Our Mix of the Month competition continues to give us the biggest surprises. The standard is insane, and some of the DJs who enter aren’t even playing out regularly. DJs like this months winner – Frederique Rijsdijk – who works a regular job and makes mix tapes for pleasure at home. His strength of course is that his track choices are inspired and free from the politics of the dance floor, placing him a unique position: playing the music he loves without prejudice.
A&R Simon Huxtable sat down with Frederique to hear his story…
Hi Frederique, great to meet you. Why don’t we start with introducing yourself to everyone. We understand you work as a UNIX systems engineer. Can you talk us through the job? What a typical day like for you?
Working in a smallish company (11 workers, where 5 are system engineers) as a senior, responsibilities range from 3rd line support for customers, usually the more complex issues, to regular daily operational tasks on the servers that we manage, from visiting customers, to designing and implementing new high-availability, high performance platforms and clusters, from R&D work, to mitigating DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attacks. It’s very broad, the way I like it. We’re not a company that tries to conquer the marked by being the cheapest. Quality over quantity, so to speak.
Can you tell us about growing up in Holland. Who were your musical influences as a boy, and have they changed over the years?
I guess the music I was listening to as a kid was nothing out of the ordinary at the time. I liked Dire Straits. Prince was nice, and Depeche Mode. I loved Michael Jackson. Only a few things stuck however. My first “wow’ in music came when I heard songs like “Big Fun” by Inner City; I loved this sound. It seemed the first music that didn’t compromise. So that must have been around 1988. “Strings of Life” by Derrick May however really changed things in my head. I could play this record over and over. Never bored me. It could make my cry, make me laugh, give me goose bumps. And it still can. Amazing track.
We understand you started as a vinyl DJ, but first of all you bought a particular mixer, the Dateq LPM 7.2. Talk us through the story of buying the mixer, and what made it so special.
The build quality. It was built like a tank. It was heavy. It seemed like a device that you could drive your car over and it still worked. Apart from that, it sounded amazing. And it was designed and built in Holland! Ha-ha, I couldn’t care less where it would come from actually, but it was a nice detail. I don’t remember what I paid for it, but it meant the world to me, having that mixer in my apartment.
A few months later, you got some decks. How did you find the process of learning to mix; the hours of practice?
Just by doing it, trying it. Autodidact, like most of us learned it, I guess. You start by looking at other DJ’s in clubs, at parties. I was young, I had all the time to spare. All the time to annoy my neighbors ha-ha. There was a record store in the town where I lived at the time, and I had about 25 records for a very long time. Practice practice practice.. just with that hand full of records.
Your first mix was called ‘Dizum’ can you remember some of the tracks you selected, and the story you wanted to tell?
I can’t find the mix anymore, it got lost over time.. I didn’t have a story to tell. I was so green.. Recording that mix was a process that took me more than a week, and a lot of (re)takes. I was just glad to get another transition good enough to keep, and move on to the next record that would fit in. But, it sounded pretty OK, and all my friends honestly liked it. So it was a small success for me!
Then came a hiatus. Vinyl began to die off and CDJs didn’t inspire you…
Not at the time, no.. Probably because the better ones were quite expensive. And it was hard to get the music in digital form. Sampling vinyl to digital is really hard to do in a good way, and even if you get the sound right, it will never be as tight as when it’s digital all the way.
Native Instruments came to the rescue some years later with the S4 and Traktor. What was it about digital DJing and controllers that rekindled your musical passions?
The fact that the music in digital form doesn’t wear when you play it 50 times. Or 500 times for that matter. It doesn’t collect dust. Digital files aren’t prone to scratches either. You can create backups from it. And it doesn’t cost 10-15 euro per track. And recently I’ve discovered that you can also re-master tracks if you don’t like the sound of them, providing you get it in a loss less format of course. Try that with vinyl! Did I mention the weight of a USB stick compared to a crate of vinyl?
Like you I was a vinyl DJ who realized the potential of Digital DJing, but I never really liked Traktor. As time has gone on what improvements to the software do you think should make me reconsider?
Wow.. That’s really personal. If you don’t like the software now, then I guess there’s no hope for you. But should there be? Traktor hasn’t changed that much over the years. I’ve grown accustomed to it, I like it. A lot of pro’s like it. But I see the potential of Rekordbox. And I think it’s a shame that Native Instruments doesn’t seem to give a rats ass that their hardware doesn’t work with it. I’d love to try it.
