Meet the line-up!
Just yesterday he blessed us with a heavenly EP that is nothing like his last name – Thomas Hell’s productions as well as his mixes demonstrate his ability to move from lightness into darkness with ease and sophistication. Always looking for contrasts, Thomas alternates between softer and harder sounds, and loves to reach into both sadness and happiness with mere minutes apart. This sensitive and curious soul digs up his inspiration from all around the world and just wants you to PONDER! The multitalented DJ, producer, and music programmer will be gracing our lineup with a two-hour opening set this Thursday at GLAMCULT SELECTS to celebrate the launch of our new issue! Read his vulnerable take on intercultural connection, belonging to a community, tears in the club, and trauma-fishing below.
Hey Thomas! How are you today?
Pretty good – I needed some sleep and I got some sleep so all is well.
You describe your DJ style as dynamic, contradictory, and emotionally charged. Can you explain more about that?
I think contradictions are fascinating to me because I used to be quite a purist – a techno set has to be a techno set, but that got boring after a while. I had some influences from artists that I saw at Le Guess Who, Pitch and Catch like seven years ago. I really liked it when you can jump emotions really quickly and you feel these oppositions from happiness to sadness, but within minutes you switch between those two. The alternating between emotions I find really enjoyable in a performance or DJ set. For me, a good club night has some tears – albeit real tears. Some sadness and some happiness.
You alternate a lot between softer sounds and harder styles depending on the mood and desired message. What can we expect for Glamcult Selects?
Slower tempos, pretty intense drum sounds and weird synthesizers. Something that’s intense but not necessarily fast. Like I said – I like going from dark to light, happiness to sadness quite fast.
Haha – what star sign are you?
I can never remember – 31st of December. Capricorn?
I feel like there could be a lot of water signs in the rest of your chart . Can you tell me how you and your work interact with the communities you’re in?
I find that a difficult question because I often struggle with a sense of community. I feel like I’m part of this underground-ish music movement, but at the same time, this is not really where I came from. I was raised in a pretty wealthy Dutch village, Doorwerth, in the woods close to Arnhem, with pretty boring hockey parents around me. Nothing against that! But in this sense of community with underground dance music, queer communities, or for example I play a lot of middle eastern music and have friends in those communities, I half-feel like I’m a part of that, but at the same time, I can sometimes feel as if I’m faking it? As if that’s not the real me, me from 10 years ago. I’ve come to accept it more, and I do think that’s part of the real me. And that’s why I play music from these communities as well.
I can imagine there can be this feeling of being an impostor within communities that you connect with more than you connect with your background. But is that fair? After all, who is born into an underground music scene?
I don’t know – I sometimes just wonder when can you call yourself part of a community. For instance, queerness is not only about sexuality, even though it’s a big part of it. Underground music is already very broad… I guess I also overthink it.
It’s always the question: Why does the part where you ‘come from’ define you the most? What defines your core identity? And who gets to define that but yourself?
Changing topic, if you could change anything about the industry what would it be?
Well – I think there are a lot of possible ways to answer this but if would focus on Utrecht or more in general the Netherlands, I’d say bookless conventional genres. I feel like there’s not enough room for experimentation and for really making someone curious about new stuff. I remember it was a pretty formative moment I saw Lyzza perform years ago. I was like woah, what is this fun take on electronic music? It doesn’t always have to be so serious, she was just singing with sunglasses on with her friends in the front row. It got me into these fun sounds. I think a lot of people need that surprise to really delve into the music. I think especially in Utrecht, that is not stimulated enough. It’s very conventional in a lot of ways.
Do you think we need a new space for that?
I don’t want to name-call places, but I think there are places where that could be done more. Tivoli is not perfect for it because it’s so clinical (space-wise) and Was. has the problem that they have to sell out and they really have financial restrictions. But something like Filmcafé was a great addition. If they would’ve existed a few years longer you would’ve heard post-club and weirder stuff a lot more now than you hear anywhere else in Utrecht.
Besides DJ’ing, what do you do in your daily life?
I studied psychology, I draw, read, and watch a lot of series. Normal hobbies. I guess you can hear my interest in psychology in what I try with music. During my studies, I focused on intercultural connections. I also like to connect groups and people. I kind of like to think about music in a similar way – if you play a non-western song in a set with more conventional [western] dance music, how does this translate? Are people more curious, when there are lyrics in a foreign language? How is the meaning of music shaped and changed within different contexts? I’m not sure it always works but I want people to ponder I guess, to be more curious.
What’s your biggest accomplishment thus far?
I wouldn’t say it’s like one thing, one gig, one festival – but I feel like I’ve discovered my sound a bit more. Not even genre-wise, but it’s more of a feeling that I try to communicate and I feel like I’m quite comfortable with that at the moment. I don’t feel limited, as if I need to be seen as a reggaetón DJ because that’s how I played last summer, I feel like you can communicate this feeling with other genres as well. Its more the feeling of playfulness, or if its a listening session it can be more of an introverted darkness even. I feel more comfortable with my sound, I’m not doing it for a show, it feels very genuine. I like that development.
