Mark Ritsema - Vocals, guitar
Reinier Rietveld - Drums, percussion
Arjo Hijmans - Guitar
Martin Docters van Leeuwen - Bass
The Rotterdam based underground and cult band Spasmodique gained a legendary status during their existence of more than 40 years. Originated in 1981, they developed into a relentless live-band that played throughout Europe during the 80s and early 90s and released four studio-albums and several cassettes and singles.
In 1992 the group officially fell apart, but singer/guitarist Mark Ritsema, guitarist Arjo Hijmans, bassist Martin Docters van Leeuwen and drummer Reinier Rietveld continued to meet, leading to a new album 10 years later. Their latest studio album Six (2016) and the boxset of their complete works All And More (2016) were received successfully and followed by a tour of the Netherlands. Currently they are working on their seventh album, due to be released in 2022.
Reinier, Arjo and Mark play together in high school band Torpedos that is founded at a The Only Ones-concert in 1979. During their short existence they support The Cure and Theatre Of Hate in Rotterdam.
Mark meets Martin in 1980 at a psychogeriatric nursing home in suburban Rotterdam (Capelle a/d IJssel) where they both work. From endless sessions (sometimes involving patients) in the hallways of the living area for staff, the first line-up of Spasmodique arises with besides Martin and Mark, Bob Stoute on drums. Influences hail from Joy Division, This Heat and Nasmak to the worldwide scene of obscure and experimental DIY-acts. The first demo is recorded with the help of members of How To Get Rich In Rotterdam.
In 1983 Reinier and Arjo join Spasmodique and for a short while they operate as a quintet. After Bob leaves that same year the most consistent line-up - still active today - is formed.
The quartet develops a more authentic, rock orientated live sound, shrouded in the dark atmospheres of their early new wave days – with big and slow drums, a deep and whimsical bass and lyrical guitars, topped by the primal scream-vocals of Mark. Their loud and ritualistic shows gain them a reputation of one of the best live-bands in The Netherlands. ‘A subterranean rock ceremony’, journalist Peter Bruyn raves in an early review.
In 1985 they release two cassettes: From Rotterdam for the French label V.I.S.A. and Cassette for the Dutch label Decay Int.. Short-lived band-member clarinet and trumpet player Judith Claase can be heard on a few songs of the latter. That same year Spasmodique reach the semi-finales of the most prestigious Dutch band competition Grote Prijs van Nederland.
In early 1986 recordings are made in Brussels for their first eponymous mini-album, released in May that year by the Belgian label Soundwork. After a successful show at the showcase festival Noorderslag in January 1987, Spasmodique grow out to become one of the most sought-after live-bands in the Dutch club circuit.
At the end of 1987 their second LP From The Cellar Of Roses is released by the Dutch label Plexus. The more song-oriented album leads to mixed reviews in the press, some labeling Spasmodique as a live-band pur sang, others praising them for their broader approach on record.
In 1988 the radio recordings of the Noorderslag-concert are released on the mini-LP Someone’s Out There To Get You, supplemented by three new studio songs on the flipside EP Start To Believe and released by the new Dutch label Schemer (a division of Semaphore). That same year Spasmodique tour extensively throughout Holland with the Frisian band Umberto di Bosso é Compadres under the collective name The Howling. In October Spasmodique are billed together with Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds for a show in the concert hall Vredenburg that is broadcasted live on Dutch radio.
The LP/CD North (Schemer - 1989) is fully devoted to capturing the dark intensity of Spasmodique’s live shows in the studio.
The new decade also sees them touring Hungary, Germany and Austria. Their show in Vienna’s U4 club gains them an instant cult status in Austria.
For North’s follow up Haven (Schemer - 1990) equipment is rented to record in the privacy of their rehearsal-cellar in the heart of Rotterdam. With Reinier as their engineer and main producer, Spasmodique find their definitive and independent form of recording.
On Haven once again Spasmodique seeks broader musical angles, with even additional keyboards and saxophone, in songs that focus on existential and personal drama. Songs like You, Me And The Ring and Waving To A Shadow become solid live-favorites.
Shortly after the recording sessions of Haven, Arjo announces his departure, due to personal reasons.
