Toten Herzen’s lead guitarist and arguably the most famous Rotterdam resident you’ve never heard of talks of small gobby singers, Jimi Hendrix, dog bites and growing very very old in the business of rock music.

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TheOpeningSentence
Will this interview lead to massive recrimination and legal action?

Susan Bekker
No.

TOS
So it’s going to be one of those interviews, is it? Like Ginger Baker?

SB
I’m still a little bit surprised ANC put me forward to do this interview. I mean, who the hell are you?

susan

TOS
What do you mean? It’s me. I wrote the Toten Herzen novels. You authorised me to write the official fictionalised versions of the band’s comeback.

SB
And we’re supposed to be pleased about that? You’ve portrayed me as a scheming, conniving backstabbing megalomaniac. In the first book you had me driving people mad on a plane, stabbing someone in the eye and eating chicken. I don’t like chicken. I hate chicken.

In the second novel you had the gall to suggest I can’t sing. . . . What was the phrase you wrote: ‘she opened her mouth and woke up all the bats in the trees.’ I can sing. I choose not to. And then I’m supposed to have this obsession with finding someone called Peter Miles who may or may not have been murdered by the band in 1974. What drugs are you on?

TOS
I’m supposed to be interviewing you! It’s all entertainment, isn’t it?

SB
It’s a pack of lies. It’s not like that at all.

TOS
So you and Dee [Dee Vincent, lead singer] really do get on?

SB
Of course we do. We all know she talks a lot. We know she nearly cost us $120 million slandering Rose Pursey. We know she’s volatile and upset George Michael by saying he looks like Keith Floyd. . . .

TOS
You mean Keith Allen?

SB
Whatever. She can be hard work, but she’s not Keith Moon. She is stable. Not the demonic headcase you created in the books.

Hullaballoo-cover-3d

According to Susan Bekker Dee Vincent is not a ‘demonic headcase.’

TOS
I thought it would be dramatic to have that tension between guitarist and lead vocalist.

SB
You say it’s common, but it only really happened between Ian Gillan and Ritchie Blackmore. One swallow doesn’t make a flock, or whatever they make.

TOS
Whatever you say. But there’s also the antagonism between George Lynch and Don Dokken.

SB
Yeah. Go on. Name one more.

TOS
Okay, point taken.

SB
The point I’m making is that you misrepresented the band, painting us as a bunch of monsters.

TOS
You are a bunch of monsters. You’ve made no secret of the fact about what you all are. No one believes all that hogwash about catching rabies from a dog bite in 1974.

SB
No, and they won’t now after all the witchcraft and vampire shit you threw us into. It’s all show business, it’s theatre. Every band has a hook. They have to stand out somehow. But you made us look like the Adams Family. You even said so in the first novel, when that marketing team said something like ‘we should get rid of the Munsters look.’ Elaine laughed out loud when she read that.

TOS
I didn’t think Elaine [Elaine Daley, bass player] ever laughed.

SB
Not in your world, not in the books you wrote.

TOS
So what you’re telling me is that you are a straightforward normal guitarist from Rotterdam, Dee Vincent is a level headed lead singer from Lincoln, and Elaine Daley is a barrel of laughs?

SB
I’m leaving.

blog-banner-07

Toten Herzen 2013

TOS
All right. I apologise. I laid it on a bit thick, but I was asked to write books that would sell and it’s not easy when no one wants to read about vampires.

SB
They won’t want to read anything after all this. Why didn’t you make us werewolves or something that’s not out of fashion?

TOS
You’re not werewolves! The whole Toten Herzen myth in the 1970s was about you lot being vampires. Are you denying your own history? Do you want me to do a Stalin and airbrush all that away?

SB
No, I’m saying you should have written something a bit closer to the truth. Our comeback was a difficult choice to make. Rob Wallet had a convincing argument why we should do it.

TOS
It was Rob Wallet’s idea to write the books.

SB
You shouldn’t listen to him.

TOS
He’s the band’s publicist!

SB
Only until we find a better one. For now he’s the best we’ve got. And that’s another thing. You make it sound like we hate him. In the scene in the first novel when he’s talking to the A&R guy from Berlin and mentions a wayward golf swing . . . That never happened.

album-deadheartslive

Cover of the 1976 album Deadhearts Live

TOS
It’s called fiction.

SB
And Dee didn’t turn on him. I didn’t impale myself on the end of a Flying V or deliberately deafen a record producer. Sony turned down the band because they knew we insisted on releasing our albums on vinyl only.

TOS
And a bloody daft idea that would be.

