“It looks like there is a growing interest in quality house music in the places that you wouldn’t immediately associate with dance music. It seems like the crowds in these smaller cities are much more receptive of the sound I want to bring across”

It recently came to light that the forward-looking house imprint by Tom Trago, Voyage Direct, would be sidestepping into the artist booking business by opening up their own agency in collaboration with Jorn Liefdeshuis. Eager to hear more about the news, we met up with Tom on a sunny afternoon last week to talk about the new project, the last weekend at Trouw, his gig at DGTL next week and to finally clear the air on the fabled ‘missed appointment with Madonna’ story.

Photography: Timo Steenvoorden

Hey Tom! Let’s start with the big news, you’ve initiated your own booking agency? What reasons did you have for this?
Well I’ve had the idea for a long time actually. It basically came down to the fact that I already had this really close group of artists around me, who have released on my label, who I have toured and played together with for a long period of time and whom I consider to be very close friends; like Awanto3, Tom Ruijg, William Kouam Djoko and Elias Mazian. The logical next step for me was to extend the project of Voyage Direct into a stepping stone for the artists affiliated, purveying the same sound as we do in the imprint by arranging gigs for them across the Netherlands.

Half of all the guys who are connected to the label already were on the roster of Jorn, so it was an easy decision to make and say hey let’s join forces and merge under a new name. In short, that’s how Voyage Select came into existence.

What kind of experience are you guys bringing to the table to pull this off. Is it just you and Jorn running it?
We’ve got different people in the team with various experiences. I’ve been active as the connecting mechanism between a lot of different artists, bookers, clubs and promoters and did the A&R for Voyage Direct of course. Christaan Macdonald, my manager, is also in this and has had a lot of experience managing artists. And Jorn already had his own booking agency of course. So I think we come pretty prepared.

And your personal career, how is that going? From last summer until the end of the year I saw nothing but the most exotic pictures of your tour come by on Facebook. Do you now feel settled as an artist abroad?
I wouldn’t say settled. I believe my DJ career has had an organic growth over the years. You come to a city, say LA, play a gig there for 100 people. The next year you come back and those people have brought their friends along, so now you’re playing 300 people, and so on. This is maybe a bit of a slower way of getting yourself known abroad, but at the same time much more sustainable than just being a one-hit wonder.

It’s been really rewarding to see that every city I played, from Paris to Tokyo, there is this loyal group of people that come to see you and your music.

And now the focus is more on Holland again?
Somewhat, yeah.

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And do you like what you’re seeing across the country?
Yes, definitely. I’ve recently had gigs in Breda, Enschede, Leiden – you name it. It looks like there is an ever-growing interest in quality house music in the places that you wouldn’t immediately associate with dance music. The gigs themselves are also better, it seems like the crowds in these smaller cities are much more receptive of the sound I want to bring across. A welcome development.

Three months ago you lost a place that had been dear to you since its opening, and crucial to your career: Trouw. What was the closing weekend like for you?
I don’t feel like I lost it, it will always have a place inside, and the memories will vanish. And I fully supported Olaf’s decision to close the club at its peak. But yeah, it was very special. It had been my home for years. It’s where I came to eat nearly every day, and where I popped in at night at least once during the weekend if my schedule allowed it. Not only to play, but just to watch the artists and get a taste of the atmosphere that night.

Those last few months were so intense that it already felt like I was giving it closure. And the same goes for the crew working at the club, who have all become close friends of mine. The night following the morning when the doors officially closed, there was a private party with just the crew and residents. And while Olaf was playing the very last set, we were chopping up the bar with an electrical saw, symbolically starting the demolition process right then and there. The way the last nights and days went by in the club felt exactly right and were more than a worthy goodbye.