Interview: Secret Cinema celebrates 25 years as a DJ

Interview: Secret Cinema | Soundspace

Dutch DJ, producer, live act and label boss Secret Cinema marks 25 years in music this year. Having released a limited edition ‘Silver Box’ of his discography and an exclusive documentary about his life.

We caught up with the now Amsterdam-based artist to throw 25 questions his way. Read on to get an insight into the mind of industry veteran Secret Cinema.

01. Let’s start with something simple, where does Secret Cinema call home?

The Netherlands is home but I live in Amsterdam.

02. How has the culture of The Netherlands influenced your career?

I grew up in a small town called Brielle, 30 minutes from Rotterdam and 10 minutes from the beach and harbor area. I think that area formed me into liking techno for sure!

03. You’ve been involved in the industry since the early 90s, do you remember a time when you realised it was possible to create music full time?

That I remember very clearly, I knew in 1990 I wanted to do this for the rest of my life and started producing on an Amiga 500 computer. I worked in a record store after that and it took me till 1994 until I could make a living. It’s when Timeless Altitude came out.

04. Did you encounter any resistance pursuing a career in music? From Family? Teachers?

Obviously, my mom was skeptical, since I never learned to play an instrument. But when I found that computer I ‘played’ on it for over 8 hours a day, and could start my career.

05. Do you remember how much you got for your first paid gig?

The first 15 years of my career I did not want to DJ. I only wanted to play my own music live on stage the way a band does. But I was making music on an Amiga 500 computer which was not capable of live performance. So for the first years of my career I made a living off music sales. It wasn’t until I had assembled a huge rack of equipment that I could start playing live in the mid-nineties.

The first paid gig I had, I made 500 guilders. It was a Belgian club and the promoter called the party ‘Somebody Give The Lord A Handclap’ after a vocal from one of my tracks.

06. What was your setup like in the mid-90s, were things a lot more complicated compared to 2017?

When I bought the MPC3000 and the Kurzweil K2000 everything changed for me. I could load a whole live-set into the machines and do the sequence live! It meant dragging a lot of gear around, synths, FX and that HUGE MPC3000, but it was cool! I played live while most where playing DJ sets. It meant doing a soundcheck before every gig which made it more intense.

07. How did the first Secret Cinema demos sound? Are there any tracks you made back then that you’re still proud of today?

As I mentioned earlier the first demos were made with an Amiga 500 with 512kb of memory. The software only let me work in 8bit. These are all technical terms to explain that what came out was a bunch of raw noise. It worked though. The first track I ever made ‘Sonar System’ (Somebody give the lord a handclap) was a rave classic and still often gets licensed to classics compilations.

08. You said in your recent documentary that your mum was your no.1 critic, do you still call upon her for constructive feedback?

She has a good taste in music. My dad always played in a Jazz band, so I guess the basis was set there. She picks out the more powerful tracks, it’s funny.

09. Alongside Secret Cinema you’re also the boss at Gem Records, do you struggle to find time to stream demos and market upcoming releases?

You cannot do without marketing anymore unfortunately, but Nick Crockett my A&R and manager helps me with that. And good stuff usually comes at just the right time for me.

10. The Gem Records catalogue has guys like Enrico Sangiuliano, Egbert and Christian Smith on it, is there a producer you would like to see amongst those names?

I recently got some amazing demo’s from a guy called Eitan Reiter. I think he will become big soon! I want to keep artists like this close so I can guide and help where I can and also learn from fresh ideas!

11. Our favorite Secret Cinema remix is definitely your version of SQL’s ‘Obstactles’ on Elevate, give us one track that you think would fit perfectly for a Secret Remix remix?

Recently I got a promo from Vitalic called ‘Use it or Lose it’. I think I could do a nice remix of that!

12. And your one original production you’re most proud of?

Probably ‘Point Blank – Meng’s Theme’.

13. You’ve had a few monikers over the years, give us your vision on each and why you were drawn to different styles of production?

This is just how it was done. It’s the same for most producers who started in the early nineties. I made the tracks I wanted to make and later came up with a name and genre for it. Nothing was as boxed as it is now. It did not matter if you made house one day, and techno the other. But it all needed a name that had the feeling of the music, that we all knew. In the end though, the music I felt most connected to was the stuff I released as Secret Cinema. So, I stuck with that.

14. Have you ever produced a track so different to your released tracks that it could never leave the studio, a fun experiment, EDM?

Yes, I made Japanese pop music with a German friend. She could sing and speak Japanese fluently. We never released the project, but it has quite a few cool ideas in there. We finished many tracks but they could always be a bit better in our perspective. Which means it became a dust collector.

15. You’ve played quite a few clubs and festivals over the past two decades, tell us about a gig or moment in the booth that you really hold dear?

I played in Pereira, Colombia and something just went off there! From the first track I played till the very last moment everything just fell into place and tears of happiness rolled down my cheeks.

16. You’ve also tested yourself with live performance, was that a natural step from DJing or something you always knew you wanted to try?

I started as a producer playing live and became a DJ after that. I played live for 15 years, but when minimal came, the catalogue of music I had built did not fit the zeitgeist. Many of the tracks were 140 bpm! I therefore chose to start DJ-ing and not limit myself to just my own music. A good decision I must say.

17. Do you have a preference between playing live, DJing or sitting in the studio?

When live really hits the crowd like it should, there is nothing that can beat that. I love to DJ my own tracks now and sometimes when you do a set where every tune falls perfectly into place, it is ecstatic. As is being in the studio when you just know that track is IT!! All have their own charm.

18. What’s the most difficult situation you’ve experience as a DJ?

Being Ill. While you play is not fun, but in 25 years I have never missed a gig! So missing a gig is most devastating for me. But having only 20 people on the dance floor might even be worse!

19. Do you think the industry as a whole is in a healthy position?

Techno is certainly. Although there is always rotten business that I want to stay away from. I think making a career in music is close for more people than ever and I think that is healthy and nice. You cannot move forward if you don’t question the status quo, but I think we all should be proud of how big techno has become in all its forms.

20. And would you say it’s easier or harder for a young DJ starting out in 2017, compared to ’91 when you first started?

Hard to say. It is easier to learn the tricks with all those handy video’s online, but also more people are into it now. So that makes it harder to get recognized. But if you have talent, and persistence, it will happen, so I think nothing changed in that. Where it was about the music only at first, now you have to be a social media guru, a marketing strategist and musician in one to make it to the top.

21. What is your favorite album from the past 25 years?

Super Collider – Head On. It is so futuristic and still can’t be beat in vocals meet electronics in its funkiest form. Christian Vogel and Jamie Lidell at their best!

22. One DJ who caught your attention when they were starting out and you knew they would do big things?

Enrico Sangiuliano. I am happy we can work together and I can see the progress he has made! Being friends and having a good base is most important.

23. Someone you can’t thank enough for their contribution over the past two and a half decades?

My partner at Gem Agency, Robert Deutsch. He works so hard and we went through so much together to keep things rolling, I would not be here without him. And at the beginning Michel de Hey believed in all the tracks I made. I could build my heritage because of this guy.

24. 25 years is a huge milestone, do you plan to keep going for another 25?

I recently saw an 80 year old Chinese guy play my track ‘Maximaal’ at a festival in China. When I saw him play as a DJ now I thought….25 years? Make it 50 more!!

25. Give us some parting words of wisdom from a veteran of the game?

Don’t believe the hype.

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