VM: Dear Rene, My congratulations on the success of your "DVS" label's ProGductions. Thank you very much for your willingness to give an interview for ProgressoR.
JR: Well, actually I think it is an honor to do an interview as a label manager, so thank you for giving me the opportunity to spread the word of DVS Records.
VM: First, please tell me of yourself and your relations with music from the very beginning.
JR: My name is Rene Janssen and I live in the (small) country of The Netherlands. I am 31 years old, married for over 4 years, no children. Me and my wife live in a very cozy village called Baarlo, located in the South of The Netherlands close to the German border. I have 3 borthers and because of their interest in progmusic I learned about such bands as Saga, Marillion, Led Zeppelin and so on. That was for the first time I heard this kind of music and I felt in love with that music. In the beginning it was mainly Saga that got my interest, while other bands I discovered later. At that time I didn't have an idea about starting the music business, which was more a coincidence, I think, but during those years (I think I was 14 years old or so) I started listening to progmusic.
VM: What is the role that Music plays in your life?
JR: These days music is of great importance to me. I am busy with music every day. I think it is logical if you run a record label, but I think the music means more to me than only the business. And in these days I also try to listen to some other music than only prog, I think there are some very interesting bands in the mainstream genre, or whatever you call it. But also the metal has of course some very interesting bands I like to listen to. Besides being busy with music business wise and listening to CDs, I love to go to concerts, because live music is the best there is. Than you hear how good a band is, and most of the times I am impressed about the technical skills of all the musicians.
VM: Have you any special musical training?
JR: To be honest, I cannot read a single note, haha. No, really, I am not a musician and I honestly cannot read musical notes. My wife plays a Cornet (more like a Trumpet), but I don't play anything at all.
VM: How have you been involved in the so-called contemporary Progressive Rock movement and what were the bands that you've participated in (both as a musician or producer, etc.) before the label "DVS Records" appeared on the Progressive map?
JR: I started being active in the progscene when I joined the guys behind the Dutch Progressive Rock page website, www.dprp.vuurwerk.nl. I started with a weekly newspage on the site and that turned out pretty well. In no time it was the most visited page of the whole website, and I think because of the newspage and a few other pages that were updated on a regular base the site became very popular. I also did a few interviews and sometimes a review, but the newspage was the most important page for me. During that time I got in touch with a lot of bands and I started to create some band information page we added to the DPRP site, like pages for Threshold, Treasure Land and Darius.
The manager of Darius was also involved in the progmusic, he run a Saga fanclub and was responsible for the Dutch Metallica fanclub in the last, at least that was what he said to me. Well, I believed him and we started to work out ideas to run a record label, and so we did! In 1999 me and that guys started Zizania Entertainment Group, a record label that wanted to do more than only release CDs. We had the idea also to do management, artwork, etc etc, just to help bands. We got a lot of response from all around the world and in the beginning I really thought our ideas could work. Unfortunately things turned out in a big disappointment for me, I will spare you all the details but I was very disappointed in my partner and in some other people we did business with. I had a feeling that in this business everyone is trying to fool each other, and everyone forgot to think about the bands. So after a few releases I decided to wuit with this company because of several reasons, but in my head I could not loose the idea to start a new company.
During those months I met a guy called Erik van Geel, he seemed to have the same ideas as me and he was a very honest guy. I talked with him for a while and he also had the idea to start something on his own for many years. So, why not do it together we thought?? We worked out some details, find 2 great bands to start with (Sonic Debris and Into Eternity) and that meant the start for DVS Records. Long story, but now you know exactly how it all started, haha.
