patrick hagenaar, don diablo, color code, ministry of sound, ade, london, dutch sound, tiesto, danny howard, radio one, radio fg, dancing astronaut, saviors, kiesza, cheryl cole, keith haring, sol republic, laid-back luke
If you don’t know who Patrick Hagenaar is, you soon will. A Dutch DJ who lives in London, his musical style mixes the two influences together - big, banging Dirty beats layered with sexy house and pop vibes. While just about every other DJ is dressed in “black chic,” Patrick stands out by living in his own bold colour code – bright and full of pattern. With the vibrance and energy he brings to his music and his DJ sets, it's no wonder why Ministry of Sound and clubs around the world have him on active rotation.
RS: How are you doing?
Patrick Hagenaar: I am excited to be here, it’s another year and another ADE. There is so much going on and so many people here to see and catch up with and so many new people to meet, it’s great.
RS: You are Dutch but you live in London, how did that work out?
Patrick Hagenaar: I am originally from a place called Haarlem, which is about 10 minutes outside of Amsterdam. When I was 17 years old I decided I wanted to leave Holland and do something different, so I moved to London to study and also to get into the music industry. During that time it was all about the different scenes in clubbing, and I knew that London was a great place to be and I got stuck and have been there for 14 years.
RS: You are Dutch but you don’t sound like a “Dutch DJ” - you have your own sound.
Patrick Hagenaar: Yeah, it has kind of evolved over the years. When I moved to London I was really into the Dutch sound, which was clubbier. I remember playing in London and people wondered what it was because it was very different. Over the years it has developed, and I have roots of the Dutch style but mixed with the UK thing, so it’s kind of in the middle.
RS: You are a Ministry of Sound resident, how did you achieve that?
Patrick Hagenaar: Over the years it has evolved, I got asked to play at one of their events abroad and the relationship built over time. I started doing tours and events, and eventually they asked if I wanted to play for the club as well, it has been an organic process and it’s great to be a part of it.
RS: Whenever anyone says Patrick Hagenaar I often think of Don Diablo, because you are kind of like that Dutch secret that everyone in the industry knows and loves but you haven’t had that big commercial crossover yet. Dancing Astronaut said that 2014 is going to be your year, how did it feel when you saw them say that?
Patrick Hagenaar: Very great to see and great to get some recognition and to have people start to notice you. Like you said about Don Diablo, he is now getting unleashed and going to the next level, which is amazing. That is what I am trying for as well, and slowly but surely getting there, the only way is up.
RS: Not your current single but your last single, “Tears Of Gold,” was a big vocal pop record, when you wrote that record did you give the track to the singer or did you collaborate together on the vocals?
Patrick Hagenaar: That is actually one of the first records where I have been involved from the beginning with the lyrics. I wrote the chorus of that track and there are three guys called Saviors who I work with. We have taken an approach where we work on the guitar and write the lyrics and then I actually work it out as a track. The way that track came about was that we wrote the lyrics and I wrote a whole track around it and then found the vocalists. Normally, you write an instrumental and then try to find someone to write a topline, but now I am focusing on writing a song and then turning it into a dance record.
RS: Are you working towards an album of original songs or just going track by track?
Patrick Hagenaar: I am just going track by track. I think that there are very few dance artists that people are waiting to hear an album from, and that is often with the big names like Avicii. I am not at that stage, so I’m not going to kid myself and try to make an album when there isn’t an audience for it yet. It is about building up with singles, both club and crossovers, and the same with the remixes. Hopefully I get to a stage that I can do an album, but right now crossover tracks with vocals are what I like.
RS: It also seems that you are following the path of doing a commercial record like “Tears of Gold” and then following up with “Come Closer,” which is a more club-oriented record. Are you having that in your mind to split the genres like that?
Patrick Hagenaar: I am trying to fit in with the happy medium of a track that can be played on the radio but can also be played in the club. You’ll see that with a lot of my remixes that I get the Radio One and Radio FG support but also get people like Tiesto playing it in their sets. That is where I am at the moment, because I feel that you can reach a wider audience with it. It will also be easier to make that step of going more to radio in the future but for now still being able to get the club support as well, which is obviously very vital.
RS: “Come Closer” got a lot of support from Danny Howard, Tiesto, and many others, how does it make you feel when a big superstar like that plays your music?
Patrick Hagenaar: It is kind of surreal. I see it, but it doesn’t really hit home until I actually hear it on the radio or when I see the reactions like when I put the clip up. I have gotten text messages from people that they heard my track on the radio and then it hits home. It’s great, if you would have told me a couple of years ago that Tiesto would play it on the radio I wouldn’t have believed you. It is just a step closer; it is great to get the continuous support as well. Last year Tiesto tweeted that he loved my stuff and it’s great to see that people are taking notice of me.
RS: How much time do you spend on tracks for yourself versus remixes of other peoples’ music?
