Q&A with Dutch musician/painter Nicko Christiansen, the Yin Yang blues, all different emotions and rhythms

"Life is the meaning of life, we can meditate but we have to eat and shit sometimes, so keep it simple."

Nicko Christiansen: Yin- Yang Blues

Nicko Christiansen was born in 1950 in the Hague at the seaside of West Holland. He started to accompany himself on the guitar, mainly songs of Little Richard, Chuck Berry and Bill Haley when he was eleven. In 1965 he met his music partner and friend John Lagrand the harmonica player and they formed the blues duo Indiscrimination. Afterwards, singer songwriter Leo Unger introduced them to the jazz and blues scene of Holland and a year later (1966) they made their first single record, accompanied by the most famous band of the Hague then, the Q65. Then John and Nicko created the Band Livin Blues, together with Ted Oberg, also with Cesar Zuiderwijk (Earring), Henk Smitskamp (Shocking Blue, The Motions), followed by Ruud van Buuren (Group 1850, Long Tall Ernie) and Johnny Lejeune. Three hitrecords and 5 albums were released with the help of producer Jaap Eggermont (1970) followed by tours through Germany, England, Switzerland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Italy until 1975, when the band split up.

(Nicko Christiansen / Photo by Jorge Amaral Ferreira)

Highlights were the Dutch tour with Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac, the Jazz and Rock festival in Palermo, with names like Ella Fitzgerald, Colosseum and Deep Purple. When this band split up in 1975, it was directly succeeded by a second Livin' Blues where Nicko was a singer and sax player in all combinations of the band. Later highlights were the Music and Harmony event in the Ahoy where they jammed with Steve Lukathor (Toto) and Ad Van Den Berg. And after the millennium change, the band toured from Moscow to Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic & Slovakia to Luxembourg, Spain and the Jakarta Blues festival in Indonesia with the help of manager Ruud Jansen. Nickos’ Band changed the name of the long-standing band Livin’ Blues Xperience to Livin’ Blues ’22, as the band composition has largely changed in 2022. A new album released at the end of 2022 on vinyl, called: Back on Track.

Interview by Michael Limnios         Nicko Christiansen, 2014 interview @ blues.gr

How has the Blues and Rock Counterculture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

The blues was the only kind of music I wanted to learn to play and sing. all through my life I played many styles of music but always with a blues feel.

How do you think that you have grown as an artist since you first started making music? What has remained the same about your music-making process?

When you go on playing and rehearsing then you have to grow, but now growing old I look back on a very exciting life on a sometimes-hard road. see my book, (mijn vakantie op aarde) it's in Dutch but it’s worth learning the language, double Dutch.

Why was the Blues never a part of the pop/popular music? What's the balance in music between technique and soul?

Well, some of the famous pop singers used a lot of blues riffs and scales and lyrics like Joe Cocker, Beth Heart, ZZ Top, Ray Charles, the rolling stones, the animals, so the blues is more famous worldwide then we believe it is… I forget to mention JJ Cale, Eric Clapton, Tina Turner, Santana, Stevie Wonder, Louis Armstrong, the Neville Brothers, Pointer Sisters, Little Richard, Fats Domino, Chuck Berry; all those musicians had a blues feel and blues scales in their songs.

"For me painting is meditating and also having fun at the same time. in a life of rock n roll we need a lot of rest and emptiness. there is no such thing as a key to a well lived life, we have to learn our own style of living. Be free and love what you do; Don't let nobody be messin' up your mind." (Nicko Christiansen was born in 1950 in the Hague at the seaside of West Holland. He started to accompany himself on the guitar, mainly songs of Little Richard, Chuck Berry and Bill Haley when he was eleven. In 1965 he met his music partner and friend John Lagrand the harmonica player and they formed the blues duo Indiscrimination / Photo by Jorge Amaral Ferreira)

How do you describe your sound and songbook? Where does your creative drive come from?

I call my style the Yin Yang blues because it’s got all different emotions and rhythms, that’s also my drive.

How did you hook up with Livin' Blues? Why do you think that Livin' Blues music continues to generate such a devoted following?

Livin’ Blues was raised in 1967 and still going strong because of the musicians and the 2 lady's we now have called the Bluezettes.

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in the music paths?

Most important is to keep it simple and keep exercising your skills and maybe more important to stay fit enough to do it.

What do you miss most nowadays from the past? How has the music changed over the years? What are your hopes and fears for the future?

The nice clubs and idealistic companies. Money is making robot people, very bad for the whole planet and life on it. The system is wrong but to find out it is too late. Times will change, there is no other way. I really hope for health and strength for me and all the people, love respect harmony has got more power than the opposites.

John Coltrane said "My music is the spiritual expression of what I am...". How do you understand the spirit, music, and the meaning of life?

Life is the meaning of life, we can meditate but we have to eat and shit sometimes, so keep it simple.

"Well, some of the famous pop singers used a lot of blues riffs and scales and lyrics like Joe Cocker, Beth Heart, ZZ Top, Ray Charles, the rolling stones, the animals, so the blues is more famous worldwide then we believe it is… I forget to mention JJ Cale, Eric Clapton, Tina Turner, Santana, Stevie Wonder, Louis Armstrong, the Neville Brothers, Pointer Sisters, Little Richard, Fats Domino, Chuck Berry; all those musicians had a blues feel and blues scales in their songs." (Nickos’ Band changed the name of the long-standing band Livin’ Blues Xperience to Livin’ Blues ’22, as the band composition has largely changed in 2022. A new album released at the end of 2022 on vinyl, called: Back on Track. Nicko Christiansen on stage / Photo by Jorge Amaral Ferreira)

What do you love most about the act of artwork/painting? What do you think is key to a life well lived?

For me painting is meditating and also having fun at the same time. in a life of rock n roll we need a lot of rest and emptiness. there is no such thing as a key to a well lived life, we have to learn our own style of living.

Be free and love what you do

Don't let nobody be messin' up your mind.

Nicko Christiansen / Livin' Blues 22 - Home

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