Producer, DJ, label honcho and promoter Yon Eta, aka Maarten Brijker, is an active figure in Amsterdam’s emerging nightlife scene, a loosely connected underground collective which also includes the likes of rising stars Lyzza and Torus.
Intrigued to find out more about his work ethic and creative projects, MusicMap.Global got in touch with Eta along with Skandl, our Netherlands scouts, to talk audio/visual shows, crafting personas and sampling pop music.
You’ve been described as a “shapeshifting DJ and A/V composer” – what does this entail and how do you describe what you do?
Yon Eta: I have been working under this pseudonym for around two years now and my bio has changed over time. I contextualise myself differently every time I output something. Whether that is playing a DJ set at a club, making a track for my SoundCloud, uploading stories to my Instagram etc. Yon Eta for me is this ever evolving identity that grows along with the culture I am in and I am inspired by. It is a persona for reflecting on the changes around us and how we react to that with certain sounds or rhythms and emotional states.
An important part of the method in creating the music is the emphasis on narrative and storytelling. In my works the initial layer is sonic, but it always refers to a visual story. I try to compose with sound as a way to sketch an audiovisual narrative, where the music sketches a physical or virtual space where it performs a story in. This, for example, can be a love story played out in the club, or a song that plays with cuteness as a gate out of an anxious mental space. The spaces I am sketching can be dark or light or anything in-between, but I aim to always create a door or progression to another space.
The Netherlands is famous for being a home to both hardstyle and techno, how does your music fit into the scene there?
I think in general the Netherlands is home to a lot of music genres. Next to Hardstyle and Techno, our country is just as famous for music styles like EDM, House, Electro, Bubbling, Dirty Dutch, Trance, and Global Bass. Though, I do not feel that I relate to a specific genre or scene here, but rather feel connected to a certain eclecticism I see in the way the Netherlands approaches genre. Artists here tend to ‘take a bit of everything’ and create something new out of it. That is a quality which also is apparent in my DJ sets where I try to mix/blend various genres together and search for a shared quality in different tracks from different genres. My own compositions are sketching out a personal narrative of myself in relation to music trends, and for that taking subtle references to club and pop music, yet always trying to be conscious of the meaning in the referencing.
Sphynx is someone who you often collaborate with. What does that collaboration produce and how did you meet each other?
Sphynx is visual artist and UX designer Enrique Arce Gutierrez, originally from Mexico. We met through a friend in common and clicked on both a personal and artistic level. He is interested in creating autonomous and embodied artworks that distance themselves from the author-as-the-operator. Which is interesting for me on a methodological level as I see myself recently questioning my own authorship and distance or closeness to the artworks I am making. Who am I in relation to the music I make, and what does the music say about me?, etc.
I have worked with Sphynx on several occassions, often in relation to my label DEVORM and my eventseries Bar None presents pl(us) in Amsterdam. Where in the latter he helped us doing flyers, promovideos and live visuals for the events. In the DEVORM context the collaborations takes on a more hybrid form and conceptual character. On my label DEVORM I mainly take on the role as artistic director and curator and I work with other artists on a release together. The last two releases consisted for example of ‘Metastasis’, a 25 minute music mix where Sphynx made 4 videos with a self written program that generated visuals based on the music. And our recent ‘Void, Separation and Waiting’ release, where he helped design icons/tokens for each track, the online web environment, and helped along on a conceptual level. Sphynx and I also recently did a collaboration for TodaysArt Festival, combining our VJ and DJ practices for a A/V experience around sample culture in the internet age.
You’re based in The Hague. Often people take Amsterdam to be the centre of Holland’s musical gravity, how does The Hague compare?
Well actually I grew up in Amsterdam, and just a year ago moved to the Hague for my master’s at the Royal Academy of Art here. Though I still spend plenty of time every week in Amsterdam, mainly on the weekends. Amsterdam is where several music events are happening every weekend, where every other guy is a DJ and where the bigger artists of the Netherlands reside. Amsterdam for sure has a more vibrant music scene going on, yet the Hague also had its fair share in the Dutch music culture. The Hague is the origin of a lot of the synthesizer obsessed and electro music of Bunker Records and artists like Legowelt and is the city where Bubbling emerged (sped up reggeaton/dancehall). Nowadays the Hague is pretty quiet music wise, but luckily there is a tight community at the art school where interesting music events happen from time to time.
Sampled pop music vocals is a central part of your own productions, as someone most heavily associated with the ‘underground’ what’s your relationship with commercial music?
I do sample pop music vocals for my music yes, yet I always try to be careful with it. I pick my samples and references to commercial music consciously, and always do it for the sake of the narrative in the track. Also, I think often the line between commercial music and underground is fading away, or perhaps did so long time ago. With the emergence of the internet and the dying out of the subculture society, I think the relation we have to music in terms of our identity is much more subtle. We aren’t per se either into some underground music genre or into commercial music. We are both of that combined into something new. I love a lot of commercial music and I try to embrace some of its qualities in my own tracks. There is nothing stronger than pulling in the listener by using universal music qualities and then taking them to a deeper level and exposing more subtle layers. For me that is the perfect merging of the underground and commercial or pop music.
Talk to us about Bar None, the night you run. What’s the philosophy behind the night and who have you booked to play the shows (and why)?
Bar None presents is a regular night I have been running for over a year now together with Fedor Oduber. It started off as a monthly event in a spot in the north of Amsterdam with limited capacity and with a slight DIY vibe. At first the nights where more about booking local DJs and building a community for music that wasn’t played much in other club nights in the eclectic way we did. Music blending contemporary club music with nostalgia vibes and non-western dance music. Over the course of the first year we started to curate our timetables more consciously, experimenting with the flow of the music or DJ sets as a whole over the evening.
This summer we decided to take things bigger and now we are doing parties in both the OT301 and Garage Noord. The former serving as a place to curate bigger line ups and the latter for smaller scaled evenings with room for live acts. After having had Cõvco, Manara and Dinamarca over for their strong and broad selections, FAKA for their energetic love gqom liveshow and DJ Nadia Rodrigues for her warm afrohouse sets, we now face our next event on January 27 with MM and Mina. MM is an tasteful and broad selector who knows how to maintain high energy in his eclective sets and Mina is an Enchufada affiliated DJ from London who will add her diasporic club sounds to the night. At Bar None we try to curate unexpected combinations in the lineups that bring a dynamic flow full of love and hype.
Last but not least, what have you got planned/coming out in the near future on your DEVORM label?
In the past year we did two big releases, trying to challenge ourselves to create releases which went further then the typical release formats. We released a SD card in custom made packaging containing a 25 min audio mix and 4 videos and also a DIY Bio Organism Pack with download codes and complementary online environment. DEVORM for me is a space to collaborate with others and release those dialogues into new and custom made release formats. The plan for the future is to keep on pushing this method even more and gradually move into DEVORM being more of an art platform rather than just a music label. But this is all long term speaking. For 2018 I am working on releasing a remix version of Ghost Kwini’s recent ep on DEVORM with various artists, and planning to release some audioworks of my own related to my coming graduation work in the context of my masters.
Interview by Nicholas Burman
Pic by Pieter Kers