New Arrivals: Maarten Hercules
There's more to Maarten Hercules than just a strong name. This young talent has been making waves in the trance scene since his 18th. Now, almost four years later, he's put himself in the spotlights on Ava Blue. 'Shine A Light' is the dish he serves, with all the main ingredients a good progtrancer needs. After working under several distinctive guises and showcasing his multiple styled sound in several releases, he's right where he wants to be: on his way up. Time to catch up with the big chief in his own little kitchen.
GastronomistBorn in 1987, this youngster was introduced to all types of music from an early age. And while some stick to the main poppy kind of stuff, Maarten was more indulged by the hypnotizing beats and synths of trance music. Maarten: "In 2001 I kept hearing these amazing, deep melodies on the radio, having no clue about any names or even a genre. I asked my classmates at that time and they told me which tracks I should check out. I later realized that the sound from the radio was trance music, which was what everyone was listening to at that time! Since then, I have been hooked to dance music. Basically from then on, I haven't spend a day without listening to music. The thing with me is that I don't listen to just electronic music, I'm also a big Jazz fan and basically anything that's funky and alive. For these past few months, a really good friend Melissa introduced me to Indie music and I've been exploring that type of music as well. Dance music is just really important to me, honestly I couldn't live without it." Even though his taste will always be diverse, it's still trance that catches him the most. Maarten:"The good thing about trance music in particular is the way it gathers people to one area, even if they are from a different country. Every time I attend a big dance event here in The Netherlands, the venue is filled with fanatics from all over the world, how cool is that? That's how trance music affects people!"
What's cooking, Maarten?After having a taste of all the flavours, good and bad, it was time for Maarten to find his own secret ingredient and produce his own stuff. Something that all started with an ordinary welcoming gift for his bank account. Yes, faith has a silly sense of humor. Maarten: "Years ago I opened up a bank account, where I got two cd-roms as welcoming gift from the bank. They contained some make-up software and a music creation program. I gave the make up tutorial to my sister and the other one I used. It allowed me to make the same thing I was hearing on the radio, or well, tried to anyways, haha. The things that I was making sounded so bad but what I found interesting was how I loved to play around with the software. The software was very limiting though, so I figured there should be something better out there and ended up with FruityLoops 2. Up to today, I haven't changed my audio software and we're now at version 9! Time flies when you're having fun, right?" Absolutely right, Maarten.
The first of many dishesAfter his little producing adventure, it didn't take long before things got more serious. In 2005, his first contract was a fact. Maarten: "William Holland from Enhanced in the UK was really interested in one of my first finished productions, called 'Harmonics', which had a few deep and proggy elements hidden inside. He picked me up and asked Rob Stevenson and Jon O'Bir to remix it, which was a total surprise for me! We did a swap remix job which means I'd have my take on their 'Escape', so that greatly helped me get my name out there as a newcomer in the relatively closed community it was, then." More dishes followed, and before he knew it, Maarten was doing remixed for the likes of Joni Ljunqvist, Orjan Nilsen, Michael Badal and Sequentia. He even started collaborating with Joni under the Pax Royale guise, with 'There's Always Music' as the electro-feeling yet trancy result. Maarten: "Me and Joni are both pretty busy with our studies and Joni is even graduating this year but we do have an amazing follow up for 'There's Always Music'. It just needs a few more tweaks and we're ready to go but for some reason it's still not out." Another collab, is 'After '87', with fellow Dutchie Tim Preijers. Maarten: "Tim is living in another city now, which makes it harder for us to get together and work on projects like we use to. We recently launched a tech-house project called 'Traintickets - One More Time' and I believe that one is going pretty strong! Other than that there's plenty of unfinished projects but I can't promise too much, as it will just take a lot of time for them to be finished."
