Dutch DJ-producer Joris Voorn blew up on an international level in 2010, thanks in no small part to the exuberant tech-house remix of Nalin & Kane's "Beachball," which he broke during that year's Miami Music Week.
Fast-forward to 2015 and Voorn is returning to Miami not only as one of house and techno's big players, but also as the author of Nobody Knows, a new album that sees the artist maturing into a bona fide songwriter exploring indie and even classical flavors.
Ahead of his various Miami performances this week, including Ultra, New Times caught up with Joris Voorn to chat about the new album and the life of a globetrotting DJ.
New Times: Your latest, Nobody Knows, is a departure from your house and techno style, showing us your songwriting side. What can you tell us about your intentions and creative process?
Joris Voorn: The music on this album started in a completely different way than most of my recent work. At the end of 2008, I started working on some sketches with my newly bought guitar and bass guitar, going back to my indie music roots from when I was a teenager. I started recording chord structures and melodies that were very different than what you'd hear in most house and techno tracks — more song based, less repetitive, and, in general, quite emotional. At some point, I had a huge pile of these short sketches and loops, and felt like it started to sound like album material, but the step to really transform it into a coherent piece of work wasn't as easy to take as I'd hoped. The sound was too different to my previous music, and it took a lot of mixing and experimenting to get it right.
One of the standouts on the album is "Homeland" featuring Matthew Dear. How did you hook up with Matthew for this collaboration? What was it like working with him on the song?
Matthew Dear is an artist I've been inspired by for more than ten years. He's incredibly versatile and showed different sides of himself than most people know through his techno stuff. His vocals are almost Tom Waits-sounding, very melancholic and deep. He did all the vocal production himself, so I didn't have to touch it at all — just did some small edits here and there, arrangement-wise.
The lyrics for "Homeland" read: "I can't remember when/The last time I saw my home and all my friends/But they tell me my life has never been better." Is this a song about the feelings of loneliness and dislocation experienced by globetrotting DJs?
"Homeland" is a topic all traveling DJs can relate to. You lose that sense of home when you're always on the road. From the outside, it looks like you're living the life, but reality is usually different, as sometimes the one thing you want most is to be home with family and friends. In that sense, it's both an energy and a place.
The song "MoMo" was written in collaboration with your father, Joop Voorn. What is his background in music? How did the idea of collaborating with him on the song come about? What was the experience of writing music with him like?
I worked together with my dad, who's a classical composer and works completely differently from me, but we managed to create something very special together. He wrote some string parts on top of a keyboard part that I'd written — it was violin, violoncello, and cello, but I couldn't make them sound good on the computer with the sample libraries I had. So I decided to use a Roland 101 synthesizer to play the parts, which gave the track a very different but beautiful sound. It showed me how well you can combine classical melodies with electronic music.
How did you approach the vinyl edits of Nobody Knows? Was the intention simply to present dance remixes of the album songs? Or to elaborate on the original compositions and create new interpretations?
I wanted to take what I created and build upon it with a dance floor-ready transformation. The original version of Nobody Knows was heavily influenced by my indie background, whereas the vinyl mixes are derived from my traditional sounds of dark moody house and techno that my fans are familiar with.
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You have a few special gigs coming up in Miami, not least of which is Ultra Music Festival. What are you looking forward to most?
Miami is always an interesting time to check out new talent and music, as well as spend some quality with friends. I’m excited to play my new music in a festival setting, while honored to play the Pryda and Red Bull Guest House parties.
Joris Voorn. As part of Ultra Music Fesival 2015. Friday to Sunday, March 27 to 29, at Bayfront Park, 301 Biscayne Blvd., Miami. Tickets cost $299.95 to $449.95. Ages 18 and up. Visit ultramusicfestival.com.