Namatjira Interview

Joost van der Vleuten is a Dutch producer who has managed to forge a career in the music industry from just making records. Strange as it my seem, this used to be the way it happened. The producer made records and the DJs played them. The popular ones got signed and bought, the rest forgotten about, but since DJs started diversifying and making their own tracks the lines began to blur to the point now where its expected that a producer plays live and a DJ can produce. We caught up with Joost ahead of ADE to talk about success, the Dutch scene and his stellar music.

Hi Joost, thanks for taking time out to talk with us. Lets start with the past. You grew up in Holland, a melting pot of talent and musical inspirations. Where did your love of music begin?
Hi guys, thank you for having me, really appreciate it!
My love for music began at a very young age. My mother was always singing doing everything she did in the house, I think she gave me my wide musical taste. We also had a turntable at home (like probably everyone in the 80’s) which she played music from Elvis, The Beatles and a lot of others. The family on my mother’s side were all very musical, playing in a band and even being a conductor.
I think it were the early 90’s I began to develop more and more of my own taste in music. I think one of the first dance acts I heard on national radio was Snap with ‘The Cult Of Snap’, I really liked what I was hearing. With more and more dance music coming up, my interest for this kind of music grew bigger every week. Every Thursday I went to a local records store to get a top 40 magazine and on Friday I listened together with this magazine to the Dutch Top 40 charts on national radio. I recorded some tracks and afterwards I pretended to be the charts host and presented my own charts show. I had this radio frequency microphone that allowed me, my parents and even my neighbours to hear me on radio.

So is that how did you landed a job at a radio station at 13? Most of us could barely manage a paper round at that age!
Well it’s a funny story and the short version of it is that I walked into this studio to make a cassette tape with typical Dutch music for my family down under. After having that finished I stayed there until my 16th birthday doing all sort of jobs but because of my young age I wasn’t allowed to go on air.

Sander Verhaar (Sandstorm) was a big influence for you musically. The Dutch sound around the turn of the century inspired many of us. Would you ever like to work together on a collaboration project?
Sander makes these awesome year mixes that are broadcasted on 3FM. When I heard these mixes for the first time, I wanted to do that as well. They were so cool and all my friends where talking about it. I looked Sander up on the internet and found out he was doing mashups and remixes as well, after a lot of trying and trying my first mash up was made and even played in a local club as well. But it wasn’t so much fun as trying to make my own music. I haven’t had contact with Sander for a few years now, so I added him on Facebook a couple of weeks ago just to chat how he was doing and stuff.

Tell us about those early days. You decided to start producing and leave the DJing to someone else. What sort of equipment did you have at the beginning?
Hahaha Im already laughing! When I bought my first PC (Pentium 75) I told the salesman I wanted a computer to make music with. The salesman gave my a cd with a program called Techno Creator. You could add blocks with samples from the program, but there wasn’t any room for own samples, or musical things. So after a month I had enough of it. At the radio station there was a guy using Cubase on a Atari, but I could’t effort that. I went back to this sales man and he came up with Magix Music Maker. Still no room for own stuff, but the first mashup I did, I finished with Magix.

And now? probably a lot different!
‘Cause there wasn’t any room for your own inspiration in Magix, I looked for something different. I was already in the Army and the college had some sort of illegal cd’s with a lot of software on it. On this cd was Cubase, Fruity Loops and Reason 1.01. The Cubase software didn’t work on my pc so then I started with Fruity. Because I didn’t know there was more than the rack screen I ended up with Reason and I’ve stayed with Reason ever since. After my first release in 2004 (Latigidi – Latigidi) I bought Reason officially.

I read an article recently comparing Logic and Cubase. Some of the reviewers commented on how they had ‘jumped ship’ and were using Ableton exclusively now. Whats your view of the different DAWs?
My motto is… It’s not about what you cook with, it’s how you cook.
As I said before I’m using Propellerheads Reason since version 1.01 and now it’s version 6.5. I’m working with.

You’ve produced under several aliases before sticking with Namatjira. Where did the name come from?
I have family in Australia and since my father’s uncle visited us in 1986, I was fascinated by this beautiful country. When me and my wife visited Australia the first time we visited a small Aboriginal village called Hermannsburg in the Northern Territory. This village was famous cause of a painter called Albert Namatjira. I really liked his work and also the name Namatjira sounded so beautiful. When I got back home, I decided to use this name for my deeper project.

The Namatjira project is a lot deeper than your earlier aliases. Is that a reflection of your tastes or are you mellowing with age?
Well my music taste is so diverse that I wanted to do more than the trancey stuff I was doing at that time. I did several projects, but when making the deeper stuff it didn’t fit to the projects I already had.

