Joyhauser Celebrates 20 Years of Terminal M with an Exclusive Mix
Joris Cielen and Stijn Vanspauwen started off as two wide-eyed techno sprouts at a very young age, making their way to Belgian festivals such as Pukkelpop and I Love Techno as early as 14 to go check out the biggest and best new DJs the scene had to offer. Growing up in the small town of Bilzen, about an hour east of Brussels, Joris and Stijn made a name for themselves as the municipality’s foremost purveyors of dance music. Stepping out into the wider world as they grew up, Stijn continued working at his family’s furniture shop while Joris went professional in football before an unfortunate injury cut his career short, and he went on to become a psychologist.
The story certainly doesn’t end there, and as far as their music career goes, it seems we’ve only reached the beginning. Despite having played together for a good chunk of their lives, they officially joined forces as Joyhauser in 2011 and continued to pursue their love of techno. Playing together regularly throughout Belgium, their musical symbiosis strengthened to the point of excellence where people in the broader scene started to notice. After steadily improving their capability — both in the studio and behind the decks — Joyhauser took the techno scene by storm in 2018 with their debut C166W EP on Terminal M. Since the runaway success of that release, the duo has pushed out music on labels like Respekt Recordings, Second State, Labyrinth Music, Drumcode, Toolroom, and more. Their tracks have racked up millions of streams around the world and have become incessant weapons for major acts like Amelie Lens, Pleasurekraft, Adam Beyer, Pan-Pot, and many more.
Joyhauser’s sound is scintillating, dynamic, and, most of all, massive. It fills up huge techno arenas and brings a full-throttle invasion of synths, kicks, and soundscapes to your ears with an unrushed and level-headed approach. All in all, they’ve established themselves as key players in Belgium’s ongoing domination over the global techno scene.
Their fruitful relationship with Terminal M continues to this day, and with their new remix of Push’s single “Strange World,” out now on the label, we caught up with Joyhauser to learn more about their past, present, and future ambitions. To celebrate their new track and 20 years of Monika Kruse’s iconic techno imprint, Joyhauser has put together a behemoth hour of Terminal M classics and slammers via an exclusive mix.
Bring us back to the first parties you two threw together in your hometown of Bilzen in Belgium. What year were those parties taking place? Describe the scene, the vibe, and the type of music that helped drive your intro into techno.
It must have been around the year 2007. There weren’t a lot of decent electronic music parties in our region, so a couple of friends and us decided to team up and throw the parties ourselves. It was a beautiful time. We were very young and actually just dipping our toes into nightlife. The first parties were more of a get-together between friends, but eventually, we drew more and more people to our dance floors. We were playing a lot of M_NUS and Cocoon stuff back then.
After building up each of your reputations as individual DJs, what made you decide to join forces as Joyhauser? What year was this, and what was the process like in finding your ideal techno style?
We’ve been listening to electronic music since we were very young, but the techno bug bit us for the first time at I Love Techno 2006 in Ghent. Stijn already played as a solo DJ, and Joris played soccer on a professional level, so he didn’t have much time to combine the two. When we started doing our own parties, we played some spontaneous b2b sets, and we immediately felt a good vibe between the two of us. After a serious knee injury, Joris had to give up on soccer, and we decided to continue as an official DJ duo in 2011. Our taste in music has always been much alike; however, one of us liked to play the harder straight techno while the other liked to play the more melodic side of the genre. Through the years, this developed into the DJ sets we play now, a perfect symbiosis between the two.
You both had full-time jobs before deciding to pursue music in full just last year. Can you tell us about your jobs and what it was that really pushed you towards full-time careers as DJ-producers?
Stijn worked at a family company selling wood and furniture for almost ten years while Joris had a career as a psychologist. We tried to combine our jobs and DJ careers for a long time. I think we kind of wanted to play it safe from a financial point of view. Up until 2018, we were mostly playing at parties based in Belgium, so it was pretty doable. When “Galaxy Phase” became a hit in the summer of 2018, more and more booking requests from abroad started rolling in. Travel took up an apparent roll in our schedule, and we were getting booked for peak time, and closing sets more often. The lack of sleep started to take its toll. Going in for work on a Monday (or even a Tuesday) really became a drag. Our management suggested just taking a leap of faith and quit our daytime jobs, so we did. Looking back now, we can’t even imagine how we managed to combine both. The peace of mind and focus we now have translates into a much more productive vibe in the studio and on stage.
Tell us about your first time meeting Monika Kruse. How has she and her Terminal M imprint helped you two grow as artists? Are there any essential lessons regarding studio tactics or the music industry that she imparted on you?
