This post is also available in: Nederlands (Dutch)
Trial & error. Those words apply to the start of Dutch Rombout Wagenaar's a.k.a. Rombout's DJ career. Without YouTube or other avenues to check out the art, he and his friends had to invent the wheel themselves. In December 2014 he told me his debut story. "I was shaking like a leaf."
“My first gig was at a party we organized with a group of friends in the Goliath (now CMA) in Amsterdam East. It was a beautiful venue that was set up as a revue theater. Of that group I was the youngest, I think about seventeen, eighteen years old. It was 1993/’94.”
Shaking like a leaf
“We played pretty solid: hardcore, techno and breakbeat. It was still possible to mix it all up back then. From Joey Beltram to Altern 8. I had just bought a Messiah track, There Is No Law, and I wanted to put it on first. I was shaking like a leaf, because it was packed, and I could just about get the needle on the record with both hands! However, when Messiah blasted out of the speakers, the roof came off. That gave me confidence so after that the nerves were okay.”
“Fortunately, at that time it was more about the music and the party than the skills anyway. What I definitely learned at that party is that I like being close to the audience. In that venue, the DJ booth hung on the wall like a kind of balcony two to three meters above the room. So, you looked down on the audience and I don’t like that. I still prefer to be on the ground floor between people than on such a stupid pedestal.”
“Later, of course, I mastered beat mixing, but that wasn’t until my fourth or fifth gig. In those days, if someone organized a party, all friends with records were simply rounded up and some stuff was borrowed or rented together. Done. I played in a lot of strange places: in sports canteens, gazebos and church basements, with the strangest turntables and mixing consoles. As long as it had a pitch and faders, it would be good.”
Waste of my time
“I learned a lot that way. For example, I still don’t prepare a set. It is important that you choose your records well and maybe put them in order in terms of tempo or hardness. However, figuring out an entire set from A to Z is a waste of my time. I’d much rather play for a few hours with the records I’ve selected, so they’re comfortable in my system. I feel much more confident that way.”
“When I had to play in the main hall of Paradiso for the first time, I did prepare a beginning. Just in case I didn’t remember. It was about three records, just to get into it. That was a strange gig for me anyway because while I was playing, my father was having emergency surgery. My set went great and afterwards I was called that the operation was successful. I will never forget that moment. I was exploding with adrenaline. I was so happy!”
This interview with Rombout was originally published on DJMag.nl in January 2015.