VM: Also, I've learned that you are the organizer of the well-known annual Prog Power festival, which you hold every year in your native country of Holland. Please tell me of that aspect of your progressive activity and those events and details that accompanied the festival as well. (I mean, your own actions, the bands, participants, the number of audience, etc)
JR: Yes, that is something I do as well. The idea started on the internet on some discussion boards. A lot of people thought that we missed a festival that mainly is focussed on progressive metal. Of course in the beginning everyone was interested to start such a festival, but finally when I suggested to really do it, it was only Erik van Geel (yes, the same guy I started DVS with) and martijn Balsters, guitar player of a Dutch band called Forever Times, who joined me and we decided to go for it! The first edition was a good start we think, allthough the venue had another opinion about it. We had bands like Evergrey, pain Of Salvation and Threshold and some unknown starting bands. The second year we had to make big steps backwards, it was pretty close that the festival went on, but in june we decided to do it. It was held in a great venue in my own town, but we knew that it would be very risky because the venue is not well-known and you cannot reach Baarlo that easy with public transport. We decided to go for 2 days, with Evergrey headlining the first evening and Opeth the second one. Financially the festival was a disaster, but the reactions from the people and the press were so positive that we had to go on with it. Besides that I invested too much money to stop now, so we continued and we improved a lot this year. Still with the basic idea in our mind that we must have some known and some unknown bands we booked a perfect line-up I think, and finally the festival was a good success this year. 400 people on both days, plus 100 press people and guests made the festival a great event. The words from the press are unbelievable at the moment, everyone really liked the whole atmosphere. And musically it was one of the best festival of the last year in our country, bands like Pain Of Salvation, Zero Hour, Into Eternity, Wolverine, VandenPlas and Anathema showed us how diverse the progscene can be.
As you probably will understand now, ideas for a new edition of the festival are already made. And last year we also started a ProgPower in the USA, with the second edition in November 2001. Also that turned out pretty well and there will be a third edition in the USA. We even are busy with some ideas for ProgPower Scandinavia, ProgPower Eastern Europe and personally I hope that in the future we will have festivals with the same name in Australia, Mexico, South America and Asia. Future dreams we can say, haha. And last but not least the ProgPower website changed into a ProgPower Ezine with reviews, news, interviews etc about the whole scene and besides that the festivals have their own infopage as well. Check it out at www.progpower.com.
JR: As I told before we (Erik van Geel and I) started the business in 2000 with releases by Sonic Debris ("Velvet Thorns") and Into Eternity ("Into Eternity"). The reactions in the beginning were great and it looked like the start was a huge success. But like the Zizania time we figured out that the business is full of idiots who try to fool you. After a few months from the start we become more realistic and realized that building up your own label is a very long way you have to go through! Still the reactions were great, but we send out a lot of CDs and we never have seen money in return, and that is no fun.
In july of 2001 we released our third album, the debut album by Alias Eye and again the reactions were great. We got more interest from business partners and we realized that people take you more serious if you are in the business for a longer period. And that gave me hope for the future, especially because of the 2 new releases we have now, Into Eternity's second album and the first full-length debutCd by Swedish Wolverine. Both albums receive excelent reviews and we now get interest from all around the world. And with some upcoming killerCDs of Ashes To Ashes (fantastic mix of progressive and gothic metal), Heaven's Cry (the long awaited second album) and Silent Edge (new Dutch hope) I think the future does not look that bad. Of course we have a very long way to go, that is for sure, but if we can break-even next year than it means a successful year, and I believe in it.
Unfortunately Erik has to quit with the buisness because of some personal reasons, so in this way I already want to thank him for everything. Without him DVS never would have exist and I never will forget that. Thanks man!
VM: Is it a Mission to gladden people with Music? What do you think?
JR: For me it is! Or is it more a passion? It doesn't matter how we call it, but the most important for us is that we help talanted bands in the though world of the music business. In the long run the business is important of course, but in short base it is more important that the bands get the attantion we can give them, making money is not the issue. I think our slogan says enough: 'Music we love for people we like'.
VM: By the way, can you explain what the initials of yours label (DVS) stand for?
JR: Haha, actually it means nothing at all. I think it was Erik's wife who had something with the word 'devious' and the name 'Davis'. If you look at both words you see they both contain dvs, so without thinking any loner we called the label DVS Records, haha.
