Traveling the world and having your debut EP on Amelie Lens’ new record label Lenske sounds like a dream to many - but not for Milo Spykers. The Antwerp-native needed some time to figure out which direction he wanted to go in (quite literally in his 3-year traveling hiatus), but once he caught the techno bug, there was no way back. A series of international gigs already brought him to places like Munich and Lisbon - and soon Belgian ravers will be able to nod their head on the 4x4 wizardry at Extrema Noir, which will take over Labyrinth Club in Hasselt on November 23. Before all that madness, it’s best you catch up on the man’s story. We’re proud to present you the very first Milo Spykers interview.
Hi Milo, tell us a little something about yourself first.
"I’m Milo Spykers, 28 years old and I’m born and raised in Antwerp. I travelled around the world for 3 years in my early twenties, after which I started university. As soon as I got my degree, about a year ago, I decided go all in on a music career. I’ve always been toying around with music, but I’m more focused now, trying to take my productions to the next level."
Yes, exactly: it may seem like you have hit the ground running, but you were actually already working on music for a long time, right?
"Well, yes, kind of. I was raised with a lot of music around me: my dad had a huge record collection. I’ve always had the idea to give music production a shot, but I definitely didn’t take a straight route. In my teenage years, I was mostly into hip hop, so I tried to make instrumentals - but soon I reached the limits of my technical capabilities. I had the software, but I didn’t have the knowledge yet. I just wasn’t able to overcome this first barrier. When I came back home after travelling I suddenly found myself in a position in which I had a lot more time. It made me realize that it was now or never – and so I indulged myself in music software throughout my 3 years of university. After that, I finally reached the point I felt I needed to take my music to the next level. All-in-all, it definitely wasn’t a short and easy process."
What is it that you love about hip hop?
"I’ve always listened to electronic music: electro, house, early hip hop, instrumentals, etc. I’ve mostly had a thing for drum machines, synthesizers and samplers, all of which are just as present in hip hop as in techno or house. So I wouldn’t say I’m a devoted “hip hop fan”, I’m just a fan of the sound of these machines, regardless of the genre they’re used in. At a certain moment, I chose Ableton as my default music software. At that point I decided to focus on the production of techno. That doesn’t mean I will only make techno for the rest of my life. Maybe after a few more records I’ll try out radically different approaches and ideas. This debut release is just the first step in my evolution."
So what lead to your breakthrough eventually?
"I wouldn’t say I have broken through just yet. But I definitely owe this initial success to Sam (Farrago, ed.) and Amelie (Lens, ed.). I had known them superficially for a while: Amelie was a friend of my brother when we were still teenagers and so she often came to visit us at home, but it’s not that we were really close. About a year ago, I ran into Amelie again and she told me she had heard I was making music now. From then onwards we started to talk more about music, exchanging tracks and whatnot. I would join her and Sam on some of her DJ gigs, which left a big impression on me, as well as teaching me a lot about the business. They were also the first ones to really listen to my music. Okay, maybe some other friends had heard some sketches before, but Sam and Amelie were the first ones who really gave me constructive feedback. I learned all of my technical and musical skills by myself through research on the internet, but I lacked the experience of trying out my music on big sound systems in clubs. This is where Sam and Amelie’s insights pushed my productions forward.
At one point, I got the question if I would like to be a part of their record label, which was only an idea in this early stage. Obviously, I accepted the invitation. That said, I want to make clear that Amelie and Sam didn’t push me in a certain direction musically. They have always given me the absolute freedom to make whatever I want. The debut record is 100% me."
How do these early experiences with international DJ-ing taste?
"I’ve done a few international gigs and there are some good ones in the pipeline, but as of now I would still consider these sporadic. The first one outside of Belgium was MMA Club, an old power station in the centre of Munich. They had these huge 20-meter-high ceilings, yet it was small enough to keep the vibe intimate. What struck me was the way how people reacted compared to our home crowds: the dancefloor was so enthusiastic! I didn’t expect such an overwhelming experience, so I was living on a cloud afterwards. A few weeks later I played a scorching hot afternoon outdoor rave in Lisbon, which was a completely different challenge for me as I didn’t really have the experience to play in these circumstances. In the end it all worked out more than fine!"
