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WEBSITE: US official
The core members of dutch band Us, Jos Wernars, Ernest Wernars and Paul Van Velzen exist about since 1975 (!!!!). Originally called Saga, they mostly played covers of Eagles, Peter Frampton and Moody Blues. After some changes of line-up and a long period of inactivity, they came back under the name of Us, recording "A Sorrow In Our Hearts" in 2002. Their latest album "Eamon's Day", released in 2003, is among my ten favourite progressive rock albums of 2003. It's no use to say that a small interview to go into their music seemed almost obliged. Jos Wernars answers to some questions:

Ok Jos, the US story has begun about 29 years ago. It seems incredible you recorded only two albums since 1975.
Yes, there has been quite some water under the bridge. Disappointment is one thing and the spirit to carry on is another. Eventually the fire was still, there it only needed to get some fresh oxigene. When considering we started a new about four years ago, three cd's ("The Ghost of Human Kindness" will be out in november) ain't bad? You are forgetting our LP "A Sorrow In Our Hearts" that came out in 79. So that's 3 out now and the next "The Ghost…" to come is 4.

Please, satisfy my curiosity: what Eagles and Peter Frampton covers did you play at the beginning?
We played a lot in the seventies, from "Lying Eyes" (Eagles) and almost the whole of "Frampton Comes Alive", till "Never Comes The Day" and even our own versions of "I Am A Man" and "Make Me Smile" (Chicago). When we were young we had a single out, but that did not work well.

When did you exactly find progressive rock music and realized you would have played it in the future ?
That started at the early stages. We were there when it all started. Early Moody Blues when they were still good, but soon followed with Yes and Genesis. Also early Gino Vanelli. That kind of music still has it all for me. I think that Prog in its whole complexity is the ultimate musical expression. It is a combination of lyrics and music that says it all for me. Of course there is a lot of other goods things going on, but in my heart prog (or sympho as it was called in the past) has it all. Infact it is a strange thing with prog. If you consider that every semi-modern critic always says it is outdated, they are in fact repeating what was said in the the early seventies. Even than some people had to say if was outdated. Genesis and Yes were Dinosaurs in 74 and 75. Strange, do you ever hear this about Elvis, or soul or Reggae? That has not changed? Also this constant nonsense about living rock and roll? As if you can only make good music if you are on dope and alcohol all the time. I think that is in fact the problem with prog. These guys live normal lives, no fuzz, no frontlines, just musicians who love what they are doing.

Which are the bands you are mostly influenced from ?
Obviously Genesis and Yes, But like I said, early Moodies also, a song as "Never Comes The Day" or the whole piece "To Our Children's Children" is a milestone on its own. Later came Spock's Beard and Flower Kings. Marillion: I sometimes like and sometimes I don't, but I welcome their own specific approach to the whole concept. England ("Garden Shed") who made only one memorable cd I value also very much. These guys were very good. It is a pity that that kind of talent gets lost whilst so many other pieces of nothing get known all over the world. But I guess that's the tragic destiny of prog. You won't get rich making that kind of music. All in all I must say that is maybe for the better because look what has happened to Genesis when they started filling up football-stadions! I saw "The Musical Box" this year, that kind of shows what we are missing now a days.

Ok, let's talk about your official first album "A Sorrow In Our Hearts": I listened to it after "Eamon's Day" and I must honestly say that it's not as good. The recording is quite poor, music is more derivative even if there are some good ideas. Songs like "The Acid Dream" and the title-track are really good tracks ….Which songs from "A Sorrow.." are included in your gig set-list ??
Well I agree with you about the technical part, but I like the songs very much. In fact they deserve a better setting. Maybe someday we re-record it, then it will get the input it deserves! We will play next year at Spirit of Verviers and will include "A Sorrow In Our Hearts" and "Magonia" on the setlist.

On the contrary, "Eamon's Day" is really special for me. All the songs are built on good ideas and played with a refined sense of music. What about the feedback you received from fans and critics ??
Feedback was extremely good. We only got one ' not so good' one from Dutch Progessive Rock Page, but except for that all reviews have been good to extremely good. Infact we have been much better received outside of Holland than inside of Holland. I do not know why, but I guess that is the way things are. For now we have our second batch of Eamon's day out, which is not bad for an independant band like US.

Jos, you wrote all the songs and play bass and acoustic guitar. In most of the songs bass guitar is always in the foreground and acoustic guitar often rules the game. Is it only a coincidence ?? What about the songwriting process ?
No, I don't think it is a coincidence. I think that is because it is a natural aspect of my writing. Further more bass is a very important instrument in prog. Look at Spock's Beard and Flower Kings.

Your favourite bass players ?
Chris Squire should be thanked for what he has done for modern bass-playing. Dave Meros is very good and I also like (who does not??) the Flower Kings guy.

I'm also impressed with the vocal performance of your new singer Stephan Christiaans. Can you tell me more about him ? He's so young ….
Yes, he is good, ain't he? We like him also very much. Young? Well he is his early 30's so that ain't particulary young, I guess we are getting old!

In the last few years I have noticed Dutch progressive scene has been growing more and more: what do you think about it ?
Yes, good things are happening, but I dont think we are getting much contribution from that.It is still a very small scene. It ain't hardly possible to fill a small type gig so we are all struggling. Because we do not have a record company you can cope to the advantage that others have. Our situation is very difficult. We have to do everything (and that is a lot of work!) ourselves, but also get our own funds to pay for it all. We all have daytime jobs and our families, so I can tell you life in a prog band like US ain't easy!

Do you keep in touch with any dutch band ? What's your favourite ?
We are now getting some co-operation with Salmon and Casual Silence to do the Dutch Prog night next year. That's good, I like these bands and as far as I can tell now, I like their attitude.

The future: can you tell me something about the next album ? I mean, title, release date, style …
"The Ghost of Human Kindness" is close to being finished. It will be out in November. We had 6 songs but had to skip one, because we had no space left on the disc. Now it is about 5 songs about close to 70 minutes. I think it is very good, better than Eamon's Day and progressive as it should be. It kind of stresses the time we are living in. Not much love left in this world, I guess. Hate and fundamentalism are basically the headlines now a days. This empty society of modern age is not what I fancy very much. We are living in the age of me, myself and I and that does not bring the best of mankind. If I look at for instance MTV I hardly hear anything worth while and I only see images of a world I dont like. It ain't about music anymore but about images.

Thank you very much for this interview and congratulations for "Eamon's Day". I'm looking forward to listening to the new album.
Thanks for giving this opportunity, I hope I don't sound to somber! Stay well !!

Luca Alberici