Focus On: DJ Overdose

Enter the freaky soundscape of Jeroen Warmenhoven, DJ Overdose – one of the Netherlands’ electro champions. His hip-hop and cinema inspired machine funk brings a fresh take to the world of electro, giving us melancholic melodies and big drums that take the mind to inner-space and back – such as with his album ‘Emulator Armour’ on L.I.E.S. He runs RotterHague Records and is transmitting from his home in Rotterdam.

“I was born in The Hague but live in Rotterdam now. That’s why I put the cities together in the label’s name and release two artists on one record – the series is called ‘When cities collide’. That’s going to happen to Rotterdam and The Hague because they are growing towards each other. They’re so close already, like a 15-minute car ride.

“Back in the day, me and my friends would go out and buy records and visit each other to listen to all the new stuff. But I would be the one who was always a little bit too enthusiastic. I would go, ‘You gotta hear this, you gotta hear this, you gotta hear that…’ So, my friends would hear like 20 tracks in two minutes – and loud. It was like an overdose of music, and that’s why I chose to go with Overdose.

On collecting vinyl and DJing…

“In the eighties, I started. I’m from 1971, I turned 50 this year. When I was 13, that’s 1984, I was already deep into hip-hop and collecting hip-hop and electro records.

“The cool thing about hip-hop back then was that it was new. It was the newest thing in music, you know. Nobody had ever heard it. It’s not like now how the main thing in pop music is hip-hop. Back then, people used to laugh at you because you were into hip-hop, because they thought you were like ‘Yo, yo, yo, yo, yo’. People still laugh at you for that, but it was pretty bad back then.

“In hip-hop, every crew had a DJ that would scratch and play beats, and that’s how I got into DJing. I was more a scratch DJ than a mix DJ for a long time. For me, DJing was about learning how to scratch over hip-hop records, so I learned by doing that. I bought my first turntable when I was 14. I was already scratching before that, but on a home stereo set, which didn’t make sense if I wanted to get serious.

“Nowadays, I do both DJing and livesets, but lately it’s mainly been DJing because bringing along the gear is so troublesome, you know. We used to play live a lot with the NovaMen when I was still in that group. We did a lot of gigs where we would bring a lot of gear. Stuff would break down, so at some point we stopped doing that to make things easier.

On producing music…

“When I started there was no software. But there was a lot of name dropping of gear on the hip-hop records, like the Emu SP-12. So, I really wanted to buy that. I had saved up some money and then I asked my mother if she could loan me some more. I went to the music store and asked if they had an SP-12, but they hardly came into Holland back then, so I couldn’t get one. So, I bought a shitty Kawai R-50 drum computer, which I learned a bit of stuff on, but it was not a cool drum computer.

“Then three or four years after I bought the R-50, I did find an SP-12, which was my first real piece of gear and is still my best piece of gear. After that, I heard that the EPS-16+ was used a lot, which is an Ensoniq sampler in keyboard form, so I got that. I was producing hip-hop and electro.

“Electro for me is all from the hip-hop side, it’s not from the techno side, apart from Model 500, Juan Atkins, the ghetto stuff from Detroit, and Miami Bass and the early LA electro. All that is derived from hip-hop. That’s more the stuff I’m into. With new electro, I like a lot of it, but I don’t necessarily buy the records. A lot of it is more on the techno side nowadays, you know. Overall, the songs are a bit too similar.

“I like to hear and make different sounds. I have different ways of starting songs. Sometimes I make a beat and then add sounds, which I always try to make sound weird-ish, but not too weird. Other times I just fuck around with the synthesizer for a long while to get a good sound to make a melody with, and then add beats. I don’t really have a set way of making stuff.

“I use a Pro-One, a MicroMoog, but on the Emulator Armour album I used the Esoniq SQ-80, which is a digital synth with an analogue filter. And it’s almost built like a sampler workstation in that it has eight tracks in which you can put eight different sounds. So, with just that synthesizer you could make whole tracks. I’ve been using that a lot, and the SP-12 of course. Then I have a lot of other gear like a TR606, Casio RZ-1, and other classic stuff. It doesn’t really matter what the synthesizer is. You can always get something cool out of it if you just try hard enough.

On his melodic and melancholic sound…

“I guess this sound I have is just what I find interesting, you know. I don’t really like the squeaky 303 acid sounds. I just don’t like that. It’s a cool little synthesizer and some super tough basslines are made with it, especially on some hip-hop records like Ice-T’s Reckless. I don’t think any acid bassline since comes close to that bassline. Also, you know, acid, it’s cool by itself, but I don’t really like it in electro too much, and there’s a lot of electro with acid basslines, which to me is not a good combination. I don’t know why.

“Also, I’m really into soundtracks, so maybe that’s why I’ll always go for those stringy melodies, you know? I really like Autechre. To me, Autechre is almost hip-hop. It’s music with very intricate hip-hop beats with super layered strings and melodies and stuff, so maybe that’s more of what I’m going for but in an electro style. I don’t know. I can’t compare myself to Autechre, of course.

