A conversation with … Red Light Radio

Nextup Throwback sits down for a chat with Red Light Radio’s Stage Manager and recently-turned monthly resident, Lieneke Wielhouwer, to discuss the challenge of programming for such a diverse station, finding untouched venues for the next event and the best record stores in the Netherlands.

NT: So how long have you been a part of Red Light Radio?
LW: I’ve been a part of Red Light Radio for three years now.

NT: How did you get started?
LW: I got started through a friend of mine who used to be an intern at Red Light. She moved to London, and that’s how I knew Hugo and Orpheu, the founders of Red Light. They asked me if I wanted to do an internship, so I did that for half a year and then I became an employee.

NT: What is your role within the station?
LW: I do the programming and mostly dealing with agents of people who want to do a show, but I am also a Studio Manager two days a week. 

NT: How do you go about programming the wide range of diverse acts, that Red Light Radio has become known for?
LW: We work with a lot of residents, people who will come in and do a permanent show. These shows have a big variety of people, and also different genres of music and we keep close contact with these people, and then through them we get in contact with new people. (more)

NT: In a world of increasing online radio platforms, what do you do to stay ahead?
LW: Stay ahead? (laughs) We don’t really have a vision in mind to stay ahead. We’ve been around for six years now, we just don’t know what comes naturally, but we don’t really think “oh, where do we want to be in two years?” Like what we are trying to do now, is a bit more internationally, so travel as much as we can with our broadcasting gear and do shows all over the world. But then we also want to stick to what made us, us, and that’s the location of where we are in the Red Light District, which is very typical Amsterdam.


NT: Does streaming to over 150 countries in the world build a certain pressure when curating what to have on the show?
LW: When you have such a wide audience, you hear about more stuff. Also, when you visit a lot of countries as well, you get introduced to new music, new things and new bands. So yeah, its more natural. You start out being a station for the Amsterdam crowd, and then because its on the internet people can watch it from all over the world.

NT: What’s been one of your most challenging projects? Did it come off how you wanted it too?
LW: I think organising concerts, and trying to do one every month was quite difficult because every time we wanted to do a new, different location every time. We wanted to use places where people normally wouldn’t go, so that was always a challenge to come up with a good spot, a good band.

NT: Is Amsterdam full of these types of untouched venues?
LW: Yeah I think so, and a lot of people have said at these events that they thought it would be cool to do a concert at these venues but they don’t have the resources themselves.

NT: What aspects of running the radio are different because of the unique location you run it from?
LW: Have you been to the station?

NT: I’ve been to the Red Light district, but I didn’t find the radio when I was there…
LW: Well it’s very much hidden, that’s probably why you didn’t see it. It basically looks the same as it used to, when there were still prostitutes standing behind the same window where there is now a DJ booth. I always find it funny when you are doing a show and people walk by, especially lonely men walking around looking for love and they look inside expecting a half-naked woman standing there, and there’s just a bunch of boring DJ’s.

NT: Would you ever move from where you guys are now, maybe not by choice but because of rising rent prices?
LW: Well that’s actually how we started, because we are part of a project with the city council. Basically, the council wanted to have more diversity in that part of the town, so they bought up a few of those buildings to give small, cultural entrepreneurs involved in music, art and that kind of stuff, a space to work in, in the city centre. It was actually only a three-month project the whole radio station and then it got longer and longer, and now its six years. So because of that the rent is not high, and it’s really good for where we are.

NT: Strange Sounds From Beyond is a day-long festival you guys started last year and you’re running this years in collaboration with The Rest is Noise. How did the first year go?
LW: It went really well, it was on a Sunday and very chilled-out vibes. It was a party, but not like a rave or something. There was a lot of live music, and DJ’s with good weather.


