Rotterdam-based producer Eelke Kleijn finally joins our list of legends. For the past 10 years, he’s been one of the leading lights of melodic house, from his deeply musical productions and performances, to his expert curation of some seriously great record labels and radio shows.
You’ve been making and releasing music for close to 15 years – how did you get started out?
I got interested in making music when I was about 15 or 16. At the time I was working at a music store where I also took my piano lessons, and I could bring home equipment during the weekends. That sort of triggered it for me, playing around with the Roland MC 303 and 505 among others. I made some of my first tunes on those machines and also tried to recreate popular dance songs on those groove boxes.
Our readers will mostly associate you with your contributions to deep/progressive house and techno, but you’ve also been doing some film-trailer work recently. What projects have you been involved with, and how have you found making the transition to different styles and projects?
I’ve worked on the trailers for movies such as Wrath of the Titans, The Crossing and Rush. Last year I was also involved with the music for the Sensation show. This started about 8 or 9 years for me, when my manager and I were discussing future plans. Music for media has always spiked my interest, and at that time we started to make some plans about getting there. It started with small movies and advertisements, but quickly led to pitches for bigger things such as film trailers. It’s something I definitely see myself doing more and more in the future!
Can you please tell us a bit about your current studio set up? How has the process of making music changed from when you were making tunes like ‘Knowledge Base’?
I work on a hybrid setup, with almost all my sequencing done in the box in Cubase, but a lot of my sounds coming from hardware and nowadays also my modular synth. I have an Apollo 32 in 32 out soundcard which connects everything to everything. I often run my synths through guitar pedals and back into the box. I also do that from drum processing and reverb and delay effects. I also own a lot of UAD plugins, they are my go to for in the box processing. Compared to the early days I am working much more from a hands-on approach I think, where I will sequence a synth and record it live while I tweak it. In the early days I did a lot of stuff in the box with only 1 or 2 hardware synths connected.
‘Home’ was released in February on your new label DAYS like NIGHTS, and has understandably created quite the stir. Can you tell us a bit about the new label – what are your ambitions for it are and what can we expect from it in 2017 and beyond?
Home was indeed the first release on the new label! The label started out as an idea in my head. I felt like it was the right time to do all of my music on a dedicated label and platform. But that label did not exist yet, and the natural thing to do was create it myself. That’s when we got in touch with Armada and discussed out ideas, and fortunately they were as excited as we were! I see DAYS like NIGHTS as a home-base for all of my future music, but that doesn’t mean we won’t sign other artists to it. The first couples of releases are mine, and gradually we are bringing others aboard as well. We also plan to do label nights in the future, where we can feature artists at our shows and host areas at festivals for instance.
‘Home’ has a really timeless feel to it – it sounds like a real statement of intent for the label. What was the inspiration for the track? Where did that wonderful piano part come from?
Thank you! For a while I had wanted to do a track which you could play at the end of a set and send everybody home with a really good feeling. That is also the reason it features an almost outro like ending, so it really work well at the end. The piano part was the first thing I came up with and it is the basis for everything else, I played it myself. After that I worked on the drums, guitar, and all the other instrumentation. And it does really represent the concept of the label well. Home is about being comfortable, being yourself, enjoying time with friends. All things I value really highly and want to share with others.
Your productions quite often feature very rich instrumentation – string arrangements, guitar parts, and so on. Which instruments do you play, if any, and did you have formal training?
I play piano since I was 12 years old, and I started with guitar about a year ago. Some of my earlier songs that feature guitar were either played by someone else or were done with VST instruments, but I got really annoyed by that. So a year ago I decided to buy a guitar and learn how to play it. I’m still thinking about picking up drums as well, though that is something for the future perhaps. I had piano lessons for about 6 or 7 years, but the guitar so far is all self taught.
