Jan Bakker is a remarkable figure within the Amsterdam house and techno scene. He's 68 years old, partially sighted, and attends at least one techno party every weekend. Originally, he's from Arnhem, but decided to move to Amsterdam after his divorce 35 years ago. In Amsterdam, he feels completely at home, not least because there's always a party going on somewhere. I met up with him at Café De Ceuvel, a place he likes to frequent.
THUMP: For how long have you been going to house and techno parties?
Jan Bakker: I've been going to these kind of parties for a long time now, probably from the moment the whole scene took off. I never really liked RoXY and iT [famous former clubs in Amsterdam]. I've been there a few times: they were the kind of places you went just to be scene. The nights themselves weren't that great at all.
What kind of parties did you like?
After those days, some small scale festivals started up, as well as a lot of raves – the illegal kind – that were held in abandoned warehouses. Those were a lot of fun and the people were different.
Do you go to the parties and festivals with other people?
I mostly go by myself. I used to always go with other people but I stopped doing that after I went with a group to Mysteryland. It turned out they had planned ahead everything they wanted to do, step by step. That's just not how I roll. I'm okay with most things but I'm not planning on running around all day. So that's when I said to myself: from now on, I'll go on my own. And I absolutely love it. I can stay as long as I want and do whatever I like without having to come up with excuses. Of course, over the years I have gotten to know an insane amount of people that I frequently run into. In comparison to my fellow partiers, I'm quite neatly dressed so I tend to stand out in a crowd. I like certain types of clothing, shoes and glasses but I never really dress for the occasion. My style seems to encourage a lot of people to come up to me at parties and they're mostly very friendly. Every now and then I hear someone say "Let's get closer to this grandpa and take a picture" but I don't even react to that, I just turn around and walk away.
Do you ever feel conscious of the age difference between you and the rest of the people within the scene?
I often get invited by 19 and 20-year-olds to parties. They'll say: 'Come on, Jan, we like to have you around!' So I've never had any difficulty mixing in with young people. A lot of people leave the scene as they get older; the music gets too intense for them. I always think: 'So you've enjoyed it for so many years but all of a sudden having a nice car has become most important thing in the world?' Not that I don't get that other aspects of life can become a priority when you start a family.
Do you have kids of your own?
I have a 42-year-old son and a 20-year-old granddaughter. She never goes to these kind of parties and my son couldn't care less about it either. He prefers rock concerts.
Do you listen to techno when you're at home?
Not really. Maybe every now and then but in that case I'll wear headphones. This kind of music is meant to listened to at high volumes, no-one should listen to it on the radio. It's the same with rock music: the crazy good stuff like Led Zeppelin needs to be played at full blast. The neighbors wouldn't be amused if I did that, so I listen to all kinds of music. I'll listen to techno every once in awhile but that means I'll have to wear headphones.
Do you have a favourite artist?
No, not really, but I really like Monika Kruse and Nina Kraviz.
Does it have anything to do with the fact that they're female?
No, no, no, it's because they're great DJs.
What kind of work did you do when you were younger?
I worked in the technical trading business. But I've been retired for twelve years now – I retired early. That was back when we still had access to early retirement plans, so I thought, why not? I never regretted it for a second.
What did you do afterwards?
Nothing. But I've never been bored. I wouldn't say I have hobbies, I'm just really good at entertaining myself. I ride my bicycle a lot and I go for a walk pretty often and I live a healthy lifestyle. I quit smoking after I had a heart attack. To me it seems like a drag not to know what to do at the end of the day. It's a problem I never encountered.
Do you live by yourself nowadays?
Yes. Two years ago, my cats had to be put down. I decided not to get new ones. They both reached the age of 20 and they've lived inside my house their whole life. Losing them really sucked. For months on end I automatically expected my cats to be nuzzling up to my feet, that's how much I got used to them. Nowadays I'm used to living without them.
Do you think you'll keep on partying for a considerable amount of time?
If there's a party going on tonight, I'll get my bicycle and make sure I get there. I'm far from having to use a walking frame and I still feel great. I live on the fifth floor and there's no elevator in my building, it's not a problem. Why wouldn't I continue partying, if it makes me feel good? Of course, it depends on the people you hang out with. Everywhere I go, I run into people I met at previous parties. Not long ago there was a rave going on in Diemen, it took place over the six stories of the building. There were about 1,600 people in total and I knew about half of them. It was incredible, unlike anything I've ever seen before.
What do you think about the drug use at parties? After a couple of drug-related deaths at ADE, the debate concerning drug use has been revived.
In my experience, it's the people who go to such a party only once a year who indulge in anything they can get their hands on. I've seen a girl pour GHB in a bottle of water that she used in order to swallow a bunch of pills. That's when you start asking yourself: how many pills do they actually take? Trust me, at the parties I visit, I never see people completely intoxicated by drugs or hard liquor. Sure, some will have a few drinks or take some drugs but it's done moderately. However, at the bigger outdoor and indoor parties, it's always the same goddamn thing: before you've actually entered the scene, you'll see some guys and girls completely high or wasted, or both. It's the same old thing over and over. And sure, I sometimes take drugs myself, but I'll always start with just half a pill like many of the people who go to the same parties as me. You go there to have a good time and the next day you actually want to remember how great the party was. I don't lose sight of my health in that way.