Can you walk down the streets of Rotterdam or Amsterdam without bumping into a DJ at some point? Of course you can. But given the pace at which the North Atlantic country is pumping out World Famous DJs, it won’t be that way for long. Sied Van Riel, the uber talented “Fresh New Face” in the ranks of international Trance masters, is another example of how seriously Dance Music is revered in Holland. In a move that deserves it’s own lecture course at the local University, Sied’s publicist coined the term “Van Clan” to describe the collection of Dutch DJs that have recently emerged from what those on the other side of the Atlantic simply knew as the country of Tulips, Van Gogh, and the Rijksmuseum. Add Dance Music Producer to that list. While my grandmother was buying me socks and button down shirts a homeless dog wouldn’t even wear, Van Riel’s grandmother was buying him turntables and driving him to record stores. And when I was fielding ground balls on the little league field thinking about what I was going to grab at the snack bar after the game, Van Riel was attending Kiddie Discos on Sunday afternoons. So if anyone needs some insight into how the Netherlands is producing such high caliber DJs, look to the early days of Sied Van Riel and the “Van Clan“. You’ll have your answer.
I caught up with Sied before his play at Exchange LA last Friday night.
What is it about LA that keeps you coming back?
The people of Cali have a different mentality. They are more open minded, more outgoing. They love to party. That’s what I always notice when I’m here, whether it’s at the club or a festival. I played Beyond wonderland and it was the best festival I’ve ever played at. It was insane that day. There are certain cities in the world that, when you’re there, you feel different. I just feel good when I’m in LA.
Does the vibe of a city ever seep into your sets?
If I’m in a city where I’m uncomfortable, my sets are darker as well. It’s my state of mind. If I’m in a darker mood and I’ve caught on to that vibe, my sets are darker. Here, I feel good, so I’m more confident to make choices on the spot. The crowd here in LA will pick up on that.
The remixes of your track “Share this Night” were just released. How has the response been to the track?
The Radio6 remix that was released last month was actually produced a year ago. The label was postponing the release itself and this remix got pushed back even further. I needed this to release, like, now because I had new tracks coming out and didn’t want them to clash. I played that remix a lot in Ibiza, and it went over really well. Since I produced the track more than a year ago, I’m kind of tired of it myself. It hardly makes my track list anymore.
So you have new material in the works?
I changed agents, I refocused on what I wanted to do, I gathered a good group around me that made me feel good. I started producing a lot of new music that made me feel good. My next single is coming out in June with Alicia Madison. I spent about four months on the track and recorded a video clip in Toronto about three weeks ago. That’s the first thing that’s coming. Instead of pushing out tracks for the hell of it, I’m going to give this track the silence it needs to make a bigger impact. I had months to produce, and I did a lot of collaborations in the style that I love to do, which is more trance than anything else.
How deep is DJ culture in the Netherlands?
I was a professional DJ when I was 15 and think it’s because of the rules in Holland. When I was 12, I was able to go out to the clubs with my older sister. I was in touch with a very underground scene. I was also going on Sundays to Kiddie Discos.
Wait, Kiddie Discos?
You know, everybody from school was allowed to go from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. You’d hear all the tracks. Back then it was Dirty Cash, Snap, Bell Biv Devoe…much more commercial stuff. But then on the weekends, I’d be out with my friends getting into the deep dark stuff. By the time I was 16, I already knew what the culture was.
Did you always know you were going to be a DJ?
I always knew I wanted to be a DJ since I was young. When I was ten, I saw this guy called The Dark Raven. He was a hardcore DJ, and I obsessed with him. I saw him on TV once and thought this DJing thing is really cool. I was actually pushed into DJing by my grandmother. She bought my first turntable and made me clean the stairs in our apartment building so I could buy a record a week.
How have you have changed, either personally, the way you play, the music you make, since being signed to Spinnin Records after the release of “Fearless”?
I think where I am now is back to where I started. I had a great three years at Spinnin, but it became more about what other people wanted from me instead of me being able to do what I wanted to do. That’s just how it works. Now I’m back to where I was. Of course you have to listen to your management every now and again, but it all starts with my music and my sets. The music will evolve and the scene will change.
Do you ever feel pressured to make concessions with your music to meet the expectations of new generations of fans?
Certain DJs have told me, “You have to stay relevant”. I think it’s completely different. We have a task to educate them and get good music to them. We do not need to adapt to the EDM boom.
Who were some of your mentors coming up through the ranks, and what did they teach you?
My friends around me and other DJs. John O’ Callaghan, for instance. He has a very strong will. We are always talking to each other, and he told me that I have to go back to what I love to do. Ferry Corsten has always told me that I have to stay close to myself. Don’t listen to what anybody else says. It was good for me to hear that.
At one point you were an ambassador for Dance4life. Do you think DJs with access to millions of fans and international media attention have a responsibility to advocate for tough global issues?
These days we have way more power than we think we do. We have to keep our egos on the downlow, but we can use our voice and the voices of our followers way more than we do now. For instance, last year when the Hurricane struck the Philippines, Ferry Corsten asked if I would participate in a benefit concert in Amsterdam. We can use our voices way more now with social media. Look at how many retweets some superstar DJ gets by saying some bullshit. “Oh, I just took a shit.” They get like 3000 retweets. So imagine if they actually said something that was worth reading and could make people think. We are responsible for a large following.
What makes you happy?
Life! I love my life.