interview by TIMOTEJ LETONJA

Born in the Dutch town of Tilburg, the son of a composer and a music teacher, Joris gained international recognition with his debut ‘Muted Trax’ EP. Since then, Joris’s celebrated skills have led to four albums and many high-profile remixes with artists like Dua Lipa, Swedish House Mafia, Underworld and Röyksopp. Wanting to provide platforms for various artists, Joris has founded three labels — Green, Rejected and Spectrum; each focusing on different genre within electronic music scene. These days, Joris is deep into his next artist album, featuring high-profile collaborations and starting with the single “You & I” with vocalist songwriter Nathan Nicholson. In the interview, he shares how he came around creating this hit, what makes it unique compared to his previous work, and what we can expect from the upcoming album. 

Recently, you have released your new song “You & I”. What inspired the shift in your musical direction, and how does it align with your artistic evolution for the coming time? 
That’s a good starting point. “You & I” is an interesting track. I got sent some top lines from Cloud 9 Music. There was a lot of music in there, and among them, there was an artist called Nathan Nicholson. As it turned out I was already playing a lot of his music because he works with a lot of dance music producers, I just didn’t really connect the dots.

He has amazing tracks, so I picked out his a-cappella, and then I built a track around it. I didn’t think about it too much. I made a short demo and then turned that into the full track, which ended up being “You & I”. It is different. I come from a more techno background and I’ve worked with vocalists before, but I haven’t really done a proper song, especially not a big track for a dance floor. I’ve made remixes with vocals, but this is probably my first original song that is really focused on that.

The artwork of “You & I”
Stream “You & I” here.

Tell us about collaborating with Nathan Nicholson on “You & I” and what unique element did he bring to the creative process? 
I think he is an incredible singer and he understands the aesthetics of dance music in combination with vocals. His vocal range and his sound really fits warm electronic music sounds, which is not something that always works with every single singer. But I think for him it works really well. 

What emotions did you and Nathan aim to convey with the track and how did you translate them into music and the lyrics?
It’s a love song in a way or maybe an anti-love song. Nathan’s lyrics express how a compatibility between two people can be difficult sometimes. The way he sang it and his melodies inspired me to make the chord progression underneath it. I tried to make it a little bit sad, but also happy at the same time. I always like when the sun’s coming through the clouds a little bit. For me, that’s the most beautiful emotion, and I think it works quite well with this song. 

Are you already working on more similar exciting tracks that are in this direction as well?
Not yet. With Nathan, we’ve been thinking about doing something else. Maybe for the album I’m working on at the moment. 

Can you tell us more about the album? 
It’s in the making at the moment, and I’m trying to finish some tracks. There are more collaborations with different artists. I’m working on one with Jan Blomqvist, which I think is also going to be really beautiful. It’s maybe not as dance floor, but it’s a track that does work really well in the early beginning of a night for instance, or during somewhat slower sets. 

The album itself is going to be not so much techno. It’s quite emotional. I’m really trying to write melodies that are capturing something that I feel. It’s hard to talk about music. But I think it’s also expressing my connection to all of this.

You’ve mentioned this might be quite a different album from what you’ve done so far. What can fans expect in terms of themes and soundscapes from your upcoming album?
To be honest, every album I try to push myself in doing something that’s different than before. There’s also quite a big gap between albums, so it’s quite normal that there’s always a musical progression. The musical landscape changes all the time, and I always try to get inspired by other artists and see what they’re doing, but do things my own way as well. 

Music-wise I’d say it’s quite melancholic and a little bit trancey, but still with my signature sounds. I try to stay true to myself, and within the boundaries really explore new things. Especially because if an album has 12  or 14 tracks, they’re not all big tracks. That’s not really how an album is made. So there’s a lot of room for playfulness and some ambient tracks in between, songs that just come from a different place or go somewhere other than only to the dance floor. 

There has been no mention of the time planning to release this album. Is it coming soon or is it still undefined?
It’s undefined mostly because we decided not to release it in one go. Of course, there’s going to be a final album at the end, but we’re going to release it as singles. It is a bit more interesting than dropping everything at once, and it keeps people on their toes.

It’s better also in terms of platforms like Spotify, since I want tracks to get the right attention and exposure, which is less likely to happen if it all comes at the same time. It’s good to spread things out for me, too. It gives me some more time to finalize everything. It’s been a very heavy touring period and I feel that I just haven’t been able to finish everything the way that I wanted to.

The end of October was extremely busy for everyone, especially you being an artist. What were some of the highlights from ADE?
I think the most important event was Saturday Awakenings. It’s something I’ve been doing for many years already with Awakenings. I did my own spectrum event that focused on techno, so it had nothing to do with the music I do for my album or my latest single. But regardless, it’s a side of me that I really enjoy. I love techno. It’s where I came from, and with Awakenings, which is obviously a techno brand, I really got to express that side of me.

How do you manage to get through such a busy schedule?
I try to sleep as much as I can in between shows. Sometimes I just have 2 hours before a show and have to leave right after the show to go to my airplane. So I try to get a bit of sleep here and there. It’s a hectic few months. Before ADE I came back from South America. I was in Brazil as well as Tomorrowland in Chile, Creamfields, and then some shows in Colombia. 

My last question is about AI. I’ve talked to many artists, DJs and musicians over the past few months during interviews about it, but I wonder what is your take on AI now that it’s becoming a big part of electronic music. Do you apply it or learn about it? Are you excited about it? 
To be honest, I have mixed feelings about it. On the one hand I like to embrace new technology, whether it’s musical instruments or plug-ins or software. I think it’s always great to embrace things and try to be at the forefront of developments. On the other hand, I feel that as an artist you need to write your own music. At least that’s how I feel connected with it, in a way that it’s really you. 

I have not really seen examples of AI that can create music in the way that I would like it to sound and to be. There’s definitely software out there that can take care of aspects of music production and writing, but to put in some prompts and hope that it spits out an amazing sounding track is a whole other thing.