'Kayak- more break ups than the Antarctic ice shelf and more comebacks than a homesick boomerang'.
1967-1972 • Pre-Kayak
Kayak’s roots are in the Dutch town of Hilversum, where founding members and neighbourhood friends Ton Scherpenzeel (keyboards, bass guitar) and Pim Koopman (drums, guitars) played together in several bands like Balderdash (1967) and High Tide Formation (1970, pictured above). Guitarist Johan Slager played in HTF’s final line up until the group disbanded in 1971. That same year Ton, Pim and Johan began to record a number of demos (a project called ‘Ten Ride Ticket’) and occasionally played live (as Alta Quies). Around this time both Ton and Pim started studying at the Hilversum Music Academy, where fellow student Max Werner joined forces with Ton and Pim by lending his unique voice to their musical efforts. Ton’s main classical instrument was the double bass, Pim and Max both studied percussion. When bass player Cees van Leeuwen (replacing Frenchman Jean Michel Marion) completed the first line up, the group that was to become Kayak managed to get a recording contract with EMI- after being dismissed by Phonogram who had an initial interest in the band, even recorded some demos with them, but in the end let go when Ton and Pim refused to record other material than their own.
1972-1974 • Launched
Kayak was launched by EMI and manager Frits Hirschland as a new supergroup, although the individual members were hardly 20 years old, had little experience as a live band and basically had not proven anything in the music business other than having an original and stubborn mind of their own. The first two albums, ‘See See the Sun" and ‘Kayak II’ delivered three modest hits (‘Lyrics’, ‘Mammoth’ and ‘Wintertime’), but more importantly made Kayak’s name as a talented young band with a growing progressive following.
1974-1976 • Changes
In 1974 bass player Cees van Leeuwen decided he couldn’t combine his university studies with the hectic tour and recording schedule of the band, and left. He was replaced by Bert Veldkamp. In this lineup the band recorded its third album, ‘Royal Bed Bouncer’, which generated another modest hit single, ‘Chance for a Lifetime’. If the first two albums showed an even balance between the two main writers of the band, Pim and Ton, RBB showed Scherpenzeel at a creative peak. The band kept on touring and by 1976 was an established top act on the Dutch/Belgian music scene. A row between manager Hirschland and EMI lead to the departure of the group from EMI. It turned to Phonogram, the same company that in 1971 had refused to sign the band. With LP number four, ‘The Last Encore’, Pim Koopman found himself solidly back in the writer’s chair with Ton. The first big setback came later that year, when Pim left the band. Bass player Bert Veldkamp also quit, so within two months the band lost its complete rhythm section and one of the group’s main songwriters.
1977-1978 • Starlight Dancer
At the end of 1976 Pim and Bert were replaced by Charles Schouten and Theo de Jong. This line up recorded ‘Starlight Dancer’. The title track, one of the band’s all-time classics, reached number 14 in the Dutch charts, and Kayak seemed to be back. The American release of the same name (a compilation of the Dutch LPs ‘The Last Encore’ and ‘Starlight Dancer’) was even a minor success in the USA, with ‘Want You to Be Mine’ peaking at 55 in the Billboard charts. Kayak was even voted Most Promising Band of the Year by the influentual American music paper Record World. But as time went by, musical differences between the original and new members appeared to be unreconcilable, and within 18 months the band (or what was left of it) again had to find a new bass player and drummer. And not only that...
