Dan Koek

All posts tagged Dan Koek

As you know, here on thoughtsofjustafan I like to bring you new music from time to time and this is one of those times!  This week, I featured an interview with former Jean Valjean Dan Koek as part of the Club 24601 series and as he’s a lovely bloke he kindly gave me a free track to share with my lovely readers (that’s you, in case you’re wondering!) so click here to get it before the offer goes away.

In order to bring you this free track I partnered with Angry Baby who alongside Dan, featured an up and coming artist on her blog this week.  I listened to his music and I liked it a lot so here is Angry Baby’s review of Robb Murphy:

A couple of weeks ago I found a message in my Angry Baby twitter account from Robb Murphy, inviting me to listen to his music. I clicked the link without any great expectations for what I would hear, but within a few seconds I was captivated by his sound. My little sister, who is not known for being particularly engaged with music, even began to fairy dance around the room, so I knew that this was an artist that I needed to hear more from and share with you.

I reached out to Robb, who told me a bit about his music and his influences.

Although Robb’s music has a traditional feel and rhythm to it that must come from his Irish heritage, he told me that he takes inspiration from “normal day to day life, the ups the downs we all go though, and always try to have a positive element in them”.

He went on to explain that he is influenced by nature and his surroundings, both his home in Northern Ireland and elsewhere. He was lucky enough to write much of his current album in a small town in Tuscany, which provides an opportunity to explore the contrast to those influences from album to album. Since Robb is an artist whose music is worth spending time with, I am looking forward to spotting where Ireland meets Italy in his music.

Here is a video of Robb’s new single Headstrong for you to listen to. Robb explained that Headstrong is taken from his current album, Sleep Tonight and describes the video:

“The video is a glimpse into my crazy head; people dressed in animal costumes who stage a break out from a zoo and are chased around by the zoo keeper getting up to mischief along the way.” Now that has to be worth taking a look at!

The song Headstrong is about keeping your focus, not getting distracted and sticking to your goals, so take a listen, and maybe try out your own fairy dance!

Robb’s musical influences are varied. He explained that “lyrics draw me in mostly, even more so if with an emotive melody. And I love a good upbeat pop song too. Bands like U2, REM, Del Ametri, Bon Iver, Counting Crows, and singer songwriters like Paddy Casey, Damien Rice, Ben Howard and Ryan Adams. I also love 60s and Motown and I am a vinyl collector!”

The reference to a preference for vinyl makes even more sense when you realise that Robb has a background as a producer and engineer, which may also explain the beautiful, melodic arrangements and attention to detail that shine through in his recordings.

Robb is currently touring in the Netherlands and returns to Northern Ireland for two scheduled performances early in November. I’ll certainly be keeping a look out for any more dates across the UK as he is an artist that I would love to hear ‘live’. I’ll keep you posted if I hear from him!

Finally, here is Robb’s advice for anyone who is just starting out with music:

Love what you do, create what you are proud of, don’t get too influenced by other current music, and write / play as much as you can. If your music happens to catch a few ears along the way that is great, but for me it is secondary. Music is a good way to express creativity and to meet like minded people so just keep at it and rewards will come!

If you like Robb’s music, Angry Baby has a FREE track available so don’t forget to click here to go through and claim your free track.  It’s fab!

Thank you to Flo at Angry Baby for allowing me to re-blog and share Robb’s music.

Les Mis has passed it’s 30th anniversary date and we are continuing to celebrate Club 24601 with our series of interviews with former Jean Valjeans.  This week, it’s the turn of Australian Dan Koek who played the role in 2013-2014.

Dan first heard about the possibility of playing JVJ in early 2013 when he was back in Australia getting ready to reprise his South Pacific role in Melbourne and Sydney.  After an initial meet and greet audition, he then went through a total of nine auditions before he finally landed the role.  However, he first served his JVJ apprenticeship as he calls it, starting in the ensemble for twelve weeks before the creative team were sure he would be ok in the role.  Dan says that there were “a lot of notes after each performance” but after the first month or so he relaxed into the role more and that he just had to “make my own decisions about how to play the role”.  Fans have their favourite JVJ but Dan found he couldn’t think about that although he was sometimes conscious of following on from other stars.

In common with all the other JVJ actors I spoke to, Dan said that the best thing about the role was the “sheer exhilaration of singing that amazing score everyday.  I never tired of it.”  However, also in common with the other actors, the amazing score was also the worst thing about the role.  Dan comments “the pressure is always to be amazing, especially if you’re tired…it can start to eat away at you”.

When I started this series of interviews I wanted to know how similar the experiences of being JVJ would be, in particular, would they all choose the same song as their favourite?  Apart from Bring Him Home, of course, named as the “pressure song” by Dan, the most popular favourite song was the soliloquy.  In Dan’s case he chose it as it was “very satisfying from both an acting and singing point of view”.  On one occasion, however, the soliloquy was definitely not a good moment; in his first couple of weeks as JVJ, Dan was pretending to eat the bread before the soliloquy when a crumb shot up his nose and lodged in the back of his throat.  To his horror, the crumb stayed there and audience members may have been impressed by the emotion apparently shown by the tears streaming down his face when in fact, it was just that piece of bread!

In terms of favourite songs by other characters, Dan chose Eponine’s On My Own, mainly because of the incredible voice of his Eponine, Carrie Hope Fletcher. That is also my favourite song of the show, and Eponine is my favourite character too.

Earlier this year, Dan released his second album, High, after leaving the show last year.  He would love to go back at some time in the future, Cameron Mackintosh said he “looked forward to bring him home” but left in order to further his recording career.  As mentioned above, JVJ is very demanding, takes all the actor’s energy and it was also Dan’s fifth year of being in a long running musical, so time for a change.

