Honestly, when someone told me that they heard a dance cover of “Take My Breath Away” on Fusion Radio, I was thinking to myself, “please, Lord, no.” To say that I had low expectations would be a mild understatement. You know how when you are about to get a shot at the doctor and tense your arm in fear – that’s kind of what I was doing when I was about to listen to it. My delusional drama was more than unfounded. Operatically-trained Sylvia Tosun takes the classic Berlin ‘Top Gun’ theme song in a fresh new direction – not the expected karaoke-lite Hi-NRG cover – but a modern progressive vocal pop record. Yes, you get the vibe of the original singer Terri Nunn, but with a mix of Enya and Amba Shepard as Sylvia’s soothing yet powerful vocals elevate the new version beyond expectations. The track doesn’t even sound like what you would expect from Bimbo Jones – it sounds more like Markus Schulz channeling Zedd. Let me make it clear that I am a huge fan of Bimbo Jones’ Hi-NRG commercial sound, but together with their recent mix of Zedd’s “Stay the Night” – this new direction from them is unexpected and quite wonderful. This song would fit on A State of Trance radio show just as easily as it would make bears rush to the dancefloor at a leather bar. Sylvia has two other tracks that are buzzing in the trance world (“There Are No Words” with Andrew Rayel and “Eye 2 Eye” with Aly & Fila and Roger Shah), but I am hoping that “Take My Breath Away” encourages her to update even more classic songs with modern EDM styles (future house, electro, and even trap) for a new generation of listeners.
Today was a really good day – a mix of fun stuff that I personally have loved for years, along with new favorites. I started the day meeting Matt Waterhouse, the British manager who handles many of the biggest UK commercial producer/remixers – Danny Howard, Cutmore, Seamus Haji, Moto Blanco, Cahill, and many more. Sitting with him was the lovely Therese (Swedish singer of “Put em High” with Stonebridge who has started her own label – Vixen records) and Ed of the Wideboys (garage/electro remixers who have done just about every major artist in the world). To say I was having a fanboy moment was putting it lightly, as those who listen to my sets know that I have an unnatural inclination to throwing the Wideboys in the mix and in my many years as a journalist they have always been a dream of mine to meet. So, I held it together, did both interviews – which were lovely, and left with the biggest grin on my face.
One thing about Amsterdam Dance Event is no matter how well-scheduled and organized you are, meetings get missed, people disappear, things happen – the secret is to just walk outside and look around and you will find someone else to chat with. I did just that with the lovable Patrick Hagenaar, who I have recently begun following closely. Not that he would be hard to miss – wearing a colorfully printed Adidas trainer jacket and Jeremy Scott-winged high tops. His mixes of Martin Solvieg “Hey Now” and Cash Cash “Take Me Home” are both corkers. It’s also great to meet people who are nicer and more humble than you expect – and that are truly good people. These are the ones that you want to support (and I want to write about). You just feel their energy and know they are coming from a good place.
Similar in vibe is Seamus Haji, who I didn’t know did A&R for Strictly Rhythm for a good while. It’s funny, because I was going to ask him about the big break in his discography and it ends up thats when he was working with Defected. You can always rely on Haji for a solid house mix, a rhythmic twist, and good energy; whether it’s The Gossip or Rihanna – he never fails to deliver. Chatting with him, we dug into some interesting topics that I can’t wait to post about.
It was then time for another press call where in secession I spoke to two party duos (Mighty Fools and The Party Squad) and two brand new and young producer/DJs (Erik Arbores and Martin Garrix). As more seasoned veterans, MF and PS (those initials sound a bit vulgar) were both full of energy and talking about their many projects was quite fun. With Erik and Martin, they are both so young (17 years old), I kind of felt like a father figure in a way. It seems like both have good teams around them who are helping guide and give them space to be teenagers as well. Erik was signed at 16 by Armin van Buuuren to Armada, and Martin has arguably the biggest club hit of the year with “Animal.” Both are surprisingly down to earth and friendly/charming in that playful Dutch way.
It was then time to head back to the Dylan for the Urban Ears drink because open bar is always the best time to get people to say stupid things on the record… Just kidding. Sort of… I was gifted with a mini plug sound card that allows two stereo line outs (one for Cue, one for sound system) so that you can DJ with an iPad/iPhone – quite an advancement from the mono splitter most iPad DJs use.
