To celebrate 150 episodes of the Monument podcast we are delighted to welcome Bas Mooy. The Rotterdam based artist is a true legend of the scene, and is affiliated with a host of labels and collectives, boasting releases on some of the biggest labels around, including his own Mord imprint. We sat down with Bas ahead of his podcast to discuss his life as a touring DJ and label owner:
You’ve played a fair few times in the United States over the last couple of years, do you find those parties and events fairly different to your far-reaching European dates?
In a way a gig is always a bit different when you travel such a long distance for it. It’s always special that people take the effort to bring you over to another continent. It’s great to see the popularity of Mord overseas. The events in the US are not that different from the smaller European events I play, I guess the only difference is that I haven’t played any big stages in the US so far. The techno scene has been growing like crazy globally, but in many cities, even in Europe it’s still a niche scene, compared to the more commercial music scenes. You’d expect that at some point at least a small percentage of the people that are riding this EDM and big room tech-house wave in the US the last couple of years, start to dig a bit deeper and might actually find out techno exists. I’m just very happy to see most bigger US cities have a scene going on, with some crews that having doing parties for many years already. In the end it’s the same everywhere, from Australia to the US or South America to Europe, most cities have a group of techno enthusiasts that keep the scene alive.
What were some key lessons you took away from Audio Assault that you’re applying to Mord? Would you say Mord is a successor to that project, or something different?
I learned a lot from running Audio Assault (and the sub label Arms). Especially in the early days we made some mistakes you only make once, it has been a learning process and mostly a lot of fun. It was a different time and working together with Jeroen (Radial) was always a pleasure, but after compromising over a decade you also start to wonder how it is to make all the decisions on your own. I wanted to start a new project for some time already and slowly it started to emerge in my head to something I really felt I needed to do. Every couple of years you need a spark to fire things up again I guess. I think I always stayed true to a certain techno sound, even though over the years your taste obviously changes slightly, but that have always been relatively small changes in my taste. I do think Mord is quite different from Audio Assault, sound wise it has a much wider bandwidth and of course the art is completely different. That’s one of the things I really wanted to focus on, make sure I completely feel free to use whatever artwork I want and not limit myself to a certain style etc. But to be honest, there’s a lot of music I put out on Audio Assault, that would fit perfect on Mord these days. When it comes to learning key lessons, well, I still release whatever I like instead of thinking about sales or anything and I still make mistakes now and then. When I wanted to release the first Mordbox with 7 vinyls, most people advised me not to do it. That sort of pushed my buttons and convinced me even more I needed to do it, even with the risk involved. The project was a success and I’m really glad I did it, since it made quite an impact and made me able to release music from people I really wanted to have on Mord. Most difficult part of running a label is to make sure you follow your own path and don’t get influenced too much by the opinion of the media, (social media) haters and other negative influences. I would be lying if I say that hate comments, negative feedback or bad reviews don’t affect me, they sometimes do, but I try to stay away from it as much as possible and run the label for the people that appreciate what I do and of course for all the artists involved and myself. It makes no sense to try and convince people who have made up their mind already. I always had a certain vision on how I wanted to be active in the techno scene. One of the key points is that I always believe in pushing new talent and injecting new blood into the scene. I’ve always tried to launch new talent on both my labels and my events. I think that’s a responsibility I have, being active in the scene as long as I am.
How do you balance touring/DJing, running the label, and producing?
