With just a few days left, Defqon.1 is about to receive more than a hundred thousand Weekend Warriors at The Holy Grounds. We spoke to Sander Bijlstra…
Interview with Audiofreq
Sam Gonzales, aka Audiofreq, tends to test the boundaries of hardstyle every single day. There isn’t a single instrument he hasn’t tried to mix up with hardstyle and this fresh perspective on the genre has brought him many fans and respect in the scene. He has performed at almost every big stage to date and we had the chance to ask him a few questions.
How’s life in Holland?
Good! I’ve been there for three years now and I’m pretty much used to it. I don’t think I could picture myself living anywhere else. I’ve been back in Sydney for little under a week and I’m like “Yeah I was born and raised here, but it’s not my place anymore”. I’m guessing that some Ozzies will be pretty upset when I say this, but I’ve gotten used to the way that the scene works here. It’s also better to travel to other countries like Sweden, Austria, France etc. When I landed in Schiphol I felt right at home.
What’s the biggest difference between life in Holland and Australia?
I guess that the main different for me is the acceptance and the culture of electronic dance music. That comes down to a variety of factors of course, because Australia has had more of a rock culture than it has had an electronic culture. Whereas Holland has a culture that’s always looking for new things. Trends go in and out really quick. Australia has also been more isolated. It’s more difficult for them.
If I talk to my neighbors in Rotterdam and tell them that I make hardstyle for a living, they already know kind of what the music is about. But if I talk to my sister like the other day she was like “So what is it that you actually do, where do you go, I don’t really know what to say to people who ask me.” So it’s a completely different thing, a very different attitude towards music and electronic music in general.
It has come to our attention that you enjoy cooking. So if you were to cook a three course meal, what would you serve us?
I guess it depends on several things like the weather and the time of year, because if it’s in summer you’ll do something a little bit more fresh and in the winter you’ll prepare a bit more comfort food, more warm. So I put the question back to you, what is the dinner for and when?
Haha it’s for your birthday, which is in January, and all your best mates are invited (January = winter in Holland).
Well because it’s my birthday I can do whatever I like. I’d probably make a Greek style salad, with some feta cheese, baby spinach, rocket, some baby tomatoes and some olives. Maybe I’d add some couscous and sprinkle it with some Himalayan rock salt.
For the main I would go for a Kangaroo steak, medium rare with.. Umm… You know what I had today? I had baked radishes and some other vegetables. So after adding those I would probably take the gravy and serve it on the side to complement it. To end it all I would flavor it with some fresh chives and caramelized onions.
Thanks chef, it sounds delicious! Let’s continue with your stay in Holland. Which Dutch sentence do you use the most?
Hahaha “Mag ik een tasje erbij?” Because I keep on forgetting my bag at the grocery store, so I have like a whole closet filled with bags now haha.
Haha it’s common in Holland to have such a closet. Let’s talk about your performance at Ground Zero on August the 30th. What do you think about it being the only night festival in Holland?
I kind of miss playing at night, because it’s not as regular as it used to be. It’s something special and different at night. You notice that there is a certain vibe that happens when the sun goes down. Something happens with people. It’s a fresh experience and a fresh challenge because people react to it differently. I wish there were more night events!
You’re doing a LIVE performance at Ground Zero, what are you planning to do to make it stand out from the rest?
Well I was thinking about going back in time a little bit and make some special mash-ups and such of older tracks. I want to bring back some memories during my set. So in amongst all the newer stuff that I have I’ll try to step back in time a little bit with an up-to-date flavor. But I’ll keep it ‘Audiofreq!’
Let’s talk about your music! Following your social media as we do, we notice that you get these urges to create very random music like “Moombahton Drumstepcore”. Do you ever plan things like this in advance?
There is always something behind it. I basically try to listen to as much other music besides hardstyle as I possibly can, because it keeps the mind fresh. And the music that you make is like a soup of all the music that you digest. And I think it’s really important as a producer to have fresh perspectives and to be in touch with what’s going on around you.
Naturally I like heavily edited music and I try to see what other people did and see if I can make something out of it. I’ll experiment a lot and maybe somehow a track comes out of it. It’s a part of my process to listen to different styles of music, to figure out the parallels between what they’re doing and where I’m going and also where the hardstyle scene is going. So I’ll combine all of that, give it a spin and give it my own flavor.
