Interview: Sander Van Doorn

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A man who needs no introduction, Sander van Doorn is a mega-force in the dance music industry in the art of techno and trance. Shooting up to #10 on DJ Mag‘s Top 100 DJs Poll this year, the Dutchman returns to Malaysia in December to knock our socks off at Heineken Thirst‘s Godskitchen Boombox. The DJ-producer has unleashed a plethora of killer remixes, bootlegs and covers, including his infamous Dusk Till Doorn compilation album. He also owns his own Doorn record label featuring other similarly amazing DJs and producers. We spoke at length to the DJ before his big gig in Malaysia…

Are you looking forward to returning to Malaysia?
I think it’s going to be my 4th time to Malaysia. I’m definitely looking forward to it; the last few times have been phenomenal. I played at Zouk twice and I did Global Gathering a few years ago as well. It’ll be good to be back.

We’re all very excited about your gig at Godskitchen Boombox. How do you envision the show to be like?
For everybody who has not seen the Boombox before, I think they’re gonna be blown away by the whole production. The stage is absolutely unique and the visuals too, and combined with the music and the know-how of Godskitchen throughout the years, it’s bound to be a great party. I’m really happy to be a part of it and to come back to Malaysia.

You’re somewhat of a Godskitchen Boombox regular. What is it about the Boombox that keeps you returning as a headliner?
I’ve got a really good working relationship with Godskitchen and Boombox. Besides that, I’ve done a lot of events and they’ve all gone pretty well. I think that’s why they’ve asked me back. It’s great playing there; I’ve gotten familiar with Boombox, which is a phenomenal stage. I kind of know the drill; I know the music to play. Having been to Malaysia a few times before, I think that helps as well.

What’s your DJ setup going to be like?
I use 3 CDJs-the 1000s or the 2000s. But I still like to play CDs with a V6 and a laptop.

Richard Durand and Chuckie will also be playing at the Godskitchen Boombox. What’s your take on them?
They’re both brilliant DJs. Chuckie is a little more house-y; Richard Durand is a little more up my street-more techy-trance-y. It’s a very good line-up.

What gives you more satisfaction, producing music or playing live?
I like the whole combination. When I started, producing was my favourite thing to do. But when I really started DJing, I loved playing onstage. I like to play a long stream of tour dates and go back to the studio with a lot of inspiration, make new tracks and test them out onstage.

How would you describe your style of music to dance music n00bs?
I’d say it’s a cross section between different styles of music. I’ve always loved to be a little bit in the middle. Last year, I produced tracks that were trance-y on one side and on the other side, were house tracks that were picked up by the Swedish House Media. I think my style can be described as pretty driven, euphoric in some tracks and groovy in others

Some of your tracks carry food names like ‘Sushi’, ‘Apple’ and ‘Pumpkin’. What gives?
There’s a lot of food involved in my titles usually (laughs). Generally, I 1st make a track and try to capture how it feels in one word. Sometimes it has an Oriental feel; like with ‘Sushi’, it had that vibe with me. It’s a feeling that I describe with a piece of food.

You’re currently at #10 in the DJ Mag Top 100 DJs Poll. How does it feel and does it affect the way you play at all?
To be honest with you, the DJ list is a very important list. For me, it’s part of my career. It’s good to make yourself known in the world. It is a popularity list at some point and it’s about how good of a campaign [you have]. I think it’s not the complete reality of dance music, but it’s definitely an important tool. I’m happy with the position I’m at right now.

Will you be coming out with a new album soon and what will it sound like?
I’ve been working on a lot of new tracks and I want to make that into an album. I also want to expand Dusk Till Doorn a lot more. There’s definitely an artist album coming, but the only thing is, I don’t like working with deadlines. I think it kind of spoils the creativity. There are a lot of new sounds and I’ve been experimenting a lot with vocals. I’ve always been very picky with vocals but this time I’ve really nailed it.

What’s your absolute favourite track of the year?
Personally, my favourite tracks that I made are Purple Haze’s ‘Hymn 2.0’ and The XX bootleg of ‘Intro’. For other people, I really love the stuff that Pryda has done and I’ve always been a fan of Nicky Romero.

What music do you listen to and get inspiration from?
I’m a big fan of music from Radiohead to Sigur Rós. I listen to a lot of music on a daily basis that’s more dance-related. I also love dubstep. I kind of take my inspiration from different types of music, whether it’s dance or non-dance.

Who are your favourite DJs?
I really like Magnetic Man-they’re actually my favourite. I like them because they’re kind of drum n bass-y, but they also have really cool riffs on top of that. I really like ‘Perfect Stranger’. I also like Burial’s albums as well.

There are so many big-time Dutch DJs around now; is there something in the water over there?
It’s pretty remarkable. We live in a very small country and there’s a lot of talent that comes from Holland. I think the reason for that is that the Dutch radio stations got involved in dance music at a very early stage; they were really pushing the dance music sound and they’re still doing that today. I think a lot of people got connected to dance music because of that and a lot of talent revolved around that.

Aside from travelling the world and partying every weekend, what’s the good and bad side about being an international DJ?
The thing I like the least is the travelling and being at the airport constantly. For me, an airplane has become a bus with wings; you just sit there and wait. The thing I love is what I’m doing now-whether it’s playing or producing, that’s what I like best. If you can make your hobby your work, you’re a very happy man and that’s what I am!

What do you like about playing in Asia and do you tailor your sets differently to each country?
Throughout the years, I’ve taken a lot of mental notes of territories. In Eastern Europe, it’s a little more trance-y. In South America, it’s more towards progressive and even minimal. America is very diverse-you can start with house and really build from there. And in Asia, I think it’s very open to different types of music and they love listening to extended sets, so you can really build on that, which is what I prefer.

Do you prefer playing in clubs or at bigger events?
I like a combination of both. The more clubby types of parties are more intimate and I kind of like being close to my fans. The bigger parties have more of an adrenaline factor to it.

What’s your guilty pleasure?
I would love to quit smoking; that’s one of my things to do next year!

Catch Sander van Doorn played inside the Godskitchen Boombox for Heineken Thirst at the Sepang International Circuit on 4 December. Get more SvD at