When one thinks of the Netherlands, the first thing that comes to most people's minds, is Amsterdam, and for good reason. The city is home to ADE, one of the premiere music conferences on the planet, some of the top producers in the game, and almost fairytale like architecture. And while its status might be well deserved, just a quick train ride south will take you to an industrial city filled with equally, if not more so, incredible architecture and music. The city is Rotterdam, and home to producer, DJ, and label owner Bas Mooy. And while being a techno DJ from the Netherlands may seem run of the mill, Bas sits miles above the rest thanks in part to his taste-making powerhouse of a label, Mord. Mord Records is home to some of techno's finest and toughest artists, and has a track record of constant bar-raising releases. Artists like Rebekah, Ansome, Progression, and many more. But how did such a label come to be? Just who is the man at the helm? After a blistering performance in LA not too long ago, we sat down for this extensive and exclusive interview, where we answer those questions and so many more. Please welcome, Bas Mooy.
Hi Bas, before we begin, I'd like to say a massive thank you for taking the time to chat with us. To get things going, tell us a bit about your childhood, and how your surroundings shaped who you are today. How did you first get into music?
Thanks for having me, appreciated! I grew up in a city in the Rotterdam area. A lot of people moved out of the bigger cities during the late seventies, early eighties. So some cities around Rotterdam grew quite fast back then. I actually really loved growing up there. When I was a kid my main interest was playing football as much as possible, but I started to get a real interest in music around high school, mostly bands and some hip-hop. After high school, the next logical step was to start at the university in Rotterdam, so I found an apartment there with a friend. Most of my childhood friends moved to Rotterdam around that time too. I was going to parties and clubs before, but from the moment I moved it started to become a more frequent thing. Loads of friends would stay at our place after we would go out on Thursdays to clubs like Nighttown (RIP) etc. I was never a big fan of a lot of the mellow housey kind of stuff that was played out in most clubs, so when I discovered techno by visiting a techno party by local crew Strictly Techno I found something that immediately grabbed my attention and from that moment would have a massive impact on my life. After being in a heavy car accident in my early twenties, I received some insurance money and was able to buy my first Technics. Soon after that I started organizing parties myself and got a job at Triple Vision Record Distribution around 2000. Triple Vision gave me the chance to start my first label Audio Assault in 2002 (with Radial). Worked there for seven years before I decided to focus on djing/producing full-time in 2007.
Rotterdam seems to be, at least to the outside world, slowly becoming the place to be for high quality underground and industrial techno. What is it about the city that makes it such a special place for techno specifically?
Rotterdam is a working city, and has one of the biggest harbours in the world. The city and the way it looks fits well with techno, also the no bullshit mentality connects well with techno and my own personal view of things. The club-scene in Amsterdam is much bigger though, the city, in general, has a bigger crowd of course with all the tourists and the local government supports the scene much more than in Rotterdam.
It’s great to see the number of people going to techno parties these days, but these massive ones in Rotterdam are quite recent, to be honest. We have been fighting to put techno on the map in Rotterdam since the late nineties and survived some periods where we (Strictly Techno, I joined them around 2002 I think…) were the only ones doing techno in Rotterdam. When techno made a comeback loads of new crews dived into it, some old ones survived and some new ones became really big. I quit doing parties recently after being involved for almost twenty years. Besides not having the time, It’s just not something I want to be part of any more right now. Organizing parties were always about the fun and contributing to a scene I believed in, all about the love for techno and bringing over artists we wanted to show to the Rotterdam crowd. These days it’s mostly about making money it seems. Safe choices when it comes to lineups and It has become a jungle, in my opinion, the old standard ‘codes’ are gone. I’m happy to pass it on to the next generation for now.
On the subject of parties, what was a) the first event you ever went to, and b) the party or event that made you realize that you were meant to be a DJ?
