Onno van Velzen, better known as ONNO, is among his country’s most prolific exporters of fine house music. Despite only releasing his first EP in 2010, he’s since gone on to represent some of house music’s most cherished labels, with Upon.You, Souvenir and Moon Harbour among those he’s graced with some esteem. In that respect, his latest is another triumph. Brought to light on Adam Beyer’s Truesoul label, ‘Techno Jams’ is a fitting amalgamation of everything that ONNO stands for, from the groove straight on through to the polished productions. We put some questions his way recently…
OTB: What’s going on in the world of ONNO right now? You all good?
ONNO: All good here! Back in the studio and fully inspired, so can’t complain really.
So, you’re from Holland. What does that mean to you? And why do you think the Netherlands has always had such a great electronic music scene?
To be honest I don’t feel too Dutch, rather European maybe. It is cool though, that we have such a big legacy when it comes to electronic music. It seems to be in our DNA.
Do most Dutch teenagers encounter house and techno at some point then? And can most of them tell the difference between proper techno and the likes of Armin van Buuren etc?
Yes, definitely! Back in the day you even had kids Gabber parties where kids around the age of 10 were going bonkers to proper hardcore DJs at the venue where later that night would be the actual rave. So yeah, we are used to hearing electronic music from a young age here. Because of this, now a few years on, the musical taste in The Netherlands can be described as quite good. When you look at student parties for example, where 10 years ago awful music would have been played, now international DJs from the Innervisions camp is behind the decks.
Do you remember the first time you heard electronic music? Who made you want to become a DJ/producer?
I’ve always been into music as a kid. Electronic music, but I was also really into hip-hop as a kid. At some point in the nineties there was this TV program on TMF about the early hardcore DJs, where they had someone playing records live in the studio for the last 20 minutes of the show. That sort of introduced me to the concept of mixing records when I was around 13 or something I guess. I can’t really recall why, but it appealed to me so much, so that was when the master plan was set in motion!
How has the scene in the Amsterdam changed since you first became involved then?
A scene is always changing I think, which is a good thing. I think the scene in Amsterdam has always been really good, but in the past it wasn’t recognized that much in the rest of the world. In the past years things like Trouw getting international recognition, the guys from Dekmantel getting their well deserved praise from all over the world for their festival, and of course the yearly debauchery we like to call ADE made the rest of the world see what’s happening here.
And aside from releasing your own music, do you still play at home a lot? Are you heavily involved in the scene?
As I have spent the good part of the last 2 years in Ibiza, not as much as before I must say. When I was here last summer it was mostly for festivals (which are great in Holland). I did do two really nice shows here in Holland the past month though. One in Poema in Utrecht and one in Paradigm, an amazing club in Groningen, proving that It’s not all just about Amsterdam when it comes to clubbing in Holland.
Do you still get to go record shopping? Or are you a strictly digital man these days?
I try to yeah, especially when I am traveling. It can be really nice to visit some record stores and get a taste of the local scene. For instance, when in Berlin I always try to go out and buy some records. I do order some stuff through places like Decks and Juno as well. With all the vinyl only stuff coming out again, it’s nice that its possible again to have an edge but having music not many other people have, which is virtually impossible with digital music. Also, I tend to go “record shopping” through my old crates every now and then, find some old forgotten gems to digitize and take with me on the road.
In terms of your musical career, at what stage do you think you’re at with it all?
This is a question I ask myself a lot too. I have done a lot of stuff I always dreamt of. Releasing on the big labels, playing clubs like Panorama bar and visiting places like Korea, South and North America etc to play my music. Still though, I feel like there is so much more that I want to accomplish, and I am hungrier than ever.
You’ve released on some really cool labels – what’s been your proudest moment to date?
I think it’s the combination of it all that makes me really proud. I always made what I felt was right to me, sometimes a bit deeper, sometimes a bit more housey or more techno, but always me. Looking back and seeing that the labels I always looked up to shared this vision enough to release my music is a great feeling.
And where does the Truesoul release stand with all that?
Definitely a proud moment as well. I love the label, and Adam has a great ear when it comes to signing music. Also they have the same vision when it comes to music. The genre is not the most important thing, the vibe and quality is. That’s why I am happy to be on their team.
Is Truesoul a label you’d wanted to release on for some time? How did the whole thing come about?
Yes for sure!! I am really happy they signed these tracks. I am afraid there isn’t a fancy story to this one though. I sent the demos to Adam, and he got back after a few weeks that he loved them. Sometimes life is easy!
What have you learned about the music industry since you first became involved?
That it’s very important to follow you heart, even when it comes down to business.
What sort of labels do you look up to these days for inspiration?
For inspiration I try to look elsewhere actually. Non electronic music, traveling people, everything!
And what else should we be looking out from you in the near future?
After the Truesoul release there will be an EP on Inmotion with a remix from my buddy Sable Sheep, and this summer there will be a new EP on Upon.You Records. Lately I’ve been in the studio with Okain again too, so expect a new EP from us this year as well…
ONNO’s Techno Jams is out now on Truesoul
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