Filed under: Interview
In a top ten list of places to grow up where you’d be forced to make your own entertainment, the provincial east Netherlands might well feature. There and south Birmingham, so that’s one thing we’ve got in common with Sander Kleinenberg. But similarities with the DJ who was voted number 12 in DJ Mag’s Top 100 last month end there, it must be said. A rapacious consumer of R&B, electro and hip hop throughout the 80s, Sander launched his career in The Hague in 1994, pioneering the burgeoning dance scene there. After his breakthrough in 1996 with the single “Y.D.W. (You Do Me Wrong)” on New York’s Strictly Rhythm, Sander quickly graduated to the DJing elite. Progressive house lumbered through Europe like a musical behemoth in the late 90s, leaving a devastation of clubbing frenzy and corporate sponsorship in its wake, and descending on Japan shortly after to coincide with Sander’s 2001 Global Underground “Nu Breed” release. A positive incendiary device on the much vaunted progressive sound, it shot Sander to the forefront of the genre, and it wasn’t long before predictable comparisons with Digweed began to surface. While the progressive scene might have whimpered away like a wounded puppy, Sander’s unwavering musical philosophy has lost none of its dynamism, as evinced on his new release “This is Everybody Too” on Renaissance- it’s all about people getting together and creating. Witty, erudite, and truly on top of his game, we were chuffed to grab half an hour with him before he sent Womb ballistic last week, where we talked about his latest project, boy bands, and the scourge of downloading. Oh, and top tens.
Interview by Matt Cotterill
HRFQ : [Fumbling incompetently as usual with the recorder] This is the magic machine, but if it doesn’t work, could you just remember everything you’ve said?
Sander Kleinenberg : I’ll make a mental note! [laughs]/p>
HRFQ : [With a vague sense of triumph at getting the recorder to work] Thanks for your time today; we know you’re really busy.
Sander : The pleasure’s all mine.
HRFQ : Well, first up; Japan. How many times is it now?
Sander : I think this is the fourth.
HRFQ : What do you think about it?
Sander : I’m completely in love with Japan. The only thing I don’t like is the bureaucracy, but, the way that people treat each other, you know, it’s a cramped place and there’s a lot of people in the same square kilometre. The way they get along and the way they keep their dignity is remarkable. I always feel very, very welcome, and I think that’s a fantastic way of living together. And the food, and the culture.
HRFQ : We saw your schedule and you’re so busy. You’ve been all over Asia; what do you think about the club scene there at the moment?
Sander : Well, starting with Japan, I think it’s very healthy. It’s seen its fair amount of trends coming through that have filtered out into a strong scene, in my vision. And there are other places, I just went to Chengdu in China, and I was the second DJ they’d ever had there! I think they had to get used to the idea of a DJ playing the same kind of music for longer than two hours! They’re used to DJs playing hip hop, R&B, house, just like we did fifteen years ago, so that’s interesting. And I think in between that there are lots of different stages, such as varying trance and big sounding records. So you know, it varies, just like everywhere in the world.
HRFQ : You’ve been using Pioneer’s DVJ-XI, but I think tonight’s the first time you’re using it in Japan.
Sander : Yea.
HRFQ : How has it changed your approach and your live set?
Sander : It has completely changed my idea of DJing, I must say. Because generations around us, specifically those a bit younger, you know, 5 years, 10 years younger; I’m 30… [in a sober tone] and a little bit. [lol] Alright, I’m 45! OK, 62! [lol]
HRFQ : Don’t worry, you don’t look a day over 60! [lol, aching rib territory]
Sander : They’ve grown up with video, you know, with 30 television channels. When I grew up, there were 3.
HRFQ : [Reminiscing slightly] Same here.
Sander : And in my times it slowly became more, and I grew with it, I didn’t just fall into it, as probably you and many others did. [At this point HRFQ’s head begins to swell at the thought we’ve managed to retain our youthful good looks]. And I think the club scene has seemed to be the last place where video didn’t have a place, you know, it was always hard to sync the two in such a way that you could maintain your mixing, and maintain the hands-on effect of DJing. When you want to drop a record, you want to do it for a real purpose, not because it’s pre-programmed. Before, you could have done stuff with video, but you always had to pre-program everything to make it in sync. Now with the DVJ it’s just like a CD or DVD player, which can pitch and scratch, you know.
HRFQ : It looks great, I’d love to have a go on one some day!
Sander : There’s nothing to it really, it’s just what your average DJ CD player will do for you. The fantastic thing is it has a video out, and you can project those videos.
HRFQ : You see it as a way forward?
Sander : It is a way forward, and I would hope that within 5 years from now underground dance labels would release DVDs with their latest tracks on it, or maybe together with vinyl or CDs, or with downloads. I think it would make the product more interesting, I think it would overcome the problem with downloading from the internet, you know, they’re all screaming, “oh no, consumers aren’t willing to pay any more for what we do!”, it’s like, well, let’s make a better product, that people will actually pay for and won’t want to wait 3 hours to download. To me it really personalizes what I do, within my performance I can now bring a visual element, which brings it to a new level, I can actually put my identity into that, and make it even more mine instead of just playing other people’s records. I’m working with someone on that; it’s pretty hard to do all of it on your own. We’ve become a sort of team, we bounce off each other, I give him ideas of directions, colours, or flavours, or which words I’d like to see visualized. It’s like a super-modern karaoke! [lol]
HRFQ : You’ve been to so many places; any gigs that stand out?
