Unders, a moniker of Duncan Melema, emerged from the Dutch scene of which he helped create through his promoting career, throwing parties and label nights to satisfy his need to spread good music to the world. Today, Unders is dominating global dancefloors and electronic music chats, sending his witnesses on unique sonic journeys with his evolving melodic sets and original tracks. We had the chance to have a quick chat with him contemplating life, the universe, and everything. Here’s what happened.
- Tell us a bit about your origins journey, before the beat lights went off and the beat dropped, what influenced you to dive into electronic dance music?
To be honest, it’s quite a silly answer. Disco Lights and garage parties when I was 8 or 9 years old. And I don’t mean garage music, but actual parties in my parents’ garage for 20 / 30 of my friends with disco balls & red/green/yellow flashing disco lights. I’m not kidding.
- Starting up as a promoter for label nights and events, how did that shape your sound and career?
I was always DJing when I started to host events, organise festivals and club shows. It was a way for me to play with my favourite artists, get inspired by those I looked up to, and increase my own fan base by impressing the crowd with something Unders. It inspired me five-fold to work harder in order to end up with a future somehow like theirs. It also showed me that this “dream” of mine doesn’t come easy; even when you’re there, you need to be able to make the proper choices to stay healthy and keep moving forward.
- You’re cofounder of Dancefair Expo, an annual 2-day educational convention for DJs and music producers. Tell us a bit about that.
The idea was to create a conference where professional artists, beginners, manufacturers and every other type of dance scene driven company would have the chance to connect offline, share each other’s secrets, and support one another. Luckily it became just that: a place to be inspired, a weekend filled with over 200 workshops on how to take your “artist” career to the next level; a weekend full of learning. I helped set it up for the first 2 years, then shifted my focus back to my own studio life and music dreams. I will be doing a seminar sharing my studio workflow there this Sunday. For those around be sure to check it out this Saturday & Sunday in Utrecht Holland. www.dancefair.nl
- Your set at Burning Man is still a hit to this very day, being shared and listened to by thousands of people on daily basis. Tell us about how your experience there shaped you as a musician and as a person.
My first time at Burning Man in Nevada might be one of the happiest weeks of my life. It changed me in so many positive ways, I don’t think there are any words needed other than these to describe what an impact this week has had on me. The world would be a healthier place with more Burners.
- You have a very peculiar taste when it comes to track selection, it’s smooth, uplifting and evolving. Tell us about your criteria for selecting tracks and dropping them sequentially in your sets?
I’m very picky when it comes to my track collection. I try to delete as much as possible, that sometimes, even tracks I feel are somewhat nice don’t make the cut. Every track I skip through in my out of control / work in progress 10K + track collection must be an instant “ah yes, I love this one”. If I have any doubts, it’s gone, out of my collection, off my computer, never to be seen again. I never play the same set twice, and I continuously search for newer music and support artists that amaze me. Both online, through Soundcloud, and through my own collection that has been built up over the last 20 years. I love finding old tracks I played 10-15 years ago, that now sound as amazing when slowing them down by 10 BPM. My tips for other artists: find a system, keep it organised, delete everything that’s anything short of amazing, and know your music.
- Syria, on Sol Selectas, was one of those tracks that transcended electronic music and became a classic that defined 2016 with its soulful melodies, deep grooves and haunting guitar line. How did it come to existence, and what’s the story behind its name?
It was the first day I had my Ableton Push, and that gave me a huge creativity boost. It took me one day to make the whole track, and sadly 10 more days to complain about what could be better in it. Not much changed in those 10 days. I guess whatever came out first was good enough. As for the name Syria, for the last few years I have followed the atrocities that this beautiful country and its people have faced, and it made me realise that the country, its culture, and its people had no control over the devastation they were facing. Syria can use as much positive attention even to this day, and I hoped that this track could raise some awareness about the situation, including the money raised by the record to support the charity cause Sol Selectas and myself have tried to contribute to. My condolences and positive energy goes out to the people of Syria.
- Tell us a bit about your creative process when it comes to production? What inspires? How do you start laying down the track? How do you decide on its mood and flow?
I’m a big fan of the Maschine Studio and working with talented musician friends. That combo, along with mastering Ableton over the last 10 years, has led me to a workflow with many tricks, which is getting faster and more creative by the day. I try to find unique samples and sounds and bring something unique to every piece I work on. Lately, my positive outlook on the world and life has made my creative process & flow come naturally. I look forward to share all the new music with you this year.
- You had a rapid rise into the international local scene, what future plans does Unders have for us?
I’m extremely grateful for the lift off over the past two years and the hard work with my team, friends and girlfriend to keep this energy flowing. In the near future, we are starting our own record label, Happy Campers, due to the large amount of unreleased quality music we have been sent and are making together. Alongside the label, we are planning a European bus tour with a recording studio inside, we have a busy summer season ahead of us with amazing shows all over the world. I’m extremely happy that I will get to travel to so many beautiful places in the world and meet all these people with their hearts and minds in the right direction. Upcoming releases feature remixes for Nico Stojan & Jaw, tracks with Britta Arnold, Lee Jones, The Soul Brothers, my good friend Ravelli and the uber talented Noraj Cue.
- This is not your first gig in Beirut, why are you back and what do you think about the vibe of this city’s dancefloors?
My last visit was very short but got a good glimpse of the party scene there and got taken care of properly. Since then, I’ve only heard good stories, seen all the right line-ups, and heard only positive feedback about the clubbing scene from many friends. I’m excited for Grand Factory this Saturday. I will be coming straight from Bedouin Tech in Dubai, so I’ll be in the best of moods and full of inspiration.