Memoria's Izaakson provides live mix from Club 100 in Belgium...

Izaakson is a well-known figure in underground circles. A native of Holland, he’s best-known as the man behind the Memoria label, an imprint that’s been releasing quality-laden house and techno for some time now. Indeed, Izaakson’s own career is one of longevity, and he’s been involved in electronic music for an impressive twenty years now.

As you might imagine from a career spanning this long, Izaakson wears many hats, from co-running the aforementioned Memoria to pursuing his solo career and collaborating as one half of IZIL. In this interview, he gave us an insight into his time management techniques, the challenges faced in the music industry, and his commitment to quality in the face of a changing landscape.

As he reflects on the evolution of electronic music and his contribution to it, Izaakson also shares a live recording from CLUB 100 in Belgium, offering a taste of his distinctive style. Listen to the mix here, and read on to learn more about the world of Izaakson…


Hey Izaak! Thanks for chatting to us today. How’s your year been so far? Have you made any new year's resolutions?

Hello guys! Thank you for having me. So far, this year has been quite promising. I've been focusing on personal and professional growth, setting the stage for a productive and fulfilling year ahead. On a personal note, I'm excited to share that my family is expanding – I'm already a proud father of two sons, and we're expecting a new addition in May. Balancing my time between running Memoria and working in the studio, and the exhilarating experiences of touring as a DJ, is crucial. Simultaneously, being an involved and caring father is a top priority. It's a juggling act, but it's these diverse facets of life that bring richness and meaning to my journey.

In terms of what you’re working on right now, how do you divide your time between Memoria, Izaakson and your IZIL bits?

Memoria has been a significant part of my life for the past 14 years, and for the last 6 years, I've had the pleasure of co-running it with my dear friend, Omar Mazzon. Over the years, we've cultivated strong relationships with a carefully curated selection of labels. We're discerning when it comes to adding new labels to our roster – quality over quantity has always been our ethos. Building lasting relationships is crucial for me; for instance, I've been collaborating with iO Mulen since day one, and our working relationship has evolved into a genuine friendship. The same goes for Haydn from OGE Records. Our shared passion for our craft has forged strong bonds, and the countless hours spent working together have only strengthened these connections.

In terms of my personal artistic career, I've taken a deliberate and gradual approach. While I started as a DJ 20 years ago, I made a conscious decision to focus on Memoria for the past decade. Now, with more time and space, I'm rekindling my personal career. Studio work has always been a constant, albeit not always under the name Izaakson. Additionally, IZIL is a side project that emerged in collaboration with Ilario Liburni and Massimo Girardi, close friends of mine for 15 years. Having shared countless stages and experiences, our musical values align seamlessly. Playing and producing together with them is not just a creative endeavour but also a continuous celebration of our friendship. The unique vibe we create when working on music together is truly special.

Is music a full-time thing for you? If so, what do you find the most challenging aspect of this? If not, what else occupies your time? And jow do you find the time to do it all?!

Music is a full-time commitment for me. For the past 20 years. With Memoria we have a dedicated staff, manage warehousing logistics, and oversee various facets of the operation. Currently, we proudly represent approximately 75 record labels on a global scale, adding a layer of complexity and richness to the work we do.

Beyond the professional realm, family remains an anchor in my life. Being a father adds another layer of responsibility and joy, underscoring the importance of finding equilibrium between personal and professional pursuits.

To manage the intricacies of my multifaceted life, I adhere to a very strict schedule. It's an indispensable tool that allows me to successfully navigate the demands of running a business, pursuing my artistic endeavours, and cherishing my role as a father. Four days a week, I kick off my mornings in the studio at the crack of dawn. This early start not only provides a quiet and focused environment but also ensures fresh ears and an undistracted mind while everyone in my house is still asleep.

As for preparing for my DJ gigs, I reserve the evenings (including a glass of whiskey) This deliberate timing allows me to immerse myself in the vibe, ensuring that my sets are finely tuned and resonate with the energy I want to convey during performances.

Memoria’s been running for some time now. What would you say have been the label’s biggest success stories? What makes you proudest?

It's not about one specific achievement that makes me proud of Memoria. Instead, it's the overwhelming sense of fulfilment that comes when people reach out on social media to express their love for what we do. Whether it's meeting individuals from different corners of the globe during my gigs or encountering them while on holiday with my family, hearing their personal experiences with the company is what truly resonates with me. The genuine connections and shared enthusiasm create a tapestry of meaningful moments that transcend any singular accomplishment.