Let’s talk about sync for a moment. Sure, its abused by many, but the value of sync is far ranging. How has it changed the way you DJ now?
Hard to say… I’m pretty sure that not having to spend time and concentration on keeping 2 or more tracks in sync, you can focus more on the sound of the mix, and learn more about that, and improve in that area more quickly. Some see it as an art form, and it probably is, but I’ve heard to many DJ’s with awesome syncing skills, but horrible musical skills. I’d rather hear a DJ make sync errors but mixing the right tracks (in key, timing, feel), than the other way around.
By the way.. when we talk about syncing, I feel that syncing vinyl and syncing with, let’s say, a CDJ1000 is a different story all together. If you use CDJ’s, and your tracks are 100% digital (so not sampled from vinyl), it’s way easier to sync, and keep in sync, compared to vinyl. I’ve been contemplating buying an old second hand CDJ1000 and connect it to my current gear, just to keep my sync-ear trained. Perhaps, one day ..
We understand you recently upgraded to the S8. Was is a smooth change, or did you find the different functionality a challenge?
It took some getting used to, as there are no jogs, no pitch faders etc. But now, more than half a year later, I love it! It does have some weak points, it’s far from perfect. But I’ll manage with this for a few years before I buy something else I guess!
We ought to mention Maurits Paardekooper at the point. How has he helped you improve your sound?
Maurits was a great motivator to start with. His mixes always have such a unique sound to them. At first he allowed me to access to his music library to get me started with some really good tunes. But eventually he pushed me towards developing my own sound, finding my own tracks. This transition was difficult at first, but it was a wise one. Finding tracks is a time consuming job, even today, from behind our computers. But as with so many things, you have to ‘just do it’, to get into it. To find your way, your own methods. Maurits gave me a really good base to build on to, and I’m very thankful for that.
Besides that, he has helped me a lot in the area of recording mixes, and mastering them to get the best possible sound. And just generally talking with him (mostly online chat in the late evening hours) about mixing and everything that surrounds it. I’ve learned a lot from him!
Social media is a huge part of the modern DJs life. Soundcloud, for all its faults, is still somewhat the industry standard platform for music discovery in terms of dance music, but which other alternatives have impressed you and why?
Not too many alternatives actually. Social media in general (Facebook mainly, apart from Soundcloud) following as much as you can from your favorite artists. The occasional Shazaming while listening to DJ-sets of course. I’ve found that going to comment sections on Soundcloud, likes, followers and followed ones, that whole tree so to say, can be very rewarding. Time consuming of course, and frustrating a lot of the time, but you also find the unexpected there, and those are the best. It’s always nice to find the diamond in the rough, so to speak.
Tell us about your radio show..
Not a very regular thing, but occasionally I’m ‘aired’ on Midnight Express FM Radio in Mexico, and I’ve had some spotlight events from the people behind RoomTwo in the UK. Those guys are awesome, and they host unique events in their club, and give a lot of time to new talent.
How do you feel about some DJs using their social media unwisely, for arguments or negativity? Should they be setting an example, or should we allow them to be human once in a while?
Everybody should be allowed to be human I think, but if you’re in the spotlights, you have to be wise as well. People love to twist your words, pull things out of context, just to create a dramatic story. And if such a story goes viral, there’s no stopping it. Are you referring to Ten Walls perhaps? Honestly, I didn’t follow that story. I don’t care for such sensation. He has made some awesome music in his career, and has done equal performances. It’s sad that by the slip of the ‘tongue’ on Facebook, his career is down the drain. Then again .. wise words they were not, as Yoda would say.
Frederique, its been wonderful to chat. We wish you all the best for the future. To finish, why not tell us the story behind your winning mix…
Thank you Simon, it was a pleasure and an honor winning! The mix was no other for me than the ‘usual’ I do every month. I generally have just enough time to find about 8-12 new tracks each month. Just enough to do a mix with. I had done a spontaneous mix with these tracks the day before, which I really liked (and Maurits called it my best ever), but listening to it I found two tracks not really fitting. So I changed these two tracks (#3 and the last track), re-recorded the mix and that was my March submission. So a (semi-)spontaneous mix, what I’m learning myself at the moment. So happy to win with it, it tells me I’m on the right track.