Visions on America by Jean Koning

About the Author:

"As most of us were popping pimples pimples and starting puberty, the versatile Jean Koning (or perhaps better known as his musical alter-ego '!JP') was launching project after project to avant garde aficionados.
At the age we were struggling to get our drivers license he was a resident at clubs. While the rest of us were chasing girls, laboring to get through school, or trying to sneak into clubs Jean was already inside of them, busy becoming one of the most original artists in the world. Seems impressive, but I guess when you're studying masters of the trade like Andy Warhol and Arthur Rimbaud while the rest of the kids are studying math and science those kind of things aren't too big of a deal.

From these not so humble beginnings Jean has carved himself a spot in the world of Underground Music that stretches from the Dutch Landscpaes to South East Asia. He has taken steps into music, spoken word, photography, poetry, theatre and film, working with a wide variety of amazing artists while showing off his own formidable talents as well.

With the help of his personal side-kick, the multi-instrumentalist Van Weely, he created almost legendary performances; his own conceptual punk-n-roll shows. Jean has made a name for himself that should be on the lips of art lovers the world over.

Now he is a published author as well. His latest novel was published in 2008 (in Dutch only). His novel “Visions”, which contains stories and columns written in 2006, is now reissued.
He is married and has a daughter.

For more information about this author and his work visit:

About the Book:

Visions is a collection of columns written for the e-zine The Noise. A surprisingly intimate portrait on life and every day politics, accomplished with a fierce manner of writing.
Inspired by his own research for the musical album 'Notes from Purgatory', Jean Koning digs deep into the well of his personal life and blends the stories he found there with his experiences and visions of the American Way of Life, to portray a whirlwind of emotion, anger and doubt.
Dipped deep in a cocktail of absurdity and melancholy, the swift stories are built upon the eagerness to achieve a deeper understanding in trends, hypes and the corrupt world of commercial art.

The stories' subjects change as swiftly as the Dutch climate. From Amsterdam hookers to New York art openings and the ongoing war in Iraq. From the duality toward American lifestyles and Hollywood productions to Barbie and Ken in a setting of ironic perversity. From a heartfelt letter full of tips for Hillary Clinton to a remarkable talk show with Oprah Winfrey.

Visions is a humoristic approach of the life we lead today, with a huge comment made on worldwide politics. This is our planet today, with America as the prime suspect, Europe as the jury and Koning himself as the brutal judge.

Surprisingly enough, Koning doesn't point a finger of blame at anyone without pointing that finger at himself first.

I got the author to agree to an interview and let me tell you- this guy is a riot! Here are his answers:

Could you please tell us a little about your book?

“Visions” is a collection of columns, short stories and letters written in 2006 about the position of America seen from the Old World.

Did something specific happen to prompt you to write this book:

During 2005 I started to write material for a new record – I am a singer as well – and I was fascinated about the fact that almost everybody in Europe I dealt with in those says were anti-America. The ongoing war against terrorism and the anti-George Bush-attitude, you name it. One day someone came up to me and said that Holland – where I live – became an additional American State. So I started to write songs about that. After a while someone introduced me to an editor of an e-zine who was looking for columnists. I gave it a shot. I wanted to talk about the differences between ‘us’ and ‘them’, but more so I wanted people to know how Europe was ‘Americanizing’. How ‘the American Way of Life’ became the new European Standard. So in a way, my album “Notes from Purgatory” triggered the whole thing.

Who or what is the inspiration behind this book?

This may sound a bit strange, but my split personality was the largest inspiration behind the stories. You see, although I officially live in Holland, I spend as much time as I have in New York City, since that feels more as my home. And traveling back and forth between the two continents kind of splits your personality. I don’t belong in Holland, because my thinking is to American, and I don’t belong in America since I am that weirdo from the old world with these strange habits and a very big mouth. Unfortunately a lot of people don’t understand that kind of behavior. Even after reading the book.

Who is your biggest supporter?

I have no idea. Most people are kind of shocked since I put things as they are. I wish I could say ‘my wife’ or ‘my family’ but most of the time they go like: “My God, Jean, was it truly necessary to write about personal stuff?!”

Your biggest critic?

I am. Although I am an anarchistic artist, most of the stuff I put out there is truly thought through. I don’t just scream stuff. Or rebel. I love to investigate the stuff I scream about so the opposition has nowhere to hide from my words. I am the rebel with a cause and a research team.

What cause are you most passionate about and why?

I regularly donate to my pet-cause “Stop AIDS Now”. I have been in the showbiz for many years and lost a lot of friends and colleagues to this horrible disease.

