Joris Voorn is a man who needs little introduction to those in house and techno. A Dutch titan with more than 20 years producing and DJing, his brand has spread to two labels Green (to be known as Spectrum going forward) & Rejected, a party series Spectrum and three studio albums, not to mention countless mix compilations and remixes.
Growing up in a musical family, Joris Voorn was exposed to experimental music at a young age. His father is a successful classical composer and Voorn was given a guitar and violin to play as a kid. However, Joris Voorn became enamored with certain segments of electronic music like The Prodigy and Underworld, which took him away from the poppy dance tracks on the radio at the time.
His career got a kick-start in 1996 when he entered a DJ competition at pop club Atak, where he won jointly with Edwin Oosterwal, an already established DJ, and formed a friendship and working partnership that has lasted to this day. They co-run Green & Rejected now.
It has been five years since Voorn released his album Nobody Knows, which changed the perception of Joris Voorn from just being a techno producer to someone who is willing to embrace different styles and songwriting. His new album \\\\ will arrive on November 15, featuring a few singles out this year and a new track today “Messiah” featuring HÆLOS.
The album draws on his formative era – 1990s electronic music, mixing together breakbeat with his own atmospheric techno. You can hear that come together beautifully on "Messiah." There are collaborations with Underworld, and Dutch pianist Michiel Borstlap.
We sat down with Voorn in the barren media tent at Electric Zoo with the main stage thumping behind us to chat about how his album came together, how VIP culture is making Ibiza worse, transitioning his label Green into the larger Spectrum brand and much more.
Pre-save the album here.
Did you just come back from holiday?
Actually I did just enjoy some holiday, which is very nice in the middle of summer. It's a luxury.
Has it been easier to say; now I want to take time?
Well I have a family with two kids, so I need to take some time off to enjoy being with them as well. So basically at the beginning of the year we set the dates and I say "these days I won't be working" so whatever comes on my path, I'm just going to be out and I'm not there.
Your wife's been asking you to take holidays…
Yeah. Well you know to be honest it's amazing taking a holiday. It's a luxury for artists you know because there's always a great gig. There's always a reason not to take a holiday but it's great that I just do it.
You did a summer in Ibiza. A lot has said about how Ibiza is getting worse but how do you think it's getting better?
You know I don't know if that's necessarily getting better. VIP tables are kind of taking over Ibiza a little bit, it's very expensive to go. And so for a lot of kids nowadays, they pick and choose where they go. So there are a lot of parties, especially some semi underground parties. So it's not just all EDM. So there's a lot to choose from.
Luckily I've had the honor to play many different gigs and pretty much all of them have been actually really good. So I think it's still a great place to go for a lot of great gigs, but they're struggling of course. There are a lot of great gigs elsewhere in Europe as well.
What's your favorite club in Ibiza?
Ushuaia I really like, it's outdoors, which is amazing. And it's almost like playing a festival, but then in a club setting, which is great.
Since you have an architecture background, do you look at clubs differently than like most other people do?
Not so much. When I'm playing and I'm working behind the decks I just focus on the music. Of course I love it when a club is designed really well and it has a great layout. I can communicate with the audience too through not just music but also actually see them, which is quite an important thing. But I don't really look at it from architectural point of view; it's more like a feeling.
When you're doing your sets and blending different songs together, is that something you practice ahead of time?
No I never practice that. However, sometimes you know that two tracks might work really well together and then you might keep that mix in the back of your head so if you're playing that track you're like "oh yeah I remember from last time this one works really well” but it's mostly just happy accidents when they work. Just try to remember them you know because sometimes you just forget about it.
Have you ever had a set that didn't work?
Sometimes I just blame it on the crowd haha. No I don't blame it on myself when it doesn't work, it’s mostly because there's no connection or the sound is not loud enough. That happens sometimes, you could be playing a great set but you also need to get something back from the audience and if they're not really getting the message because their sound is not loud enough then sometimes it's still could be a great day or a great gig but not the very best.
Let's go back to 1996 with the DJ contest at ATAK. You said you won. Edwin Oosterwal says you guys tie. So what happened actually?
Yeah I was just a kid. I was just a student and I wasn't a deejay in any way whatsoever. I just had a bunch of CDs and tracks that I really liked and I was just playing them. Edwin at that time was already a DJ. He was already actually really good. He was really good at mixing and had a great style to his music. I think the jury liked both our approaches to the music so we both won together and that was kind of the beginning of a great friendship. Edwin actually went to New York for a couple of years but then he felt at the end he couldn't really fulfill his musical dream here. So he went back to the Netherlands and we started up our labels.
Speaking of labels, why are you phasing out Green now?
It's because I'm starting a new label called Spectrum which ties in together with the event brands that launched two years ago. Having too many concepts and too many things that you have to keep in the air, it's just a bit much. So it's kind of morphing into Spectrum. The name Green won't really be there anymore, but it's the same ethos of the music that is driving the Spectrum label.
Your first album was kind of very up-tempo, techno trance. And the last album is much more mellow. Is that a reflection of you?
I think so. With an album I always try to have an open mind to making the music that I want to make, but sometimes I don't really know why I'm making some certain kinds of music. It could be because I'm inspired by some other artists or it is the sign of the times. It's a very organic process. I never really know what my own next album is going to be like. So yeah I don't really have an answer to that.
I mean that when you talk about the tempo of the first one -- that was a very different time in techno when 135 BBM was very normal and even a little bit slow. So that's why that album's a lot faster than nowadays.
Would you still play some of those records?
I do still play some of them. Yeah actually I still think there's some great tracks. They sound a little bit different than the music today. So I think sound quality wise and the production is very different. It doesn't really matter about production. It's about the soul that is in the music, but it's a bit different. Also as you know I just started making music at that time so I still had a lot to learn.
Do you ever listen back to very old demos?
Actually I have a lot of demos from all over the years, like hundreds and hundreds of them. Sometimes I listen back to them and think, "wow this actually sounds pretty good. Maybe I should rework it into something new." Actually my next album has a couple of tracks that were made from my very old demos, maybe six, seven years old and then I started working them into two tracks that actually worked for the album now.
The album now is presumably why you're talking to me, so just give me the elevator pitch what you're telling you everyone for the album.
So it's going to be in November. I've been working on it for a couple of years but I also just moved to a new studio. If you move into a new place you have to get to understand the sound of the room and get comfortable with it. So it took awhile before I felt I really understood how the sound was working. So that took a lot of time. That's why the sound of the album is a little bit later than expected. It's a lot of different kinds of music. I think people should just hear it. It's not going to be very long until it's out.
You've finished writing the music?
Yeah it's all done. Everything's done.
Do you mix and master yourself?
I didn't do the mastering myself although some tracks I did actually. Generally I don't master myself but mixing, yeah. I considered doing some mixing with someone else. But, in the end I've tried that before and it's hit or miss. Sometimes it really works sometimes they just don't really quite get it right. So. I think I'm at a stage and a level now where I'm quite confident with my mixing skills actually.