Music city days
It must have been somewhere around 1994 when Willekens accidentally ran into Tops after a very long time. The last time they played together was a year or two before, when Willekens wrote the score and was musical director for an open air setting of Carlo Goldoni’s famous play “A servant of two Masters”. Two weeks before it’s premiere Tops resigned from the band due to personal reasons. Willekens was not amused and had a hard job to replace a talented an versatile player like Tops.
But time heals and as it goes with friendship dating from way back in grammar school their nonsensical sense of humor still being as silly as it was in the days when they wore shorts, except for the long hair (in the case of Tops), nothing really had changed. At the time Tops handled the drumsticks in a blues band and Willekens was writing songs and looking for a band to perform them with.
Considering their mutual interest for adventurous music they decided to work together. In Joris B.B. Liégeois they found, apart from a fabulous character, a very efficient and creative bass player and backing vocalist. After some weird experiments with a drunken violin player, an opera singer, a glam rocker, and a guitar playing sexton the band, now called Wallpaper Poets (abbreviated WPP) didn’t get it together yet.
A Russian guitar player named Vladimir Gouskov, at the time recently moved to Antwerp, was brought to the attention of the trio. After a great jam session, Willekens, Tops and B.B. looked at each other in astonishment: this really sounded well! The Russian virtuoso summarizing the experience in his own charming style: “I think I want to play with you, …maybe…”.
Following an add the Young vocalist Bart Schram auditioned and got the job. They started working hard to put an interesting set together. In this period compositions like “Animal in the Machine” with a lyric written by Peter Ridsdale, and the complex “Drill” were worked out. As the bands ambition was sky high Willekens considered the job was too demanding for Schram, Tops didn’t agree on this. A decision Willekens still regrets to this very day. Schram was replaced by Pots, a woman singing in a very theatrical post punk style, what quite suited the eccentric arrangements. Schram formed one of Belgiun most respected Prog-rock bands “M!ndgames”.
A Live demo was recorded during rehearsal at Music City, and songs were recorded in studio Groover. Some very rewarding shows were given, with a nice atmospheric light design by Majef, and the band even played in front of a fully packed Antwerp Jailhouse! The lack of interest in their wilful fusion of rock, classical music and jazz emerging frictions between band members and a constant lack of money let to a quiet death of the band. This was the end of a period the band members vividly remember as one of the happiest in their lives.
Wpp Sonic Lab
After leaving the city, and music city, Willekens set up his “Sonic Lab”. Here he could freely experiment, tinker with Atari computers, and write music. For the instrumental and vocal sections he still could rely on his dear friends, Tops, B.B., Schram, and Gouskov. In this period Willekens conceived the blueprint of “The Other Side of Maybe Suite", composed new material and rearranged older WPP material. In the end Willekens was still not satisfied with the result, the overall sound not being what he had in mind, even after two mastering sessions. However a nice dance remix of "The Blind God" was made by Dela Vega.
As a result of some very unpleasant events and meeting some very wrong people, Willekens fell into a depression, no more connecting with music in any way for 4 years. Because of his stubbornness and the unconditional mental support of his parents and friends, he climbed from the dark valley. When he met his wonderful wife Yolande, all fell into place. They moved to the countryside Yolande started to breed bonsai pigs, and Willekens re-established his Sonic Lab. Only now working with state of the art digital software.
He soon began to rework, expand and update “The Other Side of Maybe Suite” into a challenging piece of music. Having learned that the best results can only be obtained by working with professional musicians he, apart from the four core WPP members, invited some in the business most respected instrumentalists.
The Dutch jazz legend Jack Van Poll, Sax and flute virtuoso Paul Van Laere, the classical acclaimed guitarist Guy Cuyvers, studio and session guitarists Chris van Nauw and Pallieter van Buggenhout. Also his good friend and lyricist Peter Ridsdale is featured playing an 11-string Indian violin. The work was mastered by his great matey Frank Van Bogaert at ACE Recording Studio giving the music the brilliance and punch it deserves.
As for the future: Willekens is writing instrumental music for a classical/jazz/atmospheric project. Rehearsals with Schram, Gouskov, Tops and B.B. Liégeois are scheduled in the near future in view of recording an updated and contemporary album featuring compositions like “Animal in the Machine", "Drill", and "Kings of Shame”.
Wallpaper Poets 2012 (left to right): Willekens, Gouskov, Schram, Tops, Liégeois