- Zilka Grogan
A chat with Woody92
For Woody92, preparing a mix is like putting the pieces of a puzzle together. This approach was on full display in his recent contribution to the Patterns of Perception mix series: in a little under an hour and a half, he delivers an exploration of the “intense but delicate” sounds that make up his musical palette, delving into the genres and styles that fascinate him as an artist.
The following conversation dives into the Delft-born artist’s deeply personal approach to music exploration. Conducted digitally, the interview coincided with the recent closure of De School, the renowned Amsterdam club where Woody was a resident. Inevitably, our chat also turns to the current moment: to the impact it has had on him as an artist, and the restorative role that music can play during this challenging collective moment of ours.
We recommend tuning into his Patterns of Perception 68 as you read the interview below.
The world has been pretty topsy turvy recently - how are you going? What have you been up to lately?
I am doing good, to be honest. Unfortunately, I had some sad private situations here and there but overall, I am doing fine. It is such a weird time we are living in, but we all need to deal with the “tops and the turvs” I would say. I am optimistic, but things are changing rapidly in the world around us. With DJing being at its lowest point right now I am trying not to sit still. Even though it’s quite a sad and painful situation we are in right now.
One of the good things I take from this period is that it is an eye-opener - things need to be changed in how we were used to living and working in this scene. Also, as a person and an artist I need to adapt, I do get to see my friends more often! I'm having a lot more dinners at home than usual and helping my dad (who has a construction company) here and there with some paint jobs which I quite like. Just normal life. I even started spraying graffiti again.
My bi-monthly Neon Cleptu show on LYL Radio is still going on and I am doing some mixes for people and platforms which I admire. I am also using this period to reflect on my future as a DJ and artist. There is a lot to come, I can promise you that.
You’ve talked a bit about being inspired by many things out of music itself. What would you say are your main influences?
I have a background in fashion and art, I studied at the Royal Academy of Arts in The Hague. They taught me the value of music, art and fashion among other ways of creativity. Also, to look differently at shapes, sounds in different periods of time or the aesthetics of history and religion. Everything that I learned there I use now in my approach of selecting music.
Another big inspiration for me is the people around me, the ones I talk to and they share their ideas with me. That helps me create and define my own vision within art and music more specifically. I tend to always go left when everyone else is turning right. Playing music in a certain style or even certain music can get boring quite fast to me, so I try to keep finding new and different ways to present my music. Music is an artistic output of my own being, it reflects my imagination of who I am as a person. But I can also visualise myself into graphics, fashion and art.
You grew up in Delft, not far from The Hague in the Netherlands. How has being from this part of the country influenced your musical journey?
A lot! Delft had a big gabber community back in the days and also a huge tekno community, which is quite unique for being such a small city right in between The Hague and Rotterdam. A nice thing about living in a small city is that a lot of the influences from other cities did not really cross over to us, because of that I kind of got the opportunity to develop my own style and approach. For me, that is one of the most inspiring things about Delft. Which means that most of the artists from Delft, a small group, are really doing their own thing without looking at other artists from different cities.
In general, I think my music taste can be traced back to my hometown and the people living there. But I also was influenced by The Hague with labels as Bunker and the typical “West Coast Sound of Holland”, even Rotterdam which of course has a big history in dance music which also had influences on me and you can still hear that in what I play today. Rotterdam and The Hague are only minutes away from Delft, so it has always been easy to meet people and to collaborate. To then create something that does not have anything to do with the cities we come from.
How would you say your sound has evolved since you first started DJing up until now?
I think for every DJ, their sound evolves over time from the point where they started DJing up until now. Music is something very personal and you of course develop your music taste over the years. Something that stayed the same and is still there is my fascination for weird rhythms and indefinable and atmospheric sounds, psychedelic or trippy feelings, and tribal sounding music. I think I can say that I know what I like and what I don’t like and even a lot of music that I used to play is still relevant in my sets up to today. Sometimes I even find music that was made in the time I started DJing which I end up playing in the present, that is a nice full-circle motion for me.
Tell us a bit about your mix for Patterns of Perception: how did you approach it? Is there a concept behind it? How and where was it recorded?
I recorded the mix at my home in Delft, with two CDJ NXS 2000 players and an Allen & Heath Xone:96 mixer. The approach for this mix was something I never did before, although I have a fasciation or interest in all types of music, so this was a good moment to present something different. I collected music myself and some friends sent over music for me to use. The process of making a mix can be a difficult puzzle, which means you need quite a bit of patience sometimes to get to where you want the mix to be when it is finished.
Recording a mix is a different puzzle and can be a personal process, but having the right puzzle pieces is essential to molding it all together.
