Dash Berlin’s Jeffrey Sutorius Talks Prodution Process, What’s Wrong With Trance And More [EDMT Interview]

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Beautiful piano ballads, airy melodies, celestial vocals and an undeniable fervor best describe the act that is known as Dash Berlin. The group reigns supreme in the world of trance and is led by the always-effervescent DJ and frontman, Jeffrey Sutorius. Thanks to his larger-than-life stage presence and genuine love for his fans (known as “Dashers”), he has become an unmistakable figure in dance music today and embodies the oozing passion found at the core of each Dash Berlin song. Often forgotten are the two other members of Dash Berlin – Eelke Kalberg and Sebastiaan Molijn – who purely produce music behind the scenes. They not only add an important element of versatility to the act but also inject their deep musical knowledge and previous success under other dance acts. Since joining forces in 2006, this now veteran trio has gone on to win many impressive accolades and is well on its way to forever etch the name of Dash Berlin in the history of trance.

In the midst of a global tour, we caught up with frontman Jeffrey Sutorius prior to his show at San Francisco’s Ruby Skye to ask him about the trio’s production process, Dash Berlin’s musical evolution, what’s wrong in the world of dance today and more.

You can check out Sutorius’ complete and unfiltered answers below.

Not many people know Dash Berlin is made of three people. How do your various musical styles differ?

“We don’t necessarily have a different musical style, it’s more of a different background. The guys I work with are very well known for their work, with Alice Deejay, and The Vengaboys. They are way much more experienced when it comes to producing than I am. I just started in 2001 and they had been producing for years, in the early 90’s already. So learning from them also made us grow as a team, learning from each other and how to deal with criticism in order to grow as Dash Berlin. It’s a team effort, so eventually it doesn’t really matter where you come from, what your background is, because it’s all about the end result. We always want to get the best out of each other and that’s eventually what we hope people hear when they listen to something made by Dash Berlin. I’ve been stating more and more that people should know that actually Dash Berlin in comprised of three (people) and we’re friends so we have been doing this from the start. For us this is a perfect way of working because we can continue pushing out new music while touring. This is the ideal situation because when you’re doing everything all alone – especially when you’re traveling alone and you’re producing everything by yourself – you get cut back because you need to rest too and don’t have any direct feedback. Everything continuously circulates and working over the Internet is really simple.”

How does your production process work?

 “We send beat structure arrangement or melody, but sometimes we also get a vocal like with latest single Clement BCX “I TAKE CARE”, a vocal we got from Armada Music. We started working around that, so we don’t have a specific way of working like we don’t always start out from a melody standpoint or an arrangement standpoint. We just start and we have a lot of music on the shelf that we haven’t finished over the years, but that’s fine, that comes with the production process.”

Since you are the only one who DJs, what is your process of selecting music for your sets? Do all three of you choose music or just you?

“We do everything together, that’s also them. When you’re a team, you’re a team. It’s not like “okay we work together on the music but the DJ stands alone”. We do everything as a team, my manager Borys also plays an important role in decisions. Why wouldn’t you?”

Are there ever times when you don’t want to be the frontman and you’d rather be behind the scenes just producing? How do Eelke and Sebastiaan feel about being solely behind the scenes?

“No, this is the way we started working and I really like DJing myself. They know that, so that’s why we decided to let me travel and let me be behind the decks. That really works for me too, as a core I am a DJ, and that’s my core, where I am come from – I love it. They gave me that opportunity within the team and I am very happy for that. I don’t have any problems with interviews, with the spotlight, with pictures.”

You’ve been producing more progressive tracks recently, and in a recent interview you said it was an organic progress. Do you see your sound evolving completely? How do you maintain a balance of this new sound versus your classic trance sound?