1978-1981 • Ruthless Queen
What followed was a very chaotic year, in which the band’s break up often seemed near, because in spite of the possibility of an American tour and the long-awaited international breakthrough, lead vocalist Max Werner made it clear he wanted to withdraw as Kayak’s frontman. Werner had always felt like a drummer, and had more or less happened to find himself trapped in the lead singer role because of his unique voice. When the drum chair became vacant, he told the others of his wish to become the band’s new drummer, which meant that Kayak had to start looking for a new lead singer. All plans had to be discarded and the group basically had to start from scratch. Edward Reekers became the new vocalist. With him three ‘newcomers’ joined the band: Peter Scherpenzeel (Ton’s younger brother) signed on as the new bass player, while backing vocalists Irene Linders (Ton’s wife and lyricist for many of his songs from then on) and Katherine Lapthorn were added to give the band a whole new identity. All these changes, and the release of the new album ‘Phantom of the Night’, meant a significant break with the past in more than one way -- for many old fans this band had little to do with the original Kayak. But the ‘new’ group suddenly and unexpectedly reached a bigger audience than ever before. ‘Ruthless Queen’ was Kayak’s first and only really major hit single (number 4 in the Dutch charts). The album even made it to number one, being awarded platinum for over 100,000 copies sold in Holland.
1981-1982 • Periscope Life
The next album, ‘Periscope Life’ (1980), was recorded in Los Angeles. It was similar in style, but lacked the big hit and surprise factor that made its predecessor such a phenomenal success. However, it still outsold the first five albums. With its next album, ‘Merlin’ (1981), Kayak returned to its original progressive and symphonic rock roots, with a suite about the legendary medieval magician on side A. This album, together with ‘Royal Bed Bouncer’, was generally considered to be Kayak’s best work. With the decline of commercial success however, personal and musical struggles within the band surfaced. The desperate financial situation that manager Hirschland had led the band and its members into only made things worse.
While Max Werner celebrated a number one single as solo singer (!) in Germany with ‘Rain In May’, the band finally collapsed under its own weight. Kayak (now without the two female backing singers) still managed to produce one semi-live album, ‘Eyewitness’. This LP contained three new songs, but mostly consisted of recordings that were done ‘live’ in the studio, with only minor repairs and dubs added. The applause was overdubbed, something that became clear when later the CD version of the album was released: Ton Scherpenzeel explained in the liner notes that he had decided to have the album edited and re-released without the clapping and yelling audience, something that had always irritated him so much that he had never been able to listen to ‘Eyewitness’ himself in its original form.
After what was in fact a break up Ton Scherpenzeel tried to make a new start with Kayak, together with Johan Slager, bass player Bert Veldkamp, vocalist John (Hans) Philippo and drummer Roger Wollaert. This line up played a limited number of concerts, even went to Italy for a promotional tv appearance, but it became clear that the financiel problems between Kayak and manager Frits Hirschland were too much of a burden for the group to go on. The band and Hirschland broke up and for various reasons it was decided to drop the name Kayak and continue as Europe. They made one album (also called Europe), but within a year the group desintegrated. All members went their own separate ways.
1982-1998 • Silence
Seventeen years would go by with only one sign of life of the band: in 1997 Kayak reunited for a TV program called ‘Classic Albums’, that concentrated on the album ‘Royal Bed Bouncer’, featuring the lineup that made this record in 1975. Meanwhile, all the original LP albums were re-released on CD, most of them with extra tracks and lost B-sides, some as compilations. Besides EMI and Phonogram, a new and specialized record company called Pseudonym Records took care of the re-release of several LPs.
In the TV program it became clear that Ton, Pim and Max had been busy with demo recordings (of an unnamed ‘project’), but this unfortunately didn’t attract too much interest from the major record companies. It looked like Kayak would never return.
