Sometimes the best music comes from the most unexpected places. A close friend of mine introduced me to The Good Hand and I was immediately blown away by the band’s musical prowess and versatility. I had the pleasure of talking with Arjan Hoekstra, the band’s singer and guitarist. We discussed The Good Hand’s latest album “Atman“, the current retro/stoner rock trend and how to make ends meet as a musician…
Hi there, can you start by shedding some light on The Good Hand’s history and origins?
The Good Hand officially started about five years ago, but we are making music together for ages. My first band was with Ingmar, our drummer and shortly after I was also playing in a band with Dennis our bass player. We have lived together several times and been through a lot. We’re almost like family.
I have this solo project called Mirna’s Fling. I asked Ingmar and Dennis to accompany me when playing live. This worked out really well and we kept playing and developing a band sound. That’s why we decided to start a band apart from Mirna’s Fling. That’s how The Good Hand was born. The Good Hand and Mirna’s Fling now exist simultaneously.
Recently you guys played a blazing set during the “Atman” release party at a small cafe in Zwolle, the Netherlands. How was the whole experience for you?
It was amazing! We worked towards it for such a long time. It was quite a struggle to get everything finished in time. We really underestimated the amount of work it was, especially all the extra’s for the special edition. The CD arrived only three days before the release and we had to pick up the vinyl’s ourselves the day before the release. A nerve-wracking deadline…
Because of all the work, the excitement and the great amount of people showing up, we kind of exploded during the release.
“Atman” covers a wide plethora of different styles. How do you guys manage to make it all stick together?
Well, we don’t. As long as we stay true to ourselves it will always sound like The Good Hand. We don’t limit ourselves in any way. We don’t need to play in a certain style, or try to have any control on it. We let the creativity flow and work from passion. And then we’ll just see what we come up with. If we are enthusiastic enough about it then it’s a Good Hand song. Maybe it sticks together because of the lyrics. It is almost like a concept album.
Can you take us through the writing and recording sessions of “Atman”? What were you guys aiming for?
The aim was to make a positive album with the same emotional intention as the more dark and negative music we used to make. This was quite a challenge. In the end we just stopped thinking and played and improvised a lot. We read a lot of books on spirituality, philosophy and got inspired by the ‘big’ questions of life. “Atman” arose from this very naturally. The basics of some songs I wrote at home, but most we wrote together. It was as if the music was writing itself, as if we were some kind of receivers picking up inspiration. Since we didn’t have enough money to get into the studio we already played the songs live for quite a while. This way we were able to play the songs better and better and kept developing them. When we got into the studio we were very well prepared and recorded the basics live in mostly one or two takes. We chose for recording analog again except for some overdubs we recorded ourselves at home.
A lot of care and attention went into the packaging on both the CD and LP version of “Atman”. Why is this so important for you guys?
The hole has to be more than the sum of its parts. It all had to fit together and fall into place. We think this worked out really well! The music, the artwork and the lyrics are all art forms that amplified each other. It represents our vision as a band, who we are and what we stand for. In these times of crisis we think music should have an important role. Maybe it’s time for a spiritual revolution!
Retro/stoner/prog is really popular at the moment. How does this affect a band like The Good Hand and has produced anything tangible?
We honestly don’t know how or if this affects us. Here in the Netherlands the music industry still doesn’t seem to now we exist. We do sell quite a lot of records all over the world. The first pressing of “Atman” is already quite close to selling out. The popularity of these styles might be partly responsible for that. It doesn’t affect us or the music we make. We have not chosen our musical direction, it’s just who we are.
You were also involved with the recording of the “Habitat” album by Dutch folk/prog outfit Alvenrad. How was it for you to do something totally different?
Mark and Jasper of Alvenrad are good friends of mine. It was great to be able to be a part of their project! I played the bass guitar and did some vocals. It’s very different from my main bands, but still it felt natural and really much fun to do. I really like projects like this. It gets you out of your comfort zone and works inspiring.
The Good Hand is signed a relatively small label. Would you guys be up for an adventure with a bigger label, also if that means long bouts of touring and sacrificing a lot of things?
Of course! We’re in for it all the way! Still we have become good friends with our label so it would be nice to keep them involved in some way. We’re not looking into the future that much. We enjoy the present moment and we’ll see what the future brings. So far so good!
The music industry is pretty much in dire straits now. How does this affect the way you conduct business with the band and how do you guys make ends meet?
Well, we are broke and in debt. We have to sell out to be able to make a third record. The costs of making a 180 grams double LP with some extras are very high. Making a record the old fashioned way in a studio is also expensive. If we were in it for the money we would be quite depressed probably. It’s all about doing what you love in the end. Apart from the band we have jobs to make ends meet. We have a nice deal with our label and it doesn’t seem like business at all.
Finally, what touring plans do you have in support of the new album?
We have quite some gigs, but of course we would like to have more! There aren’t any tours planned yet. Our support is spread out widely across the world. This makes it hard to get gigs. Apart from that we have a small label with little contacts and network. So spread the word please!