CREW SPOTLIGHT: Count Vanderhoff

Posted Aug 07 2016

Today we are introducing the Crew Spolight series, where we will sit with one of our crew members, deep dive into their world and listen an exclusive mix of theirs.

For the very first Crew Spotlight, we sat with Count Vanderhoff and caught up a bit on his plans for the near future. Enjoy this new mix entitled "Rural Juke vol.1" while you get to learn a bit more about him in this interview below.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself ?

I come from Devon, England and have spent most of my life here, although I did live in Norway for four years. I live in Exeter with my wife and two cats.

What is the meaning behind your moniker ?

There isn't one really. When I started out as a DJ I went by my real name, Rufus, because it's quite an unusual name. But I realised it wasn't particularly imaginative and wanted something unique, so I came up with Count Vanderhoff, which is utterly ridiculous really but it's mine and I like it.

What about your musical background ? How did you get to produce Juke music ?

Music's always been a big part of my life. My parents are both musicians and there was always some sort of music on in our house. I'm the youngest of four children and even though I was only five or six when the rave scene got big my syblings were well into it and would play me their tape packs. I think it probably had a big effect on me as I often find myself using old skool rave elements in my music without even thinking about it. When I was a moody teenager I went through a heavy metal phase and took up guitar. I bought a Zoom multitrack recorder and started writing my own songs, but as soon as I went to my first rave I pretty much forgot about the guitar and started playing around with the built in drum machine and trying to make dance music. I'm sure it sounded terrible but it taught me a lot about composing rhythms and combining elements into a tune. You could slice recordings on it but it was so basic I had to use a calculator to figure out where to slice. I think it's good to learn the basics on something very simple because it focusses your mind. When I upgraded to using software I already had a pretty good idea what I was doing.

I think my production seemed to fall into place when I moved up to Brighton for a couple of years and started working with my mate Matt Durstan. We were making hardcore of the very silly variety but I think we did some quality stuff round that period.

When I first heard juke I was quite disillusioned with the scene in general. There was (and is) still good dnb and hardcore around but generally stuff had become very commercialised and self important. I came across the Journeys Through Rave series of mixes by Dave Skywalker and they blew my mind, he was blending so many different styles together and every tune was awesome. It really invigorated my drive. A lot of the stuff I couldn't really place genre wise but he kept talking about it being footwork. I decided to do some research and came across this whole scene I'd never heard of. The music sounded completely futuristic and not like anything I'd heard before, but there were a lot of elements of stuff I was familiar with like house, jungle and hip hop too. I pretty much started playing it exclusively overnight and before long I was trying to make it too. It took a while to get used to the offbeat rhythms and the layering of sounds was unlike anything I'd made before, but eventually I started getting results and finished the first track I was happy with, Thug Homies. Within a few months I'd finished an EP's worth of tracks and put it out on bandcamp.

Tell us a bit about your your studio; what is your favorite piece of production gear ?

I've been running a mainly software-based studio for years, using Reason and, more recently, Ableton. I have been getting into the hardware side of things as well though and I recently invested in one of the new Korg Minilogue analogue synths. I am a sucker for the analogue sound, there's a certain warmth to it which you just can't replicate with software. I've got a few more unorthodox instruments too, including a handmade hammer dulcimer my dad bought in the 80s. It's a complete nightmare to tune and could do with a new set of strings (it has over 50), but the resonance in the sound is amazing, it's like a huge wooden reverb chamber. I just use it to make weird samples at the moment but would love to figure out how to play it one day.

What inspires you ?

Lots of things really. I think one of the main elements I always try to put into my productions is the memories I have of standing in a field in the middle of nowhere, nothing for miles around except a huge soundsystem and a load of like-minded people just losing it to the music. I feel really lucky to have grown up at a time when dance music was still such a raw, emotional experience.

Otherwise I have had a lot of health problems over the last few years and often find myself housebound. I find that making music is something that provides a release in those times and gives me something to do. I think my best work has been made when I'm stuck at home, it's a great outlet and very therapeutic. I'm not sure what I'd do without it.

Also I have two cats which like to come and hang out in my studio so I guess they're my test audience. They're called Bruce and Stevie after Bruce Dickinson and Steve Harris from Iron Maiden. The track Bruce's Bridge off my debut EP is named after my cat.

What are your musical plans ? Any releases or gigs coming up ?

I've got an EP coming out on Nidali in the Autumn that I'm really hyped about. The tracks are pretty much done and I'm just tweaking and polishing them for release. It's got quite a ravey vibe and I feel like it represents my style really well. I've also done a tune for CRZKNY's 2016 Atomic Bomb Compilation which is out in August, and I've got some remix work and collabs coming up which will be fun. I'm hoping to do some remix swaps with some local artists from other genres and mix up the styles a bit.

I've got a few mixes to record, a promotional mix for Nidali which will be dropping soon, along with another installment in my Reclaim the Rave series on Mixcloud. I've been in talks with a UK internet radio station about a slot too so more on that very soon.

I don't play a lot of gigs at the moment although I have enjoyed spinning some tunes at local nights run by UKG artist Jawji. I really appreciate promoters taking a punt on booking a juke DJ as it's not a big thing around here at all. I miss the feeling of playing in front of a crowd and I'm going to be properly on the case getting some festival slots next summer.

On a completely different note I also play synth in a band with a few mates. It kind of started out as an excuse to meet up once a week and get pissed while making a racket but it's progressed and we've got a few local gigs lined up. We're called Year of the Bonnacon. I've got no idea how to accurately describe our music but I guess it's kind of shouty arty proggy punky math rock kind of stuff. A long way from juke but it's a laugh!

If you could just move to a different place today, where would you go and why ?

Somewhere where the world didn't feel quite so mental, away from Brexit and Donald Trump. Me and my wife went to Iceland on our honeymoon last year, it seems like a really sound place. It's a beautiful country and the people are friendly. They seem to deal with issues really well there too, which I guess is a must when your country literally explodes every now and again. I love that following the 2008 crash they put the bankers responsible in prison. In the UK we just bailed them out with taxpayer's money. They have a great music scene too!