As 2016 draws to an end, it’s time to kick back and reflect on one hell of a year. From numerous albums seeing the light of day, to countless endshows and festivals leaving us in awe, 2016 has unquestionably been a game-changing year for Hard Dance music and its surrounding industry.
A year of creative expression, we were fortunate enough to gain some inside perspective from three Hard Dance artists, who have all experienced prosperous careers this year. During this article, we will gain intel from Dominator’s anthem-maker Furyan, as well as raw Hardstyle’s ‘phuturistic’ pioneer Phuture Noize and token experimentalist/cheeky Gemini Geck-o.
– “I think it is great that the deeper and more musical sounds of (raw) Hardstyle are starting to appear more often.”
I remember posting back in February that I was going to do a 1 hour pure Phuture Noize set at Loudness Klokgebouw, because I didn’t have many bookings at that point yet still wanted to showcase all of the new music I’d made. At the time I was no longer happy with the stuff I’d done in the past, so I began searching for a new sound that combined my love for the Hardstyle I fell in love with, as well as my futuristic and fresh outlook on music.
I wrote down my vision and started a new album that entailed that very mind-set. I worked incredibly hard on this when at a point I was sitting in the studio on a Saturday evening, asking myself “what if this all doesn’t turn out the way I expect it to?” It took an incredible amount of effort and stress to finish the album on time, because I actually needed to do my bachelor graduation as well. But after sending the finished album to my (newly signed) bookings agency The Wishlist, the manager called me with full blown excitement, telling me it was by far one of the most enjoyable listens he’d had in Hardstyle lately. Oh man, the weight that was lifted off my shoulders in that moment… It was amazing!
Meanwhile, the whole ‘I don’t have many bookings’ thing completely faded away too. After releasing “The Worlds Beyond” and “Shallow Waters” plus doing an amazing collaboration with B-Front called “The Paradox,” everything started to finally fall into place even better that I’d imagined. This gave me so much confidence whilst being in the process of writing “Pursuit Of Thunder” (the name of my forthcoming album).
Of course, plenty of amazing things happened, such as being announced on the Hard Bass 2017 line-up, signing with BPM MGMT, and of course, playing many awesome gigs. It’s just been one hell of a ride. So much happened this year; I started literally with nothing and it’s become so much. I can only feel thankful of how great everything turned out.
My proudest release would be “The Paradox” with B-Front. The chemistry in the studio was simply amazing and I still can’t believe we made the track in less than two days. The most personal would be “Shallow Waters” though, as this track felt like a revelation to me. The lyrics even point out that I found my hope beyond the ‘shallow’ Hardstyle music. I always felt that shallow music wasn’t really my destiny and I finally felt as though I’d created a sound that accurately resembled me – me in Hardstyle.
I have two huge highlights; the first would be playing “The Paradox” with B-Front at an insanely packed-out Loudness area at Decibel Outdoor. Despite the track being less than one month old, a large portion of the crowd already knew it and screamed along with it – that was truly magical.
My other highlight was having the opportunity to give a small album preview at Loudness Maassilo. The vibe of the crowd was incredible, but the response on the new tracks was even better. I can’t describe how it felt to showcase this music, after working on it for so long.
I think it is great that the deeper and more musical sounds of (raw) Hardstyle are starting to appear more often and that people are searching for more than just a loud kickdrum. For me, that has been the best thing about 2016; you can also see that these tracks are especially getting a great response.
More conceptualised tracks and more story telling through music. I feel like some producers are always taking the easy road and just randomly add some shit together that will work on the dance-floor. There is so much more you can do with music and it almost saddens me to see producers taking this easy route. I’d also really like to see more emphasis placed on the technical side of production; there have been quite a lot of tracks that are, in my opinion, far below decent. Take your responsibility guys.
My resolutions are to try to stress less, believe in myself and try to enjoy every single moment of my life. I really hope everyone will try and do that too.
– “I’m currently working on an album, which I will premiere during the biggest indoor Hardcore party!”
