Interview with Daniël de Jong (Desperados)

By Dmitry Kann 17 min read
This post  in Russian

Tonight I surprised myself. It all began when my materials about Dias Latinos, the footage in particular, were all of a sudden highly evaluated by the Desperados band, mentioned in the above post. The frontman Daniël de Jong asked me if I could give him the original footage to use it for their promo package. We’ve met, started chatting and… then I decided I could make an interview out of it.

I have to admit that, since it was my very first experience in interviewing someone, I never prepared for this and I started speaking English only three years ago or so, it wasn’t perfect at all. On the other hand, it wasn’t too bad either, so I decided to publish it, along with its text, having cut out all the hemming and hawing, where it was possible.


So, here’s the interview with Daniël de Jong, Desperados; Bungalowpark ’t Eekhoornnest, Soest, the Netherlands; August 26, 2011. Playtime: 25 minutes.

Audio version

Text version

So Daniël, we are here, in this bar, and I’m going to ask you a few questions about your band, Desperados, and your plans, and all other stuff.


So, I asked you about Spanish. Because you play this kind of music, which is supposed to be played by Spanish…

Yes, because when we started the band, we started with three… no, four friends. And every person of his own nationality: we started with an Italian, a Mexican, a guy from the Dominican Republic and me—from Holland. So, it was natural that we were singing an English-Spanish combination. We never really thought about it, we just did it, you know. And then you learn a little bit about the language and… we love making it, it sounds good together. We’re loving it.

So, now you really want to learn Spanish to… to contribute, so to say.

Yes, it would be nice to know what I’m singing, you know…

Yeah, that’s useful!

I’m listening to Edward, and you know, he’s rapping very fast.

That’s the short guy…

Yes, and to respect his work, I would love to know what he’s singing about. I know for a big part, but there are times that I’m just thinking: oh, ths sounds good, but it’s just for dancing…

Yes, it doesn’t have to be… full of meaning, maybe sometimes just…

Well, I know what I’m singing, most of the time I sing the English part, so I’m sure that he’s adding to the meaning of my words. I trust him.

That sounds quite interesting.

Yes, it’s very nice. What’s very cool is we’re very good, close friends, like brothers…

… from different mothers.

Brothers from different mothers, the mothers are the different countries.

Actually, I had this question. “Brothers from different mothers”—it sounds like you have one common father, but it’s not the case, right?

No, no, no, then my father would be very lucky… or maybe not… But he would have fun, I’m sure. No, we’ve always felt like that, like a brotherhood. From the moment we’ve started, and every person who joined the band, actually we kind of knew them, we felt very close. We’re very happy, and that’s why we’re together eight years now! That’s a record!

You’ve been formed in 2002, right?

No, 2003. And the first time we played Dias Latinos—it’s 2005. So the last performance—it’s five years later, time flies… No, it’s six years!

At Dias Latinos you’ve been given quite a big stage, which means that you profile is quite high.

Yes, we’re doing it pretty good actually, and we must be doing something good, because we’re getting recognized now. We’ve played on some national radio stations, and we’ve made our first single, it was in 2010. We’ve played on 3FM, you know Giel Beelen, the DJ?


He’s the most popular DJ at the moment. And Radio 2, and Radio 6… People notice that.

But in the beginning it wasn’t lke that. I think, back in 2005 you started with small stages, with fewer people?

If you know the stage, it’s called… You know the Italian restaurant, San Giorgio, there’s a little canal in-between…

It’s not Havik?

Maybe, maybe. It’s just outside of the center, it’s a very nice, cozy stage. And a lot of people.

It’s before this Groenmarkt and Appelmarkt? That’s Havik.

I think that’s the one. A beautiful spot.

I also filmed some footage there.

I think you’ve taped one with a violin there…

No, no, no, that one was Langegracht, but the third one, Latineo were playing at Havik, across the canal.

That’s where we played. And that’s a really nice stage, very cozy.

A good place actually.

