Born, raised and still living in Rotterdam, Eelke Kleijn looks right at home when I interview him at the Armada Store Pop-Up in the middle of a very busy ADE week. It’s Friday afternoon and he has a flurry of interviews lineup for the day.
The next day he has his DAYS like NIGHTS label showcase going on, in tandem with All Day I Dream playing the other room of the venue at the same time. Since the launch of the label, the brand has been doing tremendously well from both a musical output perspective and, of course, as a party brand for events such as these. The label, of course, has also helped boost Eelke’s own career, pushing his deep, progressive and melodic sound to more ears than ever before.
As Eelke Kleijn and I begin our interview, I instantly recognize how approachable, friendly and down-to-earth Eelke is. He is welcoming and it immediately feels like I am talking to someone I have known for a while.
When did you get into Amsterdam?
Wednesday but before this I was in the States for two weeks so… I was pretty jet lagged.
Oh nice, I have actually seen you play in the States several times. Especially at Spybar with Dino, John and RJ… where did you play in the States this time?
My brother lives in Arizona, so I did one gig in Phoenix and then it was just holiday for two weeks, my entire family was there; my mom and my dad, he was getting married so we had a really nice sort of family trip.
Your brother was getting married?
Yeah, like last weekend. So, it was a lot of fun time for everybody there and we did Vegas, the Grand Canyon, the Hoover Dam, all the tourist things and then some national parks and then I got back on Tuesday morning.
Sounds lovely. What National Parks did you go to?
Grand Canyon National Park and I think one called Joshua Tree
Joshua Tree by Los Angeles?
Oh nice. We’re based in LA and I go hiking to National Parks all the time.
Yeah it’s so incredible. The only thing was that we had my wife with me and also my five-year-old daughter and so we couldn’t really, you know, hike too much because she gets… it’s not for small kids. So, but it was still great to do the easy sort of spots, walk around…
Yeah I bet. Especially as you don’t get that kind of scenery in Europe
Well, no, maybe if you go more East, you know, you get the mountains but here it’s all flat and nothing else!
And you don’t get the desert in Europe really.
It’s pretty incredible, yeah. I’ve really come to like Phoenix, I’ve been a few times now but it’s always nice and warm, there’s no humidity, it’s perfect for pictures and to hang out, the climate is really nice.
A lot of people agree, and retire there. Would you do it?
Yeah, maybe, we’ll see.
Are you still living in Holland?
Have you ever thought of moving?
Yeah, I’m from the north of Rotterdam and I grew up there and most of my family still lives there and you know, I thought about moving to Amsterdam but it’s just 45 minutes away, it’s nothing you know. With the train it’s just 30 minutes from Schiphol, so I realized I’m pretty ok there. Eventually, I’d like to go live on a farm somewhere in the country and have some chickens and a cow and whatever, but for now, it’s still the big city.
That makes sense, find some tranquility eventually after traveling and doing the city life for years. How many times have you been to ADE as an artist by the way?
Probably around 10 times or so. The first few times I came here I was just driving back and forth and I think the last eight or nine years we rented an apartment with a couple of friends here in Amsterdam for the whole week, you know. We check in on Wednesday and we leave on Sunday and it’s just easy going everywhere and having everything closer.
Exactly. How is it, the conference and the whole event and the whole week changed up for you if at all since you’ve been coming?
It’s become a little bit more busy for me, which is a good thing. You know I suppose, but it’s funny, like a couple of years back I would mostly be out in front of the one of the hotels, you know, on the street and just talking to everybody and being there. And this year and last year, I actually have to check my agenda because I have to be everywhere all the time, so I haven’t even made it to the DeLaMar yet and, you know, those places where the conference is. I haven’t even seen it yet this year. So, I’m going to try and go afterwards but yeah, so that has changed a lot.
So, it’s becoming more business, networking, interviews and all of that?
Yeah, it has a bit more of a business perspective and especially so when compared to Miami (WMC/MMW). I’ve been there a few times as well and it always feels like more of a party week where, you know, if you’re lucky you can find the right people but usually it takes ages to get from one place to the other and here it’s just a whole different thing; ADE is so much more professional and business-oriented.
I agree. By the way I did have a question: is there a sort of rivalry between Rotterdam and Amsterdam, just out of curiosity?
How so? Is it football related or music too?
Yeah, football related, definitely. Music wise, not so much but there’s always been rivalry with… well I feel people from Rotterdam are a little bit harder with that, like they don’t like to go to Amsterdam although I always feel welcome here. But music wise, there’s not a huge rivalry; Rotterdam has always been a little either harder or more urban, whereas Amsterdam is just, you know, deep house with some techno and those things, so music wise it’s quite different nowadays.
What other things you get to do in the city when you come to Amsterdam for ADE or other times of the year? Any other sort of activities or museums or things that you’d like to do, check out?
I like the museums here but I never get a chance to go there. One really awesome thing that I did yesterday was a competition. I’m a big Formula One fan and so they were organizing this competition with the Formula One simulator; having DJs drive against each other and this was my first time in one of those things, so it was really really awesome.
How was it, difficult?
