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SEFA AT ELECTRIC LOVE: “I WASN’T FOLLOWING TRENDS, BUT I WAS FOLLOWING MY OWN PHILOSOPHY, MY VISION”

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In Austria, I met up with Frenchcore legend Sefa at Electric Love Festival. He told me about what separates him from other Frenchcore artists, where he’s getting his energy and inspiration from, what he thinks of the Austrian crowd, and much more! Keep on reading to find out.

So Sefa, how are you these days?

Fine. I finally got a chance to work on some new music because in 2018 and 2019, I had some really busy tour schedules. Especially for my age and for the point where I started in my career, I already had a bunch of bookings before I could release a lot of music. So I was touring with an unfinished repertoire, it felt like it at least. You have people like Headhunterz and D-Block & S-te-Fan touring with like 10 years of music that people already know. And I had to do three, four, or five bookings a week with a limited repertoire. So, on the one hand, I’m happy that I could finally develop my repertoire more and that I can make more music and work on more stuff outside of bookings.

On the other hand, of course, you missed the thing you’re working for. The dynamic is kind of ruined because I used to be in the studio for the release on the weekends, and now you’re just in the studio to make music for you don’t know what. But it’s also kind of nice because you can get into a different feeling when you’re making music, and you’re not only doing it for the clubs or for touring. So it’s kind of twosided, but I did have some more time to work on some personal stuff, some personal developments, getting healthy again, training, eating, making more music, more complex music, and more fun music than I used to.

That’s really cool! How does it feel to be back on stage after one and a half years? 

The first couple of times it was really amazing, but that new feeling wore off really quickly, and it was like I didn’t stop all along. 

Back in a busy schedule?

I’m not really back in a busy schedule. I have maybe like four or five bookings a month now, so that’s doable. You do get back into the old dynamic, but you can test a lot of music. I’m kind of getting the hang of it now with four or five bookings a month, it’s sustainable. I have more time to do other stuff during the week, and you can witness and feel the moments a lot more. Now I can go to my booking well-rested, I can really take in all the information, which is something I couldn’t really do two years ago because so much stuff was happening. I couldn’t really process it all.

Nice! You obiously listen to a lot of classical music, but where else do you get your inspiration from? Especially your energy, because you don’t drink, so it’s all-natural!

Oh, yeah that’s pure music. You should ask somebody who’s in the car with me how I respond to all the music that I listen to. When I’m in the car, I have my mixed playlist on and there’s just everything in there from organ music to harpsichord stuff and then Balkan folk music, Dutch music, anything!

I’m really one with music, I feel everything that it’s doing to me. I really let it enter my entire body and I react to it in a different way than other people maybe would. When I’m on stage, it’s even more intense, because I have the monitors left and right roaring into my ears and have the crowd in front of me, the adrenaline,… So I’m going even crazier! I don’t really see how any alcohol or any other substances would improve my stage performance, because I’m already so energetic just because of the music. It’s 100% pure music.

“I wasn’t following trends, but I was following my own philosophy, my vision!”

Back to the inspiration question: that’s where I get my inspiration from because I really enjoy how people react to certain types of tracks. For example in the set here I played a lot of crowd favorites like Nothing Like The Oldschool, but when I play something like The Omega, the Qlimax track, I can really see people getting into a different kind of feeling. They respond to the track differently. It’s more of a build-up and a sustain and then releases, and the build-up is way more important than just that ‘da da da da da’. That’s also the whole dynamic, I call it crowd control, taking your product on a journey during your set, but also letting the crowd experience different things. Not only playing the “hits” but also trying to give them something back to think about. I think that’s my main inspiration. I want people to listen to this kind of music in a different way. And I want to implement different stuff into my music so people can broaden their horizons of what they think is acceptable to dance to.

Nice, I like that philosophy. How do you think you separate yourself from other Frenchcore artists? I mean you’re the lead artist in the genre and you also had a big influence on the music, so many people try to fake it!