Your work is also often noticably different in mood to a lot of what’s out there – I’m thinking of tracks like ‘Ein Tag Am Strand’ and ‘Rampestamper’. Is that a conscious choice – do you sometimes set out to make a record that aims to lift peoples’ mood? Or does it more reflect how you were feeling during the periods you made those records?
It’s funny that you noticed that and you are totally right. I think my records represent my mood at the time. Sometimes I feel like creating something happy, at other times I want to create something uplifting or melancholic. My music often varies with my own mood. For that reason I work on many different songs at the same time, sometimes I will start a track and really love it, but 2 days later I won’t feel it at all. I’ll do something else that day and return to the first song later. I also try not to re-use the same sounds over and over again. Once a song is done, it’s done, and I want to create something else the next time I’m in the studio.
You’ve released two albums over the years – 2007’s ‘Naturally Artificial on Global Underground and 2010’s Untold Stories on Manual. Have you any ambitions to make any other LPs? What do you think the place for albums is in an age dominated by digital downloads and streaming?
I definitely have ambitions for another album, and I’m slowly working on some tracks for it, but right now I don’t feel the pressure at all, it has to come naturally. I do feel with digital downloads and streaming the music industry has changed a lot. I don’t really see the point anymore of doing an entire dance album, I feel those tracks are better released as singles and aimed at DJs and the club circuit. If I do another album, it will be something completely different. Probably a lot of live instrumentation and something that is more interesting to listen to at home.
Let’s talk a bit about performing and touring. You were recently touring Argentina again – can you tell us about the trip and about your experiences of the country and its clubbers?
Argentina is always incredible. I’ve been playing there since 2008 and I can safely say it’s one of my favourite places in the world to be. Electronic Music is really heavily tied into their culture and it’s one of the only places in the world where I feel underground music is as big as mainstream music. I don’t think I have ever had a bad show in Argentina, it’s just not possible 😉
How is the scene in Rotterdam at the moment?
To be honest I don’t really follow it. Rotterdam has always had a bit of a harder scene. Where Amsterdam was more about house, Rotterdam would be about techno. Now that Amsterdam is very techno, I feel Rotterdam is more about the harder styles. I play here once a year on average but that is about it.
What are some of your other favourite places to perform?
Very high on my list are Canada and Australia. I feel those countries, yet very far apart, are very similar in terms of people and dedication to electronic music. Whenever I go to either of them, I know it is going to be a great show!
Where can people catch you playing over the next while?
The 25th of March I will be in Budapest again for a 5 hour set at Cinema Hall. Also coming up soon are Sarajevo and Dubrovnik in April. And of course, Armada Invites DAYS like NIGHTS on the 29th of this month which will be streamed live on Facebook. We also have Dimitri and Ramon Tapia playing that night.
Like myself, you’re clearly a devotee of using #throwbackthursday to remember and celebrate some lost classics. What’s your ultimate throwback track?
That is a really hard question! Like with many of my preferences, it actually differs from day to day and with my mood. One song that will never ever leave my case is Let Me Count The Ways by Benoit & Sergio. But if you ask me this exact question next week you could get a very different answer 😉
What do you listen to aside from electronic/dance music? Who do you draw your musical inspiration from?
I would say listening to other artists and bands, but also just from experimenting in the studio. A lot of my music is still based on experimentation. I might have an idea in my head when I start, but I never know where it is gonna go. By playing around in the studio with synths and effects, my ideas start to take shape and that’s is usually when the track really starts to take form.
Current top 5?
In any particular order;
– Khen – Land of Goshen (Patrice Bäumel Remix)
– Eelke Kleijn – Rubicon
– Joeski – Kalimba
– Joe Goddard – Music Is The Answer (Hot Since 82 Remix)
– Marc Marzenit – The Imaginary Trip to Hawai (Dosem Remix)
Finally, what else can we look forward to from you in 2017?
There is lots of new music coming up this year, both remixes and originals. So be sure to keep an eye out on DAYS like NIGHTS because that is where it is happening for me this year 🙂