The technology loving Dutch native – who has also become a perceptive talent scout for his growing Techno label and booking agency Gem – is set to wow SA crowds when he headlines Origin Festival 2014’s Beat Stage.
As interviews go, this one is much like his imprint; a real GEM…
Outside of the Netherlands many people assume that Tiësto, Armin van Buuren et al is what everybody listens to in Holland, but I believe the techno and deep house scene are way more popular there…
SECRET CINEMA: There are many people that know those guys – despite the majority of DJ’s in clubs playing [anything from] house to techno. They have an event every once in a while, but it’s certainly not the most popular music in the dance scene. The music from Tiësto and Armin is heard more in bars, pubs and those kind of places – you can hardly call that a ‘scene’ I guess [laughs].
These old-school vs new-school discussions make me dislike the scene to be honest. People complaining about it have a big mouth, forgetting they take a car to the supermarket. Be old-school, take a horse and wagon.
After more than 20 years in the business you will have witnessed techno tempos having slowed down quite considerably over the years. In fact deep house and techno have become strangely comfortable bedfellows now. What’s your opinion on this?
SECRET CINEMA: I’ve seen it go up and down. My first techno track from 1991 Meng Syndicate – Sonar System was 125 IDM. Some of my tracks from 2001 were 140 IDM. Now, after the minimal craze, it went down again and I am happy for that. It means a DJ set can be much more adventurous and dynamic. The borders seem to fade away. I am using deep house together with techno a lot, and techno tracks I like are called deep house – yet for my ears it really is still techno.
I think when you DJ or produce you have to be open for change and try to make new combinations every time, I am happy to see that this is happening more and more.
What’s it like closing an event like the Awakening Festival?
SECRET CINEMA: Awakening is always something special – it has a tradition of pure techno music lovers coming together, so the stakes are always high as everyone is kind of ‘up-to-date’. Closing an event is always an honour. But last season I did too many [closing sets], so I am trying to be the second last [DJ rather] a bit more now, simply because the pressure is very high and you have to play a certain type of set as well, [if you close].
What’s the best thing about ‘the good ‘ol days’ before the digital explosion?
SECRET CINEMA: Nothing… [chuckles]. There are a few things I miss, like hanging in the record store and talking about music. But I could never buy the records I wanted because the guys from the store didn’t buy enough. I like listening to music alone and exploring the internet for more. Of course holding a record and putting the needle down is unbeatable, it is the icing on the cake for a producer. It seems that there is also a better quality filter, because the costs are much higher; only the best tracks are released on vinyl. But back in the day we were so underground, we had parties on any location without the government checking for decibels and those sort of annoying things…
And what don’t you miss from the old days of dance music?
SECRET CINEMA: Skipping needles, pitched-up turntables with broken pitch-faders and a lot of raunchy clubs with bad sound systems… the quality of clubbing has gone up globally. I believe because the kids from yesterday are the organisers of today and they’ve corrected what went wrong in the past.
You’ve produced some massive techno anthems which were often measured in the past by how much the track was caned on the dancefloor, which big names were playing it and how many vinyls were moved. These days a Beatport Chart Top 10 seems to be the yardstick of success. It feels a bit lame in comparison doesn’t it?
SECRET CINEMA: It does… Timeless Altitude shifted 25000 vinyls or more, my first release did 10000 and Grooveyard – Watch Me Now was selling around 20000, but every year was still selling at least 1500 copies. My biggest techno Beatport hit was Shake Ur Tech-Ass on Cocoon and it did around 4000 downloads and 2000 vinyls or something – which is still not bad, but just releasing music won’t pay the bills nowadays.
SECRET CINEMA: It’s doing very well. It’s already a highly respected label in the scene and there were some pretty big hits from the start. I am happy to see we chose a more melodic path towards techno from the beginning and, as we see now, those worlds from deep house and techno are melting together. It is pure dancefloor music, but with a friendly touch. It is what I like and it is what I like to play. Yes, sometimes it doesn’t stand out from the 5000 other releases coming out every month, but we just do our own thing and it seems to work. That makes me a happy man…
Technology in the DJ booth – do you love all the new innovations or do you prefer to keep it oldskool?
SECRET CINEMA: I embrace technology in the booth. These old-school vs new-school discussions make me dislike the scene to be honest. People complaining about it have a big mouth, forgetting they take a car to the supermarket. Be old-school, take a horse and wagon. I understand it’s cool to have a good vinyl and mixing technique. But back in the day it was all we had, so we used it. Now we have computers and CD’s and Maschine and we use that. Isn’t Techno short for Technology? And that means pushing things forward. The mixes I make now, I could never ever make when playing just vinyl… to me that is progression and it keeps me in a trance better when I am on the dance floor. It’s all about the music you play. Being a DJ means you can adapt a bit to the crowd in front of you while staying within the limits of your own taste. And that, is any school.
South Africa: We have a thriving dance music scene here, one that is growing significantly and an equally thriving community of producers and DJs. Have you heard much about our country and our scene?
SECRET CINEMA: I heard a lot about the party scene and that it’s good. I also know a few guys like Goldfish and Die Antwoord. But in my style of music, I don’t know much about producers from SA yet. I might have some tracks, but I don’t know it’s from SA… I hope to learn a lot when I am there! I can’t wait to meet the scene! It’s been number 1 on my bucket list for ages, I hope it will be a wonderful debut [laughs].
Last question: this whole new EDM wave of popularity that is spreading across the globe – is it good for the entire electronic music scene or just mindless cookie cutter music designed to make money?
SECRET CINEMA: It has good and bad sides. It’s hard to say, but € 300,000 for a Hardwell set seems like bullshit in my opinion. The poll leading business seems to pull the crowds, so I guess that’s worth it… If someone would offer me that kind of money, I wouldn’t say no. A lot of it has become a formula just to make money. Tracks are produced by ghost writers, Beatport top listings are bought, sets are completely pre-recorded and played with synched video, etc. etc… So much fake going on it gives a hard working producer a very bad feeling. But then it also makes the scene bigger in general and there will be more people interested in the rest of us. As long as you stay true to yourself and you like what you do, you deserve everything coming to you. Just be an artist for love of music and be passionate about it at all times – you’ll probably have a wonderful life and meet a lot of cool people!
See you in South Africa soon!
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