Where shall I start?! 2016 was by far my most epic year. I got to travel abroad to perform in countries like Russia, Scotland, France, Germany and Austria amongst others. I also had the huge honour to close down the Dominator mainstage, which for me, was an unforgettable career highlight.
Production-wise, I went back to the basics and didn’t focus on what others were doing. This really helped me a lot with re-inventing myself. At the moment, I’m proud to announce that I’m currently working on an album, which I will premiere during the biggest indoor Hardcore party! 😉
There are two releases which signified a lot for me. Of course, the Dominator anthem “Methods Of Mutilation” featuring MC Alee was a huge milestone. It wasn’t easy to create the anthem for the biggest Hardcore festival; it had to be mainstream, yet a little bit dark, so it could correlate with the theme. Mission accomplished, right? 😉
The second track is my collaboration with Nosferatu, “Killswitch.” The track took us over one year to finish, however we’re totally satisfied with the result. I remember witnessing Nosferatu playing it for the very first time whilst live-streaming on Facebook; you should’ve seen his bass face when the kick kicked in… EPIC!
DOMINATOR! No fucking doubt!
Music wise, I’ve heard many good tracks, and unfortunately also many poor tracks that would sound good if there was a little more effort put into them. Please producers, don’t feel that quickly satisfied with your creations!
Festival and event-wise, huge props to organisations such as Art of Dance, Q-dance and many others for raising the bar each year with their amazing stage-designs, themes and concepts. I’m amazed year after year!
More quality, less quantity.
My resolutions are to stay healthy, treat others the way I want to be treated and of course, keep doing with I love most
– “I’m that alternative guy, doing stuff differently than everybody else in a – let’s be honest – quite homogeneous scene.”
2016 has been a big year for me. And then I do not mean filling stadiums and the biggest stages – not this year. With the incarnation of my own concept The Funky Cat, I chose to follow a more underground path. It has been a year of change.
The end of QULT in 2015 showed itself as a big chance for me; a chance to start a movement where I could express my music and art even in its purest form. Starting the New Year with only a radio show, we – that’s me together with my friends involved – quickly expanded. In February, we had the first edition of our very own party at P60 Amstelveen. A dream of mine was realised right here – to have a crowd coming purely for the music and atmosphere that we created ourselves… I’m very proud how this worked out. When the artist and the audience are in tune like this, you really get in a state of transcendence.
We’re already organising our fourth edition now, on the 27th of January, and you are all invited to come and experience what I mean!
The platform was taking shape, however I needed a platform to release my own music as well as that of my friends, which doesn’t typically fit in any other label. With that in mind, we launched The Funky Cat record label in July and made it clear that we’re going to do things differently from the standard label. In my guest article on Alive at Night, I explained that we think in feels, not in genres. We want to spread the music, meaning you can pay what you want. Even if that’s zero – it’s solely about the music. I recommend reading the whole article to get a good insight in the vision of the label.
So far, we have released seven singles, two of them are by Bold Action. I’m very proud to have him releasing on my label; he’s very talented, and I see that the freedom I’m giving him makes him discover totally new places with his production. He will release his debut album in 2017, so we have that to look forward to!
Speaking of albums, I, of course, released my own ‘Alien Sound System,’ which is a piece of art that I’m incredibly proud of. The album came pressed on vinyl as a true collector’s item and with artwork done by Marloes Messemaker. Just wait till you see the comic art on the inside of the sleeve! I haven’t shared it yet on purpose, as I really want people to discover it when they open the package.
Next to my forward-looking vision, I’ve also revived the classic Theracords sound with Dj Thera. At the second edition of The Funky Cat in April, I invited Pieter to close the night with Theracords classics, back to back, just like the good old days. The chemistry on stage was amazing; it was like we never parted and was maybe even better than back in the days, as our mixing has improved over the years.
This chemistry, and the music of course, did so well with the crowd, that we decided to do it more often. Thera picked it up very seriously, even launching a label to release new music in that classic style. A golden move in my eyes, as it keeps the classics sets we play fresh and exciting. To avoid confusion with our current music, the releases on the label go under the name of T.C.C., short for Theracords Classics Collective. It also leaves the listener guessing who’s behind the track 😉 I can give away that the freshly released “That Acid Tho” was a production of mine, with a pinch of Wavolizer influence.
