Could you take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work? Do you have a fixed schedule? How do life and creativity feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
I have two lives, one during the week where one of my daughters lives with me and I am a school daddy who goes into the studio when she goes to school. That gives my life in the week time structure that I never had and it makes me very productive. In the weekends, after I've I dropped my daughter off with her mother, my alternative life begins. I go out, I play out, I can make a longer run in the studio etc. The only person I have to look after is myself, and somehow I manage to do that the entire weekend :)
I try to get the most out of the weekends so I can be focused and responsible during the week, and somehow this works very well for me
Let's say you have a gig coming up tonight. What does your approach look like – from selecting the material and preparing for, opening and then building a set?
It depends if it is a festival or a long club night, but usually I try to sort out my music the night before, I have a pretty big record collection, so I take some records either to record or bring with me to play out. Furthermore, I check some promos that I got in that week. Then I make a digital recordbag which I take with me that night depending on what time and what kind of party it is. So with longer sets I have different digital records bag. Which I also had when I was still carrying the physical record bags. Usually one with new music, a small bag with some classic tunes and one bag with the stuff I regularly play divided in vibes, So from opening music which is nice and smooth, the records which pull you to the dancefloor, to the peaktime records etc. The cool thing about the digital recordbag is you have everything with you. The not so cool thing is you sometimes have too much music with you and your stuff is not so sorted as it would be with just a few record bags.
Can you describe your state of mind during a DJ set? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
Well I am still over excited to play but nowadays I learned to enjoy it more, even when I am super excited. Apart from doing the thing you like the most it is also nice to make fun and have fun while you are doing it. distractions are always there, mainly when I tried to have too much fun:) But it is not so rock n roll as people would like to believe. Sometimes it has to do with women who are trying to discuss my private life while I am trying to mix 2 records and the monitors are on. Or where the refills are for my drink of the night :) The only unstable factor during a set is my own mind. The thing is I usually I know with my first mix what kind of night it will be. So my main distraction is my own mind, how I can turn things around when I think a nights needs to be better and I start to get into a discussion with my own mind, very tiresome ...
What are some of the considerations that go into deciding which track to play next? What makes two tracks a good fit? How far do you tend to plan ahead during a set?
Usually I just go with what I feel must be right to play, but it also depends on the party. Sometimes tracks fit superbly into the mix, but do not work for the dance floor. But sometimes a mix is not so smooth or fitting however the outcome for the floor couldn't be better. I just go with my feeling when I think too much, it usually goes wrong. I have to stick with my first feeling. I rarely plan ahead. I do think some records are better to save for later in a set so then I will not play them and save them for later. And when it comes to the end of a set I can think: 20 minutes are left so can I stil play 3 or 4 records? Which ones do I really want / need to play? Then you plan a few records ahead.
Would you say you see DJing as improvisation? As composition in the moment? Or as something entirely different from these terms?
The cool thing about being a DJ is that every set is different even if it is a club/festival you played before. It will never be the same, so in that way it is always a composition in the moment. You never know exactly what will happen, you just have to keep an open mind.
One of the best nights can be a night where I play records I hardly know and I get a super reaction from the crowd. Together you make the night and when you both are open to new things that can make it special. But every set is different. I can also play an energetic and pumping set at a festival with records I played already a few times. But I might get a super responsive crowd and that can be special as well.
How do playing music at home and presenting it in the club compare and relate? What can be achieved through them, respectively, and what do you personally draw from both?
At home I play everything form weird jazz to classical music to rock, movie scores etc, anything goes. There is so much cool music and there is just not enough time to hear everything. I fine tune the music I play during the day with my mood. In the morning, it is usually smooth and easy and it gets stronger during the day.
During the week I do not listen to house/techno as much. However, when the weekend is in sight I switch to it so I get in the mood already for the weekend.
How would you describe the relationship between your choices and goals as a DJ and the expectations, desires and feedback of the audience? How does this relationship manifest itself during a performance and how do you concretely tap into it?
Well it depends on where you are. What kind of party? Do I play 10 hour set or do I play 90 minutes prime time at a festival 2 different dynamics which both can be satisfying or frustrating. At a festival you can have more stages, rain, sun, an early or late slot etc.
When I started as a very young little Michel I wanted to make people dance so I will always look at the dancefloor, I want to make the party with my music and I want the crowd to enjoy that as much as they can. But there are some limitations as I mentioned before, such as short set times, certain time slots, rain, snow, sun etc. But every limitation can also have an unexpected positive outcome and that is why I think a DJ should be able to adapt, as long as he keeps his style and taste of music. Expectations from people can also create a weird outcome. Some people expect to hear certain records from me, either some which I played a lot or one of my own tracks. And even if I play at my best, they still think it was mediocre because they did not hear that record they hoped for. Expectations are always difficult. I also still have this when I go out and hear a DJ play, I also expect something. But the best nights are those when you do not expect anything.
Especially thanks to the storage facilities of digital media, DJ sets could potentially go on forever. Other than closing time, what marks the end of a DJ performance for you? What are the most satisfying conclusions to a set?
The lights go on and the place is packed and all hands are in the air and even after a long day or night or morning people do not want to leave. The moment when you really want to play one more but for whatever reason it is not possible anymore. That feeling is always great. Or when the night is so special a club decides to stay open longer, or a festival takes the risk of a fine, then you know: this must be special:) But for me a satisfying set is the one where you feel you played every track you wanted to play. And that people where with you from the first track to the last and that they are just as satisfied as you.
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?
Art is different for each person and that’s what makes is so special, for everybody it can mean something else. With my DJ sets I want to give people a time to escape from normal day life. They have chosen to spend their time with me. And I try to repay them by giving them a great night. There is not much political engagement in that, however there was never a political reason for me to be a DJ.
However, sometimes things turn out different from what you expected. I used to run a club night in Rotterdam for about 8 years called Future which was a weekly thing. After that period I met so many DJs, producers, designers etc who were inspired by that night and started their life as an artist with that night in mind. When people tell me that, it always brings a smile to my face.