I think one of the first events I ever went to was probably a night in a club called Demi-Sec in Spijkenisse, where Holy Noise was performing. We went there with a group of friends, think we were 15 or something, so this must have been around 1993. It made quite an impression back then, mainly because it was all new to me. Some of my friends went to Parkzicht around that time and some of them visited the first Eurorave party at de Maasvlakte, which was history in the making back then. I was more into other music at that time, so I actually missed out on some legendary parties, unfortunately. I went to concerts instead, rock, punk hip-hop. The first time I went to the Vlerk, the Strictly Techno party I was talking about earlier, I knew I wanted to be involved in this. Soon after that, I bought my first turntables and vinyl. This was the late nineties. I didn’t start djing with a goal of making this my job at some point. It was all about the fun. I just loved going to parties, hanging out in Record stores, the process of organizing events, djing. It was all about having fun with likeminded people. Never thought I’d be a professional DJ/producer/label owner some day. I wanted to be a writer mostly when I was a teenager. Life sometimes pushes you in a completely different direction then you expected.
Mord Records has become one of the premiere tastemaker labels in techno. First, how and why did it come about, seeing as you were also running Audio Assault? Second, what is the secret, or the foundation that has helped turn Mord into such a powerhouse?
I was running Audio Assault and sublabel Arms with my label partner Jeroen Liebregts (aka Radial) since early 2002 I think, we worked with many people I still work with today. At some point I just felt it was time to do something new. I was at a moment in my life/career that I needed a new injection, I needed the fun back in what I was doing. Mord was the key for me to get the fire and energy back, that had seemed to slowly disappear over the years. The struggle with paying my rent each month etc. was really taking its toll at some point, to a point where I actually considered to just get a ‘normal’ job again. I realized I need to make a move to shake things up and it was mainly for myself that I started the label. I don’t think there’s a secret to be honest. Sometimes things come together and it just works out. Hard work, dedication, taking risks, timing and being at the right place at the right moment are all part of the success of something. Working hard for something and putting hours in it is the main reason for success and basically the main thing you have influence on yourself. When you work hard you at least create the best conditions to get ‘lucky’ at some point. It’s nice that there’s a certain amount of success, but like I said, the goal was mainly to have fun again. That’s why I wanted to select all art myself and didn’t want to hold back with releasing stuff that in the past might have not fit on my label etc. No boundaries whatsoever, the bandwidth is my own personal taste. If I like it it has a place on Mord. It took a lot of time, dedication and especially patience to get where I am today. I am really grateful for being able to do what I do and make a living of what I love most. The amount of support the label has been getting is something I cherish every day, can’t say enough how much I appreciate that!
Let's talk production. Give us a rundown of your studio setup. What DAW are you using? Favorite hardware or plugins? Monitors? Anything new you've been liking that we should check out?
Big fan of Ableton since I started using it many years ago, before that I used Logic, Reason, Cubase and even Acid. I use my Maschine a lot and have some machines and fx, but I try to keep my studio pretty basic. I’m not the most technical producer out there, so I noticed I’m more productive when I limit myself a bit, to be honest. Just got new Genelec 8050 speakers that I’m trying out, they seem to work better for me then the 8040’s I had for many years.
Ok so, you've just sat down to start a new track. Talk us through your process. Do you have any goto tools to get things up and running, or is it always ground zero? Any strange pre or post studio session rituals (lighting candles, no shoes in the studio etc)?
I usually start from scratch, I don’t use a standard template or anything. Most of the times I start with creating a kick loop, but sometimes I also just play around with a machine or plugin and record some loops or sounds until I find something I can work with. I guess we all know that moment when you are just messing around and suddenly create a hook or sound that sounds promising enough to start an actual track. I have a lot of audio recordings I made brainstorming with the machines etc, so I go through those sometimes when I get stuck with a new project. The main thing is that I need to feel good when I enter the studio, fit and not tired. I really noticed I need to have a positive and happy mindset to actually get something going.
As artists, we can find ourselves losing focus, or completely overwhelmed with work, whether due to deadlines or lack of downtime, or even too much downtime. How do you overcome these types of situations? Any tips?
