The 223th episode of our 12 Questions segment features producer Storyteller.
1. How old are you, where are you living and how long have you been producing and Djing?
My name is Matthijs Breijer, I’m 30 going on 31, living in Rotterdam (the Netherlands). I’ve been producing music since 1995, so right about 20 years now, I’ve been DJ-ing since 2007 I think, I’m not sure. Since 2005 I’ve been producing under the alias Storyteller.
2. Where do your musical roots lie, what are your first memories of electronic music and when did you know you wanted to pursue it seriously? Are there any particular productions or artists from the past that really made you think to yourself ‘this is what I want to do.”
I’ve always been fond of music (but have no musical background whatsoever). Even before my teens I started recording the intro tunes of my favorite cartoons from tv onto cassette tape so I could listen to them on and on. Think Inspector Gadget and Samurai Pizza cats. Not much the first Dutch music station (The Music Factory) launched and I spent hours waiting for my favorite tracks on TV so I could record them onto cassette tape. Chicane – Offshore (1997) was the first track that had a profound impact on me, I still listen to it frequently up to this day.
As for pursuing a career in music production – I was very eager in the period from 2005 to 2008. I just had a few releases, a great response and some airplay here and there. It took me several years of time to realize my output wasn’t high enough, both in quantity and quality. I slowly started focussing more on other hobbies. Music is still very much a part of me and I enjoy music production in my spare time, but I don’t music as often as I could (or should).
3. How difficult was learning to produce for you in the beginning? Did you take any Audio Engineering programs or production courses to help you out or are you pretty much self taught? And did anyone give any advice early on that really helped?
I grew up spending a lot of time playing with computers – playing games, writing little programs. One day I visited a friend who just happened to have a music program he wanted to show me. I copied it on a floppy disc to put it on our family computer. We lost touch shortly after, and I don’t think he knows how greatly he has impacted my life. Making music slowly became a daily grind, creating track after track. First purely sample based, as the years went by and VST’s came into play and things got a lot more serious.
Over the years I’ve been part of several communities, most notably ClubCharts, TraxInSpace and Sublogic Corporation, 2 communities and a netlabel respectively. It was a time in which sharing source files was common, making it easy to grasp new techniques. Being inspired by seeing how other tracks were built. The people I hung out and exchanged feedback with (online) were very helpful. A lot of the techniques I learnt back then I still apply today. I’m still in contact with some of the people from those days (between over 7-15 years ago) today and they made incredible progress in their careers, leaving their bedroom producer days behind to play in front of thousands of people several times a month in places I never knew existed.
If anything exchanging project files, actively participating in communities where positive feedback was the norm has greatly helped me improve over time.
4. What parts of the production process do you find the most difficult and what comes easiest for you? When you do hit a creative block what helps you through it?
I’ve had times where I could just force my way through a creative block. I just dropped in some instruments and continued to experiment for hours until it worked. These days things aren’t as easy for me anymore. Setting up a proper framework for a track is easy. As soon as I’ve got a nice groove and mood set I just choke, especially when I near a breakdown part within the track. At that point I usually have no clue where I want to go in terms of sounds and melodies. I’ve got quite a few projects that still sound lovely after a few years but just haven’t been finished because I don’t know what to do with them. It’s a very real and frustrating problem, and the main cause to why I’m not putting out that much music anymore as I used to. I guess I just need to spend more time on trying to make it work like I used to do. But I feel like I just do not have the time to do that anymore.
5. What’s a normal day like for you? Do you have a job outside of electronic music? And what do you like to do when you’re not working on music?
Up to two weeks ago I worked as a developer for a Dutch dance music magazine. I just started a new job as a software engineer in the telecommunications industry. In my spare time I work on private projects such as Loving Music (www.lovingmusic.net), which is a record label project of mine. Furthermore there is Loving Promos (www.lovingpromos.com) in which I try to improve the workflow of record labels. I occasionally play some football or basketball. Furthermore I just try and spend time with my wife, friends and family.
6. Apart from electronic music what other genres do you listen to and who are your favourite artists outside of electronic? And do these genres or artists have a direct effort on your own productions?
I hardly listen to any type of music I would consider to be outside the electronic domain. Currently I’m very much amazed by the futurebeats movement where a lot of hiphop is combined with common house music sounds. It’s long 808 basses, cheesy chipmink vocals, hyped up energetic feel just get to me J. Artists such as DJ Complexion, Yaz beats, Samashi, SeventhWonder, Haan808 and Flamingosis light up my day in particular! If you want a good impression of what I’ve been listening to recently my Soundcloud likes are a very good representation of that: https://soundcloud.com/storyteller/likes.
7. What was the first and last physical (CD, Vinyl, Cassette etc) piece of music you bought?
The first music single I can recall I bought was ‘Hymn – Music instructor’. I loved it because it sort of exposed how tracks are built and I was already creating my own music at the time, so I could relate to it. You can watch it on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xd847TfxgCc.
The last physical copy of music I acquired was a promo I spotted in the office of the magazine I used to work for. Egbert’s album titled “Warm” was just lying there in its bright white cover and I took it home with me. I still put it on frequently when I’m on the road.
8. Tell us something about yourself that might surprise people?
I got married on Independence Day (July 4th 2014). And if my wife would only let me I’d eat a bucket of Ben & Jerry’s icecream every day ;).
9. Which producers in your opinion get consistently overlooked?
There’s plenty, I feel Chris Reece deserves a lot more recognition. He seems to be doing pretty well for himself but I believe he really deserves to get that big break-through. I envy his skillset and the consistent, extreme level of quality music he produces.
The other one is a bit more underground, Stephen J. Kroos. He’s a great guy with an incredible unique sound. His productions regularly just baffle me.
10. Which producers consistently inspire you? And where else does your inspiration come from?
Eelke Kleijn has an incredibly diverse portfolio of music for Hollywood movies, tv-shows, festival events, product presentations. Without even mentioning his regular music productions he’s putting out these days or in the past – he’s got it all. A great guy and putting in a *lot* of dedication and effort – deserving every bit of success he has had thus far.
The other one would be Chris Reece, for pretty much the same reasons. Incredibly talented, very diverse music productions, from country to full-on EDM, it all sounds very well produced and I usually enjoy every bit of it, regardless of genre.
11. There are countless producers out there trying to find their way and create their own unique sound, what advice do you have for them?
A unique sound is vital and I hope music producers are already made aware of this by plenty of other people. It can be the way you mix things, or a very specific set of sounds, whatever you like. People relate to great music. However, good story is just as important for people to relate to you as an artist. I encourage you to share everything you feel comfortable sharing! Build up a following from the get-go and go for engagement. Followings measure success these days and could even allow you to cut out the middle man so you can stay your own boss all the time. Social media engagement and a unique sound go hand in hand. If either one of these two key elements is absent you’ve got a long and hard way ahead of you. Focus on the bigger picture as well as the details.
12. If the final DJ/live set of your career was next week what would your last track be?
I personally do not consider my history in music production or dj-ing much of a career. It’s a fun adventure, and I feel most comfortable keeping it that way. As a last I’d probably choose something else on the spot than what I am about to say. There’s 2 options: I’d either put on a track I feel a strong emotional connection with or I’d go completely overboard with a track that just makes me all hyped up myself. Today I’m going for the former. Mint Royale – Dancehall Places (Grandad Bob Cardy Mix) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8s2mvnzAh80 is the track that played when my wife and I signed our wedding vows last year.
segment collected by Suffused