Interview: Kleintje Pils
Gerardus and Rudolf, the Bakker brothers, hail from the coastal hamlet of Sassenheim, Netherlands, and are founding 30-year members of Kleintje Pils, the 11-piece brass band that goes home today - and the Richmond Olympic Oval (and Vancouver) will be much less boisterous for their departure. Kleintje Pils – the name means “a little beer” in Dutch – have been revving the supporters in the speedskating venue for the last 12 days. They've played all around the world, and have the seal of approval of the Dutch royal family, having played at the wedding of the Dutch prince. These guys even wear wooden shoes. I caught up with the Bakkers yesterday, before it all came apart when hot Dutch favourite Sven Kramer was shockingly DQ'd in the 10,000m, the rarest of misfortunes – for one thing, it shut up Kleintje Pils. An interview, photo and video, after the jump.
Podium: What's it been like here?
Gerardus: It's a great event. We like to perform for an international audience – it doesn't (matter) if they're coming from Russia, China, Canada or Holland. We perform for everyone and we play all kinds of music. We prepared, of course - for all different countries we have songs and if someone from Canada wins, we play the national song of Canada; if it's Holland, if it's Shani Davis we play the American anthem.
Podium: Do you know any Canadian songs?
Gerardus: Oh yes. “I Am Canadian” for example. We performed that. It's more or less the trademark of the beer. Someone from the company heard us doing the song and he sent us some beer for our house, because he liked it so much. It was real fun.
Podium: How often do you play in a year?
Gerardus: About 30 or 40 times.
Podium: So it's not a full-time gig.
Gerardus: No. We go home and after, serious life starts again. I'm a lawyer.
Podium: How did this band start?
Gerardus: Actually, it started more than 30 years ago. We started with five people. Now we are 11, with five of the originals. After two years we increased it with two more, then two more – everyone of the five (originals) is still playing with the group ... I'm an original. In the beginning we played small villages, and then we did Holland, the Tour de France, big events. We've performed all over the world already, in Japan, in Russia, in America, for soccer or all kind of different events.
Podium: I noticed you did "Sweet Caroline." That's hugely popular here, it started at Red Sox games, but not so much in Europe at games, I thought.
Gerardus: Yes, We tried to prepare for all countries. We knew that was an important song here. So we practiced this song here. We see the audience, they get mad over it, they get crazy every day.
Rudolf (just wandering by and joining in): We play it every day. (Singing) O-O-Oh!
Gerardus: It's great. All the energy you give to the audience, you get it back much more.
Rudolf: It gives you goose skin.
Podium: How many songs are in your repertoire?
Gerardus: About 400, almost. If we want we can play directly.
Rudolf: No paper.
Gerardus: We see what the audience needs and then we play it. I think that's one point of our success. We feel the atmosphere and know exactly what to perform – the right song at the right moment.
Rudolf: Never prepare. I decide on stage what we are going to do and I have signs (to tell them) what's the next song.
Podium: You started small. When was your big break?
Rudolf: The name of our band means small.
Gerardus: In Holland there's a famous ice skating event – 200 kilometres of ice skating -
Rudolf: It's once in 10 years, when the ice is strong enough ... we went to the most exciting point of the race. Dutch TV stations and from Japan were there. They picked us up, and it was screened to the world. One week later, I got an invitation from the Nagano Olympic organizing committee. It was one month before the Olympics in Nagano, and they invited us to make atmosphere at the speedskating. It was the first time we've been at the Olympics, and we've never been away.
Gerardus: We were in Salt Lake and Sydney, Torino – not only the Winter but also the Summer Games. It's always fun.
Podium: You do World Cups. There are rules at World Cup stadiums about bringing in instruments.
Gerardus: We never have any problem. We have a network, they know we are serious. We never drink during performing. There are rules. We know when to stop, when to play. We take the opportunity and (we have) big discipline.
Podium: So you'll be going to South Africa?
Gerardus: Yes, we've been already invited. If we can handle it with our bosses...
Podium: Do you have a favourite moment from travelling around the world?
Rudolf: There are a lot of them. Every time we think, this can't be better, and then we are here again. What we did last week – we played the Canadian anthem and we only rehearsed it one time, and everyone was singing the song. It was unbelievable, the emotion.
Gerardus: When you see the supporters ... We started, and stopped playing – and the stadium is continuing singing the song, that gives us a great feeling that's better than to win cases in court.
Rudolf: Miss (Christine) Nesbitt came down and said 'thank you for the music.'
Podium: And you've been going over to Holland Heineken House to play when they bring the medalists in? You've been busy. Holland has won a lot of medals here.
Rudolf: Yes. Less sleep. We have to get here three hours before the start!
Gerardus: It's a hard job to do, but someone has to do it.