Inside the Knekelhuis
Interview by Jo-Anna Kalinowska
Having established themselves as an unconventional Amsterdam night it was only a matter of time before Knekelhuis developed themselves into a fully-fledged label. For them, their evolution from Knekelhuisdisco has been a natural one. With a background steeped in punk and metal bands they see the move into electronic music as a “logical step in the process of finding new music”. Ahead of Sunday’s Studio80 event alongside fellow electronic antagonists PAN, Diagonal and Morphine, we decided to catch up with Ron van de Kerkhof and Mark van de Maat to discuss the importance of cooking with artists, experimental labels and their future releases.
One of the things I’ve picked up is this theme of surprise you mention?
R: We mostly try to inspire people, not really surprise.
M: If you come to our nights you might hear new songs which you didn’t expect to hear. The purpose is not to really only surprise but we want to inspire, and maybe make some things uncomfortable.
You’ve talked about the importance of putting personality back into electronic music and having a connection. Do you think it’s quite disconnected at the moment?
M: From our experience, you book an artist through a booker, then you pick them up, you see each other while having dinner, they play and then they leave. That’s the way it works out most of the time but we wanted to have more of a friendship connection. If you spend some time together in the whole process (also with releasing records for instance), you get to know the person. When both sides feel comfortable that’s when things get better in the club.
R: We always try to cook ourselves. We invite the artist into our home and that way we can bond better with the artist before they play. In a restaurant it’s formal, but when you are hanging at someone’s apartment you can listen to some records, chill on the couch, have one person cooking – maybe the artist is helping with some vegetables – that’s the way we want to do it. Then you can really connect with an artist. At the end of the night, it works out better.
When you get artists to collaborate on a release, is it important that there’s a mysterious moniker?
M: The initial idea was to start this label and just see what happens, but now we are one year further, we’ve changed our ideas a bit. It can be interesting to bring two people together, but it’s just as fulfilling an experience if you meet new guys and girls making music. That process of releasing their first record can be just as interesting as connecting two people.
R: But the mysterious thing, on the first release (Pagan Sound), I think that came more from the artists themselves. Legowelt and Cliff Lothar are both mysterious types so they came up with the idea to do it under an alias.
Did you see a demand in Amsterdam for what you wanted to do?
M: We do what we want to do, but in certain ways we’re also filling a gap because that sense of pushing forward, is sometimes missed in Amsterdam.
On Sunday your label is being represented alongside PAN, Diagonal and Morphine, who are also quite forward thinking labels. Do you feel inspired by labels like them?
R: Yeah, they really inspire us in the way they work. No one is coming close to what they are doing and they have their own signature sound. I think it’s very special, as a label, when you’re able to do that. When someone is hearing that sort of music they can be like “Oh wow, this is something from Diagonal”. I really respect that and that’s the way we want to go as well.
M: Yeah, I mean with PAN every release is different. You can hear it’s a PAN record, or Diagonal, or Morphine, but they have a good sense for their own sound. I think that suits Knekelhuis as well. If you look at what we have coming up, they are all kind of different but they make the concept stronger.
So you guys do a lot: events, releases, having your own artists etc. How do you manage now it’s just the two of you – do you still have time for personal projects?
R: Most of the time it’s pretty stressful. I think for me, DJing is the last thing, if I arrange everything in place then I can get new tracks and try and play somewhere.
M: Yeah, and I have also my day job so I work 4 days a week, and then I have my band, DJ and I have Volition Immanent. Next to Knekelhuis there is a lot of other stuff going on!
It’s worth it though right?
R: It’s worth it, in the end, when a party works out or you see people that are coming up to the booth and are asking about the music, those are the moments that make it worthwhile.
So what can we expect from you guys?
R: There is a 12” from Parrish Smith coming soon, a release with Maoupa Mazzocchetti, and Robert Bergman and Das Ding have a collaboration.
M: First we have De Ambassade EP out in January, next year the records will be more constant.
Represented by live performances from Maoupa Mazzocchetti and Volition Immanent, Knekelhuis are performing alongside PAN, Diagonal and Morphine Sunday 18th October at Studio 80. The event is free for Subbacultcha members.