Instead of a childhood growing up in front of a television, Jeroen Hofer was surrounded by his father’s extensive record collection; and while his friends were bugging their parents to buy them the latest toys, Hofer’s parents received the request for a drum machine and an Amiga 500. Little wonder, then, that the music-minded Dutch youth would someday become a producer, filling his own recordings with the same soul and groove that first moved him as a child. As Melon, Hofer creates meticulously crafted house and techno, though indulges in his love of disco and re-edits with his cheeky Je Dávu moniker. Releasing on his own Ratio?music label, the Amsterdam based DJ and producer also holds down a residency at the city’s Trouw nightclub and can often be found playing alongside some of the most respected names in the business. LWE pinned down Mr. Hofer to find out about his musical alter-egos, what makes for a good club residency, and find out what he’s been working on in his studio. He also completely remodeled both parts to his Four Seasons EPs, making our 93rd podcast an exclusive mix of alternate takes and versions of his Ratio?music label’s most ambitious releases to date.
LWE Podcast 93: Melon (59:59)
Made entirely of alternate versions from Melon’s Four Seasons EPs on Ratio?music
I understand that music has been a big part of your life from a very early age. What inspired you to ask for a drum machine and an Amiga at the age of 8 years old? With a desire from such a young age to be involved with music was there ever any other choices for you in terms of what you might do for a career?
Jeroen Hofer: When I grew up my family life wasn’t surrounded by TV, but only by music from my dad’s massive collection. I always wanted to do something in music and because I was living on a farm I was used to being on my own. Besides playing in the village’s drum band I didn’t have much musical connection with the other kids, so with a drum machine and an Amiga I had the opportunity to work with samples and create tracks.
How long was it before you felt you got a grasp on the music making process? What sort of things were you first producing?
The first end results went very quickly. After you listen to your dad’s stories about all the great legends and how they work, it was actually a relief to get busy and let myself go, in a sort of logical sense I guess. In the beginning I made all kinds of music from hip-hop to house to jazz stuff, experimenting and recording everything around me and use it as samples in my Amiga.
What did you consider your first major breakthrough in your career?
Hard to say, many things have made me the person I am today and my career is my life; but I guess my first release Four Seasons Part 01 got my name around more and opened quite a few doors for me.
Where does the Melon name come from? You also release under the name Je Dávu. Is this for more sample-based and edit related productions?
I was with two French girls and lots of alcohol was involved. At one point I tried to speak French and the only thing that came out was “Laurent Garnier” and “Le Melon.” It was in the time that I started to play in Amsterdam and I needed a DJ name and somehow I came up with Le Melon, which later changed in the Dutch translation to Meloen and when the international gigs came it changed to Melon, and now I’m stuck for life, hahahaha. The Je Dàvu moniker was a misspelling, which happens to me quiet often. I was playing with my homey San Proper in a local DJ cafe and wanted to say “Déjà Vu” but instead I said “Je Dàvu.” When I started to release my edits and sample based tracks, the name popped up again and because I do give a new swing to older tracks & samples, it all came together.
Dipping into the business side of music is usually something artists do out of necessity rather than because they want to. Is running the ratio?music label for you mainly as a vehicle for releasing your own music or have you always had the vision of creating a home for a niche sound?
Ratio?music is not so much created to get my music out but more to have an undefended platform to release what ever I want and like. That’s why I use the question mark, it’s actually irrational music.
You also take care of the artwork for the label too, don’t you?
True, my dad always told me to have a back up next to my music, so that I could make and play music like I wanted to. When you’re financially depended of your music it can be hard to express the way you want. As drawing and art was also a big part of my life (my dad is an artist), I went to school for graphics and became a designer. I always did this on the side till about 4-5 years ago when music started to take all my time. So now I only do the artwork for my club night and label.
Does having your own label and seeing the way that people respond to certain releases and such influence the direction you take with your own productions and those of the producers you release?
Not really. We are all influenced everyday by everything so that’s unavoidable, but with Ratio?music there’s no plan to follow any directions, when it’s good or special and has my faith, it gets released.
Tell us about your residency at Trouw. When did you begin to play there and how does the focus of playing a residency help to shape the way you look at DJing and also producing?
I was already resident at the former club 11 and about one year after it closed Trouw opened it’s doors and I moved along among many others. With my Ratio? nights I focus on quality dance music and not so much on what’s hot or not. I think it’s way more important to create a night where the regular Ratio? visitors can come every time without even knowing who’s playing, but they know what they get is always good. Basically I go back to they way it was, good music and a sexy crowd that’s there from beginning till end. It shouldn’t be too serious, I sell “party” and people need to release. A good club night is a combination off all factors coming together and they’re all important, the crowd just as much as the DJ. That’s why I give away a free edit every month to regular Ratio? visitors, to show my appreciation and affection for them. Besides some new artists, there are lots of regular Ratio? DJs who can deliver and come back at least once a year.
How do you feel your sound has developed since your early releases? And is there a particular aspect of production in your music that you’ve been focusing on lately, something you’re seeking to develop further or explore?
It’s much balanced and of course I’m capable of more as I’ve learned over the years. Besides that not much has changed, it’s still me putting the same soul into my music. I never used much gear ’cause it makes me way more creative but lately, also because of my album project, I’m exploring more “real” traditional instruments and use the computer more and more only for sequencing.
Can you tell us about the “Four Seasons” mix that you’ve put together for us.
It always has been the idea to make an all seasons mix. There were even some thoughts to make it into a live show but this isn’t gonna happen anymore. As I couldn’t let it rest I made this mix with all complete different versions from the originals.
What can we expect from you and Ratio?music in the next year?
Got some great releases lined up on Ratio?music. Next up is a 12″ by DaddyKShun with remixes from Doc Martin and Tom Ruijg. In October the label will be five-years-old and a special compilation is in the making, expect some classic Ratio?music releases remixed by people like Marcus Worgull and Tom Trago and some new exclusive tracks by various other artists. Beside that I want to release an album from Gegenheimer who has been feeding me with amazing stuff. Besides some remixes and releases on various labels, my own studio time is now fully dedicated to recording my debut album which is planned for spring next year.