“I think I get my sound by soundscaping – the way I program my sounds in the synthesizer. I guess it’s just whatever is pleasing to my ear, you know? It’s not so harsh, but sometimes I make super harsh stuff as well. But then maybe what I think is harsh sounds mellow to some people.

Dead City is a really screamy track of mine, whereas on Emulator Armour there are a lot of nice sounds. The first track 5×4, I called it that because the beat is in five measures. It’s just an SQ-80. The track right after it, This World, is also like only a few drum samples and all the cinematic sounds on top are just the SQ-80 as well. I think I was trying to create like a Vangelis type string with a cool bassline, you know. Also, I don’t really like to use arpeggiators, but I like to make my own. You just program in the arpeggiator timing and just sequence the notes. But in This World, it’s not an arpeggiator, it’s a programmed sequence line.

“So, I guess it’s the beats combined with the melancholy sound in my melodies that make my tracks sound like me. That’s not even on purpose, I just go there. You always hear people say, like, I always end up in this scale or I always end up only using black keys. My sound is always a bit melancholy or something, and I think that creates an interesting combination with the beats.

On his SQ-80…

“The SQ-80 is wavetable. I don’t think there’s a track on Emulator Armour where it’s actually moving through the wavetables. It has super short samples from analogue synthesizers, FM synthesizers, cross-wave synthesizers – it has wave forms from all types of synthesizers, its own way of subtractive synthesis, and an analogue filter. It’s one of the best synthesizers ever. That’s the truth.

“Oberheim made the Xpander, which is like a $20,000 synthesizer now, whereas the SQ-80 is about $800 and just like the Xpander. It’s also like the synth that Vangelis used a lot with polyphonic after touch, and the SQ-80 can also do that. In a budget synth, that’s crazy. If you press a chord, you can make one note use the after touch, which is a freaky thing, creating extra textures to the music.

On what inspires his music…

“Most of the time it’s probably movies. It’s not even what the movie is about, but more the way I feel afterwards, you know. It can be very different each time.

“I’m really into 30s and 40s movies, so Film Noir and just anything that’s in black and white. I also like war movies and submarine movies and stuff like that. Movies and their music are probably the biggest inspiration.

“Some of the best ones are The Night of the HunterAsphalt JungleDouble IndemnityOut of the Past. All the Humphrey Bogart movies – I love them. All the classic ladies. I love Robert Mitchum. Actually, Robert Mitchum’s 70s movie The Friends of Eddie Coyle inspired a track on Emulator Armour. The movie is like a triple double-cross movie, you know, and at the end of the movie it turns out Eddie has no friends. That’s why that song is called that.

“There’s something really magical about the old movies. It’s hard to look at them with the modern eye. Some people see them and think it’s so staged and the acting is wooden, but you should be able to look through that into the world of the movie to really enjoy it. There’s something special about a world where someone is lighted in a way that gives them three shadows, you know. It shows a different type of world.

“Also, I take inspiration from all music, you know. I really like soul music. I really like reggae. I really love hip-hop. I like country music. I like classical. Anything which hits that note and resonates with me, I like it.

“I did a radio show for two years on Operator Radio Rotterdam. I would play anything. I’d put a 140 beats per minute electro record on and then put a soul record on at 90 beats per minute. It sounds like a weird combination, but in another sense it all combines. It’s just cool music, you know, and cool music can be anything.

“I did one show where I played one of my favourite soundtracks, Trouble Man by Marvin Gaye. That’s definitely his best record. It has this super cool synthesizer on it and the band is just crazy. So, during the radio show, I played one song off that album, then a bunch of other songs, and then I played another song from that album and so on until I played the whole album. To me, it’s cool that that album just binds the whole two hours together. It made sense to me.

On his favourite albums…

“Well, Trouble ManSweet Inspirations, their self-titled album, which is really slow and has these girls who used to sing in a church choir, they sing their heart out on all of the songs. I really love that album. Of course, also Blade Runner, which is like the quintessential synthesizer soundtrack. There’s also Surf Nazis Must Die, that’s a super cool synthesizer soundtrack; it’s like a super crappy movie with a super crazy good soundtrack. Then there’s, of course, all the early hip-hop, like Schoolly D and all the stuff that Mantronix did, Eric B and Rakim, The Jungle Brothers, and all the early Miami Bass like 2 Live Crew, MC Shy-D, all of them. I still have about 2,500 hip-hop records.

On creating sounds…

“You can create cool sounds with any synthesizer. If you’re going to go put the work in, you can create any sound. But you don’t want to recreate songs, just take inspiration from songs you like to create a similar feeling.

“One thing I noticed is that there’s so many electro records that sound like Dopplereffekt, you know? That doesn’t make sense to me.

