For our latest interview, our author Umut has sat together with the guys from Korsakov. The ever-growing indoor event, based at the Club Massilo in Rotterdam, attracts attention with its diversity packed line-ups and sold-out parties. Whether Pendulum, Maztek and Gridlok or LSB and Hybrid Minds to name just a few, there is plenty for every taste. Even a label is in the making. But read for yourself!
After throwing one of Europe’s biggest Drum & Bass indoor events and the next one in the pipeline what are your future plans with the brand?
Sami: Hi, thanks for interviewing us! My name is Sami and I am the Founder of Korsakov together with Sacha. Elmar is our A&R Manager who will run the Record Label ‘Korsakov Music’ with us. Our next event will be held on the 26th of October, which will be our Indoor Festival. With ~5000 visitors, this will be our biggest edition till date with more than 60 artists and 4 areas! We are also expanding our Korsakov merchandise and will be selling it on our website soon. Due to our massivegrowth we have decided to do a Europe tour in 2019 and in the following years. Germany, France, Belgium, UK, Czech; we’re coming for you.
Elmar: After becoming so big so quickly we felt a label is a perfect way to use our huge network to promote this beautiful, beautiful music to the world even more. In the near future you’re going to see awesome releases by some amazing talent and also established artists. The future looks really bright on the Korsakov front. But for me it’s going to be label duties mainly.
Sounds awesome, will you be focussing on one particular subgenre or full spectrum?
Elmar: Oh we’re going full spectrum. The first release alone, The Korsakov Compilations Vol. 1, will be Liquidfunk, Dancefloor, Neurofunk and Jump Up combined. We book all kinds of Drum & Bass so that’s what we are putting on the label too.
That is a pretty good decision. What do you think about the split of the scene in the particular subgenres, especially Neurofunk and Jump Up?
Elmar:, I’d say it’s perfectly normal human behavior. Some people like this, some people like that. That’s why we do everything. We like everything! As long as it’s quality, we like it. We’re divided at Korsakov even! I personally am not into Jump Up or Liquidfunk much but Sacha who does bookings for the event loves the Jump Up, and I know Sami really enjoys his Liquidfunk. This is why we have four stages.
There were a lot of start up labels popping out lately. Do you think you can stand out of these masses of music coming out and why?
Elmar: Definitely. these labels will undoubtedly be great, but none of them, for example (correct me if I’m wrong here!) will have an event with five THOUSAND people attending which sells out steadily available as negotiation material for artists to release on our label. Because the event is the most important thing we do we can’t offer every artist the same, but especially with big names I can just tell I can get them booked on our event if they do an EP for us. Which to me is a very fair deal considering especially upcoming artists will not easily find a gig like that that can really aid in their potential breakthrough. We already know pretty much everybody and have good contacts with all the managers, agents and artists, so that makes it very easy for me to contact artists and get releases. Some of them actually contacted me to do a release!
Can you tease some acts or do you need to keep quiet?
Elmar: Well when it comes to the lineups I obviously can’t say anything. As far as the label goes, Maztek, Optiv, Levela, L 33 have all already been announced and there’s lots more to come.
Will it be a digital-only label or will there be physical releases?
Elmar: We will definitely be releasing hard copies of our first album, but they’ll most likely will only be sold at the Indoor Festival we do in October. We’ll do giveaways with signed copies as well, but mostly we’ll go digital. All our releases will be Beatport exclusive for a short period of time before hitting Amazon, iTunes, Traxsource and god knows what other platforms. We’ll see per release what works.
What is the story behind Korsakov?
Sami: Alcohol to be honest.. There was a period where I was drinking and partying a lot every weekend , after one day Sacha and I were walking in the city of Rotterdam, and he told me stuff I could not remember because my brain was not functioning normally I guess. The following conversation went like this:
Sacha: You really have Korsakov..
Sami: What is that?
Sacha: It’s a form of brain damage you get from drinking a lot of alcohol and having a shortage of Vitamin B1.
Sami: That sounds like a good name for a drum & bass party.
Sacha: Yeah I know, I had the same idea a few years ago.
Sami: Uhu, sure, let’s do it.
One day later I contacted ‘Ruben Verhagen’, a friend of mine which designed the logo for Korsakov. Meanwhile, I made a promotional plan and confirmed the venue, artists and everything. At our first edition we had Optiv and Pythius headlining with some locals. We even had a ball pool in one area.. Our aim was 800 visitors and we nailed it. The next edition was with Black Sun Empire, The Prototypes, DC Breaks, Hypoxia, Arch Origin and more locals. This event was sold out completely for 1200 visitors within 26 days. We had 26 more days left until the event but we could not sell any more tickets. We started growing and growing and growing with every new edition.
Any collaborations with other promoters planned? I saw something about Invaderz, theyre pretty big in Belgium tho.
Sami: Yes, we do have a few collaborations planned with other promoters. At this stage we can only announce Invaderz. We are hosting a stage at their event and they are hosting a stage at our next event. The rest is yet to be confirmed.
Something about you, how did your personal Drum & Bass journey start?
Sami: A few years ago, Sacha took me to a party named Resist in Eindhoven (NL). I was sold immediately and we both agreed that we should throw a Drum & Bass event in Rotterdam. Which escalated quickly…
Elmar: Haha, nice that was my first event as well! After that I was just hooked on events and went to them every week for months straight. Then, I started as a journalist for Clownsville, a small platform that did reviews of events and interviews. After that I upgraded to All Electronic Music and then got a writing chance for drumandbass.nl where I quickly became the right hand man for the big boss Marc, to whom I owe a whole lot. I started interviewing big artists like DC Breaks, Icicle, Alix Perez, Black Sun Empire, The Upbeats, literally everybody. I think I interviewed over half of all dnb artists alive right now haha. Then I started doing events in Amsterdam and rolled into the Korsakov organisation as artist handler, and now I am the A&R Manager for the label.
