One of Holland’s most world-renowned artists, Eelke Kleijn, has been producing for 16 years, with countless EPs across labels like Global Underground, Toolroom and his own label Days Like Nights. Two months ago his third album ‘Moments of Clarity’ was released and since then he has been touring across South America, Australia and at home where he played his first 10-hour marathon set to his loyal fans in Amsterdam.
When he’s not shoeless behind the decks he is always creating new sounds, whether it be for the dancefloor or a Hollywood movie. You can also stay up to date with his latest favorite tracks on his Days Like Nights radio show.
We recently caught up with Eelke to talk about his creative process, the evolution of dance music and the challenges of staying creative.
Electronic Groove: Hey Eelke, thanks for your time today. Last November you played your first 10-hour set at Thuishaven. How do you prepare for that?
Eelke Kleijn: Thanks for having me. To prepare I went over my entire record collection on my computer then from all the tracks I selected I’ll make playlists into different parts of the night. I’ll also play some new singles and then just see how it goes. 10 hours was definitely the longest I’ve ever played and I loved every minute
EG: Your new album ‘Moments of Clarity’ came out recently on your own label, what has that process been like?
Eelke Kleijn: This was the first time my own label did the vinyl so it was totally hands on. The label works with Armada Music but vinyl is a different story, we didn’t have distribution, we figured how will we do it, so we did it all through Bandcamp, we did it all ourselves from A to Z. We pressed 500 and so far we sold 100, I signed each one, it was a solid 2 days of work getting them all mailed out.
EG: So there is still enough interest for people to buy vinyl to make pressing it worth it?
Eelke Kleijn: Yes definitely, some people still want a physical product and so do I, some people buy that don’t even have turntables. It’s not what it used to be though. Some of my first viny’sl back in 2003 would have 1500 pressed and now it’s down to around 500.
EG: When was the last time you bought vinyl?
Eelke Kleijn: The last time I bought vinyl was about a year ago, from a Chicago record store, it was Gramaphone records, I bought some Chicago house.
“My standards and self- criticism has gone up, but I feel my music is much better now”
EG: House music was invented in the US, yet it grew exponentially quicker in Europe, why do you think that is?
Eelke Kleijn: When the music from Chicago came here the radio would play it here, and that is what made the difference here, whereas in the US it didn’t get onto the radio, not until the commercial EDM tracks came, like the Black Eyed Peas – I’ve Got A Feeling– then it started on the radio there too. Dance music has been played on the radio for so long here. That’s how I was introduced to it. I was 6-7 years old listening to Kraftwerk, Halloway, etc. It was mainly trance because it was big at the time, like Tiesto and Armin Van Buuren were big but then we moved onto Sasha and Digweed. Another big difference is in the early 2000’s was we had Sensation and Trance Energy which were parties for 40-50,000 people. From that the underground became bigger.
EG: Are you introducing your little girl to your music?
Eelke Kleijn: She likes hard stuff like Muse, hard rock. She’s a little rock girl.
EG: Do you also listen to other types of music?
Eelke Kleijn: Only in the last 10 years have I started listening to other types of music. We’ve seen bands like the Editors, Muse, Florence and the Machine.
EG: How did you get inspiration for your album?
Eelke Kleijn: That’s a hard question. I was just sitting in the studio, and starting to write. I had an idea and a lot of tracks I wanted vocals but not lyrics and I was just trying to get the emotion across. For the most part it just happens naturally. I will do my own take on something I might have heard from someone else, combining different elements. This album is in line with the ones I’ve done before but with new elements, there is some overlap but this is probably the one that is most danceable, I couldn’t do that with the others. That was a deliberate choice. 5-6 years ago I did some tracks that were a bit commercial, one got into the top 10 commercial tracks and then there was pressure. But it becomes less original if you do that a few times. After that I sat down and thought about what I wanted and didn’t want, going to my roots.
EG: How do you deal with the pressure of producing? Others haven’t been able to handle it so well.
