Hailing straight from the Netherlands, Dirtcaps duo Danny Groenenboom and Max Oude Weernink, are known worldwide for their signature trap beats. Since their official debut in 2008, Dirtcaps are no strangers to playing massive shows across the globe, having checked off Tomorrowland, Tomorrowworld and Mysteryland, while their high powered tunes are staples in sets across the EDM community as instant crowd pleasers. I had the pleasure of sitting down with them for an interview aboard It’s The Ship, a couple of hours before their energetic midnight set, where they played with fellow producers Coone and Brennan Heart. Within the first few minutes, we were able to bond over our appreciation of the Genting Dream Cruise, have a laugh over cartoon movie Despicable Me, and share a grumble over our phone provider’s non existent coverages before getting to the questions. Read on to find out more!
Calling each other their “day ones”, the two grew up in the same village of Haarlem just a couple blocks away from one another, and coincidentally enough, ended up in the same classes at school. Max credited their start to DJ-ing at both house and school parties. “[Back then] we had different stage names, but we’re never gonna talk about them”, he chuckled. “Not even a hint?”, I pried. To which he replied with a poker face, “Never, cause they’re really wack”. Dirtcaps had been performing as a duo way before their 2012 hit with The Million Plan called “Money On My Mind”, but it was the track’s success that made for a turning point in the duo’s career. “When we started performing, we would do it for very little money, and play for a very long time. We had to bring our equipment around to shows – we basically grew up with music”, explained Danny. “After [Money On My Mind] began charting, that was when we stopped studying, and really went for it.”
Iconic Dutch-Filipino DJ/Producer “Laidback Luke”, was immediately name dropped by both when asked who their musical influences were growing up. “There was a forum by Laidback Luke back in the days. Everyone was on it. Axwell, Ingrosso, Afrojack – and they weren’t big at all yet. This was way before SoundCloud, way before MSN, and we were all sending music on there and that was when we learnt how dance music worked”, shared Max. The process involved uploading music through a tool provided on the site, along with Zippyshare files. Producers were still creating on the first basic versions of Fruityloops or Logic, which was tough as “there weren’t many options to work with compared to right now”. After sending in a track, the forum served as a place to exchange feedback and help one another progress to a higher level. Laidback Luke himself would then select tracks he enjoyed, and play them at his live shows. Danny recalled a moment during their late teens where Sensation parties were beginning to pick up hype, and having their music played out to the massive crowds at the age of sixteen and seventeen “was really cool”.
Having begun their independent label KLASH Records only a year ago, the past months has seen the collective rapidly grow into a platform that signs a variety of artists across the genres. Danny described [the growth] as “incredible”, while Max shared their ambitions behind starting the project. “There’s a lot of young artists and talent out there without a set profile, but it’s not about [the profile] for us, not about the followers count, not about how they look – but only based on how we like their music. This does get a bit difficult sometimes but on the other hand gets really fun with a couple of surprises.” He went on to give an example of DJ Late, as one who was able to hit over a million plays on “Combo”, his first release on KLASH – despite not having a large social media following. In asking how the two producers discover new talent for KLASH, “Dirtcaps has a big reach”, explained Danny. “When we announced that we had gotten our solo label, and said in our interviews to just send us music – we don’t care who you are – a lot of kids did that. That was cool cause then we go through the promos, and if we like something, we sign it.” Listen to “Combo” here:
Dirtcaps also denoted the increase of shows in their already hectic touring schedules, with two recent rounds in Asia, Australia the following month, and another set of dates for the early start of next year. Playing at Electric Love’s MainStage in Austria was one of the many moments they reminisced over, but a particular one that fell close to the heart had to be KLASH’s label night at Amsterdam Dance Event last month. “Really dope”, “insane vibes”, and “a really cool bar venue” were among the phrases thrown out. “We expected like only 50 people to show up, but it was packed from the beginning”, proclaimed Danny, with Max seconding the statement. “All our friends showed up, and a lot of promotors as well. That’s what we made KLASH for, to give these [artists] a platform. We don’t wanna keep them and say they’re ours. We just wanna do good things.”