And that was where we played for the first time. And then people just asked for “La Bamba”, and we didn’t have that much material…

You were shy…

Yes, more shy, and we played whatever people wanted us to play. And now we will make our own stuff. We’re recognized for that, that’s a really good feeling—that we can present ourselves this way. Did you have a good time?

Yes, it was really good. It’s a pity, you cannot be at all places at once. There were seven stages, I think.

Yes, this was the second biggest one. You had a big one in De Hof, and this was the second. We were really proud.

I’m not so familiar with all these bands, and this kind of music. It was just a random thing that I went to Langegracht, where Tomasa Quartet were playing, with a violin, and I liked them very much, I talked to them, and I got a recommendation for this Latineo band. And I also came to your performance because I knew you.

So, you were happy with it? Had a good time?

Yes, it was very good. And also the weather was surprisingly good at that time.

Yes, we were lucky, because one hour later the sky was crying. Too much rain. Maybe you know our percussionist is Bulú, the big guy, he played in the last part of the festival. He’s a very famous percussionist, and he used to play Dias Latinos every day. He’s from Venezuela, he plays with like 13 different bands. He played with Lucas van Merwijk, it was the last act of Dias Latinos, and that was also on De Hof. Very good.

No, I didn’t visit De Hof this time. De Hof is the biggest spot I think.

Yes, too big. And this one’s more cozy. Hof is really big, it’s also nice, but I like to have more pubs around.

Yes, indeed it’s more cozy, this Lieve Vrouweplein. And on Hof the normally mount the stage in a corner, so it’s not well centered.

And the sound also…

… sucks.

Yes. The sound that we had was the best sound from the festival. And it always stays in the Lieve Vrouweplein.

Actually, in all three places that I visited—Havik, Langegracht and Lieve Vrouweplein—the sound was quite good.

Yes, they did it very well. It’s always difficult, it’s a very underestimated job, to be the sound man.

**That’s curious that the musicians often just forget to call their names. They call everyone in the band, but they forget about these sound engineers.

So, back to the band. I counted quite a few people on the stage. You have a very big band, I think one of the biggest maybe.**

Yes, we played last time with seven people. And we have—I’ve just mentioned the four nationalities—then we have Bulú from Venezuela and two other musicians: a drummer and a bass player, also from Holland, all from Amersfoort. It’s quite a job to get them all together, I must say. To get a show, everyone must be available. It works at the moment, we all give up a lot for the band, it’s important part of our lives.

You have to rehearse a lot, you really have to be committed, because you’re not allowed to fail before all this audience.

No, especially when you’re on TV, on the radio, you all must be there, and all must be…

… flawless.

Yes. And now we’re having shows, maybe in France and in Canada, they want us to play there. And then you have to leave your family… But it’s a great adventure, I must say.

Are you going to cross the ocean?

Yeah, we hope! They want us to do four shows over there. Because in Holland money and culture now—it’s going bad. And with Greece we are all fucked.

Bezuinigen (Dutch for “spending cuts”).

Yes. So then the musicians, artists suffer the most.

Maybe you should go there in the summer still…

Yes, we’re going in the summer.

Because in the winter the weather is…

… too cold, like Russia?

It’s like Russia, very much so.

I also have family there. And we’re playing in the South, in July. I was there last year, and it’s like 35 degrees. So that’s a good time. Even too hot to play. Even last Sunday it was hot over here, in Holland.

But I know, the Dutch love sun.

Yes, we love it, because we don’t have it. We love everything we can get, we miss the sun… We had a good spring, but the summer was awful.

I’m interested in how you compose your songs.

In this place where you are now. We have a studio where we record it, but before we do that, we come together here. And most of the time there is a feeling, and we’d just play and jam together. I’d start with some chords, and Andrea will play a solo in-between, so then you have a basic… The bass player adds his own stuff, and then Chico, the rapper, starts making up raps. And then I’m just thinking: oh, okay. And then we take it home, and we just play it again. And then we think: wow, that sounds good! And then we just make up words, and it just… goes. You need a subject to sing about.

