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Music is a form of therapy to me, a way of expressing and dealing with my joys and sorrows. Life overwhelms me, and writing allows me to deal with everything that shocks me.”
Those are Katja ten Dam-Flik’s words, frontwoman, songwriter, pianist, and singer of the new Dutch band Kay. As the initiator and leader of the band, she runs a tight ship, albeit without putting a block on the creativity of her highly talented fellow band members: Mark Milan (4Shure, FraFra Sound) on keyboards, Gerold Olieberg (Björk) on bass, Yoran Vroom (Waylon, Wicked Jazz Sounds) on drums, and Jerry Tel (La Fiesta) on guitar. This fall, the band released their debut album It’s O-Kay, a heady mix of pop, rock, soul, and gospel music.
Katja ten Dam studied jazz piano at the Amsterdam School of Arts. She debuted in the 1990s with a solo album entitled Kacha’s World, a jazzy P-Funk album for which she managed to get funk legend Bootsy Collins to put in a guest contribution. She recorded the album amidst the hustle and bustle of New York City, but when her US management went bankrupt, she returned to her native Holland to fully dedicate herself to raising her daughter. Although every inch of her is a musician, she ventured into academics to study psychology, and eventually set up a non-profit organisation called CosmoQueen, a foundation aimed at helping underprivileged women find well-paid work.
But it proved impossible for her to suppress the urge to make music, which eventually led to quitting her – very successful – foundation to start writing new songs. Encouraged by George Laks, Lenny Kravitz’ keyboard player and an old friend from Katja’s New York City days, she decided to take up music again and record another album. “I ran into George in the South of France when he had a gig there with Lenny Kravitz. He stayed at my place for a few days, and we did some jamming. I played some of my music to him, and he was so enthusiastic about it that he advised me to keep making music. I thought to myself ‘I’d be mad not to’.” Laks liked her songs so much that he spontaneously decided to collaborate on her album: he plays the organ and the Moog on It’s O-Kay.
Katja spent the next few months writing new songs with relentless dedication, carefully putting a new band together, arranging a studio, and got a good producer on board: Clifford Goilo. He made sure Kay’s authentic sound, with a touch of bluesy gospel and funky rock, would appeal to a large audience. “It has turned into a real pop record, perhaps somewhat more polished than I am myself. Clifford managed to take the edge off my experimental ideas. The album sounds straight and solid, while I am more ethereal, a bit weirder. The album had to be piano-based, as that is my defining feature. I am in no way attached to a certain style. The way I play the piano is the result of years of listening to a wide range of different artists, such as Dr. John, Ray Charles and Chi Coltrane. But I’m also a Tori Amos fan. And I love choirs! You can hear that in my music.”
Kay draws its musical inspiration from an array of different artists, ranging from Sly Stone and Joe Cocker, to Lamb, Michael Jackson, Lou Reed and Nirvana. But Katja’s main source of inspiration is Jimi Hendrix. “Jimi is my king! That man is music, there’s nothing between him and his music. Whenever he plays, it is so real! He inspires me as a person to strive to become one with my music, very pure. Music is, after all, the most spiritual art form, as you create it from the depth of your purest feelings.”
Like its many influences, It’s O-Kay is a kaleidoscope of genres and styles. Katja wrote everything herself: music, lyrics, arrangements, and even the backing vocals. “The music just comes to you, often from where you least expect it. It is basically a spiritual process. Sometimes you’re led by a groove, or by a certain melody or sequence of chords.” In her lyrics, it is mainly love – both for others and yourself – that is an important subject. As are people’s motives. “I studied psychology because I’m intrigued by what drives people. Who are you? Who would you have liked to be? Those are the questions I ask when I look at people. It’s almost a kind of clairvoyance; I always manage to get through to people’s core. And that’s what I write about.”
Kay not only wants it all on a musical and lyrical level, she also had specific wishes for the accompanying artwork. She wanted someone who could capture her contradictions in one image: the tomboy on killer heels, the posh blonde leading lady of a pop rock band made up of black members, the introspective recluse versus the social animal. Through the website of the Dutch Photo Academy, she got to know the work of Silver Camera winner Linelle Deunk, which was exactly what she was looking for. “I chose her for the intriguing aspect of her portraits. I wanted the pictures to show who I am, even though that is difficult due to the many sides to my personality. I’m exuberant and serious at the same time, manically cheerful, yet not very optimistic by nature. It all turned out very natural.”
Despite the fact that Katja is Kay’s frontwoman, and takes centre stage, she stresses that Kay is a true band. “It is important to me to be able to build a sound together, and develop that together. I also feel stronger and safer being part of a band; it’s that feeling of being able to rely on your fellow band members.”
It’s O-Kay was released in October 2011 by Kay Music B.V.
For press packs and to request a review copy of the album, or photos and interviews, please contact:
Professional Independent Music Promotion – firstname.lastname@example.org or call +31 (0)6 21992679.