SB
So you’re an expert on music marketing now, are you? You should stick to blogging. How many followers have you got?

TOS
Tens of thousands.

SB
Liar.

TOS
It’s fiction. It’s what I do. You are in denial.

SB
I am trying to promote my band and you have done a lot of damage to the Toten Herzen brand. For example, during the comeback concerts last year no one burned down a restaurant at the Allianz Halle. Lie number one. Lie number two: no one got stuck on a flag pole in Hungary. Lie number three: a papier mache horse was not thrown off the roof of the East Midlands Arena. The entire opening chapter of the second novel was a string of lies. And Tom Scavinio has not quit as our manager. He’s very angry about that. And what you said about his wife, well, words fail me.

TOS
It’s a novel.

SB
That’s no excuse. The third one isn’t going to be like the first two. We’ll have a veto over what goes into it.

TOS
Okay.

SB
Okay.

live-daley-poster

No one was injured by a flagpole in Hungary during the comeback tour.

TOS
It’ll be a very boring novel. Rock band goes on tour to promote new album, blah blah blah.

SB
It’ll be better than rock band chased by corrupt network of European covens. I looked up the name Malandanti. They weren’t even witches. They were evil spirits.

TOS
They said you didn’t understand the concept of fiction.

SB
Who said?

TOS
The band’s management. Alien Noise Corporation. They also said you were paranoid.

SB
No they didn’t. Did they? Who said that?

TOS
You obviously haven’t read the second novel-

SB
Has anybody read the second novel-

TOS
In the second novel Malandanti is the name of the police investigation into the covens, not the name of the covens. It’s in the chapter where Raven discovers the investigation on Weerdshit.org, the conspiracy theory website.

SB
You think people are going to notice little details like that?

TOS
Probably not in the 21st Century. But you see how easy it is for you, you Susan Bekker, to misunderstand the books and what I’m saying about you?

SB
I don’t have to be a simpleton to know when someone portrays me as an idiot. More of a lieutenant than a general, you said. I should punch your lights out for that.

TOS
Tell me about Jimi Hendrix. You saw him live in Rotterdam in 1967. How did you feel when he died?

SB
I thought it was a waste. He was already a giant, so where he was heading we can only guess. But it was like having a migraine when part of your vision disappears. I used to walk around and there was this big hole in my vision where Jimi used to be.

TOS
You said he was the biggest influence on your life, so I got that bit right.

SB
Yes, the factual bits were correct, and yes I did sing Hey Joe in front of the class at my old school. You see, you can do it when you try.

bekker-pose

Bekker poses with Flying V in 1971. The guitar was probably the only thing she had in common with her idol, Jimi Hendrix.

TOS
But that whole nostalgia reminiscent thing only gets you so far. The scene where you lead Rob Wallet around the places you visited as you were growing up, was okay, but it wasn’t dramatic enough on its own.

SB
You don’t think meeting Micky Redwall was dramatic, Redwall ripping off the other two After Sunset members wasn’t dramatic, playing in front of nine people at the Grimsby Welfare Club in 1972 wasn’t dramatic. It’s those human stories, struggling to make a success, they’re more dramatic than finding a lost vampire village in southern Germany. If you wrote a book about Toten Herzen’s origins that would be more interesting than one where we go round throwing people off mountain tops.

TOS
I thought that was quite a nice touch.

SB
And you say I’m a monster.

TOS
Actually no. In the first novel you open up to Rob Wallet and say exactly the opposite.

SB
When was that?

TOS
In the scene following the press conference when everyone thinks you’re all imposters. You sit next to Rob Wallet and say it’s all Micky Redwall’s fault for creating the band’s monster image.

SB
Yeah. I remember that bit. However, I don’t cry. I never cry.

TOS
I don’t think you cried in that scene.

SB
Good thing too. I never cry. And while we’re on the subject, why do you keep portraying Rob Wallet as having a crush on me? He doesn’t have a crush on me. He doesn’t secretly wish my boyfriend would ‘hurry up and die.’

TOS
That’s the third novel!

SB
Oh, so it is going to be another pile of made up bullshit?

TOS
No. In the third novel you get sick of him, the band kicks him out and he misses you.

SB
He misses me. In the second novel he’s supposed to be having a fling with Elaine. What happened to that story arc?

TOS
Who says anything happens to it. I haven’t written the damn thing yet.

SB
The chapter where she attacks him. I have never seen anyone wet themselves laughing, but I thought Elaine was getting close when she read that chapter. She calls it the Portinscale Event, like the Tunguska Event. As if she would jump Rob Wallet.

