyrics and delivery are breath taking. This song also represents the richness of the Vocal Group seam in soul music."

Tim Maia – I Love You, Girl

"Brazilian soul singer Tim Maia is an enigma. He should have been a superstar. He made this after he left the Racional sect in the mid-seventies and recorded a full album in English, tried to get it released and when he failed threw the test pressings away, making this by far the rarest Tim Maia LP in existence. Thankfully it is on Youtube in full and it was reissued (albeit badly mastered) on CD in Brazil. Almost all of his records are magic."
"I could have easily picked a hundred other songs, and I see there is no Gospel, no Rocksteady or Lover’s Rock, no Bobby Bland and no Dells, no Neo Soul, no Doo Wop, no Latin Soul. 
Basically this list sucks big time.  ;0)"
As Hans mentioned above, the Fingerpoppin' Soul radio show has a different orientation to the UK mainstream soul scene and I urge you to give it a try as I'm sure you will not be disappointed.

Here's a link to the 
Fingerpoppin' Soul  facebook site :  

click on the picture

Hans & Harry also produce a podcast of their show and this is available on Mixcloud :

click on the picture