Eelke Kleijn is a rare talent. With work stretching across movie trailer scores, deep live shows and incredibly well formed production, he crosses a boundary from electronic producer and in to a true modern day composer. With peers and tastemakers standing up for this unmistakable imagination, the Rotterdam based music maker’s potential has no bounds.
With 2 artist albums delivered, an array of originals and first class remixes what he has achieved thus far would be any DJ’s reverie. Ultra to EMI, Global Underground to Eskimo Recordings and Spinnin’ to Suara have seen the young Dutchman’s vision in productions become world heard. With each record distinct but all out floor fillers, they have been pumped out in his epic sets from Argentina to Netherlands and Australia to the UK.
A BBC Radio 1 ‘Next Hype’ act for ‘Stand Up’, remixing John Legend and Hollywood ‘soundtracker’ for Parker, Wrath Of The Titans, This Means War and not least Ron Howard’s Rush trailers, his career is in a constant accelerating push to the top. Tipped by Fatboy Slim, Pete Tong, Loco Dice, Rudimental and more we all lie in wait for his next move, and with no project too big and nothing to faze him, we have all only seen the half of Eelke Kleijn’s Midas touch.
We caught up with Eelke ahead of his new release “Home” out today on his new venture “DAYS like NIGHTS” record label
Hi Eelke. Thank you for speaking with us today, we noticed you recently toured Australia, it must have made a change from the cold of Holland.
Oh yes it definitely is! I guess that is one of the perks of the job, travelling from winter to summer all the time! We had temperatures of up to 38C in Sydney.
The Netherlands is renowned for its embrace of electronic music, can you tell us a little about how you became an artist and the sights and sounds of home that inspired you along the way?
One of the most important things that got me into music is the fact that it is so accessible here in the Netherlands, even 20 years ago. While you would really have to dig to find it in most parts of the world, here they were playing instrumental dance music on the radio back in the 90s. I remember being interested in it right away. I was always taping music and had a double cassette deck to make my own mixtapes. But it wasn’t until I was 13 or so that I started to learn to play the piano that I really got into producing music. I feel I picked it up pretty quickly.
When I was 16, around the same time that I started clubbing, I got more serious. I would buy some equipment and use early versions of Cubase and Reason to work on my own songs. The first release came when I had just turned 18. I don’t think I’ve ever really been inspired by things around me for making music. The way I get inspired is usually just messing around with instruments in the studio. I might get an idea somewhere on the road or so, but often it only really takes shapes once I actually go to the studio and make music.
For those who have not followed your career closely, a little known fact that you been producing a few Hollywood trailer scores, how did that come about?
It’s something my manager and I have been working on for a really long time. When we just started working together one of the first things they asked me was ‘What would you like to do in 10 years time?’. My answer was that I would like to work on film and television scoring. So almost 10 years ago we started doing these small online movies at first. Advertisements, announcements, those sort of things. And that eventually lead to bigger and bigger assignments and eventually also things like Hollywood trailer scores and show production for Sensation. It’s something I still put a lot of effort into even nowadays. On the flight to Australia for the tour last month, I was actually working on trailer music!
You have started your own label “DAYS like NIGHTS” do you feel this will allow for a broader freedom regarding control and musical direction with releasing your own music?
Yes totally. In my career I have worked with so many different labels, and I feel there are both advantages and disadvantages to doing that. Every new label you work with also opens up a new market, but it is sometimes hard trying to get all different labels facing the same direction. They have a lot of different artists they work with and so their priorities are not always the same as mine. At the same time I also feel I have always been adjusting my music slightly to fit better with the label you release on. Now with DAYS like NIGHTS I finally have an outlet where I can do exactly what I want, when I want it. And that is something I have been looking forward to for a long time!
Is there any artists we should be looking out for releasing on DAYS like NIGHTS?
