Dutch DJ-producer JOOP has been behind the deck since 1989, when it was based more on hardwares than the free software you can get off the internet. Since then he has made a name for himself in the EDM world – having had a massive success with his Trance Energy 2007 anthem ‘The Future’ and his recent single ‘Just One Night’ last year, its quality cosigned by none other than Armin van Buuren himself. Before what is promised to be the ultimate EDM experience, Rising Music Festival, JUICE spoke to headliner JOOP on the good ol’ days of DJing and the changing times, the melding of different musical styles, and the ephemeral nature of EDM trends… and we might have inspired him in the process (or at least just the title of a hypothetical new track).
You started DJing in 1989, when you were just a kid. How difficult was it back then to learn and get equipment compared to now?
I guess we didn’t know anything else back then. It was the Technics turntables or nothing – I was just intrigued by those machines! I studied them from back to front and inside out. I didn’t have a teacher like how I taught some guys the basics later on, so I had to learn all of it – how to beat match – by myself. It was of course more hardware-based back then instead of how it is now. So yeah, that was quite expensive.
But I manage to have my first set of Technics very fast at a very young age – I still have them! As for nowadays, of course the Pioneer CDJs are expensive too, but there are more ways to have fun with music compared to 15, 20 years ago. It is definitely easier to get your hands on something now that cost less or nothing to get yourself going.
In that regard, do you think the easy access to music softwares make DJing too much of a laptop-on-the-deck thing?
I personally don’t like to play with a laptop. When it sounds good I can enjoy it, but I still see DJing as a craftsman thing. Not just anybody can become a DJ. And with that I mean a good DJ who knows his crowd, and when he doesn’t he still knows his crowd. I love to work behind the deck; throwing around my CDs and flip through my wallet. But then again I have to admit that I’m also slowly turning towards USB sticks. Still… I can’t get used to the fact I’m turning a knob now instead of inserting a CD. It’s funny though, because when a track is finished I have this need to still hit the eject button!
You can beat match, mix, without headphones on. How many years of DJing does it take for someone to acquire that skill?
Mixing without headphones means I only need to hear the track I’m going to mix in for a few seconds and then I know enough already. I think it’s a way of playing my sets as a DJ. For me it’s my second nature and I seem to do things that people would notice that I can’t recall myself afterwards. But yeah, I don’t use my headphones a lot. I’d throw them away with almost every mix I do. This way I can enjoy myself a lot more by interacting with the crowd and moving around on stage. I love that!
Any other JOOP-exclusive DJing skills we haven’t heard of?
Huh? (Laughs) Let me think… I still cross my hands when I have to correct the speed or doing tricks. So I work with my right hand on the left player or mixer and the other way around.
In an interview, you mentioned that the storytelling days of EDM are over and that it’s all about going as hard, loud as possible. Do you miss the good old’ days of having a more thought-out set list?
I love to play long sets, but those gigs are not around that much anymore. It’s usually 1 hour to 1.5 hours of playing time. So DJs are in a hurry when doing performances in clubs or at festivals because of the timeframe they have. I experience it myself as well. There are so many good tracks that you want to play but there’s no time…. so let’s rock this sh*t! (Laughs) Cut everything up, make tracks shorter than the original and bang as much out as possible in 1 hour. This has its advantage because you can play a lot more in an hour but on the other side is that there is no story telling anymore; the DJ that carries you through a journey of atmosphere and emotions, tracks that actually fit playing in a certain order.
But hey, it’s 2013 and who cares as long we all enjoy ourselves and go hard on every single track we hear on the floor!
On the same note, do you think the prominence of EDM festivals and DJs having to learn how to play to a huge crowd contributed to the change? Everyone is all about the drop these days.
‘The drop’, nice title for a new track by the way (laughs). I understand like no other that when you play for a big crowd, they come for one thing and for one thing only… to have the night of their lives and go completely berserk! Those are 2 things actually. You don’t learn playing to a big crowd – either you have it or you don’t.
You’ve described yourself as more of a DJ than a producer. An old school DJ once told us that just DJing is obsolete, and that DJs need to produce more now to make it. What do you feel about that?
I have to agree. I started out DJing myself and later on the producing came along. It is 2013 now and people are searching the internet for their favourite artistes and music, going to clubs to see their hero in the weekend. Being a DJ is not enough anymore, those days are gone. To have a full schedule and do what you love the most, you have to make music as a DJ. No way you can achieve that without producing music and get your name out in the world. Till this day I see myself more as a DJ than a producer though.