Exposure: Den Haan
Den Haan - Night Shift
At the best of times, a live slot at Glasgow’s trailblazing, cross-genre club night Optimo is to be prized by any band. Even more than that, though, a gig at the club’s Hogmanay Party is the Holy Grail. One of the bands to have hit the jackpot on the way into ’09 are Glasgow-based themselves – Andy ‘Gardi’ Gardiner and Matt Aldworth (who has recorded extensively on his own under the pseudonym Crème de Menthe) are Den Haan.
How did you both meet?
MA: I’ve known Gardi for about eight years, but it was when we were playing together at a party about three years ago that we sat down, had a few drinks and decided to make a track together. It took us about a year to make that first track, just mucking about with various production techniques before we settled on using Ableton Live, and we’ve just stuck at it since then.
What were you doing before Den Haan?
AG: I was just DJing about, while Matt… he’ll tell you.
MA: I started working with Optimo about eight years ago, releasing my first record with them. That got licensed by a German label called DiscoB, who I worked with for quite a few years and released an album through. Then I got more involved with making film soundtracks and so on. That was all under the name Crème de Menthe.
You describe Den Haan as Italo – is that it, or do you mix in other genres?
MA: I think we do. When we started off, the aim was to make Italo, or Hi-NRG. But we’ve got a format, a way of writing music, which can lead us in any direction. It’s got a really retro feel to it, though…
AG: I think that’s a lot to do with the equipment we use. It’s all analogue synthesisers, we like to keep everything quite traditional.
Why is that?
MA: A lot of people like to use software which can give you a really good approximation of a classic synth sound, which they get off the internet for nothing. But spending eight or nine hundred pounds on a really good synth, one which has been used on lots of classic records, it’s worth every penny. You just can’t compare them, as far as I’m concerned.
AG: We use bass and guitar as well, though.
MA: And the vocals are quite a big part of it, we work very hard on the production on Gardi’s voice. I use a lot of effects on them, you see.
When did you first play live together?
MA: It was in Malta, actually. I’d been offered the chance to go and play as Crème de Menthe, and I said to Gardi, do you want to come along and play out some of the music we’ve been doing together? So we did, it was really fun, and it inspired us to really get our shit together and work hard at this.
AG: That was the seventh of the seventh, 2007 (both laugh). They put us up for a week to play one night, it was a great trip.
MA: Then one of our mates got really into our music and put a night on for us at Stereo, which brought a lot of attention from people like Optimo and Death Disco at the Arches. We’ve had one record out already, called The Night Shift on a London-based label called Dissident.
AG: Then the next one’s called Release the Beast, that’s a three track EP on Optimo Music, which is out in February. It’s the same label as Oscarr, but they’ve re-named it because I don’t think a lot of people realised from the name that Oscarr was connected to Optimo.
MA: Then the working title of the album is Gods From Outer Space, which is from Erich Von Daniken’s book Chariots of the Gods.
Speaking of names, where does Den Haan come from?
AG: (laughs) The Dutch phone book!
MA: Back at the start we said, what’s a really cool name for an Italo band? Well, the Dutch make really good Italo, let’s have a Dutch name.
AG: I was at my mate’s stag do over there, so I brought back a Dutch phone book and we went through it.
MA: We were just about to give up, then we were like… Den Haan – that’s brilliant, let’s use it!
Do you know what it means?
AG: Err, yep.
MA: We didn’t know at the start, but we met this guy from Holland and were speaking to him in our not-very-good Dutch. We said we were in a band called Den Haan, and he said ‘do you know what that means?’ It turns out it means The Cock. We thought, that’s fantastic!
Den Haan play the Optimo Hogmanay Party at the Old Fruitmarket, Glasgow, Wed 31 Dec.