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The story of the band dates back to 1972 when a bunch of students living in Breda (a small town in Southern Holland near the Belgian border) decided to form a group. This project comprised bassist Rob Overdijk, guitarist Arnold Hoekstra, drummer Freek Peeters, female singer Kitty Maanders and percussionist Hans Marynissen (b.21.10.49) who was also a poet and writer. Hans had studied percussion since the age of five, playing in a brass band conducted by his father. The other band members approached him because of his skills as a writer; he’d published poems and written a play for a high school revue.
hansAfter several months of rehearsal, the band had composed an original repertoire with music by Rob and English lyrics by Hans. This was in the vein of the sort of country-rock favoured by acts like The Eagles, Neil Young and Joni Mitchell. This set them apart from other local groups, who generally performed only cover versions. They took the name of Matrix (Hans’ suggestion) and played their first gig at a school party in May 1973, before touring the area with increasing success.
In October1973, Jack van Liesdonck (b22.3.53) and his brother Pim joined the band as roadies. Then Jack, who had taught himself guitar and received piano tuition since the age of 15 before going on to play jazz, reinforced Matrix at the organ (and changed it in favour of Fender Rhodes piano).jack
leoAt the beginning of 1974, Hans Hoekstra emigrated to Canada, Kitty stopped singing and Freek left the band to become professional drummer. The remaining musicians searched for replacements and auditioned self-taught guitarist Ruud Wortman (b.6.7.52), enrolling him immediately afterwards. Ruud had a solid reputation, having played in numerous local rock bands.
Meanwhile the group changed its name to Grace; this was Hans’ idea, by way of an homage to a girlfriend of his! The band was then completed by the recruitment of professional drummer Frank Berkers, another habitué of the local rock scene, and guitarist-singer Theo van der Holst.ludo
Grace started from scratch again, abandoning country-rock in favour of cover-versions of material by The Allman Bros., Santana, Wishbone Ash, Camel and King Crimson, which they alternated with their own new compositions. Their first number, “Brain Damage” was the result of a collaboration between Ruud (the guitar riffs), Jack (piano parts) and Hans (lyrics). The band began gigging in Breda and Roosendaal and got their new show into its stride.
In May 1975 they heard that an English band had called themselves Grace and decided to opt for a new name. They used the name Flight, but spelt it Flyte in order to make it stand out better on publicity material. Two weeks after this change of name, that same month they opened the show for the well-known Dutch group Alquin in Nieuwendijk; however, Theo van der Holst left them shortly afterwards.
space 1974In June 1975 a respected Flemish group called Space (who played cover versions of songs by The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and Bad Company alongside blues and rock’n’roll standards) gave a farewell concert in Stabroek, on the Belgian side of the border.
Their singer Ludo Cools (b.19.8.46) and keyboard-player Leo Cornelissens (b.12.11.49) were approached by Flyte and accepted an invitation to join the Dutch band as they shared the same musical orientations. They were both classically-trained; Ludo had a strong voice, easily able to modulate between low and high pitches and was a great showman; Leo brought Flyte a lot of original compositions as well as a wide range of keyboard talents. Their experience on stage, in the studio and in show-business generally helped no end in Flyte’s maturation.
In the early summer of 1975 the new Flyte line-up, featuring Ludo and Leo, opened the Essen open-air festival in Belgium, and played alongside the famous Dutch band Earth and Fire. With a customised Mercedes minibus at their disposal (which bore Hans’ painting of their new logo), Flyte embarked on a short tour of the Dutch-Belgian border cities (Antwerp, Roosendaal, Dorst and Essen). During this string of concerts they gradually shelved the cover versions in favour of their own compositions, and featured new numbers written by Leo and worked out by the whole band. Moreover, they enriched their repertoire with songs that were improvised on stage. They hatched the idea of a rock opera called “Into the Mouth of the Night”. The band’s stage act lasted two and a half hours with numerous light and smoke effects, and Ludo adorned himself with costumes.
The conception of new songs was the result of team-work undertaken during intensive rehearsals; new ideas were tried out and integrated into existing compositions, modifying them a great deal. Concerts (including improvisations) were systematically recorded and served as basic material for new numbers; titles such as “I Am Beautiful”, “Slower Than Clouds and Bigger” and the instrumental “Ceremonies” were entirely conceived from these improvisations.