I made some drastic changes in my life recently. About one year ago I quit the heavy drinking during gigs, it was getting a bit too much rock ‘n roll at some point ;) I limit myself to some red wine during dinner mostly these days. I also tried to get a bit more sleep around gigs, I wasn’t taking enough time to recover from the weekends. Around December last year I was getting to a point where I started to get sick several times, had two heavy lung infections the past year and started to feel pretty stressed and overworked at some point. My ears were also hurting more and more and I ended up at the doctor and he really advised me to start making some changes, work-related to start with. So, I decided to take some more time off every now and then and finally get some help with the label, which so far I had been running all by myself. My head was just exploding at some point and I needed some space in my head again. I guess at some point your body just tells you, you need to stop acting like you’re 25 ;) I’m doing a lot of ‘old man’ stuff at the moment: having a morning walk, drinking espresso at a coffee place and reading the newspaper or just have lunch somewhere. These things create space in my head, I have felt too rushed for many years.
Seeing as you are both a successful artist and run a successful label, give us a rundown of your daily routine. What time do you usually wake up when at home? Are you in the studio every day?
My studio time has been quite limited the past two years, mainly because of my ear problems, but also because I don’t want to force myself to make music. I will make music when the time is right. Been doing these heavy studio sessions for years and in the end, it seems to work better if I just dose it. My days during the week are pretty laid back since I made all these changes earlier this year. My schedule used to be full all the time, not enough hours in a day, always working on ten projects at the same time during the week, taking care of my kids and touring in the weekends. Now, finally, I found the way to actually take some moments for myself. These days I try to enjoy everything more and my focus is mainly on my family and the here and now. I know it all sounds pretty cliché, but this is a phase of my life I’m in right now, only took me 41 years to get there ;) During the week I have quite some routine in my days usually. I always get up around 7:00, to have breakfast with the family and take the kids to school around 8:30, after that I try to work a bit on the daily emails etc, phone calls, some walking, coffee, an occasional run etc, until I pick up the kids from school. I’m happy to be home this much during the week to be able to play an active role in the kids’ life. When I’m home on the weekends (this only happens a couple of times a year), I realize how much I miss that part of family life. My job has so many great sides and benefits, but this is one of the things that aren’t easy to deal with every now and then.
Let's say you've got an entire week off, and are using it to completely relax. What would a week like that look like? What kinds of hobbies would you be partaking in?
Again, this is gonna sound pretty cliché, but right now for me, that would probably be a holiday, the way I have been doing it the past couple of times when I took some time off. I rent a house with a pool, in a country with a nice temperature, away from most of the tourists and I just hang out with my family. We cook, we swim, I play with the kids, listen to music, I read some books. Back home I would also hang out with friends of course. I miss that too sometimes, we all get a little older and don’t go out as much as we used to. This job means you miss out on most nights out, birthdays, weddings etc since you are away every weekend. Not complaining about my job though, just saying ;)
Being from a city with such a strong techno scene, what are your thoughts about the LA scene, or just the city in general? Do you think it could ever compete with a city like Berlin? Do you see any similarities between LA and Rotterdam?
LA is an amazing city. Been walking on the beach a lot this time, while last time I just checked out several tourist spots. I was never much of a tourist, to be honest, but these days I try to at least check out some hot spots every now and then. I like the warehouse scene here in LA, reminds me of the old raving days in The Netherlands and is similar to some of the scenes in Europe right now. It seems to be going strong for many years already, so that’s great. I guess you can’t really compare the city to a European city, although there are certain areas that are probably similar to places in Berlin or any other European city. Berlin is a city that never sleeps, so many events on a daily base and creative people in every single street. I really like the city and always love to spend time there. Rotterdam is quite small compared to LA, you can basically bike from north to south in thirty minutes, but it’s also a unique city, with great modern architecture, nice museums, parks and the beach is very close. We seem to get more tourists these days, but most people still visit Amsterdam when they come to Holland, which is something most ‘Rotterdammers’ actually are cool with.