Orlando Voorn: “Making Music According To My Mood”
Orlando Voorn: “Making Music According To My Mood”February 24, 2023
When Orlando Voorn first visited The Motor City back in the early ’90s, it would have been impossible for him to fully comprehend the deep-seated sonic link he was building between Detroit and his hometown of Amsterdam. Kicking it alongside techno originators like Juan Atkins, Blake Baxter, Mike Banks, and Kevin Saunderson, his machine funk wisdom would lead to the creation of foundational and timeless techno tunes like “Flash,” “Game One,” “Where Is Your Evidence?” and more, all released under a miscellany of monikers (totaling over 30 today).
As a DJ, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who has been at it longer than Voorn. He first cut his teeth on the decks when he was 12 — the same age he first started sneaking into clubs — and won the DMC DJ Championship back in 1986. On the production front, his dance floor prowess has expanded well beyond the realm of techno. He’s produced every variation of house music imaginable (deep, tech, afro, jackin’, funky, you name it) and has also ventured into electro, minimal, disco, and electronica territory. The word “prolific” is putting it lightly, and with over three decades of experience and hundreds of releases under his belt, Orlando Voorn is a prime mover of dance music’s true school sound.
For his latest offering, Orlando Voorn makes his dazzling return to Dam Swindle‘s celebrated imprint Heist Recordings with the second iteration of his Heist Mastercuts EP from last year. To mark the occasion, we caught up with the techno veteran to learn more about his workflow, his path to Detroit, the sound behind Heist Mastercuts Pt. 2, his future gigs, and more.
Orlando Voorn’s Heist Mastercuts Pt. 2 EP is out now via Heist Recordings. Buy it on Beatport.
Hey Orlando! Thanks for joining us. How has 2023 been treating you so far?
Thanks for having me! 2023 has been good so far. Lots of things are coming up production-wise and a couple of gigs.
You first started making house and techno records back in 1988, which eventually led to you making your historical connection with Detroit. While your time in the Motor City is well documented, do you recall the first time you had any of these Detroit originators visit you in Europe? Do you stay in touch with them to this day?
Yes, I recall it very well. The very first time I went to Detroit was around 1992 after meeting Juan Atkins and Blake Baxter in Holland. I worked with Juan in my home in Holland on the “Industrial Metal Remix” from my Frequency project, and we clicked right away.
Once I was in Detroit, I was treated like family by everybody, and that was also the time I passed on records like “Flash” to KMS and “Midi Merge” to Fragile/Transmat — I met most of the Detroit guys back then. From time to time, we do connect through phone or mail. I have just made a few tracks for Rick Wilhite, the first vinyl is out through Mahogany distribution, a compilation with other Detroit artists, and there is still an EP to come out with AMP Fiddler on Burek.
Last year, you treated us to a ton of killer EPs on labels like Transient Nature, Deeptrax Records, Tech-um, Magnetron Music, Heist Recordings, Kompakt, and more. What’s your secret to maintaining and managing such a consistent and prolific output of new music?
Being consistent and making music according to my mood. It is something I choose to do, and it’s what I am good at, so I like to challenge myself, push some boundaries, or just have a funky ol’ time. I like variation as it’s the spice of life. I mean, we have favorite foods we eat, but if you eat the same food every day, that favorite will disappear. Of course, I stay in my lane to what I am able to do, but I wonʼt limit myself to not exploring the things I like.
Following the success of your Heist Mastercuts EP on Dam Swindle’s Heist imprint, we’re now gearing up for its follow-up release, Heist Mastercuts Pt. 2. How would you describe the EP?
It is definitely a house affair with a wink to Frankie Knuckles. His track “Tears” serves as the inspiration for “Soundsystem.” While “Day by Day” is more of a swing boogie track. “High” is a rough house swinger, and “909” is a jackin’ track with Boo Williams on vocals. No filler, all killer EP ova here!
What is it about Lars and Maarten’s project (Dam Swindle) and label that lines up so wonderfully with how you operate and think about music?
Well, everything really! These guys are not only very nice in communicating but also very professional and have good taste in music, which is truly the best way to work. They are people who understand each other musically and have not stuck their heads up their asses like some characters. They also did some additional mixing on the tracks, and I blindly trust them in that as well. The outcome is what’s important in the end.
One of the record’s standout tracks is “909” — a raw, spoken-word drum workout you created in collaboration with your buddy from Holland, Emil, and Chicago legend Boo Williams. How did this track come about?
This was a coincidence! Emil sent me the demo mix with vocals of Boo in it, and I told him I only wanted to do it with permission to use the words, so I contacted Boo, and we arranged for it to be okay to use.
From what I’ve gathered, it has been a while since you played out, but you did smash in a four-hour set at Berghain back in December. What was it like getting back up behind the decks after this brief hiatus from performing?
It was dope to hear the sound system there and even better to hear my own productions on that system. It was indeed a long while since I had been DJing, but I enjoyed it very much. The crowd is accepting of different styles, which is a plus. I had some technical issues with the Ozone mixer, it started crackling at some points, so I requested to switch the mixer but other than that, it was the fastest four hours passing by.
With over 30 years of dance music experience under your belt, who are some new, up-and-coming DJ/producers in the house and techno scene that have caught your attention?
Honestly, I am not a very good trainspotter, some have time to examine everything that is going on, and I simply donʼt have the time to look at that. However, there is always a particular style that catches me, and that could be anyone, really. You can definitely see the progress that has been made over the years, with an eye on production as well. But, on the other hand, there is a gruesome amount of bad music as well. So all the digging and searching can take time.
A younger artist I love to work with is Slikk Tim from France, also known as Gary Gritness. He is a young man with an old soul and knows a tremendous amount about artists and music in general and is one whom I can sometimes learn from. He’s a great musician overall and has a great mentality, plays a lot of bass sessions on various tracks of mine.
Do you have any goals that you’ve set for yourself this year? What else do we have to look forward to from Orlando Voorn in 2023?
I have my own label DBA (Detroit Boogie Assemble), and that gets pressed in the UK. DBA 002 is on preorder right now. My label Soul Stage is another label with more house sound, Nighttripper Records for the techno sound. Triangle Records are also in rotation running with Paul O. There is a jazz album coming up, plus several EPs from all angles will be unleashed. Then there are a few gigs lined up in March: OWAP in Amsterdam, Holland, Memorybox in London, and a festival in Croatia this May.
Listen to Orlando Voorn’s ‘Heist Mastercuts Pt. 2’ EP below, or check it out on Beatport.
Cameron Holbrook is Beatportal’s North American Editor. Find him on Twitter.