Menno de Jong was only 8 years old when he first started to plunk out the tunes to his favorite dance tracks on his father’s keyboard. Even then, he showed early signs of his future career: He was always picked to provide music for class birthday parties. Throughout his childhood, young Menno continued on the path that would eventually lead him to become one of the brightest stars in trance.
His passion for enthralling melodies came about when he discovered an early form of trance called “dream dance.” And at the age of 13, he made his first attempts at applying his love for dance music via his first productions. At the time, producing electronic music was largely limited to users and owners of expensive equipment, but Menno was an early adopter of FastTracker, one of the first consumer music production programs. By the time the first wave of progressive trance hit in the late ‘90s, he was hooked.
Menno has grown up with dance music as a central focus in his life. And since falling in love with trance, he has stayed faithful to the soaring melodies that first drew him in. His tireless devotion to the genre is an inspiration to the worldwide Trance Family, as well as the artists he has signed to the legendary In Trance We Trust imprint, a label he once idolized and where he currently serves as an A&R manager. After more than 20 years as a champion of dance music, his career has come full circle.
Ahead of his appearance at Dreamstate San Francisco 2017, we chatted with Menno about his ongoing inspiration throughout the years and discussed how he thinks Dreamstate is energizing a whole new generation of trance enthusiasts. Plus, Menno kicked down a stacked exclusive playlist to help you drift into a Dreamstate of mind.
You started playing music at a very young age. How did your parents encourage you to pursue music?
I’ve been playing piano, keyboards, and synthesizers since I was a little kid. There are quite a lot of musicians in my family: One uncle is a music academy-trained classical pianist; the other plays the double bass and guitar for bands in various genres. My mother sang in a choir, and my dad made all sorts of experimental music recordings with bands in his 20s.
Since I was naturally drawn to the keys, it didn’t take long for my parents to get me into piano lessons. I ended up following these for most of my childhood, and eventually spent a year in music academy after getting a degree in international business. There was always the support to pursue my musical dreams, something I can definitely count as a blessing. Many of my family members, especially my mother, still attend my shows regularly to show support.
You’ve held trance close to your heart since high school. How did it feel to join In Trance We Trust, a label that’s played such a legendary role in the genre?
The music that came out on In Trance We Trust when I was young was part of the reason I started making melodic and uplifting trance; it was all about the melodies for me. The label was such an inspiration that in my final yearbook, rather than writing the usual puns students write to each other, the text next to my portrait just said, “In Trance We Trust.” Little did I know that years later I would be releasing on the label and be asked to become the A&R and face of the brand; it’s truly an honor.
You’ve mentioned the movie Kevin and Perry Go Large more than once in interviews. What was it about this film that had such an impact on you?
I think besides having an insanely good soundtrack, it was an extremely accurate parody of the teenage dream of becoming a superstar DJ.
[The film’s characters], Kevin and Perry, are two pimply teenagers making their own tracks and mixtapes, [and they] have an everlasting wish to go to Ibiza to try and make it big. Their parents indulge them in this eventually, but to the kids’ dismay, they want to come with them and make it a family holiday.
Once on the island, they become the “pets” of a nasty superstar DJ, and their struggle to success continues. Will they make it? Do they rise to fame in their adventures? I don’t want to spoil it for you. It’s absolutely a movie any trance fan should just go and see; you may hate it, or you may adore it for its ridiculous humor, like [I do].
My track “Turtle Paradise” was loosely inspired by the vibe of this movie, as well as a trip to Hawaii for a gig around the time [I made it].
You’ve seen trance go through many changes over the past 20 years. Is there a certain amount of validation for you when you see it continue to thrive, especially the way it is doing so now?
There’s always this assumption that trance was in a bad place for a long time. Rest assured, it wasn’t. The Trance Family was going strong in places like the UK, the Netherlands, Eastern Europe, and [elsewhere]. We were still carrying the flag, even without much attention from the mainstream, which had been [overshadowed] by EDM.
That said, it’s true trance has taken a huge leap again, which I think is great, because many new amazing people have joined the family. Music has the great gift of bringing people together in a positive way, and in trance, I feel this is very clearly visible.
Do you think Dreamstate has had an influence on trance over the last year?
Absolutely, it’s brought large-scale trance events to the United States and beyond, bringing the sort of stacked lineups you would otherwise only see in Europe. I don’t think anyone could have predicted the incredible positive reaction this led to, which to me was a very pleasant surprise. The Dreamstate events I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing so far were all a massive success, and I am sure there are many more great ones to come.
Catch Menno de Jong at Dreamstate San Francisco 2017, taking place Memorial Day weekend, Saturday, May 27, and Sunday, May 28, at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium. Tickets are available now. For more information, visit the official website.
Alexander Dias tells good stories. Follow him on Twitter.