Exclusive Interview With Michel De Hey
Rotterdam’s pride Michel de Hey is, in no small part, responsible for the city’s now vibrant house and techno scene. For over more then two decades he has championed the best the genre has to offer through his own tight DJ sets, radio shows, productions and, of course, courtesy of his own labels including HEY! and the late EC Records. From funky house to big rolling techno via everything in between, de Hey can do it all.
With his talent as a producer, skills behind the decks and a variety of different genres, Michel opened the door to techno and tech house for a major crowd of lovers throughout almost 30 years. And he still does so today. He succeeded to get a solid reputation abroad through his excellent DJ performances at clubs, parties and festival events across the globe! Together with his ever so popular radio show HEY!Muzik which by now is broadcasted in more then 10 countries.
His own productions have joined the dots between sleek and stripped back techno, groove laden minimal and more propulsive tech house. Labels to have released these sounds include EC Records, Circle Music, DFTD as well as Noir and Bedrock Records, with in-the-know DJ’s always playing his records all over the world.
So too does the man himself tour, regularly playing top clubs and festivals like Womb, Japan, Circo Loco and Space in Ibiza, Weekend in Berlin, Mysteryland USA and many others across Europe and the Middle East, including the upcoming Amsterdam-based Free Your Mind on 6 June, 2015. Given Michel’s ability to thread together so many styles and sounds on dancefloors everywhere it’s no wonder he has mixed many compilation CDs in his time like No Nonsense, Technological Elements, Impulz, Dance Valley on Ibiza and many more.
“I really can’t see myself doing something that would make me happier than this. If they have to push me behind the decks on a wheeled walker, so be it.”
How was your musical upbringing?
There wasn’t any. My dad didn’t have any records or tapes. When he was moody he sang Edith Piaf, but that’s about it. My siblings had some singles – any young people reading this and don’t know what singles look like, they’re tiny vinyl records – but mainly for radio.
Back in the day, you had these local pirate radio stations and that’s actually where I developed my taste in dance music. Most of them were dedicated in playing specific genres like Disco or Italo. You didn’t have Shazam or anything, so the records were nothing short of a mystery and you’d have to go to a record store and hope they were nice enough to help you in your quest to find that specific record. I still bump in to records from those days that I remember hearing on those pirate radio stations.
Before I got into DJing I was already making mixtapes for school parties. I was about 11 years old; a friend and me would record it the day before. Of course they sounded awful, no actual mixing, but I really enjoyed making it and could’ve been my gateway into DJing.
So how did your parents react when you told them you wanted to focus on DJing?
My parents weren’t really excited. I started mixing when I was studying economics in university; shortly thereafter I went for English. You see, I’m from a big family: 8 siblings and all have been successful in acquiring their academic degree, well except for me. I couldn’t really find my way in university and was already playing enough gigs to get by. So, after a while I dropped out to give it a shot in being a full time DJ.
Your focus was on DJing, so how come you suddenly had that hit record ‘Break’?
I worked at Midtown Records where I met guys like Secret Cinema and Paul Elstak, who is now known as a hardcore DJ but used to be a real connoisseur in house music, and learnt a lot from them.
Midtown wanted to start a label and asked me if I had any tracks for them. I only bought an old sampler a year before, so it was amazing to see that my second record on Midtown was picked up in the States. At first I didn’t even know how well the record did. By coincidence, I opened the [Billboard] magazine and there it was, my name and record in their top 10.
I wasn’t really busy with things like that and didn’t regard myself as a good producer; I was better at recognising quality than making it. I just rammed things into the sampler. I had ideas that were good, but the execution wasn’t.
Being in the Dutch house/techno scene for such a long time, how do you stay relevant?
Of course I’m almost part of the first generation of DJ’s but I still play for young crowds. I still manage to find an audience even though your dad or mom might’ve danced in the same club, to the tunes I was playing. It’s fun to see people from that age still going to clubs, but those aren’t frequent clubbers. It’s the young crowd that goes to the club every single weekend that I play for. That is what staying relevant is all about: having an audience. I also host a radio show on Fresh FM; have my own label and club night; still doing remixes here and there; and, of course, I still love what I’m doing.
I still enjoy DJing so much! Last time at Winkel van Sinkel I had to play after Andre Galluzzi. Normally I’m not a big fan of the “graveyard shift”, but this was something else. The vibe in that place seemed like it would last forever. I really can’t see myself doing something that would make me happier than this. If they have to push me behind the decks on a wheeled walker, so be it.