Back in April the city of Toronto was graced with an appearance by Sied Van Riel during his ‘Rielism’ Tour, at the famed nightclub Toika. We had the pleasure of chatting with Sied, who is easily one of hardest working, most prolific producers in the Trance scene.
We eliminated the constraints of a traditional interview that serves to only ask superficial questions, and instead dove deep under the surface. Sied opens up about an array of topics including his first music video for his brand new music video for single Gravity – Sied Van Riel ft Alicia Madison, production, ghost producing, personal tragedy, the rebirth of his career, his opinion on Trance & Trouse and much more!
After reading this interview you will gain a heightened perspective on electronic music, production, and the evolution of the Trance music scene straight from the mind of a veteran.
A few months ago you finished up your Tour promoting your ‘Rielism’ brand. How would you describe the ‘Rielism’ concept?
Sied Van Riel: To be honest, it’s just me playing music that I like – that’s basically the concept. I like a lot of different things within trance so I don’t think I can literally pin point a musical concept. I actually didn’t want to have a ‘Rielism’ tour or brand outside of the compilation. But of course, there’s always management involved and they said I had to do a tour. I told them I would do it – but be warned, you’re going to get me. Mixing a CD is a different experience than mixing for a live crowd in a club. Funny story – My PR management from the UK was throwing all these puns at me like ‘Keep it Riel’ and ‘Rielistic’ but eventually they chose the name ‘Rielism’. I didn’t have much choice – I just want to play the music I like on my CDs and in clubs.
You’ve shot your very first music video last May for your latest single “Gravity” featuring vocalist Alicia Madison in Toronto. Why did you decide to shoot your video in Toronto?
SVR: Well were shooting for two days and on the second day we were out at 1.30am freezing our tits off… well she was, but you know, I was freezing something else off! [laughs] It was a really cool experience because I have done a few more vocal tracks this year and management suggested the idea of doing a video for one of my vocal songs. I was working on the track with Alicia and I personally thought this track had a lot of content and it was more me… So I wanted to do my first video clip to this one. You know, it’s kind of like loosing your virginity a bit – you want to do something special! “Ozmozis” had already booked me to play at Toika, the crew is from America and from Toronto, and Alicia is from NY New Jersey… so we picked Toronto, since it’s in the middle of everyone!
Do you have any creative input in the direction of this video or do you leave that to video producers? What is the direction of the music video?
SVR: Well I have a bit of say in the creative part because the producer is a guy that I got to know when I was touring with Tiesto. He did all Tiesto’s stuff as well and he is very dominant but he knows what he wants, so I trust him. But still I have my own vision of certain things in the video… I asked for a cameo in the video because it was my first, but wrote the script with her and I being in the video the whole time… and I am not an actor! So I told him if I was in there, I wanted to use my idea of working with gravity, literally upside down, levitating – so we rented special cameras we recorded everything half speed, double speed – it was really active shooting. He is a director who takes no bullshit. If you are 5 minutes late he will freak out, which is good because it shows he cares about what he is doing. It was hectic and a very interesting couple of days because I was late a couple times… [laughs].
I will tell you a story – this afternoon we were in the hotel room and shooting the whole fucking day and I had to do a couple of shots for the video where I had to rip up pillows with feathers… but no body from the hotel knew we were shooting in the room! There were about 8 people in the room – makeup artists and whatever – so I rip up these pillows with feathers and the whole fucking room was covered in feathers! And I was worried the hotel was going to charge me up the ass tomorrow with 400 or 500 bucks in cleaning fees… so I went downstairs and this is what I told the cleaning guy: “I am hanging out with my girlfriend and she likes feather pillows, so we bought two and got into a fight and she ripped up the pillows and spread it all over my hotel room. So now my room is fucked and I need housekeeping!”… and they actually bought my story about the pillow fight! I gave the guy that cleaned my room $40 because I was smoking in the room as well, plus we had champagne and liquor shots… the whole room was reeking of alcohol and cigarettes and feathers were everywhere – so I just bribed the guy and they never found out!
