"Everyone wants to be a superstar DJ" - An Interview with DJ NEOPHYTE aka THE BEHOLDER
Ahead of his upcoming gig in Glasgow, Scotland, Neophyte aka The Beholder talks exclusively to Twisted about his love for the kilted country, his ever-lasting passion for DJing and his dislike of the emerging image conscious aspect of the rave scene.
By Sheanne Mulholland - 4th November 2015
“I love Scotland, it’s like a second home to me,” said Jeroen Streunding aka Neophyte.
And the smile on the gabber legend’s face couldn’t be more genuine.
Sat in his brand new studio in Dordrecht, Holland, surrounded by state-of-the art equipment and the glow of purple lighting behind him, Jeroen, 44, begins to reminisce about his younger years.
Neophyte Records studio, Netherlands
“I first played in Scotland in 1994 at Rezerection then I went back again the year after that and played at Forze, in Fubar, Stirling,” he said.
“I met my wife there that night.
“A friend introduced us before I played my set. We chatted after and had a few drinks together, but I had to leave early to catch a flight home.
“I asked her to write her number on a beer mat, then I phoned her the next day, after I had got my flight home and was sober, and I realised I couldn’t understand her accent.”
Kirkcaldy-born Crisi’s accent didn’t put Jeroen off for long – just a week later he booked a flight back to Scotland to visit the Fifer lass.
Crisi moved to Holland a year after and the pair were married. They now have two boys together, Jay, 7, and Dean, 3, and regularly go to Scotland to visit family and friends.
Jeroen's wedding in Fife, Scotland
But it’s not just family which makes Jeroen feel at home in Scotland – it’s also the rave scene.
“There’s just something about the raves in Scotland that I really like,” he said.
“The people are very open and friendly, and there’s no hate or jealousy because I’m a DJ like I get other places.
“The clubs shut earlier in Scotland than they do in Holland, so you get a real energy there which you don’t see here.
“People are much more enthusiastic because they want to cram it all into four hours.”
He adds that he enjoys the “intensity” of the Scottish raves and seeing many of the same familiar faces who were there during his early visits.
Glasgow ravers watching Neophyte, at Darkside in SWG3, May 2015.
When Jeroen started playing in Scotland he was beginning to learn to control his nerves, however, he admits that wasn’t always something which came to him naturally.
Particularly when he played his first big gig, in April 1993, at Nightmare, in Rotterdam, Holland.
He said: “I’d made two records for Paul Elstak and he said I could play them at the next Nightmare.
“I told him I didn’t feel ready but he dropped me in at the deep end and convinced me to do it.
“I was so nervous. I was shaking so much I could hardly put the needle onto the vinyl.
“It was like that for the first ten records or so. Then after a few beers, I felt fine.”
More than 20 years on, Jeroen’s nervous days are now a distant memory and he’s a regular headliner at most of the biggest hardcore/hardstyle festivals and events throughout Europe.
Neophyte on stage at Dominator Festival 2014, NL
This year alone he played at Syndicate, Q-base, Dominator, Defqon. 1, Hardshock and Masters Of Hardcore, just to name a few – a CV many would be envious of.
However, he says the reality of playing at the big festivals is quite different to how people might imagine.
“Everyone wants to play the stadium but it’s not as romantic as people think,” he said.
“I’m so busy concentrating on my set and I need to stay focused because there’s a lot going on up there.
“It’s very hectic. The bigger the event the more hectic it is.
“There’s not much time to look out and appreciate the people during my set. Mostly all I can see is darkness and the lights, so I don’t get the chance to feed off their energy.
“It’s only at the end when I can hear all the cheering that I finally get to appreciate it – and by that time it’s all over.”
Neophyte on stage at Last World Festival 2015, Netherlands
But despite the pressure Jeroen says there’s no better buzz, especially in those final few moments of his set.
And he says he still gets excited before every gig, no matter the size of the event.
Sometimes I think I prefer playing the smaller raves,” he said. “They’re more intimate and you can connect with people. They just feel more real.
“I get to meet people and talk with them, share a drink, and hear their stories. I don’t get to do any of that at the big festivals.”
