IN CONVERSATION WITH EELKE KLEIJN
Interview by Dean Sanders @dean__sanders
With four albums under his belt, Eelke Kleijn has established himself as an artist in his element. His success has been achieved on his own terms, staying true to his artistic vision. While deeply rooted in the underground music scene, Eelke effortlessly navigates the broader musical landscape, captivating wider audiences without compromising his core values. As the driving force behind DAYS like NIGHTS, his own imprint, he wields complete creative control, blurring the lines between genres.
What sparked your interest in music?
In general, my interest in music began during the early 90s when I was around seven or eight years old, as I was born in 1983. My earliest memories of being excited about music were listening to artists like “Haddaway”. That was what sparked my interest in music. However, I didn’t dive into music until later, when I began my musical journey with the piano by the time I was in high school at the age of 12. My music teacher recognized my talent and encouraged me to pursue piano lessons. Initially, my parents were hesitant, but I persisted and eventually started taking lessons a few months later.
When I was around 14 years old, I began DJing at events like birthday parties. However, it wasn’t until I was around 15 or 16 that I started creating music and found it relatively easy to write songs. People were impressed with my work and within two years, I started sending demos to record labels. I was signed quickly and my music was even used by popular Dutch DJs.
How did this transition happen from playing at small events to producing tracks used by well-known DJs
I was around 19 years old when I signed with my first real label. It has been almost 20 years now since my first release,and currently I am 39 years old. Initially, my music was released on vinyl, which was the norm back then. This is how I got started because people were buying records all the time. Additionally, this is how I began DJing as my records were being played in places like Greece and Hungary. A year later I received an email inviting me to come and play in different venues.
You have played at events like Burning Man, Miami Music Week, and ADE, can you share what is your most memorable performance and what made it stand out for you?
It was at Mont Saint Michelin in France, where I played for Circle during COVID in 2021. It stood out for two reasons. Firstly, I played a live set using synthesizers and drum computers, which required more preparation and was more intense than a regular DJ set. Secondly, Circle’s videography is amazing, with videos and drones that make the performance feel like it’s straight out of Harry Potter. Although I was too focused while playing and didn’t fully enjoy the moment, the opportunity to perform in such an intense and original setting was unforgettable.
What makes your third album ‘Moments of Clarity’ so unique compared to your other albums?
It marked my return to releasing music after an eight-year hiatus. I experimented with a different direction for ‘Moments of Clarity’, incorporating more songwriting and vocals. This change in style appealed to a different audience than my previous albums. On an album, there’s always room to try something different, which is one reason why I enjoy making them. After a while of solely producing club music, it can become a bit monotonous. When you’re constantly working with a four-four drum pattern it’s easy to fall into the trap of using the same chord progressions and melodies. However, when you sit down to write something for an album and experiment with different tempos, you naturally create something new and refreshing.
In general, you are both a DJ and a live performer, and you have the flexibility to play your tracks or those from other artists. Are you still doing both, and do you lean towards one more than the other?
I haven’t done a live set in over a year now, but I do want to get back to it in the future. Right now, I’m focusing on doing DJ sets. I’m currently working on my fifth album, and once it’s ready, I plan to perform big parts of it live. I’ve put it on hold for a bit, but I’m hoping to have it finished by the end of this year or mid-next year at the latest.
What can we expect from your upcoming album?
In my new album, you can expect even more songwriting than any of my previous albums. I have incorporated more guitars and vocals, and I have explored different genres such as rock so it’s going to be a cool mix of different styles.
Your label ‘DAYS like NIGHTS’ has provided an outlet for your creations and supported some of your favorite artists. What do you look for when selecting tracks to release on your label?
When selecting tracks to release on my label ‘DAYS like NIGHTS’, my top priority is to think about whether it is something I would want to play myself. Even if it’s good music, I don’t see the point in releasing it if it doesn’t meet those criteria because I must be able to back it up in some way, either through my radio show or live set. Additionally, we also look for interesting artists who have a plan for how they want to position themselves, not just their music.