Drummer Frank Berkers left the band to start his own group; he was replaced by Englishman Alan Fursman, a former member of Belgian group Boast and a strong and subtle performer. In January 1976, Flyte finished the first act of their opera, intending it to be played in the second part of their stage set. In March, they moved their rehearsal room to an old barn behind a hotel in Dorst, near Breda. This hotel was owned by Toon Verhoeven, Flyte’s first manager. Until then the band had been happy managing themselves but Toon helped them enormously, sending demo tapes to clubs and venues and landed the band many gigs. In April 1976, Gijs van Heeswijck sat in for Alan Fursman, who left the band to found his own band.
In August 1976, Flyte won first prize at a contest for amateur bands held at the well-known Bilzen Festival in Belgium. This enabled them to open the show for a prestigious bill comprising The Steve Miller Band, Steeleye Span and Rick Wakeman.
Meanwhile bassist Rob Overdijk had been temporarily replaced by ex-Space bassman Roger Loopmans . Flyte acquired a new P.A. which was handled by Maurice Fraeyman whilst Cor Hooymaayers designed a light-show for them which contained no less tan 58 different devices including smoke-bombs and costumes. The band appeared at the Etten-Leur Festival alongside Solution and Earth an fire and premiered a new show. By now the band had stopped wearing jeans and T-shirts on stage and had opted for gaily-coloured suits to emphasise the visual side of their performance. Moreover, they were by now tossing ideas around on the subject of a debut album.
1977 jan
By September they were opening the Breda Festival, appearing on the same bill as Focus, Kaz Lux and The Flying Burrito Bros and in January 1977 the Dutch “Music Maker” and Belgian “Joepie” magazines were devoting feature articles to the band. Gijs had left by this point and Vic Storm, a jazz-oriented drummer, had replaced him; Rob Overdijk had rejoined, Not long after the band triumphed at the Tilburg Festival, appearing with Herman Brood and Sweet D’Buster, opened for Alquin in Roermond and went on to head the bull at the Brasschaat Festival near Antwerp. They added new keyboards to their equipment; these included a Mellotron, a Hohner clavinet, a Solina string ensemble and a Davoli organ to emphasise the symphonic aspect of their music.
New demo tapes were recorded in Belgium with their friend Roel Röring providing backing vocals; Kees van Gool replaced Maurice Fraeymann as PA operator. As Toon had emigrated to Portugal, Arnold van Walsum became the band’s new manager. A new design of the band logo was run off on posters, stickers and T-shirts; this was a perspectivised representation of the word Flyte. In between gigs, the band rehearsed material for the projected debut album, provisionally entitled “Cast of the stars ”. They’d selected their favourite numbers including two early compositions, “Dawn Dancer” and “Woman”.
Their show became more and more spectacular, with stage and audience initially kept in total darkness before traffic noises echoed across the PA system; then a car was heard braking and suddenly the band appeared in a flash of light and smoke, playing a fast 13/8 theme; audiences loved it! 1977 jan
In October 1977 the band played two sets on the same evening at an Antwerp high school; one of these sets was broadcast live on Belgian Radio (BRT) . On this occasion they gave an airing to some sections of the projected opera, integrating them skilfully into new pieces such as “You’re Free, I Guess”,. They also played more recent songs such as “The Doors Inside”, “Millions of Mornings” and “How She Dances”.
hans boeyeIn January 1978 Hans Boeye (b.7.4.59), a noted Belgian drummer, replaced Vic Storm. The son of a respected Flemish musician, he had studied music from an early age and owned a professional drum kit at the age of 15. After a short stint with a high-school band he joined Llamb, a group featuring the American violinist Michael Zydowsky who had played with Flock.
At the close of 1977 Hans met Ludo who persuaded him to join Flyte. His virtuosity and technical command added an extra dimension of professionalism – as well as a jazzy rhythmic pulse – to their music. The band moved their rehearsal room once again, this time to an old factory in Wortel (Belgium), where they resumed work on numbers of their debut album. In March 1978, demos of the album tracks were recorded at the Just-Born studios in Hekelgem; these studios were owned by Luc Ardyns, manager of the legendary Belgian band Isopoda. At this point, Rob left Flyte for good and was replaced by a professional singer-bassist, Peter Dekeersmaeker (b.1.4.56).
Classically-trained on the guitar, he had started his career in an amateur rock band before joining Cynical, a group which had twice reached the finals of the Bilzen festival bands contests. Peter adapted to Flyte’s style immediately and wrote enthralling bass parts to the piece “King of Clouds”, a song which had been written by Ludo, Leo and Jack.peter
On 27.5.78 Flyte played excerpts of their repertoire to Fritz Valcke, the owner of the Kritz recording studio in Kuurne, Belgium. Valcke and his sound engineer, Michel Barezwere won over by the quality of Flyte’s music and decided to produce the band’s album. Flyte entered the 24-tracks studio in July 1978; they managed to record all the rhythm patterns of their songs live in one take! Additional recordings were made under the direction of Michel Barez and the sessions were spread over several months depending on the availability of the studio. Hans Marinyssen left during October, but remained the band’s lyricist. Ludo took over percussion duties on stage and in the studio.
