Steadily building a devoted fan base, The Illuminated are beginning to reap what they’ve sown. Formed in 2009, Yuri Van Der Zalm [Dyzz], Joep Koeleman [Rebus], and Maarten Vanderh [Vence], have been on a remarkable mission combining DJs, producers, and party promoters to establish an influential and respectable collective, which has now become a driving force behind Holland’s underground scene. From squatted bass parties to founding MaasBASS at the Muziekgieterij in Maastricht, the trio have not only made a name for themselves, but have also begun to find their feet musically. A quick look at their Soundcloud will reveal some of the prominent figures that have willingly supported their music. As a consequence, 2013 has undoubtedly been their most fruitful year as this interview will uncover. So without further ado, let me welcome three individuals whom you will be hearing a lot from over the coming months collectively known as ‘The Illuminated’.
TRUSIK: For the heads who aren’t familiar; who are the Illuminated, where do you hail from, and how would you express your sound?
The Illuminated: The Illuminated are Joep (Rebus), Maarten (Vence) & Yuri (Dyzz), we are all living in Eindhoven (the Netherlands) and our sound can be described as a deeper, experimental approach of dubstep.
T: The word ‘dubstep’ is an ambivalent one isn’t it. You’re either welcomed with intrigued interest or immediate dismissal. Given it’s affiliation with the commercial sound, how do you feel labeling your music as ‘dubstep’?
Illu: We don’t think it’s misplaced to label it as dubstep. After all, dubstep is the foundation from which we ‘built’ The Illuminated and therefore also our sound. Though we do love to take elements from all kinds of other genres and implement them in our tunes, as we all have quite different backgrounds.
T: I like the alias ‘The Illuminated’. Where did the name originate from? And are you suggesting the ‘New World Order’ has already been established?
Illu: The name basically has two main layers; first of all, Eindhoven is often dubbed ‘City of Light’. It’s the home of Philips (electronics) and the light bulb. Secondly, we feel a strong connection to the roots of the sound and culture of dubstep, and therefore look at ourselves as ‘enlightened’, if you will.
T: Jokes aside, the ‘Illuminati’ are often depicted as lurking in the shadows, and pulling strings where need be. The way you describe your sound, and your connections with MaasBASS, there’s too much of a coincidence here no?
Illu: Nope, ain’t no Bilderbergers round here!
T: You’ve featured a number of great talents at your parties, from Razor Rekta to Proxima, and even a huge collaboration with our good friends at FatKidOnFire. Three months ago you threw a party with Cyrus and Tunnidge. Are you happy with the success of MaasBASS?
Illu: MaasBASS is something special. Back in ’09 when Yuri & Joep played out as Dyzz & Rebus they crashed a couple of house parties in Maastricht and met Aarjan (l’argent). Yuri and Aarjan came up with the idea making the parties legal, finding a venue and so MaasBASS was born. Since then the support from locals, friends, and bass music enthusiasts has been immense. When The Muziekgieterij opened their new venue last January we truly found our new home for MaasBASS. We’ll end this season with close friends on the line-up and we’ll be back in September for a smashing ‘13/’14 season!
T: From parties to production… from a musical standpoint, The Illuminated are beginning to find their feet. In the last 12 months, you’ve received substantial airplay from Skream & Benga, Joe Nice, N-Type, but most significantly, featuring on FKOF’s inaugural compilation album. Do you feel as though your productions are reaching a credible level that truly reflect you as a collective? What was the decision making process behind selecting ‘Conspicuously Smooth’ for the FKOF album?
Illu: It’s amazing when your tune gets played by guys who you’ve been looking up to for years, Joe practically cuts every tune we send him! We draw loads of motivation from these kinds of things and see ourselves develop with every tune we make. We don’t think it’s up to us to decide what level we’re at, we loved everything so far and from here we take everything we can get. ‘Conspicuously Smooth’ is actually the first tune we properly finished back in 2009 and nothing really happened with it. When Wil asked us to be a part of the compilation we saw a perfect opportunity to revive it and do another mixdown. For us it’s quite cool that our first actual track now is finally out there, and also in the company of an impressive bunch of artists. The response thus far has been truly amazing!
T: Something I would like to touch on here is the production process itself. As a trio, how do you go about building a track? Is there a balanced input from each of you throughout, or do you utilise each other’s strengths at certain parts of the building process?
Illu: Most of the time, it starts with one or more creating a draft. Something we’re quite proud of is that we barely re-use samples and always start with a clean slate. This way we can use samples of which we think sound best for that particular tune rather than samples which sound great in general. In the end it does need to be a good tune as a whole. The draft then gets picked up by the other(s) and from there we basically take turns in applying our own ideas, either on our own or when we come together for our weekly sessions on Thursday. Nobody actually has a part we’re particularly good at, but we do have certain parts of the process where one might be more involved than the others. The level of creativity tends to fluctuate honestly. Sometimes we built a complete tune in less than a week, but it can also take us a couple weeks to properly finish a certain project. Nonetheless, we’ve noticed we’ve grown a lot when it comes to finishing projects instead of starting something and never look at it again.
