In this special about a local bass scene, we travel ‘below the rivers’ in The Netherlands, all the way to the city of Breda. We discuss ongoing challenges for the local scene and map what at times seemed like a sparse landscape. But thanks to some established and promising talents, a tight-knit of bass-heads, and a handful of gritty promotors, the future looks brilliant indeed. Time to send it.
Ah, The Netherlands… dykes, windmills, phat blunts and, of course, cutely decorated plates of heavenly cheese. And let’s not forget the rather unforgettable trips (pun intended) in Adam whilst tripping over the staggering amount of bicycles…
And above all…Noisia. Bonus points to those who can actually pronounce their point of origin ‘Groningen’ correctly… extra bonus points for succeeding, after eating all that cheese and blazing the kush.
Alas, plenty of Dutch artists in bass music who made their mark globally… Black Sun Empire, Imanu, Posij etc. etc. But this is a different story. One about a dutiful cornerstone, working in tandem with some of the more known scene hubs, like Amsterdam, Groningen, Leiden, Tilburg, Utrecht…
For convenience and familiarity, let’s imagine taking a train from Amsterdam Central, carrying us southwards to the province of Noord-Brabant – the central southern province next to the Belgian border. The train ride to Breda takes about an hour with Intercity Direct, which also stops in Rotterdam.
Welcome to Breda
Breda in a nutshell? The ninth-largest city in NL is characterised by a historic centre surrounded by a canal – the intimate atmosphere and the so-called Burgundian vibe are typical, too. Especially during the summers, when everyone cannot get enough of unwinding at the terraces in the centre – or collectively makes the local news, because the local lake becomes too crowded yet again.
Breda draws in. Be it due to the people, the atmosphere or a combination of both. Plenty of visitors, young and old, fall in love, end up moving there, and settle for good. No wonder the housing prices are through the roof. And when it comes to the nightlife, in all fairness, Breda has a gigantic, but rather stereotypical reputation as the birthplace and home of EDM powerhouses, known as Hardwell and Tiësto.
While this is a plus (beyond the obvious bragging rights), there are some challenges. For one- public transport during weekend nights remains a bottleneck. Somewhat hampering the inflow of subcultures, which would ideally counteract some of the commercial club music. But is it all that bad? Anything but! Read on below.
Interview with TRIBE
To elaborate on these challenges involved for bass promotors in Breda, I’ve spoken with Maarten van Meerbeek, one of the promotors and resident DJs- Creek at TRIBE – the longest-running drum & bass event in Breda. We previously worked together on a drum and bass night called Symbiose at De Boulevard. In hindsight, our vision might have drifted apart, but the love for the music and the people, after all, remains unchanged.
About Breda – what’s been your experience hosting here?
We had to really push to make a mark with TRIBE, just like with Symbiose. We had to build it up from the start. It remains a challenging adventure. Selling out all the tickets isn’t easy, something we managed to achieve two out of ten times.
Attracting people outside Breda is still hard, mainly due to the mandatory 4 am closing times. Travelling home in the middle of the night by train or bus is out of the question when leaving Breda. So people from the outside are less inclined to come. As things stand, it’s hard to sell out.
A couple of years ago, the local government greenlighted a successful pilot enabling a few events to stay open until 6 am. So what happened?
The pilot was concluded right before the pandemic. The follow-up wasn’t a priority any more, and they haven’t looked at it. Since the pandemic isn’t an issue, they should pick it up again, but there’s no momentum at this point.
So what’s on offer in terms of night-life remains more or less the same
Yes, the local government must address this – they aren’t profiling Breda enough as a city known for music and arts. They would be better off to capitalise on the fact Tiësto and Hardwell are from Breda. The same goes for highlighting the talent from the Academy of Arts, St. Joost.
While I don’t live in Breda any more, this is something I always underlined. There’s not enough being done to support these parts of culture. The outflow of graduates in arts proves this. If they had a place, perhaps they would’ve stayed.
How did TRIBE start?
TRIBE was created in 2016 by MEZZ. The venue, a local subsidised music venue, figured there was room for a drum and bass night and approached some volunteers: Ravenna Sanders and Thiago Haffmans.
Around that time, De Boulevard was shut down. After being booked for the first edition of TRIBE, I talked with Ravenna and Thiago – if they needed any help. Afterwards, I contacted MEZZ and they welcomed us to help. So I brought in Sjonnie Kreeft and Camillo Klingen on board, and we started to work on the next edition together with Ravenna and Thiago.
Fast-forward seven years ago and in November we’re doing our eleventh edition.
Looking back now, what would you describe as the essentials to your long-lasting run?
TRIBE, in my opinion, is about providing a meeting place – a spot to enjoy the music together. Something to facilitate the community behind it. We always aimed to provide an additional room in MEZZ- Pop Café, for people to sit and connect, apart from the musical aspect; to play games and chill. Do believe this really complimented to our strengths as an event.
Your next edition is planned for 4th of November, with Technimatic and Rockwell as headliners...
Well, the line-up says enough, right? People can expect the usual vibe. That by itself says a lot, people know what to expect when coming. The typical welcoming atmosphere Breda is known for. For those coming from outside of Breda: simply take the car, there’s plenty of parking space nearby.
