Trouw – An InsighTw/ OlafBoswijk

Art & Culture
You may have heard of Trouw… if you haven’t, then well… you may have been living under a moss covered stone that doesn’t involve dark rooms and lights. Anyway, let’s explain; Trouw is a Amsterdam club, restuaurant and record label and has quickly become the stuff of legend. Olaf Boswijk and the Trouw team turned an old newspaper printing press into what has grown into one of the most respected clubs in the world. A temporary space its the transitory nature of the space than many believe encapsulates the magic of the place.  Programming plays a key role in any club’s make-up and Trouw is no exception. A look through their bookings in just the past past year and you realise they’re not messinge around. But as with all great clubs over the year they’ve placed the emphasis on their residents to help build the very fabric of the club. 

Relaxed behaviour is a basic principle. We expect a tolerant and positive mentality. So say the house rules.  Trouw is taking over Village Underground this autumn bringing a bit of Amsterdam to East London. We caught up with Olag to talk through the club including his favourite ink stains…

Hi Olaf, What were you doing previous to your involvement with Trouw?

Before I started Trouw, I was the booker at club 11, the previous club we all did. 11 was also temporary and situated on the 11th floor of the former Dutch Post building next to Central Station and above the temporary Stedelijk Museum (Museum of Modern Art). When 11 closed, the owners (amongst others my brother Brian) gave me and a few others the chance of continuing the company in our own way in a new venue. Before 11 I was freelance music journalist, DJ and promoting parties, and before that I used to work for radio.

Do you think working within the confines of a temporary space has contributed to the magic of the club?

In a way yes. When something is temporary, you naturally feel the urge to do everything you want as quickly as possible. Its a kind of pressure cooker. But this has also created problems for us sometimes, for instance when we also had our own booking agency, music label, monthly magazine and what not. That was all way too much and took the focus away from the main pilars of Trouw; the club, restaurant and the arts.

For the crowd I think theyre only just really starting to realise it will close sometime in the next year, which will definitely raise the pressure on the club and create an enormous bundeling of energy. I hope! 

Whats the licensing like for temporary spaces like in Holland?
In the UK the authorities have really clamped down on warehouse spaces recently, especially in London. This has been a good thing in one respect as its meant that any two-bit fly-by-night promoters have been weeded out but its also meant the lack of really interesting spaces available for parties. That said at least it means youre not wading around in a puddle of piss all night!

I dont think there is difference in Holland between temporary or not for licenses. Since a big NYE fire in a bar in 2001, fire regulations and all criteria for getting any kind of license have been really strict. In our case people often think the City of Amsterdam is behind the fact that Trouw is closing or even there. But thats not true. The building is owned by a private housing company and we happened to be the only crazy people interested in leasing the old building that had been empty for so long. At the time we moved in we were only supposed to stay there for a maximum of 2 years as the building would be demolished for a new hotel and appartments. Now it looks like the building has been sold and will de redeveloped in 2015. 

Can you tell us a bit about the history of the Trouw space – Ive heard it was an old newspaper press and, as a result, is acoustically treated to retain the noise?

Trouw was indeed an old newspaper press and for approx 25 years the place in Holland were all the national and quality Dutch newspapers were printed like Volkskrant, Parool and Trouw.

We still get about 20 phonecalls a day from people complaining that their newspaper was not delivered.

Trouw still is also a newspaper, the club is officially called TrouwAmsterdam to make the distinction. We called it Trouw (and got permission from the paper) because it already had this big orange sign on the building, so we were already calling it Trouw before we started. But also the meaning is great: Trouw means loyal, faithful. Or to be true to oneself. That still sticks to this day.

What do you think is the absolute most important ingredient to get right in order for a club to be a success?

Well, I like to think of a club as a natural ecosystem. It needs all sorts of things in place in order to thrive and to be balanced. Good sound, light, programming, professional staff, nice people, some mystery around it, etc etc. But if I have to name one thing it is obviously good music and sound. If you want people to dance, youll have to get that right.

