Labchat with Bas Dobbelaer & Vand

by Zach Huenink

To Friendships in Motion

As most can attest, music and other art forms have a tendency to draw people together from all stages, and walks of life. For a moment or succession of moments, you have a collective experience that can be wildly subjective. 100 people within a room can have 100 different interpretations of even the most base of stimuli (See Mark Rothko for a great example of this). However the moment when our own interpretations line up with others, is when and where the magic happens. Connections are made, common bonds shared, a sense of community rises, and the knowledge that someone else ‘gets’ it, whatever and intangible ‘it’ may be.

Within this realm of connections is where our latest lab chat goes today, as we here at Fiction Lab are happy to interview two close friends, talented DJs, and amazing producers; Bas Dobbelaer & Vand. Their E.P. titled, ‘Laren’ is a four tracker just released under Nuno Dos Santos’ imprint Something Happening Somewhere. With Laren in mind, let’s get into it.

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Hello you two, I suppose the beginning of an interview is as good of a time to talk about beginnings as any. Could you each give some background to your own start into the world of electronic music for our readers? Bas, I understand that your father played an interesting role in yours.
Bas
: Yes that’s true. At a young age I already got in contact with electronic music through my father, he even took me to my first techno parties in Amsterdam. My dad was sending emails to the party organizations to see if he could take his underaged son with him. Nuno was also one of the first DJ’s who I saw playing there. The virus influenced my little brother Pascal (Pascal Benjamin) too, who ended up into the more minimal/housie stuff nowadays. Together we always shared our latest findings, it was like a brother-to-brother competition of who had the coolest track of the day. My father didn’t play any instrument but is a real music lover, the on-stage-thing I probably got from my mom, she plays in theatre.

Vand: I’ve messed with computers since my early days, playing with them, breaking them or fixing them. At some point I was able to buy my own computer, first speakers and started to fiddle around with making music. This wasn’t really serious at first after I saw what music could do to people by going out for a dance myself. It resulted into long nights of searching for new music and creating playlists that I prepared to listen to while traveling. I don’t have any musical background in terms of playing an instrument and learned everything by mastering how to google my questions. Pretty much autodidact, until recently where I started this sound engineering course.

This leads to my next question, how did the two of you meet? I’m always interested in getting both takes, as our perceptions of one another could be completely different at first impression!
Bas
: We both grew up in a small village in the north of the Netherlands, not the same one, but quite close to each other. In the area, electronic music wasn’t really a thing, but there were still a small group of friends who did really try to organize some house / techno related parties. Viktor (Vand) was one of them and organized a small event in a local bar called ‘De Steen'. I’ve asked the barkeeper who was involved and got Viktor's email to send him some mix recordings. One month later I had the opportunity to play there! From there it went quite fast, one year later we played together at some school parties haha.

Vand: I did the same study in school as Bas did, only a year later. I was able to ask him quite some questions about how stuff worked around there. That only lasted for half a year tho, because I failed some important tests. I was in need of a job afterwards and Bas told me they were looking for someone at his job. So we worked together at this startup company for quite some time.

To build on that, was there ever an ‘aha’ moment early on in your friendship when it was clear to both, you were on the same page artistically or taste wise? This could manifest in either sending tracks or simply opinions on subjective things.
Bas
: I think it was getting more and more clear when we saw each other on and off work. Back then it was a small company where Viktor & I were both doing design and developing for websites. We had the chance to learn a lot from each other with quite the same work ethic in mind. Later on Viktor was focusing more into developing and I kept the design thing. During the days we had the opportunity to listen to a lot of music, so sharing our latest findings was slowly getting to be the main thing of the day. In the weekends Viktor also joined me more often when I had to play. Afterwards we had some really nice discussions about possible ideas why something could work or not. Even though we still had our own musical taste, our vision was definitely growing more into the same direction.

Vand: I more have the feeling it just naturally grew. By sending music all the time we grew into each other's territory. When stuff like this organically happens I tend to just go with it.

Staying within this theme, Bas mentioned in a past interview the importance of having an opinion from someone outside of your own style or genre. As you’ve been friends for many years now, how important and why is this important to you both?
Vand:
Throughout the years we’ve been able to give honest and critical feedback to each other. It can be quite a confrontation sometimes but I respect Bas and his opinion. We’re just able to speak up our minds real easily, I guess this is what Dutch people are known for, haha. We sometimes don’t even have to talk to know what the other is thinking (still scary), having a connection like that is quite rare.