It sounds quite easy, so you just start to jam, or you first agree on…

No, we don’t agree, we just do it. I noticed—when we talk too much, it takes away the energy. Because when you start talking as a musician, it becomes a friction. Always. Because then you say: yeah, but I want this, and you want that, but I want this too! And then you have these stupid fights—it’s normal for musicians, everybody wants to have a part of it, and be proud of what they did.

But also you’re playing music that appeals to emotions, so you should keep it emotional, keep it warm.

Yes, always warm. As a musician, you don’t want to get bored, you always want to improve, and do different stuff, but we’ve found a module, we’ve found a way to make our music sound right. So we should keep it. Because when we started, we didn’t have the Latin percussion, as much as we have now. And we recorded one song, I like the way you move, you probably know it, Suavesito, and that’s when we started using cowbells, timbales, congas, bongos, there’s so much sound in that! Like Santana does, you know… It works for us, not too many people do that anymore, it’s all computers.

Yes, it’s easier to program of course. I did it actually.

You make music?

9-10 years ago we were making some music, but it wasn’t really performed. Mostly it was programmed, only the guitar part was played live. That’s why I say, I know how it is difficult actually to find these proper proportions of different instruments, how to make it look nice…

… balance it, produce it.

That’s why a producer is usually a separate person, a quite experienced one, who knows how it should sound to be appealing to the audience.

Producing is a whole different game. On this CD we had two songs produced by the producer of Anouk, you know Anouk, the famous Dutch singer?

Yes, I know her.

We had two songs produced by him, and that’s great!

How did you get him?

We signed a contract with Eddy Ouwens, he’s a famous guy, he’s not really… How should a say it in a nice way? We didn’t get the things we expected, you know, you have to be very careful with these guys.

Because of contract conditions?

Yes, a contract, and they tell you things and in the end they don’t deliver. They don’t stick to their words. A lot of time gets wasted. Like managers and stuff… We don’t want managers anymore. Because they have their view, and it costs a lot of money, and in the end—we’re the ones suffering!

Yes, it’s just business, as always.

It’s business. When it becomes business, it becomes tough, becomes nasty. But we still have fun, and that’s more important. That’s why as friends, as brothers we stick together, and then it’s good.

When you support each other, it makes the life much easier.

Yes. We don’t let each other down, we have a good feeling.

That’s great. I counted three percussionists in you band at the last performance, which was quite unusual I must say.

Well, the last time, the bald guy, his name is Daniel as well, he’s new in the band, and he’s a great entertainer. He did Sofia song. He’s a showman, and really adds energy to the band as well. We have the drummer, for the beat, and bass and drum. It’s necessary because… We only use a drummer since two years, before that we never had a drummer, we only had percussionists, now we’re happy with it.

So now you sound differently?

Well, we sound the way we need to sound. We always said: ah, maybe we don’t need it? Bu I always said yes, it gives power to the band, and boosts.

Also like this rapping vocal.

Yes, we love making sound and something…

… something energetic

Yes, energetic, and cowbells and…

And you play acoustic guitar only?

I write the English songs, and mostly you can call me a singer-songwriter with a guitar. But I’m really not like a fancy guitar player, I’m not Santana. I love writing songs, express your feelings… All the songs we make are all out of experience. It’s never a fairy-tale, it’s never like a story to make up. It just some all from serious feelings. That’s good, that’s a way to express yourself, like a diary. Every song, when I write a song now, in ten years I still remember: hey, I remember how I used to feel when I wrote this song, which girl was it, or who I hated back then. All our songs are about love so far…

But it’s quite understandable and sensible.

Yes, so it’s good, like what you’re doing now, you’re recording this…

It’s exactly what occurred to me now! We’re basically doing the same thing: I write down my impressions to my blog, to keep it fresh, to just memorize it.

It’s great, and you keep it forever, right?

Yes. And you do the same in the form of music.

When we made our first album, it was very cheap and very simple, and not really special. But I said: it’s cool because when I have my grandchildren, I can tell my kids or my grandchildren—this was my band back then, because I never thought we would continue so far. And now—we’re still here, we’re still doing it. It’s very funny, how it goes. Like you said—you will never forget it.