Patrick Hagenaar: It is very different, because remixes are often deadlines and the deadlines can be really short. For example, I had a week to do the Kiesza remix. Sometimes I only have a couple of days and I may have a week to do it but I might be away in between, and so the pressure is really on. For original tracks you don’t really have deadlines, but I am trying to push myself with deadlines to keep the momentum going. It is very easy with original tracks to get lost. I try to get a clear vision with what I am trying to achieve with the original and the remixes, it gives me a more focused approach.
RS: What’s been the most challenging remix that you have done so far?
Patrick Hagenaar: I guess the Cheryl Cole one because it is a very poppy record, and trying to make it so that club DJs would play it and also sound credible was tricky, but it worked out okay.
RS: I can’t help noticing your shoes, are you a big sneaker head?
Patrick Hagenaar: Yes, I like anything that is bright and colorful. Every time Jeremy Scott has new shoes I get so excited because they are so out there and that is why I like them, they aren’t too serious, just fun. As you have seen in the industry, there are a lot of people that wear black chic and there is nothing wrong with it, but I am the opposite. For me it represents what I am about as a person and what my music is about. It isn’t too underground and serious and just about having fun because that is what nightlife is about.
RS: Is that where the name Colour Code came from?
Patrick Hagenaar: Yes, I was thinking about a name that would represent me and color code means two things to me. Every color is a code, but also the code is color so instead of a dress code you have a color code.
RS: Speaking about coloir code and your colors, I noticed that you have a lot of Keith Haring influence, is that intentional or just happened to be?
Patrick Hagenaar: If there is any kind of art that I love, it is pop art and Keith Haring and Andy Warhol are definitely huge influences. What I love about pop art is that it is kind of the same as music. Art is very abstract, and the same with music, like jazz music, can be really out there and some people get it and some don’t. Pop art is what it is and everyone enjoys it and it’s colorful and has funny characters and that is why I took from it. I wanted something in my branding that represented and paid homage to that, but with my own style.
RS: Speaking of your branding I am jealous of your headphones, tell us about how those came about?
Patrick Hagenaar: I got in contact with Sol Republic last year when they started to do stuff in the UK. They said that they could do customized headphones and could actually start selling them and asked me if I would be interested. I told them yes and that I had a lot of artwork that I would like to put on the headphones and that’s how it came about. I have done a couple of competitions with them and hopefully I am going to have new designs soon, it is great to wear them on the stage.
RS: As you said, most DJs wear black t-shirts and solid headphones, but your energy matches your colors.
Patrick Hagenaar: I’d like to hope so, and like I said, I don’t take anything too seriously, I am serious about what I do but I am not taking myself too seriously.
RS: That’s such a refreshing change. I wanted to ask you about Kruidnoten, what is that?
Patrick Hagenaar: It means spiced nuts, they are kind of like ginger nuts and they are seasonal. We have a Dutch Santa Claus and when he comes you can buy them and eat them. You can only get them in Holland from October–December so every time I come back I buy as much as I can, yesterday I bought 5 kilos. Everyone asks me what I am doing, but they have to last me for a year, the first thing that I do is go to the market and buy them and then I am happy.
RS: Think back to when you were 18 years old, what advice would you give to yourself at age 18?
Patrick Hagenaar: Do something that makes you happy and stick with it. I think sometimes people get caught up in doing stuff to please other people or trying to meet other people’s expectations but at the end of the day life is too short for that and you have to do what makes you happy and stick to what you believe it.
RS: What is coming from you next?
Patrick Hagenaar: I have a new release coming up on on Laidback Luke’s label, and the follow up of “Come Close” on Flashover Recordings, and some other remixes. I have a lot in the pipeline and a lot of touring coming up as well.
RS: With all your different releases and all the different labels that you work with, how do you choose which label gets which record?
Patrick Hagenaar: There is some A&R-ing involved with that, and looking at the label's history and seeing what they have been releasing, but also speaking to A&Rs to see what their vision is and then selecting on that basis. Sometimes I send stuff just for the off chance that they may like the record, it is hit or miss.
RS: Living in the UK, where do you think the nu-house and flashback house scene is going? Is it going to get stronger or mutate to progressive; where do you think that it is going to go?
Patrick Hagenaar: The UK is having a big backlash on EDM, it is going the complete opposite and deep house is already huge in the UK. You are starting to see it in the programming for clubs as well. If you go to a club anywhere in the UK, you will see that deep house is the music that is playing. I compare it to the end of the '90s when you had trance on one side and soulful house on the other side. Now you have EDM and the deep house. I think that there is still the gap in the middle that hasn’t been filled and it will be interesting to see where that is going and for me that is where I want to fit in.
RS: What would you like to say to all of your fans out there?
Patrick Hagenaar: Thanks for checking out my music and supporting it, I hope that you keep enjoying and hope to see you at one of my events. Let’s party together!
Interview conducted during Amsterdam Dance Event 2014.