You have been providing fans with instructional production videos on Youtube. Why did you decided to do this and what kind of feedback have you been getting? How did you learn to produce?
SVR: Fans always ask you questions – “How do you do this? How do you do that? – so instead of answering every single individual question, I throw a video online to explain. I am not showing them my secret tricks, but I am showing them basics – “This is how I produce music, this is why I did this and that”. So even for people that are not interested in production, maybe it’s cool for them because before they could only hear the music, and now they can see how music looks like when it’s being made on the screen. It usually takes me a whole day, but I really enjoy doing it, because when I was starting out people helped me out as well.
When my grandmother died, I went into the studio and I made a track. There was direct, personal influence for that track. Another time, Armin said no to one of my remixes and told me that I could get better. Eventually people will hear a remix that gets released, but before that there is a whole period where you did the wrong thing and your music doesn’t get approved. So I just explain the whole story behind certain productions and remixes, because everybody thinks that its all unicorns and rainbows, but its not. My music has been influenced by personal tragedy and I have been told my stuff isn’t good enough. I mean, there is more to music or a DJing career than just “everything is fine, I want to produce and spin in my spare time”. There is a lot of bullshit that people don’t know about, so I tried to show them a bit of it… if how I do it helps you out – fine. If it’s not impressive enough –move along and go to the next one.
Did you teach yourself to produce or did you have a mentor?
SVR: A friend, who used to be a Hardstyle DJ, did help me set up my equipment and showed me how to use the software programs. But after that I just practiced by myself for months and months and months and months… Even now I still have 15 hour days in my home studio! If you really want something – no bullshit, no cheese – you have to work your ass off for what you want. As I mentioned before, my grandmother died… and even today I still feel I should have spent a lot more time with her when she was dying. Sometimes I think it’s kind of fucked up – but I was so focused on my career; I chose to work on music. She kept telling me it was okay and that she supported me, but still I don’t know. What I do know is the people who say “Oh I worked on my music in the studio for 2 hours today and I’ll work on it for another 2 hours, sometime next week” shouldn’t expect a career anytime soon unless they use ghost producers. Personally, I don’t want to use [them] because I’m a control freak… every record label and management team I’ve had have tried to convince me to go more mainstream – but I refuse to do so. I have done ghost productions for other people though.
Speaking of which, have you ever been approached by big celebrities such as, say, Rihanna, to ghost produce tracks for them?
SVR: I’ve done ghost productions for other people for years and have been approached – through the label – by artists, wanting you to do remixes and such. But when people approach me with a request like “Oh, 4 years ago you made this track – make me one like that, I want that exact same beat”, I will say no to that. Of course, you always make money by ghost producing… but at the end of the day, if fans find out that I secretly made a track for a celebrity or an EDM DJ, they will think I am a sellout. And I refuse to be that guy. I stopped ghost producing for other DJs because we would be in the studio, and they would be sitting in the back, drinking or chatting or texting their friends, while I was sweating my ass off working on the music. And it’s not even about them getting the credit – that’s fine, that’s the choice you make when you agree to ghost produce for someone, but it got to a point where I would be working on a project for someone who didn’t give a shit about the actual music and I would think to myself “Why am I doing this? I already have a music career? This isn’t helping me get ahead and they obviously don’t care about the actual music”. I am a passionate guy – whether it’s DJing or producing music or drinking or smoking [laughs] – everything I do, I do it very passionately. Do something 100% or don’t do it at all.
I noticed that you shared a very personal, sentimental story behind one of your newest masterpieces “Past Present Future” on Facebook. You “tweeted” that you will be sharing stories for productions/remixes for the week. What inspired you to “bear all” to your fans with these stories?
SVR: People think that being a DJ is just ‘living the life’ all the time… which of course, it is usually. I get to fly everywhere, play music in clubs – but to me, it doesn’t matter if I’m playing for 50 people or 5000 people. I’m sharing these stories to show people that I’m not just this guy that makes and plays music for them. I don’t share a lot of myself on the internet, but I shared these stories with fans to show them where I come from and who I am, separate from being a DJ or a producer. If people think it’s stupid or sentimental… Well, I don’t give a fuck. I’m not being emotional or trying to win people’s hearts – I’m just sharing the truth.
