Name: Luuk van Dijk
Occupation: DJ, producer
Recent release: Luuk van Dijk's new EP Fruitless is out via MicroHertz.
Recommendations: Kendrick Lamar’s new album is a true masterpiece. He’s my #1 artist for almost 10 years now and even though it’s an album that you must listen from the first track to the last, ‘Auntie’s Diaries’ is definitely my fave. The way it builds up and when the strings come in is just goosebumps.
And one artist that opened a new musical chapter for me is Thundercat, I first heard his track ‘Them Changes’ only 2 years ago and it really blew me away. There are even days where I only listen his music. I figured out he has been working with a lot of my fave artists like Kendrick Lamar, Flying Lotus, Anderson Paak, Erykah Badu, so that makes sense.
If you enjoyed this interview with Luuk van Dijk and would like to find out more about his work, visit his official website. He is also on Instagram, Facebook, Soundcloud, and twitter.
When did you start writing/producing/playing music and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
As music was always around in the house as my mom was an opera singer and my dad a musical teacher at a high school, I heard a lot of different sounds. We had a swing in our living room where I spent most of my time at home listening to CDs and vinyls from my parents. I guess I was just very curious and keen to listen to what all kinds of music had to offer and discover new music.
Of course music is a really big part of your personality. I think my musical journey started when I was around 7. Around that time I also started to play the piano which I had to practice from my parents, very thankful that they pushed me through. (laughs) I listened mostly to Classical (mom), Jazz (dad) & Hiphop (brother) but when I was around 12 I started listening to the radio and spending a lot of time at the CD store, listening and buying stuff I thought sounded cool.
Dance programs on the radio and mix CDs were the things that made me want to DJ and playing the piano made me produce.
When I listen to music, I see shapes, objects and colours. What happens in your body when you're listening and how does it influence your approach to creativity?
For me I think it’s mainly emotion and mood.
If you start your day with some chilled out good vibes you start your day with a nice mood. And if you listen to dance music on a Friday night you probably end up at a party.
That's why, especially in the last couple of years, I don't really listen to a lot of dance music throughout the week because weekends can be quite hectic. My ideal situation listening to music is when I’m driving on my scooter through the city. (laughs)
How would you describe your development as an artist in terms of interests and challenges, searching for a personal voice, as well as breakthroughs?
What has been an important change in my life is having a coach.
She helps me train my thoughts and insecurities and have more control of my emotions. In the world I’m living in where you have to make a lot of choices, deal with the toxic environment of social media and having a team around you with all their different opinions and interests in you it can be super nice to have someone from the outside to just talk with you and look after your personal feelings.
Of course it can also really help to talk about what's on your mind with your partner, friends or family but it can really help if a coach that looks at things from a totally different perspective can be life changing. Remember, everyone has their own struggles and insecurities so just talk about it.
Tell me a bit about your sense of identity and how it influences both your preferences as a listener and your creativity as an artist, please.
I listen to a lot of different music and always have. Turned out my Spotify most listened genre was Indie Soul, I didn’t even know that was a genre. (laughs). Hip Hop takes second spot and House music isn't even in my top 5. But I think that’s because the House stuff I listen to is mostly not on Spotify. (laughs)
As I think I’m still searching for a true musical identity even though I’m really close I think, I’ll always be playing and producing different kinds of music. Every situation where you play loud music is different so why play the same stuff right?
What, would you say, are the key ideas behind your approach to music and art?
The most important thing is letting go of what you desperately want in your musical career and just go with the flow.
Of course this might be easy to say, especially if you have your own label that gives you the freedom to release whatever you think is cool. I’ve been making my best stuff since I let go of the feeling of what might work on the dancefloor or what labels want.
How would you describe your views on topics like originality and innovation versus perfection and timelessness in music? Are you interested in a “music of the future” or “continuing a tradition”?
That's a very interesting question! As I’m constantly digging for stuff that came out decades ago I get quite inspired from sounds from the past.
I think the easiest way to put it is that I like to recycle the sound from the past combined with what comes out of my synthesizers when I’m jamming on the keyboard.
Over the course of your development, what have been your most important instruments and tools - and what are the most promising strategies for working with them?
Instead of listening to music and getting inspiration from that. I just start off with an empty project and scroll through presets on my synthesizers with my left hand and jam with my right hand to see what a sound has to offer. When listening to sounds I get an idea what kind of vibe the track will be.
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please.
Recently I’ve been traveling a lot so my work week looks a little different than before but most of the time now I come home on Monday and try to have a little Sunday moment but most of the time while everybody’s working I feel guilty about that and try to do some work myself. (laughs)
So if I’m not in the studio, I’ll do some work for my label Dark Side Of The Sun (planning, contact with the artists and people involved), get some interviews done - like now for instance (laughs) - reflect on the weekend with my booker and management, making plans for the future.
When it’s a regular workday and I did some of these things it’s time for one of my hobbies, cooking! Since 'rona came around I’ve been spending a lot of time in the kitchen. In the evening I often go squashing or watch netflix.
Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece, live performance or album that's particularly dear to you, please?
Well, I just finished my first album. This has been an amazing experience. It’s something completely different than making the regular EPs that most of the time are driven by dancefloor inspiration.
For this album I let go of all thoughts that usually come to mind when in the studio. Things like, is this gonna work on the dancefloor? Are most people gonna dig this? Will this do well in the charts? etc. etc.
Going to the studio and just making what I think sounds cool has been opening my mind and has been so inspiring! Can’t wait for you all to hear it.
Listening can be both a solitary and a communal activity. Likewise, creating music can be private or collaborative. Can you talk about your preferences in this regard and how these constellations influence creative results?
I’m more of a loner in the studio, inspiration is a big part of making music for me and sometimes magic’s happening in the studio when you’re in that room with the right soul. You’ll get the best out of each other and you’ll learn a lot from each other.
But in most cases for me, I’m not too comfortable because the other artist wants to go in another direction or we’re having too much fun and order pizza and beers and talk all day. (laughs)
How does your work and your creativity relate to the world and what is the role of music in society?
Well to be honest I’m not a very politically outspoken person and with all this shit that is going on in the world today music has always been the ultimate gateway to a (mentally) better place for me. It’s the easiest way to zone out and find peace.
It always sounds so cliche but music brings people together.
Art can be a way of dealing with the big topics in life: Life, loss, death, love, pain, and many more. In which way and on which occasions has music – both your own or that of others - contributed to your understanding of these questions?
Looking back, the whole COVID thing was one of my toughest periods in life. Money problems, not being able to dance anymore, at some point searching for a new identity, losing hope etc, we’ve all been there.
It was the little things that made this period better to handle: live streams, sit down parties ... it proved once more that listening to music together is so important.
How do you see the connection between music and science and what can these two fields reveal about each other?
Haha, wow what a question this is. The only connection I see is that the possibilities in both music and science are endless.
Creativity can reach many different corners of our lives. Do you feel as though writing or performing a piece of music is inherently different from something like making a great cup of coffee? What do you express through music that you couldn't or wouldn't in more 'mundane' tasks?
Mmmmm, the thing with writing music is that you can’t use the same exact formula more than once. On the other hand I think coffee is more a formula or dish than a song.
But it is interesting and also a personal matter where you can find your happiness. I can be just as hyped tasting something delicious as listening to a dope track. Maybe that's why I found such joy in cooking as it also has so much to offer and also comes down to the same things like ingredients, season, environment, etc.
Music is vibration in the air, captured by our ear drums. From your perspective as a creator and listener, do you have an explanation how it able to transmit such diverse and potentially deep messages?
This is the part where science comes in. I’ll leave that to the scientists. (laughs)