"The feeling of being one with the crowd is unbeaten by anything else"
The prolific and eclectic Tjade has been pushing his productive flair bringing the varied sub-genres of dance to life in his own enigmatic style. Whether it's producing, editing or DJing in Netherlands and abroad, Tjade is a bonafide institution in his own right. We caught up with to talk about how he stays motivated, juggling his eclectic music tastes and negotiating a vault full of unreleased music.
Hi Tjade! Where can we find you right now? How did you start off your day?
Hello There! I’ve been at home in Utrecht, The Netherlands for the past weeks. I’m in my small home studio/office, like I am every day. My days start off relatively relaxed lately; no pressure or rush because tomorrow will be the same, as well as the day after. I start my days with a small breakfast together with my girlfriend and after that I make a cup of coffee and take it with me into my studio.
How did you first get into electronic music? Was it your first real musical love or were you a keen
listener of all sounds when you were younger?
Electronic music has always been a part of my life. The first CD’s I bought and got as presents were mainly by Tiesto and Armin van Buuren. Especially Tiesto was a hero to me when I was younger. His single “Traffic” was the first I bought and it completely blew me away. I was raised by parents who were very much into the 70’s and 80’s sounds; my dad was more into leftfield music like Talking Heads, Simple Minds and King Krimson, while my mom was into anything that had a good dose of soul or funk, like James Brown, Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson. What really impressed me though as a kid was that they both also understood the attraction of Tiesto, which is why it was always appreciated when I would blast his music from my room.
What is your music criterion?
To me music needs to entertain. It’s a chance to forget about what is bothering you and a way of escaping reality, however big or small your problems are. I’ve never really understood the need of some people to look at music in a super serious way. To me music is either fun or it isn’t. I don’t really care if it is popular or super niche; if it makes me smile it is good enough for me and if it would make other people smile it is good enough to play out in DJ-sets.
How would you define your sound?
I would say I play very dancefloor oriented music. 90% of the time I’m thinking about how I can make my crowd move as much as possible. I find it super difficult to define it in a genre kind of way, but lately I thought that terms like modern italo or arpeggio heavy leftfield house would cover my music best. Production wise I’m all over the place, so I couldn’t really define it for you. The only thing that you can be sure of is that there are arpeggios in every track I make.
How much has your sound changed since you started your dj career?
It has and it hasn’t. If you would listen back to my first years as a DJ I think it would sound super similar to what I play now. I’ve strayed from this sound a little over the years, moving towards things like electro, breakbeat or more straightforward house and disco every now and then, but I’ve recently come full circle and realised what I like most and what my crowd likes most is actually the music I started out playing.
What inspired you? What was your production criteria? What did you want to transmit?
The sound of a track I produce, as well as the mood of my set, is mainly defined by how I feel. If I play a super happy set or if I make a super happy track, it’s because I’m happy. You can also clearly hear it when I’m not happy. While for me a DJ set is all about making the crowd move and giving them a good time, making a track is more about releasing a feeling inside of me. I still find it very weird that there are labels out there that would want to publish my music, because when you exclude the edits I make, my music would never really be for the masses. I think and hope the message that lies within a production just resonates with a label owner and that’s why they would want to publish it.
Are you particularly permeable to your environment, creatively speaking? If so, how does it influence your DJ focus? And producing?
As said before, I think my state of mind defines the overall mood of my DJ set, while the crowd decides how deep we go into the rabbit hole. Almost always my sets will be filled with dancefloor bangers so everybody can lose themselves and dance as much as possible. Sometimes a crowd doesn’t need that much to get off and then I’ll take them on a trip that goes a little deeper. I don’t really feel the need to play “niche” music though, for me that doesn’t define how satisfied I am with a set. I’m happy as long as the crowd’s happy.
For producing I find some inspiration in producers I really really like at that moment, but other than that my mood decides where we go from there. I don’t really pay attention to my environment or what people would expect from me. Edits are a different animal entirely though; to me an edit should just be as entertaining as possible.
What do you like most about editing tracks? What is your selection criteria?
An edit should be a hit. I look for tracks that have the maximum hit potential, but that lack important elements to actually make it into a hit. Most of the times it’s because it lacks a good low end, like a bassline or drums. Sometimes the arrangement could be better and it needs more suspense. I really like editing because the catchy leads or vocals are already there; I just have to think of a way to maximise their impact.
Would you like to share a set? Can you tell us more about it? When and how was it recorded?
So my career is currently in a phase where bookers and promoters are slowly starting to pay attention to what I do. To me this is still a weird feeling because for the first time they are actually thinking that I am someone that is worthy of a prime-time or closing set, in stead of me being the youngster who would be a nice opening DJ to the headliner. One of the promoters that were about to take this chance with me is Subcultuur from Nijmegen. There is no doubt that I wouldn’t really sell any extra festival tickets for them, but they booked me to a prime-time slot anyway.
Unfortunately Covid-19 came along, so their festival got cancelled. I was super super happy that they DM’ed me if I would provide them with a special podcast. They could’ve asked any one of the 15 artists from their line-up but they trusted me with it. I approached the podcast like I would have approached my set at their festival; it’s a high paced and dancefloor oriented set of 1,5 hours, perfect for the people who can’t wait to be on a dancefloor again. In stead they could just play this and dance away in their living room. It includes 3 new tracks and one remix by me, as well as some new tracks by friends.
What makes a good mix to you?
A mix is a good mix if it provides you with what you really need at that moment. I like to listen to ambient sets when I’m working early in the day, I like dark and weird mixes when I’m feeling down, I like high paced club sets when I’m on my bike or cleaning and I like super happy poppy sets when I’m sitting in the sun. I don’t think I personally can define what’s good and what’s not. A good mix is probably just a mix that has at least one listener that is really enjoying it.