You put a lot of emphasis on your residents. How important has this been to shaping the clubs identity.

Thats really fallen into place in the last year or two. Our residents have always been important, but in the first years we were relying a lot more on international names. But Amsterdam as a city and scene has grown so much, Trouw has grown so much and these artists have grown with it. Nowadays all these guys and girls have established international careers and we are super proud to have them all on board. They are essential in the musical direction aswell: they all curate their own nights and have their own wishes about line-ups, light, artwork and so much more. I just say yes or no and make sure its taken care of.

Since a year we are also doing this Resident of the Month thing, where they get to choose their own dish for the restaurant and during this month this dish is served alongside custom made mixes they make for the occasion.

What were the clubs that left the greatest impression on you in your early days of being a clubber yourself?

In my time I was going to big raves and one off parties a lot more than specifically one club. But I was lucky enough to have seen the RoXY whilst it was still open, although the real magic had long passed by then. I also did my first party in the old Mazzo, but this was by then also run by other owners who were completely unreliable and stupid in my opinion. I think that experience, and a few other bad experiences with organising nights at other venues in Amsterdam, really motivated me it could be done way better and differently.

I have to also mention Robert Johnson and Panoramabar as huge inspirations and influences in the last 10 years. They are truly magic places to me.

Whats the worst thing thats gone wrong with the club. 

For the first 3 years we had huge financial problems, in fact due to spending double as much money on the initial building of Trouw than we estimated beforehand. Partially due to our inexperience and that the building needed so much more work to make it functional for people instead of machines. For years we struggled until the summer of 2012 when a near bankruptcy forced us to completely reorganise the company and let go some of our dearest colleagues and friends.  

Whats the best ink stain in the club?!

There is one specific piece of wall next to the dancefloor and the smoking room. Its art and Im in love with it. I will take a picture of it and send it over. (pics below)

Dream line-up so far.

Thats a tough one. I dont think I can pick one single line-up, but I am truly happy and proud of so many of the names weve had come to the club over the years. Some personal highlights include Flying Lotus, Whitest Boy Alive, Harvey, Laurent Garnier, all the Innervisions nights, Larry Heard etc. And am very proud that all the residents are actually now the big stars. Whenever someone like Cinnaman, Makam or Sandrien of any of the others does an all night long, its sold out.

Dream line-up if money and time (i.e. they werent dead!) were no object.

Well, this could be the line-up for the closing night(s):

Moritz von Oswald feat Tikiman (4 hour dub/reggae set)

Gilles Peterson



Gerd Janson


Laurent Garnier


And if he would be alive we would add Larry Levan ofcourse!

How was ADE this year? Are you sick of the site of all us Brits out there by now?

Crazy. Each year it gets bigger and crazier, one thinks: where will this end? Im half British so Im fine J but talk to the others in town!

If and when the licence for the space runs out, what do you plan to do next?

Our lease ends 31 December 2014, so it looks like that will be the end of Trouw. After we have to clean up shop and then I will hopefully take some time off and travel to find out whats next.

If you werent producing and programming one of the most respected clubs in the world what would you be doing?

Either travelling or trying to become a mountain guide.

What is it about a club space that always draws you back?

Music and people. If theres great music, it will always have some kind of attraction to me. And if my friends are there aswell.

Its interesting that you can take a club on tour – what do you think the essence is that defines a club, if not bricks and mortar?

I think that any good club is remembered for the crowd and people involved, whether they are the DJs, the punters or the staff. The relationships and memories of those people surpass any line-up or soundsystem, but live on for years in peoples heats. I hope this will be the same for Trouw.

So again, its down to people and music. We cant transport our building but we can take as many friends and some of our favourite DJs and visual guys to try and create something of our own vibe at Village Underground.

Which club (no longer in existence) would you most like to transport yourself back to for a night?

Paradise Garage, without a doubt.

Trouw takes over Village Underground in East London on 30th November bringing Tom Trago, San Proper, Job Jobse and Olaf Boswijk and their own visuals

Want more? Check this excellent Slices video for further insights…