Interview Roland van der Horst (Mangrove)

"Bridge To Fiction is about chasing things that turn out to be utterly self-serving and illusive"

(March 2024, text by Henri Strik, edited by Peter Willemsen, concert pictures by Arthur Haggenburg)

Dutch progressive rock band Mangrove was founded in 1995 when singer-guitarist Roland van der Horst and drummer Joost Hagemeijer collaborated and started to write their own compositions. In 1998 they released Cold World under the moniker of Brainstorm. In 2001 bassist Pieter Drost joined the band and as Mangrove they released their demo-album Massive Hollowness. Soon after the recording sessions keyboardist Chris Jonker joined the band. With this line-up the band recorded six studio and live albums.
After a number of line-up changes drummer Lex Bekkernens and keyboardist-singer Ebert Zwart joined. It took the band fifteen years to release Bridge To Fiction (see review), a follow-up to their masterpiece Beyond Reality. Of course, Background Magazine wanted to know why it took so long to release this new album. So, we asked lead singer and multi-instrumentalist Roland van der Horst about all the ins and outs of Bridge To Fiction.

Congratulations with your excellent new album. Did it come out the way you wanted it to be?
Roland van der Horst
"Thank you very much, Henri, and yes it did! We didn't want to clone our previous album Beyond Reality and I think we succeeded. Currently, there are several reviews of the album confirming this and we're happy that we got a good press!"

From 2011 onwards several band members left while others joined. Would you please tell me why Joost Hagemeijer, Chris Jonker and drummer Remco Engels left?
"We agreed with former band members not to talk in public about the reasons why they left Mangrove, so we respect that agreement."

Okay, I understand, but where did you find such an incredible drummer as Lex Bekkernens?
"We met Lex Bekkernens during concerts and a former band member contacted him after Joost Hagemeijer left the band. Luckily, Lex was happy to join Mangrove and so are we!"

I think that many people want to know why it took fifteen years to release a follow-up to Beyond Reality?
"The line-up changes and the corona pandemic were partly the cause of the long delay in releasing the new CD. Moreover, some band members also played in several other bands that also required time and attention."

Most of the songs were written after the release of Beyond Reality. To what extend have these songs changed compared to the original compositions?
"That varies a lot. For some songs we did a lot of tinkering and a number of adjustments. There were also pieces that ended up in the trash, but they were later taken out again. However, there are also two songs that I completely composed at home and which I worked out for all instruments. Chasing Something and Raindrops Falling for instance, were recorded on CD without any adjustments at all."

Were the keyboard parts of Chris already recorded and if so, why didn't you use them? Why did you play all the keyboard parts yourself instead, which you did in an excellent way, for that matter!
Ebert Zwart
"Well, thanks for the compliment! Before we went into the studio we had already made some kind of demo recordings. We could not use those keyboard parts for the CD and since I can also play the keyboards, we decided that I would play those parts because at the time we had no keyboardist in the band. You can imagine that we are incredibly happy to have Ebert Zwart as our new keyboardist!"

What does Bridge To Fiction mean and is it a concept album?
"No, it is not a concept album, and neither was Beyond Reality. Sometimes the lyrics refer to each other or reflect each other. The theme of Bridge To Fiction, as well as the phrase itself, is about chasing things that turn out to be utterly self-serving and illusive, leading to personal tragedy. To Lex, things like religion, groupthink and narcissism come to mind. In general, most lyrics of our songs are just in between symbolic and concrete situations, so the listeners can form their own interpretation of it. At least, that's the idea."

Would you please tell our readers briefly what the separate songs are about?
"Of course I will. In the title track Bridge To Fiction, we wanted to address the general theme if there is one. I already told you what it's all about in the previous question. In this case the lyrics are addressed to a hypothetical person who's following an unhealthy path by chasing illusions whatever they may be, and even cynically paraphrasing this person.
Reflection is a more concrete song about the well-known legend of the sailors and the sirens, although this also serves as a metaphor and a clear follow-up to the first theme.
Stay is about creative inspiration, pure and simple, and about how fleeting it can be. One minute it's there, the next minute it has left your mind...
Raindrops Falling is about the relieve after the acceptance of a certain outcome, which adds to the softer musical theme. In the song the narrator addresses the same hypothetical person as in the title track.
We cannot be completely sure about the meaning of A Call To Arms since the lyrics have been written by our former drummer and friend Remco Engels a long time before we wrote the rest of the album. To us, the title says it all and it's clear that this song is about war and picking up one's responsibility in it, whatever that may be. You cannot bargain with the status quo, and it certainly won't go away by pondering over it. Well, that all feels like a nice reference to the 'acceptance' theme in Raindrops Falling, to put it in a non-concept context... A Call To Arms is not connected to the other songs unless you want to interpret it otherwise of course. It had been written far earlier, but within the greater theme or even as a sort of narrative of the album, we like to think that it reflects the lessons learned in the earlier songs. Being the epic of the album, it greatly adds to that, we think."