 “I think you can always still hear that it’s Dash Berlin, but that’s the most difficult part in the production process right now with not really shifting to a different style but adapting and still keeping your own sound with that, that’s very difficult. A lot of people have no idea how difficult it is to make easy sounding music the way we do it. You think, “oh well it sounds really simple, so then it must be really easy” but I can tell you that it’s not and that’s where a lot of people go wrong. It’s exactly what our productions stand out for in comparison to others. Going back to your question, if you see where we came from with “Till The Sky Falls Down” until today you’ll see that it’s been changing throughout the years and I think we would have missed a lot of opportunities if we didn’t tag a long a little bit without stepping completely out of our boundaries. I wouldn’t be playing mainstages, I wouldn’t be doing a lot of shows I do now and I feel comfortable with it. I see the fans feel comfortable with it, I see the Dashers, the people who are listening to electronic music, not per se Dash Berlin, they’re all comfortable with it. It’s also interesting because we don’t get stuck in the same production environment. It challenges us as a team to adapt to a new kind of style without losing the Dash Berlin core.”

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As one of the most prominent artists in the trance world, what do you think of the current state of trance and where would you like to see it go from here?

“It’s difficult to be really honest, I play trance as it is now every once in a while. The tempo for trance went down after its peak one and a half to two years ago with the 138 movement. That was the worst thing to ever happen to trance, it got stuck around BPM (beats per minute) and trance has never been like that. If you listen to the top compilations of like Tiesto, he’s known for In Search of Sunrise. He went from 127 to beyond and that was trance and for me that is still trance. All of a sudden a few years back if it was 138 it was trance and now that’s kind of slowed down, so for the people who are producing trance or have been with the 138 movement, they have a little more space to breathe production wise. […] I have to say honestly that I’m disappointed when it comes to the quality and I hope everybody will step up because the genre doesn’t die out and it doesn’t have to. It all stands out with the producers. Let me briefly explain what I mean: Techno is still Techno, but if you listen to Techno from like 15 or 20 years ago it was completely different, but it kind of moved along the way because you got new ways of producing, new plugins, more inboards, and then sounds changed. The way people experience Techno is different then how they did back in the day. The same goes for Trance because people thought it had a certain stamp to it, but then it had to be 138 and that degraded the whole genre. If you would play a 128 track then you’d think, “oh he plays house”. Now you could say if it’s all of sudden differently produced – which it’s not – it’s all of a sudden trance again. For me guys like John Digweed, James Zabiela, to Tiesto, even Nicky Romero, even Martin Garrix, Armin, but also the guys who are more in the harder side of playing like John O’Callaghan, Indecent Noise, that’s all trance. Once you divide a genre to a specific BPM tempo or specific sound, it will die out. So I am happy that it kind of spread over again to everybody’s own liking, of what is trance and what is not, and that’s how the genre is going to eventually survive.”

You initially started playing drums and were influenced by your father who was a drummer in a jazz band. How has that influenced your style in electronic music?

“I find it very hard to compare Jazz with Trance because Jazz stands out with organic instruments and Trance is purely electronic music so that’s really hard to compare. The only connection is the 4×4 beat, and my father was a drummer and that’s my connection with the 4×4 beat, hence electronic music eventually over the years. That’s where my rhythm part comes from. My feeling for a certain beat or for a certain structure within an arrangement is where my father lives on in Dash Berlin productions.”

What is one problem you see in dance music that you’d like to see change?

“The problem is that people are constantly asking – and this has to do with the fact it’s electronic music and constantly changing which is good for the genre – but the fact that people are constantly asking questions like “What’s going to be next?” or “Is it going to be big?”. Just enjoy music, really simple. Just enjoy it as it is. If you like melodies you go somewhere where people play electronic music with melodies. If you don’t like it, you go to more of an underground type setting with more monotone electronic music like Techno or Tech-House. There’s so much to choose from and I don’t really understand always the questions like “Where is it going next?”. It doesn’t matter because it’ electronic dance music, it’s music and will evolve itself. It has to do with where electronic music comes from, It has to do with economic situation in the world, it has to do with certain stability in regions or areas where people make music and how music develops in general, and this is how it’s been for many the years. I always enjoy the music, no matter what style it is. Whether it’s hard, soft, in between, I like electronic music, and I would urge for everybody to do that instead of asking the question “What’s next?” or “What do I need to know?” You will like what you will like eventually and if there is a problem, I would say that’s the problem. Step out of it, step out of the boundaries and just express yourself because that’s the great thing of electronic dance music. People have enjoyed it for such a long time already and it’s still going great so why ask questions, there’s no need for it.”