Another reason for the change was the chance to make himself more employable and so the album, High (click here to buy) is what Dan terms popera, pop with a classical twist as opposed to “someone like Alfie Boe who does more classical with a pop twist”.  The tracks work well together, with highlights being Remember Me (duet with Carrie Hope Fletcher) and Always and Forever.  Of course, being a former JVJ, Bring Him Home features on the album – which is a duet with Jonathan Ansell.  Now, on top of being a fabulous singer Dan is also a lovely bloke who has given me a free copy of Bring Him Home to share with thoughtsofjustafan!  To share this with you, I’m partnering with the Angry Baby blog, so to add this free copy of Dan’s Bring Him Home just click here.  This iffer won’t be around forever, so do it now!

In the meantime, here is a video trailer for High:

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don’t forget to get your free download!

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xx

The time has come, the day is here and Les Miserables is shortly to celebrate its 30th anniversary.  This also means thirty years of Jean Valjean and a considerable number of actors who have portrayed one of the most challenging roles in modern musical theatre.  Some have played the role for a short time, some played the role for a number of years and I spoke to some of the more notable names (mainly in the London production) over the past few months to get a feel for what it’s like to play such an iconic role.

In no particular order, thank you to Alfie Boe, Peter Lockyer (the current London JVJ gave me the title to this piece: Club 24601, a very exclusive club), Geronimo Rauch, John Owen-Jones, Simon Gleeson (currently in the Australian production and to lead the Manila show in 2016), Hans Peter Janssen, Peter Karrie, Dave Willetts and Dan Koek for being so generous with their time.    The role is famously challenging in all sorts of ways and something I was interested in was how the actors changed their interpretation of the role as their run got longer or in some cases, when they returned at a later date.  For John Owen-Jones, being the youngest ever JVJ at 26 meant that the emotional challenges of the role took on new meaning when he returned a few years later.  He says “I had a more rounded outlook on life and more life experience to draw on when I was older. I had two children in the intervening years and suffered some loss in my family and had grown up a lot. I therefore was naturally able to give the character more depth and I like to think my approach to interpreting the role was more mature than when I was 26”.  Hans Peter Janssen, who played the role in London from 2000 – 2003 agrees with John: “I matured in my portrayal…especially in my understanding of JVJ as an older man”.  In contrast, Geronimo Rauch who had previously played the role in Spain said the biggest difference for him in returning to the role was the language; a phone audition with Cameron Mackintosh to see if his English was good enough obviously did the trick as he then got the London job.

This piece has been some time in the works and when I interviewed Alfie, he had yet to start on Broadway.  As we know by now, Alfie Boe as Jean Valjean in New York has been a runaway success but Alfie’s focus back in July was on the production as whole.  He explained that “the main difference is that the production is completely different, it’s not the same show I performed in the West End.  Although the music is the same, the structure of the show, the choreography of it is different.  I’m so excited to embrace the new direction of the role”.  Alfie also mentioned that “although I’m a little more known than I was back then, I’m not focused on that.  I’m just focused on doing the job, doing it properly, performing each show I’m in to the highest standard”.  Judging from the reviews so far, Alfie, you’re certainly doing that!

Peter Lockyer said that JVJ is the “best role in musical theatre” as it “goes through so much of life; everything is there on stage” and again, this is reflected in the experiences of the other actors.  When asked about the best thing about playing JVJ, every single interviewee cited the emotional, vocal and physical challenge to do the part justice.  Simon Gleeson mentioned “sharing the scope of the the story with an audience” and Peter Karrie (1986 for three years) said that he found the role “very satisfying as an actor and a singer”, something that was repeated by all the interviewees.  Another common link is the music – all the actors mentioned the joy and privilege of being able to sing such an amazing score night after night.  Of course, that incredible score can also be one of the downsides to the role; John Owen-Jones compared it to “climbing a mountain if you’re not 100%” and Dan Koek (2013-2014) said that the “pressure to always be amazing is hard, especially if you’re tired”.  The last word on this goes to Geronimo though, who when asked what the worst thing about the show was answered that it was very demanding but “at least we don’t have to dance as well”.  That really would be something to see, a dancing JVJ!

Thirty years of Jean Valjean, one of the most iconic roles in musical theatre, has given us some wonderful musical moments –  all the Valjean’s interviewed mentioned the incredible score as the high point of their time in the show and I wanted to pinpoint their favourite songs: would they all choose differently?  Without exception, Bring Him Home cropped up, but as a given; no one who performs the role would say anything else I suspect.  However, several of the Valjean’s (Alfie, Dan Koek, Dave Willetts, Peter Karrie and Geronimo Rauch) also chose the same second favourite, the Soliloquy.  As Dave Willetts (1985-6 as understudy and then took over from Colm Wilkinson) says, this song shows “the journey of the character of Valjean” and in Alfie’s words, it shows “what Valjean has become and what he has come from, a chance to show the anxiety, fear and passion of the character”.  John Owen-Jones chose Bring Him Home as a singer and Who Am I as an actor whilst Peter Lockyer named the Epilogue as one of his favourite moments.  Alfie also mentioned the emotional intensity of the Epilogue but I got the feeling he would have named all his songs as his favourite!

Six months ago, when I started researching and interviewing this piece I had a good idea of how I wanted it to turn out.  I thought that there would be enough material for an interesting look at the different portrayals of Jean Valjean over the years but I never thought there would be so much material that I couldn’t use it all!  Several hours of interviews meant that there was enough material to publish this piece five times over, so I’ve decided to publish each interview in full, starting with Alfie himself, on a weekly basis.  If you want a sneak preview of Alfie’s interview, make sure you’re a subscriber – you get it ahead of everyone else so check your emails shortly for the password.

Tomorrow we get to hear if we got lucky and won tickets for the 30th anniversary gala – come and tell us if you won!

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