The king is back, but did he ever leave…? Inside the mind of Promo
Long-standing Hardcore fans can vouch that revolutionist Promo has done unthinkable things the movement. As a true fighter in the scene, Promo was one of the original legends who was somewhat responsible the genre’s growth and development.
Standing for quality, creativity and experimentation, Promo has held his legacy high for many years, however, his path has not always been easy. I consider Promo to be one of the most humble and interesting producers in Hardcore, so when the time came for him to release his album ‘Authentic,’ I just had to get a piece of his mind!
Read on and find out more about Promo’s ‘no overthinking’ rule behind ‘Authentic,’ his label The Third Movement and his recent move back to the countryside.
– Yo Promo, welcome back to AAN! How are you going on this fine (well, cloudy) day?
I’m doing fine, thanks. It’s been a couple of hectic weeks, so it’s nice to relax a little now.
– First of all, big congratulations on the release of your album ‘Authentic!’ How does it feel to have this baby out in the open?
Thank you very much! I’m very glad it’s finally out. It’s always an intense personal process to create an album, but in the end the only thing you get as a reward is the great feedback when it’s released. So yes, time to hand it over to the world and see what everyone thinks of it!
– Can you explain the main idea behind the album’s title?
Well the title of the album actually refers mostly to me. I chose the title before I even started on the album; it was more or less a reminder to stay true to what I believe in when making music. Over the last few years I have definitely struggled with the switch to digital and all of the pressure that comes with maintaining a social media presence, along with everybody’s opinions of course.
In ‘Authentic,’ I wanted to go back to the pure Promo sound and make an album in what I refer to as “fuck you mode”. I locked myself away from the outside world and just did what I did, no compromises!
– You say that ‘the king is back,’ however, he never really left, right?
Hahaha, well this is actually something our designer came up with. Most people won’t believe this, but I’m a pretty modest guy. However, at the same time I knew it would rub some people the wrong way, so I thought it would be funny to use it anyway. I will stay a rebel forever I guess, haha!
– You are no stranger to releasing albums, however, how has the process of ‘Authentic’ been different compared to your previous works?
It has been different for sure; first of all because I made it in a couple of months. I was flooded with inspiration when I knew I could do whatever I wanted. Furthermore, ‘Authentic’ is only my second single (Hardcore) album. ‘Last Men Standing’ was my first, which was one CD, as opposed to the others, which have all been double CD’s with about 30 tracks.
I deliberately chose to do a single album beforehand to make sure it would have a bigger impact and I would only put the best tracks on it. I made like 25 to 30 tracks but decided to only release 18. I think in this format it’s better for listeners to grasp the album, as there’s more diversity between the smaller selection of tracks.
– I just had a quick listen to the album and its hella diverse! Can you speak a little bit more about what kind of sounds you aimed to cover?
The most important motivation to do this album was to try and bring back emotion to the Hardcore sound. Hardcore has become a very straightforward (and kinda boring) formula where everything is pretty predictable. It’s become cold and static, in my opinion and this is a shame, because we worked so hard all these years to make it diverse and now everything just sounds the same.
With that said, the mission was to try and find that ‘goosebumps’ feeling that made me fall in love with Hardcore many years ago. For that, incorporating melodies are the best option, so I decided to put aside the urge to experiment, as that might confuse the listener. I wanted to tell stories again with my music and not just create the most effective DJ tool for on the dancefloor.
– Quite a lot of tracks on the album are at (what some Hardcore fans would consider as) a ‘lower’ BPM. Can you speak a little bit more about creating hard-hitting music that’s not of a high tempo?
I knew that by choosing a lower tempo it would stand out more from what is popular nowadays, however it also came sort of naturally. When the tempo is lower you can put a lot more music between the kick drums, like you clearly see with Hardstyle music. Further, those who are familiar with my other albums would know that I have always produced low tempo tracks. For example, ‘The Promo Files’ were also almost all around 150BPM.
It was not until I almost finished the album that I realised that so many of the tracks were ‘slow,’ but of course, then came in the “fuck you mode” which told me to leave it like that. I aimed for things to be 100% organic on the album; no over-thinking or adjustments were allowed.
I am not trying to bring back traditional Hardcore as you call it, but I do try to bring back the essence of Hardcore, well, at least what it means to me… Hardcore lost its soul in the ongoing concessions to create ‘hits’ – we need more B-sides again!
– How does ‘Authentic’ represent you as an artist?
I hope people hear the true Promo sounds again, but with a little 2017 twist. Like I mentioned, I tried to stay true to myself because that is what ‘Authentic’ means to me. That, and also the reference to classic, old things; this explains the cover artwork and of course, the sound of the tunes.
– Which track on the album took the longest to produce?
