DJ Sander Kleinenberg wrestles with himself

The Dutch artist plays XS on June 13

Arrrrrgh. Fear the beats of Captain Kleinenberg.
Photo: Flore Zoe

Your first artist album, 5K, drops June 14. Have you been trying out songs from the album everywhere you’re spinning?

I started working on this album two years ago, so I think every dance track—cause it’s not only dance tracks—has been part of my DJ sets for the last two years and remains so. Which is really weird, because as a DJ, the thing I aspire to do most is have a continuous change in what I do. It’s one of the things I love about DJing—that it’s a constant, evolving energy. Doing an album and trying to represent yourself more as an artist, I guess it’s away from that concept. If you’re the Rolling Stones, how many times they must play “Satisfaction” is beyond me, but I’m sure at some point, they’re like, “F*ck this track.” It’s a bit of a love/hate relationship with holding onto the concept of playing your own music. But I’m doing it.

It’s a really diverse album with hip-hop and rock influences and jazzy vocals. Was that a focus?

I find it so difficult to lock into one thing and have that be me. Even when it comes to a selling point or a commercial point of view, it’s not easy. It’s just in me to explore and to do all these amazing things that are possible in the studio. A lot of the tracks are more or less vibrations from my childhood and how I grew up. Some of the sounds and some ideas and directions are basically just stuff that inspired me throughout the years. I wanted to do an album that could come close to a capturing of what tickles me. And I didn’t do it in one two-month session; I took two years for it. I think some of the ideas have been lying around even longer. It is very diverse. Maybe I should start making more of a choice about direction, but this is what always comes out.


Sander Kleinenberg
June 13, 10 p.m.,$20 women, $30 men.

You mentioned that this is somewhat of a biography of an album, are there particular songs you can point to?

The songs with more of an urban sound like “This Love” and “Follow Me.” When I was 14 or 15 I think the whole first wave of hip-hop and urban music out of Detroit, Chicago and New York was a real influence for me. I grew up in the east of the Netherlands; there was obviously no big city or no big urban culture in my surroundings, but radio was, for me, a way of being able to listen in to what was happening in the world. There was some really cool, progressive radio in the Netherlands in that time, the mid-to-late ’80s, especially in the night. So when my parents thought that I did my homework, I would secretly be tuned into all kinds of really amazing shows that opened up all this music to me. Maybe the diversity of what I do really comes from these times.

Sometimes you mix political imagery into your visual DJing. Is it important to you to make a political statement with your music and your live performance?

There’s one song on the album called “Disko Riot,” which is basically a techno protest song about where we are in the world and how we got here. In my normal life I’m fairly critical a follower of politics. I did support Obama quite a bit, and I remember during his election I played a lot of his speeches during sets with the music. He had a few amazing speeches. I had an a cappella song by a friend of mine in New York called “It’s Time for the Revolution.” It’s just a house record—it doesn’t have any other message than a dance revolution more or less—but I played that in China and the video for it has all kinds of imagery of revolutions. This was five or six years ago, and they still have police in clubs that are sure that the lyrics and what you do are decent. Needless to say the club owner was in the booth in a minute going, “You know what. Not really a good idea, dude.”

Do you find that other people in electronic dance music have a political sensibility?

This is by no means a criticism of our scene, but there is obviously a bit of shallowness to it. Which is good—it’s Saturday night, it’s not really the time to be mostly critical about life. We all need a day off. But sometimes the shallowness of it is bothering me a little bit because I think people should be involved. I think people’s futures are important. It shouldn’t be patronizing, like with a finger pointing, but if it’s a positive message and I can swing it through, then why not? And even a little criticism in the form of the “Disko Riot” track ... I just felt the need to come up with something to express my feelings a little bit. An album should be personal.

You played at Encore Beach Club last week and then did a surprise set at Drai’s that night. Is that a regular part of your Vegas visit?

No, this was the first time I’ve played there. But I have been going after shows sometimes, because it’s such a great, seedy, little spot. You go in there and in one corner of the floor is a really cool band from Venice Beach that’s celebrating an album release and it’s a really cool clique, and then there’s the one dude from Kansas that’s really drunk and has no clue where he is. I love that. Putting that all together in one room at 6 in the morning and playing some great music is like wow!

You’ve played in Vegas a number of times over the years. What’s your impression of our dance music scene?

When I came here first, which I guess was about 10 years ago, it was really small. But what I’ve seen in the last 24 months is just incredible. Obviously with the popularity of dance music going to radio and some really big superstars emerging from it, it opened up a wide range of possibilities of where to play. There’s still places like Drai’s, which is the soul of the scene, in my opinion. But I just heard a story that Mr. Wynn hangs out with Deadmau5 and has a great time and has Kaskade playing in the main floor casino. Those are incredible steps. I guess I feel proud to have given my two cents to where we are now. I’m obviously not a million-record-selling superstar like David Guetta, but I’m still proud of maybe the little influence and the positive affect that I’ve had on that rise.

So, what’s up with the eyepatch in your photo?

It was a series of photographs done by a good friend of mine [Flore Zoe] from Amsterdam. That’s the traveling Sander—a little bit of a pirate on the road, a little bit naughty, a little scruffy.

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