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Eelke Kleijn: “With electronic music I am my own judge and I can do whatever I want”

Fueling the launch of his new DAYS like NIGHTS label with one of his finest compositions to date, Eelke Kleijn shows the world exactly what he has to offer. The ever-prolific Dutchman’s new offering is built on stellar percussion, balancing delicate harmonies with mesmerizing vocals, taking its listeners on a journey so sensational it’s bound to leave them speechless. Nothing beats ‘Home’. Ever. With 2 artist albums already delivered and the next on its way, that boasts an arrangement of originals and top notch remixes, Eelke continues to leave no musical stone unturned. From Ultra to EMI, Global Underground to Eskimo Recordings and Spinnin’ to Suara, he has a determined vision in productions that have become world-renowned and respected.

We caught up with Eelke to chat about his new album set to be released this fall.

EG: Hi Eelke, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk to us! We absolutely love your weekly podcasts, they provide a perfect prelude on what to expect from your upcoming and on what upcoming music serious music fans should be made aware of. That being said, can you tell us more about your upcoming artist album and the impetus for its creation?

Eelke Kleijn: Thank you! I really put a lot of effort into the radio show every week so it’s great to see it is so well received everywhere. The album was something I was thinking about for a while already. After my second album ‘Untold Stories’ in 2010, I decided to focus on singles. Between then and now I’ve only released individual tracks or EP’s. But there is something magical about an album, and I had a collection of tracks last year that I thought would fit really well together. At the time I was still thinking about the direction the album should take. My initial idea was to make an LP with a focus on songs and real instruments, something you would really listen to at home. The funny thing is, however, that when I started writing tracks for this album, the exact opposite happened and it turned out to be much more dancefloor-oriented that I had originally thought. There’s still a lot of tracks that you can enjoy at home, and even some downtempo ones. But there are a solid 7 or 8 tracks I can play in Dj sets. More than on any of my previous albums!

EG: What inspirations, life events, lend themselves to creating a track and how do you decide on what name/title to give it?

Eelke Kleijn: Usually for me, the inspiration either comes from being in the studio and just experimenting, or from watching a series or listening to music and getting inspired by that. I’m not really the kind of person that gets inspired at random places. Mostly I really have to be physically in the studio to get something done. Sometimes nice ideas pop up when I play guitar or piano and I’ll write those down or record them. Naming tracks has always been something really fun. I used to have a large notebook full of names and words that I like, and whenever a track was finished I’d go through that and see if something fits. Nowadays I often look at what inspired the record. That can be a synthesizer, or a vocal sample, or something else. Often the track gets its name before it’s are actually done. But there are always nasty exceptions where even as I’m trying the track out in my sets, it’s still called something like 20v4. Those are the hardest to name because I feel track names should come naturally.

EG: How important is it that artists develop a collaborative vs competitive relationship with one another to create music?

Eelke Kleijn: I’ve had many collaborations in the past, but I think I’m too much of a control freak. That’s why I don’t really do it anymore nowadays. I can be tweaking a sound for hours, and then decide I don’t like it and throw it away the next day. If I do collaborate, for instance with a vocalist, my preference is to send stuff back and forth. That way I can really focus on what I’m doing and send it over when I’m happy with it. I’ve never really looked at music as being a competitive thing. I mean, I know it is because there are only so many good slots at festivals and so many opportunities to headline. But if you get worked up about all of that I’m pretty sure it takes the fun out of this line of work very quickly.

EG: Vocals, give me more vocals! How do you go about finding vocals that fluidly align with the instrumental components of a particular track?

Eelke Kleijn: Usually, when I have a track that I think would work well with a vocal, I will send a demo to my publisher and he will send it out to a variety of vocalists. Often I will already have an idea of what I’m looking for in terms of tone, timbre and the like. For me, the most important thing is that the voice fits the track, lyrics come second. Often I’ll get back 3 or 4 demos from possible vocalists and we can take it up from there. In my experience, the best way to make it work is really trying to be as detailed as possible in describing what I’m after, preferably with a couple of reference tracks to illustrate that. But it can definitely be hard to match the right vocalist to a track. There’s a certain track that I have done where I have been searching for the right vocal for over a year already!

“My initial idea was to make an album with a focus on songs and real instruments, something you would really listen to at home”

EG: A little-known fact about your music repertoire, is that you’ve written music for movies like ‘The Crossing’, ‘Rush’ and ‘Transporter’, just to name a few. Can you give us a quick backstory about how this came about and how does it compare to producing electronic music?

Eelke Kleijn: Doing music for movies started about 10 years ago when I was having a discussion with my management about what I wanted to do in the future. I started out by doing small commercials, company movies and the like. But eventually, we worked our way up all the way to Hollywood blockbusters. I think the first movie that I wrote something for that was actually used was Parker, in 2012 or so. What I love about making music for picture is that I don’t really need to be inspired for it. That sounds weird, but let me explain. With electronic music I am my own judge and I can do whatever I want. Sometimes that gets a bit overwhelming. If I’m not super inspired I just don’t really know where to go with my music at that moment. Writing music for picture is often done to specific briefings, sometimes even with timelines. I will know there needs to be a buildup here, tension there, something ominous over here, etc. That makes it really easy to work to and I can turn my creative, self-judging brain off for a second and just go on autopilot, which is very refreshing to do every now and then.