In those early days you released some fine work on some big Trance labels, Green Martian, Remark and Progrez as well as Markus Schultz Cold Harbour Recs. How do you achieve consistency with releases when they are spread over so many labels with so many A&R teams?
To be honest that was a major problem. When I left the army I did a lot of different jobs and there wasn’t much time for music. So when I finished something I was always happy when it got signed.
After my release on Coldharbour, it was really hard to do a new Joost van der Vleuten track that I was convinced was as good as ‘New Horizon’. Struggling by giving myself a hard time, I was not satisfied enough and that made me start doing different kinds of styles/project names. ‘Van der Vleuten’ (trance), ‘Seven Senses’ (progressive-trance) etc. and eventually Namatjira.

Your first track as Namatjira, ‘1000 of years ago’ was released on Cyber Records – one of Hollands premier labels. It was licensed to a bunch of mixes and received support from a lot of the biggest DJs in the world. How does that make you feel when you get feedback like that?
Well in the beginning Namatjira was a side project. When Johan Groenewegen (Johan Cyber) told me he wanted to sign ‘1000 of years ago’ I was really happy, I knew some guys that released on his label. I didn’t even know that ‘Cyber Records’ was that big in the progressive scene. When the feedback form came in, I was flabbergasted by all those big names, supporting it.

Around 2011 you were writing music as both Joost and Namatjira. Is it difficult to separate the projects?
Trust me it was. Besides those two I also did trance as ‘Van der Vleuten’ and n the end it resulted in a writers block I guess. I would start something as Namatjira (126 bpm) which changed to Van der Vleuten (138 bpm) and back to Joost van der Vleuten (132 bpm) finally ending up with nothing cause I wasn’t happy with it. That took me so much time, that finishing tracks became more and more a problem.

How do you begin a track? Drums or Melodies?
I always start with the part where everything is in it. Most of the time with a piano playing the chords and then everything comes in afterwards. When working on the arrangement, I might throw things out or new things are entering as well, all until I’m happy with the result.

Any production tips you’d like to share?
For starters, listen to your favourite DJ. What does he play and try to make a track in that style. In the beginning I even looked at what my favourite DJs played and tried to copy those tracks to learn how producers did things.

So with ADE just around the corner are you attending and if so, who are you looking forward to seeing/hearing?
I’m at ADE from Thursday until Sunday. I’m going to hook up with a lot of guys from the scene and on Saturday I’m going to see Hernan and Nick playing at Panama. Friday will be my busiest day. I’ve planned a couple of meetings with label guys that I’m in contact with to see and speak each other in real life.

As a producer do you find these conferences useful for networking, or do they become a necessary evil for progressing your career?
Well the thing with ADE is that it’s very expensive for guys like me that aren’t full time in music. So I planned some meetings outside of the conference building and that works fine. A conference like Dancefair (Jaarbeurs, Utrecht) is more accessible for me and also affordable. More and more guys from the scene discover that.

Yor Namatjira project is catching the attention of plenty of DJs the world over. What to you think is the key to success in these times of instant downloads and throw away music?
When I decided to focus only on the Namatjira project. That worked out very well. I’m now focussing on one ‘style’ and staying bpm-wise more in the same corner.
The key to success is also working your ass off and be very critical; what and where you are doing things. Nowadays everyone can start a label, but in the end what can this label do for me? As I said before what are your favourite DJs playing and which labels are they releasing on. When you see guys like Hernan Catteneo, Guy J and Nick Warren are supporting a label, this might be an interesting label to work with especially when you know some guys releasing with them already, so you can ask how to contact this label.

Whats next for Namatjira? An album? What about a live show?
There is a lot of things coming up.
Darin Epsilon’s label, Perspectives Digital is doing there first ADE sampler containing a Namatjira track (14 October).
On Asymmetric Recordings (Lonya Koval’s label) I’m doing a collaboration with Berlin residing MZ Sunday Luv (Get Physical, Baires Records).
On 3rd Avenue I have an EP coming and more Namatjira originals are to be expected.
Also there is a remix about to see the light for Kieran J on Asymmetric Recordings (23 Sept.)
and remixes for Solarstone, MAYK, No Sonic Limits and more are coming up!
Finally, in November Dopamine Music is doing a compilation featuring a Namatjira track as well!

Thanks Joost, its been a pleasure to meet you, I wish you the best for the future.
Thank you very much, the pleasure was all mine!