With huge line ups like this comes huge responsibility. How do you guys handle the ton of agents and artists?
Sami: We both have our own role. Sacha mainly negotiates with managers and I handle the invoices, contracts and artwork. On the day itself, I manage the event for the biggest part and Sacha maintains contact with agents regarding flight delays, change of plans etc etc. A few weeks before the event I work on a plan with a team member so everything runs smoothly regarding drivers, dinner etc.
Elmar: On the night itself I turn into the artist handler, I make sure everybody finds his way from the hotel, I handle problems between hotel and venue and I’m the contact person for all the artists and managers on the event in terms of hospitality and stuff like that.
I guess big events like this are making big circles. Where there any problems with the city of Rotterdam?
Sami: Rotterdam has become the place to be! We have Korsakov, PRSPCT, Subway, Blendits, Concrete Jungle. The thing with Rotterdam compared to Amsterdam is that it’s not so full of tourists and the events are 18+. The parties are more ‘pure’ in my opinion because of this. Rotterdam is definitely becoming the party capital of Holland.
Besides investing own money and, of course nerves, do you have sponsors and was it hard to find any?
Sami: We started with a small investment and invested everything we earned in the next edition, which is one of the reasons why we grew so fast and big as an event because we kept repeating this and we are still doing this. We do not have any sponsors. A friend of us once borrowed us some money for our 2 Year anniversary and that’s it. For the rest it’s all us.
That is something really respectable and not every promoter does this. Any tips for fellow promoters?
Sami: Thanks! I would recommend them the following tips:
– Step up your social media game, but don’t be that annoying event that posts every single day.
Only post the important information and some fun stuff in between.
– Get a team that promotes your event online and offline. If you’re a small event or you live in a country that is not so focused on social media, make the team sell hard copy tickets.
– Make sure your artwork and logo stands out.
– Reinvest all the money that you have earned to keep growing, don’t settle for less, only go bigger.
How did you guy got Optiv for a guest mix?
Elmar: I simply asked him to do one! I was already in talks with him for a tune, and I already had Maztek and Feint do mixes for me so that helped as well. We spoke quite regularly after we had him on a new year’s event we did and I just hit him up on Facebook and we started mailing. Due to personal reasons he had to drop out of the compilation album we’re doing but he was very excited to do a mix for us.
Will there be more of these mixes?
Elmar: Hell yes. I have at least seven or eight coming up from BIG names and I’m in talks with at least ten more artists. It’s something I use to grow our brand and show the world we mean business on all things DNB. I actually managed to get the official Killbox album promo mix for our Soundcloud channel! That’s the size we’re already operating at, label wise.
How would you describe the dutch DnB scene?
Elmar: Up there with Prague as the best one in the world. There’s events pretty much every year all year through. Noisia and Black Sun Empire are Dutch and give their events, Noisia Invites and Blackout, regularly. We have insane festivals all summer and the crowds are always going until the end. At korsakov we have 5000 people and the room is still completely filled with people going mental at like 8 in the morning.
Sami: I have to agree with Elmar that it is one of the best in the world, next to the UK though haha. Liquicity and Blackout are doing an awesome job as big event. There are also some more events that are also doing great, for example; WTF, Nox, High Tea, Spektrum, Major League, Inversion and Blendits. The thing with Holland being such a small country, is that a lot of people know each other which makes the dutch scene a true community.
Besides working together for more Korsakov events, how does your normal day look alike?
Sami: Wake up at 9-10AM > go to the Gym (optional)> work until 7> relax or hang out with people> meditate> sleep.
This is what my normal day looks like. What I do in those few hours of work is organizing events, creating artwork and building websites. I also recently started working as Project Coordinator for London Music Conference together with Elmar, which will be London’s first Electronic Music Conference from 11 to 14 October 2018 for professionals and artists in the event industry. In my spare time, I make industrial techno under my alias ‘AUXXUA’.
Elmar: I’m married to work because I do a LOT at the moment with Sami and on my own. I have a lot of work for the Korsakov Music label. I sometimes do drumandbass.nl stuff still but I’m very busy so that’s on the down low right now. I also DJ internationally and have to go abroad this summer and still work a regular job. Luckily I can do that while travelling. I’m just extremely lucky and privileged right now to make a living doing what I love. I also started working for London Music Conference as Social Media Coordinator and I’ll be assisting Sami a lot. The event has huge potential so definitely look out for it!
What are your opinions on the current global scene?
Elmar: Loads of children on drugs who need a slap from their dad to be honest. I love a lot of people in the scene but I do find myself a little alienated from crowds especially at 16+ events because it seems like everybody is only interested in drugs sometimes. I do love playing for them because they go IN. I just wish they’d take more care of themselves because I see there’s at least the one person being escorted out in an ambulance at a lot of events , which is a damn shame. Then again, I myself was once too heavy into the nightlife and had to be rushed to a hospital where I spent five fucking days recovering. That really made me think a lot about what the fuck I was doing to myself and luckily I learned and have stayed off everything since then. I just hope the rest will not have to go through something like that before realising what they’re doing to themselves.
Sami: The scene is growing fast as drum ‘n bass is becoming more popular in Holland and the rest of the world. I actually like the scene as it is and I love the fact that it is growing, it’s good for the artists, the events and music in general. Regarding drugs, do your thing but be careful, ok?
At this point I would like to thank Elmar and Sami for this detailed and funny interview. The next Korsakov will take place on the 26th of October, maybe we’ll meet there?