This year, we return to our iconic NDSM Docklands for another memorable edition of DGTL Amsterdam. Our 2020 line-up features an array of sky-rocketing back to back performances, bringing together diverse electronic talent in innovative ways. We sat down with our booker Daan Donk to dive into the process of building our back to back line-up on each of our six stages.
Q: What do you think of when pairing two artists?
A: There are many things that go into making a good back to back. The first thing that comes to my mind is that there are two artists that bring out the best in each other. It’s not mandatory that both artists have the same sound - but rather how they can create a new and interesting mixture. Sometimes it’s better that both artists match, that they know each other personally and that they have a mutual respect for the music they play. Sometimes when you know the history of an artist and their knowledge through the years, you create a sense for it - if someone has a wide repertoire, is into different styles, knows the background of music. These are all factors that play a big role. Sometimes the idea of the back to back comes from the artists themselves, and sometimes it comes from us. Also for DGTL, it is important that they are affiliated with the festival. As a brand, we are known for quite some interesting back to backs, and this makes DGTL a space where artists can blend together, experiment and where they can rely on us to deliver a good production.
Q. Is there an element that draws people together when watching a good back to back?
A. I think an important element that can be applied not just to back to backs, is to be there from the start. If you’re really keen to watch a particular artist, the start of a set and the way it builds up tension is the most interesting to experience. I heard a great DJ once say that a DJ has 30 or 40 minutes to convince people whether they want to be in that room or not. To do this, you need to be skillful - to successfully build tension and create an enjoyable groove where people feel comfortable. Of course, it also helps when the audience experiences back to back sets with an open mind and are open to surprises.
Q. What can you tell us about the back to backs on Modular?
A.For the Modular stage, all four of our artists are really strongly connected to DGTL. It’s because of this long-standing relationship we have together, that we can experiment and try new combinations between them. This year is also a big year for DGTL, as we meet our goal of being the world’s first circular dance festival - it was a natural decision to have these artists back with us.
The Black Madonna and HAAi: Both the Black Madonna and HAAi know each other, and have played together in the past. Musically, they really match. Sure to say, they are true ladies of the rave - bringing them together doubles the fun. With HAAi, DGTL has also played an influential role in her rise as an artist during the early stages of her career and it feels great that we can continue to play a part in her movement to bigger stages.
Âme and Marcel Dettmann: These are two longtime friends. While Dettmann is a techno DJ, Âme delivers more melodic interpretations of techno and house - they balance each other and create an interesting mix because of this. This is also their only set at DGTL. Âme is a lovely character and an easy person who is very flexible, he’s also keen to explore various back to backs. We usually see him play together with Dixon. Both Marcel and Âme like to be challenged. They really have a mutual respect and appreciation for each other.
Q. This year’s Generator will feature a unique back to back by Paula Temple & SNTS. Can you elaborate on this pairing?
A. This is an interesting one to explain, both artists play a similar style. You can say that it is high energy techno. Paula Temple plays a very particular set up and there are not a lot of artists that can match her. It is a very exclusive back to back - these artists won’t play with any other acts easily. Paula has had very strong performances at DGTL before, her sets last year in South America and previously in Barcelona were very successful. This year, we wanted to showcase her differently. The choice of her back to back partner came from Paula and her first choice was SNTS. I’m really excited to see what the two of them will bring.
Q. Could you explain the thought-process behind the back to backs at AMP?
A.This stage is one of the biggest stages at the festival, it gives you the feeling of being outdoors with close proximity to the water.
Chris Stussy & Prunk: This back to back is extremely soulful and all about having a good time. Together they run the label and clubnight ‘PIV’. The label and their parties have received increasing recognition and a big fan-base over recent years. They are both solo artists, but since they’ve been running the label, it is very rare that they are seen playing separately. They’ve become very close to each other because of this.
Denis Sulta and Mella Dee: These are true party starters, and know how to play the big stages. They’ve played our stage as separate artists and sound wise, they really mix. They are also friends, and it’s so fun to watch them together. They bring their best energy and are known to destroy dance-floors around the world.
Q. What can you tell us about the back to backs at Filter?
A. Filter is a new direction that DGTL is doing this year. It emphasizes the performance over everything else. The term “selector” is often used freely for many acts, rarely is it used as appropriately as the sound being showcased by these two artists. If you take into account how deep they dive into the history of records, you can see their passion come to life within some of the most exciting corners of dance music. Over the years, this sound has received more recognition, but it is often forgotten by many Dutch festivals. This is true danceable, house & techno music.
Craig Richards and Nicolas Lutz: Craig Richards is one of the most respected DJs on the planet, considered by many of his colleague DJs. Both him and Nicolas Lutz really admire each other, and play together often. Craig Richards once described Nicolas Lutz as a “very, very proficient and well-educated DJ”. Both DJs also only play vinyl. The set will be packed of records you've never heard before and might never hear again.
Shanti Celeste and Ryan Elliott: These are also two DJs with a mutual admiration for each other, and the ability to play very diverse sets. This is also their first debut as a back to back. The idea came from Ryan, who is also going to do an extra set this year at the festival - which will be different from what people would usually expect. More about this later…..
Q. What do you think people should really look forward to during these back to backs?
A.This year’s back to backs will give new artists, new experiences. You can hear artists differently, you can see them being challenged. A good DJ has to be patient, put his ego aside and will have the ability to not only read the crowd, but adapt to the atmosphere and overall vibe being created that takes it to the next step. This makes the whole process more creatively stimulating and fun to watch. There will be new stage designs, high-quality sound systems and different show elements. We also have new stage additions that will give you the feeling of being at a [big] house party. While it may apply to everyone differently, to me a good back to back is when it feels like one DJ is playing, when there are actually two. Then it must be well done!
Who are you most looking forward to watching during April 11th and 12th 2020?