Peter de Valck
Door Peter de Valck

Deze besmettelijk energieke Australiër behoeft eigenlijk geen verdere introductie. Sam Gonzales, beter bekend als Audiofreq, is een muziekliefhebber pur sang en probeert de grens van het woord Hardstyle steeds verder te verleggen. Zijn eerste album ‘Audioception’ is daar een perfect voorbeeld van. De enthousiaste artiest maakt in augustus zijn debuut op de Freestyle stage.

Hier wilden we graag meer over weten, dus we besloten om de dialoog met hem aan te gaan!

What’s the definition of freestyle, according to you?
An approach to music where almost anything goes, so long as it gets the people moving and grooving. Dancefloor energy, from everywhere and anywhere!

#FUCKGENRES is something named frequently. What’s your opinion on this matter?
It’s a cool buzzword to express the movement that genres are not important any more: cool music can be found anywhere, whats the point of limiting yourself?

Dr. Phunk said the following in his latest interview: “Freestyle isn’t really a genre, it’s how you play.” Do you agree with this statement?
Absolutely. I think hardstyle can be approached in the freestyle way and its something I’m trying to steer myself towards more. Freestyle is about the hype, the energy and a good party vibe.

You’re making your debut on a Freestyle stage in August. In what extent does this fit your style and sort with you?
I’ve always been one to experiment with different flavours and genres. The only real thing I look for in music is energy and hype to get me moving. This is the very essence of what freestyle is all about – energy, hype and party. I don’t think there’s a better area for me and my music! The guys from both Dance Valley and Ground Zero thought I would be perfect for a stage like this. So I’m happy to take on the challenge!

audiofreq 1
How come we can find you only now on such a stage, for the first time at Dance Valley, for the second time at Ground Zero?
Actually over the past few months, my sound and approach to music works better in the freestyle areas here in Holland. While I’m still very much a hardstyle DJ at my core and when I’m booked outside of Holland, thats very much the case, but most stages here in are either poppy and euphoric or very raw which leaves me somewhere in the middle. I’m not strictly an euphoric DJ though I have plenty of that music, and I’m not raw though I can hold my own with the best of them.

The rest of the world doesn’t have such a strict distinction so I won’t be really doing anything that different from when I play internationally, but because of this schism and the fact that a lot of my own music focuses a lot on energy rather than being hard or soft or commercial or underground – I’ve found that being placed a freestyle area better reflects me.

I think I’m going to do it more often!

You’re someone who makes up his own genres, which rebuts with #FUCKGENRES. You (namely) do whatever you want. How would you describe your own music?
In a word: audiophetamine; music that is all about hype, drive and energy.

Furthermore, you are producing constantly. We can find you posting new music regularly, but where does all this music go?
I’ve been in album mode the past year and a bit. I’m constantly evolving, pushing myself to extract the best in everything I do. This means I create a lot, but complete little because I don’t believe the idea or track was the best that I could do. I’m always asking myself that question: is this really my best? Does this make me go “wow, thats awesome”?

audiofreq 5
It can become very easy for an electronic produce to create a sound, and then be defined by that sound. In a lot of ways, thats actually a strength and works well to establish oneself. I’ve been of the opposite approach, I want every track to be different from the one that I finished before, following my mood or whatever silly idea comes to my mind that day. I might be in the mood to work on some drum and bass, other days some trap, and then the next day some 2007 gated kick hardstyle. Because of this, I’m always exploring, experimenting, trying to understand the underlying mechanics of the different genres and sounds and that takes time to learn. A lot gets made, but only a small amount, in my opinion is special and worth releasing.

In amongst that, this year I’d have been responsible for 2 different anthems and I’m in the middle of setting up a label. Thats pretty time consuming too.

Is your planned album the cause of only so few releases lately?
Definitely. I’m trying to push myself more than before. I feel like I’ve learnt so much since the last album and I want to put that into what I’m doing. Outside of electronic music, artists work on albums all the time and have 3-4 years in between, its quite normal to have a quiet period post album, then spending 1-2 years crafting a new one.

I’ve tried to approach my album that way too. I’ve created something like 80 different sketches while I’ve been working on this thing, and rejected more than half, and then taken the most interesting and stitched together a cohesive journey.