Breda- A breeding ground for talent
There’s certainly no lack of artists from Breda who are making their marks on an international level. Many already know a man like Coco Bryce – the multitalented producer, label manager and DJ. Last year we spoke to him highlighting his release on Critical Music, you can find the interview here.
Stekker has been working alongside Coco Bryce, releasing oldskool jungle and staying true to the ‘vintage’ hardware-approach. This promising artist also launched his own label ruff ‘n tuff records recently, meanwhile steadily building his repertoire of releases, like Feelin 96 – made on an AKAI MPC1000.
CaitC is also someone to watch. She enjoyed a decent run as of late, being featured on the Annual 2023- Viper Presents, as well as the Liquicity 2023 Spring Compilation. CaitC also wrote the anthem for the last edition of NOX on the Beach Festival near Eindhoven. I Had the pleasure to talk with her in early 2022 for UKF.
What’s more, others from Breda are rapidly climbing the ranks. Take DIVICIOUX for example. Emanuel Suijkerbuijk, a 25-year-old from Breda, found his passion for drum & bass at “Rampage Sportpaleis 2017.” Introduced to the vibrant rave scene, he swiftly became a DJ and producer.
Co-founding VOID Musick, he organized local events and booked renowned artists like Shyun. Pursuing his passion, he enrolled for the Herman Brood Academy in Utrecht, studying at the same stomping ground as Martin Garrix and Sub Zero Project.
Under the alias DIVICIOUX, he explores a unique blend of genres, gaining recognition for his “RE:SHIFT” bootleg series.
His work caught the attention of EDM legends such as Don Diablo and Timmy Trumpet. DIVICIOUX is gearing up for new releases, starting with “Can’t Find You Babe” on FUTURE, Don Diablo’s label, with an exciting event planned in Breda for early 2024, featuring the FUTURE ASHES branding.
And Nigel Kleijn, known as Abstract, also from Breda, who’s immersed in drum and bass for eight years. Fascinated by the rise of rollers, he previously co-founded and ran Re-Based locally.
Nigel honed his craft by learning DJing from F-Key and producing alongside friend Josh (TRINIST – who definitely is another one to keep a keen eye on!) Nigel’s focus on deep rollers and techy drum and bass is evident in his upcoming release on Nymfo’s LFLF (Love For Low Frequencies) label.
Interview Rik Peters- founder at Curated By, director at MEZZ
Beyond the promising roster of producers, we in Breda are genuinely lucky to have none other, than Rik Peters joining the MEZZ as the new director recently. Rik has worked on the hugely successful ‘Curated By’ nights in Melkweg.
MEZZ remains one of the venues that has facilitated drum and bass throughout the years. Rik’s vision and extensive experience in the industry undoubtedly will help to raise the bar locally and not only for bass music.
Below you can find an interview with him, discussing running a pop podium in a city in Breda and how something like bass music and drum & bass fits into his vision.
How are you doing?
Good! I’ve just officially started, as the director at MEZZ. There’s still a lot to do, but enjoying getting to grips with the tasks at hand.
Most know you as the founder of Curated By. This new role is perhaps less tied to bass music, but seems like the next step in the pursuit of your passion.
Yes, this always was more or less on my bucket list. I started in 2001 with organising parties. Back in those days, I used to live in Rotterdam and host these fairly big parties at Off Corso; techno, house, and eventually drum and bass nights.
All about electronic music at first. After that, went on organizing events for bands and singers-songwriters. I also ran a club in Rotterdam and booked a wide variety of dance-genres.
Everything comes together now. Managing a pop podium is the next step for me, involving things like politics, dealing with local government, securing funds – the whole spectrum. After leading a company for fifteen years; managing, creating and coaching a team, I feel ready.
What’s the biggest challenge in this role?
Besides thoroughly understanding the company and culture – a matter of time – the biggest challenge is the fact that I am doing this in Breda.
When looking at the numbers of similar venues in terms of ticket sales, cover bands ‘80, ‘90 and zeroes themed-nights are very popular. Apart from certain tried and tested renowned Dutch bands, this commercial approach enables us to provide the depth. Being a non-profit foundation and striking that balance is the challenge.
What we are trying to do at MEZZ is also hosting bigger acts that don’t fit at our venue, by doing these elsewhere. Instead of expecting that people come to us, we aim to bridge that gap proactively by organizing outdoor concerts, for example.
We cannot become complacent and think people will come to us. Rather, we’re aiming the opposite. That’s one of the first things I changed. A balancing act, nonetheless, as we’re working with a small team.
Thank you for clarifying the bigger picture – so how does bass music and your expertise fit into that?
To succeed, you have to be able to provide continuity. Our second room at MEZZ is ideal in that sense. To see what works and to build a foundation. With TRIBE only twice a year, we cannot make it. There are a couple of events, yours among them, that are just getting started. So it’s a matter of proving what works.
There are a handful of clubs in Breda. De Graanbeurs for example. We are better off not competing, because having multiple strong venues working in tune is the best approach to a healthy scene in Breda.
