[INTERVIEW] Sander Kleinenberg Talks About ‘House 2.0’ And The Electronic Experience

March 21st, 2015


sander kleinenberg interview 2015 fingerup
The only way to become truly great at something is with practice. Not just weeks of it, or even a few grueling months of it. Hell, usually a year or two isn’t enough time to master an ability. Over the course of 20 years, however, one can reach that level of greatness. Sander Kleinenberg, dutch DJ and producer extraordinaire, has been at it since the late 80’s when electronic music was still a fledgling genre. He stuck with it, pumping out hits in the 90’s and starting his own label. He rode the wave through the early 2000’s (including his juicy Essential Mix Of The Year in 2001) and solidified his position as a house god with his signature “THIS. IS.” brand.



But in order to stay relevant, one must not only accept, but adapt to the changing tides. Sander Kleinenberg has done exactly that. We were able to talk to him and pick his brain about the direction that the industry is headed, as well as discuss the finer points of festival culture and zombie apocalypses.

sander kleinenberg interview 2015 djing

I’m talking with one of the most respected producers and DJs in the industry today – Dutch legend Sander Kleinenberg. He’s been in the business for over 20 years and has become a regular in the biggest nightclubs across the world. And he hasn’t just “been around,” he’s been slaying it the whole way through, as evidence by earning the title of Essential Mix of the Year in 2001. It’s a pleasure, how has the new year been treating you so far, Sander?

Thank you, man, uhm, yeah so after the wave last year, speaking musically, the wind is changing in my favor. I really enjoy what’s out there at the moment. So yeah, it feels good so far.


You’re visiting the Northeast this weekend with a show at Space in NYC and a deep show at Prime in Boston. I think we’re all a little excited for this. Do any clubs here in the Northeast stick out as exceptionally well put-together or memorable for any reason?

Well you know, I played Space a month ago, and it’s really, really great. I feel like they are duplicating the sound of Space well. So I gotta say I love that place, it’s a great club. And Prime has some really, really great vibes as well. I’m really looking forward to this weekend, these two clubs are a really great representation of the culture up here. You know, this is the region where Danny Tenaglia made his mark, so there’s some great history here.


Some of your newer tracks have adopted this big-room-meets-“future house” sound that’s becoming so popular amongst artists like Tchami and Oliver Heldens, yet you’ve still managed to stay true to your roots in your mixes, like your Sunday School session and your Dancing Astronaut feature. Do you like the direction that new artists are taking house music?

Well, you know what, I’ve always..I think it was 2004 or 2005 [when] was progressive house at its peak, or what was then called progressive house. So I went and started vibing out on doing remixes for great people, and in America there’s some cool recognition for it. But I’ve always loved this futuristic approach to house music, and I feel that sound is truly a new chapter to what we’re doing in the industry. It’s like a “2.0” of house music, like it’s polished, sharper, better produced and put in the hands of great talent. I felt that there’s a lot of energy in that world. It felt very natural, to doing that, and absorbing some of those sounds, being inspired by some of it, and adding my own twist, and really truly honestly become a part of it.


“I’m not gonna lie, [house music is] a movement I feel has longevity and has a sense of timelessness to it, you know, and I feel like a lot of really great records are gonna come from it. It just feels like a very natural fit, I’m not gonna lie.”


I had been searching for a while to find what I want because I felt a little lost. I felt like EDM was a little too noisy for me. I love it, its great when in a field with a thousand people, but it’s not quite for me, I like it a little more soulful, and little more house-y, a little less on the BPM, a little more bass driven. And then the whole super underground techno thing, was never really my thing as well, I’m not that into the cliquey-ness that comes with that, “we’re cooler than the rest of the world, here’s our circle” thing. I’m having a really great time, like “Wow, finally. The next thing is here.”


It really does! It feels like it’s a natural progression in that a lot of new fans have been introduced to big room and electro and progressive house, as well as the festivals, and the elaborate stages, and the incredible lights. But not everyone has experienced the house and tech that has existed for a long time. I love how the new sound of “future” house is a progression, a little bridge for them to experience this new world.

