Robert Jan Stips, about Supersister, Golden Earring, NITS, the fire and more…

With the performance of Supersister Projekt at the Westerpop Festival in Delft, the band and leader Robert Jan Stips brought an end to the previously postponed Supersister Projekt tour this summer. Perhaps there is some time for a well-deserved holiday for Robert Jan Stips, who is of course also known as one of the members of NITS. The now 72-year-old Stips has more than earned his spurs in the pop scene over the past five decades. He made his rise in the 1970s with the avant-garde prog rock of Supersister, after which he made a name for himself as a keyboardist with Golden Earring and Sweet D’Buster. Robert Jan has been one of the faces of the internationally very successful NITS for 40 years now, with whom he will tour again next autumn to promote the upcoming album “Neon”.

Maxazine met Robert Jan in his beloved city of Delft to drink coffee, with a glass of water for the vocal cords. It was mainly about music, and what else came up…

Homo Ludens

In previous conversations Maxazine had with NITS colleague Henk Hofstede, it has often been about Homo Ludens, the playing human being. A concept by cultural historian Johan Huizinga from 1938 emphasises how important it is for people to keep playing. Just like children do to discover new things and to be able to think freely. In Fred Baggen’s biography of Supersister, the latter also highlights the Homo Ludens to indicate your way of making music in Supersister. Robert Jan looks attentively at his coffee as if he can find the answer in it and starts off. ‘I have always been in favour of ‘playfulness’ and humour in music. It is certainly not the case that you always have to be fun with music, but a certain playfulness and certain enjoyment of life should always be in it. the similarity between the Supersister Projekt and NITS. Thanks to that playfulness and creativity, we achieve constant innovation. That’s why I’ve been able to play at NITS for so long.’

Photo (c) Jan Vranken

Supersister Projekt

Over the past year, Robert Jan, together with drummer Leon Klaassen and former Golden Earring bassist Rinus Gerritsen as the Supersister Projekt, gave a number of beautiful performances, which were very well received. The fans will then also carefully consider whether this project is a continuation of the original Supersister, or should be seen as separate. Robert Jan has heard the dilemma before and, looking out over the canal, he elaborates. ‘I’ve said from the start that I see it as a project, and not as a ‘project’ as people sometimes ask me. I spelled it correctly and expressly with a ‘k’,’ he says, laughing, ‘I think the letter ‘K’ in projekt is especially important, to underline the idiosyncrasy of the group. I called it Supersister Projekt, precisely to prevent people from comparing it with Supersister. That is ‘überhaupt nicht im frage’. The Projekt is Supersister as it might have been now, but we simply can’t know. With the second line-up of Supersister, we went quite jazzy at one point, and that is also the reason for me to stop then. So the project is no more than a personal projection of what Supersister could have been like today.”

‘As far as the future is concerned, I would like to continue with these two great musicians’, continues Robert Jan after a sip, ‘Two musicians who are also very nice as people. I will approach it differently than with the album “Retsis Repus” I had worked out everything down to the last detail, and now I will work much more freely with Rinus and Leon. For me the collaboration with them is more important than doing it difficult, just looking for and wanting to answer old Supersister standards. We’re going to work together now, the three of us, based on some themes and half songs that I have, to see how far we get with that. We don’t have a schedule, because I don’t want to put any pressure on it, but it would It would be nice if we could release new music this year.’

Photo (c) Jan Vranken

Golden Earring

Now that Rinus Gerritsen is part of the Supersister Projekt and has mastered the Supersister idiom admirably as a rock bassist, there is a kind of circle that comes full. In 1975 Robert-Jan became a member of the Golden Earring, touring the world with them. ‘I think that’s a nice story. I more or less gave myself to the Earring at the time. I really had my doubts at the time. Is it interesting enough, musically? Then I also turned the switch. Playing in the Earring was a completely different discipline than what I was used to. Could I do that? Now it is exactly the same for Rinus, I can only respect that’ And indeed the analogy with my situation 45 years ago is striking.’