Traditionally, drum and bass remains something for pop podiums in The Netherlands. And festivals, like Lowlands, are the ideal benchmark to specify what the youth wants. They want hip-hop and dance, and they don’t care if that happens on a podium, as long as they can have a blast. This deserves a prominent place in our programming.
Coincidentally, drum and bass parties are low-hanging fruit to me. Obviously, we don’t want saturation, but we’re doing a 1985 label night with Alix Perez on 26th of January. The line-up consists of Alix, Visages, and SP:MC will be doing a DJ-set.
The fact that one of the hottest labels right now decides to skip other places in Belgium and Holland in favour of Breda says a lot. Alix performed in Breda before, and really loved it here. Very cool he’s happy to return, even more so when knowing Alix currently only does ten shows and ten festivals in Europe a year.
More upcoming bass-related events in Breda
While TRIBE has been the backbone of the local scene in recent years, there’s more in store for Breda. Wetje Leggen is one of the parties that’s pushing bass music, as well as a multigenre approach, successfully lately. Their personal touch – transforming a part of the stage into a living room (including Mario Kart showdowns!) has gone down well with the local crowd. They are gearing up towards a second (probably another sold-out) edition on the 10th of November.
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And there’s Kinderfeestje at Pop Podium Phoenix in Breda. Their formula consists of blending together different (harder) styles. Riddim for example or Hardcore, with also a beatbox performance in between! Allowing a younger crowd (16+) to experience new music has certainly been working out for them, Kinderfeestje returns 27th of October with a Halloween edition.
Preferably would stay away from self-promotion, but heck. My own brand-new party at the MEZZ is kicking off on 29th of September. Synthesis represents a fairly wide take on bass music, covering styles likes deep dubstep, breakbeat, jungle and drum ‘n bass, and welcomes headliners like Nemy (SRB), Leniz (Liquicity) and Nebulate at a sold-out first edition.
Interview with Rens and Ashley from Bass Unity
To conclude this piece about the scene in Breda, we interviewed Rens de Bruijn and Ashley van Fenema from Bass Unity.
This lovely couple has found a shared calling. In turn, we got another strong addition to the local scene. Bass Unity has a massive exclusive: none other than Reaper (US) will be playing at their next edition on the 6th of October, at Cue in Breda.
Greetings both, please tell us how you got started
Rens: Bass Unity started from a YouTube channel, called Bass Entity. We used to go a lot to Doel (an abandoned town, near a nuclear plant) and these young guys were playing Let It Roll by Counterstrike. It stuck with me, so I started to explore the music, and decided to do something with it.
After some years, the channel grew to roughly 100k subscribers. The decision to turn it into a party came about. Using ‘unity’ instead of ‘entity’ in the name made sense, as to unite people.
Bass Entity as a channel has been around for about 13 years. Before 2016, I used to upload various styles of music and it was rather small.
How did you two meet?
R: We met each other at Rampage in early 2022.
Ashley: Yes, a month later you had the first Bass Unity event and I also got onboard.
How did you end up at Cue as a venue for the edition on 6th of October?
A: We were previously working with another venue, but that wasn’t the right place for our audience. We looked around and found Cue, got in contact with the owner and he was enthusiastic about our plans.
And now Reaper is booked in Breda… holy shit
A: Yes, we hear that a lot!
What can you tell us more about the night?
A: We got a very diverse line-up with upcoming talent. Killin’ Void for example, who’s from Austria. We met him at Blacklist in Germany, earlier this year.
The whole night felt like within the same range of dubstep. I like variety, though. We went to another room in search of an artist to interview, and at that time he started playing his set.
I stood there and thought, ‘that’s so fucking dope’, so I told Rens that we gotta book this guy. We connected through Instagram, talked some at Rampage Open Air and went on with the booking. 1997 from UK also helped us with some of the designs, the line-up we do ourselves.
R: Bass Unity obviously stands for more than one genre. We want to keep it diverse.
A: Take Killin’ Void for example. He does color bass, something you don’t see in The Netherlands a lot. It’s dubstep, very melodic and happy, but still rough. We’re also one of the few in NL who do bassline or UK Bass. This sets us apart from other events.
So why Breda?
R: We decided to do our parties here, because there isn’t a lot here being done right now and certainly not like the sound we represent.
A: We try to get artists who haven’t played in NL yet, so that we can do something else. We were one of the first who booked Subsonic, if you look at where he’s at right now, he’s quickly becoming one of the big names. Seeing events like High Tea booking him is nice.
Breda isn’t an easy market, what’s your stance on this?
R: Well, the challenge for every party is more or less the same- to get as many people to it as possible. In essence, it’s about building a community. We have quite a lot of connections, also in Breda, which does help.
A: There are also people coming from the UK, Germany and Belgium for our parties, so that’s really cool.
R: At Bass Unity, we stand for inclusiveness, that goes for bass music as a whole and our visitors. Everyone who’s curious is welcome to drop by and find out!
So there you have it. An extensive look at the bass scene in Breda. Being able to write this piece about the city I love has been an honour and a privilege. We hope to see you all someday at one of the nights this cosy ‘big village’ known as Breda has to offer, bless.