Two guitar players - Niek den Brave and Hans Brussee - are recruited to promote Haven during an extended tour throughout the Netherlands, Austria and Hungary. The hard task of Niek and Hans to play the parts written by Arjo and to fit in a band that’s been together for so long, versus the original members struggling to get used to the changes lead to dissatisfaction with new written material and hampers live-shows. The magic is gone and after 10 intensive years Spasmodique decide to call it quits.
Most of 1991 and early 1992 are devoted to an extensive farewell where new dates keep coming. The tour is flanked by the CD Who’s Afraid (a compilation of outtakes and live-recordings), the single Spilling/Boston Tea Party and the lyric-book The Illustrated Spasmodique, all released by Puller, label of their manager Ron Mansveld.
On stage the guitar parts are filled in by Raymond Gerrits – a Spasmodique fan for years who loves nothing more than playing Arjo’s parts. It become apparent how popular the group is. The farewell tour draws packed houses everywhere and emotional scenes take place around the stages. After the sold out Curtains-show in Rotterdam (where they are joined on stage by Arjo) and last shows in Linz, Vienna, Prague, Budapest and Pécs, the break up is sealed.
Sporadic reunions take place in the following years, sometimes under the name Men Overboard. More serious are a series of three multi-media events (featuring film and dancers) under the name Villa Delirium in the Dutch based club Rotown, in the ‘classic’ line-up of Mark, Arjo, Martin and Reinier.
In 1997 Mark is approached to write the score for the short film In Forced Perspective by Rino Gouw and Hugo Goudswaard (Favola Film). Asked because of his Spasmodique-background, Mark’s response is: ‘Why not ask Spasmodique?’ In Forced Perspective, with music by Spasmodique debuts that same year at the prestigious Dutch Film Festival.
By the end of the nineties Spasmodique start recording again in their (still existing) rehearsal-cellar and the digital home-studio of Reinier, mostly the material that was written for the Villa Delirium events and In Forced Perspective.
Around that time the website www.spasmodique.nl is launched by Jean-Paul van Mierlo. Partly because of the website and the good responds to it, the group realizes that a loyal audience has not forgotten them. The new album is speeding up.
At the end of 2002 their fifth album From Villa Delirium is finally released to critical acclaim. In the intervening decade the members have clearly broadened their horizons with influences from classic hardrock and psychedelia in a collection of dark and hypnotic songs.
An extensive tour throughout Holland is launched in Rotterdam with the presentation of the book From The Cellar Of Roses (20 Years Of Spasmodique) a collection of interviews, lyrics and writings about the band, compiled by Jean-Paul.
For the tour Raymond fills in on bass for Martin, who is occupied with studies. After the tour, during first rehearsals for new songs (with Martin back on bass), this time Mark decides to quit, to concentrate on other musical projects.
In April 2012 Rotown exists 25 years and Spasmodique are approached for a reunion to celebrate the club’s birthday. Their commitment leads to many enthusiastic reactions and publicity. The show is sold-out in no time. Rotown (Records) also releases the best of-album Slightly Disturbed European Gentlemen With Guitars, composed mainly by fans who were asked to list their favorite Spasmodique songs.
In 2014 Spasmodique play a benefit-show for the preservation of the Rotterdam-based art route Route du Nord. Meanwhile plans are being made for a new album. An informal recording of the song Silent Air of The Sound for the 50th birthday of Jean-Paul finds its way to the The Sound/Adrian Borland tribute CD There Must Be A Hole In Your Memory, released by the Canadian label The Beautiful Music.
By the time Spasmodique re-appear on the Rotown-stage in 2016, Six is released by the label Sounds Haarlem Likes Vinyl. The album takes the band back to the heavy, ritual and drum-based sound of the days of North.
That same year All And More is released by Bleak Field Productions, a bulky 11 CD and 3 DVD boxset that contains all six studio-albums and the movie and full soundtrack of In Forced Perspective, framed by demo’s and live recordings.
While touring the Netherlands during 2017, the LP Europe 88 - a collection of live-recordings from 1988/1989 - is released by Collectable Vinyl.
By 2021 (their 40th anniversary) Spasmodique are working on their seventh studio album, due to be released during 2022. Early this year the track City Park Murders is released via streaming services. The accompanying video-clip is made by Jean-Paul and filmmaker Marc Waltman, the team that is also planning a documentary about Spasmodique.