Yeah, yeah, it’s much harder than you think, the steering wheel has so much power and the whole thing sort of shakes when you take the corners and so, that was pretty awesome and the first lap was awful but the time clock was OK. If I had more practice, it would have been better but I left thinking, “Man, should I try to get one of these at home?”
So who won?
I don’t know yet, because they had everyone over at different times, so at the end of the week I think they will post all the lap times but I don’t think I was the best but I definitely wasn’t the worst!
Being from Italy I grew up watching Formula 1. Do you follow it a lot? Who are you a fan of?
It must be Red Bull now, because, you know, 10 years ago when Schumacher was doing really well, I used to watch a lot and I was really rooting for Ferrari but now we finally have our Dutch Formula One driver who’s actually winning stuff. He is doing very well so I’m all about Red Bull although, if he were to change teams, I would be happy to support another team so it’s more like that I support the driver. But right now it’s mostly Red Bull.
Do you have a passion for cars other than Formula One?
A little bit, although I’m not that huge into it, like I don’t do racing or anything myself but I do like cars and so maybe, I don’t know, maybe I’ll end up with one…
Do you have a dream car?
Yeah, I wouldn’t go for the standard dream car, no Lamborghini or Ferrari. I’d like something more vintage, like maybe a Corvette or something a little like that.
Yeah, something like that, an old school racing or fast car, or those big old American cars… what are they called?
Yeah, something like that, that would be incredible, something more like a classic car. Although I think it would be awful to drive one here, because I think of the small streets you couldn’t even get to drive down on
That would be cool. What other sort of plans do you have coming up for the rest of the year, any tours or any musical issues you want to talk about?
Yeah, a couple tours, the next month I’m mostly in Europe and playing a few times in Amsterdam, then also London and Manchester and just sort of in that region. And then December I go to the U.S. again, I will be in San Francisco and then on to Canada for Montreal. Also going to South America which is always really good for me – Argentina, maybe a few surrounding countries as well.
Music wise, there’s actually a lot coming up. I’ve been producing a lot of music and I’d say I have 10 tracks or so ready to go out that I’m fine tuning at the moment, so I’m now with the new label I sort of get to pick which goes out at what moment which is really cool because I’m also working on an album and I can sort of decide what would be great on the label now and this going to push this towards the album. So yes, I’m working on a lot of things at the same time right now! (laughs)
When will the album come out?
That is always a hard question, I don’t want to give a date yet… My own deadline is to finish the music mid next year and then hopefully the album could come out at the end that year but don’t pin me on it, because I hope I don’t get delays.
Yeah, it’s good to have a goal so you can work towards it!
Exactly, because if you don’t set that you’re just pushing forward and forward and forward and never get it finished.
This brings me to one of the questions I wanted to ask: how do you stay productive and motivated? Any tips that you can give to up-and-coming artists?
Yeah, definitely. The best piece of advice that I can probably give you which works for me when I have writer’s block and stuff is to do this: so sometimes I take one month where I start a new idea every day… it’s just like 15 or 30 second loops you know and I’ll bounce them and the next day I’ll start again and do the same thing. And so, at the end of the month, you’ll have 25 or 30 little things and then I just leave them there for a little bit and I will listen to them every now and then and eventually two months later, you go through that entire folder and all of sudden it becomes super easy to say “Oh, these three or four were really good and I don’t want to finish those.”
My problem was always that if I worked on one track at a time, I would get caught up on it for five days and then after five days I was like “Wow, this is not going anywhere” and then I wasted five days, you know, and this is the way I can do lots of different things at the same time and it becomes really easy for me. Because if you’re too caught up in the music, you become attached to it and by taking a break for two months, you get sort of disengaged, you don’t really know what the song was anymore and then you just listen to it and it becomes so much easier to pick the good ones out, you know?
That’s awesome. A few years ago a promoter in LA, Freddy Be, told me you were the name to watch out for and it’s awesome to see how everything kind of transformed and progressed for you. How have the last few years been for you and what were the key turning points?
Yeah, for me the big change came at the beginning of this year I guess. I’ve now started the label and with that getting a chance to do one song every six to eight weeks or so. Before I was working with a lot of different labels which is also good, you know, because it’s always good for your profile to release on various labels, but the problem I was running into all the time was that maybe you had three songs that you wanted to release and then as an artist you would have eight weeks with no releases and suddenly all the different labels would release the tracks on the same month. Because that is how it works and they aren’t coordinating with one another, it is out of your control too as an artist.
Now you have more control with your own label!
Yeah, with other labels you definitely have less control than if you do it yourself. So, this year we’ve been really planning the label’s releases… let’s get this out first and then that one and then, you know, we’ll do that one with the remix and you get a really sort of steady output and that’s been really important this year for me.
The role of record labels seem to be constantly evolving too, what’s your goal with it ultimately?
Yeah that’s a very good point. Things have changed to where labels are now doing parties, or label showcases at festival lineups. Four years ago I would get booked for various festivals just because they would arrange the lineups a certain way and nowadays they organize label showcases and then they are in charge of getting that area filled up with their artists.
So, that was also one of the reasons I wanted to start my own label: to get the people I appreciate on board and to be able to do this myself in the future, to get the label out and do some events… one day I want to be doing my own label nights more regularly.
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