1999-2000 • Close to the Fire
In 1999 Kayak is asked by popular Dutch/Frisian band De Kast (once big fans) to be its guest on a TV show called ‘De Vrienden van Amstel Live’. Kayak, for the first time in 17 years, agree to perform live in front of an audience. Ton Scherpenzeel, Max Werner, Bert Veldkamp and Johan Slager, together with Pim Koopman’s temporary replacement Marc Stoop (Pim, partly living in Ireland, couldn’t make it in time), play this legendary gig in Café de Paap in The Hague in November 1999 together with members of De Kast. This marked the beginning of Kayak’s ‘second’ life. The demos that were slowly gathering dust in Ton’s studio, surfaced again, and drew the attention of a new record label, called ProActs, a project in which De Kast participated. And what no one had dared to hope, finally happens: Kayak (this time with Ton, Pim, Bert, Max and new guitarist Rob Winter) begin working on a new album, ‘Close to The Fire’. Released in May 2000, ‘Close to The Fire’ gets an extremely positive reception, partly because original singer Max Werner had again taken to the microphone, drawing fans from the early years. The old magic, the inspirational fire was back. Kayak also returned to the stage, this time as a six-piece band. Ex-Vandenberg singer Bert Heerink becomes the second lead vocalist, giving Max the opportunity to share the frontman responsibilities with somebody else and expand his percussion ambitions. With Bert, Kayak could also perform the songs that Edward Reekers used to sing, like ‘Ruthless Queen’ and ‘Merlin’, to name but a few.
2000 • Max’ departure
Unfortunately, severe health problems keep Max from maintaining his position as lead singer very long and he is forced to leave the band in the autumn of 2000. Soon after that it becomes clear he had never intended to stay with the band much longer than that first tour and would have quit anyhow. He is not really replaced, because Bert Heerink had already taken over some of his vocal duties, but an extra guitarist/vocalist is added, Rob Vunderink. Rob had played in bands like The Hammer and Diesel- with Pim Koopman.
2001 • Live album
The year 2001 sees the release of two new Kayak albums: ‘Chance for a LIVE Time’ and ‘Night Vision’. ‘Chance for a LIVE Time’ is the first real live album Kayak ever released (’Eyewitness’ was recorded live in the studio, but the audience was added to the tracks later on). The album, recorded during the ’Close to the Fire’-tour 2000, reflects the new energy and inspiration within the band, that proves to be stronger than ever after Max Werner’s sudden departure just before the tour started and Bert Heerink had to take over lead vocal duties. Shortly after the release of ‘Chance for a LIVE Time’ Kayak starts working on their twelfth album called ’Night Vision’, which is released in November. At the same time the band begins working on ideas to rework the ‘Merlin’ suite (from the album of the same name that was originally released in 1981) into a full concept album and a theatre tour that includes a real orchestra, planned for 2003.
2002 • Night Vision Tour
The year 2002 startes off with the successful ‘Night Vision’ tour. After the tour Ton, Pim and Irene concentrate on writing and arranging for the new Merlin ‘rock opera’, which will become the most demanding and most pretentious project Kayak has ever taken on. But not just that. To make it even more demanding, halfway through the year the band is confronted with two dramatic changes. The first major drawback is the split within record company and tour promotor ProActs, which means that Kayak has to look for a new record company to release the new album which is considered to be vital for the future of the band. The second blow comes when shortly before the recordings begins, guitarist Rob Winter announces his departure, as he finds it increasingly difficult to combine his work with the Marco Borsato Band and Kayak. Rob’s successor is found in Joost Vergoossen, who in recent years had played (among others) with the Ilse de Lange Band (with former Kayak bass played Theo de Jong!). Joost joins the group in the autumn of 2002 and can start right away with his musical contribution to the new album. Another remarkable change in the line up takes place: for the album and upcoming tour, that was based on the story of Merlin, and that was going to be presented in the form of a rock opera, Kayak needed another singer to fulfill the role of the sorceress Morgan (Merlin’s adversary). Leadsinger Bert Heerink already played the part of Merlin, while second vocalist/guitarist Rob Vunderink was reinvented as Mordred, the illegitimate son of Morgan and her halfbrother, King Arthur. The quest for a female vocalist that could perform that role ends successfully when Cindy Oudshoorn accepts the offer. Cindy had not only been a solo singer with a few singles (in Dutch) on her name, but had also worked as a session vocalist, live and in the studio, for acts like K-Otic and Ruth Jacott. Once more, the cast for Kayak is complete. And the show can go on - which it does. The second half of 2002 Kayak concentrates on recording their magnum opus ‘Merlin - Bard of The Unseen’.