Realizing it was 7pm and I hadn’t eaten all day, I suddenly got a craving for Wok to Walk- a European chain of fast asian food grilled to order- that I always hit when I finish the ‘dam. So good, so filling, and so decadent on a budget. From there, I was walking through Rembrandplein and was handed a pack of Mentos gum, which was perfect timing. Then I looked at the package and noticed that it was a special Armin van Buuren packaging .. I guess this would be called “A Breath of Trance.”
Popped into ABE, a club I had never been to before, for the Spinnin party. It was a meet and greet party, and sometimes these can be a bit dodgy because if you don’t already know a few people, it’s hard to network. The vibe here was quite good and I kept popping into people I knew or had just interviewed. Please note that while Martin Garrix and Julian Jordan may have done the track “BFAM” – Brothers From Another Mother – they might as well have called it “Twins from another mother” as the two look so much alike that they are easy to confuse. Running into both of them at the party made me realize that… Luckily they were wearing different shirts. (Note to gay readers – I said twins without a ‘k’ – get your mind out of the gutter.)
Around this time, I got a text about another social-y drink event, hosted by Sea to Sun down on Prinsengracht, a nice sprint to Wok off that last meal. Sylvia Tosun is as charming and beautiful as ever, as was David Vendetta. There were some quite interesting media guys there as well and I had a nice chat with Anthony Lopez of FG Radio US about what they are planning.
Then it was time for the adventure. I got another text to come to Toren from Don Diablo. All he said is that it was in an artspace across the pond from Central Station. At the hotel, I asked them to look up the address and they point to me to an address so I got in a cab and went there. Address was horribly wrong, so I got back into the cab and said take me to Central Station. I got out and found the ferry boats and I felt like I was going to a ’90s-era underground rave – where you got a map or cryptic directions and you had to go on an adventure to find it. I chose the first boat, got on, and when arriving, I just walked around. I asked a few people where Toren was and no one knew. I popped on my phone hoping to find a WiFi signal and I saw a faint signal for IndeToren. So basically I treated my phone like a compass and just kept walking in different directions until the signal grew in strength until I ended up at the venue.
Don Diablo is a performer. When I first saw him perform years back, he was one of my personal inspirations – his energy on stage, how he engages the crowd, playing multiple genres and blending them in a unique style. Just yesterday, I wrote about how Quintino didn’t really beatmix and that it seemed odd. While Don doesn’t always beatmix, the way he jumps through styles (similar to open format), it would be possible to mix in the traditional way – you can’t go from electro to trap to dubstep to to mashups to house and back and forth, every few minutes and BPM it. The thing is that it flows so seamlessly that you don’t even notice. He was premiering the new Hexagon projection, a flying robot, and the upcoming Batman track. The visuals are a nice touch but honestly, Don is one of those performers who really doesn’t need it. At one point, the hexagon generator failed and the screen was moved out of the way so you could just focus on dancing with Don. The party got even better. If you ever get a chance to see Don Diablo spin, do it. It’s an experience and you will be sweaty when you leave.
French producer David Vendetta and clubland favorite Sylvia Tosun have teamed to create VenSun, a collaboration focusing on vocal house that will span the genres from underground to commercial. First up is the seemingly perfectly-timed “Love is Love,” an uplifting anthem about the equality of all love that is shared. David Vendetta’s production is quite forward-thinking – it has elements of both the current reigning clubland sound (stadium house) and what’s coming next (’90s-inspired underground house). The two sounds are melded together seamlessly, making this the perfect DJ transition record between sets. Sylvia sounds amazing, not a shock since she is a trained operatic vocalist, and her lyrics are just as emotional and uplifting as the track itself. To mark the historic events of the week (the defeat of DOMA), a special version features spoken samples from Martin Luther King, President Obama, Congresswoman Maureen Walsh, Ellen DeGeneres, and Hillary Clinton interspersed in the mix, giving it a historic feel – as if to mark the exact moment of time right now. With Macklemore’s similarly-themed “Same Love” gaining massive support on top 40 radio, it seems that “Love is Love” just might be the perfect dance song to follow on dance floor (and radio) around the world.