Bas Mooy has been making waves since he appeared on the techno scene in 1999. The Dutch DJ is known for his distinctly curated tracks with regimented rhythm and insular bass. He has released on a long list of enviable labels such as Perc Trax, Sleaze Records, his own legendary label Audio Assault co-founded with Jeroen Liebregts aka Radial, as well as throwing Rotterdam’s world famous ‘Strictly Techno’ parties.
In 2013 Bas assimilated his many threads of talent and experience and founded his own label MORD (short for Moderstwo, the Polish translation for death). Although still in its nascent years MORD has been lavished with praise, a surprise to no one given that Mooy is its linchpin lending his eyes and ears to every aspect of the label’s input and output.
Speaking with MOTZ, the prodigious DJ, producer and label head talks us through his path to success, and how he manages to do it all while raising two kids with his girlfriend.
With a huge plethora of labels springing up at the moment, MORD achieved the great feat of making vibrations from the get go. To what would you attribute your label’s considerable success in such a short time, and what advice would you give fledgling producers hoping to stick out from the crowd?
In a time where there’s almost as many labels as there are producers/djs it’s quite tough to stand out. I think when I started Mord there was a rising interest in the harder kind of techno, so I guess the timing was pretty good, although I didn’t really plan it to be honest. I actually wanted to start the label two years before already, but just couldn’t find the right first release. I think when I finally decided to get started most things just fell into place. The music, the art, the logo, it all suddenly worked perfectly together. Instead of going for a certain sound, like I did with my previous label Audio Assault, I decided to go with the flow and just follow the bandwidth of my own taste. This made it way more interesting for me to run a label. Instead of looking for a certain sound I could just dig though everything I like. This lead to quite a diverse palette from the start, where I released music from Radial, Charlton, Lag, W.I.R.E, Paul Birken, Ansome, UVB, Shards and myself to name a few. Which if you compare their sound all have a unique own view on techno music.
My advice to producers would be to be original and patient. Take your time to discover your own sound and way of working. Don’t’ try to get out there as soon as you made some first tunes. First spend a lot of time developing yourself and try to create something unique. Don’t try to copy other artists, I know it sounds quite obvious, but you don’t want to know how many demos I get from people that try to imitate producers that are already on my label. I don’t need another Ansome or UVB, I need fresh blood with a fresh unique sound of their own, that’s what I’m looking for in general. I have to dig to shitloads of demos, but every time I find a diamond in the sand it’s all worth it. I love to present new faces to the scene.
You have a very distinctive sound when playing your DJ sets (in a review I described your set as having “change[d] the very composition of sound waves, distorting them till they were thick and stodgy and settled around my body, trapping us in a sea of beautiful, murky techno.” I’m interested to hear how you would describe your sound in your own words.
Haha, well I could not top that description to be honest. It’s always hard to describe your own sound. I just have a big love for proper banging techno when I play out. I guess it’s a combination of classic nineties techno, bassheavy modern techno, some distorted techno with a pinch of acid flavours here and there. I just play what I like without trying to fit within a certain bandwidth, just like I do when I sign tunes for Mord.
The lifestyle and working hours of a typical DJ do not provide the ideal conditions for parenthood. How have you made it work for you as both a father and a DJ? And more importantly, are your kids die-hard techno fans?
My kids are not really into techno yet (my daughter is 9 and my son is 4), although they do sometimes dance a bit to it when I am checking out some online videos of gig footage etc. I actually almost never play any techno at home, since I prefer other music for those moments, so they don’t get exposed to a lot of techno to be honest. My daughter recently did a presentation about me for her classmates, which of course made me feel honoured. She wrote a piece about me all by herself, there was a lot of focus on Mord stickers and shirts, not so much about the actual music side of my career to be honest, haha, but it was so sweet to see how she sees me and my world. Being a father and travelling dj is sometimes tough in the weekends, since they do miss me a lot, but because of my job I get to spend so much time with them during the week. I took care of both my children during the week most of the time, since my girlfriend used to work a fulltime job. Now she recently quit that job, so we have a lot of quality time with the family during the week. Most of the time we can take the kids to school together and we pick them up from school every day and spend the afternoons, which is quite a privilege I’d say. They are used to the situation now, of me being away in the weekends, but they definitely appreciate the extra time we got on other moments. I guess like every other family you accept the conditions, the pros and cons of the life you lead and make the best out of it. They both seem very happy, so I am too. Maybe someday they can travel with me 😉
Tell us about the parties in Rotterdam’s underground scene when you were growing up?
When I was growing up raves just started, around the time when I was 14. I went to some parties and clubs in my teens later on, but at that time I was more into concerts and bands etc. I did go to some raves and underground parties every now and then, but it really grabbed me when I visited Strictly Techno at de Vlerk, a local underground club back in the days. The techno that was played by local djs there was so much harder and more underground then the shitty mellow stuff that was played back then in the clubs. That was the moment I realized I wanted to be part of that scene and soon after that I bought my first technics and a mixer. Some years later they asked me to join them, so that worked out pretty well for me. I’ve always been involved in organizing underground events in Rotterdam, also in the time when everybody was into that minimal bullshit. Perry (one of the founders of Strictly Techno) and me kept on pushing techno, even though sometimes we only had 80 people in. You don’t want to know how much money I lost on some of my events. Organizing Techno events was an expensive hobby back then 😉 It’s great to see how techno has developed over the years, although the current jungle of promoters is not an environment I feel comfortable in. I only do 1-2 events a year these days.
