[Interview] Sander van Doorn on Gold Skies, Heldens, & Identity Radio

This past year has been a busy year for one of the most legendary DJs of all time, Sander van Doorn. A successful summer of shows and collaborations, van Doorn has wrapped up the summer and is looking forward to an upcoming tour and more music. Sensible Reason sat down with van Doorn recently to reflect on this past year. We’ve woven the interview into text from older interviews as well as background context to paint a fuller picture of van Doorn’s recent achievements:

On “Gold Skies”

This past year, Sander van Doorn teamed up with DVBBS and Martin Garrix to create the beautiful track “Gold Skies.” The track was released on May 16 on Rolling Stone Magazine, in which van Doorn stated, “It was fantastic to work with such talented young producers. The DVBBS brothers make great songs and I love their vocals, and Martin is just a genius in the studio. Probably the most talented boy I’ve met.” In an interview at Mysteryland USA 2014 with Sensible Reasn, DJ brothers Chris and Alex of DVBBS were excited about the new track: “It’s doing amazing now… It came out about a week and a half ago and has millions of views online. It’s gotten picked up by radios in like 6 different countries.”

When we caught up with van Doorn at the end of the summer we decided to follow up and see how the track was going:

Sensible Reason: The track has been out for about 4 months now, but it feels like forever already. Tell us about how it’s doing.

Sander van Doorn: Well, I’ve been playing [“Gold Skies”] for a year now… I just heard recently that the track was added to the Capital FM playlist. It’s signed all around the world… It’s a really important track for me because it puts me right in the middle of being the dad, working together with the ‘kids’ creating a new sound. And also for me it was moving back from the top EDM sounds to a more song-based track, so it really helped us all out. The response has been phenomenal.”

On Collaborating With Oliver Heldens

At Mysteryland USA in May, Sensible Reason also caught up with Oliver Heldens, who stated that he was interested in doing a collaboration with van Doorn and that they would be heading to the studio together soon (just a few days after ML USA, Heldens posted to his Facebook page a selfie with van Doorn in the studio). This past September, the Heldens-van Doorn collab track “THIS” was premiered on Pete Ton’s radio show on BBC Radio 1 and last month the track was officially released:

When we interviewed with Heldens in May, he said, “I really want to get his [van Doorn’s] old sound back; I really like his old tracks. I also like his new tracks, but his old tracks were the first house experience for me.” It makes sense that Heldens grew up on van Doorns house: Heldens is only 19 years old and when we interviewed him at Mysteryland USA, he had only just graduated high school (literally, he finished his last final exam in the Netherlands before flying out to New York to perform the next day). Contrast that to to van Doorn’s decade-long legacy in the electronic music world and you can understand why Heldens would want the opportunity to collaborate. But how was it the other way around– did van Doorn learn as much from Heldens as Heldens learned from him? Did Heldens get his way and bring van Doorn back to his old sound?

Sensible Reason: How does it make you feel to hear major break-through artists saying that their first house experience was your music?

van Doorn: It’s phenominal. I didn’t know that myself until I started hearing people say, ‘Oliver just said you’re one of his big examples when it comes to producing.’ It was only natural for us to go to the studio. I felt very impressed with his sound. It was when he had just released “Gecko” that I spoke with him for the first time.

I think he got his wish of trying to get me back to my old sound. I think this is a cross section between his sound and me getting back to the house-y roots and a little bit of techno influence. One of the synths I used was the same sound I used for “Rift,” you can’t hear it in the track but it’s definitely there. For me yes, it was definitely going back to my roots.

SR: Does going back to your roots mean you are going “backwards”? How do you negotiate between that and taking your sound in new directions or “forward”?

van Doorn: As an artist you’re always working on progressing, reinventing yourself. I think sometimes you get caught up in that moment a little bit too much and you need to go back to where it all started and listen to how it all originated and you can get inspired by old tracks a lot. Going back through my old tracks, you realize, ‘Oh I know the soundbank I used. Let’s go back to the soundbank and see if we can use those sounds off the soundbank.’ I think this year has been the year of me going back to my roots for a lot of tracks. My label manager said to me recently, ‘You’re new assignment: go back to your old roots.’ I guess everyone was ready for me to go back to my old roots.