All credit to them! It’s time for a new generation to stand up. I’m not 17 anymore and I’m trying to consolidate the things that I’m doing. I’ve already done a lot of the stuff that I wanted to do, like closing Defqon and doing something for Qlimax and, maybe one big solo show in the future. Those were my goals when I was 16, so everything’s running out. Now I just want to consolidate and bring people something more and experiment, but there should be a new generation to develop the ideas that I, and to some extent, Dr. Peacock as well, brought to the scene because without a solid breeding ground, your scene is not going to survive.

In like one or two or three years, if there’s no new talent, there’s not going to be a Frenchcore stage at Dominator anymore, because they can’t book the same names every year, and expect people to still go crazy. They need more new talents. That’s something I’m really, really keen about.

Sefa at Electric Love Boutique Edition

But something that separates me is that I try to approach different music with different philosophies. I really like to think about music as something to experience. And for me, it’s not a business model, my whole business approach side of things, people always laugh at me, but I don’t really care about having a manager who calls people and does all that kind of stuff. I just want to make music, I want the core things to be fixed but I just want to make the music.

I make music that I want people to listen to and that’s the way I can set new trends. The whole new Frenchcore euphoric thing that I started inspired by the things Dr. Peacock or Cyclon were already doing – I gave my own twist to it and started to experiment with it. I wasn’t following trends, but I was following my own philosophy, my vision. That wouldn’t have happened if I would have followed what everybody else was doing. I tried to do my own thing. And, of course, it’s kind of a cliche answer, but it is really important to really have that mindset, don’t follow the thing that’s hot right now. Even if people really don’t like it in the beginning, people will start to like it, there will be some kind of thing growing. 

I remember when I first released some of my euphoric tracks in 2015/16, the established generation really didn’t like it. Most were like: ‘What is this? This is like the return of Happy Hardcore, this is way too cheerful, we can’t do anything with this!’ And then suddenly, I gathered a small following, and all the BKJN parties, and stuff, and that started to grow from there. And then suddenly, two years later, you’re on the Defqon Red stage! That’s a thing that I still cherish. I want to do my own thing and I want to let people experience music my way. I don’t really do it the other way around, that’s how you kind of follow a trend and don’t do anything new.

That’s great! You already spoke of Dr. Peacock, you just released an EP with him and that was of course not your first release with him, but how did the idea behind the EP originate. The whole concept and videos were really impressive, like how you come up with that?

Dr. Peacock and I had kind of a tumultuous relationship. He was my mentor from back when I was 11 and we did a lot of stuff together but then we were really busy. Business-wise, we went our separate ways which also means that it is personally going to affect your relationship. We didn’t speak for half a year to a year, and then suddenly, bookings were canceled and the pandemic happened.

We then joined each other in training, we’re training with the same trainer, and then we started talking again and were like: ‘Yeah, fuck it, why don’t we just make another EP and do something different this time?’ The tracks, of course, are Dr. Peacock and Sefa tracks but for the clips, we were like: ‘Why not try out a new concept when it’s possible like this!’ We didn’t have any party footage in our archives anymore, it was also kind of out of necessity, but I think we released something that we’re still really proud of.

But we also tested our team to its limits, we didn’t hire any third parties to duties. We didn’t get a product manager anything. It’s just me, Steve, Jim, and Auke, our camera guy. That was it. We had another actor and we had another DOP, a second camera guy. Auke did all the editing, and that was it. So we were also kind of looking at the testing boundaries of the team, so that was really fun.

It was also really nice to explore each other’s creative boundaries again, the last time we really worked on music was in 2018. We grew in different ways, both musically and personally. I think that is really reflected well in the tracks and I still really love playing them, the way they went off on the stage! I think that’s something really cool and really different, we really tried to push every boundary that we had, and we didn’t think like: ‘Oh, it’s Dr. Peacock and Sefa, it’s our names so we’re just going to release it and throw some commercial marketing formula on it and it will work.’ No! All we really wanted to do is something different. Even though the clips, marketing-wise, and commercial-wise, didn’t go viral or anything like for example Trip To Valhalla. But it was still a statement, it was a musical statement, and it was a video statement. Plus, we did a story and everything, so it was still successful in our eyes because we really did something unique.

