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Sander Van Doorn on What It Takes to Succeed in Dance Music

Education, musical savvy, relationships, and love for the game made this Dutchman a perennial.
November 19, 2014, 11:30pm

From his first single "Loaded" in 2004 to his newest offerings with Martin Garixx, DVBBS and Oliver Heldens, Sander van Doorn continues his definitive quest for scrupulous production without stereotype.

His decade long career has brought about two studio length albums, countless big room reworks, buckets of high-profile gigs (Ultra, EDC, Tomorrowland), hundreds of Identity podcasts—and this past week, Sander van Doorn brought his 'Doorn Records Canadian Bus Tour' to Toronto's soon-to-be deceased Guvernment nightclub for one final takeover.


Hitting the booth in the wee hours of the morning, the Dutch DJ/producer made sure to command the iconic venue with an intensified arsenal of electronic carnage. Sander followed sets by fellow Dutchmen, Julian Jordan and Firebeatz who are part of the tour joyride.

Prior to the late night escapade, THUMP had a sit down with SVD, speaking on everything from his background in economics to his fixating collaboration with Oliver Heldens ("THIS") to his choice on taking the DJ plunge in the first place.

Photograph by Visualbass

Industry folk and fans have dubbed Sander van Doorn a "music genius," yet his entry into electronic music began humbly, with no eyes on the bright lights. "I started producing when I was 18 and honestly, I never really took it that seriously," he tells THUMP. "I just wanted to listen and play music."

"In the meantime though, I did pursue college/university and studied commercial economics, but realized it wasn't for me. I needed to do something with my life that I really loved and being so critical of myself was probably a good thing," he states. "I didn't want to regret not pursuing music and always thought if it doesn't work out I can always go back to school."

This year, Sander van Doorn landed right smack in the middle of DJ Mag's Top 100 List (No. 51), tucked in between Laidback Luke and Dada Life. While the crop of DJs continues to expand by the hour, SVD doesn't let ageism and change muddle his mind. Instead, he welcomes the newcomers.


"I don't concentrate on age although it is still something I notice, everyone is getting younger or I'm just getting older I guess, but they're brilliant. I am learning from those guys, guys like DVBBS and they are learning specifics from how I produce. Some guys lay down structure and then fill in the gaps while others lay down the full sequence and spread it out, it's nice to see different methods and tricks. I get a lot out of working with younger artists. I hope they do with me too."

Photograph by Visualbass

He also holds the same level of respect for predecessors like Armin van Buuren, who took the third spot on DJ Mag's 2014 list.

"Before electronic music blew up, it was people like Armin that set the bar high. Seeing how I was able to do it, well, I thank people like him who raced to get what they wanted. You had to be smart and really driven working with money and labels and honestly it just makes me respect him even more. He was able to do the whole music thing while also completing school and getting law degree. He's become one of the biggest DJs in the world and has made it possible for guys like me."

Doorn Records first became an outlet for Sander van Doorn's own releases and has gradually become a home to other emerging names. "The record label is an extension of myself and at the early stages it was a way for me to not only release my music but help others too," he explains. "Like Wardt from W&W for example, back in 2008 his song "Show My Shuffle" was the second release on the label. It felt good that my label could support it you know? After that things just kept growing and like a year and a half ago when "Tsunami" came out, things just blew up. I'm so pleased with the music we are releasing."


His tightly knit sonic trajectory, what some have pegged as 'SvD-style', is as much technical as it is expansive. His latest release with Oliver Heldens ("THIS") taps into his earlier techno tact quite formidably. "I always want to keep experimenting but it was cool with Oliver because he knew what he wanted to do and he even brought up his like for "Riff," which was the first song released through Doorn Records. We produced the track in my studio in Holland, actually it was the first track I produced in that studio. He had an idea and was very strong about it so we just did it and it only took a couple of days."

Coming equipped with that formalized education and the business savvy knack has elevated his ability both as a musician, DJ, and businessman. He explains, "Being a producer or DJ is not just about being an artist because you have your own company so to say. You have fans you have to keep satisfied and there's a full package that comes with the territory. You are your own boss too and have people working for you so it's a whole different ball game. I'm glad I had a background such as economics because it really helped me understand the business behind the business."

2015 will be a year of producing for SVD's exuberant mind. Now with a new studio, Sander van Doorn may even tread on new territory and issue an arts album, something that is "completely different and experimental," so he states. With sincere eyes and a wide smile he concludes, "I'm going to do this for at least another ten years (I hope…), but I am going to cut back on touring. I'm going to buy a caravan and chill in Holland, you know, campfire all that stuff [laughs]. You have to remember there is going to be life after being an artist, you still need an identity."

Now, relive a circuit favourite below.

Follow Kathryn on Twitter: @LoadedLove