EG: You played an incredible all night long set at Coda in Toronto, and thankfully it was pre-recorded for us to experience again! How do you prepare for such a lengthy set and what makes it ‘DAYS like NIGHTS’ podcast worthy? How does producing music for your ‘DAYS like NIGHTS’ podcast and performing in the club compare and relate?

Eelke Kleijn: I guess I prepare really long sets such as ‘All Night Long’ much in the same way as I prepare shorter sets. I always make a couple of playlists in Rekordbox where I put tunes that I might want to play that night. I’ll have one playlist for everything and I group together tracks that might work at the same time. And then there’s also a playlist with tracks that I shouldn’t forget. If it’s a really long set I just select more tracks, and often I’ll include a couple of classics and old personal favorites as well. But on the night itself, I prefer to just go with the flow. I’ve done over prepping in the past, and I’ve noticed often you just play worse because you’re holding onto your preparations too much. Better to go with the moment and just play what feels right at the time!

EG: There is some seriously outstanding talent being featured on your imprint! How do you go about filtering and finding artists who warrant ‘DAYS like NIGHTS’ support? Can you mention some of those artists whom we should be keeping our ears open to?

Eelke Kleijn: Thank you! The most important thing is that I want to play the tracks myself. If it’s a great track but I don’t play it in my sets, I don’t want it released on the label. I feel it’s my duty to support everyone that releases on the label, I’m really trying to form a group or collective of artists who are similarly minded and enjoy each other’s music, also keeping in mind the events that we do and the radio show. People are free to submit demos to us through the site, besides I’m also active on the lookout for talent myself. Analog Kitchen is someone that has recently had his first release on the label and its one that I literally played everywhere. He’s doing a fantastic live set performance as well. Enamour is also doing great, having recently released on WhatIPlay and coming up with a track on DAYS like NIGHTS.

EG: A festival experience vs a club experience, which one do you prefer as an artist and which one, in your opinion, has less impact on the environment?

Eelke Kleijn: Even though I love playing a good slot at a festival, my preference will always be long sets in clubs. I just feel I’m a lot better when I get to play a long set. To be honest, I’ve never really thought that much about the environmental impact of festivals or clubs, but I’d say a festival definitely has more impact. It also depends on how the festival wants to express itself. For instance, DGTL in The Netherlands is doing a great job at producing greener festivals, through using biodiesel and an organic selection of foods and so forth. However, 20.000 people moving from their homes to visit a festival is always going to have a bigger impact CO2 wise than a single club show.

EG: How do you stay focused and balanced when it comes to the “perpetual party scene” that is commonly associated with electronic music culture?

Eelke Kleijn: My family helps a lot with that, having a regular family life during the week is important for staying sane and balanced. But also I work out three times a week even when I’m on tour, I eat organic food mostly and a low-carb diet. I try not to drink too much. And when you don’t really drink or party, you don’t want to go to the afterparty because you’re tired and want to sleep. Throughout the years I’ve just noticed I feel a lot better when I hold myself up to these standards. And I get disappointed with myself if I break one of them, so I try to do better next time.

EG: I have heard many artists say that there is a distinct difference between fans in Europe, Asia vs North America and Latin America. Can you give us your take on this perspective? And, Is there such a thing as fan etiquette?

Eelke Kleijn: I don’t really think there is that much of a difference. I mean, my favorite crowds to play to are South America, Argentina mostly, and also Canada and Australia. Those are all very far apart, but I get a similar sort of vibe from each of them. I always know beforehand the party is going to be good if I play in any of those places. Of course, there are slight differences between cultures, for instance, if I play a peak time slot in Argentina, that will be from 3-7 or so. In other places that would be a lot earlier. But I think there are great crowds all over the world and I’ve always noticed that people that listen to electronic music are often similarly minded people that share values and the like.

“I’m really trying to form a group or collective of artists who are similarly minded and enjoy each other’s music”

EG: What does the rest of 2018 look like for you in terms of touring dates?

Eelke Kleijn: It’s going to be a busy summer for me, with most dates all the way up to mid-September already laid out. I’ll be visiting Israel, Serbia, France, Poland, Belgium, Romania, Hungary, Mauritius and also have a lot of dates in the states and Mexico coming up. The past month was mostly spent in the studio at home finalizing the album. So I”m getting excited to get back on the road again!

EG: Please finish these phrases for us:

Eelke Kleijn: 

  • I’m at my “creative best” when… I am in a really good mood.
  • The most fulfilling aspect of being an artist is… Finishing a track and hearing the crowd respond to it for the first time.
  • The most challenging aspects of djing and producing are… Not getting overly critical of your own work.
  • Success feels like… Something that, even if you have it, always feels like it’s one step further out of reach.
  • I am… a perfectionist.

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