The band signed a distribution deal with a Dutch company called Oldway and published the songs on Oldmill, who owned the small Don Quixotte label. Oldmill imposed its in-house producer, Geoff Hardisty, on the band yet ironically his part in the recording process was to prove insignificant. Meanwhile Fritz Valcke, very enthusiastic about their music became their new manager.
New songs were recorded and mixed during November and December 1978. The day after Christmas, Flyte played at a festival in Breda alongside Jan Akkerman, Solution and Fruit, a band comprising their ex-drummer Frank Berkers and singer Roel Roring. Until February 1979; the band worked on the production of their album, which featured their very first composition, “Brain Damage”. Peter had also come up with sketches for a new song entitled “Aim at the Head”. With lyrics by Hans Marynissen, the recording of the song was completed within four weeks.
The band decided to call their album “Dawn Dancer” but re-titled the “Dawn Dancer” track to “Your Breath Enjoyer”, so as to avoid confusion. Ludo chose to be credited on the sleeve under his mother’s name of Rousseau. A female backing group, the Emily Delen Singers was invited by Leo to sing on “Heavy Like a Child” whereas Roel Röring handled all the rest of the backing vocals. The sleeve was drawn by a friend of Geoff Hardisty, representing the “Dawn Dancer” character, while also the band’s logo was also reworked in a pore stylised manner.
The record was finally released in March 1979 but the musicians weren’t satisfied with the pressing which they considered to be of insufficient dynamic power. Nonetheless, the album got a lot of airplay on Dutch radio and press write-ups were highly laudatory. Sadly Oldway’s distribution was poor and to make matters worse the label went bankrupt after only 2000 copies of the record had been pressed. The disc was immediately deleted. Yet some other hundred of copies were pressed and sold some years later by the company which bought the material (and which found a copy of a master tape of Flyte’s album) from Oldway.
With their album now off the market, the band got fewer gigs. Up against record companies who wouldn’t countenance the release of a second album Ludo and Ruud left the band, disenchanted.
victim 1979 12 08 essen rex ticketIn April 1980 Flyte settled in Kalmthout, Belgium, and enrolled singer Rudi Fabeck and guitarist Walter Meuris. In May this new Flyte line-up played its first gig in Essen before embarking on a short tour with concerts given in Antwerp, Hamme, Brugge, Eeklo, Breda and Gent.
In August they recorded a demo-tape featuring their new songs; “Shoreline Castle”, “The Battle of Forever”, “Killer Cure” and “Weld and Amazing”, all of which were earmarked for inclusion on a second album. This was to have been called “Cast of the Stars”, as had their first disc, but nothing came of it. A last ditch attempt at success was launched in November 1980 when the band returned to the Kuurne Studio to record a single at their own expense. This featured “Killer Cure” and a new version of “Aim at the Head”. It was distributed by a subsidiary of Don Quixotte called Assekrem but although these titles were rock-flavoured, they went unnoticed at a time when new-wave was in the ascendancy. Tired of the many setbacks they had suffered, Flyte decided to disband after a farewell concert in Essen on13th February 1981.
Three years later, however, in 1984, a reunion gig took place in Essen. The band played the whole of their first album and the material that had been put aside for their second. Later on, Hans Marynissen became the percussionist in a brass band called Vsop which has released one CD. He also works as a manager and sound engineer. Leo emigrated to England, where he works for a farming company.
ruudHans Boeye played with various groups and appears on the second CD by Kitchen of Insanity a band heavily influenced by The Doors. Nowadays, he plays with Ben Crabbé and The Floorshow. Ruud became a session guitarist, emigrating to the USA where he played with a band called Sea Breeze before returning to the Dutch semi-professional scene. Jack is a disc jockey, Peter became a lawyer and Ludo a state employee.
The richness of the album’s melodies, its baroque elegance and instrumental originality and virtuosity unquestionably rank Flyte’s “Dawn Dancer” as one of the finest progressive rock albums of the late seventies.
Written by Francis Grosse (translation Dorian Cumps & Paul Stump) and reprinted from the liner notes of the Flyte cd booklet by kind permission of Musea records and Bernard Gueffier.
As the band contained at his height four Belgian band members, I thought it was appropriate to feature them in this list – Ed.