Juno Coolen
By Juno Coolen

For over fifteen years, Raoul van Grinsven (Zany), Peter Aldenzee (DV8), Johan van Korven (Jowan) and Michel Pollen represent the famous hardstyle formation Donkey Rollers. This will be extensively celebrated in 2017 by these frontmen of Fusion Records. We visited them in Eindhoven to bring back memories, talk about the current scene and tried to find out in what kind of way they are going to celebrate their anniversary.

15 years of Donkey Rollers. That means you have been there since the beginning. Did you ever consider, when starting Donkey Rollers, whether the scene would still be alive after 15 years?
Raoul: “That’s not something we were thinking about at that time. We were just making music and doing performances. No one of us was thinking, “what if” in 15 years. No one could predict how the scene would evolve and that hardstyle would differentiate itself into Euphoric and Raw. We just made hardstyle.”

Did you ever consider what you guys would do if the act wouldn’t be popular? Did you make a backup plan?
Peter: “The only thing you can do is to put in all of your effort. What we created became popular immediately. Our music separated us from all the other hardstyle that was being released. At the time, we already were ‘harder’ then the others, so we were the ‘hardest’ act around. Combine this with the fact that we stood out from the other live-acts on stage as well. Donkey Rollers on-stage has always been the same group of three guys whereas a dj-act with a ‘live’ performance brought an MC along. Donkey Rollers is these three guys only performing music from this act. Like Gunz For Hire is as well. How our performances are, is really how we have been distinguishing ourselves from the rest.”

Over these 15 years, you also developed yourselves. Do you notice this in the hardstyle scene as well? What do you think are the biggest changes?
Jowan: “In the early days, you made good music and that resulted in gigs. There was no plan behind it, you just did what you liked to do and it happened. Everything went step by step. Starting out by playing in a small bar in your hometown, a local festival, a party in Holland and resulting in international stadium gigs. This all without even having an agency working for you. Nowadays you have to sign contracts upfront but that doesn’t guarantee anything. Back in the days you had support from other artists and promoters, nowadays you need to get pushed to stand out between all the others.

Did these changes influence Donkey Rollers?
Michel: “Some acts became big in our scene that maybe wouldn’t have made it so far because of this. But on the other hand it doesn’t concern us cause we just do what we like and produce what we want. That’s why we were never influenced by the changes of style within the hardstyle scene. It is and always has been Donkey Rollers and that’s the reason other big producers entitle us as pioneers.

Throughout the years, more and more live-acts pop up. But on the other hand, more and more disappeared. You were one of the first, maybe even the first, that came with this concept. How did you manage to ‘survive’ for all these years?
Peter: “Somehow we achieved some kind of cult-status for the things we did all these years. Besides that, current acts were influenced by that typical Donkey sound and used that to create their own sound. That’s one of the main reasons we can still tag along. That’s also why, for example, Rolling Stones are still around.”

Jowan: “A live-act nowadays seems to be an act that needs to dress up and have some kind of theme. The three of us, just step onto the stage and we are Donkey Rollers. We don’t need to dress up or behave differently. But that’s just how the scene evolved. We are oldskool. There’s some kind of balans and appearance that makes Donkey Rollers a steady act. When something goes wrong on stage, Raoul and Peter just come up with some bullshit story to save the day. That’s not something other acts would do.”

What’s the reason of the musical silence these past two years? Cause both harder and classic sounds are really on high demand lately.
Raoul: “Promoters book an act like Donkey Rollers because of what they achieved these 15 years. At a certain level, it doesn’t bring anything more to the table to continuously release new tracks, cause people come to see us for our hits. For example, Donkey Rollers would still be able to play the same set in 3 years. That’s unique.”

Peter: “Don’t forget to mention the amount of humour on stage. There’s always something (stupid) happening. You’ll never know what it’s gonna be, we don’t even know that ourselves.”

It seems you’re making everything right again. Recently a mysterious image appeared on your social media including the text “15 Years of Donkey Rollers”. So if we could just cut to the point. What is coming up?
Michel: “We can reveal a big part of what’s coming. An album! 2017 will be dominated by ‘Donkey Rollers – 15 Years of Hardstyle’. There’s gonna be a great album-release and lots of artists are remixing our tracks. The artists we picked out for this, are the blueprint for the hardstyle scene nowadays. That indicates once again what influence Donkey Rollers music is for the scene. For Donkey Rollers it’s an honour that all these artist are complying and they are all cooperating with huge enthusiasm. It has to become a project from the scene, by the scene, for the scene.”

Why didn’t you come up with an album before?
Peter: “Besides Donkey Rollers, everyone has a solo carreer in hardstyle as well. In one way we’re lucky that Donkey Rollers could stay together because of this, but perhaps it’s why we never created an album. I also can’t remember if we ever discussed the option to release an album. Right now it’s just the right time to celebrate our anniversary with it and because of this, it’s also a different kind of album than what you’re used to.”

A lot has happened in 15 years, also during your performances. Are there any memorable thoughts you want to share with us?
Jowan: “During one of our performances in the Matrixx, we splitted our set in two. After the first part, we would break down, Peter would interact with the audience so we could continue with a blast for the second part. The moment I turned down the music, I see Peter running away cause the battery of his microphone died. Silence all over the place. Raoul jumped in and began to beatbox on his mic. I quickly switched my keyboard settings to a sample bank and started playing some sounds to Raoul’s beatboxing. Peter came back and ended this improvisation with a rap. For the audience it was all part of the act, for us, well, we had a good laugh about it later that night. Raoul’s beatboxing became part of the act because of this.”

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