Internationally renowned DJ and producer Menno De Jong surely needs no introduction. At 6′ 8″ tall, he is literally one of the biggest names in Trance music, with an extensive and impressive back catalog of productions and performances. Regarded as one of the ‘Dutch Masters’, Menno has a large loyal global fanbase and TranceFixxed joined the crowd recently to hear him perform at Journey in Cardiff. Before he went on stage, Menno kindly agreed to have a chat:
TranceFixxed: Hi Menno, welcome to Cardiff. Is this your first time in Wales, or have you been here before?
Menno: It’s my second time in Wales. I played a festival here about 6 years ago, at ‘Escape Into The Park’ (in Swansea).
TranceFixxed: A bit different coming here then, that’s cool. So one of your latest tracks you’ve been working on, ‘Connected’ is with Stereojackers, Mark Loverush and Shelley Harland. What’s it like producing a track when there are 3 other artists involved?
Menno: Shelley did the vocals and the audio tapes. Mostly Stereojackers and I were working on the Logic projects during that time. Stereojackers and Mark Loverush came up with the basic idea for this and sorted out the vocals. I helped them finish it up, and did a lot of melodies and stuff. There was a lot of sending (files) up and down, feedback, quite a lot of work actually! It’s probably more work to work with that many people, rather than just doing a track on your own.
TranceFixxed: So you didn’t spend much time in the studios together?
Menno: I haven’t even met any of these people! Apart from Mark Loverush actually, I’ve met him in person, but I haven’t met Dan from Stereojackers or Shelley in person yet.
TranceFixxed: Sounds like it was a lot of fun anyway. Another track you’ve been working on with Adam Ellis, ‘Solicitude’ is coming out in May.
Menno: Yeah, its an exclusive (new track) for ‘In Trance We Trust 20’. We were talking about doing it for a while. I called him up and said “Hey! I’m doing a CD, do you want to help do a track?” I had the idea for the melody and sent it to him, and he loved it. We did it the same way actually, using Dropbox and Logic, taking it in turns to work on the files.
TranceFixxed: Do you like working and collaborating with other artists like this?
Menno: Yeah! He’s got a pretty banging style, and I think my talent is melodies and stuff. It worked out pretty well.
TranceFixxed: You mentioned ‘In Trance We Trust 20’ that’s coming up, and that’s also coming out in May. You’ve mixed one of the CDs?
Menno: It’s the 20th edition, so it’s going to be a special 3 disk release. I’ve mixed one of the CDs, Sneijder has mixed one and Mike Saint-Jules is mixing the other one.
Vocals & Lyrics
TranceFixxed: You’ve worked with a number of vocalists on your tracks in the past, such as Ellie Lawson, more recently Shelley Harland. Do you think vocals adds to the appeal to a track?
Menno: Yeah they definitely do. I myself am really into melodies and a little less into vocals, but a lot of people prefer to listen to vocals. I’m very critical on vocal tracks, I do try and work on them very hard to see that they turn out well.
TranceFixxed: When you’ve done vocal tracks, have you left it to the vocalist to come up with lyrics, or do you like to get involved with the lyrical process as well?
Menno: I kind of leave it to them because they’re singing the song, it has to be their emotion put into the lyrics. The funny thing about ‘Creatures Of The Night’ is that is what I called the instrumental track, just as a working title. It was then used in the lyrics (by vocalist Noire Lee) and the title stuck.
TranceFixxed: You’ve recently had your 30th birthday party, congratulations! Part of that you raised over EUR 500 for KiKa, a children’s cancer charity. Any reason you chose that charity?
Menno: No reason in particular. I’d heard of it and I thought it was a good cause to raise money for it.
Menno On The Road
TranceFixxed: You’ve got a busy schedule coming up. You’re in Cardiff at the moment, then you’ve got Glasgow and Newcastle coming up, so going round the UK at the moment. You’ve also got some big festivals in the summer coming up?
