DJ St. Paul: “There is no climax without a resting point”
Stage Four will be The Floor in the upcoming edition: that being said, you still won’t come across your standard four-to-the-floor beat very often. Festival director Maurits Westerik in conversation with DJ St. Paul about his boundless love for music.
Maurits: How did your love for music start?
St. Paul: “As a small child I was always in my room listening to music. You could call it escapism, and in some ways, it was. Music was my favorite activity: more fun than playing football, than reading Suske en Wiske… more fun than anything. I was blessed to have an older sister and brothers, they listened to 'cool' music like Talking Heads and old soul music. When I got older, real BKS artists like Pixies and Slowdive joined in. Once in high school, my adolescent obsession also spread outside of my room. That was because of Mrs Pekelharing. Mrs. Pekelharing allowed me to put lyrics by Neil Young, Public Enemy and Tracy Chapman on my final list instead of English literature. It felt like the first time anyone took my passion seriously. Mrs. Pekelharing asked specific questions about the lyrics to which I didn’t know the answer. She asked about a line by Tracy Chapman in which she sings "don't be tempted by the shiny apple". Actually, that was a very easy question because the Shiny Apple is a grand, religious, Catholic symbol. But I did not know the answer. Mu impulsive panic response was to give a long monolog about why I thought the music was so cool and special, what it did to me and what it released in me. She gave me an A+. Ultimately, that became the basis of my work: that missionary feeling, to kind of keep it within the whole Catholic theme. ”
Maurits: Which act on Best Kept Secret are you most looking forward to?
St. Paul: “I think Yasmin Williams is a very cool booking, she may have released the most singular album of the past year. Williams makes very unique, instrumental and original-sounding music, which makes me curious how the audience will react. I think Best Kept Secret has the audience that can appreciate her.”
Maurits: Which act do you hate the most that you missed on BKS?
St. Paul: “Maybe I shouldn't say this, but I've never seen anything! I'm ashamed to admit it, since the festival director is in on this, but it's because of my dedication. I host The Floor and I want the artists on my stage to have a good time. After a DJ set I want to be able to say to the guests: great that you played that track! I also like hearing that whenever I'm invited somewhere myself. But damn, I've missed so many artists that I've been a fan of for so long. LCD Soundsystem for example, and Portishead… This year I am incredibly disappointed that I will miss Sampa The Great.”
Maurits: The Floor will be located at a new location near the water, you are working on a whole palette of colors and bringing people together. As the total connector of The Floor, what will we experience?
St. Paul: “The Floor’s profile is more pronounced, albeit without losing its ambivalent charm. The audience coming to the area without clearly defined musical expectations, dancing to whatever’s on offer, that’s something I’d like to keep. And that has always been Four's strength. At the new location on the water, the area will have a more open character and The Floor will become the beating heart of the festival. An area where people don't know what's being played, but still have full trust that it’ll be cool. Catching the zeitgeist remains a challenge. Khruangbin played a one-hour DJ set in 2018 with only downtempo soul, funk and disco. At that time, Khruangbin represented the sound of the moment that left the audience hooked. At another festival, visitors might have thought: we need knaldrang (modern Dutch term that loosely translates as “urge to bang/boom/blast or whatever other expression of loudness) let’s get out of here!”
Maurits: What is Best Kept Secret for you?
St. Paul: “Wicked tongues have proclaimed that the musical experience has passed its peak, that people only want to be entertained. Jarvis Cocker once said that music has become the “scented candle” for chatting. Personally I don't see it that way at all! Nowadays, “knaldrang” is a popular word, but I also think it's an ugly word, because it implies that you just want to use music for a cheap thrill. As a DJ I think it is important that there are not only peaks. There is no climax without a resting point. To me, that’s Best Kept Secret: from enthusiasts, by enthusiasts, for enthusiasts!”
Maurits: That's what we're going to fight for again, that feeling and being together! So about that: how did you survive the past two years as DJ St. Paul?
St. Paul: “Hustling, improvising and learning to live with nothing. Everyone in the cultural sector got of course already somewhat used to a capricious agenda with an uncertain perspective of the future. But in the past two years I have systematically unlearned to put a point on the horizon. The advantage: all the bookings I attended in the past period grew in weight and significance. At Club Smederij, a fixed event is in the pipeline: St. Paul's Best Kept Secrets. The opening night of this fell exactly on the day that everything had to close at 6 pm. The night before, I agreed with the owner to move everything to the afternoon. He said, "I can't imagine it, let’s just do it." In the end, all ticket buyers were present and it was a wonderful afternoon. Half an hour before closing time, the owner climbed onto the DJ booth and shouted in a cracking voice: “Last half hour free drinks for everyone”! That isn’t something you’ll easily forget."
Expect more news about The Floor's program soon!
Text by: Tammara Kratzer
Translation by: Jasper Willems
Photography: Maan Limburg, Jokko, Nathan Reinds