Next on Trommel’s ‘Rising Stars’ feature is Amsterdam based DJ Reiss. He has been a pivotal figure of the Amsterdam house and techno underground for quite some time. His extensive record collection, combined with a refined sense of (club) atmosphere, enables him to create cohesion and unison on the dance floor. His sound can be described as a delicate flow of rhythms and soundscapes spiced up with occasional and surprising idiosyncrasies. Reiss is part of the VBX collective and holds a residency at their Amsterdam based events.
Hi Reiss! Thanks for being featured. How are you and how do you feel your 2018 has gone thus far?
Hi Billy! Thanks for having me, I’m loving 2018 thus far. I have played some very cool shows, both in Amsterdam and abroad. Some of the Highlights include the warm-up I got to play for Ricardo Villalobos, the closing set after Margaret Dygas with Ferro under our Spokenn moniker and closing after Zip.
Talk to me a bit about the early parts of your musical adventure, how did you get into electronic music?
For me it all started during my time in high school. I was always the guy searching for new music. I loved and still love the feeling of discovering new music. At some point I got asked to play music at high school parties, as well as participate in DJing contests and play events at local sports clubs. Obviously, it’s a big leap from those parties to what I’m doing now, but the love for playing music to a crowd was born at those parties. After high school I started going to Amsterdam more often and fell head first into the first wave of ‘minimal house music’. Guys like Boris Werner, Lauhaus and Kabale und Liebe were the standard bearers of this sound and a big inspiration for me back then.
Who were some of your biggest musical inspirations? Any good stories related to them?
If I have to pick one person it would be Raresh. I heard him play for the first time in the Maassilo in Rotterdam in 2007 and I was completely blown away! He played the kind of music I was familiar with, but all the records were unknown to me. But it was the way he mixed and combined records that stood out – he was like a story teller – this inspired me and my style as a DJ tremendously.
Shortly after, in 2008, he played b2b with Ricardo Villalobos at the (now defunct) Voltt party at Paradiso. During the afterhour I met him in person. We connected over a shared love for a certain sound – I believe we called it ‘pitched down techno grooves with house moods and sensibilities’, we also discussed our approach to the art of DJing and our views on club culture. I’m a bit hazy on the details but I’m certain it was quite a deep (and some would say nerdy) conversation. We have been friends ever since, and I still consider him to be one of the most inspiring artists and characters in our scene.
Amsterdam is not typically associated with minimal and the softer side of house, have you experimented with ‘harder’ genres such as techno or has your current sound been there since the start?
You’re right, Amsterdam is not typically associated with minimal and the softer side of house. However, when I started going out around 2007 this sound (or at least a variation of it) was en vogue. During these years I also met Niels (the founder of VBX) at some crazy afterhour in the NDSM Bunker. Niels was entertaining the idea of promoting a party himself and we started to discuss and contemplate the concept. Eventually, this resulted in Vrijbuiters (the precursor of VBX).
We had some great events with Vrijbuiters and invited top notch guests like Petre Inspirescu, Alex Picone and Praslea. While Vrijbuiters was doing quite well, the most prolific Amsterdam clubs of that time never really gave our sound the platform it needed to take root. Instead, they opted for disco and classic house from Detroit and Chicago and a more euphoric brand of house.
As a result, the musical landscape in Amsterdam began to shift towards these styles and sounds. Vrijbuiters, and the sound of reductionist house and techno, moved further underground. A couple of like-minded friends and I started travelling abroad to clubs such as Robert Johnson and festivals like Sunwaves to hear this sound and see the artists that inspired us; Ricardo Villalobos, Zip, Margaret Dygas, Raresh and the rest of the arpiar crew.
I never stopped believing that this could work in Amsterdam as well. Niels felt the same and started promoting VBX. At that point, a young, eager and inspired crew of like-minded people also joined the fold. Amongst them Ferro and Denise (our agent at Meanwhile/VBX). This injection of youthful energy – at least in my personal experience – felt like a tipping point.
VBX has been seemingly invaluable in helping bring a more minimal sound to Amsterdam’s main nightlife. Do you feel they’ve helped you grow as a DJ?
Most definitely! During the first VBX parties at Cruquiusgilde, I totally re-connected to the Amsterdam crowd. I felt their vibe, energy and openness to what I was playing and got totally inspired by this. Before the parties at Cruquiusgilde I had been a bit out of touch with the scene in Amsterdam. As mentioned, the platform for our sound was missing. However, the VBX crew persisted in following their vision – despite occasional setbacks – and managed to create the platform that guys such as Ferro, Makcim, Frank Haag and myself needed to evolve. Sadly, after a couple of amazing years, Cruquiusgilde got shut down and VBX lost its home. I still miss that place and its special vibe! Luckily for us we weren’t homeless for long. We started doing parties at Bret and soon after also at Shelter.
These venues, their top-notch sound systems and the teams behind them felt like a perfect fit for the various shades of the VBX sound. They enabled us residents to refine and develop our sound and simultaneously provided VBX with the setting needed to take things to the next level.
What do you think makes those VBX parties so special?
