A true Dutch dance music legend, international dj, producer and label owner Joris Voorn sat down with Clubber Confession during #ADE17, exploring moments of his career, the main projects ahead and giving his take on some of the hottest issues of the music industry.
Joris Voorn needs little introduction. From a small town in the south of the Netherlands, he became one of the most acclaimed dj’s on the international stage, travelling and playing in almost every corner of the world. However, his travelling could not take him too far from his beloved Amsterdam, where he lives with his family, a city he considers “probably my favourite place to play”.
Joris was shaped by music from an early age. Studying violin as a kid and his father Joop – a modern classical composer – playing the piano in the living room almost every day, offered him the foundation to build his career on. To this background, he applied a rational approach coming from his architecture studies.
The combination of these two sides – arts and science – are today pretty evident both in his production and mixing style, which are unique blend of emotions and tempo, calculation and improvisation, analytical approach and science versus passion and love. A game of opposed and sometimes contradictory forces, surprisingly arranged by Joris into an uncommon and unique sound.
Joris, thank you for your time! How are you? What have you been up in the last few weeks and what do you have planned for the next future?
Joris Voorn: It’s been a very long and busy summer. The Ibiza season was very intense as it seems to get longer every year and I had many gigs every week on the Island. Besides from Ibiza, I had many other festivals and club events around the world. But it’s all behind now, we go back to the darker clubs. This gives also the opportunity to play different sounds, which is always nice, maybe play also longer sets and have a variety of sounds which I enjoy very much.. so very much looking forward to this new season!
The idea of exploring different and darker sounds was clear during the Awakenings set at Gashouder…
Joris Voorn: yes, when I play at Awakenings, it is always a bit more techno. To be completely honest, when I have my own nights (Joris Voorn invites..) I probably go a bit more melodic, but it is always about techno. I love techno, and Gashouder is a techno temple where I can enjoy it in the perfect environment.
We know you have two labels, Green ad Rejected. Why do you need two separate labels and what is the difference between them?
Joris Voorn: Yes, there are two. The reason why I started Green in 2005 was because I wanted an outlet for my own music. I just wanted to be free, make my own decisions about when to release music and how to do it. Green was a project meant to be musically challenging and very diverse in terms of styles and inspirations.
A year later, with my friend Edwin Oosterwal, we had some music ready. Some of the tracks did not necessarily fit into the Green concept, as they were more club oriented and ready for the dance floor. We decided that there was space for a new label, Rejected, which is more about the dance floor, while Green has a different tone.
Let me go back a bit in time, 2009, when you released a double cd work, a powerful composition, called Balance 014. It was a massive piece of art. How was working on it? Do you have something similar in mind for the future?
Joris Voorn: Well I am currently talking with someone responsible for a major compilation, and I should have something out next year. I have not started to work on it yet, but it’s going to be again a double cd. I hope I can get anywhere near what I did with Balance 014, but next year there is gonna be a follow up on that.
We are called Clubber Confession, and I always ask this to the artists I meet. Have you been a clubber before being a dj and producer? And do you think it is necessary to be a clubber in order to be a good dj?
Joris Voorn: I think it is very important! You have to understand and listen to many different dj’s before you start yourself, you need to build up your own base and culture. It is vital to understand what other dj’s are trying to accomplish with their sets, the way the craft their mixes, it is highly important. I believe it makes you a better dj and I definitely did my part in clubbing.
However, when I was a teenager I was living in a small city in the south of the Netherlands (Tilburg) where opportunities to party were quite rare back then. I had to find alternatives to satisfy my desire for music with cassettes, tapes, recorded set, cd mixes and radio show. But yeah I think being a clubber, and understanding the dynamics of a club, are very important for being a good dj or producer.
You are one of the most forward looking and innovative artists on the scene, as you combine old school skills with an open mind towards the future and new technologies. How do you feel about the recurrent debate placing analog vs digital, do you feel it is something relevant for us?
Joris Voorn: no, it is not relevant at all! Music is not about the medium, but it’s about the music itself. You can debate whether analogue sounds better than digital, or vice-versa, but that is kind of a non-debate to me. As long as the standard of the equipment used is high enough, the sound will be good. The quality has to be in the music already and no equipment can change that. And this is valid both for production and for dj’ing. It doesn’t matter if play all digital, if it is synced or not, that is not what dj’ing is all about.
Of course, you get a very different sound when you choose those different set-ups. When you play all synch with Traktor is a different thing than playing and all vinyl dj set, because you have different dynamics. But it doesn’t say anything about the quality of the music, and not even about the quality of a dj set.
Following up on this, how was getting back to play only vinyl set for huge events such as Awakenings last April and Fabric in London? Did you feel limited in your mixing?