SR: What is it like to collaborate with Oliver Heldens?

van Doorn: He’s a bloody genius. I learned to do things using hardware synths and the new kids learn to produce using software synths. They can make the most amazing sounds—analog-sounding sounds. It’s pretty cool to see how he already knows how to soundscape the song: he already understands why a sound sounds like it does. That’s the most important rule when you produce. You need to understand why a sound sounds like it does so you can make it, instead of going through a list of pre-sets.

SR: Who else would you love to collaborate with in the future?

van Doorn: I still would like to do a collaborate with Moby. He’s always been my big inspiration since I was a little kid. It might happen some day. I actually know him personally; he’s a really nice guy. It’s just a matter of getting us both together into a studio at the same time. I would love to just see what would happen: with our synths; making it live. Not ‘I make something in my studio and you make something in yours,’ but being in the same studio together.

On His Radio Show

Sander van Doorn has been hosting his radio show “Identity” for over seven years. The show, which is broadcast in both English and Dutch around the globe, has been the source for new electronic sounds for artists and fans alike. In September, van Doorn celebrated the show’s 250th episode by hosting a boat party and Pacha after-party in NYC.

Sensible Reason: What is the personal significance of the 250th radio show this year?

van Doorn: You start producing a radio show and it needs to be perceived. Doing this for so many years and seeing it grow from a simple once a month, one hour mix show to a bi-weekly show to a weekly show– a show that’s where other artists can actually release their guest mix and all these different topics on the show– I think now the weekly receiving rate is about 19 million worldwide— to me that’s a big achievement. I would love to go ahead to do 500 episodes.

SR: How has doing this weekly radio show helped you in your career as an artist?

van Doorn: Its great because when I’m doing the radio show, I’m doing my homework– listening to new tracks and listening to demos to put in my shows, making edits. Its really good to keep yourself fresh. At the same time it’s not even a weekly show—its more than a weekly show because I do an English and Dutch show every week.

SR: Why did you decide to celebrate your 250th episode in New York City?

van Doorn: This is where the radio show started getting big, when it aired on Sirius XM. Besides that the New York crowd is one of my favorite crowds in the world. It just felt natural having it here.

Looking Back and Looking Forward

Sander van Doorn has had a big year full of shows, festivals, radio show celebrations, releases, and collaborations. What could possibly have been the highlight for his summer of 2014?

van Doorn: Labor Day weekend was all about Burning Man. My very first Burning Man experience. One of the most bizarre experiences I’ve had in my life. So many festivals this year. Tomorrowland was a big highlight. Ultra this year was phenominal. A lot of highlights this year. Summer season’s been one big highlight for me. Ibiza has been phenominal. It’s hard to pick out one festival or special event, but definitely Burning Man sticks out.

In the next month, van Doorn will be launching a Doorn Records Canada bus tour, hitting up 10 cities in 12 days! Then it’s on to 2015. What does the artist have in the works for the next year?

van Doorn: A lof of new tracks. Working on the new bus tour with a lot of artists from Doorn records, going through the US and Canada. Besides that, working on a bunch of new tracks. It’s going to be a busy year. And next year I’m going to stay for at least 5 days of Burning Man.

With more on the horizon for this prolific artist, we’re excited to see what he has in store next and we hope he brings his North America bus tour to the US as promised! We’re also looking forward to another 250 Identity radio shows and celebrating the 500th episode with him in the coming years! Be sure to check out van Doorn’s current tour dates here and his Facebook page here to stay updated!

van doorn bus tour full schedule

Kristen Grennan

Follow Kristen on Twitter @KristenGrennan Kristen Grennan joined Sensible Reason in the fall of 2010 while living abroad in France. She helped co-manage Binghamtronica Presented by Oxfam and HeadCount in March of 2011 and graduated from Binghamton University in May of 2012. Besides writing for Sensible Reason, Kristen taught English in Le Havre, France and is a backpacking hooper and hippie. Kristen is currently enrolled at Columbia University and is seeking a Masters in Public Administration with a specialization in International Media, Advocacy, & Communications.

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