After The Funky Cat #2, we brought back the classic sound at Q-BASE, De Tijdmachine and a special Theracords Classics event that Thera set up himself. Already on the confirmed are gigs together in Germany and Australia, with more to be announced! I’m happy to revisit these feelings, as it’s clear how much it still does with the crowd. I want to add that it’s really interesting to see which tunes still sound fresh to me, and which are somehow horribly outdated… It gave me some insights on how to make my new music more timeless. Let’s see in a few years how that worked out huh 😉
“Tripper” was the first single of the album, and for this one, we took on a very special project. With amazing support from the fans with a crowd-funding, incredibly awesome script and directing by Wiebe van den Ende, loving and on point production by Julie Périon, and a big crew of skilled people – just check those end credits – we put down the very first music video for one of my tracks. I’m extremely proud of the result! It’s so much more than the regular party video.
Highlight of the year award definitely goes to my set at the WHITE stage at Defqon.1. To be honest, I didn’t expect too much from it, as I was given a very early opening slot on the Saturday. How many people would be coming out of their tents for my music? Well… Eventually the whole stage was packed!
I thought of my set to have a more chilled vibe, but I saw the hunger in everyone’s eyes and together we pushed that atmosphere to the roof. Getting more intense with every record, going up with the tempo – I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed such an atmosphere with an opening set. I’ll never forget this. 🙂
In Hardstyle, I chose to embrace that special position I have now. I’m that alternative guy, doing stuff differently than everybody else in a – let’s be honest – quite homogeneous scene. My latest mixtape proves this, mashing up old and forgotten tracks with fresh and exciting stuff from new names on the scene. I really want to push those guys who manage to capture great feeling, pace and general talent into their production.
Shout-out to guys like MickeyG, Hatom, Jay Reeve, Demolite, Aeros and many more. I often find they have that special touch that really adds something exciting to the mix. But I also want to encourage them to look beyond the current Hardstyle sound and create the future of this genre.
So what is next in Hardstyle, may you ask? I have no idea where it’s going now; it seems to me that the evolution of the sound is stagnating… I’d like to see much more exploration of the boundaries of the style to keep my interest. I’ve been hearing some Psy Trance influences lately though, and I’m really digging that! Very curious as to how it’ll be picked up by listeners!
It’s already becoming a big ingredient for me with The Funky Cat’s genre soup. After visiting BOOM Festival in Portugal this year, I notice I got really hooked on those rolling basslines and pure soundscapes. At the same time, I think the psy stuff often lacks a proper structure or story, and I think genre crossovers could be a great positive factor here.
All my doings this year have had a big part in my personal growth. Doing everything by yourself brings a great responsibility; whilst trying to balance all the hard work with enough time to relax, or even to make music (!), I found my own limits the hard way. Oh, that hectic time around the third edition of The Funky Cat in October… Next to organising and promoting the party, I also launched the “Tripper” video and released ‘Alien Sound System’ on vinyl. I can tell you that I will definitely outsource more stuff in the future, like distribution and promotion, so I can give each project the attention that it deserves.
I think I could have pushed all these individual projects harder if I had the time to do so. So let’s call this the first resolution for 2017: outsource or die!
My second resolution is to keep exploring new territories with my music, both physical and in sound. The diversity of the unreleased music I have laying around now is incredible, and I promise to release it all in 2017. 🙂
Concluding with my third resolution:
Taking better care of the plants in my studio…
I wish you all the best in the New Year, a lot of adventure is ahead. Looking back with this article, I realise how insane 2016 has been. Thanks once again for having me Alive at Night, and bring on 2017!
A huge thanks to Phuture Noize, Furyan and Geck-o for sharing their 2016 experiences. We will also be catching up with Dr Phunk and The Viper for an exclusive 2016 in retrospect, so stay tuned. Finally, we not only wish our contributing artists, but all of the other DJ’s and producers a prosperous and creative New Year! Bring it on!