Renowned Dutch deejay and producer Sied van Riel, a Rotterdam native, has been creating trance music since early 2006. He exploded onto the scene with his hit “Fearless“, landing him a record deal with Spinnin Records the following year. He has continued to impress with his most recent jump to radio, producing a one-hour weekly radio show “Rielism”, hosted on Afterhours.fm every Monday.
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Chris Remmers: We’re going to talk about your travel experiences, the places you’ve been, things you’ve seen and how they’ve shaped your career. Why don’t you start off by telling us a little about where you’re from. Where would you recommend someone coming for the first time to visit?
Sied van Riel: I’m originally from Holland; I was born and raised in Rotterdam, which is mainly an industrial, harbor city. I always invite people to Holland and when I do I encourage them to see Rotterdam. The first place everyone wants to go, or where everyone thinks of, is Amsterdam. Amsterdam is a beautiful place don’t get me wrong, but Rotterdam just has so much history dating back to the second World War. The new architecture and culture of the area is just incredible. That’s why I always take people to Rotterdam first, then we do the touristy things in Amsterdam.
CR: When did you decide you wanted to pursue life as a DJ? Did growing up in Rotterdam and experiencing that culture have any sort of profound influence on your career?
SVR: Yeah, I mean I was pretty young and mostly raised by my grandmother. She actually bought me my first set of turntables when I was around 12 years old, so it was really cool to have that support. She kind of pushed me into the whole DJ thing, because I saw this hardcore DJ, Dark Rave, who is now a good friend of mine, and I was absolutely blown away by the performance. I knew then that’s what I wanted to do. Holland itself has had a history of bringing forth many talented DJ’s from all different genres. I don’t really know what it is. I don’t know what the government puts in our water, but it’s working!
On a serious note though, it has to do with the fact that from a young age you’re not restricted from going out and experiencing nightlife and bars where dance music is well represented. The radio in Holland, as well. I would say it has some of the best radio stations and DJ’s in the world. Dutch crowds are unlike any other in the world. If you’re playing a set and they are not feeling it they will let you know; they won’t be moving at all. If you did a great job they’ll show you all the love in the world, but if you have a bad set they also let you know. I think this is important, because it forces you to adapt and work on the fly.
CR: That’s amazing to have a sense of what you want to do with your life at such a young age. Obviously, house, techno and EDM as a whole have grown exponentially over the past several years, more people are flooding into the genres than ever. Where have been some of your favorite places to preform? How do some of those differ internationally?
SVR: That’s really a tough question. I would say about nine out of 10 DJ’s would say Argentina has some of the sickest venues to perform in. There are literally some of the best clubs in the world there. These people literally eat and breath music, it’s crazy! One of my favorites was Crowbar in Buenos Aires. The club was packed, people were absolutely wild and it was truly an experience. Every city, every country has a different vibe and mentality.
A lot of the time people will ask, “What do you like to play more? A club or festival?” I respond with, “You have to understand, when you’re in a venue with a max capacity of 500-1000 people the vibe is so intense. It’s just different from playing at a festival.” There are so many venues around the world where the vibe is just different.
You must learn to accept that, and accept the people for who they are. In Holland, for example, people won’t jump up and down, constantly screaming all over the place. But, if you understand the crowed you’ll know what they are or aren’t into. This is different from when you go to the United States, Australia or Asia people. They are just extremely outgoing. I think that as long as you understand these things you’ll always have a good time wherever you play.
CR: I couldn’t agree with you more. I know personally I’m a little more reserved and don’t have to be jumping around to have a good time. Sometimes it’s nice to just vibe out to the music and do your own thing. To transition into a vacation feel, when you are looking to get away, are you looking for a beach, a hike in the mountains or something completely different all together?
SVR: I’m not a beach person until the sun goes down and the temperature drops. To be completely honest with you, I hate the heat and hot weather. I would say I’m more of a night person. A lot of the time when I do get away I enjoy escaping to Montreal, Canada. The city, the people and the atmosphere is all very warm and inviting. I have a lot of friends there, so in between gigs and during my downtime I like to fly there and stay for a couple of days.
These days, I like to spend my downtime just doing normal, everyday things. I enjoy getting to spend time with my girlfriend in Germany and just being home. But, if I were to pick a place to vacation right now I would go somewhere like Singapore or Bali, maybe.
CR: That’s awesome to have enough down time to balance friends, girlfriend and family. It’s a very hard task for some, I myself am still working on it. That being said, how do you feel music and travel fit best in your life?
SVR: In the beginning, it was really hard to get used to the hectic travel schedule. You really are traveling all year. When I would come home reality would hit and I’d be exhausted, jet lagged and I’d really start to miss life on the road. It took a couple of years to get used to it all, but traveling changed every aspect of my life. I love airplanes. I have been places I would have otherwise never have been if I was not a DJ, so it’s really cool. I started to focus on enjoying everything about it, instead of getting back home and thinking about the negative aspects of everything. It’s hard to leave your friends and family, but once you can accept that everything just kind of works out.
I can watch TV at home for seven hours without worrying about missing a flight. Or, I can come home, book a flight and go somewhere I’ve never been before. At the same time, I’ve been living in my neighborhood for about 25 years and after being out on the road it’s nice to come back and see everyone, my dog and just live a regular life. So, traveling has its ups and its downs, but without music I would’ve never seen half the places I’ve seen. I would not trade it for the world.
CR: What effect has seeing and experiencing these different cultures had on you? How has that changed or broadened your perspective of the world?
SVR: It literally changed me as a person. I’ll never forget this one time I was doing a show in India, the first time I’d been there, and when I walked around the streets I was absolutely shocked. I’ve seen slums and poor areas before, but when I was going into town for a sound check the things I saw were just depressing and heartbreaking. We had a driver later that night that took us to the club, this man was on call literally 24/7. I asked him what he was getting paid, and he said one dollar an hour. I remember thinking I don’t feel right about this. So, as we are in the club, I had asked one of the men to bring our driver in, but he was not allowed in the club due to social differences. This of course really pissed me off, but I had to accept this.
On the way home, we saw so many homeless people I couldn’t believe it. I mean literally entire families on the street corner, and that was their home for the night. We continued to drive for about two kilometers and I just couldn’t believe what I saw. When I got back, I had to call back home and vent about what I saw, because my brain couldn’t cope with the way these people were living. It made me want to help everybody, but there are just so many people in the world. It changed me though for sure. I’m more open minded, more compassionate and more relaxed. I’m just trying to do my bid in the world instead of being arrogant, self-centered and egotistic.
CR: That’s an incredible story! To wrap this up, when’s your next big trip and what’s it for?
SVR: I was just in the studio for a week and then Holland last week. I’m doing a few sold out venues, and then preparing for the rest of my 2017 schedule. I’m releasing a new compilation, so I’m excited for that. I’m excited to be flying a few friends into town, along with my girlfriend, and we’re going to go out enjoy the nightlife. There are a few gigs in the US coming up at the end of the year, as well. I’m just excited for everything coming my way.