interview with drummer extraordinaire Ernst Van EE

Being a well respected musician does not always translate into popularity. Ernst Van EE is one of those guys who seems to be in every band in the world but unfortunately no one knows his name. That will all change as Ernst has just released his first solo CD entitled POWERPLAY. 


Ernst, you have been a fixture on the metal scene for years yet your name is relatively unknown. Can you tell the readers of a bit about yourself?

I already play actively in bands for about 20 years now, but unfortunately, not much off them got real recognition in the states, so far. Although a lot of your readers will recognize names of bands and artists I 've recorded and played with over the years. My first band was Highway Chile in the early eighties, we recorded two albums, Storybook Heroes and Fever and did a lot of shows ,especially in Holland and Belgium. We played with the likes as Motorhead, Twisted Sister, MSG, Accept, Whitesnake etc. After that Ben Blaauw (guitarplayer of HC) and me started the band Helloise. We made two high-acclaimed albums, Cosmogony and Polarity, and also this band reached the top over here, but we had the same problems as Highway Chile, in the end. Due to internal record company politics it was impossible to show our talents across the Benelux borders. Therefore also this band split up, because there was no progress in our career. Both bands together took about 10 years of my life ,and although it was a lot of fun and I learned a lot and we reached the top in the Benelux it showed me that there was no real career for me just playing in one band at the time for many years on a row,so I quit the band and started playing as a free-lance drummer. I met Arjen Lucassen (Ayreon), and he asked me to play the farewell tour for Vengeance (another Dutch heavy-rock band). Later on he also asked me to play the drums on the first Ayreon album. In Vengeance I also met Ian Parry (who was their lead singer at that time). In the early nineties I was also asked by Hungarian guitar wizard Tamas Szekeres to play on some of his albums and tours. In 1996 Helloise reunited after our two albums were released on cd, we did a very successful reunion tour and in '98 we released a new album called A TIME AND A PLACE FOR EVERYTHING. I will talk about some of my other projects later on.


POWERPLAY is a solo CD featuring yourself and some of the best musicians in melodic and progressive metal. Can you tell us how you came about putting together such a lineup for this CD?

First of all it wasn't my first intention to make a solo-album. I was writing songs for a new Helloise-album and did this together with a good friend of mine, guitar player Peter Magnee (with whom I also released an instrumental album in 1993,called VOODOO PLAY). I decided to work with him because it's easy for me to work with him and I wanted to give the songs a more heavier touch. In the end the songs turned out to be a bit too much metal for Helloise ,but since we were doing so well the idea came up to make a solo-album .So Peter was already involved ,he also played the bass and keyboard parts and we used two singers, our friend Robert Soeterboek (Ayreon) for the heavier songs and Helloise-singer Stan Verbraak for the more melodic stuff.


Drummers aren't normally known for their solo releases. Why a solo CD at this point in time? You are obviously very busy doing work with other musicians?

I answered this one mostly in your last question. Although I'm quite busy with all kinds of bands and projects I'm a professional musician so I have the time to do a lot of different stuff.


POWERPLAY is the name of the CD. Is there a significance to the title?

I think there's a lot of powerplay on the album, don't you. I wanted a title that described the music on the album.


Stan Verbraak of Helloise sings 2 tracks and Robert Soeterboek provides vocals for the remainder. How did you choose who would sing on each song?

Robert has the heavier voice so he fitted best on the more metallic songs. Stan is a melodic rock vocalist so we used him on the melodic parts.


On POWERPLAY you cover the Sweet classic "Sixteens" Why choose that particular song?

The Sweet was one of my favourite bands when I was a youngster, so when I was deciding how to fill the album, I thought it would be a nice idea to combine traditional and modern heavy-rock/metal (we used those influences in the songs). It also seemed a nice idea to take some of my early influences, and since the Sweet was one of them, I came up with this idea to take one of their songs and make a more heavy version of with without losing the original feel.


