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Ron Coolen Biography

It must have been around 1978 that I first heard AC/DC's 'Whole lotta Rosie', and where my love for heavy music started, to never disappear anymore. As a teenager I saw the birth of The New Wave of British Heavy Metal, with bands like Iron Maiden, Def Leppard, Raven and Tygers of Pan Tang. Then the Americans countered with Metallica, Riot, Virgin Steele and too many others to mention. 

In the early 80's I became penpals with John Gallagher of Raven, and still have the stack of letters we wrote in those days. It was amazing to meet John in person at the Aardschokdag in 1983. John and I are still in contact, now on facebook. Over the last 40+ years I have seen so many bands come and go, and often come back again. There is only one thing that is better than listening to heavy metal music, and that is playing it yourself.

 

After spending 3 useless years in music school at the age of 10 playing keyboards, I decided to become a self-taught musician. At the age of 15 I bought a Gibson SG replica and tried to learn guitar, but that attempt failed completely. I could not understand that after 2 days I was still not able to play 'Eruption' perfectly. 

When I was 18 years I noticed I had a good rhythmic feeling, and a friend of mine was in need for a drummer in his band. From the money I earned during my summer holiday job I bought a drumkit and our first band RAZOR was born in 1983.

 

We were ambitious and ready to conquer the world with our own music, being a drummer felt good and rewarding and I developed my style and skills rapidly. However, when push came to shove, in 1985  I chose to finish my school instead of following my bandmate's decision to go for a professional career in music. In hindsight Andrew Elt's decision to go for Gin on the Rocks and later Sleeze Beez was a better one than mine.

Up until today I have always played in local bands and projects, not only hard rock and heavy metal, but also even playing dance classics.

In 2008 I did something completely different. I was training for the New York Marathon and I decided, like many athletes do, to run for a charity cause. I chose "Jason Becker" as my goal to run for. I still remember that day in 1993 when I heard Jason was diagnosed with ALS and it made a deep impression on me. I knew Jason's medical bills are huge and he was in need for any financial support, so that was my cause. I set up an auction system where musicians donated goodies and I sold these to fans, with the proceeds going to Jason. This gave me a lot of contacts in the artist community.

 

Resulting from the Jason Becker Charity I ended up having a Radio show on a regional Dutch station. Next to this weekly 2 hour hard rock show I also set up an online "interview channel" called "Let there be Rock" where I did interviews with musicians, and gave them time and opportunity to speak in-depth about their projects, in a world that was becoming faster and more artificial.

Then in 2011 I got involved in co-organizing the "Jason Becker Not Dead Yet Festival" in Haarlem (NL), with an amazing line-up of musicians like Guthrie Govan, Mattias E. Eklundh, Stéphan Forté, Atma Anur, Michael Lee Firkins, Stuart Hamm, Barend Courbois, Kiko Loureiro, Martin Miller and many others. An incredible experience!

 

Motivated by the Jason Becker Festival I picked up the guitar again, since it was still an unfulfilled desire to master my favorite instrument. Took lessons, quit lessons, some periods I was very active, some periods not. But there was progress and I kept my dedication.


Parallel to the blood, sweat and tears to learn guitar, for the last 8 years I was active playing other musicians' music in several tribute and coverbands as a drummer, which is a very cool thing to do. In 2018 the moment was there to switch from drums to guitar (Malcolm Young) in our AC/DC coverband, I love playing guitar on stage.

 

Ever since I picked up the guitar again, I have this very strong desire to create my own music.  I have always had ideas for riffs, for melodies, for songs, but never got to the point to really do something with them and turn them into complete songs. In 2016 I decided to go for it and create my own album with my own songs. It has been a long journey, not only the writing part, but also the recording part, getting to understand the studio-,  software-, gear- and sound mechanics.

On the creative part in the early days I got a lot of help from Francoise Vaal, who has been on my side as a singer in many of the coverbands I play(ed) in. She helped me with vocal melodies and lyrics and got some of the songs on track as a whole. Later, when the project got more mature and I was able to leverage my industry contacts, I got the opportunity to get some great names as guest musician on the album. These guys were all very helpful, some of them were contacts from the past, others were willing to work with me since they liked the songs and wanted to be part of this project.

On the album I play rhythm guitar and drums, which are my "key instruments". I have never been so happy with the 3 years of keyboard lessons I had in my youth, since there was still some skills left somewhere. Next to that I played the bass as well.

Since I am a poor singer and not the greatest player of guitar solo's (although I still played some on the album) I worked with guest musicians, without exception all phenomenal players and extremely professional to work with. I am so grateful they took the effort to be on my album. 

I have lived my dream in creating this album, I have given everything I have. It would be nice if it will sell big numbers. But the best thing that can happen to me is that people take the effort to sit and listen the whole album. If you get comfort, inspiration, motivation or just happiness from listening to my music, that would be my ultimate bonus.  I value your feedback on the album and thank each and every one of you for your time to listen to my music.

Ron Coolen

January 2020

 

 

Meeting John Gallagher of Raven at the Aardschokdag festival 1983

Meeting John and Mark Gallagher after the Raven gig as support of Saxon 2018

Francoise Vaal, my bandmate in AC/DShe, and valued support in the initial album process and author of some lyrics on RISE