2 aliases, a broad musical vision and a timeless approach to his productions… Kelly van Soest or better known as Max Enforcer and Evil Activities has been a highly regarded producer for quite some time now who has celebrated some of the biggest achievements that producers could only dream of. We caught up with this friendly and down-to-Earth genius for an in-depth chat about his musical journey, some recent developments and being a father of 3!
Hi Kelly, thanks for chatting with me today! First of all, how’s life treating you?
Life’s great! There’s nothing else I can say! I’m happy, I’m feeling great and life is treating me good.
Are you enjoying the sun?
Yes, finally! We could talk about the weather in Holland for hours but yes, I’m definitely enjoying the sun!
Great! So let’s backtrack a little bit – can you tell me about growing up into producing music and a little bit about the journey that led you into music?
I’ll tell you the short version, which isn’t really that short! Firstly, I’ve never been somebody who listened to others advice and when I was growing up, music was the only constant factor in my life. I had a very small game computer called an ‘Commodore Omega’ and I had a program on it with 4 mono tracks that Neophyte was also using, so I sunk my teeth in it and tried to get the best out of it. When I had to get my high-school diploma I flunked it on purpose, however the year after I did graduate and I made the decision to go to the marines as I really didn’t know what I wanted to do.
The week before my military enlistment my friend of mine urged me to have a look at a studio with music recording and 3 months later I dove in, went to the bank, got a whole lot of money out and brought a studio straight up. Another 3 months later I met DJ Neophyte at a music shop that I worked in, gave him a digital tape and he was pretty impressed by it. From there, I went onto Rotterdam records in 1998 with DJ Paul and I can still remember the first big booking that I had when I was 18. After that, I just took off!
I was producing so much music everyday that I wanted to do something different as opposed to hardcore, so along with Neophyte, I started experimenting with techno. In 2000 we (Neophyte and I) began Seismic Records and our strange kind of music became part of the building blocks of a new movement people would call ‘Hardstyle’ one year later!
Did you ever have doubts?
Of course! I still have doubts now! As an artist you want to be liked and along with the advantages there are insecurities too. When there’s a spotlight on you then there will always be something that brings pressure and artists have to deal with that and realise that without the negative there’s no positive.
If you weren’t Evil Activities/Max Enforcer, what would you have done with your career?
I really have no idea! As I grew older I got to know myself more and gained a lot of knowledge. If I had given myself the chance to study at university with all of the knowledge that I have now, then I would probably study some sort of business management and marketing.
While we’re on this little TBT, I want to talk specifically about one of your older tracks “Gold” – can you share some special memories from this track?
The cool thing about “Gold” is that I had it finished for almost a year, however I was too scared to do anything with it. At that time it was a really different track and I felt slightly insecure about it so I just left it alone. Around that time, b2s asked me if I had any new music for the Decibel announcement trailer (2010) so I sent them Gold and they loved it and the fans loved it too! The reason I named it Gold is because it holds a huge Summery feeling and it reminds me of the sun, beaches and beer, it always brings back great memories!
What other tracks of yours bring back the greatest memories?
Mine and The Beholder’s remix of “Wreck The Remix” by Hardheadz is a pretty old school tune, but it’s also one that brings back amazing memories!
Also, “Lost In Paradise” brings back great memories! It makes me so happy whenever I see people going crazy to it.
Finally, “On The Go,” there’s still massive support everywhere for the track and both Frontliner and myself still play it in our sets!
Speaking of Frontliner, I’ve seen a lot of preparations on your social media for this year’s edition of Knockout. What’s your excitement to play at this party against your buddy Frontliner?
I’m gonna kick his hippie ass! *laughs* I’m joking… We are best buddies and that’s the reason why we didn’t really go full-on ‘head to head.’ Besides, it’s not really in Barry’s nature to knock anyone out. It’s more of a fun thing for us and we’re really excited!
I can’t wait to see you guys go head to head! Anyway, back to the music. Many of your older tracks are still greatly appreciated today. Is it important for you to make music that will transcend the years?
Yes, it’s very important. If you make tracks that are transcendent it will mean that you are transcendent as an artist. You can be an artist and have a million ‘alright’ tracks but if you ask a fan to name 1 track and they can’t answer, then it’s not a good thing. I’d rather have 10 ‘evergreen’ tracks than a thousand average tracks.
What are some important things that you’ve learned about music or yourself throughout your journey?