On the CD you include the song "Dance With An Angel". I understand this is a tribute to one of your idols, the late Cozy Powell. How did Cozy influence your music and did you ever get to meet him?

Cozy was one of my early influences as a drummer. His hit single "Dance With The Devil" was one of the first songs I could play. It seemed a nice idea to make my own version of this song and give it a slightly different title, since Cozy (hopefully )is an Angel ,these days (because he deceased a few years ago). I also liked the bands he played drums in over the years, such as, Rainbow, Black Sabbath, MSG, Yngwie etc. I met him once when we were playing together with Whitesnake, a real nice guy, and a heavy drummer with his own style.


Who are some of your other influences?

I've listened a lot to guys like Deen Castronovo (my biggest influence), Ian Paice, Simon Phillips, Scott Travis, Billy Cobham etc. All these guys have their own specific styles of which I've learned a lot.


Will you be doing any touring in support of the POWERPLAY  release?

I did a small solo-tour in Holland to promote the album ,just me and my drums and the rest of the music on tape. Maybe I'll form a live band in the future, when we have maybe a second Van EE album ,so more material, and a bigger base to make it useful.


In Europe POWERPLAY will be released under the name DANCE WITH AN ANGEL and will include different artwork. What is the reason for this?

I signed a license-deal for Europe with Music Avenue/Rokarola. Originally the Powerplay-version was also released in the Benelux. To avoid parallel sales through different companies Music Avenue decided to release the European version with different artwork, a different name (Dance with an angel) and an extra song.

You are also a member of the Dutch band Threnody. How did you become involved with them?

They asked me five years ago to do a tour with them, which I did. It was a challenge for me since so far I was mostly involved in hard-rock and heavy metal bands, and Threnody is a technical death metal band. I did well and also liked their music, so after that they also asked me to record their new album, and since than I'm a permanent member.


What kind of music do they play and how do they fit in with your other bands?

As I said, five years ago they played a kind of technical death metal. Since than the music slightly changed into more melodic ,still technical, grooving metal with aggressive vocals but less grunt.
I like my metal very diverse, so they fit in well.


I believe that Threnody are recording a new CD right now. Can you tell us a little about it?

We've been writing material for about two years and at this time we're demoing songs in our own studio, and we'll try to hold on to the contract we have with Massacre or otherwise find another company. We have enough material, and we'll start recording a new album soon (the fourth Threnody album). More info about Threnody you can find at: /


Helloise is set to release a new CD. I just read on your website <> that Sasha Paeth is doing the mix. Did he also produce the CD? What made the band choose Paeth?

No ,we produced the album ourselves, well the basic recordings. You can say ,though, that Sascha is doing a lot of producing during mixing. I've heard already some stuff he mixed and can say that it sounds great and he puts lots of nice things in there.

We were looking for a mixer of international fame, and really liked what he did on albums of bands like Rhapsody and Kamelot. Our record company Transmission (Ayreon, After Forever) wants to make this the best Helloise-release so far.


What can the fans expect from the new CD?

It'll be a modern melodic powerrock album with some metal and progressive elements in it. The album is called "Fata Morgana" and will be released worldwide in September. Keyboards on the album were played by Robby Valentine and there's a vocal contribution by Lana Lane.


You have toured and recorded with Ian Parry. How did you become apart of Ian's band and what CDs did you record.

I met Ian when I joined Vengeance in 1994.After the band split Ian started his solo-career and asked me to join his band. I recorded two albums with him (ARTISTIC LICENSE and THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS), and did some additional touring. In the mid nineties a lot of melodic rock bands got in trouble because the upcoming interest in more aggressive metal, so also Ian stopped with his solo-activities ,for a while, and later on joined the progressive rock band Elegy.


Do you plan on working with Ian in the future?

At this time Ian is quite busy with Elegy and his Consortium Project, but you never know what happens.


I seem to have lots of questions about other bands you have worked with. You also recorded with Hungarian guitar virtuoso Tamas Szekeres. Fill in the readers of on just who he is and how you came about working with him.