You know, I think it is as well. And the fact that it’s fresh, it’s new (because it does feel very fresh), I don’t know, makes it really more intimate for me. I don’t understand this whole obsession with going back and reduplicating what happened in the ’90s or the late ’80s, you know, that whole church for that kind of thing is beyond me. I want to be a part of something NEW. I don’t want to be a part of something which people can identify themselves with it and look back and be like “this is my generation, this is my sound” you know? I want them thinking “this has not happened before, this is fresh.” I’ve always wanted to be in the real. I may be an old guy, but I’m still a 16-year-old inside. That’s where it’s at man, the accumulation of all these records made me decide to sign with Spinnin’ Records, and this new sound is really starting to push it forward.


sander kleinenberg interview 2015 festival
Speaking of Spinnin’ Records, next week marks the start of the Miami Winter Music Conference, and you’re slated to play at the Spinnin’ Sessions party next Wednesday. You’re not necessarily “headlining,” but you’re one of the more established names of the brand new “Spinnin’ Deep Stage,” a stage which is definitely influenced by the emergence of deep and future house to new ears. You’re also hitting that LOVE:CURE show with Dave Dresden. How excited are you for this years Miami Music Week?

You know what, I’m kinda surprised on what we’re gonna find. This is by no means bad-mouthing, let that be clear, but I found that the whole methodic underground techno vs. the overground EDM was so apparent in Miami last year. I felt completely lost between the two worlds because I had no affiliation with either of them. I kinda feel like now I see people playing in clubs that I’ll probably go to that I really admire, that I really look forward to hearing, and I’m really interested in their sound. You know what? I’m really excited. I think house music in this new form – let’s call it “house music 2.0” – is leaving a real strong impression this year. And it should be, because Miami is all about house music, and the big bad funky sexy basslines instead of repetitive one-finger note trance. So it feels like things are slowly realigning where I think it should be. I’m trying to be humble because fuckin’, who knows what the future holds, but it feels very, very natural. I’m looking forward to it this year. I really, really am.


“You know what? I’m really excited. I think house music in this new form – let’s call it “house music 2.0” – is leaving a real strong impression this year.”


And it should be, because Miami is all about house music, and the big bad funky sexy basslines instead of repetitive one-finger note trance. So it feels like things are slowly realigning where I think it should be. I’m trying to be humble because fuckin’, who knows what the future holds, but it feels very, very natural. I’m looking forward to it this year. I really, really am.


Me too, this is going to be a great year for house music. So now that America has joined the electronic world on a larger scale, festivals have been popping up all over the country like the chicken pox. Do you think this is detrimental to the club life, and that it’s pulling electronic music from its roots? Or do you like how it’s introducing it to a new audience and advancing electronic music in a positive direction?

Woah, that’s a really big question. I’ll be honest, every summer a new festival comes and we all wonder “how is it gonna survive,” and then it DOES, and it does really well and that’s great. But festivals, specifically in summertime, have completely wiped out club culture, not quite 100% but it wipes it out a lot. But then again, a different type of culture was born, you know? People want experiences, people want to be experiencing something unique, something where they’re like “oh wow, this is never gonna come back again, this is a great memory, let me take pictures,I’m in love!” you know? It’s all these things. I think the idea of going to the same club every week or every other week…come on, we gotta be realistic, people want to be entertained. And they want something fresh, something new. So I feel like there is a playing ground for a lot of these festivals. Whether they’re gonna be in this form as we get old? I don’t know. But it seems like it’s something that is gonna continue for a while. Like I said, people want experiences, and this will always be that experience.


Yeah. It’s tough because it almost feels like Fall and Winter are a training session, where people are going to the clubs to get ready for festival season, as opposed to going to the clubs just for music, you know? But at the same time, festivals are beautiful and they give new fans windows to all these different genres of music they wouldn’t normally listen to. So yeah, it there is a little give and take.

Mmhmm. Yeah, definitely agree.


sander kleinenberg interview 2015 studio

So you’ve been involved in electronic music for a significant amount of time, yet you continue to stay relevant and your fan base has stayed loyal. What are your secrets to staying in the business for as long as you have and what inspires you to evolve?

Well this is a very, very frustrating journey at times, because you have to break down walls, you have to be bold and know you have to break down what you’ve once built. If you go down a path where you recreate yourself every, I don’t know, seven years, you have to accept the fact that you will alienate a group of your fans, and you have to realize that a lot will go. But this is the only way to survive. I believe that to stay relevant, you have to be able to break it all down and build it all up again. I think that’s…that’s the only way. It’s basically a long set. You cannot do the same set for 7 hours, you will wear out and fuck up everything and you will die. If you want to create your second wind, you have to break down the wave you’re on, all the way down, and then build it all the way up again. That’s the way to do it. It’s frustrating at times. I can look at the scene and say “what happened here?” I’m not gonna lie – I don’t want to say it because “bitter” is a big word – but sometimes I really have to try hard not to be cynical. You just have to do something else, whatever, humble yourself. Do some other shit, I don’t know. There are elements to it where you have to create that frame of mind to help survive in this landscape. But in the deeper sense of it all, there’s only really one reason why I do it, and that’s because I really love music, you know?