Are there any particular challenges or obstacles you've faced while pursuing your passion for music? Have you had to struggle at times?

Working in the music industry, particularly within the underground scene where Memoria operates, has been a journey filled with numerous obstacles. In this intimate market, we often collaborate with aspiring young producers who possess grand aspirations but limited industry experience. Managing expectations, especially concerning vinyl sales, proves to be a persistent challenge.

When I initially ventured into the vinyl business, there were fewer labels, and the quality of music released on vinyl was exceptionally high. The involvement of top-tier mastering studios reflected in the standards. In those days, selling 2000 records for a single release was normal. However, the landscape has evolved, and nowadays, an influx of labels exists. To be candid, not all of them should necessarily be pressing vinyl. The prevalence of Labels securing P&D deals with large companies, driven solely by money motives and lacking artistic values, has complicated the scene. It's a reality that makes navigating the vinyl market more intricate than ever.

Obviously the music industry landscape has changed a lot in recent years. How do you continue to stay on top of it all?

Fortunately, we've established a strong foundation with labels that have been part of our roster for many years. The artists and labels in our network are top-tier, offering us a unique insight into the future trends shaping popularity. Simultaneously, as a music creator and touring artist, I have the opportunity to hear a diverse range of DJs, adding another layer to my understanding of the evolving musical landscape.

On a personal level, I don't fixate on what's currently popular. At least 75% of what I play as a DJj is at least 10 to 20 years old! What matters to me is the quality of the music. If it's good, we're interested, and that philosophy has been a constant for us over the past 14 years. While our roots lie in minimal house, we maintain a versatile approach. We're open to signing exceptional techno, electronica, or anything in between, as long as we believe it meets the standard worthy of a vinyl release. This commitment to quality ensures that our company remains true to its essence, evolving with the industry while staying anchored in the pursuit of outstanding music.

What's your typical production process like when you're creating a new track? Where do you look to for inspiration?

My studio workflow undergoes periodic changes as I deliberately seek to challenge myself, preventing monotony from setting in. While I've amassed an impressive collection of gear over the years, I've recently shifted my focus to mastering specific tools and software rather than constantly acquiring new equipment. Just like a kitchen doesn't make a good cook, it's the investment of time and effort that yields the best results. I've come to appreciate that even the stock plugins from Ableton are often top-notch.

For aspiring producers, my advice is to resist the urge to splurge on various synthesizers and drum machines. Instead, work with what you have, dedicate time to mastering those tools, and build a concise library of samples. It's not about the quantity of samples or gear in the studio; it's about what you can create with them.

A compelling example is the remarkable music emerging from Romania and similar regions. Many artists there start with modest setups—basic monitors and minimal gear—but they skillfully wield what they have. In a world consumed by Instagram, a platform I admittedly detest, the essence of music creation transcends mere visibility. The same principle applies to DJing; whether using vinyl, CDJs, or a laptop, it's about the artistry in your performance. Don't fear mixing mistakes; it's the narrative you construct with your track selection that truly matters.

Is there a track from this year that you've had on repeat or found particularly inspiring?

Yes!! It’s Barac’s remix of Magic Women from Funky Trip. This remix was part of Artreform’s release ARR048-1 that we released. This track has everything I like in music. Groove, melody and the most amazing build-up you ever hear.

As a DJ/producer based in the Netherlands, what do you think sets the Dutch music scene apart?

The Dutch scene excels in our genre, especially in Amsterdam, which boasts numerous exceptional promoters and clubs. A particular acknowledgment is due to VBX, as these guys have been tirelessly propelling our scene to new heights in the Netherlands for many years. Their dedication has significantly contributed to the thriving electronic music landscape in the region.

Can you give us a glimpse of your plans for 2024, both as a solo artist and with IZIL?

With IZIL, we're gearing up for an exciting lineup of major gigs and festivals during the upcoming months. Our unique setup, featuring three performers, allows for extended sets, and I'm genuinely looking forward to the immersive experiences that lie ahead.

On the Izaakson front, I'm taking a more measured approach to live performances this year. The primary focus is on dedicating substantial time to the studio. Recently, I've invested in new gear to enhance the live performance aspect. As a DJ at heart, I'm navigating a path that balances the live element while ensuring I can incorporate my extensive collection of records amassed over 20 years.

I've found a solution to play my vinyl records in a ‘digital’ way. With my new setup, where Ableton runs concurrently with Traktor Pro, I’m able to provide an effective gain control for my old records, offering a middle ground that allows me to play both live and include my cherished vinyl seamlessly.

