We talk about, well, everything with the talented Thijsenterprise whose new single is released today. Beats, Jazz, Bowie, Barcelona, and a whole heap of music recommendations too! Settle down for a good read on this one!
Today marks the release of your new EP ‘The Snits’ and sees you taking a new direction – talk us through your new sound?
First of all thanks for having me!
The mind-set has been the same through all my music, although each album might sound very different to outsiders. In my music I general use loops, chopped drums, strong bass lines and recognisable melodies.
What makes this project different from my previous projects (mainly beat tapes) is the translation from samples to live music and adding my alto saxophone. It tends to lean a little more towards jazz, because of the improvisation aspect, but in many ways it has references to sampling culture: hard drums, deep bass lines, repetition, short songs, non-traditional song form, DIY-mentality. In that way you could call it a crossover project between beats and jazz, or as I prefer to call it: headnod punkjazz.
What made you switch from the beats to the saxophone – a new challenge perhaps?
The challenge was not really switching between beats and saxophone but more trying the mix them both. I took parts from recorded shows, soundchecks and raw sessions with my band, then cut up, stretched out, replayed, overdubbed, and sampled.
I didn’t want to get stuck on the technical aspect, it had to sound natural, so the listener has no idea what was recorded live, in the studio or was reused; what was one-take or looped; and what was improvised or written. Or basically: what is reality.
Saxophone is my first love, I’ve been playing for over 20 years, but it’s such a hard instrument to master. I have to study three to four hours a day and that’s not quite enough. There are so many great players out there and the bar for ‘jazz’ is super high, so I try to stay a little away from that and move a little more towards the direction of hip-hop than jazz. The songs are a little rawer and my playing might be a little freer than traditional jazz. Anyhow, the moment you play saxophone people think you play jazz, no matter the music. Moreover, everyone has a different view on jazz, can we just remove that word from the dictionary?
As a beatmaker why do you think Hip Hop and Jazz just seem to partner up so perfectly?
I had to think for a second on this one. It might be for several reasons.
First of all: the drums. A lot of my favourite beats have amazing drums, straight sampled from jazz records. Sometimes it’s just enough to loop the break, like how many times has the break of Lou Donaldson – Ode to Bille Joe been used? That kind of soul-jazz drums can be heard in a lot of classic hip-hop songs (Jesus Walks, Clap Your Hands, To Zion). The cool thing is that you even now can take those same drums, chop it, stretch it, reverse it, or whatever technique, and give it a totally different feel. But you want to keep that sound, it’s the sound of the drums you dig.
Secondly: the bass, some iconic bass lines from beats came from jazz legends. A double bass blends so well with a rap beat. The use of the bass from Minya’s the Mooch by Jack DeJohnette in Buggin’ Out by A Tribe? That deep sound with those heavy drums? That really got me into beats, no doubt.
Thirdly: strong melodies, if I listen to/play jazz standards my mind is still blown by 50+ year old melodies. Definitely timeless and they stay stuck in your head for days! I recently heard these two versions of the standard Body And Soul again. Both amazing, both different:
In the Jason Moran version you can really hear a hip-hop vibe, those first bars have such an underrated groove. That’s what I look for, not to sample directly, just that feel. I’ve seen Jason Moran a lot of times live, he really pushes the boundaries of what is jazz. Amazing artist.
Finally: the variation. Jazz has such a wide range, in style: bebop, swing, hard bop, free jazz, spiritual jazz, to just name a few. And sound: it’s played on every instrument, with some really obscure instruments, like harp, synthesizers, flute, fuck it, oboes even. Beatmakers always try to find different sounds; in jazz you have it all there.
Let’s talk about your remix album ‘Proefmonster’ can we expect another album to follow up on this? It is an excellent piece of work!
Thanks for the compliment! For each project I have a different challenge, so I tried to see if I could make some dope remixes of some of my favourite artists.
Maybe it’s better to quote Bowie from a video I saw on social media recently:
‘If you feel safe in the area that you’re working in, you’re not working in the right area, always go a little further into the water than you feel you capable of being in. Go a little bit out of your depth and when you don’t feel like your feet are quite touching the bottom, you’re just about the right place to do some exciting.’
I can only make music if I feel an urge. An urge to create, to challenge myself and others, to find something new in the music and myself, study the greats, learn something new, apply, innovate, keep on the grind. My favourite musicians have this mentality, never the same, never on pause, always trying to be great.
So I feel Proefmonster is a ‘been there, done that’ project. Nevertheless, some remixes should make it to the artists; I still would like to make a full album with at least one of them.
Or I might do something different later this year with someone. First I should drop the follow-up of Snits, called Lahringen, a full-length album to be released in the second half of 2020. And I’m also sitting on two beat tapes… I just made too much music during this lockdown.
You lived in Amsterdam and now reside in Barcelona – has the city given you a different vibe to write to? What drew you to there?
Barcelona has everything I need for the moment. A little raw, great culture, nice people, diversity. I should mention the skaters at MACBA too, their mentality is a continuous source of inspiration. And the obvious: a lot of sun and incredible food.
I’ve been going back and forth to the city in the last couple of years for several reasons, but now it’s home. Almost all my friends are back in the Netherlands but the separation does me well on the creative part: few distractions, no feedback, no questions, I feel incredible free to do whatever I want, that definitely translates to my music.
We always like to ask what you have been listening to, watching, reading – what are your strong recommendations for us to check out?
Music: I’ll just share what I’ve been listening the last 24 hours:
Knxwledge – 1988
Freddie Gibbs & Alchemist – Alfredo
Jorge Ben Jor – Africa Brasil
Ebo Taylor – Twer Nyame
Monk’s Casino – The Complete Works of Thelonious Monk
Benjamin Herman – The Itch
Vladimir Horowitz – Horowitz Plays Scarlatti
Everything of Trasher (skate magazine) during the lockdown, but especially:
All the episodes of Anthony Bourdain – No Reservations. One highlight:
Hugo Claus – The Sorrow of Belgium
Henry David Thoreau – Walden, or Life in the Woods
George Orwell – Homage to Catalonia
Finally, what is your tip of the day?
Don’t show off, show up.
Interview by: Alex Minnis