Artist of the Week: Rowald SteynJanuary 22nd, 2009
You can say a lot about the guy, but claiming he doesn’t have guts sure isn’t one of them. Rowald Steyn stroke down in an area not too many producers dare to land on. The untouchable classic ‘Wamdue Project – King of my Castle’ balanced in his hands, and was remade in his The Hague-based studio to receive a new, 2009 feel to it. A big, chart-popping success, we must say. But Rowald doesn’t necessarily need someone else’s input to produce something good. His own proggy duo-pack ‘Hold Control/Revolution’ has just been released on our Pilot 6 imprint and is all set to destroy some dance floors along its way. Rowald might be a bit of a mystery man, as he prefers to let the music speak for itself, but we’re going to take a sneak peek into his life anyway. Hold tight as we pass by odes to Ibiza, hit some negative feedback and hike down to hi-fi liking.
Listening, listening, listening and eventually..producing. This is usually what the story of a stereotype producer looks like. But for Rowald, it actually started a little nerdy. Rowald: ‘I’ve started producing about four years ago. My first hobby was building customized PC’s. Pretty soon I had discovered the music making possibilities of my creations. It was a lot of freaking, from early in the morning till late in the night. Neighbors going out of their mind, but great fun. I fought the biggest personal battles with my short attention span, but the desire to actually finish something grew by the day.’ The Hague is where this talented producer lives, and right there is where he has found the perfect place to spill out his beats and work out the diversity of his ideas. Rowald: ‘I moved to a deserted school building in the suburbs of The Hague, where I had all the space to build a modest studio where I could bang my music without bothering anyone. This is the place where I developed my first complete tracks. We can debate over the quality of those early works, but to me they were ready! The music scene here is pretty tight and I made a lot of friends with likeminded souls. They helped me a lot in developing better mixing and productions skills. All the negative feedback really shaped me for the better I guess, haha.’
A small mental bubble, yet a lot of absorption
With that said, it’s time to find out how this boy actually found out about his crush on EDM. Or was there no crush at all? Rowald: ‘Well, I never fell in love with any particular style of music. I have always been drawn to music that stimulates emotions. That goes for EDM, but for a lot of different musical genres too. I love Anders Trentemoller, Nathan Fake, Thomas Schumacher and Stephan Bodzin, the list is long. I absorb it all. You can hear it back in my tracks. I switch to all kinds of styles because it is just too hard for me to focus on one genre. There is just too much that I like and I feel different every day, every hour even.’ Looks like we’re dealing with a variable mind here! Something that is definitely reflected in Rowald’s style. You can’t exactly put it in a box. Rowald: ‘My sound is telling a lot about me as a person, because it is changing all the time. I have to deal with all these impulses. I have a thousand ideas per minute and have to filter shit out. That impulsive behavior is the root of my evolving sound. Others have described my sound as clean and transparent and there is a truth in that. I like it hi-fi.’
While most young producers have a back-up plan, Rowald prefers to keep himself focus on producing only. In fact, that’s the only way for him to deal with it. Rowald: ‘I am producing full time without any sort of backup plan. I can hardly do two things at once, so even if I wanted I could not think of anything else but creating new music. I live in a very small mental bubble.’
King of his big hair
After Armada released the 2009 version of Wamdue Project’s club classic ‘King of my Castle’, we received quite a bit of feedback. Both negative and, luckily, positive. Though some people feel you should never change a winning team, the 2009 version was climbing the charts in the meanwhile, receiving airplay on numerous radiostations and far beyond. Rowald: ‘The problem of a classic is that it is a classic. And classics are locked in the collective consciousness of the public. So whatever the remake will sound like, it will face the challenge of reprogramming all those recognition patterns in people’s brains. And most people are defensive to change. It’s a natural reaction. But I am very pleased to see what a massive response it got, the discussions it generated and the fact that after eleven weeks it is still in the Top 40 and on the radio today. My version survived thanks to the open mindedness of certain people I guess. I thank them, because I need to eat and pay for my internet connection.’ It seems Rowald keeps relying on the open mindedness, for another big remake is coming up soon, ‘Storm – Time to Burn’. But first, there’s his own tasty productions. ‘Hold Control’ and ‘Revolution’ have just been released on the Pilot 6 imprint and are already supported by DJ’s like Sander van Doorn and Markus Schulz. It seems to be a promising start for this Dutchie. So what exactly divides him from any other producer? Is it the way he makes his loops? Or could it actually be the way he combs his hair every morning? Rowald: ‘Besides my hair, which is pretty big, maybe the way I create my sounds. For instance the kick drums I used in the ‘Hold Control / Revolution EP’ are not samples, but synthesized from tiny bumps of frequencies, without the use of a conventional synthesizer.’
An ode to Ibiza
As interesting as that might sound, we’re also curious about the thoughts behind both tracks. Rowald explains: ‘ ‘Hold Control’ was originally designed to become a vocal remix of a track that I was doing, but later in the production process I felt that the vocals weren’t adding anything of real significance, so I decided to leave them out and keep that dark proggy style going.
The ‘Revolution’ track is my personal ode to Ibiza. Whenever I think of the hedonistic times I had on the island I hear a certain melody in my head. This was as close as I could get to represent that special feeling. The vibe of dancing on the beach with the planes coming in over your head. Finally getting this melody out of my head into a track was a personal ‘Revolution’ so to speak.’
We are definitely feeling some good vibes here, Rowald. ‘Hold Control’ is the type of tune that makes you speed just a tad faster while driving down the highways, while ‘Revolution’ is a true highlight anthem. We’re pretty sure we’ll hear both of these crackers down the clubs. And hopefully, Rowald will provide us with many more tunes like these. Rowald: ‘I’ve got loads of new music coming up. I’m planning to do some stuff with Dash Berlin, I’ve remixed another classic, Storm’s ‘Time To Burn’ (which will probably gain me another death threat or two for doing so) and of course there will be new solo material.”
We can’t wait.
If you’re on for some more material, be sure to check out Rowald’s mix, made exclusively for Armada Music. And if you’re wondering where the tracklist is, well..you won’t find one. Rowald prefers to keep them ID’t, as he want people to judge only after hearing them.
Exclusive Mix (January 2009)
Hold Control / Revolution
One of the new discoveries in the progressive house movement is Rowald Steyn. This Dutch producer recently shocked the world with his 2009 remake of club classic ‘King of my Castle’. But this guy doesn’t necessarily need old material to score a hit. He’s now showing off his skills in ‘Hold Control’ and ‘Revolution’. His frisky, addictive style is one hard to resist. ‘Hold Control’ is the type of tune that makes you speed just a tad faster while driving down the highways, and fixes your sight to an endless horizon of beats, loops and thrilling melodies. ‘Revolution’ is a true highlight anthem, with a pure melodic break and a steady build-up towards it all. Be sure to keep an eye on this producer, cause you’ll surely be hearing his work down the clubs.
1. Hold Control
For more info on Rowald Steyn, check www.rowaldsteyn.com