The graphic design was done by Daan Hulshof. Does it have a special meaning?
"Daan did an impressive job! His artwork reflects the metaphor and the album title Bridge To Fiction directly. This was Daan's own creative interpretation of it, and it worked out great! We love how the frontside and the backside of the disc reflect each other ironically, giving some depth to the phrase too."

Honestly speaking, I was waiting for Beyond Reality part two. But after listening to this more experimental album that broadened your musical horizon by incorporating more musical influences, I'm glad you did not. The band made progress and did something completely different. Who was responsible for this new musical move?
"In short? Well, we all were and changes in the band's line-up also led to innovative ideas."

The album starts and ends with a rather weird sound as if somebody is burping. What kind of sound is it and why did you use it?
"The sound you refer to is a sample of a Tibetan throat singer. I used software synthesizers, among other things, and this sound comes from the Omnisphere. Once I let our bass player Pieter Drost and Lex listen to it, Pieter spontaneous came up with the idea to start and end the CD this way."

The violin parts on several songs sound like a real violin, but they were played on the keyboards, right?
"That's correct. I used advanced software from the Virharmonic called Bohemian violin. After the parts were recorded, it was possible to adjust all kinds of sounds to make it seem even more realistic and in our opinion we did it quite successfully."
Roland van der Horst and Pieter Drost (r) Lex Bekkernens

On Chasing Something we can enjoy a blend of jazz rock, fusion and progressive rock. Allan Holdsworth meets Lee Ritenour so to speak! Who came with the idea for this strong instrumental piece?
"As I said before, I composed that song completely and worked it out for all instruments. It started as a demo with the guitar lick and then the drums were programmed, bass lines were added, and the keyboard parts were filled in. Then Pieter and Lex recorded the bass and drum parts in the studio. My compliments to Pieter and Lex for taking over these parts almost one-on-one! By the way, you won't be surprised that I'm indeed a huge fan of Allan Holdsworth."

Bart Laan
A Touch Of Light is a song inspired by King Crimson with rather heavy Robert Fripp like guitar parts. Are they an important inspiration to you?
"We all like heavy rock. And yes, I'm also a huge fan of King Crimson."

A Call To Arms and Raindrops Falling feature guest Bart Laan of Chain Reaktor, Skylake and Silhouette on flute. Who came with the idea to use his musical talents?
"Actually, Bart himself! We asked Bart if he wanted to mix our CD and during the mixing process he suggested to play the flute parts himself because originally those parts were samples. We are very happy with his contribution and with the sound of the CD he created!"

What has the future in store for Mangrove?
"Well, in mangrovian style: time will tell. We are already working on new songs with Ebert Zwart. We hope and expect that the next CD will not take as long as Bridge To Fiction."

Roland thanks for answering all my questions!
"You're welcome Henri, and I hope to see you at one of our forthcoming concerts."

More info about Mangrove on the Internet:
       Bridge To Fiction release gig 19-jan-24, Gigant, Apeldoorn (NL)

Album reviews:
       'Beyond Reality' (2009)
       'Bridge To Fiction' (2024)

DVD reviews:
       'More Or Less... An Acoustic Evening' (2011)
       'Live Beyond Reality' (2011)

Live videos:
       There Must Be Another Way (13:16)
       Daydreamer's Nightmare (12:29)
       Voyager (15:09)
       A Call To Arms (23:30)
       Wizards Of Tunes (8:23)
       Fatal Sign (11:00)
       Time Will Tell (19:13)
       I Fear The Day (10:44)
       Reality Fades (6:40)
       Wizard Of Tunes (9:01)
       Reflection (6:23)

Concert reviews:
       27-Jun-09 De Gigant, Apeldoorn (NL)
       11-Dec-09, Bluescafe, Apeldoorn (NL)
       21-May-10, Gigant / Bluescafe Apeldoorn
       28-May-11, W2, Den Bosch (NL) (DVD party)
       4-Feb-12, De Boerderij, Zoetermeer (NL)
       15-Sep-12, Lakei, Helmond (NL)
       14-Dec-14, 't Blok, Nieuwerkerk a/d IJssel (NL)
       23-Sep-16, Parktheater, Alphen a/d Rijn (NL)
       1-Jul-18, 't Blok, Nieuwerkerk a/d IJssel (NL)
       17-Jan-20, Gigant, Apeldoorn (NL)
       21-May-22, Parkvilla Theater, Alphen a/d Rijn (NL)
       4-Nov-23, De Uthof, Siegerswoude (NL)
       19-jan-24, Gigant, Apeldoorn (NL)

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