René de Bruijn, or better known as raw Hardstyle phenomenon Digital Punk has been completely unstoppable in 2016! From upholding his Unleashed legacy, to throwing epic house parties and releasing his second album ‘Adapt Or Die’, the A2 Records figurehead has proven to be an absolute machine!
Celebrating this immense success, we decided that it was the perfect time to catch up with Digital Punk for an exclusive interview about his album, the hard work behind the scenes, his recently-launched live-act Public Enemies and his honest opinions about raw Hardstyle’s direction!
– Hey Rene! Thanks for this interview; we’re happy to have you back on AAN again! First of all, you just dropped your second album “Adapt Or Die” – big congrats on that! How does it feel to have the project out in the open?
It feels really great to have the project out in the open because we’ve been secretly working on it since March! In the beginning I already had about ten tracks laying around and didn’t intend to produce an album, however after meeting with my management they told me that now would be the perfect time for a project like ‘Adapt Or Die.’
I didn’t want to simply be another artist doing an album in 2016, but together with my label and management team we came up with a great concept. Making the decision to work in secrecy, it all came together really well as it was a lot cooler to announce that I’d ‘completed’ an album, as opposed to ‘working’ on an album. It was so hard to keep the project a secret, so to finally say that it’s completed feels amazing!
– The album focuses on giving fans the true ‘Adapt Or Die’ experience and has quite a nice aesthetic edge to it with the hard copy release. Why did you choose to put this much effort into that?
With all of the albums dropping this year, I really had an urge to create something not only musically special, but a luxurious product that fans can add to their collections. I started asking myself “why would somebody physically buy an album?” I suppose that some of my youngest fans might not even know what a CD is, let alone own a CD player. With this in mind, I wanted to make something that was more than just a CD – I wanted to make a collectable item that’s essential for the devoted Digital Punk fans.
– Releasing an album nowadays requires a lot of behind-the-scenes work. Can you speak a little more about this?
The initial idea my management and I came up with was to not stand still in 2016. By this, I mean that we wanted to keep a constant flow of releases, video-clips, competitions, everything! I didn’t want to announce an album and lay low for the next year; I wanted the fans to remain involved and keep tons of music coming out on a normal release schedule.
Something we decided on was to not create a deadline until the project was almost completed; this way I was able to have plenty of creative freedom without time constraints. I’m extremely proud with how it all worked out because there’s not one track on the album that I’m not happy with. For me this is a big thing, because I’m a massive perfectionist and always strive for the best!
In terms of behind the scenes, luckily for me I have a great label (Scantraxx) and manager (Rudy, BPM MGMT) who kept a close eye on the project, which left me plenty of time to solely work on music. For example, my manager was already planning the tour which runs throughout Australia, Sweden and America. It was a little difficult not working with a deadline because we really had to improvise a lot, however in the end it all came together perfectly and I’m so happy with the end result!
– Leading up to the album you also put on a handful of small, exclusive events and missions for your most devoted fans to participate in. What was the idea behind this?
It’s often you see artists dropping their album at huge parties, which is really cool, however from this project we found out that we can generate much more attention from doing smaller parties and activities.
Scantraxx came up with the Unleashed Offensive missions, in which fans can collect five bracelets, however they weren’t aware that all five bracelets equals a place at the release party. Nobody knew what they were saving these bracelets for, so that was really cool! This way, I knew that the real devoted Digital Punk and Unleashed fans were going to be at that release party.
– You even made a couple of surprise deliveries to some of your biggest fans, which was an awesome idea! What inspired this?
What we’re trying to do is stay as close to the fans as possible and continuously interact with them and delivering those albums to the real die-hards is really giving something back to them.
For instance, I’m a big fan of Metallica and if I pre-ordered the album and they were suddenly standing in front of my door it would be absolutely insane! In the beginning I was a little nervous and didn’t know how my fans would react because I’m just Digital Punk, however it was fucking great and the reaction on the internet was also huge.
It’s the same idea as the house party we did a couple of months ago; it was insane how many people spoke about it afterwards! I feel as though it’s better to do small things like that, because you really get to interact with your fans in a different way.
– All in all, how does it feel to have ‘fans’ in general? Does that feeling ever get old?
Some people begin a career in music for the lifestyle and the fans; and I’m not saying that it’s not great and all, but for me making music was something so fundamental, even from my childhood years. To be able to make a job out of it is the biggest dream I could’ve ever imagined, but for people to actually like my music and go fucking nuts whenever I play is on a whole other level. I don’t think that I’ll ever get used to this great feeling.
– What were the biggest difficulties you ran into with ‘Adapt Or Die?’
The planning towards the end was a little bit difficult, seeing as we’d established a deadline by then. I felt a lot more pressure by this stage because I had to produce the main theme song of the album “Adapt Or Die” and I began doubting myself. I’m very lucky to be in the same building as guys like Max Enforcer and ANDY SVGE; they helped snap me out of the stress and gave me some tips, which gave me that final push of motivation. In the end I finished it three days before the deadline!
– Which track from the album has been most successful and why?
