CODE First Play: Sander Kleinenberg, 'We-R-Superstars' (Exclusive)
He may not be Madonna, but Sander Kleinenberg’s new single has certainly made a splash. After weeks of speculation, the Dutch dance legend was revealed to be the artist behind the mysterious disco-infused single premiered last month. Ushering in a new musical chapter for the veteran artist, “We-R-Superstars” will be released on Spinnin’ Records later this year.
Listen to the full premiere of the single and accompanying music video exclusively on CODE:
CODE caught up with Kleinenberg to discuss the motivations and musical inspirations behind his new sound.
Billboard: “We-R-Superstars” marks a different disco-infused sound than we’re used to hearing from you. Where did it come from?
Sander: I've used the last few years to reposition what I love about this music and what I really want to be about. I've had a real hard time holding onto the harder edged sounds that the scene was going to. I found myself confronted with a certain amount of popularity until around 2008-2009 and I kind of went with that wave. But as it became harder and poppier, I just felt really frustratingly detached from what I thought the world wanted me to produce and what I wanted to produce. I thought I just needed to really break it down to the bare fundamentals of what I love. I started making all these tracks and realized the things that inspired me when I was young is the stuff I went back to and wanted to emulate. It's almost like a musical biography of all the things I love. I started this track. It has its roots in disco and funk, and it gives a little wink to Daft Punk. I remember when “Homework” came out; it really showed me this music could go all the way to the stars.
When did you start listening to disco?
I listened to Donna Summer. For me Giorgio Moroder was a huge influence. I'm a kid from ‘71, so I grew up in this thing. I saw this whole change into what dance music has become today. I saw the producer becoming a DJ, and the DJ become the pop star, it's this whole cycle. I'm trying to emulate some of the ghosts and inspirations of my youth and reintroduce them to the new generation. I must admit when Daft Punk came out with their album, I loved it, but I miss that old Daft Punk club sound. I’m sure I'll get a lot of fucking BS that it sounds like a Daft Punk record, but you know Daft Punk didn't make a record like this, a purely club driving disco record. They made an introspective homage, something much more personal. This is definitely dance floor and let’s have some fun, you know?
Do you feel as though the new generation of dance fans is gravitating towards this sound?
There was a generation seven or eight years ago in the boom of EDM who have seen their crowds grow from 3,000 to 30,000 people and that’s a beautiful thing. I think their sound has evolved with that. If you play for 25,000 people in a field in Belgium, you can play a really amazing obscure techno record with a lot of subtleties in it but people are going to go there and they’re just going to hear a kick and that’s it. All those subtleties will face away. Those sounds and those records have a place in more intimate spaces.
Producers who came from that environment cater to that environment and will never grow out of that. I believe that for the massiveness of EDM and production where it’s all about the effect and the hardest kick and the biggest, simplest patterns so that it reaches the biggest crowds, it’s fairly likely that when it comes to radio and clubs, there's a huge difference between those two worlds. The next time I’m hearing some warm up DJ playing some EDM record that’s meant to be played in a field in front of 25,000 people in a 500 capacity club, I'm going to tell him, “You're ruining it. You're ruining what it means to be in front of 500 people and have a good time.”
Did you follow the reader reaction to your track? Seems like everyone thinks you’re Madonna.
I’m trying not to too much because, as soon as that unfolds, I’m like, “Shit I'm this unknown DJ who had half a hit record 10 years ago and I'm not really sure how the pop aficionados and the hardcore pop fans are going to deal with it.” But you know the track speaks for itself, I’m extremely proud of it. It was fun to work on. I’m not going to lie: these types of records are not easy. I'm not someone who just goes into studio and then three hours later it's like there. It has really been a labor of love. It's funny I started the record in Ibiza a year and a half ago under, no joke, an olive tree somewhere in the mountains in a great studio owned by a friend of mine. I worked on lyrical ideas in London a bit, the talkbox middle eight was done by a friend from Indonesia, and I mixed it in LA.
This records been all over the world and, its traveled like everything does these days. It’s just so cool its like you start something, when you embark with electronica and you have an initial idea, that spark or soul. The whole trick is to nurture that part of youth and what excites you throughout the process. You're a sculptor, and you mold it and hope you don’t break the marble. You have to carefully bring it to that point. I’m really happy with this record. It’s me coming to whom I really am. 15 years ago, I could never have made that record from a technical point of view.
Did you have this end product in mind when you started the track?
When I started track, I was 100 percent like I’m going to create a big disco driven moment, I really wanted to make such record. To be honest, I wanted to do something that ticked all the boxes, where radio went like “Yeah!” and the club went like “Yeah!” Something that is timeless hopefully and hopefully it doesn’t sound like it wants to be something else too bad.
It’s incredible how you can smell an artist’s integrity throughout their art, even if it’s digital, even if it’s fabricated by a computer. It’s like, “Yeah man, this guy is really only doing this for something for us to enjoy, not so he can buy a Ferrari” or this nonsense that’s going on in world right now. This is made for all of you. The new generation doesn’t always understand that true art should fucking hurt you. This record has definitely hurt me, and the other records have hurt me, and you’ve got to push forward. Making a vocoder sound is not fucking easy, its fucking hard work, hours and hours and hours of work. But whatever, it’s all worth it. I want music to be hopeful. I want it to give people a good time and help them deal with their shit. That's what I'm here for really.