How did you get into making music?
We had a lot of electronic music playing on national radio in Holland. Even though it was Tiesto and Armin van Buuren, it still influenced me and triggered the search for more music. Back then, the only way to do that was to go and buy vinyl, because it wouldn’t be on CD. When I was 12, I decided that I wanted to create, and not just listen, so I got Magix Music Maker and started putting loops together. That kept evolving until where I am today.
Do you consider yourself a producer or a DJ?
They are equally important, and I couldn’t do one without the other. Especially because my DJ setup is a hybrid between playing other people’s records and trying to make something new of it. Like adding loops, adding effects, using parts of tracks as a sort of new way to mix everything together.
So without my producer insights, I would not be able to do that on stage, but then again, without my DJ insights, I would not be able to make the tracks that I am currently making. I kind of know what works on the dancefloor, and what doesn’t. So I would say I am equal parts DJ and producer now.
How do you connect with your crowd when playing?
I’m not quite the performer that some other DJs are. One or two weeks ago a guy came up to me and said, “I loved your set so much, but I was dancing in the corner in the back, so you probably didn’t see.” And I told him that I actually did see him, because I am constantly reading the crowd – even if I look super-busy with all the machines. I am closely watching, and by observing them I feel the connection with the crowd.
How do you program your sets?
I try to approach the structure of my sets like you would in the old days with vinyl. You’d grab your record bag and pick like, 60, 70, 80 tracks that you think might work for the night. Based on, “What timeslot am I playing? Who is playing before me? Who is playing after me? Which country are we in?” I load up these tracks on a playlist, and then I do it on-the-fly, see what the crowd does, and respond to that.
You have to know your place in the night. If I would bang it out in the warm-up set, I would ruin the entire night. If I would go too soft in the closing set, I would ruin the perfect ending of the party.
As a DJ I want to adapt to the time I am playing, to the crowd I am playing for, and also to the venue I am playing at. So even though my point of departure is techno with a minimalist aesthetic, I am always flexible and try to adapt to whatever the party throws at me.
Talk us through your DJ setup. How does it look?
My DJ setup is based around TRAKTOR, it’s the core of everything. I run four decks from there, which go through the sound card to the Xone:92 mixer. I have Ableton Live with MASCHINE running on the side, using the built-in sound card to loop back into the return channels of the Xone:92 mixer. I am really happy that NI added that to the MK3. Now I have one sound card that is just for the four Traktor channels, and then I use the MASCHINE sound card for all my extra drums, but also to send an audio signal from the Xone:92, into the MK3 to process any audio with my favourite effects, and then have it come back into the mixer.
As for other controllers, I am using an Allen & Heath K2 to control all four TRAKTOR decks.
That’s a pretty big setup. How long did it take you to get there?
My setup evolved slowly over the years. I started DJing with vinyl, and at some point it made sense to move over to CDJs, but I didn’t feel as connected to the CDJs as with vinyl. Around 2009, I saw TRAKTOR Pro coming out with new sound cards, and I was like, “Maybe this is the time for me to switch to a digital setup.” When I initially bought TRAKTOR, I used the Scratch Control feature, so I was loading the tracks in with my mouse pad, and just mixing from A to B. Then I added a small controller to do a little bit of tiny effects, and browse my library. And at some point I was thinking, “Why still bother with the vinyl?” Of course playing vinyl is fun and it has this nostalgic feeling to it, but I felt there was much more to discover. I figured if I am using just the controllers, and I am going to start using sync, I am going to have more time to do other stuff. So, from initially buying TRAKTOR in 2009, my setup was a very long process of iterating and slowly trying to find out what works. It took me eight years to get to where I am now.
How are you dealing with challenges like travelling, small booths, setup time, and transitions to other DJs?
I kind of have a love-hate relationship with this setup because it’s amazing to play on, and I can do whatever I want. I could do it with my eyes closed because I am so used to it. But it’s a nightmare, especially in airports when you have to get all your stuff out of the case then put it back in. Also, not having enough space in certain clubs is sometimes a problem. Sometimes I carry a smaller sound card, and when I turn up to a club and see there is not enough space I just use the smaller setup. This is basically the Allen & Heath K2 controller and a TRAKTOR AUDIO 8 sound card, which is one of the best sound cards I have ever used. It never breaks down on me.
Additional drums and FX from Maschine are routed to the Aux channels. With the mixer sends, audio can be routed back into the computer to be processed again."
Maschine software runs as VST in Ableton to add additional drums and effects to the mix."
What are some of your favourite TRAKTOR features?
I like to use TRAKTOR because it gives me so much flexibility. One feature I really love is the Loop Move: I set a 32 beat loop and once I feel the track is ready to progress, I move to the next 32 beats and so on – until I really want to bring the track in and deactivate the loop. That gives me so much control of how a track progresses, and I’m not dependent on the original song structure.
What is it that you prefer about TRAKTOR over other options?
I recall playing on CDJs in January this year; for some reason I couldn’t bring the setup. And even though I was well prepared and had three or four CDJs, it felt very limited and essentially, I was just playing back tracks. Of course, I could loop them at some point, but I couldn’t time everything exactly the way I wanted to.
The set was great, the party was good, but I could have taken it to another level with the power of control that TRAKTOR gives me. Simply by having all the tracks there, being able to loop everything whenever I want, move the loops around, use the effects; it’s just so, so convenient, and it’s just such a crazy-strong creative tool for me.