Menno: It will be Tomorrowland’s 10th anniversary (this year) and I’ll be performing on both Fridays. That will be huge. Luminosity Beach Festival, which is one of my favourite festivals every year. Ultrasonic festival in the Netherlands, (which is) another major festival, and will be playing at Ibiza for Driftwood… so going to be busy!
TranceFixxed: Busy in the studio and busy behind the decks!
Menno: I’m actually renewing my US Visa, so as soon as that comes through I can start playing there soon. I haven’t been out there in a while.
TranceFixxed: That will be good. What’s the favourite venue you’ve performed at?
Menno: I would have to say The Guvernment in Toronto, it’s a really crazy venue! You can change the height of the DJ booth! There is a button with hydraulics so you can bring it up to the ceiling or bring it all the way down to the crowd.
TranceFixxed: So it’s definitely somewhere you would like to go back to then?
Menno: Yeah, for sure.
Cloudcast & Intuition Recordings
TranceFixxed: You host your Cloudcast on a monthly basis at the moment. Are you happy with how that’s going, any changes coming up to it?
Menno: No, it’s kind of going steady. I like doing it once a month because it allows me to be really critical of the tracks I use. Its steadily growing, it’s getting like a thousand listeners in a couple of days. I’m not as intensive as Armin van Buuren; every week would be pretty tough for me!
TranceFixxed: Before you started doing your radioshow, you had your own label, Intuition Recordings. Is there anything that you miss since you’ve stopped doing that?
Menno: Yeah, working with some of the artists and doing the parties was really fun, but in the end it cost me so much time that it made it hard for me to write my own music. I was doing like 2 tracks a year which is not a lot, and now I am doing 10 tracks a year, and that’s something I really want to do. It’s a sacrifice I had to make to pursue what I wanted to do.
TranceFixxed: So you’re a lot happier now you’ve freed up some of your time so you can focus on what you really love doing which is producing music. Do you have a favourite release from your Intuition Recordings days?
Menno: Jonas Steur’s ‘Silent Waves’ was my favourite one, it was the first release on the label.
TranceFixxed: I was having a look back (at the Intuition discography) and some of the early releases are also my favourites ones, such as Airbase’s ‘Escape’. Do you think you would like to do something like having a label again in the future?
Menno: Maybe, when this time is right. If there is a next time, I will have other people run it!
Trance Around The World
TranceFixxed: Trance is very popular in the Netherlands, Germany, parts of the US and UK. You travel around an awful lot – is there any reason why you think we get these ‘pockets’ of people who love trance music?
Menno: I don’t know. It seems to focus on big cities and areas around there. I don’t know why it happens in pockets, but every place and region has its own culture, and it’s (favourite) genres. In the Netherlands Techno is really big right now. It’s just a natural thing.
TranceFixxed: Why do you think Trance is big in the Netherlands?
Menno: We were there when Trance started and picked it up and have been supportive of organisations that organise the best Trance parties. Luminosity, Grotesque, A State of Trance – that’s what’s keeps it alive. That and the artists and the fans.
TranceFixxed: What keeps you motivated? What keeps you going?
Menno: Playing for enthusiastic people and making music I love!
TranceFixxed: Well thank you for your time Menno, I’m looking forward to hearing your set a bit later. Do you have a message for your UK fans just to close up?
Menno: Yeah, keep banging it out! That’s what you guys do best.
TranceFixxed: Thanks again for your time and speak to you later.
Menno De Jong Live at Journey, Cardiff
TranceFixxed Meets Menno De Jong
Menno De Jong Facebook – facebook.com/MennoDeJong
Menno De Jong Twitter – @mennodejong
Menno De Jong Soundcloud – soundcloud.com/MennoDeJong
Together Festival – www.togetherfestival.co.uk
Journey (Cardiff) – facebook.com/journeycardiff
Clwb Ivor Bach – www.clwb.net