(a bit of the) Story of my Life

Since I was a kid, music has always been a huge part of my (daily) life. I grew up in a house, where (classical) music was always heard. Either coming from the radio, my mom singing or my dad playing the clarinet or the piano. Nothing but beautiful memories I have of my whole childhood, when it comes to music.

I started playing the piano at an early age, and I still feel fortunate that my dad taught me the first tunes on the piano.That piano that still resides at my parent’s home and whenever I visit them, and play that piano, I am immediately taken back 40 years. That piano is without a doubt the most beautiful instrument ever built.

Piano lessons I took, I studied at the conservatoire, studied music therapy, played in bands. My life was music. And although I turned to working for a boss for more than twenty years, music never left me.

Some fifteen years ago, I lost my job as an IT engineer and found myself jobless for quite a long period of time. After having sent out about 400+ applications letters, it became clear that I was not going to find a job in that (IT) field of work anymore and I took THE decision: I want to become a music teacher.

Easier said than done perhaps, but I had not choice. Within a couple of months, I had about ten students, in a few months more, another ten, and in half a year, I had enough students to pay for my mortgage and a little studio (The Yellow Hippo Studios, indeed).

Blessed I feel, to be writing this now, from exactly that studio. All jokes and kidding aside, this place has brought me more than just an income. It has opened my music dream. From here, I have played, taught, shared, laughed, recorded … and I hope to be able to keep doing that for many decades to come. 💛

Many musicians / composers have intrigued and inspired me, and one of them is Frank Zappa – which is most likely not a surprise to you. Another one is Johann Sebastian Bach. There are many more (but that’s for another lengthy post).

I have had the honour to be asked to try out for the band Zappatika, in 2014. And, wouldn’t you know?! I made the cut! With that band, I have toured several times through the UK, Germany and The Netherlands – and we were joined on stage by the greats as Ike Willis, Craig ‘Twister’ Steward, Denny Walley, Jeff Hollie and Ed Mann. I feel equally blessed that I met so many people that used to play with Zappa. It was literally a dream come true. A dream, I live every day.

One of the people I met back then, was Kevin Crosby – the navigator for The Zappa Early Renaissance Orchestra (Z.E.R.O.) – and I was fortunate to play with them about a dozen times. Joined on stage with Craig ‘Twister’ Steward, Ike Willis, Joe Trump and Prairie Prince. How amazing is that?

And since a few years, I have been making, playing and recording my arrangements of Frank Zappa compositions for solo piano. And in 2015, I recorded a CD called: Fred Händl Plays The Music Of Frank Zappa – featuring The Giacomo Di Lindini Trio. A CD I felt like making, but I had really no fucking idea what I was doing (ain’t that the truth).

I repeated that trick in 2018, when I recorded The Poodle Magic Pig Type – another album with Zappa tracks. That sounded a bit more like I knew what I was doing. That album is very dear to me for many reasons. The most important reason being that I was blessed that so many of my friends, people I met because of Frank Zappa 💛

In 2020, I released a the piano album, simply called: Zappa. Fourteen arrangements for solo piano. And in 2021, I successfully Kickstarted the solo piano album Tovarishchi. 2022 should father another (couple of) project(s).

For now … this video is for all of you out there, that I have had the honour to meet and hang out with over the last couple of years. I truly love you all.

~ Fred