Pim is a much respected figure in the music community and carries with him some serious musical baggage. From early records on Murder Capital, together with I-F, to solo releases on his own label Pametex, he brought out top notch electro with a stripped down sound. As a DJ he often takes the less-beaten path and turns it into a true musical experience. He has an extensive record collection and if you are lucky enough to find him working in the store, he’s going to bleed your pockets dry!
The first time I met Pim we didn’t know much about each other but we immediately clicked and our conversations went from music to society and the fate of the world. Shortly after, while listening to Pim’s selection at one of the monthly vinyl sessions at Panenka Bar in Rotterdam, I knew I wanted to learn more about his journey through music.
Between us there is a big difference in musical experience and cultural background. However, he passionately engages in dialogue, shares his wisdom, and while he’s telling you the stories you feel yourself becoming part of his mental music map on which he thrives. At the end of the day you walk out inspired, motivated and even more curious than before.
How did music become a part of your life?
Everybody has their own story. But for me, I grew up surrounded by music. My parents are both into music and they thrive on it. My father is really interested in African music and reggae. And my mom loves jazz and old RnB. My whole basis was their collection of about 250 records. All my friends heard Fela Kuti and Lee Perry from my dad and we were all just amazed. It never left me and it’s still what drives me.
We had dance parties at our house and even a birthday celebration would usually end up in loud music. Then, when I grew up and went to school I started making friends around music. A lot of it was hip-hop.
It seems that hip-hop was a big deal for you back then. How did you get in contact with it?
Well, when I was about 8 years old there were these kids’ magazines with graffiti. I was interested in that and even had my own tag. And you could see it happening in the city (The Hague) of course. Basically that's part of hip hop culture: you’ve got graffiti, music and great dancing. There was also this silly movie, called Breakin‘ where Ice – T was rapping over some crazy record called 'Reckless'. This record is insane! It still is insane, especially the instrumental. In that same movie another guy is breaking on Kraftwerk's 'Tour de France'. And I went nuts of course!
So this happened, and then in ‘86 there was this documentary on TV by a Belgian journalist who went to NY to interview LL Cool J, RUN DMC and all these guys. They were just on the street, so they were pure and real and getting big. At the beginning the sound was really new and they used mostly drum machines. When it went more into funk it intrigued me because I didn't know all the records they were using. "What the hell is this record? Holy fuck, what is this?" And I still have that. When I hear a great hip-hop record I really need to know what its source is.
Did music production come as a follow up on you interest in hip-hop?
I think I bought hip hop until I was 16. The transition to techno happened when I heard Stasis / Nuron – Likemind 01, which blew my mind. Interest in production started at the same time. A friend of mine was really into rapping and he wanted to produce his own stuff so he was looking for drum machines on the local flea-markets. He managed to find a half-wrecked Roland CR-8000 which I later bought from him. It was my first piece of music equipment and in my mind it looked like a very exotic typewriter from Eastern Europe. It was crazy... beige with colored knobs. I eventually sold it and that's something I really regret. I never should've sold it.
It all went in a different direction when I met I-F. At the end of its life, his shop was appointment only, because he didn't feel like sitting in the shop all day. I would go there, the door would open, and the door would close behind me with a lock. I would be there browsing through the new stuff and he would say "Yeah... if you need me, I’m in the back". He was making a racket, he was producing acid – he was totally into hard acid at that time. One day he said "Yeah... help me, I’m stuck!" I couldn’t help him; I didn't know what to do. But we became friends, we clicked over music. The first thing I really did was a remix for I-F’s album. He showed me how to do it and I did.
What gear did you use in your early productions?
An Alesis MMT-8 sequencer, Nord Lead 1 synthesizer, an 808 and some basic effects. I had also my CR-8000 and a borrowed Korg MS-10.
I sat on I-F’s living room floor. His shop had closed by then and he moved the stuff to his crazy apartment: full of records, just a red light, and blacked-out windows. It had a club like atmosphere; you would really be in there and zone in on the music. It was the beginning of our collaboration.
Do you have a specific workflow while producing?