With NITS, Stips already finished the new album “Neon”. It will be released at the end of September and with the single “Sunday Painter” and soon-to-be-released “Ghost Ranch” people can get acquainted with the new material. While new coffee is being brought, Robert Jan continues his story. ‘We will immediately go on tour with “Neon” in the new season. When that tour is finished, it will be a bit quieter around NITS in 2023, because in 2024 we want to celebrate our 50th anniversary as a group in a grand way. come out nicely for the Supersister Projekt, because then I can continue playing with it when the “Neon” tour is over.’

The fire in ‘The Wharf’

On May 16, a fire destroyed the recording studio/rehearsal and storage space of NITS. The former gym ‘De Werf’ burned down completely. Almost the entire archive of Nits and many instruments and equipment were lost. ‘It is especially the emotional part of this fire that is bad for us. Our place is gone, the place where we have made and experienced so much together. Our shared history is no longer there.’ Of course, it is bad that many instruments and, for example, set pieces were burned, but fortunately, the band was insured and the fans even started crowdfunding. ‘For me personally, I got away with it. I had all my instruments at home and had nothing in ‘De Werf’ at the time of the fire. But do you know what the worst is? Those forty years are gone, the place where we meet, where we met, where we made recordings, that hurts.’

‘On the other hand, and that in no way outweighs the misery, I also have a feeling of ‘Cleaned up is neat’. ‘De Werf’ gradually grew closed with things and memories. It functioned for more than 40 years as a storage place and archive, but there was also a lot of rubbish, stuff that we actually wanted to throw away but we couldn’t get around to it, so it was also closing up a bit. about what needs to go and what doesn’t.’

Of course, the band has to move on. Looking for a new place, a new ‘home’. ‘There are new places where we can go, but in that respect, we are now just one of the many bands looking for rehearsal space. ‘De Werf’, together with a number of other bands at the time, was offered for rent by the municipality of Amsterdam. We stayed until the end, the last one standing – as spacious as at ‘De Werf’, with for example our own parking space, which we will never find in Amsterdam again. We have heard nothing from the administration of culture in Amsterdam. No letter or nothing, we were a bit surprised indeed. Nothing. We are now searching through our own network, but nothing is certain yet about where we are going to settle.’

New Projects

Robert Jan Stips is not one to sit still and this is proved once again when he – admittedly – is on his roll again and starts talking about a number of new projects he is working on. ‘I am approached by Piet Meij, a writer, who is going to release a new book. He told me that he always wrote with music in the background. The idea was to extend this to the readers so that they can read with music in the background. The idea is to make music accessible with a QR code for each chapter. This usually concerns existing music, but I have also added some new music. A publisher is currently being sought for that book. In addition, I have been asked to make the music for a documentary, albeit at a very early stage, but very interesting. It is a documentary about bird language. It is a project of Josephine Hamming, who previously made the documentary “War of the Ants” and Go, Butterflies, Go!, a documentary about a moth’s migration through Europe (and Africa?).’

Photo (c) Jan Vranken

‘Finally, I’m still working on something that I’ve never done before. I’m writing songs for a singer, based on the idea that I don’t even want to make something ‘alternative’, but just good songs, so pop music There should be enough material for an album out of that by the end of this year, and in doing that, I’ve come to realize for myself that everything I do is a reaction to something I’ve done before. After all these years of improvising, I now have the immense need to make songs with a head and a tail. That’s something I’ve never done. I work with a singer that people don’t know yet, but hopefully soon will change.’


Robert Jan Stips has been busy with music for over 50 years. Even now he continues to work on other projects and creative excesses. Given the third youth in which the now 72-year-old Stips is in the middle, the question is perhaps also justified whether he never feels like leaving the keys on the keys, renting a camper and going on a nice trip through Europe with his family? ‘No, I don’t feel like stopping or wanting to do anything else. I want to go on a nice trip someday, yes, but I’m actually realizing more and more how happy I really am with making music. With my music, I can travel as much as I want. When I play I’m happy, I don’t know where I am, at least I’m further away than where you could go with many aeroplanes.’

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