I don’t want put out a 15 track LP of the latest Audiofreq dance floor bangers. I want to give people a listening experience that they can put on at home or in the car and enter a world of my creation.

audiofreq 4
Could you tell us more about the expected release date or the content?
If you liked my first album, you’ll love the second one. There’s more of an story throughout this album but its presented in a different way to how I did the last one. I wanted to avoid falling into the trap of repeating myself and instead wanted to reinvent and redefine what Audiofreq sounds like. I want this album to create its own world and I want to take the listener on a journey into that world. That takes time!

It’s not all hardstyle. What are you doing with the other produced music?
Some other artists have side projects for their non-hardstyle ventures – I won’t be doing that. If I made it and I like it, it will be released as Audiofreq. You’ll hear this explored to its full potential on my album.

Would these tracks fit better on a freestyle stage, according to you?
Maybe. There’s some jungle terror, drum ’n bass and dubstep and even some hardcore. Could definitely hear some of that working their way to freestyle stages.

Are we going to hear these tracks during Ground Zero?
Most definitely.

The festival has a kind of ‘dark’ atmosphere. Why do you think a freestyle stage will fit in here?
Actually yeah. Variety is the spice of life and with all the darkness and hardness going around the festival, it’ll serve as a source of fresh air and uplifting vibes.

Do you adjust your set according to the fact you are on a freestyle stage?
I think I’ll have more of an opportunity to do what I’ve always wanted to do at European festivals but with held back from.

Would you play a different set here than, for example, on a Pussy Lounge, where the atmosphere is a bit less dark?
I always try to meet the crowd where they’re at. My job is to bring the party, not be darker or more euphoric. We’ll see how things turn out on the night!

audiofreq 2
Freestyle has actually been present for a long time, but has only encountered a big growth for the last couple of years. What, do you believe, is the cause of this particular matter?
I think people are looking for a change in sound, but still are looking for energy and power in their music. Music doesn’t have to be hard to feel powerful. I think now that raw has become mainstream, people are slowing getting overexposed to that sound and have started to look to other places to find music that still has energy but with some fresh flavours. Euphoric hardstyle, in my opinion, focused too much on this feeling of euphoria with the music and the energy got sucked out of it. Rawstyle filled peoples hunger for powerful and energetic music for a while, but eventually – and I feel anyway – that people have started to get tired of the monotony thats started to permeate in the sub-genre. As such people have been looking for in the past few years is music that is powerful, and energetic but thats fresh, yet familiar and freestyle has emerged as being able to fill that void.

Which freestyle artists can you get on with quite well? And is it possible there may arise a collaboration from this in the near future?
Actually all of them. I feel pretty honoured. Perhaps its my ‘laissez faire’ approach to strict genre rules, or the fact that I try to make my music more energy focused rather than trying to fit here or there that grabs the attention of other freestyle artists.

I’ve often found that the bigger hardstyle DJs are a bit stand-offish too, where freestyle DJs are a little more humble and approachable. Actually, come to think about it, I’ve always gotten along better with freestyle and hardcore DJs.

I might be tied up with my album, but the collaboration request list does grow ever longer. I don’t want to say anything cos I might jinx the future!

A while ago you announced you ‘were done’ hardstyle. What happened? Could it be possible we would have to say ‘goodbye’ to you someday?
I’m very tired of the school of thought that a genre like hardstyle, which was a blend of other genres, has become so one dimensional. I’m done with fans that expect me to be like that. Its my music, not theirs. If they don’t like what I’m doing, and connect with what I’m doing to do with my music, they can unlike, unfollow and leave me alone.

Maybe I’m old school, but when I’m a fan of an artist, I follow the artist regardless of genre. Maybe I’ll disappear from the hardstyle world, maybe a bunch of other like minded artists end up pioneering a new approach to the music.

Either way, I’m done with being closed minded and having to deal with those people.

Do you believe you would be able to express yourself in a superior/better manner/way on a freestyle stage?
Definitely. Though its actually not going to be that different to how I play when I play in the US or Canada. I get to be me in Holland!

Since half a year you’re presenting the podcast HARDwithSTYLE. Is this completion something we could expect from your set?
There’s been a lot of cool music featured on the show since I’ve started. Will definitely dig through the archives to see what I can play at Ground Zero.

Is this somewhere you would like to go with your sound?
I consider myself to be a bit of a student of Bruce Lee, but in a musical way – my sound is the sound of all sounds, the style of all styles. I have no direction but forward.

What’s your message to the world?
Style and genres are not important – energy is important, and there’s only one freq that brings it like I do!

Sam, thank you for taking the time for the interview and thanks for the interesting, comprehensive and clear replies. We are curious what the future will bring and can’t wait to hear more music.