An interview with emerging Belgian DJ/producer Twelve Clouds… »
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Twelve Clouds is the alias of Belgian DJ, producer and composer, Maxime van Roey. A serious all-rounder and a seriously gifted musician, van Roey is indicative of a new generation for whom a dedication to electronic music is very much a life calling. After years of studio perseverance, he’s beginning to get his break too. Aside from repping respected outlets such as Purism, Daydream, Hoary (where he just released on a killer VA featuring the likes of Jorge Savoretti, Djebali and Timid Boy), as well as one of our all time favourites, Vibraphone. His latest comes with a firm thumbs up from iO (Mulen), who’s released the quite exceptional Levitate EP via his Slowdy Mowdy label. That one’s already creating quite a stir, so we were more than happy to catch up with Maxime recently to discuss his story so far. If you’re interested to hear more of what he’s all about, we recommend you check out the mix he’s done for us here… 

Can you start by telling us about your alias, Twelve Clouds. Where does this come from?

It all started with ‘Suave’ – my former alias from almost 8 years ago. After a lot of experimenting with all kinds of genres I discovered the deeper aspects of Electronic music during my visit in Cluj Napoca.The Mioritmic festival changed my whole perspective on music.

I always had the more housy aspect inside of me, so I thought, why not find a balance between both worlds? I was looking for a new name that explains the dreamy vibe inside my music, Twelve Clouds was a perfect fit.

So is it fair to say that it describes your output? And on that note, how would you describe it yourself? 

It definitely does! I love music with a strong groove and this combined with some pads and beautiful harmonies is just the cherry on top of the cake.

Tell us a bit about your summer: what were the highlights? What were the standout memories?

I had a pretty calm summer to be honest. I spent many studio hours in my little room, which is an attic. Of course in summer, the temperature rises so I had my free little sauna upstairs, haha!While most people go on vacation, I stay at home, working for what I love.

This had a great result at the end of summer, I finally signed my first two records! So really happy about that. 

Going back a bit, can you tell us a bit about your first introduction to electronic music? Did it make an immediate impression on you? 

If I remember well, I think I first came in touch with electronic music during a set of tINI at Tomorrowland. I was 18 years old, so no judgement please, haha!

It all started with the cheesy house and deep house. Of course, all artists have to make their way to the hidden gems! I was definitely influenced by music, of course my parents thought differently about it, but that didn’t really stop me. In 2018 I decided to quit my studies (which I never really liked) and went full time for it.

Can you tell us about your early influences, producer and party-wise? What made them so great and why did they make such an impression? 

Back in the days I was really into tech house, damn what a time! I had my releases in that branch, I had so much information and influences of all kinds of music, it was hard for me to really stick to one specific genre. On the other hand, it was not bad to be versatile, it gave me the opportunity to try new stuff and expand my skills.

Partywise, the harder the sound, the better! I was always on the lookout for the newest bangers and top chart tracks. But after years I realised there was more than just playing random tracks without really thinking if it might fit or not. Today it’s about creating a certain energy, and building around that.

On that note, are there DJs and producers who you’ve mentored or worked closely with who we should be keeping an eye out for?

I had some basic mentoring with DJing and learning the equipment. Producing-wise I did it all on my own. There is no magic trick for making music that works, it takes time and loads of effort. Nowadays I can call myself a mentor for a childhood friend ‘Otake’. I can tell you now, this guy will outpace many of us, that’s for sure!

How important is it to impart your wisdom onto others do you think?   

For me it’s super important, but I rarely find people with the same drive to succeed as an artist in Belgium.. So I’m kinda careful on spending my energy on others.The moment I feel a connection with someone who really wants to learn or improve, I’ll do everything to share my knowledge, and this to push their boundaries even more.

You also work as a composer. Are there any similarities between that and DJing? 

Not at all in my opinion. For me, playing a gig is about sharing new music I like after hours of digging. I tried playing my own stuff, but it’s hard. After so many studio hours of listening and re-listening to my own creations, I’m kinda fed up with my own sound, I could not play it again during a gig! I know it sounds crazy, it’s just different, but I’m working on it.

I like both DJing and producing, but separately, it’s like two different worlds to me.

Can you talk to us through your studio a bit? Is it equally indebted to electronic music production tools and more classically inclined instruments?

I bet no one has a more simplified studio than me, haha! The only equipment I have is a small little keyboard of 2 octaves.Everything happens inside the box, my tools are mostly vst’s, I do love sampling though!

The internet always shows you the best equipment in the best acoustically treated rooms, flickering lights and knobs all over the place.No, that wasn’t for me, first of all it is a huge financial benefit and two, with all the tools you have nowadays, you can at least make the same tracks without spending thousands of euros on racks, hardwares and so on.

So I love simplicity, it all happens with the brain and a good trained ear.

Tell us also a bit about Antwerp. What was it like as a place to experience electronic music?  

Techno, tech house, progressive house were always number one during many years, I followed the hype in the beginning but that chapter is over. Nowadays, the scene is having a turnover. More and more festivals and clubs are integrating the more specific sounds like Minimal, Microhouse you name it. It’s amazing to see the development of today’s scene and people appreciating these kinds of music! It gives us the opportunity to show what we love.

You’re closely aligned with the Underground Collective parties. Can you tell us a bit about your involvement there? 

We do have some collectives in Antwerp such as: Micromoon, Best Served Cold Parties and Deep Down which is a label that started many years before people even knew minimal existed.They all do a great job, sharing what they love and improving today’s scene.

