By Nina Lissone
“Come now, let’s get lost one more time multiplied by the other. And by diving inside of ourselves, we will discover our mother…”
With this characteristic chant begins one of the many mesmerising mixes by Dutch DJ Suze Ijó. Suze rose to prominence pre-pandemic with golden-coloured sets inundating seemingly every nook and cranny of the Netherlands, from BAR to De School, rippling into our living rooms via mixes for Operator and United Identities at NTS. A long-time lover and collector of music, Suze has an incredible depth and breadth of knowledge, from darker house to shimmering rhythms, soul and jazz, and far beyond. She owes it to her curiosity, as well as her dedication to different communities and spaces that set apart the Dutch electronic music scene today.
Suze Ijó soaked up years of work in various strata of nightlife, from door host to production and booking artists. Immersed in the trade, learning and observing carefully, she plotted her own rise – eventually bringing ashore fragments of club culture, as well as her own experiences and stories.
Here’s a conversation about crescendo – Suze’s discerning ear for sounds and people, and the currents they are borne out of.
You have so many years of experience in different facets of nightlife, but you also studied to become a social worker?
I didn’t really know what to study and ended up being like ‘yeah social work is something I could do’. It wasn’t my main thing. I did enjoy my internships, but I was more focused on nightlife. Eventually, I realised that bringing people together as a community was my passion, not so focused on ‘oh I’m going to fix your problems’ but instead creating relief from daily life.
Since July I’ve also been working for an NGO called Young in Prison that provides creative workshops for young inmates or youth-care facilities. I do the production for these workshops, so my knowledge from production of events in nightlife comes together with a little bit of social work.
How do you want people to feel during your sets?
I want them to feel open. The music I play usually has a warm vibe, it’s positive I would say. A lot of house music has quite an uplifting vibe. So I want people to feel happy, able to connect with each other. I like it when people can see each other and just have this little moment, that’s something I really try to embed as a message when I play.
People have been quite inactive, sitting a lot and not going out much – so there’s a tendency towards playing fast and hard music. For me, I rarely go above 130 BPM. Not that I go slow either, but also not so high-speed that you’re dancing without really seeing each other. I like it when you can still find your group in it all I guess. Build it up. You have to take your time – you wouldn’t just jump into a boiling hot bath, you need to warm up, take it slow and dip your toe in first.
You’ve said that you can be more focused and serious when you play. But even if you do go into your own bubble, the human elements in your sounds are still palpable.
I can be quite sensitive to certain things, like if the mood is right on a night from either the people or the place. It can really change how I perform and it’s hard for me to hide how I feel. Recently I was going through a little down moment, and while I was preparing electronic music sets at home I felt like I just wanted to wrap myself in a blanket. I still do those gigs when I’m feeling like that, but I also know that it takes a lot from me to try to put on this happy mask.
I started paying attention to the lyrics of certain songs for a mix I did recently. It’s house music, but it’s sad. And listening to the lyrics I really tried to shape them into a story. I often try to think in terms of narrative, seeing what feelings and songs would fit.
Or snippets of text? Like the intro to your international women’s day mix for Operator.
It’s ‘Mother of Mantras’ by artist Farrah Boulé. I really like using stuff like that. A big inspiration is The Loft in 1980s New York, which was someone’s house where they organised evenings where they played songs from beginning to end, not mixed. They tried to build a story or certain feeling, so they also used meditation pieces for example.
I may actually use a part of that chant in the article!
I definitely recommend that. It’s nice to have a little message, set the intention before you do anything.
This article was published with the support of Liveurope.
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