06 Feb 2020

In memoriam: Niels van Smeerdijk

Your smile, little lamp and passion on sound were iconic. You will always be part of our techno family.

Our beloved sound engineer | 26 april 1978 - 4 february 2020

'I have a love-hate relationship with that hall'. Niels van Smeerdijk is the man behind the dials for every Awakenings event at the Gashouder, even now that it's on for five nights in a row during the Amsterdam Dance Event. Quite frankly, he can't really let it go because not everyone can cope with 'the gas'. 'That's because of the acoustics in the building, which is completely built of concrete and steel. 90% of music genres don't work there, they just sound pulp. But techno is different. Because of the space in the music, the echo actually becomes part of the experience, it sounds even grander. Gashouder is the complete opposite of AFAS live (formerly Heineken Music Hall, ed.) which is completely covered in absorbers and has no acoustics at all.'
When Niels van Smeerdijk began working at Awakenings about twelve years ago, it was still customary to fill the space with a four-point system: left, right and back left and right. Sound from all directions. It was a logical idea but not ideal. ' For years the four-point system worked out fine. But there was a practical problem: the total sound never reaches you at the same time unless you're right in the centre of the hall. And that makes it difficult to dance on the beat. For five years I've gradually been moving more and more speakers to the stage side of the hall, partly also because the stage is the centre of attention during the show.
So how do you blast 'the Gas'? 'Everything is now pointed in the same direction, including a set of delay speakers just past the halfway mark to serve the rear section. Sound takes a little while to reach the back of the hall, a delayed signal halfway then amplifies it. Yes, it's all physics. And ultimately you can only partially calculate it. You always have to judge how the hall behaves.' Indeed it's an unruly thing, an almost untamable fire- and laser-spitting dragon. But you not only have to accept this, you have to embrace it too. 'I remember Richie Hawtin's engineer saying: "hmm, the room doesn't look very hi-fi." HaHa, that's right, it isn't. But it does give you all sorts of options. Len Faki, for example, puts it to amazing use. His style suits the Gashouder perfectly anyway, but when he plays here he unleashes even more potential. You know what sounds best at the Gashouder? A 909-kick, just the kick drum. The echo in the hall gets to work on it. That's the purest kind of techno.'
"Thats what I like..."
THNX Niels, for all those events being part of the Awakenings family. We truly are going to miss you.
Lots of love,
The complete Awake team, all suppliers, artists and all the thousands of visitors worldwide.