To be honest, a lot of the tracks still need time to ‘breathe,’ so it’s a little early to say which one has become the most popular. However, out of the eight tracks that were already released, the oldest one “Protest Of Indignation” with Radical Redemption has become a big fucking hit. There’s a lot of other tracks doing quite well such as “Hit Me With The Hard” with ANDY SVGE, “Stand Up And Fight” with Endymion and I also got a lot of great responses from my devoted fans on “Raw To The Core.”
– From the process of this album, what are some lessons you’ve learnt?
The biggest lesson I learned was to be more proud of the products and tracks that I deliver. It’s easy to get caught up thinking in the future, but when I held my own album it put all of my hard work into perspective.
– Alright, enough about the album… Let’s talk about your brand-new act with Hard Driver, Public Enemies! Now, a raw live-act isn’t a rarity – what makes Public Enemies so different?
Well, as an example, doing a live-act is the same coincidence as doing an album whilst a lot of albums are already coming out. During the early stages of my career I had mentors like Evil Activities and Neophyte, who already had these big fucking live-acts, so I always had that idea in the back of my mind.
Last year the inspiration in the studio was unstoppable, and coincidentally Freek (Hard Driver) was also in the same situation as me and also had the idea to do a live-act. We made an appointment to sit in the studio and when the time came we said “fuck talking – let’s make some music and see what happens!” In the end he crashed at my house for two days and we had almost three tracks finished, so we came together with our management and spoke about the possibilities to create the act.
So, what makes Public Enemies so different? Everything from merchandise, to branding, the music and stage performance just comes together and works perfectly. There’s an entire look and feel around the act which fans can also join in with when they put the masks on at parties.
– Can you give us a scoop on what’s coming up for Public Enemies over the next couple of months?
Yeah, sure! We’ve finished 11 tracks all solely made for the live-act, which makes it pretty special. Aside from that, we’ve received a lot of booking requests and there’s some merchandise coming soon too!
– What have been the biggest risks you’ve taken to pursue your dream career?
There came a point where I had to decide what I wanted to do with my life and whether I wanted to make it or not. I didn’t buy a house, I rented, and my girlfriend (now wife) and I lived very small. All of our friends at the time had full-time jobs and owned nice cars and other cool things, which I didn’t have. About 7-8 years ago I decided to quit my day-job to be a fulltime producer and this period of my life was extremely hard, as I had to rely on my girlfriend’s job to get us by for about one year. I feel as though it should always be the other way around and this put a lot of strain on my personal life.
After that year things started to pick up and we slowly got out of that bad feeling. I always used to say to my family and wife “I don’t know when it’s going to happen, but when it does it’s going to be fucking huge!”
– You’ve been incredibly busy this year not only with the release of ‘Adapt Or Die’ and your Public Enemies project, but also with Unleashed, which has become a worldwide phenomenon! What (or who) do you owe this vast success of ‘Unleashed’ to?
I definitely owe the success of ‘Unleashed’ to the team at Scantraxx and my manager Rudy. They saw potential in the project and I owe a lot of its success to their hard work behind the scenes. For the rest, I owe it to myself, because I worked extremely hard to make the podcast this big.
– With everything going on in your career, do you get much time to relax and spend time with family and friends?
Not as much as I’d like – this past year has been crazy! For example, I ordered a game a couple of weeks ago and it’s still sitting on the table wrapped up… I really want to play, but I haven’t had time, haha. I’d also love to have more time to ride my motorcycle or walk my dogs, but I don’t complain – my career has been going so great over the past year and I have to savour it now. You never know where you’ll be tomorrow or next year…
– Now for a bit of a controversial question – what are your honest thoughts on the raw Hardstyle scene at the moment? And what are some things you’d like to see happening in 2017?
Yes controversial, but a good question because I have my opinions on it. I receive a lot of tracks each month for Unleashed, so I know what’s going on in the scene. I’ve been noticing that guys like me, Radical Redemption, Adaro, Ran-D and B-Front have been using a lot of melodies and variations within our productions. And in product of that, what you see are underground labels such as Gearbox becoming quite popular. This isn’t a bad thing, because music keeps evolving and you can’t stop it.
Five years ago, guys like B-Front, Ran-D and Adaro used to be the hardest and now we’re classified as ‘mainstream.’ The thing is that our music didn’t particularly change, the scene just shifted and what constituted mainstream was harder than a few years ago.
What I’d like to see from the harder productions is a little more quality. I receive a lot of questions and criticism from the fan-base of these harder artists saying that I don’t support their music enough in Unleashed and after doing a Q&A with Hardtraxx, I think they now understand why I don’t always support these kinds of tracks. I believe that the hardest Hardstyle isn’t just a hype, it’s definitely here to stay, however I would like to see a higher quality in those kinds of tracks.
– Finally, I think you know the go with this one… What did you eat for breakfast today?
Well, I had beschuit with chocolate sprinkles. Yes, that’s the Dutch way and it’s been my breakfast for the last ten fucking years, haha!
Big thanks to Rene for this kick-ass interview! We’d just like to take a moment to congratulate Digital Punk on all of his achievements this year and can’t wait to see what 2017 has in store for him!
FOLLOW DIGITAL PUNK