25 years of dance music in the Netherlands: Sunnery James & Ryan Marciano
Now in its 25th year, Amsterdam Dance Event continues to draw artists, professionals and fans from across the globe to celebrate the electronic dance music industry. To commemorate 25-years of dance music in the Netherlands and the ongoing relevance of the annual conference, DA turned to some of the nation’s finest musical assets to tell the unique story of Dutch dance music from the mouths of the artists that have kept in such high esteem. Off the heels of Bingo Players opening segment, we called upon national house stronghold Sunnery James & Ryan Marciano to offer their two-(euro) cents on the development of their homeland’s infamous club culture.
Describe growing up in The Netherlands and when electronic music first became apparent to you – was it easily accessible?
Sunnery James: We both grew up in Amsterdam and met about nine years ago. I worked at a shop for sportswear and Ryan became an intern there. We clicked immediately. We had the same passion for music and started organizing parties soon after that.
Ryan Marciano: I didn’t really know what DJing was but I did start making remixes with cassette tapes pretty early on. After a while someone advised me to start with DJing.
SJ: That was me! We wanted to organise parties but booking a DJ was really expensive so we started doing it ourselves. I played piano from a young age and my dad was an artist, so I heard a lot of music at home such as reggae, pop, Surinamese and Caribbean music. It was a good base for what was to come. We started to really work as DJs in 2007, when we toured the country and visited lots of clubs in The Netherlands. When I really think about it though, Earth Wind & Fire was the first ‘dance artist’ I really liked!
Your own sound has not necessarily followed the status quo where your national peers are concerned. How have you seen the sound of Dutch club land shift within your own careers?
SJ: Real pure house has left the scene in The Netherland. It’s now combined with so many other genres the whole thing became really commercial. That’s why I look up to guys like Dennis Ferrer and Kerri Chandler, who both make and play house the way it was meant to be. In terms of the Dutch house sound, it is way more electro-orientated nowadays. Despite these shifts, we won’t change our sound – I think to do your own thing is really important. We won’t play hits all night, but try to woo the crowd with our own music. That’s always a bigger challenge.
What is you fondest memory of experiencing electronic dance music within your national homeland and why?
SJ: I remember in the first year we toured across The Netherlands we had a gig in The Powerzone and Don Diablo did his thing before we went on. That was tough. The crowd was already hyped up and it’s always difficult to keep the energy level as high as the DJ before you did, especially with our modern house tunes. But we did it and the crowd loved it. That was a great moment for us.
How have you seen the national authorities respond to the culture for electronic music / clubbing within the Netherlands and has it ever had the same love/hate relationship as we see in North America / certain European countries?
RM: The Dutch authorities have always co-operated with the music festivals, at least as far as I’m aware of. The dance culture in this country has been really big for years and had a very natural growth. They are aware of the fact that this part of culture is important to the country as well.
What do you consider to have been the key differentiator between Dutch club culture and its European peers – was it as obvious as the history books would have us believe or was it more subtle to your mind?
SJ: Holland is small, but we have our own club scene and it is incredibly different from the rest of the world. It encompasses our own DJ talents that play by their own rules to a very educated crowd.
Who do you consider to have been one of the most influential innovators where Dutch dance music is concerned and why?
SJ: Duncan Stutterheim from ID&T. He created this incredible platform and really took artists to the next level. We experienced this with Sensation, where he always booked us and gave us a chance to show our music to the rest of the world. I think he changed the dance scene, especially where these massive events are concerned. His vision and work really made DJs the new rock stars by giving them these arenas and amazing production values to play with.
What has been the most challenging aspect of being an artist within the Dutch market / circuit and why?
RM: To my mind, we do something different than most Dutch DJs do. To stick with our own style and not change with the crowds because other styles are more popular is an important asset to us. It’s also a risk, but one we like to take.