Probably “The King Stay The King.” This was a track that I produced as a demo for my last album ‘Analog Mind In A Digital World’ but never finished for some reason. When the whole “the king is back” slogan was invented it fitted the whole storyline of the album. The samples say so much as well; “is it about you, or about the work?” This quote totally refers to the social media bullshit of some people.
Are we making music to get famous, or actually to contribute something to the sound? What are we doing to the music that we’ve been fighting for, for over 25 years now? The chess game references are also brilliant in my opinion; this young kid trying to learn how to play chess, whilst the old guy is explaining how the game works. It’s literally one big metaphor for the Hardcore scene!
– The first 100 orders of your album also received an authentic stamp. How did you arrange this?
We were thinking of what we could do as little extra for the album until someone online said: “print your own stamps!” At first it sounded pretty complicated, but in The Netherlands we actually have a service where you can print official stamps with your own artwork! So we spent a lot of money on these stamps to create something cool to giveaway to the die-hard fans who pre-ordered the album.
It was crazy to see how badly people wanted the stamp, haha, but I fully understand that a little collector’s item like this makes it all the more special. At first I wanted to ship all orders with the stamp itself, but when I was informed about the costs we cancelled that plan, haha.
– The title track “Authentic” is wacky and awesome as hell! Can you explain the process behind creating this huge tune?
I guess it turned out wacky because I just let the music write itself. If you have no pre-made plans of where a tune should go you get the most interesting results I think. Of course sometimes you end up with bad results, but at least they were different.
Within the track itself, I tried to create something more ‘now,’ but with the old distortion vibe in it. The samples also speak for themselves; my favourite line is “I ain’t saying I’m superhuman, I still bleed. Food, water, pussy, oxygen… Things that I still need!” I laugh my ass off every time I hear that line, but at the same time it still refers to the whole ‘king’ theme.
– Enough album chit-chat! 2017 in general has been a huge re-invention year for you. Can you run our readers through some personal and career discoveries you’ve made this year?
At the beginning of 2017 I decided to make some changes at our label The Third Movement. After 10 years of actively searching for new talents, we decided to close that door and fully focus on the artists we already have. In 2015 and 2016 I already realised that simply releasing EP’s was not gonna cut it anymore and in order for them to step it up a notch, I needed to make sure I could fully spend my attention to these artists. Our idea was to have less artists, who get more attention.
Of course we signed some new more established names as well to strengthen that team; an example of one of these artists is Dither. For years I already strongly believed that we need to work towards handing out music for free and find a business model between consumer and the music. If you look at some bigger Dance labels, you’d see that is exactly what is happening right now; so with that said, our focus is shifting more and more towards the streaming side of music, instead of thinking we are going to sell more downloads.
On a personal level, I recently moved house from the city back to the farm country again where I grew up. We made that decision for our kids so they would have an awesome place to grow up, but I have to say that I also feel so much better there. Every time I walk into my garden it feels like a holiday, haha. And it’s also very close to the Ijsselmeer, so I picked up my windsurfing hobby again. I used to do it a lot before music and women came along; I totally love getting on the lake when it’s rough weather – I missed it a lot.
– The resurgence of Thunderdome and the Early Rave ‘movement’ is real as ever. What role do you feel as though you play in this development?
I think everyone knows that I feel very connected to Thunderdome. I was privileged to grow up as an artist there and always stood on the side-line to help out where needed. Last year I was asked to create my own Thunderdome bomber and mix CD which was a big honour, and over the last years I have helped out Francois Maas who did a great job at reviving the Thunderdome spirit. I think a lot of people also see me now as being one of the ambassadors of the Wizard. For the event in October I am currently working on all the intros and audio for the shows. Another chapter in my career and a big challenge!
– Can you share some of your excitement for Thunderdome’s upcoming edition in October?
Well I’m super excited for this one since I got my own “25 Years Of Hardcore” showcase in the main area and also get to play alongside Catscan and D-Passion in the Early/Millennium area. And being responsible for a part of the show experience is super exciting of course. It feels really great to be part of the Thunderdome event onstage and backstage.
– Before we wrap this interview up, do you have any last words for our readers?
First of all, a big thank you to everyone who supported me already by buying the new album. I hope to see you all on the 28th of October!
– Finally, what did the ‘king’ eat for breakfast today?
Pancakes! I made pancakes for my kids last night and we always eat the left overs for breakfast the next morning. No better way to get them out of bed quickly, hahaha!
A huge thanks to king Promo for this interview. On behalf of the Alive at Night team, we’d like to congratulate him on the release of ‘Authentic.’ For those who haven’t yet heard the album, you can download it or stream it on Spotify. And for those who would like to stay up to date on Promo’s movements, you can hit him up at the social links below.