Intricacies of Sound: A Conversation with Eelke Kleijn on His Odyssey in Music

Jun 13, 2023

Photo of Michela Iosipov

Michela Iosipov

5 min read

On the vibrant dance floor of electronic music, the name Eelke Kleijn has carved a niche. A father, husband, producer, and renowned DJ, Kleijn's journey exemplifies the transformative power that music embodies. But his course hasn't been without its unique challenges and insights. In a recent conversation, Kleijn spoke about his experience, influences, and the dynamic ebb and flow of his career.

As any performer knows, a zealous audience can take an electric experience to new heights. For Kleijn, this came to life during a performance in Argentina where an 8,000-strong audience chanted his name in unison, creating a spine-chilling memory. It's in these moments that the tireless grind of late nights and constant travel find their reward.

While the thrill of performing has its highs, Kleijn revealed that it's the grueling challenges of the nightlife industry that have pushed him the most. Temptations such as alcohol and drugs, which often snare some in the industry, haven’t left their mark on him. Struggling with erratic sleep patterns and maintaining personal responsibilities amidst the chaos also added to his trials. For Kleijn, it was a matter of adapting his approach, reining in his lifestyle, and focusing on staying grounded.

“I would say, the challenges I've come across, have more been on a personal level. I've been doing this for 20 years; the nightlife industry is harsh. It's full of challenges, alcohol, drugs, late nights, early wakeups, and strange timings. Then having my family on the other end. It takes a strong personality to survive for 20 years, and I've had to adapt the way I deal with everything a few times during my career,” Kleijn tells us.

Photography by Axel Pics

The constant balancing act also spills over into Kleijn's music. He has earned a reputation for mastering intricate compositions and successfully transitioning between the worlds of dance music and film scoring. However, his experience with scoring has taught him the art of crafting music within specified constraints, a different skill from the absolute creative freedom he enjoys when producing his music.

“The main thing is with music for TV and film you often get an assignment with a very narrow sort of briefing. They want a specific kind of music, and they want it to sound exactly like that. Whereas with dance music, especially if you're writing your own tunes, it’s much more about freedom to create. I see them as two very different things. Maybe one thing that crossed over from my music for TV and film is that I started to work more with guitar. I liked that it opens another spectrum of sounds and possibilities, which I wasn’t using as much before that,” Kleijn recalls.

The venture led to his love for guitar, which has found a lasting home in his dance music repertoire. But Kleijn's relentless pursuit of perfection also guided into the apprehension of balance. Over time, he's come to embrace a more minimalist approach, stripping back the complexity of his earlier works while still retaining his distinctive sound. He has learned that sometimes, less is more.

“I've never been trained to write music; it was all self-taught. And I feel like sometimes I'm overdoing things. The hardest thing for me to learn has been that less is more, and I think I'm doing very well. I realized a successful track doesn't always need so much,” Kleijn explains.

It was an unlearning process where he moved away from an 'everything-and-the-kitchen-sink' approach to one that prioritized clarity and precision. His newer works saw a reduction in the number of elements, but each one held more weight and was treated with meticulous care.

Growing up in Rotterdam, a city teeming with a rich musical culture, Eelke Kleijn was introduced to an eclectic mix of genres and sounds that have shaped his style. From progressive to trance at Melkweg in Amsterdam, these experiences greatly influenced his earlier sound.

Throughout his direction, Kleijn has crossed paths with other notable artists who have left a mark on his career. One such encounter was with Hernán Cattáneo, a DJ whose music he greatly admired. Kleijn had the opportunity to open for him at a makeshift party in Rotterdam, an experience that propelled his career in the mid-2000s.

Guy Mantzur, Nick Warren, Hernan Cattaneo, and Eelke Kleijn at Burning Man 2018

“They asked me to warm up for Hernán and that was nice because it was pretty much my first time warming up for anyone of that caliber. We chatted for a bit, I gave him my album on Global Underground, which was just released. That sort of kickstarted my career, because you had Hernán, on one hand, playing a lot of my music and Nick Warren on the other, pushing it a lot as well. Between the two of those that sort of launched my career,” Kleijn says.

Eelke Kleijn's story is a remarkable blend of perseverance, talent, and adaptability. His experiences provide insight into the demands and rewards of a career in music, illuminating the path for aspiring artists who hope to make their mark in the industry.

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