In the last year have you learned or improved on any skills?

My guitar playing has truly improved.

Do you have any rituals you follow when finishing a piece of work?

I am a sucker for champagne. So I try to celebrate everything with a glass of champagne. No matter what I have finished working on. A theatre-piece of a film or a new album. Or a book.

Who has influenced you throughout your career as a writer?

A fantasy figure, I suppose. A combination of a number of personas. In the early days I wrote weird songs and poetry. And I always stated – back then – that I was influenced by Nick-Cave-on-a-bad-day. But recently I tend to say that I am influenced by the stillborn lovechild of Salvador Dali and Carrie Fisher.

What is the most important thing in your life right now?

My wife and my daughter.

What are you currently working on?

As always, everything in my life just flows in and out of the picture. I have just published my latest novel – unfortunately only in Dutch – and now I am focusing on my part in a new Dutch film and my part in the Belgian version of ‘The Sound of Music’. So I am traveling between Holland and Belgium a lot. But as it comes to writing, I truly want my last novel translated in English – I am so proud of it. So that’s what I am going to do in the near future. I translate my own work, by the way.

Do you have any advice for writers or readers?

For writers: write with your heart, use different formats to experiment with. For readers: there is no such thing as a ‘bad book’. The writer just isn’t your cup of tea. But a writer puts his heart and soul in his piece of work, so don’t just write him/her off as “lousy writer”. Join the experiment the writer has weaved out before you.

Is there an author that inspired you to write?

The entire beat generation. I love Ginsberg and Burroughs.

What are some of your long term goals?

Don’t have them. I have seen too many people around me die so very young, that “long term goals” have all faded for me. I live by the day. I enjoy my family and the temporary family I discover in every acting job. And add a glass of wine to every wonderful day.

What do you feel has been your greatest achievement as an author?

Internationally the fact that some people were touched by the stories that inhibit “Visions”, which was a great compliment. And my latest novel.

What do you feel is your biggest strength?

The very same thing as my biggest weakness: my big mouth.

Biggest weakness?

My big mouth.

What do you feel sets this book apart from others in the same genre?

That it is raw. There is not an obvious structure. And the fact that I try NOT to write myself off as a hero. Or a victim. I am a little bit of both.

You know the scenario – you’re stuck on an island. What book would you bring with you and why?

“Turkish Delight” springs to mind. By the Dutch author Jan Wolkers.

If you could go back and change one day, what would it be?

Nothing. I have learned from my mistakes, but I don’t regret them. They kind of shaped me, made me the way I am today. I am not proud of the things I’ve done, but I regret nothing. I think, deep down, I suffer more from the ‘good stuff’ than the ‘bad’.

Are you a different person now than you were 5 years ago? In what way/s?

Oh Yes! First of all, I didn’t have a kid. I am more relaxed now – as ridiculous as it may sound. More at ease with the things I have accomplished and the inner urge to achieve more and more and more have faded to the background, in a way.

What is the most important lesson you have learned from life so far?

“Trust No One!” seems a little too much X-files, but it does seem to embrace the truth. But that’s too dark. Too gloomy. “Follow your own path” is also something I live by. My family used to say “Have another wine! It’s good for you!” I love that one too. I don’t think it’s really a lesson, but I’ve always dragged everything up from that point of view. Yes, let’s all have another glass of wine – it’s so good for you.

Is there anything you regret doing/not doing?

A lot. A loooooot! But I try not to let them play a part. I once starred in a film that was quite questionable. We all know them, don’t we? I sort of regret that now. And that’s just because of the internet. But does it stop me from developing or working or – in fact – living? No, it does not.

What is your favorite past-time?

I truly don’t know. Sometimes I cannot even place events in the right time-line anymore. There has been a lot of stuff going on in my life. And my memory is not very good. I have a friend – my best friend actually – who sometimes takes me along memory-lane. He is my memory. A part of my research-team. I call him up and I say: remember that we demolished a train station and got arrested? He then says: Honey, that wasn’t you! He’s funny. I called him up one day when a love-affair ended quite badly – and violently, but that’s a whole other story – and I was crushed and the first thing he said to me was: Yes, Honey – he always calls me honey – Yes, Honey, but what are you wearing? Is it couture?

Is there anything else you would like to share with us?

Don’t judge me! This is my brain. If you don’t like it, look the other way. But I do exist. And I do have a voice. And even though I come on as “demolishing”, I too have a heart. “I don’t steal and I don’t lie, but I can feel and I can cry!” Stockard Channing once sang. Honey, that’s me!