The skills of Bart. With a love of music and a drive to create and connect, Bart Skils belongs to a particular group cultivating a community of artists who want to push the boundaries within themselves and transform their work beyond what is occurring on stage and in the studio. He’s a seasoned, innovative DJ and producer, delivering a compelling body of work through hard work, passion, mentorship, and commitment. Last month “Polarize” his debut collaboration with emerging talent Weska was released on Drumcode. The duo first met in 2013 when Bart played Toronto’s iconic Coda, where Weska, was a regular. In friendship and in music, they clicked effortlessly. Since then, the Dutchman has become one of DC’s most vital contributors.
Nowadays, the consumate Dutch DJ and producer
Ahead of this weekend’s Drumcode Festival in Amsterdam, I catch up with Mr. Mad Skills to talk music, friendship, travel and what he’s looking forward to this weekend.
Tell us about a couple of pivotal ‘game changing’ moments in your path to becoming a DJ and producer?
The two changing moments in my music life were first of all when I started to work in a record store in Amsterdam called Outland Records. From that moment onwards I had access to all the releases and it opened up my musical world and horizon. The second moment was when I met Rocco, the owner of Awakenings at the record store. After handing him my mixtapes, I got invited to play Awakenings for the first time and that was amazing of course.
Your latest release finds you collaborating with your friend and label mate, Weska. What first drew you guys together after meeting at CODA Toronto?
We met at Coda in Toronto when I was touring Canada and the States in 2012 or 2013. After that we stayed in touch and he sent me his music to play out. Since that moment we met up every time I got back to Canada to play. The musical connection was made.
Name a couple of key changes in your life & career since your first encounter (with Weska) at CODA? Tell us about the track Polarize and how it came about.
Touring and playing all over the world is a beautiful thing. You meet many cultures and people. With Cody (Weska) the musical connection was there and besides playing his tracks the idea came to spent some time in the studio together. When he moved to Berlin last year it became easier. The release came together after a few individual sessions sending each other ideas back and forth, before finalizing it.
You’re well-respected, not just at home in Holland but globally and you also wear many hats from DJing/producing, to playing a key role in the Drumcode Festival and also raising a family. Can you share a couple of tips for maximizing productivity?
Even though I am working in nightlife, I am a morning person. My best creative moments come from getting fresh into the studio in the morning with my ears still fresh and my focus ready to make some good music. When the creative flow is there I don’t worry too much about the mixdown and sound design. In a later session in the afternoon I can do all the sound design and mixing to get thing tight. Sometimes a track gets finished in 1-2 days and sometimes it takes more sessions.
Congratulations on your hit “Renaissance Remix” with Adam Beyer and Layton Giordani. Were you a big fan of the original track? How did the remix come together?
We got asked by Renaissance if we wanted to be part of the classic series. When we made a list of classics that suited the series, Pete Lazonby’s ‘Sacred Cycles’ stood out because it has a very defining renaissance ‘90s sound, while still being timeless. With the remix we focussed on a few key elements and built a full new track around it. it turned out very good!
You are part of a distinct tight-knit Dutch unit leading the surge out of Amsterdam, what’s your connection to Reinier Zonneveld?
I met Reinier two or three years ago when playing Dutch festivals. Last year he asked me for a collab and that came together really nicely. After that I played a few of his events with a b2b and we see each other while touring. In September I’m gonna release a very special project on his label in cooperation with Belgium’s Bonzai label. It’s a project from another timeless cross-over classic, Universal Nation by Push and I’m delivering a Bart Skils rework.
This year, you’ve had the opportunity to perform at Thuishaven Open-Air, Awakenings 2019, CONNECT, Fusion Festival, and EDC Las Vegas. When it comes to venues, does size always matter?
I like both a lot so difficult to choose. In terms of festivals, big stages are amazing and I love playing daytime festivals. But the night and intimate clubs have a very special vibe. The most important for me is to connect with the crowd and feel one with the dancefloor.
We hear you’re a VINYL aficionado, name a couple of your most treasured 12” records in your collection.
There are way too many tracks I love within my collection, but here a few;
In Sync – Storm
The Martian – Stardancer
Choice – Acid Eiffel
Underground Resistance – The Final Frontier
Johannes Heil – Die Eigene Achse
Do you find yourself crate-digging while on tour? If yes, do you have particular favorites? If no, how do you keep your collection up to date?
While touring I’m not digging in record stores. It’s difficult to take the records along, but I do try to support where possible. For hunting treasures and vinyl I use discogs.com a lot. It’s got the most amazing archives on every release ever done and their sales market is fantastic.
Prior to finding your calling in music, what was your alternate career path?
I honestly have no clue. I mean, I’ve never had a ‘serious’ job in my life I feel. From my teenager years I was working part-time in the record store and throwing parties for friends. From that moment the events grew bigger and I started producing. I never looked back and I’m happy I do the things I love so much.
Can you tell us about the studio you’re building at home? What’s the blue coating?
I am building a new studio in my garden. The idea behind it to create a perfect sound designed room from the inside but looks like a log cabin from the outside. The inside part of the studio is made from (blue) metal sound panels that have sound absorption and an internal aircon system for climate inside. Around that steel blue box I built a wooden house around it. In that way it fits perfectly in my garden which has a lot a green and nature that i love.
To cap this interview, what can we look forward to at Drumcode Festival? Anything up your sleeve?
I am looking forward to Drumcode Festival a lot. This year is the first year we do a full weekend. Two days filled with good music and great artists. For every set I try to bring as much new music as possible. Playing new music is the best way to keep things moving forward for me.
Catch Bart Skils at Drumcode Festival 24-25 August, Amsterdam