You commented on a discussion on Harderstate.com, stating that history might be repeating itself. You mentioned that the hardcore scene in the late 90’s experienced a split and that the same thing might happen to hardstyle.
I wouldn’t say that I’m the most experienced producer out there, but I do see trends and I see that hardstyle is moving in the same direction as hardcore did in the 90’s. A lot of good came out of it, but at the same time there was a point where it split and divided into two scenes. You had the more commercial scene (happy hardcore) and the sort of underground gabber scene. I listened to both and really liked both. At first I didn’t even know that it was Dutch music, until I looked at the credits and saw all these crazy to pronounce names and I didn’t know what it was.
When you’re a producer in this transition face, I hate to say it, but a split in the euphoric and raw makes it difficult as a producer. It gets me worried because I’m not in either of the camps. You’ll hear some interesting stuff from me soon that is a bit more rough, like my remix of Headhunterz. But at the same time I’ve got music that is more in the euphoric spectrum. As an artist you need to be bold and you have to do your own thing. But at the same time there comes a point where you look back and think “Is this really working and am I heading in the right direction for my career to stay a career?’ I’ve met up with several artists that feel the same confusion.
So what do you think will happen after this so-called ‘death of hardstyle’?
Well let’s take the hypothetical. I think the first thing that happens is that the really good producers will find other scenes to be a part of. When you develop as a producer you see parallels in many different music styles. It’s kind of like Neo in The Matrix haha. Once he finds out that he is ‘the one’ suddenly he knows how everything works. A lot of producers will be able to float off and continue to make music, but in different scenes. When the scene dies they’re like “well I still love making music, but I’m going to go somewhere else”. As for fans, some will find themselves in harder music because they love the roughness. But other people who like the more euphoric music will go to trance or house like scenes. That’s what I think will happen, producers will disappear and fans will be like “well we still like music, we still like this music, but let’s look for elements of this music in other scenes”.
You tend to experiment a lot and take the boundaries of hardstyle to the extreme. Your fans seem to love it, but do you also receive negative reactions?
I do a little bit, but people understand that it’s kind of my thing. And that feels sort of liberating. People aren’t forced to like my music and I don’t expect them to. My primary goal is to make music that I can enjoy. Not only making it, but also listening to it. And I feel that if I can achieve those two goals then other people will connect with that. And if they don’t like it, well that’s okay it’s just not for you.
I’ve done a track that’s an experiment between rawstyle and trap. The reason why I did this is because I knew a lot of people in hardstyle didn’t like trap. So my challenge was to package it in a different way, to what they’re used to and to see if they would like it that way. Maybe they just don’t like the concept, not necessarily the sounds.
The other thing that I always try to think of is if the dance floor reacts to it. I don’t care what anyone thinks if I like it and the people on the dance floor like it. You can’t look at a dance floor that’s jumping up and down and look at 1000’s of people and say “no, you guys are wrong!” What I make is hard dance music… It is dance music… And if they’re moving then somebody did something right…
What was the first thing that you’ve bought with your earned Audiofreq money?
At the risk of sounding really boring, I mostly spend my money on new clothes. You need to have new clothes when you’re up on stage, because when people see you wearing the same shirt three times they start to think “Who is this guy?” I’ve seen some comments about it on Facebook haha. I did buy a barbeque though! Yeah yeah, it was a gas barbeque and it could cook for 10-12 people. But 10-12 people never showed up so I got rid of it… Haha!
Haha, let’s just blame the Dutch weather. Anyway, is there something not a lot of people know about you?
Maybe a lot of people don’t know that I grew up in a very religious house. I spent a lot of time in church when I was little. Amongst other things I used to play the trumpet in church. I’m not too much involved with it anymore, but it taught me a lot of lessons about people, understanding people and how to deal with people.
My parents weren’t very musical, but they did send me to trumpet lessons. It was actually on the way to trumpet lessons when I first heard happy hardcore for the first time. I was flicking through the channels when suddenly “What is this?? What is this music??” And I remembered the radio station what it was playing on so I could tune in again when we got back.
Not trying to make any stereotype statement here, but didn’t your parents consider it to be ‘the devil’s music?’
Oh no they did haha! But I liked it too much, so I kept on looking for it! And eventually it brought me to where I am today, so imagine what would have happened if I did turn it off…