Jas Van Houten
Artist Interviews

Pass the Dutchie!

The Dutch are famous for many things… tulips, windmills, canals, pancakes, smokes and chips with mayo and coffee shops but today we talk to our favourite Dutchman Jas Van Houten abut his latest release on Untidy Trax, Square 1.

You are one of the pioneers of the chunky, deep n’ dirty Dutch house sound that became popular in the UK two decades ago with its driving basslines and melodic organs. It spawned a number of other labels like Untidy Trax. Why do you think the sound became so popular and why is it a difficult sound to replicate?

I think because it was a bit different than the UK sound. The UK sound was more straightforward and my music was funky, catchy and I had some bassline variation at the end before it dropped back in. My goal is to get the groove right, timing and level of the sounds are in my opinion essential. Every sound has its own place and is part of the groove and/or melody. Another reason was that I used early 90s rave and techno sounds. I think everyone recognised these sounds and brought them back to where it all started. At least, that’s how I imagine it. I’m not really sure why my sound is difficult to replicate.  Is it..?

Tell us about Square 1…

‘Square 1’ was created when I was working on music especially for the Tidy Weekender. My first idea for the Weekender was to do a live show with laptop, controller and my studio DAW. Unfortunately, it didn’t work as I hoped, but I still had enough ingredients for a new track ‘Square 1’. It’s the follow up to Moving On, also released on Untidy.

How does it feel to be part of a successful label in the UK that has been responsible for innovating the scene it is a part of?

Well, first of all I have a lot of respect for a label that has been around for so long and is still successful! To be part of that is really cool. I’m also really looking forward to the Tidy weekender and other Tidy parties!

What can we expect to see from you on Untidy in the future?

Bangers!! At least that’s always my goal. The past few months I have spent a lot of time buying hardware, with the aim of being able to get into the flow more easily and thus be more creative. It’s a time-consuming process to figure it all out and integrate it into my setup, but it is absolutely worth it! However, because of this I have a lot of idead, but unfinished ideas… That will certainly change.

How do you find making music now compared to when you first started?

Well, making music back in the days was totally different. You really needed to have some equipment like a mix console, sampler, synth and effects to make music. Because I was very limited, I became very creative using my gear. ‘Span the Globe’ was made only with my Akai S2000 sampler, a mix desk, pc and some effects. Now these days we are a bit spoilt with all the possibilities, you sometimes got overwhelmed, which isn’t very good for creativity.  But the good thing making music now is that you can go hardware and still make use of software. So that’s what I do, and I love it!

Do you have an essential piece of equipment or synth that you always use?

Well, not just one piece. I love my Model D and Neutron synths.  And I really love my Elektron Digitakt & Octatrack. Absolute monster machines !

You had some great production partners on Vinyl Inside… who would you most like to produce with and why?

Thanks! Well, I like to make all kinds of electronic music. I love to make hard house, but also early rave or modern techno. But to mention any names, it is mainly the old pioneers of the early 90s: Richie Hawtin, Orlando Voorn, Joey Beltram. Why? This is where it started for me. These artists made the music we call classics today. This music was innovative at the time, I would still play it now.

You also produced with The Freak… will we see another collaboration from you both?

To be honest, I haven’t spoken to him in over 20 years, but anything is possible.

I love the sound but don’t know where to start producing it… any tips?

I often start with a kick and drumbeat. Then I create or look for a catchy bass sound that I play in and edit later. Then slide a bit and play with the velocity levels until the bassline becomes part of the groove. Then I look for some old school sounds that go well together and play them in. Here too the timing, placement and levels are super important. Even the length of the sounds matters. What I’m trying to do with these old-cool sounds is to blend in with the rest. Sometimes I remove unnecessary or disturbing sounds. What I often do is a bassline and melody variation at the end of, for example, 32 bars before dropping back in.

Jas Van Houten’s Square 1 is out on Untidy Trax now. Buy it on Beatport or stream it from your favourite streaming platform.

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