By: Rebecca Besnos
Dutch DJ and superstar of the electronic dance world, Sander Van Doorn, has been a staple in the industry since his beginnings in 2004. He’s a jack of all trades…well sounds, infusing and drawing from various styles and sounds in each track and set. He’s traveled the world over, slaying stages at festivals and behind the decks of venues one could only dream of attending. On top of collaborating with the likes of Oliver Heldens, Chocolate Puma, and Martin Garrix, he’s also been running his own record label, “Doorn Records” since 2008 and is proud of its diverse and talent-filled roster. We got the chance to chat with the producer about his start in the industry (he used to study Commercial Economics), his creative process, favourite track he’s ever made, and plenty more!
At what age did your interest in music start? How did that get you into the world of DJing?
I started DJing when I was 16 and producing music when I was 19 years old, but at that age, I wasn’t taking it seriously. Back then, I just wanted to listen to and play music. I even started a college degree in Commercial Economics before I realized that wasn’t going to work for me. When that happened, I just figured that maybe my passion for music was the way to go. I didn’t want to look back later in life and regret not even trying to pursue music. If it didn’t work out, I could always decide to go back to school. Fortunately for me, music ended up working out!
How would you best describe your musical style…without using genres?
I would say that I like to combine house music with other different genres of music. Once in a while, I like playing harder records in between. It’s kind of an energetic mix of different electronic music styles! There’s also something coming up that I can’t say much about, but it’s like an alter ego, so I can play around much more with different styles and genres!
You’ve been in the industry for 10+ years and have played a ton of shows, all over the world. What makes one crowd/city/country stand out from another? Do you have a favourite place to DJ?
That’s actually really difficult to say, because each time the crowd and the vibe of a show can be different. That’s also the reason I honestly don’t have one place that I could label as my favourite. There are a couple of festivals that are always special to play, such as EDC, Tomorrowland, Ultra, Mysteryland, Barcelona Beach Festival, etc. These festivals are just so magical and the crowds are so energetic, intense, and amazing that I always look forward to playing those!
You recently released a new single, “WTF,” with HI-LO (aka Oliver Heldens). How did that collaboration come about? When producing a track with another DJ, how do you balance each one’s contributions?
I had already done another collaboration with Oliver Heldens called “This,” and we were both so pleased with that one that for me, there was no doubt that we could do it again! Sometimes it’s more difficult than other times to balance the contributions but this time it went quite smoothly. Oliver is so fast and smart in the studio, it’s amazing!!
In your opinion, what’s the best track you’ve ever produced?
It’s really difficult to say because I try and put something of myself in every track I produce and I’m proud of every single one of them. If I had to choose one though, I think I’d have to go with “Riff.” Even though the track was released over 10 years ago, it’s still one that’s really close to my personal taste right now.
How do your festival and club sets differ from one another?
I think festival and club sets always differ from one another. In a club, the sound system is entirely tuned to match the venue and it’s usually more intimate. So in clubs, I see more room to experiment and incorporate subtle things. At festivals, on the other hand, it’s all about going all out and giving the public-that might not necessarily have come for you-the best time. So those are the sets in which I always try to incorporate the biggest/latest hits and make it as energetic as possible.
When producing a song/album, do you usually have a general idea of how it will sound from start to finish, or is it more of a spontaneous process?
It’s often a combination of both. Most of the time, when I start working, I already have an idea of the broad outline of a song or album, but some things also have to fall into place organically. Spontaneous additions are also always part of that process and that’s a good thing. But really, this process is different each time around and for every artist!
Do you find it challenging to stay current and unique in such a competitive and saturated market? Why or why not?
Personally, I don’t think the electronic music market is a saturated market at all. It’s still growing; unique talents are still popping up, coming in with new sounds and new styles, and on top of that, technology keeps coming with innovations all the time. It is challenging to stay relevant in such a huge market with so many amazing artists, but honestly for me, it has always been about music, and being able to work with my passion. Whatever I do, I always try to stay true to that passion and my personal taste, but incorporate new things into it as well. Luckily, that has worked out for me so far!
What do you think about artist collaborations like Jack U and Justin Bieber? Is this merging of pop and dance music beneficial or detrimental to the industry as a whole?
I think those collaborations are really cool. It’s all about looking for boundaries and pushing those further, and I definitely think these collaborations are doing that. The opportunities for electronic music are continuously growing and I think that should only be supported!
Apart from touring and writing music, you also own a record label, “DOORN Records.” Which artist(s) are you the most proud of signing?
With every artist that we have signed and will sign at “DOORN Records” in the future, we have seen great potential and something unique, so that being said, I’m proud of every artist that we’ve signed. Some of the artists are still in the beginning of their career and some have already been around for a while, but I’m just really proud of having such an amazing, diverse roster and am hoping for a lot more great things to come!
What are some of the characteristics you look for in music that you want on your label?
The music has to stand out to me. We receive a lot of music and together with the people from A&R, I will go through that music. Sometimes, a track will stand out to me immediately because of its creativity and originality. If after a few days one of those tracks is still on my mind, that usually means something. There’re a lot of different things we look at but in the end, these are the things that really count.
If you weren’t a producer, what do you think you’d be doing instead?
Before I was a DJ/producer, I studied Commercial Economics, so I would probably have graduated in that and be working in the family firm run by my brother. He has a leading company in metal structures…something completely different! Then again, you never know what could have happened! I’m just really happy and blessed with my career as it is and I hope that I will be able to do this for a long time to come.
Rebecca Besnos is an avid traveler, music lover, and of course, writer. She’s the Editor of VULKAN Magazine, and has lent her words to a slew of publications on an international level. She is passionate about women’s issues and writes thought-provoking articles and erotica for Bellesa. Rebecca currently resides in Australia, happily escaping the snow for the sand.