So-Riel: “Darkraver gave me a lesson in ‘no panic'”

So-Riel and Marceline 2022
So-Riel and I got to know each other through the Facebook group Huppels. Her baptism of fire took place in the company of legends like Darkraver and Gizmo. "I thought I would faint from nervousness."

This post is also available in: Nederlands (Dutch)

So-Riel a.k.a. Sophie van Riel and I got to know each other through the Facebook group Huppels. This led to a wonderful friendship, and I'm proud to be able to publish this special first gig story of my dear friend. So-Riel has been part of the scene for over twenty years now. Her baptism of fire took place in the company of legends like Darkraver and Gizmo. "I thought I would faint from nervousness."

“It must have been 1990. I was barely fourteen, and suddenly I stumbled upon an illegal radio station that played only house music: Lazer Hot Hits FM from Belgium. I lived in Brabant (the south of The Netherlands) at the time. The music they played was a revelation to me. I was immediately hooked, almost addicted, and I’ve remained that way to this day. After a year, the station went off the air, but it was replaced by the more well-known Dutch station Channel X. This station regularly broadcasted live from legendary Belgian clubs. I wasn’t allowed to enter the clubs, but it was inevitable: at the age of fifteen, I bought my first house record. Unfortunately, I can’t remember which one it was.”

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“It wasn’t that I specifically wanted to become a DJ. I had too much stage fright for that. Fortunately, I know how to deal with it now.” (laughs) “It was initially a hobby. I bought records because I loved the music, and of course, I wanted the music that was exclusive to DJs and clubs. I also made mixtapes, both for myself and for others. Although I was always nervous before DJing, I did it regularly. At that time, it was mainly Belgian hard house, hardcore, and branching into techno. It didn’t take long before I said goodbye to hardcore. That genre was too trendy for me, and happy hardcore was way too much.” (laughs)

Amateurish and Successful

“The hard house/hardcore chapter was short but also the beginning of my DJ career. Funny enough, my first gig was both amateurish and one of the most successful ever. I still laugh when I think about it. What an event it was! I was almost seventeen. A guy at my school organized hardcore parties, and I asked him if I could DJ once. His response was, ‘Let’s see you do it.’ It was a party in my hometown of Etten-Leur, and I got to open. After me, Darkraver and Gizmo were on the line-up. They had a huge reputation at that time and could really rock the crowd.”

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2500 People!

“In those days, when there was a party, everyone actually showed up. So, by the end of my hour-and-a-half set, the tent was full with about 2500 people. I didn’t need to bring headphones because they were supposed to be there. But they weren’t!! It was an ultimate learning moment. Fortunately, in no time someone found a headset. I thought I would faint from nervousness. However, the DJing went fairly well. Everyone seemed satisfied, including myself. And I knew, ‘This was awesome, I want to do this more!'”

No Panic

“At the end, I had a little mishap. The adapter plug from the borrowed headphones was still in the mixer. Oops. Darkraver gave me a lesson in ‘no panic’ by mixing quite calmly and tinkering behind the mixer, without headphones, while the crowd was going wild. It was a learning experience for me: don’t panic, be musically and technically prepared, and try not to let nerves get the best of you.”

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Baptism of Fire

“Shortly after this baptism of fire, I quickly moved towards house, tech house, and techno in terms of sound, and I mainly played at intimate (private) parties. Around 2002, I stood as a resident in a small club in Breda for a year. I love many styles, but within my sets, I try to keep a storyline.”


“For various reasons, I left public DJing for a few years. Until 2008. That’s when I switched from vinyl to CDs and later to USB/Traktor. From that moment on, I focused seriously on DJing again. During the same period, I moved from Brabant to Haarlem. Initially, it was for love, but it also worked out well for my musical ambitions.”

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“In 2010, I won a national female DJ contest at the Amsterdam Escape. I also played a few times on the Bloemendaal beach and in various local clubs and parties. Unfortunately, my health has been a bit shaky in the last three years, but in 2015, I’m going full steam ahead!”

No Labels

“I’m not specifically inspired by this or that artist. I try to pick up the best and turn it into my own. It can be the typical Detroit sound or more the Berlin style, but also UK house/techno. I actually don’t like labels, as long as it’s beautiful and high-quality. I have great admiration for DJs who produce their own original tracks. ‘Eccentric’ is a word that suits me well. During one of the contests I participated in, my style was described as ‘steady, timeless, and a bridge between accessible and more underground/experimental.’ That sums it up.”

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“I also try to maintain this broad style in producing music, which I took my first steps in last year. Hopefully, 2015 will also be the year when my first release comes out. I’ve at least set that goal for myself. As critical as I am of myself, I promise nothing.” (laughs) “Hopefully, I’ll get to visit the wonderful city of Berlin again. It would be great to DJ there someday. In my sets under my own name, Sophie van Riel, I try to blend non-mainstream deep house, tech house, and techno into a cohesive sound. Under my alter ego, So-Riel, I play harder techno.”

This interview with So-Riel is originally published on on January 22, 2015.

Who is So-Riel?

DJ So-Riel, full name Sophie van Riel, was born in Etten-Leur in October 1975, to a Belgian mother and a Dutch father. In 2008, she left Brabant to settle in Haarlem.

In the early ’90s, young So-Riel became interested in the new sound of house music and was immediately captivated. She started collecting vinyl and aspired to become a DJ. In the mid-’90s, she played various styles of dance music, primarily at private parties. In the early 2000s, So-Riel took a short break in her career.

In 2008, So-Riel returned, more determined than ever to become a DJ. It is her passion, her life. Nowadays, she plays with CDs/digital equipment and has developed her unique sound style. With this matured style, So-Riel is more dedicated than ever before. The underground sound of the ’90s serves as inspiration for her consistent sound. Depending on the events and parties she attends, So-Riel plays a (deep) house / nu-disco / tech-house / techno-oriented sound. It is a mix of quality underground sounds with a warm feel, stunning compositions, and hypnotic grooves. She does not play mainstream music or trance/hardcore.

Sophie uses her alter ego “So-Riel” when she plays pure and harder techno sounds. So-Riel has performed at many local clubs and parties, on the beach, and she has also played for FM radio stations or internet radio. She hosts a monthly program on Pure Radio and is a resident at the Club Underground parties for LGU (Leiden Goes Underground). In March 2010, Sophie won a national female DJ contest in Amsterdam and secured a residency at Amnesia in Crete for the summer of 2010.

Today, So-Riel is busier and more serious than ever before and playing more prominent techno sets.

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