In my opinion, Brussels has always been more ahead for this kind of sound. People there are integrated and do appreciate local talent, the support there is different. 

In 2018 I had my residency in Zodiak, I also did the artist hospitality which resulted in good contacts with some renowned artists. I’m lucky to call the booker one of my best friends, he gave me the opportunity to develop myself in front of a crowd. I will never forget this!

This year I started as a manager/ booker for a new concept called ‘The Sub’, on 22/10 we host our first event with Audio Werner & Andrey Pushkarev, not bad for a first timer. I’m pretty involved but more behind the scenes!

Do you find Belgian crowds especially receptive and open-minded about electronic music? What do you think is good and bad about the modern-day Belgian scene?

It’s in development, I cannot say it’s bad, but neither good.People are going out more often nowadays, but in my experience I feel there’s a lack of connection with the crowd (musically). People do drink a lot and take substances to enjoy the music, it’s something inevitable, but this causes a weird shouting crowd who does not understand what the music is all about.

Just to give a little example: I recently went to a party to check out an artist I really like. There was a track with a long break going on, and just when the kick came back in I heard a girl shouting ‘FINALLY’!  At that moment it was funny but sad at the same time, because the track was so nice, so much detail and she didn’t even care. She just wanted to pump her fist in the air.

With this statement, the Belgian crowd does not always understand the music, but I’m sure this will evolve in a very quick time. People are getting more open minded to music, supporting smaller concepts is important to keep that small amount of intimacy and quality in your hometown. Keep doing that, and the scene will grow exponentially!

Tell us a bit about your thoughts on social media: a lot of the ‘techno’ producers from Belgium (I’m thinking the likes of Charlotte de Witte, Amelie Lens etc) have really benefited from it, whereas older guys (maybe Marco Bailey), tend not to place so much importance on it. Where do you stand on it all?

Social media is inevitable, in today’s music business you need thousands of followers, hundreds of likes to get noticed and get booked for a gig! 

The aspect of ‘quality’ has been replaced by ‘visibility’ and that’s something we’re unable to change I’m afraid.

I guess Charlotte & Amelie were lucky for being there at the right time, with the right people.

They both have teams of people working around the clock to keep their presence online as on the dance floors.I’m not at the point where I could afford people working for me, I think this will keep me under the radar. I share stuff on Instagram when I feel like it. For me it’s important to stay human, feelings you share should be real.

Since the beginning I knew, you either need to be good at socialising and make good friends or create a hell of a sound, and release amazing track. I’m pretty introverted, so I know what I have to do, haha!

Has the ‘scene’ become saturated in a way, do you think? Can it save itself? Will good music always rise up? 

Let me explain my point of view on the government first. . Compared with our neighbour countries such as the Netherlands, UK, Germany and France we’re just lost in a way. 

Our scene before corona was oversaturated, there was too much every weekend, people did not know where to go. During corona, a clean up happened and many collectives and clubs had to shut their doors. The Belgian government did not support culture financially when they needed it the most. For them it was not a priority and it will never be.

Now that it’s all over, people can start building up again with their own capabilities.It can be saved but with a lot of effort, good music will always find a way out I believe!

Your someone who places a lot of importance on analogue tools. Where do you stand on digital? Do you have space for Bandcamp in your life, for example? 

Music should be accessible to anyone, we have to keep in mind that not everyone plays vinyl or has the financial possibility to buy them. That’s why Bandcamp is a good intermediary for this problem. Selling digital music directly to your fans is a huge benefit for both ways in my opinion. 

Outside of music, what do you get up to? Do you find it important to strike a balance between music and other activities? 

I work 4 days a week in a hotel/ foodbar for financial stability. The moment I get back home it’s all about music, music and even more music.

Preparations for the events (The Sub) is a job in itself, so it’s quite challenging to combine them all together. Not to mention my love life , I do have a partner who supports me a lot, but I need to spend some quality time with her too!

It is important to find a balance, but you have to make sacrifices at some point. Mine was seeing less friends and focusing on the future.

Do you have goals and dreams in music? What is your ultimate ambition? And do you make music for yourself or for others? 

My ultimate ambition is to make a full living out of it, that’s for sure! Being able to do what you love is a privilege but that doesn’t come by itself. I do make music for others, like I mentioned before, playing my own tracks is not for now at least. By doing this, I hope people will be playing my sound all over the world!

Lastly, we also wanted to mention the release on iO (Mulen)’s label. How did this one come about? And can you tell us a bit about the vibe and the overall story behind it?]

I was always a big fan of what he does. No one has a groove like him, you hear a track and from the very first second you can identify it’s him or one of his many aliases haha! 

This guy never stops, neither with the current situation between Russia and Ukraine.

I sent him some music before the war started, without really thinking this might work. So my expectations were pretty low.

After a week he contacted me again, saying he wanted to release 4 tracks on Slowdy Mowdy, I was so excited so obviously proceeded on this! Surprisingly he got back to me a few days after our first exchange asking if I wanted to release on a VA for Hoary with Jorge Savoretti, Djebali & Timid Boy. I just got the holy grail, I was all over the place, all those years of being isolated, working on my sound finally got rewarded!!

But it’s important to stay humble, what happened is amazing, but I’m not done yet. I still need to develop more and keep pushing forward, and of course maintaining my small presence out there.

Keep up with Twelve Clouds on Bandcamp, Instagram and Soundcloud 

Twelve Clouds latest release, the Levitate EP, is out now. Buy/listen to the release here

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