Sander : Well, my favourite gig is always the next gig. You know, I think it’s not very clever to look back and think “oh, that was great!”, because then you’ve kind of lost something. But, then, you know, there are a few places in the world which are really happening, Canada’s very healthy, Montreal is a healthy city. New York’s coming back to where it once was, with lots of new clubs opening and fresh ideas. There are many places, and Japan, you know…
HRFQ : Always fun!
Sander : Fun, yeah! When there are no earthquakes!
HRFQ : Can we talk about the remixes you’ve recently done, Janet Jackson’s “All Nite”, how did you get involved with that?
Sander : Well A & R called me and asked me if I wanted to remix a Janet Jackson song, and I wasn’t jumping off my seat, like “yeah!” [lol], but, this is no offense, but when I remix anything or anybody I want it to be fresh, I want it to be something that inspires, obviously. I’m not one of those remix whores who’ll remix whoever, you know… Elvis!
HRFQ : You remixed Justin Timberlake as well [Rock Your Body] and that became really big. How does it feel doing these ‘big stars’?
Sander : I like the idea of trying to bring that back to the dancefloor. There are happy memories I have of the middle of the eighties, and people like Shep Pettibone, and Ben Liebrand, who’s a Dutch producer, who remixed all these people, and just made them suitable for dancefloor action. And why not, you know? Trying to get our sound into that world is, I think, quite important; to keep us fresh and to maintain a certain awareness. We can try and reinvent ourselves- I’m talking about dance and electronic music- over and over again, and try to be up front of the pack and always refreshing, but I think we’ve slowly got to realize that the fundamentals are laid. I’m not sure if I’m the person to say this, but I feel that dance music, electronic music is in our lives. We’ve done it, we’re selling… anything, cars, cell phones, accompanied by electronic music. And foremost, I think that the people I remix are very talented. If they were soulless or uninspiring, I wouldn’t touch them. I’ve said “no” to many people, and I’ve said “yes” to a few.
HRFQ : Can we talk about your latest album, “This Is Everybody Too”? In what way can we take this as an extension of your last album “Everybody”?
Sander : Well, “This is Everybody Too”; any way you want to translate that is fine by me. I’ve tried to keep it as open as anything, I wanted to be in there, but it’s not about me, it’s not about the DJ. It’s about people on the dancefloor, coming together and creating an atmosphere. And merely what I do is provide a soundtrack, but it could be any Tom, Dick, and Harry round the block… kind of. The aspect of what it’s really about is that- people coming together and doing something. All I’m trying to do is highlight what I think is most interesting in electronic music, at least what I have my hands on, and I listen to lots and lots of music, and I filter it through, and this is what I believe, in my world, are the eye-catchers. I think on both CDs, the first 4 or 5 tracks are a stepping ground for what happens next in the CD. I’m not musically changing the world, I know that, but it comes from the heart, it’s what I believe in musically.
HRFQ : We thought it was a beautifully structured album. Did you approach it with any concepts?
Sander : Well, I really didn’t want anything to do with the boy-band, DJ icons; that boy-band member DJ, I find that very uncomfortable, you know, sort of looking like this [affects a fairly impressive boy-band pose]. I mean, I’ll do that for press shots or whatever, but not on an album. I’m not a fucking pop star, you know what I mean? [yet more laughs] Do you know what I mean, I want to be who I am.
HRFQ : I do, yea, not like DJs on a cover with faces like: “You can’t use my tracks coz they’re so cool they aren’t even out for another 3 years!”
Sander : Yea, it’s like when someone asks me for a top ten, I’m like, why would you want to read a top ten that I do, because the tracks might not come out for 12 months, and it will only make people go, “Hmmm…”. I mean, I’ll make a beer top ten, gladly, or the best fishing destinations in the world, but not that, because it only takes away a bit of the magic. I think there’s a whole purist posse out there roaming the web sites, sitting there…
HRFQ : In their rooms…curtains drawn…
Sander : In their rooms…discussing what’s cool and what isn’t. And these people are really destroying the scene, and what I do is a complete reaction to that, like, fuck you, you know, this is how it should be.
HRFQ : The picture on the Jacket is great. Can you tell us what was going on? Were you at a festival?
Sander : Funnily enough, the cover was shot at Glastonbury, and, coincidentally, the cover from “Everybody” was shot at Glastonbury as well. Basically we were running through ideas of what the cover was going to be. We tried to stage a few, but when you stage something it doesn’t quite work. So I was like, wait a minute, I’ve got these mad pictures of Glastonbury this year, let’s look through them, and I’ve got this, what’s it called, a Southwestern…?
HRFQ : Err..Southwester…?
Sander : Yellow thing on my head, and I’m like, yea, that’s it! I’m gonna use that, and everybody went, “oh, no Sander..”, I’m like, come on, just do it, because it shows what it’s about, it’s about standing in the rain with your Southwester on and your bag in your hand, and walking through a muddy field.
HRFQ : Sander, a message for your Japanese fans?
Sander : Stay true to yourselves and spread love. As I will.
End of the interview
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