Thomas van Linge does not like to pin himself down: just as he shuttles between London and the Netherlands, he alternates too between art and music and his two labels Rubber and BAKK. At Strange Sounds From Beyond on Saturday, he will be delivering the opening set in the Tent. We caught up with him just in time to ask him about his best-loved Italo bangers, his SSFB favorites and how the famous BAKK parties in The Hague got started.
Thomas van Linge aka Randstad currently resides in London, but is back in the country. Obviously for the upcoming SSFB Weekender, but a weekend earlier he added a gig at Garage Noord to it.
“Garage Noord is my favorite place in Amsterdam at the moment. Places like these are really what Amsterdam needs, otherwise the city sometimes feels a bit too much like a funfair. You have places like De School, Shelter, important monumental clubs, but smaller initiatives like these are also essential. Low-threshold, but high-quality in terms of music and well-programmed.”
Musician / Artist
In London Thomas works as a visual artist, and as a DJ / musician he’s known as Randstad. “I try not to define myself as either a DJ, a musician or an artist. That’s why I don’t perform music under my own name, but under a pseudonym Randstad. There is a limit to what I can find in art for self-expression; it has a different form of directness than music and vice versa. For me, music is very much instantly spontaneous in the moment. Art is a longer process in which I’d spend a few months building up to an exhibition. I could never just do one or the other; I need both sides to feel that I’ve gotten the most potential out of what I feel and can do.
“I had always made music and played instruments, just not in a public way; it’d always been more for myself. Through art I saw the value of public presentation. A significant part of work as an artist is ultimately the exhibition and the context in which you present it. That taught me to see myself as a person in the public space, also in a medium like making music or DJing.”
BAKK parties and the scene in The Hague
The fusion of art and music came about when he enrolled at the Royal Academy of Art (KABK) in The Hague. “I moved to The Hague when I was 17. At the art school I met Nick and Ruben, with whom I now run two record labels: BAKK and Rubber. We did not really like the parties at the art academy, plus we also wanted to go against the idea of just sitting in your studio. So we started organizing quite ambitious parties in a gigantic gallery and before long, upwards of 1200 people showed up.”
From the very beginning it’s been all about good music. “We set Mark du Mosch down at one of our very first parties. We also invited Xosar and Legowelt. Nobody at the academy knew them then, but we followed them closely. Only while doing so did Thomas, Nick and Ruben become aware of the lively electronic music history in The Hague. “We did not all come from The Hague. I personally did not know much about that history at the time; Ruben and Nick knew more. Then we met Danny Wolfers (Legowelt, ed.) And DJ TLR, and finally we gave a party in Guy Tavares’ Dystopia. We got to know Ferenc (I-F, ed.) and were able to do a radio show at Intergalactic FM. Before we knew it, we took DJs like Helena Hauff and Funkineven to The Hague and we became part of the Hague music scene. These were DJs who felt like discoveries for us 8 years ago.”
They now host just a few parties a year, and are mainly involved with releases on BAKK and Rubber for the most part. In between his work as an artist, Thomas also DJs under Randstad. He did not pick the name Randstad out of the blue. “I’ve lived in Rotterdam, The Hague and Amsterdam and had never sought to represent one specific sound, rather more of a Dutch sound inspired by city life. The guys at Clone, Intergalactic FM and Rush Hour have always been my role models from the time I started DJing.”
Nowadays he spends 70 percent of the time in London where he’s moved to and where he obtained his master’s degree in Fine Arts at the Royal College of Arts in 2017. The other 30 percent of the time, Thomas can be found in the Netherlands or wherever he is working. “Just like Berlin is seen as the Mecca for electronic music in Europe, the opportunities that you get in London are greater than in the Netherlands. At this moment I like to be in the rapids of London. I do not know if I will stay there forever, but I have a good studio and get to work on all kinds of exhibitions. I became quickly addicted to the pace; it really is a working city.”
Randstad is currently working on the selection of his solo EP on Pinkman Records and expects its release after the summer. “Because I wanted to experiment more with sound for my art, I started building modular synthesizers. Your personal relationship to sound truly lies at the core of this, which I find interesting because it reminds me of how I deal with the visual aspects of my artwork. After a year of experimenting with the construction of sound, I am now also able to make music with it. I actually had to teach myself a new instrument to achieve the results that I have in mind. Everything I produce now comes from this “beast”.
“Making music is a singular experience for myself while DJing is a collective experience with the whole room. On radio shows, I DJ purely for myself; I attempt to really surprise myself. Sometimes it can turn out to be a huge experimental set, sometimes a huge techno set. Whichever way it goes, I’ll accept that. In a club we are all together; the experience I want to convey is important, but always in relation to the collective. So if I notice that people are not experiencing what I am trying to convey, I’d have to think about how to make that happen. Sometimes that may mean that I’d suddenly start playing Italo; that is possible. You do stand behind a barrier, but still there’s something vulnerable about DJing. The songs that I rely on are mostly bangers that I know will wake an audience. You have to respond because they are quite in your face. It doesn’t always have to be pleasant, it can also be confrontational or aggressive, but it has to work. ”
Last night I closed with “I Let You Down” from M & G; that’s such an ordinary Italo banger but I think it’s super cool. There is also such a song from Jensen Interceptor – “The Fontainebleau”. Booty electro that really sits on the edge – wonderful! Rok – “Cycle Sluts” I always take along with me. I like to play party sets and I’m not afraid of hits. I do believe, however, in sitting on the edge every now and again. I-F inspired me to do that; I think he is one of the best DJs.”
At the festival this Sunday, Randstad will play the opening set, so it will be quieter. “It’s something new for me; an interesting slot. Every now and then I do podcasts that comes across as a movie or radio playing rather than a DJ set. That is another example of a crossover between art and sound. I think I’m going to play along to that idea as people start streaming in during the first hour.
“With BAKK we’ll be bringing out the sub-series Plafond (Ceiling) so-called because it is music that’s perfect for lying on your back and staring at the ceiling. You could call it ambient, but it is not. As we speak, the new cover is being screenprinted for the next Plafond release with Bear Bones, Lay Low and Don’t DJ. One of my personal highlights of the label.”
“The previous one was with Milan W and Ekolali. Ekolali is a farmer from Sweden who is very busy with his farm but occasionally makes music. I found him on the internet. He has made a great piece for us and is now working on a new album for us. Ekolali’s track on the previous record is a 17-minute long, repetitive piece that almost puts you in a trance, while Milan W. has, in a manner of speaking, several pieces interwoven into one song, taking you through varying atmospheres.”
“There’ll definitely be some new and old things from the Plafond series included in my set. The last hour is more beat-oriented, I still have to warm up for Job Sifre (his brother-in-law, ed.).”
At the festival, Thomas is especially looking forward to Giant Swan (“Great sound and I do not know it that well”) , Nurse With Wound (“Especially curious about how it is live”), Die Wilde Jagd, DJ Marcelle (“100% support, super cool”) and Die Orangen. But above all Mykki Blanco. “I am a huge fan. Especially because he has found a unique cross-pollination between art, music and political engagement that is simultaneously approachable, provocative and topical. I am a great admirer.”
What else will he be up to before he crosses the North Sea?
“Always a kroket, always a broodje haring and always roti in The Hague at New Meyva. Or in Rotterdam at Rotiland, who serves the best vegetarian. These are the essentials of being back in the Randstad.”
Randstad will be performing at SSFB Weekender on Saturday June 23. Tickets are available here.