“To me, electro doesn’t really change other than more people now are making it and buying it. But I’m into older electro, so for me everything actually stays the same, you know. When I play DJ sets, it’s like 90% old records and then some new stuff. It’s because I like the older stuff the best, but also, I don’t want to play all the new music because there’s a lot of new DJs who can do that, you know. So why would I do that? I just do what only I do.

On the scene in Rotterdam and the Hague…

“In Rotterdam, there are places for everything. But things aren’t electro all the time. It’s like in Detroit. I went there a couple of times and found there are Detroit legends like Detroit In Effect and those booty guys and stuff, who don’t really play a lot in their own city. That’s the same in Holland. All the DJs here that are quite popular, they play more around the world than they do in their own cities.

“Back in the day, things that were really cool were the parties that we used to throw ourselves, like in De Blauwe Aanslag, because we liked this music from the States. There was also Intergalactic FM, of course, which is based in the Hague, and Clone Records in Rotterdam, which are pretty much the biggest staples in techno, electro around the world. Intergalactic FM is like the grandmother of internet radio.

“Since electro got more popular here – and maybe because of Clone and Intergalactic FM – some DJs who play more approachable music do a lot of the Dutch festivals now. The clubs around Netherlands might book some of us every other month, but nobody has a big residency anywhere. There’s not a whole lot of work generally in what I do. I don’t play so much in the Netherlands. Of course, everything has been dead for a year, so I don’t know what’s going to happen when it starts again.

“The Netherlands was also part of the whole Italo revival. It’s no secret that it all started with that mix CD that I-F did. It’s crazy. I mean, there were enough freaks around the world who were really into Italo, but when people got to hear that CD, Italo just blew up. Super cool.

On his label RotterHague and collaborating with other artists…

“RotterHague is going steady, but it’s not going as fast as I was hoping. I think it’s because the releases are not so much electro on the techno side, you know. It is very much the leftfield of the electro scene. If we want to put it out, it’s got to be a bit weird, and not have 303s, and be funky or really freakish or something special.

“I think a lot of music is not very special. I get a lot of demos, but, yeah, a lot of them don’t make it. Except I did put out these two tracks out by Grischerr, who is a young German guy, which are really freaky and edgy and don’t sound like anything else. But then all the other stuff on the label is from people I already really liked, so I asked them if they wanted to be on the label.

DJ Maaco (Detroit In Effect) had a tour in Europe a while ago, and he stayed at my house for some of it and we hit it off, so that was really cool. With SegaDeath, that’s a colleague from my work and he’s officially a drummer, who started making electronic music, and a lot of his stuff is really super cool. He’s really good at making song structures and having this lofi sound. What I like about that release is that on one side is the Jompo Boys, which is big, hi-tech sounding, while the other side is SegaDeath which really sounds lofi because he made it on a microKorg and a Windows 95 computer with Fruity Loops or something. I really like that record because of the hi-tech and lo-tech sides.

On releasing music digitally versus on wax…

“I’m not into the digital stuff at all, you know. I don’t really care about releasing music on Beatport, iTunes and those. It’s not about the money, you know. If a track became a hit on iTunes, yeah, that would be cool of course. But I don’t know, man, I can’t even get myself to put music on there. I really just don’t like those platforms: iTunes, Beatport. I don’t know, they’re money grabbing, suck machines. I only do Bandcamp. I like how if you’re a small punk band and you have some recordings, you can sell them there. Of course, now iTunes does that too, but they’re not trying to support small artists or give them a place to sell their stuff. But Bandcamp are.

On how COVID has affected his music production…

“In music-making, I always have periods where I do a lot and then periods where I don’t do a lot. During the whole COVID time, I had like a few periods of two or three weeks where I did a lot of music, but all the negative energy hasn’t brought me to make any new music.

“I heard stories of people who said being inside all that time made them make more music, but it didn’t work that way for me. I still did some stuff, but also records don’t really make you money, so it was shitty to not have any DJ gigs for this whole period. I did a bunch of remixes, which I got a little money for, and I got a little money for the Emulator Armour album, but it was a really lean year.

“Hopefully, the buzz around the album hangs around a bit with promoters once the partying starts again, so I can get some nice gigs. I’ve seen flyers appearing for some parties here in the Netherlands, but we’re still in lockdown. The cinema is still closed. You can now go outside but you can’t go inside bars. It’s hard for me to imagine being in a club with the hundreds of people. It might take a while before the gigs start again.

On what music he has coming up…

“RotterHague Records number 10 is coming up, so that’s pretty cool. This one’s a celebratory release. It’s got tracks by DJ Maaco, DJ Technician and me, and a mega mix of all the previous releases we did, and like 20 lock grooves of previous records, so it’s going to be a cool release. It’s like a salute to DJ culture! It should be here this month or next. I also did an EP for Libertine Records, a bunch of remixes and probably some more stuff that slips my mind now. 

Visit DJ Overdose’s bandcamp here.

Visit RotterHague Records here.

Visit his Discogs here.

Transmitted by NT Hyperspace – writer/DJ from Melbourne Aust, who likes the weird.

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