William Kouam Djoko: Based On A Trouw Story
Over the past few years, William Kouam Djoko has emerged as one of Holland’s many great emerging underground hopes. A resident of the famous Trouw (a club that’s due to close in 2014) in his adopted city of Amsterdam, his is a talent that veers between house and techno, whilst always maintaining a quality-soaked driving edge. We caught up with him recently to talk about Ibiza, his all singing, all dancing new live set and his plans for the upcoming Valhalla Festival…
How are you, what got you excited or angry recently?
I’m doing great. The year is drawing to a close and I can say this has been an amazing year for me. What really got me excited recently was the public debate here in NL, which was sparked by current events on TV (ie: racial or derogatory terms by Dutch hosts and presenters). It may be time we start to engage in a different way with one another. I’ve noticed myself over last years I’ve grown a bit weary of this and I’m trying to tone the remarks by the expense of others down for myself as much as I can. I am not saying I’m a saint all of a sudden, but it’s good for change to grab hold of something positive.
Tell us how and when and where you first came to electronic music, what you liked about it, what you were listening to and where…
Ted Langenbach’s Now&Wow parties were one of the very first that opened my eyes to electronic music as my friends brought me there for the first time 11 years ago or so. The atmosphere of togetherness with people in crazy outfits and elaborate dance battles really did it for me! I was training to become a professional dancer at the time and this gave me such a fresh energy. I love it!
I never belonged to a certain niche of let’s say hip hop or other sorts of music. I just listened to loads of different stuff, nothing too specific as long as it had nice character.
And when did you start making it and DJing and how long did it take you to find your own voice?
My first time on stage was in 2004 with Jason and the Argonauts. So I’ll be celebrating my first decade as a performer next year. These guys showed me the ropes and gave me the chance to mess about with hardware and computers. Right before that time I bought some Numark CD players to try and beatmatch. Since two years or so I’m getting closer to my own voice. I just love it a lot when sounds really get under your skin and music freaks you out. It challenges your perspective on rhythms and sounds.
You played Ibiza for the first time this summer as resident, how did you find it compared to your expectations?
It was a lot of fun! Although I do think that Ibiza is made too much into a big of a deal from time to time. I mean don’t get me wrong, it’s wonderful to see people visiting the island with a party minded outlook and really want to wreck the dance floors and themselves. But after spending a lot of time on the island for the first time I felt kinda drained from my energy. I did not expect that to happen to me that fast. That was pretty harsh. Maybe when I get invited a second time I will know better what to expect and act in a manner more suited to my own needs.
And you just made your Watergate debut, right? How was that? Did you plan much for the set? How did it go down?
(Laughs) Well, I played a live show so I hope I did enough planning. It’s actually quite funny how it’s still a mystery for a lot of clubgoers; DJ or live show? What’s the difference? Sometimes I can get annoyed by the fact people on the dance floor really have no idea how much preparation goes in preparing a live show or DJ set for that matter and listen with half their attention while the main reason for going to a party, or at least in my opinion, should be listening to what the artists are bringing. But all in all my set went great. I mean, the promoters from Watergate told me the people at least stayed on the main floor for the entire length of my set. Apparently that’s a good thing (laughs).
And as a resident how differently do you play, do you bring different music, play different vibes? What is the role of a resident DJ?
At Trouw the residents are blessed to have one of the best dance floors in the world in front of them. For me it’s almost always a pleasure to get nice feedback after playing a DJ set there. Live shows can be a bit tricky though seeing as you’re behind the DJ booth and far away from the crowd.
I like to bring together a lot of different house styles in my sets and tickle a dance floor with different ideas of what climaxing is. For me within the role of resident I get to further develop this craft, which is an amazing chance to have.
What is the state of the Dutch scene right now – it’s about far more than just trance, right?
I think this question speaks for itself. A lot of people reading this interview are involved in this ‘underground’ house scene in one way or another. There’s so many parties/events/festivals going on these days. It’s unbelievable. Whenever I get back from a gig abroad it can be surprising to see how good and healthy the scene is here. The way we organize our events, especially festivals, is extraordinary. I can’t think of any other country where they cultivated the dance scene to the extent that we have here. Take Lowlands or Dekmantel Festival for example; at their first ever festival they put down a level unheard of for ‘underground’ club music. The line-up, stages, catering and even walking routes were extremely well organized. This will be a new standard for partygoers I think. So I’m curious to see what this will do to the playing field and level of partying here in our small frogland.
Have you any more EPs lined-up? It’s been a while since your last, why is that?
Normally I put out one EP per year since I started doing EPs. This just is my workflow and also allows me to do something new. People now know they do not know what to expect and I like that position. This year I actually released two EPs: ‘Man Like Me’ EP on Matt Tolfrey’s Leftroom label with an outrageous remix from one of my musical icon’s, Matthew Herbert.
More recently I put out the Deflourished EP on Voyage Direct curated by Tom Trago. That one is quite unique cause it doesn’t conform to the house music standard BPM wise. It also came out with a super fresh music video by Sasa Ostoja and Niko Lanzuisi who worked their asses of the whole summer to come up with something like none I’ve ever seen before.
Tell us about your working process, are you a quick sketcher or a painstaking craftsmen? What kit do you use, who or what inspires you to produce?
I often use a banana, some clean sheets and an Etch-a-Sketch to draw my music. When all this fails I take a hammer and some glue, pick up the pieces and start all over again. This usually gets the job done.
Tell us what to expect at Valhalla Festival in December?
At Valhalla Festival I’m booked to do a Live show. This means I play only original stuff I made with these two hands and my imagination. So sorry kids, I won’t be taking any requests. I’ll bring my mic with FX, some nice outfits designed by www.foxytrix.com and hopefully with a combined effort of the crowd and myself there will be some cool sounds coming from the speakers.
You’re notorious for implementing live vocals into your LIVE sets. Can you tell us how, what you think they add, how it came about and so on?
The vocal thing really came from my time woth Jason and the Argonauts. They were three friends of mine (aka Bandit&Shae and Newton da Costa). They thought giving me a mic would be a good idea. I mean, I got to say everything that came to my mind. They didn’t know what it was gonna be and neither did I. This made for some interesting situations. This one time when we played Utrecht I managed to read aloud my notes from marketing class over the music. This was way back when I still was in college. The dance floor was totally up for it and I thought, fuck it. This made for ridiculous interaction with the crowd.
That idea is what keeps me wanting to keep using the mic. The interaction with the crowd and the element of surprise.
How do you like playing home gigs – do you feel more comfortable, does it make you play differently or better or…?
That really depends on the club, the venue or the people. But having the home advantage of people already really knowing your style can effectively bring a great atmosphere to the dance floor. Also the fact I can go to a lot of my shows by bike is something I wouldn’t wanna trade up that easily. Especially during spring or summer it can feel like bliss riding back from a great night in the morning right before regular people wake up. The streets and canals are empty. And then I’m gliding through them with my recordbag in my bikecrate having flashbacks of the night, finding new ideas in my mind. A truly unique experience solely possible in Amsterdam I believe.
What else have you got coming up/are you working on?
As said earlier I just put out a music video of which I’m still basking in wonder and feeling back the response from it. It’s definitely a new level for me personally so I want to come up with something for next year to do. In other news I just finished a remix for my close friend Efdé which will come out on an Italian label and I have another track lined up to be released on a VA on Leftroom early 2014. Aside from that I’m looking to put together a new EP. Nothing concrete yet, but I’ve been asked this question loads of times but who knows. Maybe an album?