Local Rockstars: Daniel Zuur is not a DJ

Local Rockstars: Daniel Zuur is not a DJ

Feb 11, 2013 |  by  |  Music
About the author
Laura is a 25 year old nonpracticing psychologist. As a hopeless romantic she loves to write, dream and wander around the city looking for new adventures and inspirations. Stay tuned for an inside peek into the daily life of one of Amsterdam's inhabitants!

Whether you went out last weekend to check out an uber-geeky beat magician or a depressingly awesome indie rock band, we all know there’s always some serious musical talents rocking around the Dam. You might not recognize them all yet, but don’t worry, you will soon. In this series of interviews we talk to remarkable artists about their music and their inspirations.

This Friday, Studio 80 will host the fourth edition of PRISMA. Among others, local rockstar Daniel Zuur will play a triangular part in this nocturnal celebration of emo-electronica. Theatre professor by day and electronic musician by night, Daniel has been performing live, experimenting with electronic samples and releasing several EPs since 2008.

Daniel recently started his own label Zauer Records with the promising aim to produce without the limitations of existing musical genres. These recent activities were a perfect chance for me to ask him some questions and finally understand what the real difference is between a live act and a DJ. And of course, to discuss the latest developments in the electronic music scene.

Can you explain what it means to be a live performer?
“In my case it means that I start with producing in my studio. After the recording I “dissect” my samples into different tracks and arrange everything with Ableton. During a live performance, I reconstruct the sample live. I use different gear to tweak the sample, which means that you get a different sound effect every time.”

Can you describe your musical style?
“I prefer characterising my style over putting a label on it. It’s like techno but more melodic, with pushing bass lines and a reasonable amount of vocals, sometimes with singer/songwriter elements. It’s more like a mash up of styles, more complex and diffuse and therefore impossible to classify in one genre.”

How did your style evolve over time?
“Although there is always some continuity, my music is in constant change. I started out in 2008 with live sets mainly based on loops. Later on the sound became more spacey and now the focus shifted to kicking beats. I change because I’m inspired by musical trends, but also changes for pure practical reasons. Nowadays I get booked on later in the night so I have to make sure I have good beats so people can dance.”

I’ve noticed that some DJs get more popular and get booked a lot, while others just seem to fade away. It feels a bit like a Top 40 sometimes. What is your opinion on that?
“Well, it happens. That’s the way it’s always been. Artists become popular because of the way they perform and the way they entertain an audience. A good example is DJ Ici Sans Merci; doesn’t matter at what time he plays, the guy is a guarantee for absolute madness. You know that if you book him you’ll be safe. With a live act, that’s a lot riskier. In theory its possible, but the way you perform is much more dependent on the moment.”

Because of new digital techniques and programmes like Traktor, it has become very easy to mix some tracks and to call yourself a DJ. What do you think of these recent developments and what influence do they have on the local music scene?
“Well it is true that it has become easier to mix tracks together and get a good sound. And with that, the possibility to organize parties and book low cost DJs. The result is a much higher quantity than quality in our scene. On the other hand, it does give young musicians the opportunity to develop their skills. In the end, it doesn’t really matter what you use, Traktor or whatever other program, if you’re really talented you will distinguish yourself from the rest.”


Lately there has been greater focus on stage presentation and stage performance. How do you feel about that?
“If your show is good and authentic, it can definitely improve your performance. Live act KiNK for example is a guy so honest and authentic that his charisma and facial expressions add a lot to his performance on stage. Personally, I like to dance a bit while I’m performing but most of the time I’m pretty focused and calm. When I perform together with Florian Wolff, we have much more interaction with the audience. It feels more like a show and so far we’ve always gotten a good responses to it.”

Have you ever felt a pressure to produce new material?
“No I’ve never felt it. I never had a really big hit so there was no pressure to follow up on a previous successes. But I do know that that it can sometimes be hard sometimes to live up to the expectations of your audience. I don’t think I would ever have that with producing because I make music primarily for myself, not for other people. Even when I produce a commercial song, it always has a certain “Daniel Zuur” ring to it.”

PRISMA is in a week. What are your thoughts on the concept?
“I’m really happy with this initiative. It brings new opportunities for Studio 80, they now have a complete different sound to add to their already diverse program. The emphasis is back to the melodic side of techno and that is really my cup of tea. With PRISMA I have the feeling that can do what I like best.”

What kind of plans do you have for the future?
“I just started my new label ZAUER on which I want to create a platform for a more complex sound, especially more deephouse. Before, when I sent out my music I always got positive responses from labels, but it just didn’t seem to fit in their genre. So I thought: “You know what? I’m going to start a label myself!” And so I did. I have big plans, but I’m not going to tell you all the details. And for me personally, I want to make my performance more interesting by integrating more live elements, such as the Korg Wavedrum, to make it even more live.”


When: Friday 15th of February, 23:00 – 05:00
Where: Studio 80
Tickets: Presale €13 | Doorsale €15
Facebook: Event


Photography by Tom ten Seldam

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