Paul Hazendonk: “First gig in Paul Elstak’s radio-show”

Paul Hazendonk and Marceline ADE 2017
During ADE 2017 we accidentally bumped into each other. Of course, the conversation quickly turned to Paul Hazendonk's first gig. It all started with a DJ contest.

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During ADE 2017 we accidentally bumped into each other right in front of the JD Williams whiskey bar in Amsterdam. Of course the conversation quickly turned to Paul Hazendonk's first gig. In November 2017, Paul told me his story. It all started with a DJ contest in the nineties.

“I started buying and playing records after watching a documentary about Mystery Land. This must have been around 1994/1995. I was always busy cutting and pasting pieces of music on tape. Through this documentary I found out that there was such a thing as a DJ who mixed records together. I had found my calling!”

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Playing at birthdays

“The first few years after that, I practiced every free minute of the day and hung out in record stores. However, I didn’t get any further than occasionally putting on a few records during a birthday or school party. Logical when you’ re not even old enough to enter clubs.”

Radioshow Paul Elstak

“My first real public gig was on a local radiostation, Radio Spijkenisse. That was in 1997. I won a DJ contest from the station and subsequently I was allowed to play on Stadsradio Rotterdam for a somewhat larger audience. That was in Paul Elstak’s radio show! Anyway, even though a lot of people listened to it, of course it still was in a radio studio where you don’t see an audience.”

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Ball started rolling

“My first real gig in a club was during the DJ contest of the Eclipse in Vlaardingen. This was at the end of 2000/beginning of 2001. That went pretty well. I ended as runner-up. Around that period, I started working at Basic Beat, which was a well-known Rotterdam record store at the time. That’s when the ball really started rolling for me.”

Sketchy afterclub

“Within a short amount of time, I was asked for several smaller local parties. I must confess that I don’t remember exactly what my first official paid booking was. I suspect that it took place in a very sketchy after-club called the RAGE. What I also remember is that Basic Beat itself organized a party in the Calypso and that I was on the line-up with colleagues Benny Rodrigues, Misja Helsloot and Doc Fabian. That must have been one of my first bookings.”

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International bookings

“My first international bookings were in Sweden, in May 2001, on Friday and Saturday in two different cities. This happened through a promoter who had discovered me on internet. Or I him, that’s also possible.” (laughs). “Croatia followed soon after and in that same year I became a resident of techno organization MAW. They organized parties in Nighttown and Now&Wow in Rotterdam, among others. Later, they also booked the DJs for Las Palmas, also in Rotterdam, where I became one of the residents.”

‘Only’ fifteen years ago

“Now that I look back on it, I find it quite strange, but within three years from my first club gig at the end of 2000, I had multiple residencies. Both at home and abroad. I played at festivals, sometimes in front of thousands of people, I visited several countries as a DJ and even released a mix CD. All that without ever having released a record myself at that time. We’re talking about ‘only’ fifteen years ago, but it’s a complete different world than today. If you don’t make music these days, release on the right labels and are averse to social media, no one will take notice of you. Back then, with the right bit of luck and the right inputs – it has to be said – in a short period of time, you could get pretty far as a DJ . You were judged on what you showed as a DJ, not (also) on how you performed as a producer.”

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Better in front of an audience

“It may sound strange, but I don’t remember being nervous for those first bookings. Maybe it’s because I had been obsessively practicing for years. That way I had become convinced of my own abilities or something along those lines.” (laughs) “I knew I could tightly mix records together, whether that was in my own bedroom or in front of a room full of people. I’ve actually always had the feeling that I perform better in front of an audience and that, if the vibe is good, it loosens me up and it makes be at my best.”

“Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I’ve never been nervous. If I had or have an important booking, every time there’s still a healthy tension, but that always disappears pretty quickly once I’m busy.”

This interview with Paul Hazendonk is originally published on in November 2017.

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