What have been the most influential factors on your career so far?
Career wise I would say the owner and promoter of KopjeK, Pascal Rakers, has been the biggest influence. He saw a young and eager Tjade about 8 years ago and took him under his wing. He has never stopped supporting me since. I can’t even begin to explain how much he has given me; from my first DJ gig to my first job as a club booker and from being my friend to being my mentor. I will never forget what he did and if I were ever to become a famous touring DJ I would take him to his favourite spots on earth (Barcelona and Ibiza) as often as possible.
Where was your favorite place to play, what was your most interesting gig, and for what reason?
It’s really difficult to point at one gig and say that’s the one. I think my favourite places to play are the places where the crowd is 100% committed to having a good time. I get insecure from crowds that form groups instead of going for it as one entity and crowds that are not paying attention or are bored. If I had to name some places I would say my gig at Betriebsfeier, Hoppetosse Berlin was really amazing, as well as Wilden Reneate Berlin and OOST in Groningen, where I am a resident DJ. More recently my gig at De Plantage in Hasselt Belgium was in incredible surprise. It was a super small venue, maybe 150 pax, and I was super super close to the crowd (which I always love) and they just 100% gave themselves to me. Whenever this happens I don’t really care about where it is on the planet and how many people were there; the feeling of being one with the crowd is unbeaten by anything else.
What makes you happy?
Becoming one with the crowd as a DJ and cuddling with my girlfriend ☺
What’s your favourite “save the dancefloor” song?
One track that hasn’t left my DJ playlists since it was released is Locked Club - Punk Navsegda. It never fails to get the dancefloor off. It’s really a dancefloor saver in the way that I don’t play it if everything is already going well. I do still love it, but it pushes you in a direction you can’t really come back from. Sometimes that’s OK, but sometimes I’d rather try something else to save the night.
What was the last record store you visited and what did you keep there?
So a couple of years ago I made the decision to quit playing vinyl at DJ sets. I used to bring a whole bag out and very regularly I would be unable to play records due to skipping needles or resonance. To me as a control freak this took away the fun element of a DJ set, because I would always be stressed for at least an hour into my set that I couldn’t play the new records I bought. I now just rip it at home if it’s a vinyl only release. So I still do buy vinyl sometimes and the last record store I visited was Bordello A Parigi in Amsterdam, which is an amazing small shop that has exactly the music I like, as well as great record label that released my first edit.
What’s your studio comprised of at the minute? And is there a special piece of gear you’d never get rid of?
Nothing interesting at all because I work almost exclusively in the box. The only piece of hardware I have is a Novation Bass-station 2, which is a cool and simple monosynth that’s great for making basslines. I always thought that I would be a hardware guy, but it turns out I really don’t need anything other than my laptop and some plugins to make music sound the way I want it to.
How do you deal with C19 confinement with your work?
During the week not much has changed. In June last year I decided I wanted to go for making and playing music full time and start to approach it as my job in stead of my hobby. I worked from home 5 days a week by making and selecting music, so that hasn’t changed. However during the weekends I now find myself at home instead of in front of a crowd. I only recently started to become a fully touring DJ, after years of playing 2, 3, 4 gigs a month, which came at an abrupt end when Covid-19 came knocking on our doors. I was supposed to play 16 gigs in the next two months, with debuts at places like Rex Club Paris, Gretchen Berlin, Tancploshadka St. Petersburg, Thuishaven Amsterdam and Soenda in Utrecht, but those are all not happening. Sometimes that gets me down a little when I’m sitting at home on a weekend, but then again me and my family/friends are still healthy while so many others are dying and I realise I’m super lucky and privileged.
Has this situation influenced your creative perspective? What social and musical implications do you think this situation can lead to?
With the pressure of preparing for 1, 2 or 3 gigs gone, I noticed that I have been way more productive in the studio during the week. Normally I would take off Monday if I had played on the weekend and I would start to focus on my DJ gigs from Thursday onwards, so that only leaves Tuesday and Wednesday to fully focus on making music. Now I spent Monday through Friday on making music, and sometimes even the weekend. I had started so many different projects over the past years, and while they were all slowly progressing, I was never really closing in on finishing them. I now have the feeling I am getting super close to finally finishing some of them and still feel no pressure at all.
I think many producers that also play on the weekends will share this feeling and once this virus finally leaves our daily lives we will see many projects from producers that will be finished with great attention for detail instead of them feeling rushed.
What tracks would you recommend us to liven up the confinement?
I think everyone should listen to Marlon Hoffstadt’s album called “Planet Love”. It will probably go under the radar a little bit because it was released right at the beginning of this crisis, but to me it has everything we currently need: a little despair, a little sentiment, a little hope and a big push to move forward.
What projects are you working on at the moment?
As I said I maybe have too many projects running at the moment, but because of the crisis I now feel I can finish them all before this is all over. I’m getting dangerously close to finally finishing the first EP I ever started out making. It’s about space, which I’m fascinated by, and will contain one more uptempo electro track, two intense downtempo tracks and one vocal track that’s super hard to define. I think it’s been more than two years in the making and it’s high time I’d finish it and send it off to some labels.
Next to that I’m working on some new edits with a producer called Moving Still, which we hope to make into an EP, as well as a club EP together with a friend called Hidde which will contain tracks that are more close to what I play in my sets, and an EP with high paced trancy 909 bangers. Enough to keep me busy for the next couple of months. I’ve also recently finished a remix for the DJ and producer REES, which I’m very happy with. We are currently talking to some really amazing labels for a release. Most of the projects can be heard in the podcast I did for Subcultuur.