What are your thoughts on the current Trance music scene? Which direction do you see it going in?
SVR: I think things are going back to basics. I mean, things have to come full circle. People are getting back to the ‘138 BPM’ stuff they used to love; they’re going back to the more ‘underground’ stuff. I hope we move away from the cheese and the ‘crossover’ sound. Trance in 1994 was different to how it sounded in 2001, which is different to how it sounds now- everything evolves. I mean 2 years ago, everybody was all about Dubstep… but where is Dubstep now? What’s happening with that? Musical genres are temporary. Right now everybody is all about EDM and commercial sounding ‘trance’, but that will change eventually. It’s up to the fans.
‘Trouse’ has been gaining a lot of popularity within the last few years… Do you think it’s just a fad or do you believe it’s here to stay?
SVR: It’s here to stay but it will evolve into something more melodic. It will come back to Trance eventually. In my opinion, everyone from different scenes took our melodies and incorporated it into their music. They were hanging out at clubs where Trance would play and Trance has these big buildups and massive melodies and beautiful drops – so they would take these elements and slow them down and put them in their music or in their genres. Back then I didn’t call this ‘Trouse’ I called it ‘Slance’… which means ‘Slow Trance’. Maybe we will go back to the old school Armin or Tiesto sound, but the one true thing that will stay is the melody. Trance is always about the melody. There’s too much out there at the moment, the market is saturated – it has to collapse. Like Wall Street. It has to return to old school, we will get back to the basics and go more underground.
End of in person interview (conducted on April 26, 2014)
Follow-up E-mail Interview Conducted July 30, 2014:
How does it feel to have a residency at Full on Ibizia this Summer?
SVR: Awesome! It’s a beautiful place to visit and the parties are always good. You get a new crowd almost every week and they are all there to “lose it”. Having a residency at Space this year is a dream come true. It was THE club in Ibiza I wanted to play in and I can now cross it off my bucket list. Besides that, when I open up I can play tracks that I normally can’t play. This makes it more challenging and exciting for me because I keep the tempo at a lower BPM because I’m there to set the mood. When I close I can go ape… which is brilliant. Ferry knows I can play a wide variety of music and that I’m experienced at warm up sets and I’d never place myself above any name that plays after me.
How would you describe your summer so far in Ibiza and compare it to previous years?
SVR: I don’t really notice a difference from previous years when it comes to crowds and how busy it is on the island. The only thing that really changes every year are the venues DJs play at and the line ups maybe. My friends from Driftwood who do boat parties every year started a trance night called “Sunk” at Privilege. Which was a bit of a surprise to be honest, but a very pleasant one. It’s cool to see new promoters taking a big step on the island to do something like that. They have enormous line ups booked throughout the summer… every name in trance is playing there I think which is awesome. For me personally so far it’s been great. I’ve done 4 shows so far and have about 6 more to go. How lucky am I?
You are playing quite a few massive festivals this summer. Tomorrowland and then Dance Valley to name a few – how do you prepare for bigger festivals?
SVR: Normally I don’t prepare much. Sure, I’ll update my music and figure out what I’ll use to start with, but then that can change the minute I see and feel the vibe at a festival. I often change on the spot and take it from there. There are always tracks that I will use but at what point in my sets is the question. When I’m playing I always find a place to chill out just before my set so I can focus and control my nerves and or adrenaline. I’ll put on my poker face and act like I’m all good [laughs] truth be said… I still get that feeling in my stomach. I’ll never get used to that to be honest. Standing on a stage with a huge crowd in front of you is not normal. The minute I walk on stage though I feel [at] home and then I’m good to go!
Special thank you to Sied Van Riel for exceeding our expectations by providing us with thorough honest, thought provoking responses to our questions
For more information & tour dates visit:
Grab a copy of Rielism, Vol 2 here