I met Tamas through his Dutch manager ,he was touring Holland and wasn't happy with his Hungarian drummer. He asked me to come over to Hungary (together with Dutch bass player Barend Courbois) and we recorded two instrumental albums (Guitarmania (remake) and Guitartales) ,I also became part of his live band and a year later we recorded another album on which he also used a Dutch vocalist (Edwin Balogh), the album was called DREAMLAKE (produced by Charly Bauerfeind and Sascha Paeth).I did some more touring but in the end the interest in instrumental music wasn't that big anymore and Tamas quit working with this Dutch manager, so we kind a lost our contact.


Will you be doing any work with him in the future?

I don't think so, since the situation has changed ,he lives in Hungary and I 'm in Holland, but ,than again, you never know! I will be touring, though, later this year with another guitar virtuoso who, at the time, also is living in Hungary. His name is Anand. It will be kind of the same as with Tamas ,a few years ago, two Hungarians and two Dutch musicians.


What other projects have you worked with either recording or touring?

We've covered them about now I think. Well I also played some gigs with Misha Calvin (together with Ian), we played one of the last gigs in the old Marquee in London. And I recorded some albums with bands that were more like softer rock bands. Last year I did a tour with Osdorp Posse (it's a Dutch rap-act) we played about 60 gigs and a lot of big festivals. Don't think I'm getting wimpy now ,because the band we played with was very heavy (together with the rappers it sounded like bands as Faith no more or Red hot chili peppers). I'm still playing with the band (which is named Blind Justice), and we'll also be releasing a new album later on this year.


Any interesting stories from the road?

It mostly is a lot of traveling and hard work, but depending on the band ,also a lot of fun.
I once did this extensive tour with Vengeance, it was very heavy, really rock 'n roll, more like aaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrgggggghhhhhhhhhh every night. Right after this tour I went on tour with Tamas (instrumental and quite mellow), one of the first gigs I looked beside me and saw my drum roadie had fell asleep during the show (he was also used too very heavy rock shows for a few months, and this was like siesta time for him).


I have also read that you give drum clinics. are you still active in that area?

Yes, I still do. They are mostly organized by music shops or drum schools, so one day you play in a small shop and the next on a big drum festival. I also like these gigs very much. People really come for the drums.


The leads me to my next question. For the drum enthusiasts. What is the set up of your kit and what brands do you use or endorse?

I'm endorsed by Pearl drums, Ufip cymbals,Evans drumheads and Vater drumsticks.I have two 22" bassdrums,10" 12" 13" 14"16" 18" toms,13" 14" snare and some octobans.At the moment I'm playing the Masters -series and next month I get my new kit ,a Masterworks (there are pictures on my website: < > I use the Bionic and Rough series of Ufip cymbals.


Any advice for any young drummers reading this interview?

Learn your basics well, later on try to take lessons from someone in the style of music you wanna play. Listen to all your favourite drummers and try to analyze what they're playing and than try to give it your own touch. Buy my album and give me a call(*L*).


What are your thoughts on the metal scene right now? Do you feel that it is getting stronger?

I'm happy to say that ,here in Europe, it's getting stronger and stronger again (and now I'm talking about the more traditional and melodic metal). For a few years there was only attention for the extreme forms of metal, but true metal will survive (it is showing!!!).


What bands are you listening to right now?

All kinds. But what hasn't left my cd-player for a long time already is the Halford live-album. It's the best I heard in years, this is what metal is all about. I hope he'll not join Judas Priest again ,in the future, because now we have two great metalbands. Judas Priest is another one of my favorites!


Anything else you would like to say to the readers of

Thanks for reading this interview and maybe checking out my solo-album. 

Rick, thank you very much for the support and the great album review you did on POWERPLAY.

Rock 'n Roll is better than music and Metal rules.

2001 Metal Rules!!

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Saturday, May 26, 2001