2003 • Merlin - Bard of the Unseen
A new singer, Monique van der Ster, starts ‘doubling’ Cindy’s role as Morgan LeFay in ‘Merlin - Bard of the Unseen’ . Monique has appeared with the band at regular gigs since then, whenever possible.
The rock opera ‘Merlin - Bard of the Unseen’ takes Kayak to the Dutch theatres and the tour is very successful. In addition to the already quite large cast the show also includes three dancers that help visualizing the legends of the early medieval magician and king Arthur. The highlight of 2003 is without doubt the rendition of ‘Merlin’ at the Tromp Festival in the Dutch dunes near Ter Heijde aan Zee: the rock opera is performed with a full scale symphony orchestra, in open air for an enthousiastic audience of 7000. The participation of vocalists Bobby Kimball (Toto) and Petra Berger, in their roles of Lancelot and Guinevere, makes this concert even more special.
2004-2005 • Nostradamus – The Fate of Man
2004 starts with a short reprise of ‘Merlin’, which had been released on DVD by then, but writing and preparing the theatrical sequence called ‘Nostradamus- The Fate of Man’ takes up most of the year. ‘Nostradamus’ is meant to hit the stage in March 2005. Because of the fact that the cast of Kayak’s second rock opera is even more elaborate than Merlin’s, more vocalists have to be found. Edward Reekers had already been replacing both Bert and Rob when they were unable to perform in Merlin, and is now asked for a remarkable role: not only does he sing, but he is the narrator of the story as well. Former Kast-singer Syb van der Ploeg also joins the project.
Shortly before the CD recordings begin, bass player Bert Veldkamp leaves Kayak as the combination of his other work with the band is too demanding. Since looking for a new bass player to play during the recordings takes too much time, Ton Scherpenzeel (being a bass player himself) decides to play the bass parts on the new double-CD.
In 2005 Jan van Olffen becomes Kayak’s new bass player. Besides Ton, Pim, Bert, Rob, Joost, Cindy, Monique, Edward, Jan and Syb there are another three dancers/singers that join the tour: Marc Dollevoet, Marjolein Teepen en Marloes van Woggelum, which makes the total cast of ‘Nostradamus - The Fate of Man’ no less than 13 people. The new rock opera appears to be a most daring and ambitious effort by Kayak that should, once and for all, establish their name in the theatre. During the show not even a single older song is played: ‘Nostradamus’, with its length of almost two hours, takes up the complete night. The 32 concerts tour is, again, successful, but because of high production costs it appears to be unfeasible for the band to go for a reprisal in 2006.
Then another plan emerges to get Kayak going in the new year. Singer Bert Heerink decides he does not want to wait for these developments: in december 2005 he announces his departure from the band, who had to learn the news from his website.
2006 • KAYAKoustic
Singer Bert Heerink’s unexpected departure has no serious consequences because Edward Reekers returns to the band after the succesful collaboration on ‘Nostradamus’, and Cindy Oudshoorn has become a full-fledged Kayak member.
There is no new album release this year. After the sudden demise of Nostradamus – despite the quite successful tour, the financial risk of a continuation of the project was too high – the band decide to opt for a small tour.
In the fall of 2006 there is the start of the KAYAKoustic Tour, which runs until the beginning of 2007. The band's original intent, an almost acoustical show, is watered down because of the late announcement: there are not enough theatre bookings to do the tour as planned, so a number of clubs has to be added to do the tour.
Eventually, a semi-acoustical approach is adopted, in which a great number of old songs that have rarely been played live before, like ‘Daughter or Son’ or ‘What’s in a Name’, were transformed by completely new arrangements.
In the theatre shows the strong vocal line up is emphasized: while Ton Scherpenzeel plays the grand piano, the guitarists stick to their acoustical instruments, Pim to his brushes and hotrods, and Jan van Olffen excels on double bass. Some of the shows of the tour have been recorded for a CD that is meant to be released in 2007.