Herbs and Seasonings Besides the collabs, Maarten also pours out tracks under his own fake identity. Fa Kin Su Pah was called to life in 2008, for a delicious package called 'Big Chief's Herbs'. Not exactly your average name, but still Maarten written all over. Maarten: "The first reason to use guises is that it allows me to release different styles, the other reason has to do with contracts and name exclusive deals with record labels. My main projects are still being put out under my own name though. Oh, speaking about names, why do British people have such a hard time pronouncing Maarten with two a's? They always end up calling me Martin, haha. I guess it's a typical Dutch name. Maybe I should release under Fa Kin Su Pah, just for them."
What to think of 'Caramel Conclusions' and 'Lightning Buzzyear'? They all got a special ring to it. And that's one of many ways Maarten stands out. Maarten: "The sad thing about today's digital music is there's nothing to hold in your hands and look at. In the past you had CD's and vinyl's with full color prints and titles in fonts that really fit the songs. The only readable or visual thing about today's music is the labels' logo and the track title. That forces me to come up with something unique, to stand out from the masses of tracks that are no more than file names on people's computers and iPods. So basically, I might suck at my names but at least there's a theory behind all that." Creativity sometimes moves in mysterious but funny ways.
Fusion CookingDiversity is the key word to Maarten's productions. 'Harmonics', 'Red Sun Landing' and 'Shine A Light' are all very hard to pigeonhole, as they come close to progressive trance, but run away with tasty house as well. To Maarten, it's all about his 'own swing'. Maarten: "I see how the world welcomes my music more and more but it's a slow process. I'm probably not commercial enough to make a big radio hit that the masses are hungry for. I do adapt to how the main sound is changing, but I still want to add my own swing to it, you know? So yeah, it's not really something that's on my mind and I just make what I like! I always begin by putting down some notes and chords that describe my mood. Trance is a bit more aggressive and energetic than other types of dance music, like house. Progressive has that deep, calm feeling to it and there's so much crossovers between those. So basically I start with the notes, then add elements that fortify the emotions it triggers. The result can be anywhere, so I wouldn't know how to describe my sound. Perhaps just Nu Trance? I like that term Nu Trance as of late, all sorts of dance music are coming together. House DJ's play trance music and the other way around. Mash-ups are being made out of different styles. It's just awesome, why stick to one thing?"
Fire it upAt the moment, Maarten's still studying fulltime and produces all the good stuff in his spare time. Though he'd love to give music his all, it were his parents that put his feet back on the ground and forced him to go for a backup plan. But once the study's over, Maarten's definitely got some exciting plans to put in motion. Maarten: "After my study I want to pick up the dj'ing again. I think there's not many guys like me, that only produce. People ask me to spin and do guest mixes and that's really awesome but if I'd do that next to study and productions, I would have to let go on the production side of things. I just can't cause I love it too much. My parents pushed me to finish at least one study as a backup plan. But if it was up to me I'd already be doing it full time."
But in the meanwhile, there's more than plenty to enjoy. 'Shine A Light' is Maarten's fresh contribution to AVA Recordings and has just hit the portals. A lively feel good track, with uplifting synths and housy kicks. Maarten: "I think it's the closest track to 'Body Fusion'. Containing a phat bassline and bouncy percussion with a nice drive. Like all productions, I start with the melody and that's what the main theme is build around. It has a strong bass drum as well, as I personally love to hear that back in a club. A solid beat where trancy sounds float around, that's sort of the thought behind it. Tim's Remix is a more deeper approach, with stabby sounds and shuffling rhythms. It still has that main hook though and I think the result works very well."
As for the future, we're very much looking forward to the promising productions coming up. Maarten is more than willing to give us a hint of what else he has in stores for 2009. Maarten: "I plan to do loads of remixes of which Sequentia's 'Infinite Horizon' is out and I'm working on one for a brand new record label from Cellection. I also did a remix for Danjo vs. JPL and going to start one soon for Peter Smith under his Monogato guise. Last month I had an EP on Intuition and that one is going well as well. For those interested, I'd say: follow my blog on myspace, as I'm going to post more frequently there! Feedback of all sorts is always welcome!" As you know, a chef is nowhere without the blessing of his costumers.
More info on Maarten Hercules, check Maarten's Myspace.