And now, looking back then in 2003, when you started, do you think you’re now more experienced, more skilled?

Oh yes. When we were in 2003, we didn’t know what the hell we were doing. I mean—most of us, and not everyone…

Like many young people: they want to do something, but they don’t know exactly what.

We had no clue. And music business—if I knew back then how it was—I would never thought like that.

But you didn’t think about business, did you?

No, never about business, but you know, when you’re making something, you always need a goal, you always need to have a goal. Whe you’re going somewhere you should be thinking: what am I going to do with this? There’s gonna be more important things in life like working, or raising your family, hanging out, parties. And when you can combine those things…

Yes, you should sacrifice some of your time.

In 2003 the only important for me was meeting girls.

I can imagine.

And then making songs together. Now it’s become so big, and we’re so motivated to reach the highest goal, and now we, I think, know how to do it. We’re learning every day, baby steps, and it goes well.

So now you’re really determined to reach the height, to make it to the top.

We hope! Because now we have made a video, our single is coming out in two weeks. And when that happens, we have a very good feeling. We have a network of people helping us, they know the business well, and they have the balls to fight.

In the end, it’s all about business and setting it up properly.

Yes. When we started, we said: oh we’re just gonna to write a song, and somebody will hear it, and we’re famous! No. It’s a lot of work.

Just too many people think like that.

But you have to never give up, and have patience, because there’s a lot of band, they have talent, but they just say: we cannot combine it anymore. Find a way to work it out, and then I think in time you can reach everything. I think. But maybe in two years you will ask me the same question again, and then I will say: I was stupid, how could I say that?

That’s a normal process.

Yes. We will see how it goes.

Getting mature… In the end, you know you will quit playing one day…

One day, but not now.

But at least you will have a nice memory in the form of records and videos, fans maybe, groupies…

Yes, we have very nice fans at the moment. When we have a performance here, the people feel it’s like their home. We have all these nationalities, like you were here once, Russian. We have Colombians, South Africans, from everywhere they come, Europe, it’s great, Canada, New Zealand. It’s just good atmosphere.

And it all happens here, in this bar?

We play everywhere in Holland.

But this is your main base, the headquarters?

Yes, here is our home.

And you rehearse also here?

And we rehearse here. The Beatles would say: the Cavern—they played there million times, we play here at least every two months, in Eekhoornnest, it’s good, we enjoy it very much. So, come around one time again!

Well, I was just planning to come, but I saw that the bar was closed. The season is over.

But we have some good parties here still to come. I think the next one is in the end of September.

This music, is it your full-time job? I don’t think it brings you much, you earn much from it.

No, because we have seven guys in the band, they must be millionaires to pay us good money. No, we all have our own jobs, professions, like I work here with Ignacio, the Mexican guy. We work here together in the park. And everybody else has a job, except Bulú, the percussionist.

He’s quite busy so he can afford that.

Yes, he’s a big star from Venezuela, in Aruba and New York he was a big fish. And now he’s here, he is a big talent…

How did you catch him?

Oh he’s a good friend as well. This is actually his band. He has like fourteen bands, but Desperados he feels is his main band.

Like home.

Yes, like friends, like brothers. But we need to perform more, that’s why we’re happy with your video…

My little contribution in the form of video. I didn’t expect it would get any attention, because it’s not even a video camera, it’s just a photo camera.

But it looks like a very good quality.

But the good thing is that I used a tripod. That’s why it’s so stable and the shot is not trembling.

But also the sound, was it a microphone or something special?

No, it was a built-in microphone in the camera. The microphone actually sucks in this camera.

For a small camera it’s good.

I think the sound was good enough just because I was far enough from the speakers.

Yes, at the right spot.

**It was just a coincidence. Not because I’m a professional.

I think I’ve asked all the things I wanted to ask.**

Alright. Thanks for the interview.

Thank you.

Enjoy your shirt and CD!

I will.

© 2011 Dmitry Kann, may be redistributed in accordance with the CC Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 license terms.

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