Awakenings Festival 2020
The artist known best for his Secret Cinema work started the nineties off with an array of projects that each played important roles. Verheij’s story started at one defining moment in 1990 at his parents’ house near Rotterdam, the Netherlands: The moment he decided to stop playing video games and start making music on his Amiga 500 computer. His first release ‘Sonar System’ as Meng Syndicate (Hithouse Records 1991) became an instant rave classic.
Hungry for more the young producer invested his royalties in equipment. His friend Gert-Jan Bijl (a.k.a. 4lux frontman Gerd) recommended the Kurzweil K2000. This piece of equipment sparked an extremely productive period: “I made most of my nineties hits in 1994 sitting on the side of my bed because the room was too small to fit a chair in”. It was there that he made Point Blank - Meng's Theme; a track that according to the Swedish Drumcode label boss himself, inspired Adam Beyer to start making techno. The first Secret Cinema release “Timeless Altitude” followed soon and was a massive worldwide club hit played by Väth, Cox and was a Love Parade favourite. Grooveyard - Watch Me Now and Mary Go W!ld were huge crossover hits that made their way from the club into the national charts in several countries.
At the time, Secret Cinema was part of a now extinct species of musician who made a living selling music without performing. He had one strong principle; he only wanted to perform his own music live on stage, no DJing. It was only sporadically he would bring out his huge rack of equipment to play a live set, inserting floppy disks with samples for each track. Again, it was a piece of equipment that brought around change…
In 1998 Verheij discovered the Yamaha SU700 sampler sequencer: “It felt like the missing link for my live sets. I could mix from one song to the next like a DJ, but with control over every sound and effect”. This compact setup made Secret Cinema a pioneer of live acts as we have come to know them today. It also gave birth to an international career with travel now within reach; trips to Japan, China and across Europe. It was the setup with which he headlined many festivals in the early 00’s such as Wire, Mystery Land, Dance Valley and closing the main stage of Awakenings Festival 2005.
After 15 years of strictly live sets Verheij broke his promise to himself. He decided it was time to get more freedom to play a different sound than his own. The start of Secret Cinema’s DJ career. It was then that he discovered Egbert who had a huge collection of unreleased tracks which only needed polishing. Gem Records with its booking agency and label nights was formed to accommodate the new talent Verheij discovered in his search for new music which no one else had yet. “The collective that started to form around me served as inspiration to find a new sound as a producer”. This resulted in chart successes such as ‘Kurzweil’, ‘Jazz Me’ and ‘Shake Ur Tek-Ass’. It also gave birth to a new act: Secret Cinema & Egbert. The duo is in high demand for their back to back performances and their releases.
Secret Cinema’s Gem Sessions club nights have grown increasingly popular, now selling out venues such as the legendary Melkweg in Amsterdam where the infamous all night Gem Sessions take place with all artists on stage all night. Amsterdam Dance Event 2016 saw a collaboration with 909 for a sold out 3000 visitor showcase at Warehouse 22.
Looking back on his career with releases on Gem, EC, Drumcode and Cocoon that defined the sound of eras for many clubbers of several generations and headlining stages across the globe Secret Cinema still feels he must accomplish more. “It’s funny, but after 25 years I feel I still haven’t reached my goal. Slowly but surely, I am still growing towards it. I always feel I need to prove myself. But maybe that is the driving force I need to keep going. It’s always been that way really. Balance is of the essence”.