"When I work purely on my own music there are no rules at all, anything goes"
While genre typing and classification have gained an increasingly important place in the listener's understanding of electronic music, a number of figures have maintained a more genuine approach to releasing records and mixes. One of them is the artist Betonkust. This Netherlands-based dj and producer has introduced a series of obscure darkwave, synth, EBM o electro. Charged with more heat than a blazing convector, this one is perfect for keeping up with spring equinox fluxes and shifts.
Can you tell us what you’ve been up to recently?
The usual. Playing shows on the weekends, working on music during the week. That's what I've been doing for the last couple of years.
Right now is a bit different though, with all those cancelled shows. Lots of weird, empty weekends coming up.
Do you remember when music was first introduced to you as a child? Was it through playing an instrument, listening to the radio or through your family?
House music was not really hard to find in the Netherlands, it was played on radio and television all the time, even in the early nineties.
I also got this cassette tape from my aunt when I was four years old, I still have it actually. There's some cool tracks on it.
The Prodigy, R&S stuff, but also hardcore DJ mixes by Dano and Buzz Fuzz. Pretty heavy, no idea why someone would give that kind of music to a four year old, but it definitely worked.
What are your musical backgrounds? Were your parents avid collectors and listeners?
My dad's side of the family is pretty music-oriented. Some of them play 'real' instruments on a professional level.
As a teenager I used to play drums in a bunch of different rock/metal/punk bands. Now that I think about it, it would be really nice to play drums again.
How did you first start experimenting with electronic music?
As a kid I was playing around with cassette tapes, recording stuff from the radio and compact discs, trying to 'mix' it all together I guess.
When computers started to become a bit more serious I had software like eJay and Magix Music Maker, pretty boring because you could only work with existing loops.
A bit later, when I was like fourteen years old, my cousin gave me an illegal copy of FruityLoops 3.5.6, I think that was the real starting point.
That same year I bought my first drum machine.
Do you recall the first acid record you heard that made you think, “that’s it, that’s the kind of sound I want to do/play”?
Probably 'Androigyn' by Holographic. It's on a Mystery Land VHS tape from 1994. 'Set Up 707' by Edge Of Motion is also a big one.
How do you usually build up your tracks? Are you more into instinctive jamming or do you structure things more tightly?
Depends. Most of the time there's a drum pattern, an acid pattern and some melodies. I'll record ten minutes of me muting/unmuting those elements, and then I'll cut it down to let's say five minutes.
Sometimes - for instance when I work on a remix - it's a bit more structured. Especially when there are vocals involved. Most of the time you'll get paid to do a remix, that also counts. You'll need to please someone else too.
When I work purely on my own music there are no rules at all, anything goes.
In and out of the electronic music circle, who’s an inspiration to you?
Legowelt and I-F are my biggest inspirations. When I heard their music (and all the other great stuff from The Hague) I never looked back.
Other artists that I really enjoy are The Cure, Cocteau Twins, Depeche Mode, Ministry but also The Mover, The Horrorist, Anthony Rother, Joey Beltram, Mono Junk, the list goes on...
I also listen to a lot of stuff by friends like Innershades, Palmbomen II, Antenna, Alessandro Parisi.
What was the last record store you visited and what did you bag there?
Probably Clone in Rotterdam. I picked up the record that I did with Innershades, didn't really buy anything, I'm not a collector.
Are you particularly permeable to your environment, creatively speaking? If so, how does it inflect your approach to DJing?
Not sure how important the environment is, although when I work on music I need my studio to be clean or else I can't focus.
When you DJ you are pretty flexible since you can bring so much music nowadays. If the crowd doesn't respond well, you can adapt pretty easily.
A live set is a different story though since you can only play like twenty tracks, and if you are programmed after some person that plays 140 bpm techno, it can be a challenge.
The room is important too. It can feel weird to play harsh acid tracks at a sterile Dutch pop venue where some singer-songwriter with a hat was performing two hours earlier.
Would you like to share a set? Can you tell us more about it? When and how was it recorded?
This DJ set was recorded at home for Operator Radio, at the end of March 2020. For obvious reasons they can't have artists in their studio right now, but they can still broadcast pre-recorded sets.
Includes tracks by The Mover, Imre Kiss, The Horrorist, Beverly Hills 808303, Gladio, Prutser, Maruwa, Teslasonic, and more.
How did you come to experiment with your own music? Would you mainly identify yourself as a producer or DJ?
I'm definitely more of a producer. That's also how it all started. Playing tracks at clubs came later. It's a lot of fun but I wouldn't consider myself a very skilled DJ. I just play whatever I want, there's not much more to it.
It's nice to be able to do both DJ sets and live sets. Keeps it interesting. How did I come to experiment with my own music?
Don't know, it just happened naturally, it was never a conscious decision.
How would you define your sound?
I guess it's Dutch electro/acid/techno with some Belgian influences.
What’s your studio currently comprised of? Any piece of equipment you’d never get rid of?
Mostly very cheap gear that I also use live. A bunch of Korg Electribes, a Boss DR-660, a TB-303 clone, and a Soundcraft mixer. FL Studio for editing/recording.
I'll probably never get rid off the Boss, it's the first piece of hardware that I've ever bought and it has become a huge part of my sound.
Looking back at the past, did you ever envisage that you’d become this big name in the electronic music community?
Well I don't think I'm that big of a name, but I am very happy that I can do this for a living.
It's nice to release records, play shows, and that some people care about it. When I was young I always wanted to do this, but never thought it was an actual possibility.
Like I said, there was never a plan, it just worked out in the end.
What are your favourite spots to hang out in town?
I don't live in a city but BAR (Rotterdam) used to be a good spot. Very close to Operator Radio, Clone, and the Pinkman shop. It's a nice little area, there's always someone you know, fun to hang out.
PIP (The Hague) is also great. Friendly staff, relaxed atmosphere, never any trouble. Home of the Intergalactic FM Festival and Panama Racing Club!
How are you coping with confinement for C19 with your work?
Yesterday I read that all events up until June are 100% cancelled. Such a shame, I was really looking forward to some of those shows, especially the ones abroad (Italy, Lithuania, Belgium, Switzerland) and of course the Intergalactic FM Festival.
Hopefully most of those shows will be rescheduled.
For now I'm doing fine. Finishing a lot of music, doing podcasts, sorting out all the stuff I've made over the years (those FruityLoops files that have not been opened since 2003).
Don't know how I'll feel about this situation a month from now though.
Has this situation influenced your creative perspective? What social and musical implications do you think this situation can lead to?
It doesn't change my creative perspective, it just gives everyone a lot of time. There will be an overload of releases later this year and in 2021.
I'm curious how the amount of events will get back to normal. You can't go from no events to all events, that would be weird right?
Maybe the government will first allow bars to open again, a few weeks later clubs and then bigger events?
When everything goes back to normal, people might be a bit more grateful, won't take everything for granted? Or maybe they'll forget after a month and it will feel like nothing has ever happened.
What makes you happy?
To finish something, like an EP. Sending off the final mixes to the label with all the correct titles and everything. Sincere music, good food, friends.
What pisses you off?
Artists that focus too much on social media. Please try to produce one good track before you start taking pictures of yourself and expensive gear. Also paperwork, taxes, those kind of things. Any kind of politics.
Can you tell us something about your current or future projects? Where can we continue to see and listen to Betonkust?
Right now I'm working on a batch of new music for a few different labels. Dancefloor stuff, but I'd also like to release a pop album at some point.
Regarding DJ gigs and live shows - I don't know. Everything up until June has been cancelled. We'll just have to wait and see how this situation will unfold.