The fact that the success of VBX that you see today is the product of an ongoing team effort that has had its fair share of ups and downs, smiles and frowns. From the get-go the relationship between the VBX crew and its resident DJs has been symbiotic. VBX shaped our sound and our DJ personas, and we shaped the sound and vibe that VBX is now known for. I feel truly privileged to be a part of it.
After parties are a regular thing with the VBX crew, do you think after parties hold any
significance in the clubbing scene or are they just for people who don’t want to go home
True. We love a good after party! To me they definitely hold significance. The first VBX events at Cruquiusgilde I just mentioned in the previous question were actually after parties in collaboration with Solid AM during ADE.
As indicated these parties marked a turning point for me personally as well as for VBX. It was a significant point. The party we did at LOFT following the Ricardo night in Shelter and the daytime sessions during ADE in Bret had a special kind of electric vibe to them. Personally, I love to play afterhours, since people tend to be more receptive to nuances in mixing, experimentation with sounds and variations in energy.
You and Ferro of course are staples of the VBX parties, how did you two guys meet?
To be honest, I’m not quite sure about the actual moment we met. I do recall Ferro booking me a couple of times, back when he was still promoting parties. I admired him for pushing the sound we both loved in a market that wasn’t receptive to that kind of music at all. I found a kindred spirit in him. The connection between us really started to develop after I asked him to share a studio space with me. The countless hours we spend together discussing, analysing, playing and making music really solidified our friendship. Fun fact; that first studio space was actually located in the tower above Shelter (now known as ADAM). It was still the old Shell headquarters back then and – while waiting for the planned redevelopment – some of the offices in the building were repurposed and rented out as temporary studio spaces.
How did the idea for Spokenn come about and how does the dynamic work between you two when you play?
The process of making music together with Ferro always felt very natural. We have the sort of connection where we rarely need more then a couple of words to clarify an opinion or to convince the other to take a certain direction with a track. At some point, I was supposed to play the closing slot at one of the VBX parties at Cruqiusgilde and right before my set I asked Ferro to join in the fun. I just felt like having some fun together instead of alone. The set we played really felt like more than the sum of us playing one record after each other. We both enjoyed it a lot!
We both felt there was more to it then just impromptu b2b’s and studio sessions so we started toying with the idea of giving the project a name. It wasn’t long after that before Spokenn was born. The dynamic between us behind the decks I would describe as a dialogue without having to speak a single word.
You’ve been quiet as a producer aside from the Spokenn EP with Ferro, is there any reason for this?
Well… I work a day job with a lot of responsibility and only have one day of studio time per week at the moment. That day Ferro and I usually spend together to work on Spokenn projects. At some point in the near future I really want to go all in and invest the hours that are needed to get my own productions to a level that I’m satisfied with. For now, I just need to keep my recent momentum as a DJ going for a bit longer before I take the plunge and go full throttle.
Currently I’m always trying to find new tricks and techniques with our machines, so when we get together that’s what I usually bring to the table. Basslines, atmosphere and harmonies are what I’m usually focused on. Ferro really excels when it comes to programming grooves and especially mixing everything down. He knows exactly where each element needs to be in the mix to ensure balance and maximum club impact.
You’ve often played right before a big DJ at VBX parties, do you approach the warm up set any differently than you do normal sets?
For me the key to a great warm-up is restraint! Setting the mood and slowly building up the tension and anticipation for the headliner to come in and take the energy to the next level. In practice, this means I usually strive to stay in ‘the pocket’ when I play a warm-up. No big bangers, but subtle changes of pace, sound and energy. For prime time or closing sets I have a much more intuitive approach. The key for me here is being sensitive to the energy and vibe in the room and playing around with that in a way that I feel is right.
Photo credit: Tessa van der Berg
In your opinion, what makes a great DJ set and a great party?
When a DJ and crowd truly connect with each other a great party is usually the result. Obviously, the setting needs to be right as well. Great sound, the venue and the passion of the team that runs the party are essential ingredients in my experience.
What excites you in electronic music right now?
The fact that there is so much new truly inspired music coming out these days! For a long time digging up gems from the past was the only way to find this kind of music. The market was flooded with generic run of the mill sample pack music. Recently this has been changing for the better. In my opinion, there are a lot of cool new labels who are pushing back by putting out varied and high-quality stuff these days. To me, they are proof that you can be inspired by the stuff that came before while pushing it into new territory by adding ideas and techniques from the present. Pushing the envelope towards evolution in music is what truly excites me.
What’s a track that you can’t stop playing as of now?
R10 – Banana D from the OFFFM 001 release, a very promising new label from Offenbach.
Outside of music, do you have any other hobbies?
Nope not really. My time is fully spent between my day job and music.
What are the rest of your plans for 2018?
First of all, I’m planning to revive my label Dialegestai! The first two releases were well received but for a variety of reasons I didn’t push through with the label back then. Things are different now. I feel motivated, inspired and I am surrounded by very talented peers, who I’m glad to call my friends. Releasing some of the incredible music they make on Dialegestai seems like a very natural thing to do, so let’s see! Furthermore, I want to rock as many dance floors as I can, get a second Spokenn release signed and obviously keep challenging myself to grow and evolve as an artist.
Thanks for talking to Trommel, Reiss!
Featured image credit: Tessa van der Berg