The next step for the label includes the curation of more label nights, and festival stages, but “we don’t want to push it”. A lot of the times with rising producers is that they have never played a proper DJ set before, so a lot of practice would be needed for them to learn how to do so before going into full label performances. “We want to mentor the kids slowly, but it’s tough as we don’t have much time at the moment,” began Danny, before being interjected by Max. “With the releases on KLASH, everything is mastered by us and we make sure that it sounds really good. On the other hand it’s very time consuming. So we’re figuring out how to keep doing that while on tour. It gets tricky but it will work out eventually!”
“Damn!”, whistled Max, in response to choosing a track that best describes Dirtcaps as a whole. After a slight debate, both agreed that their upcoming collaboration with Afrojack would be the current best fit, and it was clear that it’s a project they’re thrilled about. “It has a vocal – with a rap kinda attitude!” “A house tempo!” “But a trap drop – so it has every ingredient significant to a track of ours!” The ID with Afrojack has been set for release in January of 2018. Have a sneak peek at the track below!
Speaking of music, it has also been a whirlwind for recent Dirtcaps releases, from several mellow singles, to fire EPs (pun intended) to impressive KLASH compilations, fans will be pleased to hear that the duo still have one more treat in store. They hinted that another Dirtcaps EP is set to release before the year ends. With Max and Danny giving two different timelines – “within a month” and “the next two weeks” respectively, it’s safe to say that you can keep your eyes peeled out for an announcement coming your way very soon. The EP has been described as “fully trap, but infused with a lot of different sounds” and will feature a vocal collaboration with the “very cool” E-Life, an old school Dutch rapper known for his role within hardcore act Evil Activities. The next few months for KLASH sees the release of singles by KLASH veterans Red Hood Squad, Sebastian Broxx, Reebs, a first time signing for Finnish bass house duo Flowjackers and a very special KLASH Dimepiece 3 scheduled for the beginning of April.
“That f*cking annoys me”, exclaimed Danny. We had been discussing the current trend of producers “selling out” and switching up their sounds in order to follow the masses to gain popularity. “[Dirtcaps] never did that – I think we were always upfront with that kind of stuff, cause within the last year you see a lot of random EDM artists doing the future bass thing. But we’ve been playing with genres since the beginning.” The duo have always been passionate about exploring with the different elements of dance music, and their prior releases show just how versatile they are in experimenting – with trap and house infused bangers like collaboration “Flags Up” with Yellow Claw and Alvaro, to more melodic ballads “Foreign Tongues” and the more recent “Need A Friend”. “We love so many genres so we’re like – why would we just stick to one specific genre if we can make anything we want? We’ve been switching up for sometime, and we’re just gonna keep developing our sounds and putting out music that we like.” Max revealed that the trick to knowing if a track would work out is to test it out on the dance floor. “So if we did a moombahton track together with a psytrance act, it might just work. And if it works on the dance floor then we don’t give a f*ck [about putting it out].”
Today, more and more kids around the world are debating whether or not to give up their education to fully pursue a career in the creative industry. In terms of advice, and a little backstory, the duo had a lot to share. “I guess the most difficult part is the moment you decide to stop your prior work or education to get all your revenues from producing or performing. I don’t think it’s a shame if you work – like at a grocery store and produce on the side. I think a lot of kids think that you have to give your full focus on it”, commented Max. Pointing at Danny, “I think he started out in like a wine store,” he continued, “and I was moving ships in Amsterdam. It worked out fine, and there’s nothing to be ashamed of. If these days you’re good with social media you can use it to your advantage. so don’t be ashamed of educating yourself on other levels as well.” Both producers felt strongly about the younger generation being able to support themselves financially and independently, and as Danny puts it, “financial stress makes you so insecure and it will affect the quality of your music.” Then it was his turn to share, “like when I stopped my studies, I wanted a job where I could work on my computer.” “So I decided that I wanted to sell something – didn’t mind what. It turned out to be wine”, he shrugged. “But when you’re in a shop – whether it’s clothing, or wine or cookies, you’re not constantly busy with your clients, so you have time to work on your social media, emailing promoters or whatever.” “Just work at McDonalds and make your music”, grinned Max.
To conclude the interview, the duo reflected on their journey with a statement that only proves that their time, passion and dedication has carved a path that is going nowhere but up. “We did it on our own, that’s what we’re most proud of.”
Wording has been edited for clarity.
Photos credited to It’s The Ship.
Special thanks to Danny and Max.