Talking to Dutch duo Mr. Belt & Wezol didn’t turn into a trash talk conversation about bad DJing (they’re actually really friendly guys). Besides, a mere two years of ‘official’ releases probably doesn’t put any dj/producer in a spot where any audience would take a chain of Troxlerish dance music criticism. But in all fairness, there’s some things Mr. Belt & Wezol actually do differently, maybe even better than most of the music industry.
Over the weekend Mr. Belt & Wezol have been on constant replay with a new track called ‘Hide & Seek’. It is a collaboration with another duo, Shermanology, and surprisingly the composer of Dutch symphonic metal band Within Temptation. There’s some getting used to it but at the same time there’s definitely something new and fresh happening in there.
Remarkably, talking about production with Mr. Belt & Wezol is mostly a conversation with Sam van Wees. Both guys clearly have their specialties cut out for them. Sam does music production, Bart Riem is the man to turn to for their videos, social media and (online) concepts – After all, Mr. Belt & Wezol have quite a few such as Demo Rides, Youtube sessions and just random social media banter.
Sam: “For some time now I wanted to do a big orchestral track. I was talking about this with Andy (Shermanology’s Andy Sherman -JP) and coincidentally he later joined Within Temptation’s composer for a studio session. So then he just bounced out the parts of this orchestral piece to me and I started working.” The version Sam originally created is something their audience might never hear though: “Initially it was even more epic, the second break contained nothing but orchestral elements. But when we spoke with the Spinnin’ A&R guys they thought it was a bit much, so I toned it down.”
Even though this sort of control by labels isn’t always as appreciated by artists, it is also not that uncommon for big pushers such a Spinnin’ Records to actively influence their artists musical productions (after all, that’s what the artists signed up for, right?). In this case the Dutch dj duo doesn’t seem to mind: “It doesn’t bother me in this case, because I can still use those big orchestral pieces. It just sounds really cool. But it only fits in like, these huge concert halls. So maybe I’ll just make a big orchestral intro for our sets in bigger venues.”
vs. The People
Two and a half years ago, Mr. Belt & Wezol’s first track – a remix on Crystal Waters’ ‘Gypsy Woman’ – hit this particular blog after which a huge string of releases followed over the course of two years. Some free, some as official releases through international EDM-mogul Spinnin’ Records and its subdivisions. More noticeably, in the past years the duo has started a variety of video series, which is where we enter Bart Riem’s domain. There’s a series of EP releases, live dj sessions, Demo Rides, tour reports, MB&W vs. The People, radio shows, music tutorials, short sketches and even more random videos.
For Sam and Bart, this is where judgment can go either way. Sure, audience engagement is and has been a magical word for a commercial breed of international dj’s. In that sense, spending so much time on engagement with fans is a smart move. But opposed to that view there’s criticism. Playing an attention grabbing marketing game doesn’t please not-so-commercial fans who think dj’s should just stick to their profession. An on-line screaming match for attention just distracts from what should matter: music. Whichever you prefer, at least it’s nice to see Mr. Belt & Wezol don’t shy away from going head to head with these types of comments.
Apart from taste – like many Youtube channels there’s sometimes a cringeworthy sense of humor, especially in the earlier videos – you have to admit there’s something the Dutch duo are doing right. There’s more happening than just another ‘go check out my new EP’ message over and over again. Sam admits: “What it all comes down to is that quite a few dj’s just make shitty content. You know, like quickly doing this sloppy video or at a gig – just because that’s what someone told you you’re supposed to do.”
For the past two years, Mr. Belt & Wezol have not been shying away from actually involving listeners and fellow producers. Either in actual conversations about music and just nonsensical good times by hosting videos as well as real events such as hosting festival stages. This summer there’s even a camper tour coming up in Europe. Bart: “It will be a while before we can tell you more about that. But basically we’re taking a six guys and a crew on tour, sleeping over over festival campsites and filming everything.”
Which is something that really sticks out when looking at the Dutch duo. Aside from whether you like or dislike that Mr. Belt & Wezol vacuum cleaner synth up above or their slightly wacky video series – they’ve actively been trying to do things that are new and they’re involving their fanbase. Sure, there’s been some growing into it. But it looks like eventually Mr. Belt & Wezol are building momentum by consistently doing things differently. Sam: “It’s boring to just sit around and do nothing else, how cool is it that for instance, you could be hosting your own stage at a festival or something like that? Get up already and make it happen!”