There are many layers to Frits Wentink. Since his first EP on the Wolf record label, the DJ and producer from Utrecht has risen to prominence for his house productions with tracks such as ‘Mouse’ becoming club favourites. Meanwhile, he has been releasing atmospheric soul and hip hop infused beats under a number of different monikers. And, as he reveals to R$N, he is also a talented pianist, happy to take on tricky composers like Ravel and Debussy.
The title of his new album Rarely Pure, Never Simple perhaps reflects a convergence in bringing these facets of his musical personality together. Wolf was founded in 2009 on house and disco principles so it shows the faith his talent inspires that they are prepared to diverge from their ethos for this release. Featuring gorgeous vocals from Loes Jongerling the album stealthily segues from slower, more profound compositions to intelligent dancefloor winners like ‘Glints’. ‘There Now’ was recently featured on Nemone's BBC 6 Music show.
Wentink is what you would call a cerebral composer, influenced by hip hop innovators like Madlib and Pete Rock. His audio design education at the Utrecht Institute of the Arts has also allowed him to build his own MIDI instruments and engineer the acoustic treatment of his studio. Live performances see him surrounded by a complex array of hard and software, including antique cutlery-box MIDI controllers. As he told website ‘TripHouseRotterdam’: "It is important to work with playful shapes."
R$N caught up with Frits for a rare insight into the Dutch maestro’s working processes and influences;
So your debut album is called ‘Rarely Pure, Never Simple’ - why that name?
The title is an excerpt of an Oscar Wilde quote. There’s a lot to be said about this that I won’t say :). For me it covers a bit on gaining character by not being clear or having a clear direction. Lo-fied mixes and wrenched sounds.
Did you approach this differently to your EPs, in the sense that you had more tracks in which to get your message across?
I had a lot of unfinished tracks with Loes [Jongerling] to start with. Her voice works best on downtempo tracks. Most the stuff we had were three-minute pieces. At some point I tried to turn them into house tracks for other releases, but it never felt good. The album gave us the chance to present those tracks as they were made, not conformed to the dance floor. Besides, the main idea to do a more downtempo hip hop vibe collection of track, I think those bits where a starting point to the whole album.
How would you describe your music to a friend?
Dreamy, lofied and grooved.
No matter how spacious the music becomes (at times), it still retains a groove - is that something you were particularly conscious of?
Well, I like grooves. For this set of tracks I started to work a bit differently. Jamming on MPC pads in order to get the groove more lively. It’s not all quantized.
Most of the time I keep in mind that I should be able to mix a track properly when I play it. This requires a tighter groove and a maybe mixable intro. For the downtempo tracks this wasn’t necessary. So I went all out on that.
Jazz samples feature quite heavily in your music (for example in the tracks ‘Writs Fentink’ and ‘Glints’). Is jazz a big influence on you?
Not in the way that I obsessively dig for rare jazz tunes, but yes, I am a jazz enthusiast. I played piano, in particular pieces by Debussy and Ravel. The chords used give you a very odd feeling. I find that in some jazz music as well, and the great laidback feeling.
It’s maybe good to clear up that I haven’t been so much into soul and disco. A lot of artists and labels that I have been working with, in particular Wolf, have done. They have so much knowledge on that subject. I don’t, but really respect that. I just enjoy what comes along, and maybe use some bits of that in my own music.
Can you explain a little about how the track ‘Glints’ came about - the inspiration and how you made it?
For the start of the album I had a few tracks that I wanted to end up on there. Apart from that, I just started making sketches, simple loops containing simple ideas. When I reached the 100th loop I started sorting them and ended up with 30 interesting loops. A track like ‘Glints’ is made up from two or three different sketches put together. I had a loop containing that sample, but the beats did not work with that. So I ended up using a beat from another sketch.
What artist or piece of music has been most influential to you growing up?
Very hard to just name one here. There’s that album The Infamous by Mobb Deep. I listened to that so many times.
What other artists or albums are you listening to right now?
I listen a lot to hip hop-ish things. There’s this podcast series called Radio Juicy. I discovered a big part of what I listen to at the moment via that podcast series. One key figure - great producer - is Wun Two. And a lot of Tartelet releases are awesome.
What do you like to do on a Saturday night?
I don’t have a real week structure. I don’t go to work on Monday as I imagine normal people do! So a Saturday does not really feel like just that one day of the week that is really yours to spend how you please, therefore I treat it as any other day. What I normally do is spend time in the studio and going to the cinema.
What do you have planned for the future?
I’m working on music that will see the daylight on a new label called Bobby Donny. Besides that I’m doing a few remixes here and there.
And I work under a few other monikers as well. Very busy at the moment keeping the Will & Ink label up with interesting new releases.
'Rarely Pure, Never Simple' is out now on Wolf Music.
Frits Wentik’s album launch party is at Basing House, Shoreditch, on 8th May.