I learned that it’s important to know what your audience wants, however you never let yourself get too influenced by it. If you have produced something cool that you think the audience won’t like, just finish it and go with it, that’s one important lesson I learned. Another thing is, never take things for granted because one day it can all change! You have to be humble and positive and always do your best.
What does stage presence mean for you?
For me it’s very important. I know that I can put myself there in the spotlight; it’s something that I’ve learnt over the years. I think that when you’re on the spotlight it’s important to show what you can do and next to that, I love playing my own tracks, it gives me such an amazing feeling and I love it. Especially when people are going crazy on it, it’s the energy that they give that I take and multiply and then they multiply – it’s a thing that I’m always looking forward to in my DJ’s sets. Trying to get a connection with the audience is really important for me. When you are in the spotlight you really give something of you, it’s a personal thing and for some people it can be difficult to show that to the people. I’m comfortable with it.
You have just announced that you are the mastermind behind this years Rebirth anthem! How was it creating the anthem for this year’s edition?
First of all, I’m so happy with the result! Rebirth is a very cool party, it’s the first outdoor hardstyle festival which kicks off the Dutch festival season. The anthem itself is something quite different and when I made the track at 147BPM my aim was to try and show people that 150BPM is not the only tempo that hardstyle has to be. I really tried to capture the 2009-2010 feeling and together with the rock vocals I feel it’s the perfect combination!
I also spotted a photo that you posted of Wildstylez in the studio and I’m assuming that you are working on a collaboration – can you tell me a little more about it?
The track itself needs a little bit more work but I’m very happy with the melody. Both Wildstylez and I are fully driven artists, we work very well together and I think that about 1-2 days work on the track will do the job!
You also have quite a busy schedule not only with shows here in The Netherlands but also a lot of international bookings – how do you deal with the jetlag?!
I don’t! *laughs* You just have to let it be and sleep when you can to be honest. The worst thing you can do is try to fight it, it’s something that happens to your body when you travel and you have to accept it. I do sometimes take a natural supplement called Melatonin which helps your biological clock reset, some pilots use it to get into a good sleeping pattern. My best advice is to just listen to your body!
Now just a quick scoop on your hardcore alias Evil Activities – what’s new for him in 2015?
The key words for 2015 are “new music”. We just released “Outta Control” with Angerfist & E-Life and 2 tracks are almost finished and will be released before the summer. Right now, I really just want to make music. Another cool development with Evil Activities is that E-Life and myself are re-inventing the Evil Activities. We’ve been playing together for so many years and it’s time for Evil Activities to be known as two people again with me as the DJ and E-Life as the MC. We’re both really looking forward to that!
What’s the best thing about having two different aliases?
I get this question quite a lot and it’s a very simple answer. You don’t want to eat the same thing every day! The thing is, it’s the same with music. You need to stay inspired and if you keep focusing on one thing, there comes a point where you hit a wall.
You need something else to get your mind off it so when you get back to it you’ll see it from a different view. I’ve been producing both hardstyle and hardcore for 16 years now, I need hardstyle to keep producing hardcore and I need hardcore to keep producing hardstyle! It’s simple!
If you could give a piece of advice to your 15 year old self, what would it be?
Keep your Nike’s clean and stay healthy! Other than that, I’m pretty happy with how things rolled out for me 🙂
I also noticed that you welcomed your son into the world around one year ago! How do you prioritise family commitments with music?
I actually have 3 children in total! My family are wonderful, they’re very supportive and always understanding. In terms of prioritising, you have to make choices and there are many family events that I am unable to attend. One rule that I have is that I want my family to live their life on the weekends and if there is a birthday or party, I will always do my best to be there.
It puts pressure on my family sometimes when I’m away during the week, on weekends and when I’m in the studio so when I am with my family I prefer to spend real quality time with them. Another thing that is very important to me are family dinners and breakfasts, we all have the chance to bond and I really enjoy that.
In my opinion it is possible to be both an artist and a father. 🙂
Are you really lost in paradise?
Back in my younger years I used to be a bit of a party animal and the ‘gabber’ movement is still a huge part of me. I loved going to parties and I wanted to translate that into “Lost In Paradise.” The story is about a person in the crowd at an event who is enjoying the moment whilst surrounded with great music and the people he or she loves. So I’d say I’m in paradise but I’m not lost!
Finally, what did you eat for breakfast today?
I had a sandwich with brown bread and cheese. Late breakfast, I try to keep the right times for breakfast, this time it was brunch!
Thanks for chatting with me Kelly! We wish both Evil Activities and Max Enforcer the very best for this years jam packed festival season!
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