The past couple of years were really heavy, also because during the week I take care of my two kids most of the time. Since I’m away almost every weekend I try to really spend as much time with them as possible when I’m home. I’ve been running the label on my own, but recently decided it might be time to get some help, so I did. It was something that was quite difficult for me, since I’m a major control freak to be honest. But at the moment I’m really glad I did. I didn’t spend a lot of time in the studio the past year, mainly because I had some serious ear problems for a while, but I’ve been taking some more rest and try to limit the time in the clubs etc, which seems to work, since I’m actually back in the studio since last week. So I’m looking forward to get started on some new projects again. The touring has been quite heavy to combine with the family life, since my girlfriend was working full-time until earlier this year. She’s more home now and that really makes a difference, cause it means I can get some more rest and sleep a bit after a heavy weekend, instead of getting up at 6.30 on Monday after 2 or 3 days of gigs. I rarely miss breakfast with the kids though, since I just love that moment of the day so much. I’m lucky to be able to take my kids to school almost every day and pick them up in the afternoon, that’s a true privilege. I turned 41 this year and around March I realised I really needed to make some changes in the way I approach the heavy touring schedule and the dj life in general. I quit drinking for 4 months to see if I could do it. It was pretty hard to do, but it made me realise I felt so much better after the weekend. These days I limit myself to a couple of glasses of red wine during dinner, but I try to stay away from alcohol during my gigs and at the airport etc. Being a whisky and wine lover this is still not the most easy part of the weekends, but so far I manage and I must say I really feel better each time I wake up in the hotel after a gig. I guess that’s the kind of balance I need to keep up with this life. Approaching it in a rock’n roll way all the time didn’t make me happy in the end, so I’m sort of searching for a way to find my balance. Mord is 5 years in 2018 and we are gonna be doing a very intense tour the whole year, so I’m glad I’m on the ‘right path’ with my health situation so to say.
Is there a specific way you find new artists to work with or are most simply sending you demos that interest you?
It has always been a combination of keeping your eyes and ears open, asking people and getting demos sent over. There’s a lot of good demos every month, but I can only sign a very small percentage. I still get about 10 demos every day, so if I don’t sign something it definitely doesn’t mean I don’t like it. I had to turn down many great demos unfortunately. Most people understand, but some people hate you for it or get offended, thats also part of running a label I guess. You can’t please everybody and sometimes have to turn down music you really like. For me it’s all about a gut feeling when I sign someone. You don’t want to know some of the weird shit that happened over the years, some people go proper psycho on you when you are not interested in their music and take it very personal when you don’t sign it.
What, if anything, do you spend a lot of time listening to outside of Techno and dance music?
I actually almost never listen to techno at home or when I’m travelling etc. I listen to techno when I search for music or when I check demos etc, but that’s mainly it. At home I mostly listen to bands. I’m probably repeating myself, since I said this many times before, but I have a big love for music I was into when I was a teenager. Still like Stone Roses, Joy Division, The Cure, Sonic Youth, Pennywise etc way better then most music that comes out today. I guess I have kind of a melancholy fetish if I can label it. I also listen to classical music (mainly on the plane when I read) and I got a thing for synth pop, new wave, or some more recent eighties sounding bands, also some bands that some people around me probably consider to be cheesy. I’m at an age where I really don’t care how others judge my taste in music, loads of ‘guilty pleasure’ stuff on my Spotify playlist these days…haha.
You have released a lot of excellent collaborative records, how do you typically collaborate with producers? Are you usually sending ideas back and forth or, jamming in real-time?
I did release some collaboration tunes, but not that many to be honest. I worked together with my long time friend Charlton (as Diabla Diezco) and of course back in the days with Vincent de Wit, who really helped me a lot when I started making music. Also some tracks with Radial, but we actually finished only 2 or 3 I think. Most of the collaboration tunes were created together in the studio. One of my personal favourite tunes ‘White Pony’ was a collaboration with Ortin Cam, where I would just send loops and ideas over and he put together the final version of the tune, with this typical long crazy OC break in it. These days I prefer to just make music on my own most of the time, since I sometimes feel like there’s a brake on me when I’m together in the studio with someone. Last couple of try outs were not that successful in my opinion, but who knows, maybe when it feels right I start doing something again. I actually have some plans for a special new project in this direction, but can’t really say something about that yet, since there’s also a chance it won’t be happening, so I keep it it quiet for now.