How I make music is simple: I make a beat and a bass line and the rest will follow. So I make a melody around the baseline and add some strings later. That’s how I like to work. To work on a computer I find overwhelming. It’s the same with the MPC 1000. It’s a really different way of working, because you work from this root file. And I’m like, "Root? What the hell is root? Just give me my fucking... where is my pattern?" I guess it takes some adjusting.
When do you feel comfortable to share your production with others?
I am never insecure about sharing my music because the things that are in my music are from me. My expression is pure, warts and all.
Do you play your own music?
I hardly ever play my own stuff. Let other people play it. I am proud of the music I made, yet I usually don’t play it in any of my sets. My stuff is quite nerdy niche, and I rarely get to that place where I can play that kind of music.
I am curious how you are at a party. Are you a person that goes to dance or to listen?
I am basically a bit of an asshole. I am super strict. If a DJ is not playing what I like then it's not happening for me. It’s just loud. "This is just hurting my ears, I'm leaving! This is no fun." Otherwise, say if Theo Parrish is playing, I’ll probably dance. At some point I know I did - 15 years ago - when it was a new experience for me, it was insane, it was amazing. I danced to that!
So you pick up on the selection...
Totally on the selection! Also, sure, if the vibes are good. Sometimes people don’t necessarily play what I know I like, but they play something new that I find interesting. Or they are technically very good. So I'll stay and listen.
When I started DJ-ing I was purely interested in music and not necessarily dancing. At some point I was asking myself "why are these people not responding to this music? Oh, it's totally in minor, it has sad chords. Of course they are not dancing, it makes sense."
But also, I find that there are people – most of the successful DJs - who are really in it for the entertainment part. They are not only in it for the music. Of course it's part of it, but they're mostly entertainers. And I have a great respect for them. It’s a difficult thing to do. They mostly thrive on how people react to something. They might play something they don’t really like, but it’s hot now so they're loved for it. It doesn’t make them bad; we just have different perspectives.
How do you make your selection for a party?
I just need to know what records I have with me. A party atmosphere is pretty narrow as it is. So maybe people want to go deeper, or they want to go faster, or a little bit harder. It's very basic but, still, it took me years to break it down to that. For some people it comes natural but, for me, I had to learn that skill.
You were saying that at the beginning you were playing just the music you liked. Was it more about sharing or were you aiming for a reaction as well?
It's the sharing thing. I guess I am really nerdy somehow; the music I played was really nerdy. It was this niche techno which I still find really interesting and people are still obsessed with. But it's not for everybody. You won't see any girls dancing to it. That's for sure. But you will probably see 20 nerds in the corner totally freaking out because you play this record that they are looking for.
Since we're at it, can you share one title of that nerdy stuff, as you call it?
Well, it's really nerdy and you really shouldn’t play it if you want people to dance. If there are any girls there and you want them to dance, don't play it.
Why do you say you shouldn’t play it for the girls?
Well, it's because you reach a point where you know your party is fun because the girls are dancing. If the girls are dancing then the guys are dancing too. And then you’ve got a party!
What is, for you, important in a mix?
I don’t necessarily need mixes. Nowadays, I think they are totally overrated. It has to do with the history of dance music and how it started in New York in the 70s, when marginalized subcultures were brought together through music and dance. Therefore, the club was a place to escape and mixing was the tool for that. There is this great book about it, by the way [Love Saves the Day: A History of American Dance Music Culture, 1970-1979 by Tim Lawrence]. So that's where it started, but now most people consume music differently. I think nowadays club culture has lost most of its edge. There’s no urgency (luckily maybe). Except for people that lived during those times. You can feel their edge, it's different.
What you’re saying reminds me of a recent set from Sadar Bahar in Bird (Rotterdam) and how powerful those old soul and funk records sounded in the club.
When you play a YouTube link of some soul record you think: "Hey, it's nice radio music!" But when you're in a club and you hear the bass stomping loud, you feel it in your bones. "This is where house music came from!"
When you hear Sylvester – 'Over and over' in a club it's everything you need. It's from ‘77 and it's as pure as it gets.
People might not know this, but you are huge soundtrack collector. Do you mind telling how that happened?
