Germany had Ougenweide, Norway had Folque, France had Malicorne, Belgium RUM and Holland, We had Fungus. Now, after more than twenty years they are back! Not a reunion, more a second life, they say. Together with a few concerts they also released a double cd with a big part of their work from the seventies. Founded in 1972 they were the first Dutch group who mixed traditional Dutch material with rock music. Last July I met Sido Martens He joined the group during their most successful period. We spoke about music, music and more music.
Sido was a member of Farmers union another music group playing English tradditionals, he joined Fungus in 1973 when another member left the band, how did he get in touch with the group? Sido: "As Farmers Union, my former group, we made a kind of promotion cassette with six songs. The manager of Fungus heard this tape. They needed a new guitar player and because I played both electric and acoustic guitar and also could sing they contacted me. This was before Fungus got famous. I had seen their name but didn't know anything about them. We got along very well and we started to record our first album. In the early days we only played traditionals in the English language. Fred Piek, one of the founders of Fungus, always was looking for new material and suddenly he came with Dutch traditionals that he found in some archive, I think it was the archive of the national television. We recorded them and our first record has both a English side and a Dutch side."
A legendary record was born, for the first time in history old Dutch songs were played with rock music, how did the media and public react on this album? Sido: " It was amazing what happened. We also released a 7" called "Kaapren varen" and it was a hit! Here we were just made our first record and everybody wanted us. We played in famous TV shows, were in all the newspapers and magazines and played in sold-out halls. For the first time a Dutch traditional reached the top30 and we (he smiles) thought that this was normal. Don't forget, we never made a record before so we didn't know that most groups who made a record didn't get all this attention. Of course we also had some negative reactions. The pure folkies were terrified. What did we do with their music! During some concerts we could have tough discussions with some people from the audience. Electric music and folk music should NOT be mixed! It was a very hectic but also nice period. For our second album "Lief ende leid" we used Dutch materials only. That had a few reasons: The most English material has been done too often and everybody knew them and it were the Dutch songs on our first album that were successful. During that period we also played in England. We did a set that was partly English and partly Dutch. A funny thing happened, they loved the Dutch songs and asked us why we didn't sing all the songs in our own language, didn't we care about our culture? That also made us think, we must record Dutch material. It was difficult to find the right material. We wanted the strong ballads, not the sing-a-long folk songs. We didn't have that much time to look for the songs because we were busy giving concerts, sometimes even twice a day so no time for research or practicing."
Sido played only on a few tunes on "lief ende leid" he left the band and started a solo carrier What made him decide to quit and go solo? Sido: " I just couldn't take it anymore. Don't get me wrong, we never had a fight or bad atmosphere, I just couldn't take it anymore. I lived far away from the other group-members and was always on the road. I also wanted to work with my own material, putting more myself into the songs. The record company gave me that chance and I could record my first solo record. It was nice to work with own material and the record got good critics but only sold 1500 copies, not a success anymore as I had with Fungus. I made a few other solo-records and the record-company had great plans with me. I was the Dutch Mike Oldfield, they told me. Only I didn't have his talent and I had to record in four days what Oldfield could do in two months. It happened in 1982. I collapsed and stopped with playing music. A few tough years followed. I was completely over-stressed. It took me until 1995 before I realized I cant live without music and I started to play again."
Now Fungus is alive again. They did some concerts together, released a double cd with their old material. How did this second live start? Sido: " When I recorded my new cd in 1995 somebody told me that Fred Piek also just recorded a cd with old Fungus songs in a new arrangements. I didn't have contact with him for years and tried to find him. It was like we had never been away from each other. We started talking about Fungus and the music, and with the other members we decided to start a second live. Not a reunion, a second live. We started touring and during a concert I play some of my songs and Fred plays some of his. At the end we did a set playing old Fungus material. It was quite successful. Also the release of the old material on cd put us back in the lights again. To be honest, we don't know where this ends. Maybe we will record new material, maybe not. Maybe we will give more concerts, maybe we go our own way again. There is a big difference with 20 years ago, now we play for ourselves and do what we think is right. During the seventies also under the pressure of the success, we had fun and liked it but …it was different."
Fred Piek, Sido Martens and Louis Debij are performing this autumn in a few Dutch theaters. They are planning a theater tour through Holland during the season 2001/2002. They form the basis of Fungus and each concert some others from the old Fungus joins them. The music sounds more acoustic than during their first live in the seventies but it still sounds surprisingly fresh. The combination of Fred, Sido's own work and traditional material gives a variated live-set. For many people this is the chance to meet the most legendary Dutch folkgroup again!
Fungus: The collection 2cd (emi 724352607525)
Sido martens: De loper (columns 290307)
Sido Martens: De staat van de liefde (multidisk 551248-2)
For more information please visit the following web-sites:
For Fungus and Kees Piek, also for ordering the Fungus cd and concert dates http//www.xs4all.nl/~gdv/fred_piek
For Sido Martens: http//www.listen.to/sidomartens
Would you like to contact Sido Martens? Send him a e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo Credit: Fungus in their first life, Sido Martens, press photos
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