2007-2008 • Coming Up For Air
A few months after the last KAYAKoustic concert the live album from that tour is released in May 2007. Just like the tour this release is on a small scale: the CD can only be ordered directly through Kayak’s internet web shop. The rest of the year there are no more gigs, as the band concentrates on writing and recording a new studio album, planned for an early 2008 release: ‘Coming Up For Air’, that will also once again take the group to the theatres and clubs of Holland. No rock opera this time, like the last two albums ‘Merlin’ and ‘Nostradamus’, but a ‘regular’ CD with fifteen songs without any conceptual connection.
The tour is also marked by the 35th anniversary of Kayak. In February 1973 ‘Lyrics’, the bands first single, was released. In the autumn of 2008 a live DVD is recorded in Paradiso , and subsequently ‘The Anniversary Box’, containing the Paradiso concert as well as a collection of fan chosen tracks is released.
2009 • Letters From Utopia
In 2009 Kayak releases a new album, a 2CD no less with 19 new songs, entitled ‘Letters From Utopia’. The line up had remained unchanged since 2005, the longest period in Kayak history. At the release of the album, shortly before the beginning of the tour, Kayak announces that it might just be their last tour. The band does not give a reason for this decision, but it is apparent that it is becoming increasingly difficult to set up a tour under professional conditions.
Having announced this, Kayak also made it clear that the band did not have the intention to quit the Dutch rock scene altogether though: they promised to keep on looking for other ways to continue.
On November 23rd disaster strikes: drummer Pim Koopman dies of a heart attack in the middle of the tour. The rest of the tour is, of course, cancelled. Kayak anncounces that the decision about continueing the band without Pim, will be taken when the time is right.
In 2010 the Pim Koopman Tribute concert takes place in the Amsterdam Paradiso hall, exactly (save one day) a year after Pim’s passing. Kayak plays a special set with guest artists or band members that Pim had worked with in the past as a producer and songwriter, like Pussycat, Diesel, The President, Jose, and Caren Maywood. Pim’s place as a drummer that night is taken by Hans Eijkenaar. A few weeks after the concert Kayak announces their intent to continue as a band with Hans as Pim’s successor on drums. A new album is planned for 2011.
2011 • Anywhere But Here
In 2011 the Tribute Concert DVD of the Paradiso concert in honour of Pim is released. The band works on a new album, that will be entitled ‘Anywhere But Here’ and is- no surprise- dedicated to Pim Koopman. Hans not only takes Pim’s place behind the drumkit, but also mixes the album. In September the album is released, and from October to December a re-energized Kayak embarks on a club tour.
Meanwhile, also having left their former label and bookings agency the year before, Kayak regain the rights to most of their releases since 1981 and set up their own webshop.
2012 - 2013 • 40 years Kayak, a 'Journey Through Time'
To celebrate their 40th anniversary Kayak embarks on a club tour called 'Journey Through Time'. Due to his many other musical commitments, Hans Eijkenaar is not available for the whole tour. During these concerts he is replaced by Sjoerd Rutten. The band releases a special maxi-single with a previously unreleased track (Symmetry, dating back from 1971!) and a new song 'Cleopatra- The Crown of Isis.' Plans are anounced for a new, ambitious rock opera about the life of the legendary Egyptian queen Cleopatra.
2014 - 2015 Cleopatra- The Crown of Isis
After a period of over two years preparing and recording the new rock opera is finally released. The double album (the band's third within ten years time!) is financed partly by a crowdfunding campaign. Kayak allows fans to participate and invest in the new production, and in return band members are involved in special actions, like a unique semi-acoustic concert for an audience of 50, the possibility to get one's name in the liner notes of the album booklet, or getting the album delivered at home by Ton and Irene. The CD features several guest vocalists: Martin van der Starre, Alexander van Breemen, Marjolein Teepen (who had been part of the Nostradamus-cast in 2005) and Greek singer Tatiana Manolidou.
