Few artists have blended the nuances of European and Detroit techno over the years as effectively as Orlando Voorn, whose melodic, inventive style has long established him as one of the genre’s foremost producers.
The Dutch maestro began DJing before he was even a teenager, winning the local DMC Mix Championships in 1986, before establishing himself as a producer in the early 90s under a host of alter egos: Frequency, Night Tripper, Fix, The Stalker and others, as well as under his own name
Over the years, his experimental ear has seem him blend elements of soul, funk, drum’n’bass, hip hop, ambient, electro and other styles into his productions – with recent releases on labels like Axis (on which he released the Star Travel album last year), Contrafact, Kompakt, Deeptrax and many others.
His latest release is the Forcefield EP, on the Transient Nature label, established by Wanderist last year, which features four tracks – Locked In, Forcefield Energy, Pokerface and Apolonia – spanning the spectrum from techno to electronica to house. It’s released on 11 March 2022, and can be pre-saved here.
909originals caught up with him.
Hi Orlando, thanks for talking to us – how has the year been so far for you?
Hi thanks for having me. I just came from a little Jamaica vacation and that certainly set the tone for a great February. January is mostly chill.
You’re set to release the Forcefield EP on Transient Nature on 11 March, which blends a myriad of different styles. How would you describe the EP?
Well, think of soulful techno with a story. There’s also a somewhat jazzy uptempo tune, Locked In. I think we need more techno with a story instead of loops. Loops are cool, but to make a story in a track is more adventurous.
— Orlando Voorn (@orlandovoorn) January 28, 2022
Is this the first time you’ve worked with Wanderist (Maarten Smeets), or did you work with him during his Dam Swindle days?
We met last year online and clicked right away. I really dig what these guys are doing and have more coming out with them. They are completely lined up how I think about music and that works like a charm.
You’ve been quite prolific in terms of releases over the past couple of years – with three albums and a large number of EPs and singles. From that we assume that the lockdown period was quite productive for you?
Oh yeah, it was very productive and I haven’t stopped since, so really a lot of releases are still in the pipeline this year. But the lockdown itself did not change a lot.
I have been producing at this pace for years now. I’m not in the DJ loop so producing is what I perfect every day.
Your recent album, The Master, delved into your love of soul and funk music, while Star Travel explored outer space. Is it important for you to have a ‘theme’ in mind when you are embarking on a music project?
Well yeah, I do love different styles of music, but I think when making a selection of songs on a single it has to make sense in the project.
Also, you have to take into consideration that a fan has a certain expectation on what comes out on labels such as Axis. But I strive to do things accordingly and make it sound believable.
I don’t touch genres I can’t handle. You gotta keep it real to yourself.
You have played a key role in connecting European and Detroit techno over the years, and developed a good friendship with some of the key individuals in that sector. How did they first become aware of what you were doing, and were you a bit starstruck?
My first label introduced me to Juan Atkins because they thought our styles matched and of course, I was hyped to do this collab, but I was never star-struck on any of the Detroit legends I met, including Juan.
This is why I gained respect very early. I knew what I was worth, but also where my place was.
I sat down in Submerge for the first time in 1991 and once I arrived in the place I looked around quickly, before sitting down to read a magazine.
Then, suddenly, I hear Mike Banks saying loudly: “Yoooo look at OV, man he sitting down relaxing, don’t ask me no stupid questions, doesn’t hang around the gear or wanna take pictures, he just chill with a magazine. We gonna get along just fine, brother!”
Much is made of Detroit’s influence on dance music over the years – do you think that the generation of producers coming through these days are as aware of what came before?
Everybody can call themselves a producer or DJ. Technology did that and made it easy. That has a great side and a bad side.
The great side is that real talent don’t need much equipment to make music now, but this also attracts people that just wanna do it because it’s hip.
However, this been a thing since the beginning. Detroit techno is from its origin soulful techno, but now I’m sure that not every Detroit record is gonna be soulful. Some think they’re soulful and they’re not.
The majority try to literally copy things from the past and as good you are at that, it’s already been done – so it is just a reproduction of what was.
Sometimes this is cool, but I think producers need to put themselves in the sauce and create their own style and identity. That way, you’re not walking behind the facts but you’re creating your own self within a style.
Having an example is ok, but doing things your way adds that special ingredient.
This year marks 30 years since Fix Flash was first released, which famously samples Parliament’s Hydraulic Pump. It’s probably the track of yours that you have revisited the most over the years (remixes, re- releases etc). What is it about Flash that has given it such longevity do you think?
When I made it, I remember playing it to someone in Holland and he looked at me with a shaking head, like ‘what the hell are you playing me?’
I told him it was the shit and he was like, ‘no it ain’t’. It was a hit in Detroit first, picked up by all DJs. Then it fell still for a bit – I almost forgot about the record – and suddenly about six months later, every European DJ had two copies.
I think the combination of samples and playing on top made it different. P-Funk had always been a background for me to vibe off. Some records don’t lose their power – this is one of them.
Did you ever get the chance to play Flash for [Parliament head honcho] George Clinton, and if so what did he think of it?
I remember someone in Detroit told me he loved it. I never was able to meet him personally yet, but I do have contact with Bootsy Collins from time to time.
As someone who has adopted a myriad of different pseudonyms over the years, you are a strong advocate of continuing to try something new, rather than be ‘pigeonholed’ into one style. A lot of producers breaking through these days tend to find that more challenging (often for commercial reasons). What advice would you give to up and coming artists that are keen to experiment but also wary of alienating their audience?
It’s all about thinking in one lane nowadays – you’re either this or you’re that. I refuse to play with the system that gets set up to trap yourself into a style. This has consequences of course, because promoters love to pigeonhole you to a style based upon your previous success.
If you are in the game to be famous, you have to build a team around you. They will make sure your followers go up etc. If that’s your goal, do it like that… no real talent is needed, just a good budget and good agents.
Now, if you want to make music because you love it and make no compromises, keep everything to yourself and invest in you. And also pick labels out that can jump your career.
To borrow a phrase from your classic Paco di Bango track, now that the pandemic appears to be coming to an end, “what do you think about the situation in house music today?” Has anything changed over the past couple of years?
House music is lovely! It’s a great time to make and listen to lots of it.
Thanks Orlando for chatting to us. Orlando Voorn – Forcefield EP is released on Transient Nature on 11 March 2022.
01 Locked In
02 Forcefield Energy
04 Apolonia feat. Sol Resol