Eelke Kleijn: It is sad to see the pressure and the amount of people that have a say in your career, for example I thought Aviciii was super special, he knew exactly what melody and vocal to use, he was a genius in terms of production. Fortunately, now you have people taking it more seriously, people are toning it down and a lot of artists are coming out about mental issues.
For me what helps is to live a healthy life, I try not to drink too much, I don’t drink on the week days, I go to the gym 3 times a week, I’m always eating healthy and keep in shape.
EG: How long did the album take to make?
Eelke Kleijn: Roughly two years, 2016-2018. In January I was still working on 8 of the tracks. I was working on loads of different things at the same time. I will start something, then let it rest for a couple weeks and then listen again to see if I still like it. I would release quicker in the past but then didn’t like the track in a couple of months. Over the years my standards and self- criticism has gone up, but I feel my music is much better now.
“I don’t steer away from my sound but want it to be accessible”
EG: Do you get excited about adding new equipment to your studio?
Eelke Kleijn: Yes all the time, I still get excited from adding new stuff. My studio is on the top floor of the house. I started with 6 essential modules and then added to it. I keep adding more things and then eventually I have too much.
EG: How did you learn how to use it all?
Eelke Kleijn: I just taught myself. The learning curve wasn’t as hard as I thought.
EG: What was the best new piece you bought lately?
Eelke Kleijn: My modular synthesizer which was a big part of the new album. Every track has a few sounds from it.
EG: Any crazy moments from touring last year that stand out?
Eelke Kleijn: Yes I had this gig in Spain, which was good but the next day I over slept which never happens. I woke up at 7:45 instead of 6:30, the taxi never came, so I called a taxi, but they couldn’t come. I was 2 hours north of Barcelona so I called the promoter, woke her up, and she said she would pick me up and she’d take me to the airport, it was a tense ride, we were in a traffic jam, then the car needed gas. They were putting diesel in a gasoline car and then we lost the toll ticket. It was Ok in the end, we got to the airport with 30 min to spare, I just made it by 5 minutes!
EG: You just got back from a tour in Argentina, the parties look amazing! What can you tell us about it?
Eelke Kleijn: There are a couple of things about Argentina that make is special, first off commercial dance music is as big as the underground. Guy J and I played for 10.000 people in the same places where guys like Armin or Solomun play. Argentina is a special place where they all come out, it has to do with how Hernan Cattaneo has educated the people. They have been playing this music on the radio for already 20 years now, similar to Holland. So massive crowds come out when we play.
EG: How do you find your sound as an artist? What would be your advice to new producers?
Eelke Kleijn: My sound is still evolving, but mainly is always melodic or melancholic even, but at the same time I’m not oblivious to what is happening around me to make my sound fit in. If you make exactly what you want to make but there is no market for it then you need to adjust. I don’t steer away from my sound but want it to be accessible. You can have the right sound at the wrong time, you can be too early or too late. Timing is also key. Just try to make what you want to and try to get it to fit into today’s landscape.
EG: What do you have coming up this year?
Eelke Kleijn: I’m working on a new live show which is a hybrid DJ set up. I’ll be playing my own tracks live with the synths. I’ve been working on that for a while, I want to try something new. All the guitars on the album are all done by me. So I finally want to do that live for an audience. I will be debuting that at DGTL Festival in Amsterdam this April. Then I want to take that live show on tour. I envision it as improvising, I will select tracks and have control to play what I want instead of playing it out of Ableton. I love playing live so I don’t get stuck staring at a laptop or playing the same tracks over and over. Live shows on the laptop that are pre-programmed get boring, this will be different every time.
GIVEAWAY ALERT: Would you like to win a signed copy of Eelke Kleijn’s Moments of Clarity?
We will be selecting ONE winner with the BEST STORY of a memory you had while listening to Eelke play. Tell us where you were and what made it special. Was there a favourite track that gave you goosebumps? We’d love to hear your stories from around the world!
Share your story here. Good luck!