The Dutchman Orlando Voorn has been active since the 80s and has explored genres such as techno, house, drum‘n‘bass, ambient, hip-hop or electro under various project names such as Basic Bastard, Fix, Format, Frequency or The Nighttripper or his own name. He also collaborated with representatives of the Detroit techno scene such as Juan Atkins, Derrick May and Blake Baxter and finally moved to the USA himself. We spoke to the busy producer about the techno movement then and now, the magic of the Detroit sound, memorable collaborations and how his own production approach has changed over the years.
Beat / How have you been since the last album “Moments In Magic”? Did you have time to relax or did you jump straight into the next production? Orlando / Making music is like relaxing for me. It is something I do on a daily basis with the goal to perfect the craft and to make musical journeys depending on my mood. I do whatever floats my boat. The first rule is I have to like it myself before it goes out to the people. I also live of music, so I have to keep my hustle on point. Better than any 9 to 5 job, so I take my stuff serious and with the technology of today everything can be done in a much shorter period than it was back in the early nineties.
Beat / You are based in the US now. When did you move there, and where do you live? Orlando / When I was about 34 I moved to Detroit as I was able to do at that point due to a divorce. I always wanted to go to Detroit and hang out much longer there than just the occasional two weeks. So I decided I would take a chance and just left. At that time trance music was highly popular in The Netherlands. It drove me insane, and I really wanted to surround myself with people who understood where I was coming from music wise. Detroit seemed the best option for me. I started Ignitor Records there at Submerge and was good for a few years. Then love came around the corner and I moved to Seattle/Washington. Now I am residing in Georgia and I feel good right here as I can make noise as loud I please.
Beat / As a pioneer of early techno how do you see the scene today? Do you still feel the same excitement? Is it still a “scene”? Orlando / Well, the difference between where it started and where we are right now is really a far spread. It used to be about how talented you were and it was more personal. Meeting people in the record shops, buying records with someone giving you a pile of new imports. It also was still possible to do various things in one setting. Meaning styles of music and that was at a surety point, just not possible anymore. It splintered up in boxes where you would only hear one style of music. Wether it‘s techno, house, breakbeat, electro and so on ... it all kind of went in a box. Now there is a good and bad side to each element. The good thing is you don‘t have to irritate yourself to a style you really can‘t stomach. But on the other hand it seems pretty boring to hear the same style the entire night unless a DJ can make it special and take you on a journey. What I don‘t get and don‘t really support is techno with no soul and no feeling, just a beat going on, have the bombs go to the breakdown and boom back to the same boring beat. I think it‘s useless. I like to get taken on a trip from earth into music. I think there are only a couple of DJs known that know how to do it and most likely there is somewhere out there a genius with the right taste but just not the hunger to show the world. The DJ now is rated upon likes and followers. It‘s a corporate business now, known as business techno. There are tons of memes about it all over the net. Those so-called top-DJs are putting out tracks ghost produced by a third party and wave the love sign when they play their “own” record. Apart from that there is obviously great music to be found. It‘s most of the time beneath the surface instead on top of it.
Beat / You cooperated a lot with the Detroit scene. What made the Detroit sound special for you? Orlando / Soulful, playful, energetic. Squeeze the funk out of machines. That connection I had early not only with Detroit but with anything revolutionary that happened in that era. Electro hip-hop was my first love in that vain and disco, too. When I first heard Detroit techno I was like I really dig this the raw way of putting tracks together and later developed in sophisticated productions where the soul drips off. It is the most important thing that it grabs me, that it moves me and motivates me to create something in that style and put yourself in it. I also think that I was lucky to be in that time period because everything was different. Everything was based upon respect for each other and plainly looked at the result of what it was that someone did. I remember giving Kevin Saunderon a DAT tape with „Fix Flash“ and „Dope Computer“. He took it to his car and said let me drive and listen in the car. While I stayed in the studio he went on a drive and then came back and said we gonna put „Flash“ on a Side and „Dope Computer“ on the flip. It was like I was there all along, everything went real smooth.
Beat / Is there one person you cooperated with you learned from the most? Orlando / Yeah, from Juan Atkins I learned an important detail and that is there are no rules. If you apply rules on what you create you limit yourself and that is what keeps you from being innovative. I also learned a lot from Steve Clisby, a musician that taught me the chord structures. I could study them and then apply in my music. I think without that I would not have grown this much production-wise. Furthermore, I also know the things a producer needs to have first and foremost is intonation. You have to be able to know what goes together from simple to very complex. A true producer is born with that skill set. You can‘t really learn that. It is in you, and it is as far I am concerned a must that you have those skills. That goes for DJs the same. If you are tone-deaf, please find another profession because all you do is irritate the audience‘s ears. I learned the most from looking at people I admired in that time and get inspired to do things.
Beat / It‘s amazing how many aliases you used in your career. What‘s the reason to use so many names? Orlando / It‘s the output. I have tons of releases and that way I could keep on pushing them and later people found out it was me doing them. It was also a way to do different vibes of tracks. Nighttripper is more the harder techno side, then you had Format which is more Detroitish house post techno.