They say you shouldn’t mix business and pleasure, but between heading your own label, running parties, producing and DJing every weekend results in a lot of work. Do you ever have a conflict between business and music, and how to you manage to keep the two entities separate?
One of the things I sometimes have issues with is the fact that since things really took off, I basically have way less time to actually make music. Just hang out in my studio, making music without a deadline or thought behind it. These moments are almost gone and pretty rare these days. I miss that sometimes to be honest. A lot of times I’m too tired to actually create something interesting and I’ve learned being in the studio when you are too tired and have no inspiration usually leads to frustration, so I try to avoid that as much as possible. Running the label takes a lot of my time, I’m a control freak, so its hard for me to allow others to help me, even though I need to, but I’m learning…
You’ve professed your love for literature and said that you read up to two books per weekend while travelling. What’s your favourite book?
My favourite book is still ‘Blauwe Maandagen’ (Blue Mondays) by Arnon Grunberg, who is my favourite writer, since I was about fifteen. This book dragged me into literature and made me want to be a writer so bad. I still read it every now and then and it brings me back to my teenage years. Melancholic as I am I enjoy that. I’m forty now, but still feel like a teenager every now and then. Music and literature make it easy for me to time travel, so I often use that. I started to read more biographies recently, since I always had an interest in history too. I studied History at the Erasmus University for almost 5 years. Anyway, reading is something I really enjoy while I’m travelling and it makes the travelling so much more enjoyable. I actually like to sit on a plane and read.
You’ve spoken a lot about importance of respect when it comes to sending demos to label heads and in previous interviews you’ve hinted at being on the receiving end of some less than gracious behaviour. Do you think the industry has an attitude problem?
I think with the current popularity of djs and the use of djs as a tool in advertisements on tv, magazines, the rise of superstar djs etc the music/techno scene attracts some people that are just in it for a certain amount of fame etc. I don’t want to sound like an old whining dude, but it annoys me that people just want to be instantly famous. When I just started music I would never approach people the way they are approaching my label or me sometimes. I guess the time are changing, so I need to get used to this, but I really enjoy it when some of these new kids are being polite, they are still out there 😉 Some people don’t realize the importance of how you present yourself to a label. That first message can make or break you, the people that don’t get this will never be on my label to be honest. Respect is the key for me. In daily life and in doing business.
Describe your ideal environment when you’re working on your music. What conditions do you need to bring out your best?
I guess I need to feel fit, so a proper night of sleep helps and the idea of not having to be somewhere at a certain time, so I guess unlimited time. And also just that certain feeling, that urge you sometimes have, that you know you need to make music and it will be something good. Confidence and no deadlines. I’ve been struggling with serious ear problems for quite some time now and I wish that would go away, that would actually make it perfect already. Feeling fresh and having unlimited time is the bottom line I guess 😉
What goes on in your head when you’re producing and what exactly are you trying to achieve? Do you have an inspiration in mind, perhaps a feeling you’d like to conjure or a particular sound you’re trying to create?
I usually don’t start with a specific concept. I usually just start so to say. During the process of ‘jamming’ I sometimes realize I got this old track somewhere with a certain sound that could work very well with this new loop I just made, I usually go with the flow so to say. I start with a new machine sometimes, or just with a simple kickdrum or synth, I always record loads of loops and sounds when I’m jamming and then sometimes after a while I have the feeling I got something going and start a basic arrangement. Sometimes I finish a track pretty fast after that and sometimes I just leave it. I create a lot of tracks that are 50% done and then after a while I got through all those files and select what stands out for me to finish it. A lot of times this leads to new tunes again. The way I work is a mess actually and I’m always stressed about my music, since I’m never happy. I’m not the most confident producer to be honest, sometimes I need other people’s opinion to realize my tunes are not so bad after all. Haha. I do try to start with an idea I have in my head sometimes, but this usually leads to something different again, but I guess that’s also the fun part of making music, going on a trip to an unknown destination.
What has been a stand out moment in your formidable career so far?
The moment when I realized Mord was going to be a success I think. I’ve been working so crazy hard for many many years and almost gave up after 15 years of struggling. When Mord got such lovely feedback from the start it boosted my confidence and automatically my career. I’m thankful for all the support I’ve been getting and even though there’s a lot of haters out there too, I feel more confident then ever before, because I can finally really enjoy what I do. It’s great running a label and making all these decisions on your own and it’s really rewarding to be able to build this family of artists, who I get to travel and perform with all over the world. I love my job at the moment and I’m enjoying it to the fullest. Massive shout out to all the people that make this possible!