Bas: I think when people are doing different things they can give more objective feedback on topics which aren’t directly in their field. If you’re deeply into a process, your vision can be really narrow. Therefore it can be use full to know someone who can brighten that vision and bring some new perspectives from outside your world. With our similar but different styles it works for us quite well.

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Switching gears a bit, but none too drastically, I’d like to talk about the creative process and background of Laren. What prompted the trip out of Amsterdam? And why did you choose the location you did?
Vand
: The idea of doing this trip was in our thoughts for quite some time already. Getting out of our own production comfort zone and see what happens. We knew one of my friends Rolf (the owner of the local bar) had this small cottage in a peaceful area called Zuidlaren. He was so kind to us and lend it out for a week. The place was quite isolated where we were able to create some noise. And it was located near a small forest where we had some nice walks and talks as our studio breaks.

How did the basis for each track come about? Was there a lot of compromise or did the both of you have similar ideas, and production workflows going into your studio time?
Bas:
We didn’t have a plan on beforehand. It was just having fun and see where it takes us. On the first night when we were setting up we had already laid down the basis of the first track ‘Transit’. The next day we worked with some fresh ears on the details to make the concept more clear and at night we started a new jam. It was an ongoing process and started to become a rhythm. When one of us didn’t liked a certain element, we deleted it right away, we both had to be happy with the result. But you also need to give someone enough space to explore, you’re in it together.

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Could you elaborate on some of the equipment you used? I see a few Ableton Pushes in your shot along with a drum machine or two.
Vand
: Yeah we’re both Push users, after I played with it some time ago at Bas’ studio I was sold. I think we’re both quite equipped in what Ableton can do and this Push is an extension in a particular way. It makes you think in using Ableton in a different way, for what eventually is just having fun. We used the Acidlab Miami to sketch out the main beat and filled or replaced it with percussion from the Nord Drums for some organic sounds. Bas is quite a genius with getting some moody pads from his Blofeld, on top of that we had the Mother-32 and Nord Rack to create the top layer running through some fx.

You mentioned being perfectionists and using a particular book to help with that… How did that play a part in this release, and did it have any other lasting effects? I know that constantly reworking tracks leads often to their early demise.
Vand:
Yeah I think we both see ourselves as perfectionists. This is on one hand a good thing, because the result is something we’re really happy with, on the other side it can be a pain in the ass to get something finished, especially when you are with two and need to make compromises all the time. We learned that it’s sometimes the art of removing or replacing things instead of adding more. With ‘Void’ for example we’ve tried quite a few things and finally found this acidic element that came from the Nord Rack what eventually was became the “Pulse mix”.

Bas: Together with the perfectionism is probably overthinking a common thing. We both read the book called “The art of not giving a fuck” and referred to it as that “little orange book” quite a few times to cut decisions.

How did the release came together between yourselves and Nuno?
Vand
: When we were done with the tracks Bas played ‘Body-Electric’ during a b2b set with Nuno, after telling him it was a track we did together, he was hyped and asked us to send them all over, what eventually resulted into the release. The whole process happened quite organically, Nuno was open to new ideas and helped out everywhere. Also a fun thing to mention is that we helped out with the screenprinting of the cover, something we’ve never done before.

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Finally to you both, is there anyone out there doing incredible things that you think need a spotlight shone on?
Bas
: At first thank you Rolf for giving Viktor’s email about 8 years ago and letting us into your cottage last year, hope we can do it again in the future... And of course Nuno for seeing the potential in our tracks and wanted to give them a home at Something Happening Somewhere. Always saw SoHaSo as a starting point for doing my first EP. Happy I can share this with Viktor and our long musical journey.

Vand: I’m getting a lot of energy from my friends around me for just doing their own thing. It’s rather a wall of lights instead of a specific spotlight ;)

As always, I’d like to extend a great thank you to Bas Dobbelaer and Vand for taking time and doing this interview. Their phenomenal release Laren is out soon on SoHaSo. Full of intricacies and details, the likes of which we wholeheartedly champion here at Fiction Lab.