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BPM Exclusive: Vicetone Opens Up About Obama Song, Dance Music, & Future Plans

As the inauguration of the second term of our now 45th president gets underway, it’s worth noting that among the multiple hats Barack Obama wears, at least one is “Progressive House Music Vocalist”. The preternaturally talented Dutch producers Vicetone released their ambitious project “Hope” last year, which samples inspirational moments of Barack Obama’s victory speech among scorching synths and massive bass drops. They may even be the first Progressive House producers to transform a sitting president into a House Music phenomenon. Vicetone is already making a lot of noise in 2013, as well. January saw them remix the uber-popular Hook N Sling and NERVO track “Reason”, a track so dear to Mim and Liv’s hearts that they reserve it for the end of their sets. They’ve re-worked Zedd’s “Clarity”, Youngblood Hawke’s “We Come Running”, and Fedde Le Grand & Nicky Romero’s “Sparks”. Their original track “Harmony” is of a production quality so high it’s been supported by some of Dance Music’s heaviest hitters. When it comes to learning to swim in this business, Vicetone has jumped right in, and in a matter of only a few short years, they’re prepared to win the medley relay in the summer Olympics.

Despite all this noise, Vicetone has yet to have a major headlining tour under their belt, or a substantial multi-track EP on Beatport. There are, of course, countless paths to success, and it seems, at least in the wild west of the Dance Music industry, that if producers want to play at the elite level, they need to evolve and get creative. The over-arching lesson from the Al Walser controversy (the unknown and untested “producer” nominated for a Grammy alongside Guetta and Skrillex, and who ignited a firestorm of derision after a sloppy interview with the blog EDMsnob) is that if anyone offers a specific formula for DJ Rock-stardom, run the other way, as quick as you can and as fast as the wind. Vicetone is offering a different vision, one focused on the disciplined perfection of their production mettle. But they are outgrowing their cages, and it won’t be long before they let it all loose. I hit Ruben and Victor up to talk production, working with a partner, and the role of Dance Music in Politics. Read up!

How did you guys link up?

We have been good friends since we’re about 15. We’ve always had a very similar taste in music and we used to listen to the likes of Tiësto and Eric Prydz during class (we should’ve paid more attention…), but we didn’t decide to try our hand at producing until 2012.

Both of you are skillful DJs in your own right. What are the benefits of collaborating that independent producers are missing out on?

First of all, a whole lot of fun. Producing with a friend is much more fun rather than sitting in a studio alone for hours and hours. Also, we really complement each other when working on music – we rely on each other’s feedback and instinct when making decisions. We work really well together in the studio and the collaboration has been this great from the start.

What was the dance music scene like in the Netherlands growing up? Do you remember a particular moment that hooked you into loving Dance Music enough to produce it for a living?

I (Ruben) was 11 when I first got in touch with dance music and I’ve been hooked ever since. Even back then (in 2003) dance music was really big and popular here in The Netherlands, and dance music videos regularly played on TV and on national radio.

It took me (Victor) a bit longer in getting hooked to dance music, I think I was around 13/14 when I realized how awesome dance music really was. It was being played on the radio all the time, especially since the past 4 years. That’s when the passion for dance music really started.

You are producing some massive dance floor anthems, remixing Hook N Sling and Nervo, Zedd, and Youngblood Hawke in really creative ways. When you produce do you have an idea of how you want a track to sound from the outset, or is it a process of discovery the whole way through?

We always start with an idea first, which nearly always is melodic. When we have the overall idea and the structure laid out, we experiment with a lot of different sounds and instruments to make it more interesting. But before we start fully producing a track, we already have an idea in mind what we want to do with it.

You are working with (or have worked with) some major House Music vocalists, including Jonny Rose, whom I have previously interviewed. What do you feel a good vocalist like Rose can bring to track?

Jonny is an amazing singer and we’re lucky to be working with him. A good vocalist like Jonny can make an instrumental track feel complete and much more interesting to listen to. His vocals add a new level of emotion to an already energetic track.

Our first collaboration will come out on Beatport somewhere in the next few months. The second collaboration is still a bit of a secret, but we’re really happy with both of the tracks we did with him. Jonny has a very unique voice and our style suits his voice too – so we’re very excited to release our tracks with him.

One of your most ambitious artistic decisions must have been writing the track “Hope” which features a speech by Barack Obama. Tell us about how you came to write “Hope”.

We were listening to Barack Obama’s victory speech one day, which was spread all over the internet, and we thought it would be really cool to combine his voice and build a progressive house track around it. The speech segment we decided to use was inspirational and motivational, which is the reason why we picked it. There was no political statement behind it whatsoever – we’re not big on politics at all.

The American Novelist Toni Morrison has stated that, for her, writing is a political activity. What role do you feel music plays in politics? Should Dance Music remain separate or do you feel it has a role to play in social change?

We feel that music and politics barely have any relationship. While that might seem strange coming from us given that we made a track using a speech for Obama, the whole idea behind that track wasn’t political at all—It was meant to be motivational and inspiring.

What are your plans for this year? Will we be seeing you on the festival circuit?

While we can’t give the exact details yet, we will surely be playing the first tours this year. Keep a close eye on our Facebook for the first tour dates. We can’t wait!!

Here in the states, there are so many opinions about the state of Dance Music—where it should go, how it should sound. If you could give a lecture on Dance Music to the public, what would be the topic?

We’d name it “Just shut up and dance”. All the endless banter on where dance music will go or how it should sound is irrelevant – all that matters is that good music is being made and that people enjoy it. We think that no matter what type of dance music you like, there’s always something out there that you will enjoy, and that’s a great thing.

Looking at Dance Music in general, what excites you about the future, what are you looking forward to?

Dance music is getting bigger and bigger. For us personally, we cannot wait to start playing our first tours and releasing a lot of new originals that we’ve been working on. Were very excited for this year!

Follow Lee on Twitter @lee_underwood_

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