Alessandro Diga, better known to his family and friends as Martijn van Dijk, burst on to the international scene in 2010 with the excellent ‘Meltdown’ EP on Eelke Kleijns’ amazing Outside the Box label. It received a great deal of support from the progressive DJ community and made the Beatport top 100. He has gone on to release records on some other exceptional labels like Manual Music, Inlab Recordings, Perspectives and Cinematique, gaining respect from all corners of the dance music elite. Martijn has also been fortunate enough to play a number of high profile festivals and club nights around Europe and it’s fair to say he is certainly on the way up and that trajectory is continued to rise.
“For me music is all about emotions. Without them, music would be useless. Therefore I like being able to capture the moment and incorporate it into my track or set that i’m working on. Using it as an outlet. No compromises, no obligations.. just honest emotions.” He says.
Hi Martijn, wonderful to meet you. How are things going? Excited about our event with Hernan Cattaneo at Panama in Amsterdam March 8th?
Hi, it is nice to meet you too! I am really busy at the moment. Working on several EP’s and remixes. And some other projects I can not tell you about at this moment.
I am really looking forward to the One Week To Live party, it will be a fantastic night with a lot of familiar faces and maybe some new faces and what do you want me to say about Hernan Catteneo?! He is a legend!
I suppose an obvious question to ask is where the name came from. What made you choose Alessandro Diga?
Haha, I get that question a lot. It is actually quite logical. Somehow I always felt a connection with Italy. My last name is di Diga in Italian and Alessandro, well… it felt natural to put that in front.
You haven’t always been a dance music fan have you? I understand you spent your teens playing guitar in a punk band. What changed things for you?
I started when I was really young to play the trumpet and bugle and I was not really cut out for that. When I was about 13 years old, me and my friends started a punk band, at the time we were all classmates except one. Later one of us had to repeat a class and slowly we drifted apart, we chose to go our separate ways and each developed a new vision on music.
It was because of my brothers, who took me to a techno festival (Awakenings) that as soon as I stepped onto the festival terrain I was completely sold. I remember saying to myself: ‘Wow, this is something I want to do too’ and here we are!
The Meltdown EP came out on Outside the Box in 2010 and you’ve not looked back. How did you get the track signed to such an important label, both in terms of the Dutch scene and internationally?
I got lucky with that one. At that time I was really new in the scene and I had not a clue what to do (and probably what I was doing). Someone on a Dutch DJ forum gave me the advice to try OTB. Eelke responded very enthusiastic and wanted to release the EP.
To date (well according to Beatport anyway), you have 86 releases out. That’s not bad going for 4 years work! What inspires you to make a new track?
Well, everything actually. To give an example, the working title of Meltdown was ‘Champignonsoep’ (Dutch for mushroom soup). I was at my parents place and was warming up some mushroom soup. While I was warming up this soup I got the idea, took the bowl of soup to my room and made the track. Sometimes it goes way deeper than that and I try to capture my feelings at the moment. Joy, sorrow, panic, grief, rapture…
Tell us about ‘De grote prijs van Nederland’. Is it a competition?
Yes it is a competition, in my opinion it is the biggest (producer) competition of the Netherlands. Participants can submit their 3 best tracks, after that, a jury decides which 12 producers make it to the second round. Thereafter the 12 semi-finalist make a 20 liveset (only own tracks) and the jury decides once more who make it to the final. In the final the 6 finalist do a live performance and there are two prizes to be won. One chosen by jury and one chosen by the audience.
Whats your studio like? Which DAW do you prefer and what hardware do you use?
My studio is really basic, I even wonder if you can actually call it an studio! I have 2 speakers set up on some coke cans, a soundcard and a computer. Besides that I occassionally use an APC20 and a BCR2000. I believe in simplicity, less is more in my opinion. It is not about what you have, it is about how you use it.
The DAW I prefer is Ableton. I started with Fruity Loops and Reason, but that did not work for me. My oldest brother introduced me to Ableton and I have been using it ever since.
How do you approach remixes/re-edits and is it different to how you write an original?
The difference between originals and remixes for me is when you make originals, you have only your own imagination. When your working on a remix, you are playing with someone elses imagination and trying to combine that with your own imagination. When I am doing an remix, I focus on one element of the original track, later on I add more and more from the original, preferably unrecognizable. I want to make a complete new track, not the same melody with another beat or stuff like that.
What tips would you give a new producer just starting out?
Do whatever makes you happy. No limitations, no borders, only your imagination. And perseverance! It is not an easy world. Fuck, that sounds so cliche!
It was your brothers who supported you in buying decks and learning to DJ, do they still make it to your gigs? Without that family bond do you think you would have had the confidence to make such an impression on the Dutch dance scene?
Yeah, they still come on a regular basis and so do my sisters. Very cool and I really appreciate that. I have always been very pigheaded and determined about things I am passionate about, I still am. Nevertheless, it was obviously a big help.
Talking on the Dutch scene, whats been your impression of it as an outsider coming in and now being the guy behind the decks making it happen?
Very unreal at times. Coming from a small village with no places to play to big cities and making hundreds of people dance, a great feeling. It took me years of hard work but the reward is so sweet. The feeling you get when you see people smiling and dancing to your music it is the best feeling in the world! Another cliche alert!
Any favourite places to play? What makes them special?
Berlin. That city is so magical! Full of atmosphere and amazing.
You’re from Breda originally. What was the music scene like in your hometown? As we said earlier you played in a punk band…
Actually I am from a small village (Almkerk) nearby Breda. What was the music scene like in my hometown? Haha, there is a disco and a cafe, in a village nearby you had a rehearsal place where bands could rehearse for a few bucks. It was more band orientated, not real producer/DJ friendly environment, so there was practically no music scene in that direction. Such a shame because there is a lot of talent around.
“Music is what emotion sounds like.” I love that sentiment. Do you structure your sets according to your mood or how the crowd reacts?
Both. It is an interaction between your mood and the crowd and also your spot in the line up. I never play a track that I don’t like, but I know the crowd would go mental.
March 8th sees the first One Week to Live party with Hernan Cattaneo headlining the main room. Who else are you excited to be DJing with/seeing on the night?
The only one I’ve met in person is Paul, so it would be cool to see him again and of course to meet the rest of the guys and the TIP crew in person.
A great night in the making!
01// Claude von Stroke – Urban Animal
02// Dawad – 10.15 (Gran Caveliere remix)
03// Timo Chinala – Andromeda (SOUNOM remix)
04// Sound Process – The Unthinkable (Pole Folder Remix)
05// Mono Electric Orchestra – Lunar Cycle
06// Peter Horrevorts – Siren
07// Fosky & Sable sheep – Barricades of Nowhere
08// Tiger Stripes – Keep a Movin’
09// PRT Stacho – A Strange Feeling (Damolh33 remix)
10// Mihalis Safras – Trip to NY
11// Vince Watson – Freq