This mix is a reflection of the music that fascinates me as an artist. For this one, I selected deeper and glitchy rhythms combining it with some trippy and more experimental sounds. Some parts can be intense but delicate I would say. I also wanted to make a mix that has influences from different genres and atmospheres, but they can still co-exist in one mix.
Not only music was an inspiration for this mix, I went through a lot of images I’ve collect true the years of my academy years. And I’ve taken two drawings of American sculptor and printmaker Lee Bontecou “Untitled” series from 2011. Those abstract images reflect exactly what I want to express with this mix. The images are indefinable, and the shapes are reflecting the sounds I want to point out. So I hope it makes things clearer in the overall story.
I always want to tell a story with my mixes because I think it is important to tell a story with your music. Every piece needs to be well selected for the particular moment in the mix and that story. I hope people get what I mean.
We were extremely sad to hear of the closure of De School, the Amsterdam club where you are a resident. How has the club’s closure been felt there in the Netherlands?
I can’t speak for other people, but for me as a visitor who came there quite regularly up to being a resident there the closure of De School is immensely sad and emotional to me. It is a huge loss for Amsterdam as a city, the Netherlands, and even for the rest of the world in my opinion.
De School and the community around De School gave you the freedom to play whatever you want, and people respected that. I think that is one of the most valuable things De School has given us and one of the reasons why this place has been so important to me.
It is a sad thing to hear that the club got into a huge debt as a result of the pandemic. Also a lot of things happened behind the scenes which eventually led the owner to decide to close De School. I can only say that they (the team) deserve a massive salute for what they achieved as a club and institute.
What have been some of your favourite moments from your residency there?
Tough question! Hard to choose… I have hundreds of favorite moments to be honest. I have met so many friends there, discovered new music, played so many sick slots in the nights, mornings and afternoons, from weekenders to regular club nights. I played with a lot of artists who I’ve always admired, having a residency there has given me so many moments and gigs that I will never forget.
But if I need to choose now, I will pick the closing slot of De Nieuw, the notorious party that starts on the first of January. This year I got the opportunity to close the basement with my close friend Spekki Webu. Getting that slot is already such an honour and to actually close it down with one of my best friends, starting the new year with a lot of happy people who respected the music we played. I mean ... that is something special. Now that moment is even more special because it was the last time I played De School.
What role do you think music plays in a difficult collective moment like this? What role does it play for you?
At the start of the pandemic, I was digging a lot of music, but after a month or two I realised that this was not a short temporary thing. It became pretty clear to me early on that it would be taking a lot longer than we all expected. It made me struggle a bit and I lost my creativity to do something related to music. After a certain period, I did find myself back again and now I am back to where I left off and found energy and new motivation again.
I also tend to have a love and hate relationship with music, as I am always searching for something that does not exist. That can be really frustrating but that’s also just the way I am.
The most important thing about music for me though is that it helps me relieve myself from negative thoughts and it helps me focus more. It is a weird and sad period for all of us, for some more than others but in this period a lot of things come and go. Music helps me forget those thoughts, which I am grateful for.
How have you been approaching music during this time? Anything, in particular, you’ve been listening to or playing these last months?
My approach to music is the same as before the pandemic. The continued search for unknown stuff is here more than before the pandemic, so that is a positive outcome. I also listen more to mixes from my friends and artists I admire. I learn a lot from those mixes too, and it is dope to see and listen to how other people approach their storytelling with music.
At the moment I have a very wide searching area in which I am looking for music. Because I have a certain taste it is hard to explain to others exactly what that means. When I search for music, I recognise certain textures or sounds that I like and then I see a certain interaction between different genres of music. I often question myself if I find the concept of a “genre” still a relevant way of categorising music if there are so many similarities in different genres.
Some of the things I have been listening to these months were for example the new album of American artist Pontiac Streator on Motion Ward which came out recently. This album is a perfect example of something that you can’t really pinpoint on a specific genre. It is insanely well-produced and just a super dope album if you ask me. The balance of club or non-club music is something I find very interesting to implement. Labels such as Motion Ward or West Mineral Ltd. are perfect examples of that. And I really like their approach as a label and their vision behind the music that they’re releasing. As I mentioned earlier, the interaction of different textures and sounds makes this music without genre and interesting.
What else do you have coming up for the rest of the year and into 2021?
The most promising thing I’ve been working on is my new label. I would love to share more details, but I can’t at this point. More info is hopefully coming very soon. Besides that, I am working on different projects and connect with people who are good at what they do and do something special in fashion or art and hopefully I can connect all of this in the future. Most of the gigs that I had planned for 2020 are cancelled or moved to next year, but I hope everything will be a bit more back to normal by then. I am optimistic! In the meantime, I will be making radio shows and mixes and still trying to open up spiritual doors that I did not know existed.
Main photo credit: Jeroen Dankers
Original artworks by Lee Bontecou