Yeah, same with the Defqon set on the boat, that was really crazy. You guys are really a great team!

That was something that came out of the EP, we were like: ‘Okay, let’s do this in a set and see how far we can go.’ In collaboration with Q-dance anything is possible. And if you have Peacock, me, and Q-dance behind this type of project, you can pull it off. But it was a really difficult process. I think over 20 separate musicians were involved. Every track had to be edited, the instruments had to be implemented into the tracks and then into the set. Then we had to practice with all the musicians and we had two takes to pull it off. If we didn’t do it within those two takes, we had to rent another boat for another day. That would be catastrophic because we also had Stijn from Epic Cinema on the boat and he’s not cheap, you know? Haha!

Nice, that’s really cool! You just played Electric Love, you play in Austria a lot in general. How do you experience the Austrian crowd? How does it feel to play here?

I’ve always liked the Austrian crowd because one of my first bookings outside of the Netherlands was Fluc in Vienna, it’s under the Praterstern, like one of those illegal rave kind of places. When you walk downstairs, people are going crazy. I was there as a 16-year-old kid, doing my thing and it was a really warm reception. The Viennese, but also just the Austrians in general, they’re really open to new types of music! And here I was in Fluc playing a set full of new music, and people welcome me with open arms! 

Yeah, Frenchcore is weirdly popular in Austria!

Yeah, because I think Tech is also really popular here. Like, Psytrance, Techno,… . A party I played at a lot was called Chili Non Carne, from a vegan promoter in Innsbruck. It’s also in this kind of bunker, really cool! They listen to a lot of different music, the people here receive new stuff really well. There’s also an emotional connection to me because of course, Mozart composed and worked here. I think the musical culture of Austria is really interesting, especially the crowd at festivals and in clubs, people are really open. Plus you have people from Switzerland and the south of Germany coming here because there’s a lot of great festivals, for example, Electric Love! 

It’s a really, really great festival for sure. Do you have any releases coming up that we should be aware of? Anything in the works?

We have Liberté with Outsiders coming up. We are planning to use some of the footage shot here in the official video clip, so that’s really cool. We were waiting to release this track because it’s a party track and there weren’t any parties. We did a flash mob for the video clip. We just picked a square in Zeeland, in the Netherlands. There were a lot of people sitting down at restaurants and outside and stuff and we just put a piano there, a DJ booth there, and a huge sound system, and then we just played.

Everybody was like, what was that? So we recorded that with four drones and some camera guys. We also had a dance teacher with a class of around 60 children, who danced in the middle of the square with the music. They even rehearsed choreography and a full dance for the entire track. Then for the last drop, which is really hard, we intend to use the party footage from this festival, so that’s something to look out for. We are planning to break some records with that track! The tune is really familiar to a lot of Dutch people and French people. They received the track we do so well, so that’s something that’s coming in the future.

Sick, we can’t wait for the release! And then one last question to wrap it up, a little bit of a dilemma. Would you rather never produce again or never DJ again?

Never DJ again.

Well, let’s go back to COVID, haha!

No, but I like both, I think they strengthen each other. It’s a symbiotic relationship. It’s hard to sustain the one without the other. For me, it’s the build-up and the release, that whole dynamic that I really like. But still, I started out as a producer, and I think I will always be a producer, that’s what I like to do. That’s something that I just can’t get bored of. Touring the world is really nice, but being creative, that’s the thing I do it for and that’s why I toured the world!

Amazing, thank you so much for your time!


ALSO READ: PRIMESHOCK AT ELECTRIC LOVE: ONE OF OUR GOALS IS TO PLAY QLIMAX!

ALSO READ: SEFA AT ELECTRIC LOVE: I WASN’T FOLLOWING TRENDS, BUT I WAS FOLLOWING MY OWN PHILOSOPHY, MY VISION

ALSO READ: THIS WAS ELECTRIC LOVE BOUTIQUE EDITION 2021 | FESTIVAL RECAP

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