DAYS like NIGHTS will always be heavily curated by myself, so more or less 6 tracks per year will be by me. That does leave room for other artists. I don’t want to give away too much, but I have approached a lot of people that I appreciate and really respect as artists. Some of the first artists that will feature on the label with a remix are Sébastien Léger and AFFKT.
Your release “Home” is due out Feb 9th, but we understand there is a little bit of meaning behind the name.
Yes, “Home” is the first release on the label, but at the same time the concept of “Home” is important to the feeling of the label. I want the label to be a place where people, both artists and fans, feel themselves at home. If you think of home, most people think of their roots, a warm loving environment. That is something I have always cherished while I play as well. I have a huge preference for warm, inspiring places over the cold, industrial environments that a lot of clubs are subject to. This is the feeling I want to bring to the people, not just during my own sets, but with the entire label and future events as well.
Can you talk us through the arrangement of your tracks and the details you focus on to make your music so unique?
It’s hard to point at one particular element in my tracks that does that, but I do think I spend a lot of time on all my songs, but over a longer period of time. A lot of times a basic idea is there in 1 day, sometimes 2. I often leave the track for a while after that. That could be weeks or even months. I get bored really easily, so I have learned by now that if I try to finish a song right away, I end up changing everything. So during that time I will have it on my laptop so I can listen to it every now and then. On the plane, on tour. I might share it with some friends, see what they think. If I think the track is good enough to finish, I will get back to it eventually. Not all of them are, perhaps more than half of what I start, I eventually decide is not good enough and gets recycled at some point.
So then for the songs that I do decide to finish, I will often go through multiple versions. The first one is a quick bounce so I can play it. I’ll play it a couple of times in clubs to see what reaction I get. If it is not what I was hoping for, I will go back into the studio and change it. Until finally the song is exactly the way I want it to be. That means that some songs are easily over a year old once they finally get released, but I feel that is also a good way to decide if they can really stand the test of time.
Often we hear of DJs managing to produce tracks whilst sitting out a long haul flight. Is this something you have done yourself, or do you prefer the comfort of a professional studio or home?
I have done this a few times, but it’s definitely not my preference. I always bring my laptop with me and a small MIDI keyboard as well. From all the music that I’ve made during my career, I’d say only 3 or 4 tracks were really done while touring. And even then I often go back into the studio at home to really finish it.
Every artist grows with their music, how do you see your production style and technique change over the years?
I think my sound has grown a lot over the years. Also the way I get inspired. It used to be all about electronic sounds for me. When I was young I hated guitar and was only interested in synthesizers. Over the years I’ve learned there is something interesting in every style of music. A lot of my recent inspiration comes from listening to indie stuff and bands. And then taking some of that inspiration and injecting it into my own music. I even took up learning the guitar about a year ago. It’s given me a completely different way of getting inspired and also it is very different from starting a track on piano. I’ve added a bass guitar recently as well.
All these new instruments give me another kind of inspiration. If I were to say how my sound has changed over the years, I think it has become a lot more organic. “Home” is actually the first song that I have released where I played all guitars myself.
If you were to do a ‘back to mine’ style mix, what tracks or songs have musically had an impact on your life would definitely have to be included in your selection and why?
Some of the early tracks by BT, such as “Mercury and Solace,” and also music by Nalin & Kane’s “Beachball” and Chicane’s “Saltwater.” Those are songs that I grew up with and have had a very distinct influence on my development as an artist. Those were the songs I used to love while I went clubbing in the late 90s. I think you can still hear some of that influence in my music today. Melody and emotion are a fundamental aspect of music to me, and that is something I try to really bring across when I work on my own music.
Thank you for taking time out to speak to us, lastly is there any news you can share with us for 2017?
You’re welcome! Any bigger news than launching my own label you mean? Well, what I can tell you is that I will release a lot of new music this year. Most of it on DAYS like NIGHTS. So stay tuned for more ;)
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Photo credit to Photographers – Joni Israelli