“I love entertaining, I love being on stage, and I love pushing myself to new limits. It’s truly a calling when it comes down to it. When I hear a great record during the week, I REALLY cannot wait to play it out, like “Wow, what can I do with this?” I guess that’s the true engine to what I do, and why my engine runs so smoothly.”


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Let’s switch it up, i have two change-of-pace questions for us to play around with: what’s the funniest experience you’ve had where, during a set, everything went wrong?

Well I mean, I’ve had a club get shut down. I’ve had a fire in one of the speakers, yet the club was still full and they started singing songs. But to be honest, it’s never really that funny when something goes wrong. I get kind of upset when that kind of stuff happens, but it does. It’s tough to come up with stuff on the spot like this, keep bringing it and I’ll get back to you on this one….

Alright, now: if you were stuck in a nightclub when a zombie apocalypse struck, would you drop everything and run, or finish your set?

So, zombie apocalypse strikes mid-set, in the club. And I have to finish my set or…

…stop everything and run out.

I’ll fuckin’ stop and run. With a zombie apocalypse, no, I’m out. I love what I do, but fuck that, I love my life. Yeah, I don’t know man.


sander kleinenberg interview 2015 smiling
Finally, do you have any exciting projects coming up you’d like to share?

I’m preparing for a festival, it’s a live show so that takes up quite a bit of energy. And I’ve got some stuff in my head for ideas that I want to take to the stages. So we’re building and constructing stuff and figuring out what it should be, so that’s kind of cool. In the mean time, there are a lot of singles, a lot of releases, like I just released a remix for a girl called Halsey from New Jersey, she’s quite a talent, and she’s got some energy behind her at the moment. She’s unbelievable. And I’m, yeah, there are some festivals in Europe this summer, including Daydream, that I’m excited about. Then I’m coming back to America in July and August, I’ll check out Hollywood then. Every day is some constant planning. And of course this weekend! Space and Prime, I’m really looking forward to that. And then Miami next weekend of course. Constant planning.


Well I’ll personally be at your show at Space this Friday, so I have my expectations for some of these crazy stories set high.

Definitely. Oh! You know what? I just thought of one story. I went to Ultra in Buenos Aires, and I was losing a little bit of my hair, so I thought “you know, I should really shave it all off.So I go to use my shaver, and I’m midway through my shave, and my shaver dies. And my set time is closing in on me, so I used an old blade on a manual razor, and I started bleeding from this blade. So I ended up stealing a hat from someone in the crowd, just to not show my bleeding head. The things that sometimes happen while you’re traveling, man. You know, fucking last week, I was so supposed to get off this plane at 12 in the afternoon, but it ended up being at 12 MIDNIGHT. And I had to get from my flight in Dallas to do a show in Austin, which I literally arrived in a rental car on my own, driving from Dallas to Austin, 5 minutes after my set time was due, straight after, whatever, nine hours straight traveling. So every week is some crazy story where I look back and think “oh man.”

“I could write a book about all the trials and tribulations to finally be able to do what I love for just a few hours, all around the world. That’s the way I look at my job; I get the opportunity to go through crazy shit, just so I get to do what I love in the booth.”



Sander Kleinenberg will be at Space NYC and Prime Boston this Friday and Saturday. Check out his newest single, “Trouble,” featuring Halsey, and make sure not to miss him while he’s in the area by picking up your tickets below.

3/20 (Fri): Space Ibiza, NYC

3/21 (Sat): Prime, Boston





Interview conducted contributor by Matt Reynolds. Find him on Twitter here.

Matt Reynolds is a music enthusiast on a mission to share his musical knowledge with the masses. Born and raised on the hard streets of suburban North Jersey, Matt was diagnosed with an irreversible addiction to electronic music in 2009. Since then, he’s pledged to discover and share his experiences with clubs, festivals, and the world of electronic music. Situated minutes from NYC, Matt has traveled from Massachusetts to Miami and everywhere between chasing music and making memories. When he isn’t writing for MASS EDMC, he’s either reading, writing fiction, or (most likely) booty-shaking on the dance floor.

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