The many sides of Louise van den Heuvel ✨ Interview

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Published on 16/11/23
At fourteen, as a big Red Hot Chili Peppers fan, this Dutch native bought a grass-green "Flea Jazz bass guitar. Back then, she could never have imagined a career as a bassist. Years later, after a lot of studying and creating, she won both Sound Track and the Young Jazz Talent award with her trio Dishwasher_. Then followed collaborations with Lander Gyselinck and Pregnant Guy, a stage spot alongside Bruno Vansina and most recently STACE and last year she started her own band Sonic Hug.

We spoke to her on the eve of a busy season as artist-in-residence at Ha Concerts. From a children's concert and an album release to lots of new creations.

An interview by Björn Comhaire

You've been involved in lots and lots of different projects over the past few years, is there a common thread running through them?

Actually, sometimes those projects have very little in common, except that I really like them all.

As a bass player you end up in very different situations and then you have to be able to go broad. You learn to switch quickly and adapt to completely different atmospheres.

Everything with me does start from a spirit of improvisation, innovation and of course 'the groove'. I am also, with my whole 'pedalboard' empire, very consciously looking for a certain sound.

Your residency at Ha Concerts also promises to be busy. To kick things off, you will create a real children's concert at the aHa! Festival, with your band Dishwasher_.

It's still a work in progress, but we especially want to get the children to participate in our songs during the concert and decide what happens to them. A kind of interactive performance.

That can be a lot of fun because the reflection on one's own ego - how they come across to others and the pressure that comes with it - is often not very present in young children yet. So there is still a lot of room for spontaneity.

aHa! Het grote Dishwasher_ dirigeerconcert

At the helm of the grooves

Start: 14:00 Tickets

In March, develop new work with Chinese guzheng player Wu Fei.

Right now, we have no idea of what will happen or what that collaboration will look like. But we are doing it together with Dijf Sanders and Mattias De Craene. There is not that much time, so I think we will mainly work out small ideas and improvise around that.

I will be completely surprised and I suspect the others will do the same. The trick will be to let go of fixed ideas, surrender to the situation and see what happens.

House of Wu Fei: 'Tides and Time' (première)

Creation with Dijf Sanders, Simon Segers and Louise van den Heuvel

Start: 20:15 Tickets

The release of your new band Sonic Hug's debut album is scheduled for April

Sonic Hug I was able to set up with the help of Jazzlab, which Ha Concerts is also very closely involved with. It is a quartet together with Hendrik Lasure, Daniel Jonkers and Sam Comerford.

All the songs start from my memories and at rehearsals we worked out my ideas as a band.

Sonic Hug sounds completely different from what we're doing with Dishwasher_, if only because I'm singing in it! That's very exciting. Only by getting behind the microphone myself did I realize how much you have to expose yourself to sing. It gave me so much more respect for singers who do that every day. 

John Ghost (albumrelease) / opening act: Melting Pot

Dystopian new record, between Steve Reich, Nils Frahm and Jaga Jazzist

Start: 20:15 Early bird

Melting Pot's performance in May will be pure improvisation. You will play together a number of times, will you bring a totally different set each time?

Of course, we essentially do the same thing every time: free improvisation without restrictions. But the idea is that we seek out different facets of the music each time without making any arrangements. So we don't know what's going to happen either, which makes it very unpredictable. 

It's really the idea that the music itself determines where it goes. (...) actually, you have to constantly accept that what happens just happens.

Louise van den Heuvel

So is there someone in the group who will still give some direction and adjust if necessary?

No, there isn't. It's really the intention that the music itself determines where it goes. That sounds very abstract and it is, but really you have to constantly accept that what happens just happens.

You decide whether you react to it or not and how you react to it. You actually create a kind of "butterfly effect" all the time where each of the musicians is in control of everything.

Mentally, it seems pretty intense to me, such an improv session.

It is indeed so, but at the same time very liberating. It also depends on how you are "wired" and what your background is. For example, I find it easier to invent new things than to exactly imitate music.

People who are used to playing according to the score, playing every note correctly and interpreting it as it is written down, may find that less strenuous.

Your latest project is a solo performance on bass. What can we expect from that?

I think I'm going to perform some of Sonic Hug's songs on my own, and in between seek out some textures that lean toward ambient. A kind of free improvisation with myself within a certain sound structure. Less atonal though than with Melting Pot.

Oh yeah and then there's that new toilet music....

Haha, that's right. Currently you can hear a soundtrack by Liesa Van der Aa on the restrooms at Ha Concerts. I'm following her up with a new interpretation of what music can be for restroom goers. 

We are looking forward to it! 

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