VM: Is your work as the leader of "DVS Records" devoted only to the representatives of Prog-Metal and other "heavy" genres?
JR: DVS Records is mainly interested in progmetal related music. I think you can hear that in our releases, allthough we have a very wide range of different styles. I think the most heavy we have is Into Eternity amd the most soft is Alias Eye, all our other stuff is inbetween. And we like bands who try to create their own style to mix a few genres, like Sonic Debris, who mixes the mainstream elements with prog, or Ashes To Ashes who mixes gothic with prog and call it 'gregorian' metal. So we are not releasing only typical progmetal releases, but it definitely must be related to this genre, that's for sure.
VM: What characteristics must the bands possess for you to sign a contract with them?
JR: We signed our bands because of the relation we have through email and phone. If we receive a demo we like and we starte negotiating with the band through email or phone and we have a good feeling about it, we will try to get the deal. If we think the bands has too high hopes or is not realistic we will forget it. Of course it still is always a risk, normally you only talk with one guy of the band so you do not know how the others are. But so far our feelings proved right, we now have met 5 of the 7 bands we have in person and they all are great persons. And next year we hope to meet Ashes To Ashes and Heaven's Cry, and I do not habe one single doubt that we do not like these guys.
VM: Who is (are) your distribution dealer(s)? Are you satisfied with your current distribution deal?
JR: Right now we are still building up our distribution network and that will continue the next 2 years. When we started we said to ourselves that we need 3.5 years to establish a good distribution network and I think that is realistic enough. We have now covered most of Europe with decent distribution companies and we are talking to several countries around the world for license and distribution deals. If we continue releasing high quality stuff than I am sure we will reach some new great deals. Actually we will sign a very good deal for Into Eternity for the USA and Canada but I cannot announce it yet. I would say keep an eye on the DVS Records website, there you will find all information about it.
VM: What is (are) your favourite Rock band(s)?
JR: I like to listen to bands such as Marillion, Opeth, The Sins Of They Beloved, Covenant, Timothy Pure, Pendragon and of course our own releases. A band that I really like is Saga, I think I have all their releases and I saw them 5 times live or so. And the last few years I start listening to old led Zeppelin, what a great music that is. Luckily I saw page and Plant live in 1995, one of the most impressive gigs ever seen. But my favourite band of alltime is RUSH, they are fantastic. I am looking forward to their upcoming album and if they go on tour in Canada I will fly over. No joke! Than I will combine that trip with visits to our bands Into Eternity and Heaven's Cry, so a great opportunity to do it this way. So let's hope RUSH will tour Canada soon, and I have heard some rumours they will...
VM: What kinds of music you listen to?
JR: Besides the bands I mentioned I listen to much more music, especially som enew undiscovered bands. And because I run a label and organize a festival I receive a lot of demos, so a great chance for me to hear some new talented bands.
VM: Finally, what are your future plans concerning the label and other points of your progressive activity (perhaps, including the Prog Power festival, too) as well?
JR: My dream is to make your living of the label, but if that is possible I don't know. I know we have some excellent releases and if we continue this way, there is a chance. At the moment we have to go through a very though period, if we challenge this and we will, the future will smile a little bit more. But as always I am optimistic about it, our upcoming albums are of the same high quality as of the stuff we already released, so people will start remember the name DVS for quality. Not too many albums, only high quality.
Regarding the festival I hope to continue it for many years. Booking some known bands and give unknown bands a change to play for a bigger audience as they are used to. I only want to earn back my investment and for the rest it is nothing more than a hobby, and I think it should stay that way!
VM: Many thanks for doing the interview, Rene. I wish you success in making us Prog fans happy with your work (with Music!) for years to come.
JR: I think I have to thank you for giving me the opportunity to tell some background info about DVS and ProgPower. It was a pleasure to do and I hope people liked the story, allthough it turned out pretty long, haha. Anyway, keep an eye on the DVS website and hopefully you will try some of our releases. Like we say, Music We Love For People We Like!