Hailing from The Hague, Makam was in a prime location for world class techno talents who would regularly install their sound in the culturally vibrant city. From a very young age he took advantage of these parties which instantly ignited a passion within him that quickly led to him developing his DJ craft and taking his first steps in music production – he was helped along the way by sympathetic parents who were themselves well versed in house music culture. Though he’s been DJing for a full 10 years now, his first release came just two years ago on Sushitech and it quickly caught the attention of music writers going so far as to anoint him with the accolade of vinyl release of the year in Germany’s de:Bug publication for his record ‘How Long Is Now’.
He’s been a frequenter of fabric for some time now so we we’re more than happy to get to know the producer better and share his exclusive Promo Mix, which encapsulates his party spirit from his first love of hardcore to his most recent house cuts, with the world.
For those of our readers who may not be familiar with Makam yet, please can you introduce yourself?
My name is Guy Blanken and I grew up in The Hague, the Soulful City, and currently living in Amsterdam. I’ve been making electronic music since I was 15 years of age. Luckily I’ve had the opportunity to find such a passion at a young age and being able to make a living out of it so far. Makam is an alter ego I created some 5 years ago, a way to express myself in the many forms of house music.
You’ve said you’ve always had music in your home from an early age – what specifically were you exposed to at home?
It all started with my parents, they were (are) avid listeners of house music. They’ve always been into house music as far as I can remember. Often in our living room you would find cd’s playing from the infamous iT club. Even then I thought this sounded funky.
At the age of 9 I was already listening to hardcore. Dj’s like Darkraver, Rob G and of course the Thunderdome CD series. I can definitely say that had a big impact on me.
How did that turn into you wanting to make music yourself?
Most importantly growing up listening to electronic music. Having it around me from quite a young age. Another important thing was the fact that my friends were a bit older than I was. When they started out to go clubbing in the local disco, I sneaked along with them, without my parents knowing. At the club you’d hear those typical 90’s Top 40 hits. But when I turned 14 years old, it suddenly happened...
I found out there was going to be a big party. It was even in walking distance from our house. My friends and I decided to go, absolutely no clue from what to expect. I was 14 and still young. What happened there changed my life. Really.
I won’t lie about it: 14 years old, dropped my first pill ever and hearing proper techno. This was electronic music I never heard before. It was like a jungle, completely overwhelming. This jaw-dropping DJ turned out to be Sven Väth. The man who introduced me to techno for the first time. And from that moment on we were addicted to techno. Three months later my brother and I bought our first turntables. A year later I started to produce my own music. I was hooked.
What was your first instrument, was it always electronic, hardware or straight to computer?
My dad’s a drummer and he taught me some bits and pieces. Not super fanatically, but I still have some of the skills. When I started producing it was on a PC. First with Fruity Loops, later on Reason and Cubase. I think I was 16 years old when I bought my Roland MC-909, which I actually still use every day. I owe a lot to that machine.
Coming from The Hague how much did artists like Legowelt and I-F play a big part in influencing your direction? Or was it more artists from abroad?
It’s a bit of both. I really started to learn more about The Hague’s heroes like Legowelt and I-F a bit later on, when I was growing more into the underground stuff that I like nowadays. In the beginning, it were names like Sven Väth, Dave Clarke, Michel de Hey, Steve Rachmad and Umek. Those were my heroes starting out.
You’ve moved to Amsterdam now, what encouraged that move? Was it related to your musical direction?
I’ve always wanted to move to Amsterdam, but I didn’t had the balls to do it. But when I met my girlfriend, who lived in Amsterdam, and I got fired from my last job as a sound/ video editor, I left for the Dutch capital.
And also musically it wasn’t a bad choice. In the Dutch club scene the biggest events and progressions are happening in Amsterdam for some time now. But I would definitely say it’s not a must to live here to be a ‘dj/producer’. Ooh, how I hate this combination of words...
On developing your sound, you’ve been making music for 10 years but when did you feel you’d found your own identity?
Well, over the past 10 years I’ve changed my perspective on this matter. In the beginning I approached my music making as separate projects, clearly working on a specific sounds.
My very first release I did was in 2007 under the moniker of Terry Hengers, which was more ‘minimal’ focused. Makam was another project I did at the same time, really more house focused.
The Terry Hengers alter ego stopped after the first release. I had found my definite sound in Makam; funky, uplifting and energetic. It just suited me much better. As years progressed, I slowly changed my mind. It became clear for me that I never wanted to let myself be lead by expectations of others. Something which happens if people start to know your music. So I had the choice: find a new moniker or continue
to build on a wider sound with Makam. From Glacial Valley/Dreams of Tomorrow to What Ya Doin’. These are perfect examples of this ambiguity. In my mind Makam now stands for everything that is house music, with a subtle wink to techno as I see it for now.
Sushitech have become your home, how did you first link up with them and why have you kept loyal? Many producers tend to release across a range of labels…
Yossi from Sushitech contacted me even before I ever did a Makam release. It really started out after he contacted me on Myspace. Quite amazing if you think of it. Over these years it became my home, allowing me to do what I want musically, giving me the space I need. I am Sushitech very thankful for this.
The music Sushitech releases is heart felt and for what I’m concerned they have the perfect work-flow. I never have to wait long before my tracks get released. An advantage, as I experience my music as a real captured moment of time, something I genuinely feel at a moment. So when a track is released so quick, it still is in this specific moment. It’s not water under the bridge.
Another true home for me and my music is Dekmantel. The guys behind the label and their infamous parties, we know each other from the early days. Thomas Martojo and Casper Tielrooij (Dekmantel founders) also come from The Hague and are good friends for many years now, so it feels very natural and family like. My Dekmantel bro’s are one of the very few labels/organisations I know that are doing real quality music and parties here in the Netherlands. People should really check these guys out, you are missing out if you don’t. They are a huge inspiration on what I’ve done over the last couple of years.
What’s this new project I’ve heard you talking about? You’ve said previously you’re moving into a more heavy techno territory?
I have a new project coming out this month on my very own label which will have the same name as the project. This will be something completely else than what you are used to from current house and techno charts. Real dark and mysterious stuff. I won’t say the name, but you will hear more about it soon enough.
What else do you have in the pipeline that we can look forward to?
I have just release two fresh EP’s on my home labels Sushitech and Dekmantel, respectively ‘Dreams of Tomorrow’ (2x12”) and ‘What Ya Doin’ (single). And upcoming weekend will be an absolute highlight in my career, playing legendary clubs, fabric and Panoramabar, in the same weekend! I am extremely excited about this. Expect something special.