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Double Dutch

Whether you call their music Dirty Dutch, the Dutch Sound or just Dutch house, the main players from Holland's house scene such as Afrojack, Chuckie and Sidney Samson couldn't be hotter right now. They're starting to work with gigantic US hip-hop/r&b stars via the ubiquitous David Guetta, but where did this scene come from and what is it - apart from geography - that binds the various players together?

The Dutch, in case you hadn't noticed, are taking over. Following years in which the country's trance DJs have occupied the upper echelons of DJmag's Top 100 DJs poll, the last 18 months have seen a new house sound gripping the world stage, dominating 2010's Winter Music Conference (WMC), an unerring barometer of the club pressure ahead, and grabbing the attention of America's A-list pop, r&b and hip-hop stars. Simultaneously, it's been generating the kind of inevitable backlash that accompanies all unstoppable cultural movements. And as with everything related to dance music's current massive popularity, the ubiquitous presence of David Guetta is never far away.

So what exactly is the sound of Dutch house, often called Dirty Dutch by both fans and detractors alike, who take their cue from the club brand run by Chuckie, one of Holland's current biggest stars? And why, after years bubbling away in the Netherlands domestic club scene, is it now making so many people so excited?

"Dirty Dutch started as my club night since I wanted to do an event exactly as I saw Dutch club culture," Chuckie tells us long-distance from Las Vegas when we ask about the 2005 club tour which introduced, if not the world, then Holland to the term now capable of palpably polarising opinion when you mention it in polite company.


Realising the capacity for large scale events in the Netherlands, his initial foray into traditional club tours moved the next year into putting on parties at the 5000-capacity Heineken Music Hall, booking artists such as Fedde Le Grand and Laidback Luke, before moving on to sell-out the 20,000-capacity Rai, Europe's largest indoor venue.

Despite setting out to show the eclecticism of Dutch music however, "we can play from electro to techno in one gig" he emphasises firmly, it was 2008's 'Let The Bass Kick' and 2009's 'Moombah', a collaboration with Silvio Ecomo which featured remixes from Sidney Samson and Afrojack, two other Dutch players now making huge waves, which had a massive impact.

Built around a high-pitched synth sound packing bags of explosive energy, they leaked out at a time when electro, once a potent musical force, was sounding staler than a three-week-old Rivita, abandoned by the underground and cynically exploited by commercial stadium DJs desperate to move with the times despite jumping on a sound already dated.

Most of all though, the tracks packed Louis Vuitton bags-worth of crunked up hip-hop attitude into a four-four template, with chopped vocal snippets and military drums giving it a European slant comparable to US club music, something that reflects Chuckie's roots as a hip-hop DJ and still translate into sets heavy on scratching and sure-handed CDJ manipulation.

"I knew if I was making house, I had to bring something extra to the music," he recalls astutely.

Urban Roots

It's these urban roots in r&b and hip-hop, the mainstream music of Holland during the late '90s when Dre and Snoop ruled the roost, that unites the current wave of Dutch DJs finding success on a transatlantic level. Afrojack even cite Daft Punk's 1997 Essential Mix that was packed with tough ghetto house, an earlier fusion of dance music and urban attitude, as another influence. This helps to explain why Chuckie, Afrojack and Sidney Samson have all worked, or are working with, David Guetta - the seeming gatekeeper to American success - and are talking to the likes of P. Diddy, Black Eyed Peas and Missy Elliott.

"I started out with hip-hop because I saw the DMC championships and said, 'I want to do that'", Sidney Samson, head of the influential Samsobeats, tells DJmag. His bleepy, expletive-filled 'Riverside' became a huge crossover last year, snapped up by Data Records in the UK, and was a success when released in the States with vocals from Twista, despite - or perhaps, given its new American fanbase, because of - a street tough vocal forcefully declaring, "Riverside motherfucker!"

Sidney Samson
Sidney Samson

DJing from aged 14 and turned onto house by Roger Sanchez, Kid Crème and Junior Jack, Sidney's five year residency at Excellent at The Matrixx, Nijmegen, helped to popularise house domestically over the staple diet of trance, the club playing host to peers like Afrojack, Laidback Luke and Don Diablo.

Yet despite Samsobeats being picked up on early by Dirtybird's Zombie Disco Squad and Made To Play's Renaissance Man, representatives from two labels at the forefront of throwing previously incongruous elements into house music's melting pot, it wasn't until the success of 'Riverside' that Sidney began to foster an international career, playing a string of high profile Ibiza gigs during his first season there this year and filling his black book with a wide network of new contacts.

"The biggest surprise for me was to hear Tiga was playing it," Sidney says excitedly, still sounding incredulous that he's now working with Dim Mak's Steve Aoki, David Guetta and, with further collaborative efforts pending with Laidback Luke, Diplo and Afrojack. "I was like, 'OK, he's playing 'Riverside', what's happening now?' Especially in Holland because it was like, 'Sidney is making bleepy Dutch music. Tiga is cool, and now Tiga is playing 'Riverside''. People were really, really shocked.

"I spoke to Guetta this week and he was like, 'you're really not getting the right props yet for that record because that record really changed the scene for me. I liked the Dutch sound but I could not play a Dutch track. People were like, what's this weird music? For me it was like an explanation, everyone thought 'Riverside' was cool. So it was my excuse to play half an hour of that music after!' I thought it was really cool that he said that."


It's the speed and strength of this crossover onto the world scene that's caught Dutch DJs by surprise, especially as having existed in Holland for around three years before being picked up internationally, it's essentially now considered overtly commercial and even cheesy.