To everyone's suprise singers Cindy Oudshoorn and Edward Reekers announce that they will leave Kayak after the last gig in 2014. The news comes only a few weeks before the release and upcoming club tour. Though their decision will obviously have quite an impact on the band's future, Ton Scherpenzeel makes it clear that it does not mean Kayak will call it a day as well, but mentions no concrete plans to present a new line up any time soon.
In regards to developing 'Cleopatra- The Crown of Isis' as a spectacle to theaters or special events in the new year it will not make a big difference: for Cindy and Edward's respective roles as Cleopatra and The Sicilian replacements will have to be found.
In March 2015 Kayak (Ton Scherpenzeel, Rob Vunderink, Joost Vergoossen, Jan van Olffen and Sjoerd Rutten, replacing Hans Eijkenaar) & Guests (with Marjolein Teepen and Rolf Koster replacing Cindy and Edward) perform the rock opera at a special outside event on the Dutch island of Texel for a crowd of 1500 people that endure the cold and windy weather to watch and listen to this unique show. The band and guests are joined by a regional choir and two dancers, and the story itself is enhanced by video images that were especially made for the show.
No further announcements have been made yet about the band's future plans.
Cees van Leeuwen
Theo de Jong
Jan van Olffen
Kayak & Friends (Marjolein Teepen, Rolf Koster, Alexander van Breemen and Martin v.d. Starre) perform 'Cleopatra- The Crown of Isis' live on the Dutch isle of Texel, March 2015.
2016 - announcement
In September 2016 Ton Scherpenzeel announces, that he is writing and preparing a new Kayak album, scheduled for 2017. Being the band's 17th studio effort, the album's working title is '17'. No more details are given, other than that auditions for a new vocalist(s) are underway and that things are looking positive.
2017 - preparations
The recordings of 'Seventeen' (as the new album has now officially been titled) are advancing well, and in March Ton Scherpenzeel introduces two new band members. Their names are singer Bart Schwertmann and guitarist Marcel Singor.
It appears that no one of the latest line up will return- except for Ton, of course. This means the most radical transformation in Kayak's long history, quite a remarkable feat after so many years. Other musician's names will be announced when the live line up is confirmed.
More news emerges: Kayak finds a new management (Glassville Music) and the band signs a deal with record company Inside Out, a big player on the progrock-field. A small triumph indeed, as Kayak hasn't had the support of an official label for many years. It means that the release- originally intended for 2017- will have to be postponed to early 2018.
Two more names complete Kayak's live line up, that is expected to embark on a tour in 2018. They are bassplayer Kristoffer Gildenlöw, from Swedish origin, and drummer Collin Leijenaar. Kris and Collin had already played together once before in Neal Morse's band.
2018 - Seventeen
The new album is released on January 12th 2018, and gets raving reviews from Holland and, especially, abroad. Not only the album's musical quality is mentioned, but the band also get credits because of their incredible resilience. An English critic writes: 'Kayak- more break ups than the Antarctic ice shelf and more comebacks than a homesick boomerang'.
The CD enters the Dutch album charts at number 6, the highest position of a Kayak record since 1980! The vinyl version of Seventeen even lands at the number ONE spot of the Vinyl-top-33. Kayak is back- with a vengeance.
For the first time in the band's history Kayak travel to Scandinavie to play succesful concerts in Norway and Sweden.
By the end of November Kayak discontinues the collobaration with drummer Collin Leijenaar. He is being replaced by his predecessor Hans Eijkenaar, who had already played in the band from 2010 till 2013.
2019 - Heart Attack
In October, as the band are preparing to embark on a two week European tour with Swedish progband The Flower Kings, Ton Scherpenzeel suffers a heart attack. The tour (that was scheduled for December) is cancelled, as well as other planned shows in the early summer (Night of the Prog/Loreley Festival, for instance).
The recordings for the follow up to 'Seventeen' are delayed until further notice. Once again the future of the band seems uncertain.
f.l.t.r. Collin Leijenaar, Bart Schwertmann, Ton Scherpenzeel, Marcel Singor, Kristoffer Gildenlöw