Lenzman aka Teije Van Vliet has come a long way since his first release on Nookie's Strictly Digital back in 2006. Since then the soulful d&b gent has released on Metalheadz, Soul:R, SGN LTD and many more. He is currently working on an album for Goldie's iconic label and is collaborating with graf artists to create a visual aspect to his work. We thought it was about time we got him in for a chat.
Read to the bottom of the article for the chance to win vinyl copies of his latest Metalheadz release and limited edition artwork.
Last year saw you release the sleek 'How Did I Let U Go' on Metalheadz. Now you are back with some deeper vibes with 'Empty Promise' again on Goldie's iconic label, what is it like having backing from such a heavyweight label?
"Working with Metalheadz is fantastic. We're talking about a label that's really very unique in the scene. Having been so important in the evolution of the genre and it's still as relevant as it every was. The biggest reason is Goldie's passion for music, after almost 20 years of running Metalheadz, he's still got so much love for this music. That's very inspirational."
"I have to say that sometimes the history can be a bit of a weight on my shoulders in terms of music. I sometimes catch myself thinking too much about things, which is never good when you're being creative. But the label gives me a lot of creative freedom and has confidence in me as an artist and that's really a great feeling."
You were pivotal in the emergence of a new soulful-leaning liquid style of drum & bass back in 07/08. What do you think pushed that micro-scene?
"I guess it was more coincidence more than anything. Looking back I suppose around that time, doing drum & bass with a more soulful touch wasn't really that 'cool' anymore. The scene had just come off about a 5 year period where it seemed like the dominant sound in the scene and many people had moved on to other styles or had left the scene behind completely."
"I guess I just jumped in that gap – not consciously, but I love music with soul in it and my production levels were just about progressing from 'cringe' levels to acceptable. So I guess it was just some kind of gap we all filled. I don't know if we all fueled each other per se, but I did have contact with [the other producers of the scene] at the time and I guess we all liked and respected what the other artists were doing."
What would you count as some of your early influences?
"In terms of drum & bass I'd have to say people like Calibre, Marcus Intalex & ST Files, dBridge, Die, Dillinja, Carlito & Addiciton, Ill Logic & Raf. But at the same time, my first musical passion was hip hop and I think that still has a major impact on my music. We're talking about the early to mid 90's in particular when technology allowed for longer samples and hip hop beats became much more sample based. Through hip hop I got in contact with 70's soul, jazz, funk, blues you name it. And that sound I try and translate into the Drum & Bass I write now."
Definitely. Do you think you have that link with hip hop what motivates your use of samples in your productions?
"Sampling is undeniably linked to hip hop and I'm undeniably linked to hip hop. I love sampling. In my eyes it's an art. And it can be a lot of fun to do – it kind of feels like treasure hunting. Some people look down upon it, but it really takes a special skill to be able to hear a sick loop that could just be a tiny detail in a massive piece of music. These days I try to stay away from long samples and loops. If I sample things at all, I chop them up massively or take bits from different places and really make it my own."
You have recently worked with Jehst and and used to be an MC yourself. Do you have any plans to produce hip hop?
"Well, I would love to. I'd love to write hip-hop beats. And I have been trying. But I don't want to put anything out there until I'm fully satisfied. I don't want to put anything out there just for the sake of it if you know what I mean? I want it to have the same quality as my drum & bass, and I don't think I'm there yet. But at the same time. I'm always trying to bring some of that hip hop flavour into my drum & bass. I'm working with some vocalists and with the beats they're on it's kind like a hybrid of 90's New York hip hop in 2013 Drum & Bass. If that makes any sense. It's not really done much... And I hope it's something people can get into."
When people think of Dutch dance music it's more commonly linked with hardstyle or trance. Growing up in Holland could you see the divide between those styles of music and the scenes that you were involved in?
"Yeah hardstyle (gabba as they used to call it here) in the 90s and trance since then has been pretty much mainstream in The Netherlands. To be honest, I hated hardstyle with a passion. hip hop is about as far away from it as you can get in terms of music and mentality. It really goes beyond music. It was sociological as well. I could get deeper into it, but I'd need more space. Anyways, Yes - I think that where I was coming from, the people I identified with, my moral upbringing all had things to do with what music inspired me and where I eventually went as an artist myself."
You've recently hooked up with Daan Wille who is the founder of blzn.com, they've created some amazing artwork for 'Empty Promise' and also some t-shirts to go along with it, what made you choose them to work with them?
"Daan and I go way back we've known each other for over 10 years now. We met visiting the same clubs and got on like a house on fire. We also have that same background in 90s hip hop. I've seen Daan doing a lot of great artwork and graffiti over the years, but recently he's become immersed in the whole calligraphy thing. And I'm telling you the guy is a natural. Just check out some of his art to see what I'm talking about. Anyway, I love working with people that have the same understanding of where I'm coming from and where I want to go, so it really felt natural to work with him on this."
"He's done the calligraphy for the cover and label art and as you say we're also doing some t-shirts. He's also done a sick one off canvas which he's been kind enough to donate to the cause!"
Metalheadz have had some important artists and brands work with them over the years like Stussy, Monsta, Supreme Being and more, do you think it's important keeping up their tradition and involving art with the music?
"For me personally - I think it's important. Obviously artwork gives music a face, a way of communicating with your audience visually. The way I see it, through music I'm trying communicate a certain feel, a certain emotion, an idea, an certain identity. If you take the right visualisation of that idea, of that emotion, the message becomes that much stronger."
"It's also an inspiration thing. I think it's great if I happen to inspire an artist to visualise something in a certain way, and that goes both ways. Let me take it back to again hip hop, hip hop isn't just music (Mcing and DJing), it's also graffiti and b-boying. Those are all valid expressions of what that culture is all about. Now I don't do hip hop, but it's just an illustration of why I think it's important."
What have you got planned for the rest of the year?
"I'm finishing off my debut album for Metalheadz at the moment, which is nearing completion. I've also done a track with FD for the forthcoming Platinum Breakz compilation and done a remix of NZ band Shapeshifter which should be out fairly soon. There are more things happening but nothing is confirmed, so I can't really speak about it realistically."
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