Just in time for their special ADE showcase event, of whom MEOKO is a media partner, we sat down with each of our Dutch friends, VBX x SlapFunk x Natives, to give them a chance to explain exactly what their respective party institutions are about. The result is a fascinating interview with some very insightful answers on the local scene, label managing and party planning from these exciting agencies.
Check out the VBX x SlapFunk x Natives 20-hour ADE event here
Who are VBX and what does the name stand for?
The V & B stand for Vrijbuiters, which means freebooters, the X stands for new. Vrijbuiters is our old name, we used to be more pirates, but we’re not 20 anymore 😉 At a certain point we decided that our party should be only about the music, that’s when the new VBX was born.
What has been the most memorable party you have put on to date and why?
That was defintely the after-party during ADE a few years ago in the Cruquiusgilde. It was an illegal location in those days, we partied there all day, all night and we ended up with a huge surprise line-up, lots of friends from all around the world came by to play some tunes. The cool thing is that this year, we go back to this location on Thursday (tINI & the Gang) and Saturday morning (after-party for HYTE Warehouse with Ricardo Villalobos).
What’s it like trying to find spaces for parties in Amsterdam?
It used to be very challenging, but nowadays there are a lot of possibilities. I think in the last 3 years at least 10 new locations opened their doors, from old warehouses like Elementenstraat as well as new clubs like Canvas.
There is a strong emphasis on visual identity at VBX. Are any of you artists? Where does this visual aesthetic come from?
Niels and I are both big fans of modern art and architecture, so we use this as an inspiration most often. But all the credit for the design go to Menno Drontmann (Ams301), he is our designer from the beginning and will be until the end 🙂
Do you have any future plans for expansion from being an agency?
Well we like to start slow, we’re very happy with the talented group we have on the moment. We like to build the VBX brand together with them and expand slowly from showcases in Holland to more showcases abroad.
How important is it for DJs to have their own agents in the industry?
In my opinion a DJ should focus on making and playing music. Having a skilled agent with a good network who you can trust, gives you a lot of time and focus. So yes, it’s important!
Tell us about your event concepts and their respective music policies – Spectrum, Current and Workit.
Our concepts stand for different music directions that we love. Current is our classic sound, this is where it all started. On Current you will hear minimalistic music and grooves between house & techno. Spectrum is all about house in his many guises. And Work It is a night focused on dirty Chicago sounds from ghetto tech to raw booty, juke to footwork and plenty in between.
What do we have to look forward to at Tolhuistuin as a venue?
Tolhuistuin is an old iconic building, it used to be a Shell laboratory. The building still has his futuristic character, however the rooms are completely renewed with perfect acoustics and one of the best sound systems in Amsterdam. There’s also a restaurant and a nice chill out, so for us it’s a perfect location for a 20 hour marathon 🙂
Can you explain for MEOKO readers what SlapFunk is all about?
SlapFunk is all about that slapped up nasty rhythms and grooves. We always loved those stripped down beats with all kinds of influences and thats what we want to share with the world. It’s also a kind of style for us. If you listen to all of our releases you will recognize that all tracks are quite dancefloor related stuff made for the club and to make people dance their ass off.
At what point did you realise that the party had gained enough momentum to start a label?
Since the early beginning it was a dream for us to release our own music from our own guys on our own platform. It was in 2009 that we started to do some illegal partys and then moved on to the club in 2011. In that time everything was getting more and more serious so we decided to follow our dreams and start to collect tracks for our first release. And so in January 2012 we dropped our first bomb!
What is the inspiration or influences of the stripped back rugged sound that characterises SlapFunk’s releases?
As a group of friends we got influenced by the raw clubs that Amsterdam used to have before they closed down most of them. Also a lot of Amsterdam’s renowned DJ’s had a very raw style at that time and the underground scene was flourishing. The main focus and inspiration for us is to make people dance. That’s why all tracks got that slapped up drive. Dancing is a centuries old ritual that everybody does and it makes them feel happy and alive. So why don’t we participate on that movement and stimulate the dancefloor?
Even they are not too far from one another, does Utrecht stand in the shadow of Amsterdam in terms of music scene?
We would say that but the music scene in Utrecht is very different from Amsterdam. Utrecht is a student city so the music scene is focused on them, that’s why we mostly get techno and tech-house party’s. Music wise you got a lot more solid music coming out of the capital than Utrecht. But still we keep doing our thing and focus on the world.
The label plays host to a range of talents like Malin Genie, Samuel Deep and Larry de Kat. It seems like very close-knit group with shared influences, were you all friends before?
Most of us grew up together or have been friends for a very long time while others joined the group after releasing on our label. But nowadays we are one big family.
How do you distinguish between the being a label as opposed to being a music collective?
Put it this way – we are a music collective that just happen to own a label as well.
What’s the story behind Natives and when did you first start organising parties?
Natives has two main “chiefs”, Martijn de Vries (27) and Samuel Taselaar (26). They started organizing events together from an early age, 19 years-old, in small local clubs in Amsterdam. This soon grew out to bigger festivals for around 1500-2000 people, Graefenthal am See and FLOAT, with their first company. With this experience, they started Natives, a brand with which they focus on pushing local talent and the “Native” sound (local sound) of Amsterdam.
What differences or similarities do you share with VBX?
The difference with VBX, is that they are a booking agency as well as organisers of parties, and we’re not. Similarities is that we’ve booked artists like Ferro multiple times. We like the same sound and think the same about a lot of things. This could be the quality of a soundsystem that is essential for a good party, reacting quickly when communicating and sharing beliefs that parties should be about fun and love for music. Not just money.
What first attracted you to the idea of running events?
Going to parties like Awakenings and WTTF really sparked the interest for organising events. Also the fact that from an early age a lot of people from The Hague and Leiden (where they come from), were busy making music and listening to house/techno artists helped with this. It just grew on them, and making money whilst hosting cool events was really a bonus. Going out there and doing it was the big reward, especially when it’s all new and exciting.
It’s a very appealing idea to run events, but there’s a lot more effort and hard work behind it than meets the eye. What’s the most important element of a party for you?
The most important things when throwing events is an eye for detail. Is the girl who’s handling the guestlist happy and does she have something to drink. Is the banner in the right position? Is the club manager aware of when we will pick up the decoration the next day, and is the sound technician ready at 01:30 to go from CDs to vinyl for the next artists. Clear and honest communication, so that everyone is on point. That is essential when organising events. But the love for music and getting people together is by far the most important. Without this, it becomes just another job, whilst it can be so much more. A full room with quality music and people dancing. Then you can look around proud and think: This is all because of our effort.
What is the most difficult part of putting on an event?
The most difficult part of organising an event is pushing your party without pushing too hard. It should be a natural, organic style. But sometimes ticket sales are not going the way you want to, even though your line-up is good, artwork looks sweet and communication is on point. At that point, you have to make sure you push it in a way to attract a larger audience. But with that promotion comes the danger that people will think: “Why are they trying so hard, are things not going as they should?”. That’s something you will encounter at some point or another, and it’s always difficult to handle.
Who are the hottest local talents MEOKO readers should keep an eye on?
The local talents that are standing out right now (maybe talents is not even a good title for them anymore), are Ferro (VBX), Interstellar Funk (Tape), Elias Mazian (Trouw) and Shadee (Aspirations).
Check out MEOKO’s full ADE party guide here
By Geoffrey Chang