Born in the suburbs of Rotterdam in the early eighties, Paul Hazendonk already developed an excessive interest for music at a young age. After seeing a documentary about one of the early editions of the Mystery Land festival he found his passion and bought his first DJ equipment at age twelve. After winning various local DJ contests in his teens, he secured his first club gigs by the time he turned eighteen and his first international gigs followed not long after. In his early twenties Paul was a resident DJ at infamous Dutch clubs Las Palmas (Rotterdam) and Asta (The Hague), whilst being a regular guest at clubs and festivals all over Europe. Throughout the years he has performed in more than 20 countries worldwide.
In 2000 he started working at the legendary record store Basic Beat which was located in the heart of Rotterdam. This was also the place where he released his first mix compilation CD’s, started doing A&R for various labels and, eventually, where he started his Manual Music label in 2005 and has since not looked back having featured artists such as Hernan Cattaneo, Max Cooper, Guy J, Ryan Davis, Fairmont, Henry Saiz and many more.
Having always been a DJ first and a producer second, it wasn’t until a couple of years into his career that Paul released his first records. He has since released music on respectable labels such as Hope Recordings, Diynamic, Sudbeat, Proton Music, Sleaze Records, Einmusika and naturally his own Manual Music amongst many others.
We caught up with Paul a few days ago, shortly after the release of his name album “Adapt”, to discuss his early years in the scene, his label and of course said album.
Many thanks for taking the time to speak to us Paul. You were born and raised in Rotterdam in Holland. How did you find growing up in Rotterdam in the 80s?
I’m actually from the safe and sound suburbs of Rotterdam, a place called Spijkenisse a city of 75000 inhabitants about 20km south of the big city near the Europort industrial area. I had a normal and happy childhood, nothing out of the ordinary; working class dad and stay at home mom.
Being an early 80s child myself I was heavily influenced by the music of the 80s and 90s which some may argue was not the best time for music. How were you influenced musically and who were some of your favourite artists?
I think I was in luck that house music already entered The Netherlands in a big way in the early nineties so I got introduced to that quite early on. But yeah, naturally I’ve got my guilty pleasures like 2 Unlimited, Maxx, Captain Hollywood Project, Capella and of course the whole (happy) hardcore scene when I was a teen. I actually started out as a hardcore DJ in the mid nineties and my somewhat daily hangout was the Radioactive Zone record store owned by the Rotterdam Terror Corps people :)
How do you find living near Rotterdam and can you tell us about some of your favourite places in the city?
In terms of my hometown though I like living in Spijkenisse, it’s familiar, nature is near and still Rotterdam is only 20 minutes by car. We also have a subway connection directly to Rotterdam and The Hague which is also very convenient. I would’t recommend coming here as a tourist though; it’s a nice place to live but it’s not really a place for sightseeing or to do other touristy stuff ;)
What made you decide to get into music? Did you have a career before music?
I’ve been a music collector since a very young age and a hobby DJ since I was 12, so pursuing a career in music was always something I dreamt about and I decided to put the full focus on making it happen, especially when I found out I had at least some talent as a DJ when I won some local DJ contests in my teens. I actually never really did anything else, except for a part time job at a supermarket when I was 15/16 years old and still in school.
Your newly released album “Adapt” is well liked by the team here at This Is Progressive. The album spans many genres from electronica and chill out through to techno. How did you approach the album and did you have a goal in mind when producing it?
Great to hear that you guys are digging it! The goal was to create something personal, to work out many ideas I’ve stored in my brain over the years and not to focus on pleasing a particular crowd by working within a set border genre wise, but just do the music I like and the truth is I listen to- and like a lot of different music.
The album has many co produced tracks with Noraj Cue and you have worked with him many times in the past. How did this partnership come about?
I’ve simply asked him one day! Noraj Cue is an artist on my Manual (and sub)label(s) for many years now and I’m such a big fan of his work. His production skills are incredible and he can create melodies like no other so we decided to give it a go and look at where it brought us: 8 out of 12 album tracks are done together with him, so this album wouldn’t have been here – or at least wouldn’t have been sounding like it does if it wasn’t for him!
Can you tell us a little about your studio setup and some of your favourite gadgets?
Nowadays I don’t have a studio anymore, the only thing I’ve kept is Logic, some plug ins and a midi controller so I can do some basic ideas when needed, but all the collabs with Noraj Cue are created in his studio (on Reason!! – Noraj Cue is the master of Reason, it’s incredible what he can do with it!) and sometimes I use the studio of Francesco Pico who lives near or good old Giorgos Gatzigristos who either comes over to my place with his portable studio which we plug in to my monitors, or I travel to his studio. My former studio is the office of my Manual Music company now.
You are clearly a believer in producing many different genres of music if your album is anything to go by. Is there a genre you have not yet produced that you would like to?
I never thought of that actually, I just do what I want to do and I couldn’t care less what genre label “they” stick on it. I just have ambitions to make good music, genres are not important to me. So yeah who knows I will do something in the future in a totally different genre, who knows haha.
As well as your own productions you have also remixed many tracks. What is the process you go through when asked to remix a track?