Joris Voorn: I was very limited, honestly. But I loved it anyway! Sometimes limitation can bring out a lot of creativity and too many options can also be confusing. More options can make you also indecisive and numb you a bit, so it does not necessarily lead to a better dj set. Having some limitation can also be very liberating from time to time.
Your sets are known for being very complex, with different layers intertwined, loops, more than one channel on and many variables in place. How much of those sets are improvised and how much of them is planned instead?
Joris Voorn: Basically, everything is improvised. Having said that, of course there are tracks that I play more often, but I never know what I am gonna play or when I am gonna play it. Every single set has its own history and structure and it’s different from the other.
Nowadays I do not bring a bag of records with me, but I can take my whole collection on my computer. That’s why I have different playlists where I pre-select some music that works together. I do make playlists of tracks that I think I will play. However normally after 2-3 tracks I just follow the vibe and dig into my collection freely.
You have been djing for quite a while now, taking part to the best and biggest events in the world. Do you still feel sometimes a bit tense, a sort of adrenaline, when you have some important events ahead of you?
Joris Voorn: I try to go natural and relaxed for every event, but sometimes there are more important gigs where maybe you think you have something to prove. I think those are the parties where I get a bit anxious, not necessarily nervous, but in those occasions I feel like I really have to do something special and this still gets to me sometimes…
Where do you find good music nowadays? The offer is evidently broader, the amount of music out there is massive, does it make it harder to find good quality music?
Joris Voorn: I think the problem with music nowadays is that there is too much, of course. But another problem is that people too often do not take the time needed to work on a track, to really work on the arrangements and the little details that make a track special. Some people think you can produce a track just by putting together a bass, hi hat and some random sounds, but this is not enough! Today I sometimes miss those tracks capable of bringing out the emotions, tracks that really stand out. Things are done too fast. And this is a pity, because if you want your music to last longer than a few weeks, the investment in terms of commitment and time has to be different!
You travel a lot and play in many different countries. You face every week different crowds, that can be more or less educated and used to electronic and underground music. That being said, what is your favourite place to play? Not in terms of the overall experience or production of the event, but the club or the festival where you really feel free to express yourself fully?
Joris Voorn: You know, I have to say it: Amsterdam is quite a good place to play! We have a really good scene, with a lot of great parties, many old and new clubs with a nice vibe… In Amsterdam I feel I can really play whatever I like and the people really understand the journey you are trying to take them on.. it’s just great!
You have been busy for quite a while now with your show, Spectrum. Can you tell us something more about it?
Joris Voorn: Spectrum is the new concept that I have been presenting for a while now. I needed a new way to present my music, without being limited by the usual boundaries of a set in a club. Something flexible and innovative so to cover a broader musical spectrum in electronic music. This was combined with the desire of taking on board other artists to complete the musical offer on each different night.
From that idea, Spectrum was born and we already had different nights. Amsterdam, Barcelona, Paris and many more are coming. The next Spectrum show will be in my city of birth, Tilburg, which will be on the 25 of November. It is a big venue, and I am curios to see how it will be to have this event in a small city. It’s gonna be interesting to see how it’s gonna work there, because it’s a place with not so many parties, not such a big scene. I will be playing alongside with my friends Andhim and Park & Sons.
To come back to the city where I bought the very first records I listened to, it is very special. I’m sure it’s gonna be fun!
Talking about your youth, any advice you would give to the young dj/producer dreaming about being the next Joris Voorn?
Joris Voorn: well, what you really need to keep in mind, is that it’s good to be inspired by others, but try to find your own musical taste. Don’t listen to what other people tell you it’s good music, but follow your feelings and your heart and listen to the music you enjoy.
Try to dig as deep as possible into many different styles of music. When you have finally explored everything – or almost everything – then try to find the genre or the style that really suits you best. Particularly for djing then, you should not choose the kind of music you wanna play before starting. Just be open and try different things, and search for the music that really connects with you!
One last thing, Joris. Last year at ADE we heard a track called Ryo, supposedly, but it’s still not released. Is it coming anytime soon? Maybe into a new album?
Joris Voorn: yes!! I think so… It’s probably gonna be my next single and also maybe included into the next album. I made Ryo last year, I have been playing it a lot and the response by the crowd is always good, but I am still finishing it. I believe it’s gonna be ready as a single for my next album, so get ready!
Joris Voorn has also just released on the 3rd of November a long awaited remix of Desert Storm by Woods.
Check it out on Beatport!
We will follow Joris very close and we will give you updates on his future plans, get ready for the Trybe night at Fuse Brussels on the 1st of December… and stay tuned on Clubber Confession!