TOS
But it leads to Rob Wallet’s release, doesn’t it. The big issue that’s tormented him from childhood. Joining up with Elaine resolves that issue.

SB
Now, credit where it’s due, I did like the way that thread of the novel worked out. And that’s why I get so bothered about the rest of it. If you can write a story thread like Rob Wallet’s journey to find his lost valley why couldn’t you tell the rest of the story in the same way?

micky-redwall

Micky Redwall, Toten Herzen’s first manager, rock entrepeneur, mentor and arch-publicist. Killed by his own guard dogs in 1977. Allegedly.

TOS
Because then it becomes literary fiction and at the moment there’s only one person on Earth who reads literary fiction.

SB
Who?

TOS
Will Self.

SB
Point taken. But even so, you could have made the paranormal hocus pocus secondary to the human issues in the novel.

TOS
Like what? If Susan Bekker wrote Toten Herzen Malandanti how would it be different?

SB
I’d keep the Rob Wallet story thread. I’d do more with the story line about Raven’s stifling relationship with her old fashioned parents. I’d play around more with Dmitri Neved’s life collapsing as his wife’s life expands and improves.

TOS
I thought I did all that.

SB
No, you had Raven throwing up when she travelled with Rob Wallet and you portrayed Lena, Neved’s wife as a maniac who murders people using witchcraft. Subtle as a flying mallet.

TOS
You’re not exactly selling the book.

SB
It deserves to be banned. It should be suppressed. You did the world a favour pulling it from Amazon. Who ever bought a book from Smashwords? I don’t know anyone.

TOS
It’s hard being a writer in the modern age. There are so many self-published books.

SB
Well, that’s your problem, not mine. At least not many people will read about me being a dopey-eyed moron with a legend fixation.

TOS
You must have the same problems in the music industry. Toten Herzen coming back after thirty-five years. To what? No more record sales, streaming music where you earn two pence for three million downloads. Will Toten Herzen give their music away with the next iPhone?

SB
We haven’t sunk to that level yet. It’s bad enough being in your sixties in the music industry, let alone a rock band who does things the traditional way. Luckily we don’t need the money.

TOS
You don’t look like you’re in your sixties.

SB
Don’t go there.

TOS
Why not? It’s at the heart of Toten Herzen. Sixty year old rock band who look like they’re still twenty years old.

SB
Doctor Photoshop. As Todd Moonaj said in the first novel, plastic surgery my merry ass. The only doctor these lot have seen is Doctor Photoshop.

TOS
You’re sitting in front of me and you don’t look like your over sixty years old.

SB
I eat all my greens.

TOS
But no chicken.

SB
No chicken.

TOS
Or Chinese, or Italian, or snacks or sandwiches, no grazing, no fast food. . . . I summed it up pretty well in that chapter with Dexter the intern.

SB
Credit where it’s due, as I said. But we would never scare an intern like that.

TOS
You’d just bite him and be done with it.

SB
No.

bekker-02

TOS
How long do Toten Herzen plan to be around?

SB
That’s a very loaded question. A very ominous question. That’s a bit like walking up to someone and saying ‘you don’t know me, but. . . .’

TOS
I’m contracted to write five books.

SB
Oh, God help us.

TOS
The third one is planned and ready. The fourth has a basic premise.

SB
And what delights can we expect in the fourth novel? Dare I ask?

TOS
The discovery of four bodies in the basement of a house. A house that used to be lived in by the owner of Toten Herzen’s record label in the 1980s.

SB
I am definitely leaving.

TOS
Can we continue this interview later?

SB
Why don’t you do what you always do and just make something up.

TOS
That’s below the belt.

SB
You keep telling lies about us it won’t be the area below the belt you should worry about.

TOS
For the record Susan Bekker has just poked me on the jugular vein and left the building. That woman is hard work!

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Contrary to what Susan Bekker says Chris Harrison is the official authorised Toten Herzen biographer, and people do occasionally buy ebooks from Smashwords. ‘Oh, but I’ve only got a Kindle and only ever buy books off Amazon.’ Well, tough shit, in that case you’ll have to make do without!

 TOTEN HERZEN MALANDANTI

2014-3d-malandantiAvailable from these places: (Links open in a new window.)

BARNES AND NOBLE

SMASHWORDS

OYSTER

SCRIBD

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WE ARE TOTEN HERZEN

2014-3d-wathAvailable from these places: (Links open in a new window.)

BARNES AND NOBLE

SMASHWORDS

OYSTER

SCRIBD

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