Beat / And is there one “project” which is the most important one for you? Orlando / As of now I have many projects that are out or still coming up that are important to me. But the first huge success I had was with the Format track „Solid Session“. That record along with Fix „Flash“ was my breakthrough. My collaboration with Juan Atkins and Infiniti called „Game One“ also became a huge classic. I think those are the most important records.
Beat / Which music do you like today? Do you follow current movements on the market or do you prefer listening to the classics? Orlando / I grew up with many styles of music. Nowadays, I put that into my own productions. Little elements from each genre. I am getting updated with many things. But I am going to be honest, there is not much time I waste on listening to other things unless it really gets my attention and demands it. I produce music daily, and so I do of course check other music just not as often as I make it myself. This way I keep free from distractions of styles that I don‘t want to be associate with. I am always looking for the perfect beat.
Beat / Recently you released the new EP “Internal Destination“. Did you have a vision before you started to create the tracks what you want to accomplish? Orlando / There is a bit of history around this track. Initially it was a project I would complete and put out with Morgan Anson who initially started Soul Stage Records. But Morgan passed away shorty before it would have been released. As far as how I produce depends on the mood. For instance, I know this was going to be melodic techno opposed to harder stuff. But making music is like painting. Everything has to fall in place.
Beat / Do you have the dance floor in mind while composing? Orlando / Yeah, that is the case in this one, but also something you can play at the house. Most of the things I have done were more dance floor orientated things, but I also enjoy going completely left field with a production. I think it‘s important that somehow the craft elevates.
Beat / How do you create music today? How does your setup look like? Which synths and drum machines did you work with? Orlando / Today I am super simple. I create everything on a MacBook Pro with Yamaha powered monitors and a M-Audio keyboard controller.
Beat / Which DAW do you use? Orlando / I use Ableton the most and Reason. Ableton is a perfect DAW for me. It is a canvas that you can fill up without limitation. And if there is a problem there are ways to go around that. Reason is great for soulful Detroitish stuff. I use it quite a bit but prefer to mix it in Ableton.
Beat / The question software or hardware is a big clash of different philosophies. How is it with you? Orlando / I have been grown up with analog but as it is right now I am doing everything digital. Yet my extensive experience with how to color and mix your work of course helped me out a lot. I’m not dissing analog by any means, but it has slowed me down tremendously. I would sit in front of the Oberheim OBMX and turn knobs for a couple of hours just trying to get something. I was really down for just wasting time. Right now I am 5 times more productive. If a track doesn‘t work for me there is the trashcan and up to the next. Total automation is powerful.
Beat / Do you have a tactic so that you don‘t get confused by the multitude of possibilities when searching for sounds, but rather reach your goal quickly? Orlando / Yes I learned less is more but make sure what you have is outstanding quality of sounds and use good VSTs. Beat / Are you a tech nerd who is always up to date with what‘s appearing and constantly buying new software? Orlando / No, I am not, but I am pretty picky about sounds and what I want to use.
Beat / Were there any tools in recent years that were a “gamechanger” for you? Orlando / No not really, but I do remember working on PC before the Mac came out, and it was a horrific nightmare. I think Steve Jobs saved the creative producer with a smaller budget and bigger dreams. I have been working on the same Mac for over 12 years. It‘s all in the mind and how you know your gear. My speakers are great I know them on the back of my hand..
Beat / Are there any special ingredients like effects that you always use that make your sound what it is? Orlando / Well yeah, of course effects and compression etc. are the sauce to the mix. Especially if wanting to have a crisp open mix but still in your face. I am a level pusher for sure and have to calm it down every so often because things get too hot. I can distinguish the difference now very well. I know that a good mix starts with a good production and ingredients. If you don‘t have that the mix will never be correct.
Beat / How far does your perfectionism go in the studio? Is it difficult for you to let go of a song? Orlando / It‘s not difficult to let go of a song anymore. It used to be when I had all the analog gear still along with a bunch of FX outboards. Now I am also able to produce faster and either save or delete what I have and switch to as many projects as I please. If I am working on five different things I can easily switch between the projects. That way I won‘t get trapped into one thing and can finish things with fresh ears the next day. Most of the time I am a perfectionist. But I also can be a bit lazy and think something is good enough. Listening to it later I think by myself, wow that was some weak shit. It happens to the best of us but 90% of the time I know exactly when it is finished and ready for production.
Beat / What’s next on your schedule? Orlando / I just signed a 4 track project deal with the label Axis. I made the tracks in three days and sent them over. His response was very fast, and he seemed very pleased. Expect us to do more things in the future. This is a sci-fi space infused project. Think of it as how it would sound if aliens made electronic music. I have a lot of releases coming between soulful funk house with some special guests, a jazz type album, a collaboration with Amp Fidler for Burek Records and with Mike Banks from UR later this year. I am expecting to do some remix work on Funakelic as the distributor is planning to release those albums again. My goal is to do a collaboration with George Clinton and Bootsy Collins on one of my funk orientated works. These are just a few things. There is much more coming.
Published 7:45 am on Monday 10th May 2021 by Beat Magazine