While we couldn't meet him, we managed to get together with the often eccentrically-dressed, sometimes big-bearded Harold van Lennep over FaceTime. From Tiger King episodes to his grandmother's wallet, to snowsuits in Kenya: while reading this, the one thing you won't be is bored.
1) You first made your mark with your hit "Liberation", which now has over a staggering 20M streams on Spotify alone. Tell us, how did you get into the business?
It was actually a very happy mistake! I was living in Rotterdam in a fraternity house with 11 guys and one delightful dog called The Duke. I had been messing around on my piano and laptop for the past couple of years, but it was all truly horrible music (most of it still is though). I remember coming back from a party with some of my roommates at 7 am and went to bed. Next thing you know I got woken up at 9.30 am by some of the other housemates who didn’t go out the night before. With a solid 2,5 hours of sleep in the pocket, I decided to jam a bit on my piano. The fun thing is that I was so brain-dead that I didn’t even think about what I was making. The whole song just kind of happened that morning and I posted it on my SoundCloud a few hours later. 24h later it had already over 1K plays (which for me back then was huge….and still is!) and one week later it got signed by Armin van Buuren’s label. The rest is history.
2) We'd love to hear your take on daily routines. Do you have them? If so, which habits and routines do you repeat on a daily basis?
I actually do have them! Not afraid to break the routine, but if it were up to me I would always wake up with a cup of black coffee and a good ol’ bowl of porridge. I try to start working as early as I can as I still believe that in the morning I’m the most productive and somehow I dare to try the most random things too! By 3 pm I have probably already annoyed a solid group of friends by sending them my daily production/song. Over the years I have filtered the “Yes-people” out of this group as I don’t need people to just tell me that everything I do is Grammy-worthy. Even though it is! Once I get their feedback, I tend to work a bit more on my track and then I usually go for a run or very long walk. As a music producer, I stay inside all the time. It is important to me to at least do some physical exercise. By the time it’s the evening I probably have a nearly finished song ready that I can stack up with all the other songs I’ll never release and I’m ready for my next episode of Tiger King! I also Shaved my beard into handlebars like Joe Exotic. Needless to say, girls slide into my DMs all the time!
3) You've traveled the world a couple of times for gigs, like the UK, Italy, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur etc. What do you always take when you're on the road to a new destination, and how do you keep track of all your things on the go?
I really try to take as little as possible with me. The word “compact” is key here. When I travel for work (shows) I usually take the bare minimum. I always perform in a funky jacket, so I take a couple of those with me as I never know in advance which one I’d like to wear that day. For the rest It’s literally a couple of shorts, shirts, swimming trunks, my laptop, phone and wallet! I have made the mistake too many times to bring all sorts of unnecessary things like my ski outfits to Kenya, because you never know if it were to snow in August in Kenya.
4) What are your top 3 daily essentials? Have you ever lost something that’s been crucial to you on the road, and how did you go about recovering it?
I have my Phone, my wallet and my keys! Like any other man out there I do the usual triple tap: Left pocket - phone check- , right pocket - keys check - , bac…wait what? little heart attack just to realise my wallet is on the kitchen table. You know, the usual…
I hope my mother is not going to read this interview because over the years I have always lied about the stuff I lost…I lose ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING. Just in the past month, I’ve lost my brand new 4-day old iPhone. I usually hope that people are honest and that they would return whatever they’ve found, but it’s not always the case. Since I lose everything I tend to add trackers to all of them. It’s just the easiest. even if it does not guarantee you getting your items back, it increases your chances drastically at recovering them!
5) There's one anecdote we'd love to hear back in your words as it was definitely a milestone in our relationship with you as an artist. At one point a customer reached out to us with a super unusual complaint, namely, he sent us a voice note of the ringer on his tracker being stuck and continuously ringing out loud... Can you explain to us what you did next?
Reading this question genuinely made me laugh, haha! You guys received this video of a tracker going haywire and the sound did this weird thing. Of course, you guys did the right thing sending off a new tracker etc, but I offered a little help to make this customer’s experience slightly more special and better in any way! I took the sound from the broken tracker video and spent some hours making a song based on that tracker sound. I was so happy with the result. I don’t remember the name of the guy, but we named it something along the lines of “Harold van Lennep - Beep (John Smith’s Broken Tracker Remix). We sent the email to the guy full of excitement and….never got a reply. Perhaps he doesn’t like music?
6) We used a bunch of your tracks for our brand videos and ads and constantly had people asking where the tracks were from. What are you up to these days? Working on new hit singles or making sample tracks?
Aaah, that brings me back to the good days in the Netherlands! I am now currently living in London and I am working harder than ever. The fun thing is that I’ve realised that my musical capabilities have grown exponentially over the years. I know learn in a month what took me a year to learn back then. This has opened so many doors for me. I have now still my main commercial act “Harold van Lennep” with which I have just released a single called Hazy. There are many more to come in the coming weeks so make sure to keep an eye on that. I have also recently started a deeper project called “Sound Clinic” which could be categorised as downtempo or Burning Man type of music. It’s quite funny because my brother showed me this genre of music a year ago. I was really not impressed. I said it was alienating commercial music lovers and that I would never listen to it. Then my brother did we he does best…he challenged me. He said “Go on, make your own music in that genre. Make it accessible to commercial music lovers but also deep music snobs”. It took me nearly half a year to find the right balance but here I am with Sound Clinic and I have already gotten in touch for multiple gigs and record deals so I am happy that it’s going well for that project.
Aside all the tracks I am making for artist friends etc, I make a lot of ghost productions. It used to be a bad word back in the days, but I absolutely love it. I make songs that I would never ever ever release under my name, but as it’s so different from what I usually make it gets my creative juices flowing! I try to make one or two a day and I give them to someone else and they put their name on it. Unfortunately can’t tell you who, what, where, when but the influences from these tracks will definitely be found in the Harold van Lennep & Sound Clinic projects so keep an eye on those!
7) We know you’re using an Ekster, but which one is it and how do you like it?
So I am using the Ekster 3.0 and absolutely still loving it! I loved it so much that I got my 91-year-old grandmother one. She is extremely proud and walks around town poppin’ them cards out like she’s 50 Cent. The fun thing is that this wallet really became just an extension of me. It would feel really weird having something else in my pocket or my hands. I still get asked on a weekly basis what this is, how it works and where it’s from!
Make sure to follow our Insta to stay in the loop about Harold's live set!