T: There’s a healthy amount of innovation and originality flowing from the frontiers of the Netherlands at the moment. Notable names such as Icicle, Proxima, and TMSV are experimenting with 140 and pushing the sonic envelope of underground bass music. Are the Dutch themselves more responsive to the deeper, foundation sound or the tear-out commercial sound? Are there any up and coming Dutch artists we ought to be paying attention to, who deserve some recognition?
Illu: Unfortunately the amount of people that are actually into the foundational sounds of dubstep is quite limited as opposed to the people that like to do a little more than just be a part of the ‘eyes down-crew’. Bit of a shame really but not that weird, that’s just development. This also gives us an extra reason to drop both old and new stuff when we play out, hoping that somehow certain people get more familiar with what is also dubstep instead of the stuff they get at these big wild raves. In the end it’s up to them to decide what they listen or dance to, we can only do so much.
T: I read an interesting article on FACT about how last year, vinyl sales hit their highest point since 1997. Mixmag has also picked up on this suggesting, “the formats resurgence has moved from a nostalgia fuelled hipster phenomenon to something with mass market appeal”. Although Arron Merat [of FACT magazine] has suggested that it’s not all rosy for dance music labels; what are your sincere thoughts surrounding the future of vinyl as the “bread-and-butter format” for underground music, and the shift in money-making strategies by labels as we enter a new complex period of digital streaming?
Illu [Dyzz]: Vinyl is big in the scene. As far as I can tell, all the big releases get sold out really quick these days. I’m not sure how it was, say, 6 years ago when I started buying & collecting vinyl. In my opinion, vinyl has nothing to do with hipsters and/or mass market appeal. There will always be people supporting the labels, buying their vinyl (only) releases. Vinyl is something unique which can’t be compared to a cd or a digital file. Why the sales hit their highest point since 1997? I seriously have no clue. I would love to see a discussion about this though!
T: On that bomb shell, what can we expect from The Illuminated in 2013, is there any forthcoming material, or other interesting projects in the pipeline?
Illu: Yeah, we can confirm a couple of things and we can’t confirm a couple of things, haha. First of all, our remix of Camu – Damascus is coming out soon on Mu Djina [MU002] and our remix of Thirteen – 3.13 on Iron Shirt Recordings [IRON019].
After that we’ll have an EP ready to go for Underslung Audio coming out around october 2013:
The Illuminated – Expect Us EP [Underslung Audio]
Solid Copy (feat. Dyssomnia)
We have some more (big) things coming later this year which will all be revealed, yes, later. We are pretty stoked about this so keep an eye out. A little preview:
The Illuminated – Scavenger EP [Forthcoming ???]
Scavenger (TMSV Remix)
T: You were quite excited about the mix you put together for us. Tell us a little bit about the selection process, down to the final recording.
Illu: First of all, we were keen to do a mix with just unreleased tunes. We were privileged to have received support from many heads, as well as some exciting new talents which we just had to put in there. Besides that, we took the opportunity to showcase some of our own sounds. The mix was made in Ableton because this gives us the perfect opportunity to do what we do live: mix and blend!
T: Finally, your five favourite tracks at the moment…? (in no particular order)
LAS – Tic
Gantz – Lyrical Trick
Seven – Go To War
TMSV – Haze
VGB – Phase
Augustus Pablo – El Rockers Chapter 2
The Illuminated – Scavenger (Dubbacle Remix)
Icicle – Late Nights
Headhunter – Prototype
Neosignal – Planet Online (Culprate Remix)
Dubkasm – Victory
Gantz – U Won’t Mind
LAS – Need Fire
Blood Shanti & The Shanti Ites – What a Gwan
The Illuminated – Psychonauts
Camu – Damascus (The Illuminated Remix) [Forthcoming Mu Djina]
Prevax – The Difference In Our Self [Dub]
Perverse (feat. Beezy) – Cross examination (Kaiju Refix) [Dub]
Deity – Neo Tokyo [Forthcoming Mu Djina]
The Illuminated – Scavenger VIP [Dub]
Quantum Soul – Rolling Thunder [Innamind Recordings]
JayDrop – Smack That [Dub]
Ipman – Mirage [Dub]
Subreachers – Mor£ (feat. M.I.K) [Dub]
Kaiju – Drowning [Dub]
Arkwright – Retaliate (The Illuminated Remix) [Dub]
Prevax – Creatures [Dub]
Ex Nihilo – Edge Control [Forthcoming Indigo Movement]
Gantz – Catalyst (Kaiju Refix) [Dub]
ARtroniks – Depths Of Darkness [Dub]
Gantz & Beezy – First Born [Dub]
Ipman – Flipmode [Forthcoming XXXX]
DJ Madd & TMSV – Future Dred [Dub]
The Illuminated & Dyssomnia – Solid Copy [Forthcoming Underslung Audio]
Ex Nihilo – Hollow Ones [Dub]
ARtroniks – Trossen [Dub]
VGB – Phase [Dub]
Kaiju – Myagi [Dub]
Shreddex – Alien Music (Congi Remix) [Dub]
The Illuminated – Nautic [Forthcoming Underslung Audio]
Quantum Soul – Strong Root [Innamind Recordings]
Unknown Artist vs Burning Spear – Invasion [Dub]
Keith & Tex – Tonight (The Illuminated Version) [Dub]