The first real meeting was between Joris and Monika Kruse at Lagoa Club, Belgium, in March 2018. A good friend/promotor invited us to play the closing after Monika. Unfortunately, Stijn wouldn’t be able to make it that night due to circumstances. We usually don’t do solo sets, but this was a huge opportunity to finally meet Monika. We had been fans of her and Terminal M for so many years. So we made the exception, and Joris went alone. Very glad we did because when Joris played, Super Pollen Monika came straight up to the booth to ask which track he was playing. After that, each time he played a Joyhauser track, Monika came up to ask the track ID. She ended up staying until seven in the morning to dance to our set. Her tour manager was not amused!
In the months that followed, we started sending her some of our tracks. Monika can be really critical when it comes to music, so this wasn’t an easy task. I think we might have sent her close to 10 tracks in total. A few weeks later, we saw she was playing at Moonday in Ghent, so we decided to head up there and meet her again. We ended up having a really good time at the party, and when the day ended, she concluded that she wanted to sign a four-track EP. Monika certainly pushed us to always do better at our productions. The process of signing a full EP can be painstakingly long, but in the end, we always end up with an awesome release.
Your Terminal M debut, the C166W EP, was met with widespread critical acclaim. How did things change for Joyhauser following the release of that record?
That EP definitely changed our lives for good. After the success of the single “Galaxy Phase,” we were eager to release our first full-blown EP. We are delighted that Monika Kruse and Terminal M gave us that opportunity. After the release, it quickly became apparent that “Galaxy Phase” wasn’t just a lucky shot because we immediately gained further support from some big names in the scene, such as Adam Beyer, Pan-Pot, and Amelie Lens. Everyone was playing it! Today it’s still prevalent. With over five million streams on Spotify, you can consider it our most successful track to date. Also, we can’t go a single DJ set without playing it. The crowd still goes crazy every time they hear the first beat drop.
2019 was a huge year for you guys, and you had many dates and tours set up that were supposed to carry on into 2020. How have you been keeping on with the pandemic? What strategies do you use to stay motivated and keep up your artistic momentum?
In the first month, we just took some time off because we had been touring for almost two years straight. After that month, we decided to dive into the studio and we produced a lot of new music (and not purely techno). Unfortunately, the uncertainty of the pandemic development also brought quite some stress into our lives, knowing that we quit our full-time jobs only one year before. Luckily, we built up quite a bit of momentum in 2019, and our release schedule for 2020 had already been filled until the end of the year. We did some fun live streams but not too many because we don’t consider that as a worthy alternative to a real DJ set at all. Most of the big bookings that got canceled are already rescheduled to 2021, so we just try to be patient until this all blows over. In the meantime, we want to be as productive as possible in the studio. We also gained a weekly residency at the national radio station, Studio Brussel. We present our own radio show each Saturday night and consider it an excellent alternative and medium to share our music with our fans in these crazy times. Furthermore, we also ‘released’ our very own Joyhauser beer. Beer is another BIG passion of us, and with COVID around, we finally found the time to finalize the plans we’ve had for a while. Our first batch is already sold out, but we’re working on the second one as we speak.
With lots of time to reflect on your young but wildly successful career in 2020, is there a memory that you often revisit as being a “career-defining moment” moment for the two of you? If you had to choose one, what would it be?
A highlight for us personally must have been at Pukkelpop in 2018. Pukkelpop is one of Belgium’s biggest festivals, and we’ve been a visitor since we were only 14 years old. It defined our taste in music, seeing all the big DJs and bands playing there at such a young age. It was always a dream to play in their Boiler Room (the DJ stage) one day. We just returned from Tokyo the day before (our first gig outside of Europe) and had massive jetlag. We played a special set with only Joyhauser tracks, and the thousands of people that were there just went nuts. That gig was a confirmation for us that we were on the right path, and it gave it so much energy to keep pushing through.
Do you have any plans to release an album anytime soon? Are there any other Joyhauser releases in the pipeline that we should look forward to?
We have some pretty awesome releases coming up soon. We also started working on an album, and it’s coming together pretty nicely. The initial plan was to release it in 2021, but with COVID still disturbing our daily life, we’ve postponed it for now. It’s done when it’s done. What’s certain is that the album won’t be strictly techno. It will be something more unique. You’ll see!
Tell us about the mix you made for us.
Terminal M has a very impressive catalogue and history, so it was tough to select the best tracks. We had a shortlist of about 40 tracks. Eventually, we just stuck to the ones that we played the most during the last couple of years. That goes to show how much quality is to be found on this label. We can’t express in words how happy we are to be a part of it. Congratulations Terminal M!