NT: You guys are also linking up with Beyond the Rhythm for a party in Manchester, how do collaborations like this usually come about?
LW: Ah well, I don’t know how Tommy found us (laughs), but he did. It’s not like we actively look to do stuff but whenever we meet cool people that come from abroad we are always interested in going to different places. The scene in Amsterdam is big, but its not super-big, when you go somewhere else you always find new stuff and different ways of doing things. We are also doing a show on Reform Radio in Manchester, I’ve heard about it before but I’ve never been, so it will be a good experience to go and check it out.

NTSo, the plan on Saturday is to just have no set-times, just both of you guys spinning records through the night. Is this more casual set-up something you prefer over organised set-lists?
LW: Yeah, in these occasions I do, like tomorrow I’m going over with two friends of mine, and I think Tommy and his friends will play along too. I think that’s a cool set-up that feels a bit like playing at home, records with people. I think the venue is also very small, and I like these sort of parties where its seriously playing music but also having fun at the same time.

NT: Have you got any special plans for events in the future?
LW: Last year we went to Morocco in the summer, I think also in February we should be doing something in New York, which is something we have never done before. I’m not sure where, but it’s some kind of big warehouse. It’s not a club or anything, I think it’s a cultural project for like a month, full of music and art. 

NT: You mention you like the smaller parties, what are some of the best small-capacity venues in your opinion?
LW: Yeah, we organised a party in the middle of the city centre in what used to be an atomic centre or something back in the 1800’s. The room is round and we had a band playing to a few people in the middle, and then there was this light artist doing a whole show on the walls at the same time. So, because the rooms walls were round it did something really cool with the music, whilst also, having an intimate crowd of sixty people that al really wanted to be there.

NT: Looking back over the past year, can you pick a favourite act from 2016, or one you were most excited to get on the show?
LW: We had a small stage/radio station at Dekmantel festival, where we had a studio set up there for three days. We had a new radio show every two hours, with new people coming in and Egyptian Lover also came in and did a show. You can watch it back on the Facebook live stream, it should still be up there.

Egyptian Lover @ Red Light Radio

NT: What music were you into when you first started, and how has running the radio broadened your tastes?
LW: When I started at the radio I was more into disco and soul music, I listened to much more than that but when I was at parties or anything we always were surrounded with that type of music, and now I don’t stick with that anymore, actually I don’t really go to those parties at all. Nowadays I’m more into my punk and wave, but you could definitely say I have a broad taste.

NT: Record digging is obviously a key part of the foundations of Red Light, but also of Amsterdam. Does everyone at the station collect records, and are they an active part of the discussion?
LW: Yeah, we all buy and collect records, we don’t all dig records but there are a few that do, and we are very connected with the record shop that is downstairs that’s called Red Light Records. But for people to play on the radio is not a must that they bring vinyl or anything, I mean we all like it but it’s not something you have to do. It’s not a religious thing, but whenever we go abroad we do like to check out the record stores.

NT: Is being in Amsterdam the best place to purchase records?
LW: We have a few very good record shops, that’s for sure, but everyone knows what they are selling so it’s also really expensive. For example, in Netherlands you have a few record stores that are not in Amsterdam, in smaller towns where it is more fun to go because there are more treasures to find. In particular, there is one in Venlo, called ‘Sounds Venlo’. It’s massive, and upstairs they have a whole collection of second-hand records. There’s always something to find there.

venlo records.jpg

NT: What was your favourite record of 2016?
LW: I have a few but one that really stood out is one called Midnight Spares, and it’s a compilation from several Australian musicians. That was a really cool album.

NT: Are there any records you know you are going to be playing at Beyond A Rhythm party?
LW: I will definitely take that record with me, and I always like to take Dutch records, for example there’s one by this guy called Tom Lebbink, who’s a poet. He makes really cool wave music with Dutch poetry over the top of it. I always like it when I go somewhere and hear lyrics I can’t understand, it sounds very cool, I don’t care what it is. 

Whadya want? – Open Spaces (Midnight Spares Compilation)

You can catch Lieneke, Al Dee & Roelien spinning records with the Beyond A Rhythm crew at Stage & Radio, 10pm-4am this Saturday.

Beyond A Rhythm meets Red Light Radio Family Tickets


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