The Road to Trance with Sneijder

We spoke with lauded DJ and producer Sneijder about the events that lead him to the world of trance music.

Mike Warburton

Date published: 22nd Oct 2014

Photo: Sneijder

Revered for his uplifting, tech heavy take on trance, Sneijder has enjoyed a stellar career both as a DJ and for the past few years as a producer, with thumping, no nonsense releases on labels like Kearnage, Adrian & Raz and John O'Callaghan's Subculture, prompting Paul Van Dyk to dub him as "an extremely exciting talent".

His penchant for combining the techier, heavier edge of trance with soaring, heartbreaking melodies has stood him in good stead (hear that in his Digital Society podcast below), with a busier than ever international touring schedule cementing the fact that trance heads the world over are keying into the uncompromising Sneijder sound.

We grabbed five minutes with the man himself ahead of hitting John O'Callaghan's Subculture party in Leeds for Digital Society on November 7th, to discuss Dutch hardcore, record shopping trips to The Netherlands, and life in the digital age.

We’re always interested in how DJs and producers first got into music, so we were surprised to find out that in your very early years you were bang into your Dutch hardcore. How did you end up getting into that? Was there a scene where you grew up or was it just a chance occurrence?

That's correct, I started out playing Dutch style hardcore, really raw to the point stuff.  The hardcore scene was massive in Northern Ireland when I started out. You had DJs like Scott Brown, Ramirez, Carl Cox etc playing over here on a regular basis so that was the main sound at that time.

I got into hardcore from older lads in school who were DJs and I would listen to their mix tapes. I then stated to look at the music and was heavily influenced by local DJs such as Binman etc who had that harder edge sound to hardcore, I fell in love with it instantly.

It’s fascinating that you’d travel to The Netherlands to pick up the latest hardcore vinyl, that’s some serious dedication. Do you look back fondly on those days, where finding the records and tunes you were after was often a huge, sometimes impossible task? Or do you much prefer life in the digital age?

Digital doesn't even come close to vinyl, record shopping and spending all day to find records no one else had or was playing had a magical feel to it.

Music nowadays is very disposable, not because the quality is not as good, but because there are simply too many options and record labels releasing so much average and low quality music, flooding the scene with tracks that ten years ago would have never have been signed.

I travelled to The Netherlands on many occasions to buy records and attended some really great parties there, seeing DJs like Paul Elstak, Dark Raver and more. Some of the best and most unique white labels I have were purchased in the back streets of Amsterdam, tracks that never made full release and I would never sell.

So how did you end up getting into trance? Was there a certain record that just blew you away and converted you as it were?

There wasn't really one or two records in particular that made me finally settle on trance. I think it was just clubbing in general and exploring different DJs that really opened my eyes to new sounds etc.

I went from Hardcore to Psy/Hard Trance actually, which years ago sounded much different than Psy does now, alot more varied back then, I was a big fan of the Commander Tom & Pablo Gargano sound, that was my next step.

Labels like Noom, Eve, Prolekult, Bonzai etc stated to grab my attention. It had the raw sound from the hardcore but also nice melodies, usually very basic but still energetic and catchy.

Later I started to attend hard house events and listen to DJs like Tony de Vit, and then around 1998 I first heard Ferry Corsten and everything changed. I had heard a few Tiesto tunes first, I came across 'Theme From Norefjell' while record shopping and was interested in the sound, That lead me to Ferry, and from then I have played uplifting trance until now.

'Theme from Norefjell' is an immense record, it was the definite highlight of the Gatecrasher Red CD from what we remember! You went from there to cut your teeth as a DJ but it wasn’t until 2009 that you turned your hand to producing. Do you think that all those years of experience as a DJ have helped give you an edge with your producing?

For sure, once I stated to produce I always knew what I wanted my sound to be like.  It just takes a while to learn and put in the hours to achieve the sound you want combined with quality.  Being a DJ for years before I started gave me that invaluable knowledge of how to make you music transpire from the studio to the dancefloor. My music is always aimed for clubbers and for dancefloors.

You’ve been heavily involved with John O’Callaghan’s Subculture imprint. What do you think it is about the label that makes it so revered in the trance scene?

I remember when John first launched the Subculture label, at that time we had been chatting via emails as I was sending him tracks and he was giving me feedback on them.  He said he wanted me to make him a few tracks to release on the label. This gave me an amazing opportunity to get my foot on the ladder and get my tunes into other DJs sets.

The first EP I made was 'Onto Tomorrow/Facelift'. The thing with John is, he knows his music, he has high standards and this reflects onto the label. I knew if I could a track signed to Subculture it would mean the tracks where on the right way and myself as a producer would turn a corner.

Talking about Subculture, you’re set to join a raft of Subculture favourites at Leeds o2 Academy on November 7th for Digital Society. You pretty excited about it? What can we look forward to from your set there?

I'm really excited. I have played Digital Society twice before but this will be my debut in the main room. I have two or three new tracks to play and a new rework which I have just completed.  So I look forward to letting everyone hear those.

Speaking of new stuff, have you got any brand new material from yourself due for release anytime soon?

Yes, coming of the next few weeks I have a new remix for Solarstone's Pure Trance label. The track is my remix of Orkidea's Purity (hear a clip above) - Rich let me hear the original as we were chilling out on The Monday Bar cruise. I really liked it, it was very unique sounding, we had a chat and Rich asked if I would like to remix it for the new 'Pure Trance 3' CD.

It was a challenge, I went really techy with this one, like the old tech trance sound. In November I also have a new collab coming with Aly & Fila titled 'Full Throttle'. This one has been massive in both my and Fadi's sets all summer. I also have a new vocal track completed and really cant wait for everyone to hear this one, thats all I can say about that one for now.

With your long career in the scene, what still keeps you addicted to trance? 

I love great melodies, and the energy trance brings. It's great when you haven't heard a great new track in ages and then one comes along, you have it on repeat, it's a great feeling.

What is the rest of the year looking like for you? Any big gigs you’re excited about?

Yes, Im off to Montreal for Halloween playing at Circus, then in November you can catch me at DS of course followed by Glasgow the next night.  After that I'm off to the USA to play Soundbar, Chicago and Phonic, DC, Then to end the month I'm back in Dublin with Neelix. Busy month ahead.

Finally, hypothetical question. You’re entrusted to throw the ultimate rave. You can have on the bill any DJs from past or present, alive or dead. Where would you have the it and who would play alongside you?

Venue: The Met, Armagh 

DJ's on the night: Robbie Nelson, Tony de Vit, Carl Cox (Classic Hardcore Set), Pablo Gargano, Aly & Fila and J O'Callaghan... What a night that would be! 

Absolutely! Thanks Sneijder. Catch him at Digital Society presents Subculture at the o2 Academy in Leeds on Nov 7th.

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