Well, it came from multiple directions. My mom used to have Quincy Jones records. Quincy Jones made jazz and he produced Michael Jackson. He also used to make movie soundtracks which intrigued me and I was really into movie funk jazz because of this. That was the beginning for soundtrack collecting. My mom has had those records since I was five but the realization that they were soundtracks came much later, when I was already in my teens.
I always skipped on Morricone because every record store would have a soundtracks section and separately Ennio Morricone. I thought: "It’s probably lame because it’s easy to find (wrong on both counts when you get into it)". Then I heard the soundtrack from The Thing with Ferenc (I-F). It’s amazing and really different from his other work! The movie was made by John Carpenter. He usually made his own music, great synthesizer stuff. But he was a fan of Ennio Morricone as well so he asked him to make the music for his movie, which he did. In the end, the soundtrack is basically Ennio Morricone emulating John Carpenter’s style, yet making it his own. Ennio Morricone is a maestro, he’s insane, as close to god as you can basically be... in music. I think so, at least.
What’s your take on what is currently referred to as “the vinyl revival”?
I think the vinyl revival thing is driven by people who want their musical experience to be a tactile one, instead of an mp3, which I totally get. There are also people who like to collect vinyl for their scarcity, color, weight, autographs. You name it. Maybe they play the download and they own the vinyl. And the vinyl shouldn’t be 180 grams... you really don’t need it. The thinner, the better. For me at least. It sounds excellent, you don’t need a heavy record.
By the way, what is the added value of a thick vinyl?
If you play classical music with a great variability in loudness, it’s possible the noise of the motor will be picked up by your stylus in the quiet parts. A thick record won’t allow much resonance to come through from the motor into the needle. That’s it, basically. No need for it if you play dance music, or loud rock. If you have a thin vinyl, it doesn’t matter. The stamp is the same and in the middle it’s just plastic. It’s just heavier in your bag. It’s bullshit. Just like colored vinyl. You don’t need it.
Do you think vinyl will ever die?
I am not sure... it probably will at some point. Actually, there was a podcast on that from the Vinyl Factory, where they talk about the greatest threat to the industry. For instance, they were complaining about Record Store Day. Vinyl survived purely on dance music but now it’s being picked up by big companies again. Record Store Day started out as a day to give your record store love but now there are special releases just for it. The industry thought: "Ok, we do this release for our popular act of the day, and we do a Record-Store-Day-only release. Everybody likes this act, so everybody wants to buy it." So, they press 10.000 copies. Other big companies do the same and all the pressing plants are busy with just major releases. Then, the small guys are shoved back – their releases are late because of Record Store Day. So, people wait in line to buy all the major releases and then sell them on eBay straight away. There’s no love, it’s nothing. It’s just shit.
But vinyl is still cherished. It will never leave. Even if you don’t have electricity you can still play a vinyl with a needle and a big fucking horn. And you have music! It’s true!
Can we reach a point when we are free from the need to possess things?
I've seen it happening to some people actually. Some of them used to be obsessive collectors. They knew the vinyl’s worth and knew what they wanted, but now they’re done with it. Some of them just play digitally and sell most of their vinyl. They only keep the records to which they have a strong emotional connection. I’ve got great respect for that because I have great difficulty submitting to that idea, although I see the appeal.
Is it a form of liberation?
Of course it is. For me as well. Sometimes I think about what I could’ve done with all my money. And it also makes it much easier to move. You just have a couch, a table, a few chairs and a laptop. How easy is that? It’s beautiful! And yet, with all the music you want. Because it’s all in the cloud or on your hard disk. I think if I was 20 now I wouldn’t start collecting vinyl. Really! I’m locked in now and I know the beauty of it. I try to guard myself from this. My taste is broad now and digging is very dangerous.
Where do you find yourself in the universe of music?
I have a map of stuff connected in my head which is never complete. But I like that, I thrive on that. You get to know how little you know, actually. That’s the only thing that makes you want to know more. You never know everything.
Music is intangible, vibrations in the air which make you cry. It's a human experience. A piece of music from the other side of the world can make you think: "holy fuck, how the hell did they make this?" It moves you. It's so cool! "Bored of music?" I don't think so. It will never happen. To me, at least. It will never happen!