Can you recommend any new artists that you have recently signed or any emerging talents that we should keep an eye on?
We have a few new artists signed to our label, including ‘Corren Cavini’ who is also a Dutchman and has released a few tracks with us over the last couple of years. You should also keep an eye on ‘Enamour’, who is based in the US and originally from Berlin. And from Amsterdam, we have ‘Rose Ringed’ who has an EP coming out in September.
You had this ritual of always playing music on your socks, why did you stop doing this?
I used to play in my socks for many years, but I stopped doing it about a year ago. Although it was a nice habit as it made me feel comfortable and grounded, I ended up stepping on broken glass. Thus, there was no deliberate choice. One day I just decided to keep my shoes on and found it to be not too bad.
You’ve also composed music for Hollywood blockbusters such as Batman vs Superman and Rush. How does your approach to creating music for film differ from your approach to creating music for the dance floor?
When I was working on music for Hollywood blockbusters, I mainly worked on the marketing trailers rather than the movies themselves. The biggest difference between creating music for film or music for the dance floor is the time constraint. Marketing trailers often require a very quick turnaround and I just don’t have a lot of time to work on them due to my busy touring schedule. Currently, I only do one or two trailers a year on a very low level. However, I still occasionally create music that could fit multiple films, and I give it to the studios to work on. Eventually, I do want to get back into creating more music for film, but for now, I’m focusing on making dance music.
You recently became part of the ‘en:close – The Sound Of The Jane’ album, which encouraged producers to create music based on sounds recorded in the kitchen of 2-star Michelin restaurant The Jane in Antwerp. Can you tell us more about your experience with this project?
At first, I was unsure about the idea of creating music based on sounds recorded in the kitchen, as I had not heard the samples yet. However, when I received the samples a few weeks later, I was impressed with the quality of the recordings and found it to be a unique and inspiring way of working on a track.
I initially tried to make everything from the samples for my first track, including the kick drum, bassline, and melodies, but I felt like I was pushing it too much and decided to start over. For my second track, I used the samples mostly for percussion and effects and used a synthesizer for the kick drum and bassline. This approach worked better, and the track ended up on the album. It wasn’t intentional that I ended up using mostly fish samples in my track. Nevertheless, I found it fitting and ended up titling the track ‘Electric Eel.’
Your weekly radio show and podcast have a global audience and showcase your mesmerizing DJ sets. What do you hope your listeners take away from these episodes?
My weekly radio show and podcast are broadcasted globally every Monday. The podcast includes an hour-long mix where I play an average of 12 tracks. Throughout the mix, I also provide insights into the music. I aim to convey my taste in music, which includes recordings of live DJ gigs as well as studio mixes that I do. I make sure to avoid repeating the same tracks consecutively, ensuring that I have something new to offer my listeners every week.
You recently released ‘Self Control’; can you tell us a bit more about this track?
The track “Self Control” is based on a song by Laura Branigan. I collaborated with Lee Cabrera to recreate all the sounds to give it a similar feel to the original, which we used as the foundation for our track. Although the vocal is not performed by Laura Branigan, Lee Cabrera was able to replicate her sound quite closely. I didn’t want to simply add a new bassline and be done with it, so I put a lot of thought into how I could add my touch to such an iconic track. Eventually, I turned it into a 10-minute disco-inspired track that captures the essence of the 1970s and 80s.
What are your plans for this summer?
This summer I have a lot of exciting things going on. Normally I don’t play in the Netherlands very often, but this year I am doing a Transmission club tour, which will take me to several smaller venues, like Club Smederij in Tilburg and Toffler in Rotterdam, as well as some bigger ones like Complex in Maastricht. In total, I’ll be playing around 16 or 17 shows in the Netherlands, which is a lot for me. In addition to the club tour, I’ll also be playing at several festivals, including “Tomorrowland” and “Free Your Mind”. I’m also going back to South America soon for a show in Argentina, which is always amazing. So yeah, there’s a lot to look forward to this summer!