I did many many remixes over the years and nowadays I’m quite picky because I’m not the most productive guy out there so if I take on too many remixes it means I’m having less time to do a new single (or album ;)) So honest answer? It starts with if I feel I can do something with the track, and then it depends on if it would be good for my profile – if not: will they pay a solid remix fee or not. Sounds harsh, but it’s reality. There are weeks when I get 3/4 remix requests and I can maybe take on 5 a year so then it’s up to making choices. Fortunately my manager is the one who’s bringing the bad news haha.
In 2005 you began your now well renowned label “Manual Music”, but what made you decide to start your own label?
I was actually already running a full on (135+ bpm) techno label before that called ‘Technique’ which I started back in 2003 but found myself liking a wider range of music than just that kinda techno sound, so Manual Music was born when I got my hands on some great music by a talented youngster from Sweden called Petter which I just had to release and it would have made no sense at all to release his music on Technique.
Over the years we have seen you release some big artists on your label such as Hernan Cattaneo and Max Cooper, as well as help to break many unknown and upcoming artists such as Qbical, Noraj Cue and Alessandro Diga. How do you go about selecting new artists for the label and what criteria are you looking for?
First of all production quality. But sound wise I always sign music for the label on gut feel, nothing more nothing less. So if people ask me what kinda sound I’m after or what particular genre I couldn’t give a straight answer. It’s purely a feeling and I think that explains the versatility of the label as well – as I like to see myself as a versatile music lover as well and this reflects on Manual Music.
I know this may be a very difficult question but what have been some of your favourite releases on your label over the years and why?
Karplus Wrong by Tundra (rip) – still playing it in my sets nowadays! It’s the first thing that comes to mind but naturally there are too many favorites to mention. The Ofrin ‘How Come’ release also has a special place in my heart, honorary mention for that one too ;) Of course the early releases on the label – the first one by Petter, Qbical’s early releases, Applescal’s first release ever, having signed an EP by Guy J in 2007 already.. those are the things I’m really proud of.
Your label is strongly supported by This Is Progressive and the tracks you have released have received some glowing reviews from our reviewer Andy “Newcomer” Howarth. Do you find reviews help sales of tracks? Also what is your thoughts on record sales numbers and the “Holy Beatport Top 100”?
Sure, every bit of attention for a release helps and there’s always a big sense of gratification for the label and even more for the artist to read some positive words about something we’ve put a lot of effort and love into. But at the end 90% of the people follow the masses and buy top 100 chart music or Sasha’s top 10 for instance. At the end that’s fine as in this day and age you can be happy if someone actually buys your music instead of grabbing it from the mighty zippyfilecloudshare, but still I applaude people who take time to listen to the music and buy what they like instead of blindly buying all the music from the known artist – or buying it because some a-list artist has charted it.
I apologise if this does come across as a leading question… Do you feel that it is possible for producers of music today to be able to make a living or do you feel the money you need can only be made via gigs?
Making a living from your music productions is only for a lucky few, mainly the artists in the mainstream world and those who also make music for games, tv, movie trailers, advertisement and such. For all us others releasing music is just a marketing tool to get your name out there as a DJ or live performer.
There really is some fantastic artists that hail from Holland such as the likes of Alessandro Diga, Noraj Cue, Josh Dupree, C-Jay, our very own Jaap Ligthart and yourself amongst a host of others. Why do you think there has been this influx of talent from Holland over recent years?
It’s not only the most recent years, it has been like that since the early nineties in my opinion. Electronic music has been a big part of Dutch culture for 25 years now and in a healthy climate like that it’s not more than logical that a lot of youngsters are also getting into it. Some of the worlds biggest DJ’s are Dutch – youngsters look up to them and also start DJing and producing music, so thru natural selection the ones with talent and perseverance will surface at the end.
Are there any new up and coming DJs/producers that you would recommend to our readers?
Dustin Nantais and Alex Preda are two names on my radar at the moment who are truly talented, keep an eye out for them and if you like what you hear please do support these guys by spending a penny on their music – they deserve it! I’m also a big fan of a Dutch guy called Hubert Kirchner by the way, makes some proper stuff too!
You recently met up with the This Is Progressive team over in Amsterdam for the Hernan Cattaneo night at Panama where you played a set for us the “Studio”. How did you find the night and did the likes of Mick, Damion, Jaap and Simon drive you mad with their antics?
Hahaha yes that was a special night! The party was cool, our area was packed and rocking! It was nice to meet all the guys and good to see that they pulled thru with that home made ink machine and TiP tattoo :)
Speaking of antics, can you tell any funny stories that have occurred at any of your gigs?
Years ago at a dodgy backstage somewhere in Eastern Europe a girl entered, jumped on my lap and introduced herself as the ‘star fucker’, weird enough for ya?
What was the best party you have played in 2013/14?
Most recently the birthday party of Estroe, Sebastian Davidson and myself at Influenza in Leeuwarden was a pleasant surprise. But as they say; the best is yet to come!
Lastly is there anything else you can tell us about that you have planned for 2014?
Lots of gigs around this time now that the album is out, mainly in Holland now but hopefully a bit of touring later on in the year – lots of options are open for that so it’s up to my booker to make it happen. There will be at least two more singles from the album with new remixes and currently Noraj Cue and I are working on two remixes: one for Roger Martinez to be released on Perspectives and one for Scotty A to be released on Proton Music. I’ve actually finished some new tracks as well and will do some free give away / bootleg stuff around the summer time. Last but not least this year is all about expanding my Hazendonk FM show, getting it on board at more (online) radio stations so it can be heard by as many people as possible.