Don’t you think it’s going a little fast?
"I’m aware that I get these chances in what’s essentially a very early stage in my career. The step between bedroom studio and shows like these is really big, but in the end I have to prove I earned the opportunities given to me. This motivates me to consciously make the most out of every moment."
It’s interesting you mention the Lisbon gig, because when we listen to your music, it looks like you make your tracks with only one intention: to play in a loud and dark warehouse…
"Yes, I knew the debut EP wasn’t going to be an easy-listening record (laughs). I definitely had the dancefloor in mind when I made these tracks. It felt right to start with a release like this because that’s the kind of music I fell in love with in the clubs a long time ago. After this one, I’ll see which other sonic directions I can explore."
What do you think of the idea that techno, as it exists today, is dominated by only one form of techno?
"Techno has always come in many shapes and forms. So when I prepare my DJ-sets, I believe it’s important to dig deep. I try to pay tribute to the history of techno as much as possible, as well as trying to represent the music of today. But yeah, It’s easy to only notice a certain type of techno at the moment. I think that’s mostly the result of the fact that the threshold to start DJ-ing and producing has been lowered, compared to how it once was. Today you don’t need an expensive record collection or a studio anymore, just a USB drive and an internet connection. With more DJs now that play safe bets over taking risks, it looks like many are doing the same thing – but if you look a bit further you’ll see there are plenty of artists and DJs that do this radically different. Actually, this is something that has always existed in all types of music, you have people who innovate while others try to replicate. I wouldn’t worry about it too much, as long as there is interesting music being made."
Many big techno events all get their headliners from the same pool of artists. What’s your take on this? Do you think this will change soon?
"Big festivals often book the same names, true. These are artists that have proven themselves, working very hard to get where they are now. That said, they are minimum risk bookings that ensure enough ticket sales in an increasingly competitive environment, so from a business perspective I get it. Although I must say that big festivals usually support local talent as well who often get the chance to warm up the stages for the bigger names. In the club season however, there’s a lot more colour and diversity on the line-ups. Young producers and DJs do get their chances more often in the nightclubs, like me for example."
What are your biggest goals?
"That’s a tough question, because setting certain goals for yourself can kill your creativity. Obviously, you need to be able to plan your next steps, but you have to be careful not to look too far ahead. I guess my goal would be to push myself forward creatively every day. I’ve started this thing now and I want to see how far I can take it, without attaching distracting side goals."
You’re playing XONOIR soon. Which of the artists on the bill are you looking forward to see?
"I’m certainly a Marcel Fengler fan, who plays on the same stage as me. The first time I saw him was when I was a 21-year-old who visited Berghain for the first time. A 4-hour-set on a Sunday afternoon in a dark club was a concept that I wasn’t familiar with at the time, so it had a big impact on me. I’ve never actually met him in person, but we did chat online, so I look forward to see him again. He really is the embodiment of techno for me. Additionally, I’m always excited to see Sam and Amelie’s sets!"
What exactly can we expect from your own set there?
"I’m playing the warm-up, so it will definitely be a challenge. There’s not a lot you can do wrong playing peak time sets, but warming up a venue the right way requires a lot more skill. This is why it’s questionable, although understandable, that promoters often give the slot to young, unexperienced DJs. It’s really just a matter of finding the right tracks that fit the evolution from an empty room to a full one. I’ve already started my preparations for this set – I want to make sure the DJ after me takes over with a crowd that’s ready for the next step."
Milo Spykers performs at Extrema Noir on November 23, Labyrinth Club, Hasselt. For more information, full lineup and tickets: visit the Extrema Noir website. Want to stay in touch with everything Milo Spykers? Then give the man a follow on Facebook, Soundcloud and/or Instagram.