In a sense Jeroen misses the early days of his career, when raves were smaller, the scene was still developing, and all kinds of hard music styles were played within the one room.
Since then he’s witnessed the birth of large-scale events, with mass organisation, where hard music styles are split into their own rooms, each one fully kitted out with professional equipment, huge staging and elaborate lighting displays.
“It’s completely different now, everything is very professional and the people are different too,” he said.
“In the early days in Holland, people just wanted to get wasted. They took a lot of stuff. There were many good times but there were also a lot of bad experiences.
“It was a hard crowd to play to. Everyone was so gone that it was difficult to get them into the vibe.
“Now people seem to be younger and wiser than that.”
Jeroen believes Facebook, Twitter, and other such social media has played a major role in this shift.
Neophyte's Facebook page
He says people are more careful now because they don’t want to wake up the next day and see there’s a picture of themselves in a bad way on the internet.
“This is especially so for artists,” he said. “It’s just not really the kind of image artists want to project.
“But it means that a lot of the younger DJs coming into the scene now are very serious. Some of them can be too serious.
“It’s still a party and you’re allowed to enjoy yourself. There’s nothing wrong with having a drink, otherwise you’re just going to work, and that takes all the fun out of playing.”
Despite having played an uncountable number of gigs, Jeroen says he still feels like he has the best job ever, and has never had to look at his watch when he is playing.
He says the only downside is all the travelling, which can sometimes make it a “lonely life”, but it’s all worth it once he gets behind the decks.
One of the things he enjoys most during a set is playing his own new tunes and seeing what reaction they get.
And he’s rarely short of material. Since releasing his debut record Protracker in 1993, Jeroen’s released eight albums and more than 400 tracks.
Early Neophyte vinyls, 1993.
“I don’t think I’m going to make another album,” he said. “I think they’re a bit old fashioned.
“There’s so many ways to access music online now and albums don’t really work anymore.
“You can go a whole year without releasing anything, and putting all that hard work into every track on an album, just for people to pick out the ones they like and listen to those for a while then forget about everything a few months later.”
He says he thinks the best way to release music now is to release “singles” more often, with fewer tracks on them than an album would have.
Jeroen is also encouraging his fellow artists on his label, Neophyte Records, to release in the same way.
The label was established in 1999 and takes 13 top-class hardcore artists under its wing.
After years of working closely with the artists on his label, Jeroen had the idea that they should play a set together in 2007, and so the hardcore PA group, All Stars, was born.
“If there’s one thing I enjoy more than playing the decks solo, it’s playing the decks with my friends,” he said.
“It means I’m not playing every track, so there’s more time to enjoy the crowd, and it’s just more fun.
“We’re all guys so there’s a lot of joking around and we start to get competitive with each other, not so much in a technical way, more in the way of who can be the most crazy.
“It’s such a laugh.”
Evil Activities, Neophyte & Tha Playah at Dominator, 2014, Netherlands
Jeroen and his label mates are playing a Neophyte Records All Stars set at the final edition of Neophyte Records: Bigger Than Ever, in SWG3, Glasgow, later this month, and he’s playing as Neophyte, back-to-back with Tha Playah.
At the same event, he will also play a hardstyle set under his alter ego DJ name of The Beholder, which he started in 2001 to allow himself an avenue to play and produce another style besides hardcore.
“I've got a much wider musical interest than only hardcore,” he said. “And with an alter ego I can explore that without having to make concessions.
“I can play a totally different style without worrying that people will be shocked because they weren’t expecting it.
“When I play as Neophyte it’s one hour of madness and mayhem, whereas when playing as Beholder it’s a more civilised set.”
The Beholder's Hardstyle record Label TiLLT Records
See Jeroen at Neophyte Records: Bigger Than Ever. SWG3, Glasgow, Scotland. 13 November 2015. Line up: Neophyte All Stars, Neophyte -v- Tha Playah, Kasparov, Furyan, MC Jeff. Second Room, hosted by Infexious: Unresolved, The Beholder, Jason Payne.
Click this link for tickets via paying guestlist