Congrats! What’s your fav song at the moment?
Riri2 by Ssaliva. I feel like that’s both the listening vibe that I’m into at the moment, very ambient, but also a pop song – It’s Rihanna, really stretched out. Super unique production. I don’t know a lot of songs like it, and I really wonder how it’s made. It has a bit of both worlds that I like – quite introverted, but it also has some poppy, ecstatic feeling to it as well to me.
If you could think of your fav club lineup all time- what could it be?
Massive attack as an opener.
Going for the deep darkness as a starter huh?
Haha, yeah. Then… Flume and Vince Staples together… But maybe not after Massive Attack…It’s gonna be a bit all over the place but I would also do Derozan. I think Derozan before Tzusing, and Tsuzing as a closer. But maybe they could b2b for 6 hours or something.
Where would you do it?
I think de School – In the basement Tzusing b2b Derozan all night, Massive attack and Flume and Vince Staples in het Muzieklokaal. But maybe let’s forget about Massive Attack.
Sounds like a night I would 100% attend. What makes someone in the crowd stand out to you?
Genuine attention. Not being on their phone is a bit obvious but having their eyes closed.. it doesn’t have to be someone dancing like a madman, but maybe closing their eyes for a while, not really focusing on me but drifting away in the music. Something like that.
DJ’ing is obviously a bit of a performance – are you normally the centre of attention? Or do you have a stage persona?
I don’t really like that too much – I’m not a shy person in normal life or in groups, I like to talk and make jokes, but I like to divert attention away from myself a bit. Someone recently told me I’m a bit of a trauma fisher. Maybe because I don’t wanna focus too much on my own stuff.
What’s a question that I haven’t asked, but should?
I’m always curious about what inspires artists that is not music.
So what’s the answer to that?
I like to watch a lot of series, for example the aesthetics in some anime’s like Neon Genesis Evangelion – it’s a bit like what I like in music, bright colours, fast paces, action – robots fighting aliens on the surface. But on the inside, it’s about depression, loneliness, its pretty existential. Those contradictions, whatever artform can capture that really well and can alternate between those in a way that doesn’t feel artificial, that’s really a good imitation of life and that I very much enjoy.
You talk about sadness, darkness and loneliness, is this something you deal with? Just to trauma-fish a little bit.
I do struggle with that a bit. I fluctuate a lot between being very social and getting a lot of energy from being with people, and being very alone in my room smoking too much weed as a way of ‘recharging’… though sometimes I wonder if it actually recharges me or just makes me feel bad. So yeah, I do struggle with that sometimes.
It’s nice to incorporate this in the music you make and mix though, is that a coping mechanism?
Definitely, I get a lot of comfort from playing and music, and DJ’s that also incorporate those different feelings. It doesn’t have to be sadness always – joy is also transferrable. Like Uniiqu3’s set at Dekmantel. I don’t think I had any sad thoughts then.
At the same time I think the music industry is quite a stressor. Its such a grind – you have to do everything yourself. You’re basically a social media manager. Instagram feels like such an outlet that you have to utilize.
It’s such a job.
Its such a job!
It’s like an entire job for a lot of people.
Yeah, things are so fragmented now. You’re no longer just one thing. It reminds me of a talk with my grandfather who was a gym teacher. His life was just Work, five days a week, then bike for 3 hours to see my grandma. That was his student life. It was hard but it was simple. There was no social media, you live and die with the people from your village. It’s easier. Now you get jealous of some DJ in Shanghai because they’re doing well you know.
Haha, yeah, I see. Do you think social media does more bad than good?
I think… it’s more good than bad? In an ideal world it would be more about a DJ’s SoundCloud or something, but then again – I also like DJ’s and artists more when I agree with their aesthetics in life. It’s very mixed but it can be very good.
Who are you most excited to see at Glamcult Selects?
Lulu can always surprise me. I would say she’s also a big influence on my DJ’ing, also as a person. She’s also a quite inspiring, intellectual person, with her research on Tiktok-usage in the middle east… I like how she combines multiple things.
What are you manifesting for the rest of this year?
I want to produce more and learn new things. I also met some people, Thomas and Sebastiaan, (the members of SOFT CLIP), that have some cool production techniques that I don’t know and want to learn from. I finally have the headspace for learning more about that. I guess I just want to feel more comfortable with what I’m doing, and less aware of what others are doing. It has to be your own process. I feel like I’m a bit too aware of what others might think. That’s also the name of the EP I just released: Perceptions of others. If I could focus less on that I could feel more freedom than I’m already feeling.
Amazing EP – congratulations on that. Super excited to see you again this Thursday!
Words by Pykel van Latum
Imagery courtesy of the artist
Wanna join us at GLAMCULT SELECTS? Rsvp via firstname.lastname@example.org or send us a DM