This situation perfectly encapsulates the sentiment I expressed earlier in this interview. There's been a lingering discomfort about using a laptop on stage, particularly in the DJ-ing context, due to the norms of the scene we all operate in, where specific setups hold significance. However, as I continue to age, I find myself adopting a more assertive mindset — a sentiment that can be succinctly expressed as, "Fck them!" A defining moment occurred during a conversation with Raresh at a gig last year in The Netherlands. Witnessing him deliver an exceptional performance carrying only a USB stick, I couldn't help but inquire about his shift from vinyl. His response, laden with confidence and clarity (which I'll keep to myself), became a catalyst for my own resolution: "Fck it, I'll do it my way, however I want." I sincerely hope that every individual who identifies as an artist embraces the freedom to choose their preferred setup—be it vinyl, CDJs, a laptop, or hardware gear—aligning with their artistic vision and preferences.

What do you think the future holds for electronic music, and how do you see yourself contributing to it?

The disparity between what I observe and what I aspire to witness in the music scene is quite pronounced. On one hand, there's a positive shift as the music scene gains popularity among a broader audience. I anticipate that a group of young enthusiasts, initially drawn to the sounds of Steve Aoki and David Guetta, will mature and develop a fondness for the more underground, nuanced sound—marking a welcomed evolution.

However, the increasing prominence of iPhones and Instagram during club nights and festivals is disheartening. In truth, these devices are not a genuine part of the experience. It's impossible to be fully immersed in the music while simultaneously filming or posting. Another aspect of the contemporary scene that doesn't align with my preferences is the prevalence of short sets. Ideally, a DJ needs at least three hours, if not more, to intricately weave a musical narrative. Unfortunately, promoters often book more names to fill venues, leading each DJ on the lineup to strive for individual prominence rather than contributing to a collective story. This departure from the essence of being a DJ as a storyteller, rather than a hit machine, is something I hope the scene can revert to.

You’ve also done a mix for us. Can you tell us a bit about that?

This recording captures a live recording from the past weekend at CLUB 100 in Belgium—a fantastic party that aligns with the values I previously highlighted. The promoters genuinely appreciate the essence of what makes a set memorable. I've chosen to share the last 1.5 hours of the closing set with you all because it encapsulates my distinctive style. The mix seamlessly weaves together timeless classics with fresh releases from Memoria and myself, illustrating a harmonious blend. This further emphasises my belief: it's the quality of the music that truly matters, irrespective of whether a track was crafted in 1998 or 2023.

How do you approach a mix? Do you generally know what you’ll play? Or is it more spontaneous?

I initially had intentions to create a podcast for you guys. The content of that podcast would have diverged significantly from this set because I meticulously prepare it track by track, aiming for a less dancefloor-centric and more experimental vibe. However, as we progressed through the interview, I felt compelled to share this particular set with you. It serves as an excellent illustration of the points I've discussed throughout our conversation. My hope is that you can sense the profound connection with the crowd conveyed through the mix.

Preparing for gigs is a crucial aspect of my approach. I meticulously consider the venue, the overall lineup, the time slot, and various other factors. I ensure I have a diverse selection of music to adapt to different situations that may arise during the performance. While the reality often deviates from the initial plan, I strongly believe in the importance of preparedness because track selection is paramount for me.

Adhering to a vision is crucial for an artist, even when the actual performance doesn't unfold exactly as anticipated. I've observed some DJs who, after initially not receiving the desired response, opt to completely change their sound. It's a path I avoid. I maintain faith in my artistic vision, understanding that a set should be dynamic. Incorporating moments with varying energy levels is intentional, as it contributes to the overall impact and pays off towards the end of the performance.

Finally, talk to us a bit about your favourite mix of all time. What makes it so special?

It's evident that I have a deep appreciation for the artistry of Sonja Moonear. Her ability to seamlessly blend different genres, disregarding boundaries, resonates with you, and I can understand the allure of her unique approach.

Additionally, it seems you hold a special regard for Craig Richards, particularly for his opening sets. His talent for setting the stage and creating an immersive atmosphere is truly remarkable. It's always a pleasure to find inspiration in the work of these kind of artists who bring such creativity and innovation to the world of electronic music.

Keep up with Izaakson on Soundcloud and Memoria on Instagram

Listen to Izaakson's live mix from Club 100 in Belgium below