"The funny thing is, Holland or England figure out a new style of music that they think is really cool, then it's not cool anymore," says Afrojack, again long distance from the States having just come out of a penthouse meeting with Apl from the Black Eyed Peas and Omarion of B2K. "Then America finds out. Americans thinks it's cool and Europe thinks it's cool again because America thinks it's cool. It's a really weird situation but it's always like this in all styles of music."


The adoption hasn't only been limited to huge popularist US acts, as the involvement of the ever musically curious Diplo shows.

"I really want to get this out of the way," Afrojack states when we ask him about Major Lazer's 'Pon De Floor', another bleepy, drum-led track that was rinsed to death by every hipster DJ over the summer of 2009. It was widely credited to the combination of Diplo and UK fidget founder Switch, who recruited reggae stars Vybz Kartel on vocal duty.

Internet rumour soon swung into action though, declaring that Afrojack was the co-producer, another version of the track called 'How I Like It' appearing with an earlier female vocal.

"The only reason I'm pissed off about it is that we agreed to put my name as much as possible on the track," Afrojack explains for the record, retelling how he and Diplo recorded the track in a studio he used to have at his mum's house whilst eating her sauerkraut. "If you look on the album you can't see my name anywhere.

"We don't have any differences, we're just friends," he adds, holding no personal beef against Diplo. "I think the label did a smart thing because it's the biggest tune on the album and it's good for Major Lazer if they don't have the name Afrojack next to it."


What the track certainly did do was crossover into the realms of blog house, a million remixes clogging up the binary arteries of Hype Machine, helping to throw the high-pitched whine characterising Dutch house's biggest commercial hits together with Baltimore club breaks, as on Diplo's massive 2009 remix of Bingo Players 'Get Up'.

Having scored a recent Beatport No.1 with 'Devotion', as well as previously releasing on Holland's biggest dance label Spinnin' and its influential subsidiary Sneakerz, Bingo Players' references illustrate how this sound fits into a wider '90s revival happening across dance, and makes a strong case for Dutch house - teaming up with big vocalists fleeing the blackhole that is hip-hop - becoming a modern day hip-house.

"In Holland we had a compilation called 'Turn Up The Bass' and it had hip-hop, but also Technotronic, Nomad, Prodigy and Fast Eddie, all that kind of old school stuff," says Paul Bäumer, one half of the Bingo Players production duo alongside Maarten Hoogstraten. "We really loved that because it was hip-hop focused on top of house beats. It's just an up-dated sound now, so in our tracks you hear hip-hop vocals, and sometimes the old school stabs and long synths."

Bingo Players
Bingo Players

"They smell, they hear the hip-hop vibes in the records," Chuckie agrees, as he recounts getting the call from Lil' Jon which resulted in his vocal on Chuckie's remix of Guetta's 'Sexy Bitch'. He then gives us a rundown of the artists - Toni Braxton, Missy Elliott, P. Diddy and even 50 Cent - now making noises about working with him following a year in which a LMFAO vocal added to 'Let The Bass Kick' spawned a thousand 'I'm In Miami Bitch' t-shirts at the WMC.

So, the future is orange. Chuckie's Dirty Dutch has grown into a festival encompassing international guests like Guetta, Dennis Ferrer and even hip-hop stars N.E.R.D, and Afrojack has new singles coming, including a Ministry release 'Take Over Control' featuring Dutch vocalist Eva Simons, while continuing to work with David Guetta ('he's like my big brother'), with whom he's produced a Black Eyed Peas single, and planning future collaborations with new friend Calvin Harris. 

Sidney Samson is also working with Guetta and Afrojack, as well as Steve Aoki, pushing new Dutch artists such as Bassjackers via his label, while Bingo Players, fresh from a summer in Australia, are launching their own label, Hysteria, with support from Spinnin', kicking things off with their own track 'Get On The Move' before pushing yet more Dutch producers like Nicky Romero and Nicky Tricks.


As with any venture involving friends, money and power, though, the pressure and competition is beginning to show. "Dirty Dutch is Chuckie's party. The rest of the DJs in my opinion don't have anything to do with that sound," says Sidney, voicing the collective opinion of those caught up in this common misnomer. "If you say I have the Dutch sound, then I'm more OK with that because I'm from Holland."

"I don't know why they call the bleepy sound the Dutch sound," says Afrojack, even more irked at the reductive pigeonholing. "Maybe it's because it was the first thing they heard. Joris Voorn is still making a Dutch sound because it's something you don't hear anywhere else."

Even Chuckie, whose night has assumed a Hoover-like brand recognition, seems uneasy about the use of the phrase Dirty Dutch, perhaps because history shows that once a genre has been labelled and characterised (see big beat and nu-rave for past examples), the knives come out and it's those most associated with it that have the most to lose.

"At the end of the day if you want to find this music and you go online to Google, you have to type in some words," he says on what so far has been a savvy marketing tool. "At a certain point online they started to stigmatise this style of music because I had some big songs out with a signature tune, though obviously I wasn't the only one."

Like the others, Chuckie's keen to shrug off any notion of there being a 'Dutch sound', pointing out the proliferation of Dutch music of all styles, not just at ADE, but also at his own events. "In Holland it's not just a sound, it's more of a lifestyle. I have a format that can actually bring together lots of different music at the event and that's what I hope to establish in the rest of the world as well."

For the present though, Dutch house is stronger than it's ever been and those in the limelight are experiencing a first taste of the modern fame game, with plenty of people willing to tear them down as well as build them up.

"For the fans, thanks for all the love at all the gigs," says Afrojack prosaically. "For the haters, I don't make music for people that don't like it. If you don't like it, don't listen to it!"

Given their current upward trajectory, that might soon be easier said than done.