From front to back, from back to front, the hair of the four guitarists on stage wave. Second from the left, with black bat sleeves, black pants and black guitar, is Raven van Dorst, musician and TV presenter. Here in Het Patronaat, Haarlem, Raven and band Dool play their fourth performance after two years of silence. Dool is known as a rock band, but the music sounds more dreamy than rough. Raven’s melodic vocals are embedded in hazy guitar lines and pierced by joyous solos. Now and then the bass rumbles.
In “God’s Particle,” amid flashes of blue-red light, Raven repeats the words in a plea: “Can you relate to me.” Hands raised questioningly, gracefully and macho at the same time.
A few weeks earlier, in a lunchroom in Rotterdam, Raven van Dorst talked about how memory works: the past is remembered not through personal events but through concerts – concerts that Raven has given over the past twenty years with various bands or as a solo musician. . “My memory goes back from show to show. I remember almost everything.”
The last time we spoke was in 2005, Raven – then Ryanne – was twenty, still lived in the parental home in Maassluis and performed under the name Elle Bandita. The night before, a performance in Amsterdam had ended in a beer ballet, palms ripped out of their pots and Elle Bandita singing and screaming among the audience.
Ryanne said at the time that most people “join the herd” and that she wanted to become a new lesbian heroine for the Netherlands: “I am exactly what a Dutch lesbian heroine should look like.”
Sixteen years later, quite a bit has changed. Van Dorst, now 37, lives in Rotterdam and, in addition to being the singer/guitarist of Dool, is also known as a presenter of popular TV programs such as Sex!† nocturnal animals† Farm of Thirst and Which of the three† Five years ago, Van Dorst declared that he was born a hermaphrodite and that he regarded himself as a ‘third sex’, a combination of woman and man. Last year Ryanne became Raven.
When asked how the “lesbian heroine” is, Raven makes a dismissive gesture. “I am rid of that word. At twenty, I still had a lot to discover about myself.” And being a lesbian in Maassluis was complicated. “Recently I saw posters for gay dating in a bus shelter. I thought, how different my life would have been if Maassluis had already been so free. In my time I always had to stand up for myself. Fighting and scolding.”
Also read this interview from 2015: Sometimes it feels good to be loved
The most noticeable change from then is Raven’s mood. Both personally and musically: the grimness has ‘ebbed away’. It happened about six years ago, while recording Dool’s first album, Raven says. †Here Now, There Then (2020) was no longer about what is wrong with the world, but about what is wrong with myself.” Turning the gaze inward also changed Raven’s voice. “I dared to sing instead of shouting. For the first time.”
It was the result of a personal search. “I’ve had to reinvent a lot on myself in the past 37 years.” Raven looks almost tormented. “And it’s never finished, I can tell you right now.”
What does the afterlife actually look like for you? What do you want it to look like?
Music helps. Raven explains it by means of the new songs that are not heavy in sound but in atmosphere. “I think there’s a lot of melancholy in it. It draws me to a serious island. Darkness is beneficial, it is the mood I need to get closer to myself.” Raven searches for words for a moment. “They call this music ‘gothic’, which you can explain as a worship of the dark. But for me it means don’t beat around the bush. Life is more than roses and mane… dinges, what’s it called again?” Raven laughs. “Can you imagine how far it is from me? moonshine.”
Melancholy is the collective name for all kinds of dark moods, such as gloom and apathy. “Loss of love is also melancholic, then you long for the way it was.”
About ten years ago Raven was having a rough time, hiding behind the curtains at home and even the love for music was gone. “Then there was someone who woke me up and involved me in a new band. That’s how I got going again.” That band was punk band Bullerslug. After the end of Bullerslug, the quintet Dool (pronounced the Dutch way) arose, described by Raven as a close group of friends. Their second album is called Summerlanda sumptuous collection of songs with melody in every guitar riff, solo and in Raven’s vocal lines.
The title Summerland refers to the afterlife. “The lyrics on the album are about death, what comes after. I suddenly realized: you are so busy with life and everything goes on and on, that sometimes you forget ‘Hey, I’m mortal’.”
There was no specific reason for the subject. „I saw the making of Summerland as training and awareness. The afterlife, how do you actually envision that? What do you want it to look like?”
The magic of Dool
When two years ago the album Summerland appeared, Raven felt as if he had worked twenty years towards this very moment. There was interest from China, America, Germany and France, the band was ready for an international tour. Then everything was cancelled. “Yeah, that was tough. But also good, it makes you realize how valuable it is that you can do this.”
Now that they are playing live again, there is a lot of joy on the road and backstage. “But when we step on the stage, something happens to us. That wasn’t there when we started. By playing together so much, we have a common goal on stage. It’s not just throwing beer and building a mosh pit like it used to be. We are in a special atmosphere that we pull over the audience”, Raven makes a gesture as if a canopy is being lowered. “It seems that an experience is created in which time and space play no role.”
It’s ‘the magic of Dool’. “It comes from the music. And because all five of us want to get the same thing out of a show. I see it as a return to yourself, but then all together, as a joint self-examination. Or meditation? It’s the way I connect with the audience. Maybe it’s spiritual.” That sounds like a question. “But not soggy.”
It’s not just throwing beer and building a moshpit, like it used to be
The stage is a ‘catalyst’ for Raven. “I finally know how important performances are to me. In the time of Elle Bandita I drank a lot. Now I know: I live for those shows, those are the moments that I have to enjoy sober, that have to stay with me.”
The audience at their performances is varied, says Raven. „There are rockers of 50+ who love the guitar solos, next to young goths. There are RTL viewers who The perfect picture have looked and think ‘Nice, Raven van Dorst, let’s go’. And there will be people from the LGBT+ community who want to see Raven in person.”
At the end of the conversation, Raven talks about ‘the fight’ that has to be fought in the still heteronormative society. “A lot has improved compared to before. But the blueprint of society is difficult to change. It keeps twisting. And I keep feeling like I have to fight. It’s not necessarily annoying, you know, it’s just a bit more work.”
For members of the LGBT+ community, Raven seems to set an example. “That’s fine, if I can be that for people. I can see that I have opened a few doors.”
Raven is silent for a moment. “But actually I don’t feel like an example. I just feel like a loser with insecurities. Except when I’m on stage.”
A version of this article also appeared in NRC on the morning of April 7, 2022