Robert Bergman speaks about functionality in club music and his opinion on retroesque production methods.
As a considerable part of Amsterdam’s vibrant Club Culture, Robert Bergman already brings a lot of experience to the tables. He has regularly curated a diverse selection of vinyl at the Rush Hour store, he’s a constant member of the Dekmantel lineup since 2014 and he played at all those lovely venues like Trouw and De School, of course. It’s about time, that he graces Vienna with his visit!
How did you grow up and what was your musical environment?
Basically I grew up like an about average kid here in Amsterdam. My parents were pretty free with us, so we (my 2 brothers & I) could play any sports or other activities that we’d like to. I did not play any instruments back then – my youngest brother did though. My parents were into radio with the sort of »classic rock« songs and stuff. My mother did also really like Prince & Talking Heads, so that’s nice. Nothing too special though.
You also studied musicology. Has this shaped your musical perception and approach?
Sure it has, but just thinking about music (in a non-academical matter even) will change anyone’s perception upon it. It’s not always a good thing though, sometimes it would be nice to really break from current musical thoughts.
But it’s also really fun to combine elements from theory into my own music, even if it’s in a really twisted manner which would not be visible/audible for a listener.
Does club music have to be ‘functional’? If not, what else can or should it be in your opinion?
Well yes… to some extent at least. I think people go to clubs to have a good time, which is also why people book DJs – to entertain people. However, the manner of entertainment can be vastly different. This does not have to mean that everyone has to dance their limbs off, sometimes a good listening session with weird records can be just as rewarding.
I don’t think music needs to be functional as in having a tough kick drum or a good breakdown or whatever… But I do try to play music that people could like (even if they don’t know the music initially, they could get into it). So, in a sense, music in a club should be functional.
What aspects define your track-selection for a specific event and do you have a certain tracklist in mind beforehand?
I don’t have a playlist before any show… I could not work if I would already know how the night would be. I’ve heard of people doing so by preparing selections and mixes in advance, but to me this just seems very boring and silly (how do you know what everyone would be into before the night?!?). I do prepare a bit in a sense that I pack my record bag before any show and every bag only has space for a small amount of records. To select the records I usually try to get a feel for what else could go on that night. And then try to cross-reference this with my current mood of the day that I’d be playing, sort of.
What defines a special or ‘good’ party to you, personally?
I’ve had a couple moments which were really nice – but I think it’s really difficult to pinpoint what exactly makes it good. I guess when you and the crowd are on a same level enjoying the music, which is hard to achieve I guess. I’ve also had more super fun moments in smaller spaces with fewer people than in bigger venues with a larger crowd. Some intimacy can really help raise the spirit.
Why did you start to play records for an audience and what do you enjoy about it?
Not sure if I actually like playing for an audience that much. It’s great when people are getting on a similar level, but to me it’s kind of depressing when you’re sometimes playing your currently favorite songs and no one seems to like it.
But I guess that’s the twisted part of it, that it could be either really fun or kinda bad.
What got you into producing music and what’s your approach? Your sound reveals your love for analogue hardware, do DAWs or VSTs act any part at all?
To me making music is just an extension of collecting and playing records. Basically, I make all my music just for myself or as bits I really like to play between other songs. But as it comes with packing a record bag, making music is really mood dependent. I just start messing with my machines and then see wherever the universe takes me.
I do solely use hardware, however this is not because of some twisted aversion against computer based music, but just because I can’t make music on a computer myself. Often this is misinterpreted as being like a ‘gear purist’ or some bullshit – this is not the case. There are actually quite some guys who I really like that do a lot of stuff with computer which otherwise couldn’t be possible to make. So I think it’s good that there is an option to use computers as a tool for music.
What do you think about very ‘retroesque’ music, that tries to capture and recreate certain aesthetical and technical aspects of the past. There are certainly tons of gems to be found in the past decades, but might it actually be more crucial to look out for truly new music, exploring and experimenting with contemporary/futuristic sounds and methods?
I think ‘retro’ music is a logical counterbalance to the technological induced perfection of nowadays. Actually, I think I’m somewhat guilty of being ‘retroesque’ myself. It’s not wanting to create something that has been done before but going to the instruments that have a ‘human’ touch so to say. Slight variations and mistakes are fun in music, they make a piece of music breath and live. Whereas computers enable perfection, which is just a bit dull most of the times.
But yes, even with ‘old’ instruments I do think we should be trying a lot more new music, style- and sound-wise, but then at the same time it’s hard to break away from current forms.
You seem to have moved from Amsterdam to Antwerpen recently. How would you describe the music-scene in Amsterdam? How do you think moving to Antwerpen affects your career as a DJ and producer?
Not sure if I should really go into this one too much… I think Amsterdam is currently pretty booming music-wise, it has a few of the best record stores I’ve seen and also a lot of really great DJs – which enables a lot of competition to some extent. But at the same time, things are pretty clustered around the same things that are going on and still you’ll see the same few people playing every party. So it’s a bit boring at the same time. Not sure where the universe will take me since I’ve left, but I guess it’s going to be fun.