Artist to Know: Menno de Jong

Menno de Jong may be the biggest name in trance. That is, he’s literally like 6’7” or 6’8” if I remember correctly and towers over other DJ/producers. So yeah, he’s kind of a big deal, both height-wise and in the studio. But besides the fact that most DJ booths are just too short for him, de Jong’s also high up there when it comes to making some legit trance music—none of this “trouse” or “trance 2.0” ish. Plus, he’s super nice and bought us matching light-up devil horns when we were wandering the Las Vegas Strip once! Basically, he’s a rad dude you should learn more about. DJOYbeat caught up with the Dutch de Jong to chat about his next track, teaching Martin Garrix a thing or two, and collaborating with Kristina Sky.

You haven’t been stateside in a minute!

That’s right. I’ve been working on my new U.S. visa and that’s been approved and should come through in a couple of weeks. It’s been work to get the visa every time.

What’s new on the music front?

Menno de JongI’ve got a couple of new tracks coming up and the first one is “Creatures of the Night.” For that I teamed up with a vocalist from Canada, this girl from Vancouver [Noire Lee]. She wrote the lyrics to it and it’s coming out March 17 as a Beatport exclusive. There’s a couple of remixes. The coolest one from my sets is the Adam Ellis mix—he’s a guy that’s really upcoming in the trance scene at the moment. He’s from the U.K., everything he’s touching right now turns to gold and fortunately the same thing happened with his remix for me, so that’s pretty cool.

“Creatures of the Night” has that driving real trance sound. How have things been going for producers such as yourself who don’t produce commercial EDM tracks?

I think when the whole EDM thing first hit, it was kind of difficult because a lot of people started getting pulled towards that sound. I think about a year-and-a-half, maybe two years ago, there started to be this very clear distinction between Trance 2.0—which is very influenced by house and electro—so the faster trance, which is basically “Team 140,” “Who’s Afraid on 138?!” that sort of stuff. What I’m seeing right now is very established with a really strong following and there’s a lot of producers making that sound at the moment; most of them are actually from the U.K., the Netherlands, and so forth. So it’s maybe not a revival, but the start of a new bit of hype. That’s kind of cool. I don’t feel like it’s blowing up in the U.S. that quickly yet, but will probably start growing soon as well. I know in the U.K. that the EDM sound is kind of falling behind and [people are] moving towards the faster stuff again.

Kristina Sky mentioned to me you two might be working on some more music together. Any progress on a new collaboration between you two?

Yeah, we are. It’s a collaboration between Kristina and myself. Betsie Larkin is writing vocals and Shannon Kay is singing the vocals. It’s a busy collaboration, but that’s in the works actually. I produced the record with Kristina and they’re currently working on the final version of the vocals. It could be ready soon? I hope so.

But that’s not all. What other gems should people listen for to come out of your studio?

I have one more collaboration going on with Stereojackers versus Mark Loverush and Shelley Harland from the U.K. It’s also shaping up to be a pretty big project. The track is called “Connected.” It’s gonna be one of the main singles off their new album. It’s coming out around Winter Music Conference, so that’s one to keep an eye out for. This month I’m jumping in the studio with Adam Ellis to do a collab. That’s the music news.

You also teach at a music academy?

Yes, it’s something I got dragged into a few years ago [laughs] for fun and to learn a lot myself actually. The school is called the Herman Brood Academie and it’s named after one of the most famous Dutch musicians of the past. Actually, one of my students this year is Martin Garrix. He seems to be pretty busy and not always in class [laughs], but he’s got good reason. A lot of guys who are doing really well in the techno scene in the Netherlands are from this school as well. So that’s pretty cool. I teach these kids, but I learn a lot from them so it helps my productions as well.

Martin Garrix headlines in Las Vegas. What’s that like for you as a teacher to see a pupil his age hit that level, when you’re a DJ/producer yourself?

Menno De JongHe really deserves it. I haven’t taught him an awful lot at school because there’s other teachers that do a lot more classes, but he seems like a kid that works really hard, has his stuff together and the right people around him. He became a success really fast, but everybody kind of felt that it was going to come to him. I think we’re playing a couple of festivals together this summer, so that’ll be interesting, but I’ll probably be on the trance stage and he’ll be on the house or main stage [laughs].

Does that challenge you as a producer when you see these really young kids moving up the charts?

I was 18 when I got my big break, so I was pretty young, too. I’m just glad I can keep on doing this. I’m kinda happy there’s a lot of competition because it keeps it interesting for me and I know I constantly have to keep working on my sound and improving, working with the right people and just keeping my game up.

How’s the Menno de Jong Cloudcast going?

Really good. It’s actually on the second Wednesday of the month. I feel like a lot of people are listening on SoundCloud, too, at the moment, which is also a really good place to check out my live sets.

And last but not least, besides your regular gigs, you’re starting a new night, too?

I’m starting up a new party concept this summer in the Netherlands and it’s going to be pretty exclusive for the fans. I can’t really say a lot more on it, but it’s also something to keep an eye out for. It’s going to be a small, exclusive thing in a new location in Amsterdam. We’ll see how it goes. If it’s a success, we might take it over to other countries as well.

Follow @DeannaRilling on Twitter for her veteran musings on electronic music.



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