There's something to be said about memorable trance records.
The records with the soaring melodies that lift your spirit to the heavens only to break your fall with each impassioned lyric. The records that gush your memory banks with rapture, reconnecting flashbacks with a blissful serotonin rush.
Performing as one of the most recognizable artists in the electronic music space, Sutorius was the public face of the Dash Berlin trio, a role he embraced as his bandmates, Sebastiaan Molijn and Eelke Kalberg, worked behind the scenes. However, following a tumultuous split, Sutorius fought for and recently lost the rights to use the group's name and trademark.
Following the highly publicized legal battle, Sutorius marched on without his former Dash Berlin partners. Armed with nothing but his given name, the venture proved fruitful with not only new music, but also headlining performances at Ultra Music Festival and stints at Marquee Nightclub.
As Molijn and Eelke search for a new frontman, Sutorius was recently fortunate enough to perform new music in China. The country welcomed Sutorius with open arms, allowing him the luxury of touring and performing for eager audiences hungry for a sense of normality after a lost year.
Sutorius' latest track, "Nostalgia," elicits that yearning for the dancefloor with rosy lyrics like, "I miss the days when our eyes shined bright, melodic songs and festival lights."
"Nostalgia" is a glimmering example of how Sutorius' music is grounded in sentimentality. No matter the stage name, he always finds a way to conjure poignancy in his work, an element he called a key factor of his artistry in an intimate interview with EDM.com.
Connected via Skype, the Dutch powerhouse DJ spoke with us from his temporary home base in Guangzhou, China. Candid and in high spirits, Sutorius touched on his mental health, the Dash Berlin legal dispute, his barnstorming Chinese tour, and more.
EDM.com: A few weeks ago, the court system ruled against your case in the use of the Dash Berlin trademark. What can you say about the matter?
Jeffrey Sutorius: I don’t want to go too much into the matter, I think the in-depth situation is only for my ex-partners and me. But what I can say is that for the last two years, I was under my own rule and under my own authority as Dash Berlin and this is not the first time for Jeffrey Sutorius.
When I went through this the first time two years ago I started performing as Jeffrey Sutorius at shows like Ultra Music Festival, playing after Swedish House Mafia and performing at clubs like Marquee Las Vegas. So I’m basically coming to that situation again and all I can say is that I’ve been there done that.
The only difference is that for the majority of the last two years I’ve been working on new Dash Berlin material, a clothing line, merchandise shop, and I was working on an artist album, which is basically still ready—just under Jeffrey Sutorius. But I’ll still play Dash Berlin music.
EDM.com: Have you found it difficult to promote yourself under Jeffrey Sutorius when you've been known as Dash Berlin all these years?
Jeffrey Sutorius: No. Why do I say "no" so wholeheartedly? It’s because I believe in who I am and what I stand for and what I represent.
EDM.com: A quick scroll through your social media accounts shows an outpouring of support from your fanbase. What do you have to say in response to their messages?
Jeffrey Sutorius: The response has been really heartwarming. I get messages that say stuff like, "You were there for us so we’re here for you. You’ve done those shows, you’ve traveled those time zones, you’ve waited for us when we wanted that autograph or photo, and you responded to us so we are here for you."
In general, that’s what I get from not only the fans but the industry as well. That really gets me emotional because I’m not doing this out of money or marketing. I’m doing this because I’m doing something that I really really like and I see it as my responsibility, no matter what name, to also value the fans and the people who work in the industry.
People get it. They knew that Dash Berlin existed with three people. That’s something I never held back from, I never said it’s only about me. Never.
EDM.com: In a 2018 statement, you mentioned that you were not in a good place physically or mentally. How is your wellbeing today?
Jeffrey Sutorius: Thank you so much for asking. You’re right, I got into the first official argument with my old partners because of my burnout. The mental and physical health aspect definitely took an important mark in the industry by asking if what we do as DJs is normal. Is it normal what we’re trying to achieve?
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We lost Avicii three years ago and that’s when our wellbeing as DJs came into international awareness. Before him, it was normal to just hop on a plane from China to Miami and people would just assume you would show up. That’s not normal and it’s okay to say that.
EDM.com: Avicii's passing definitely opened people's eyes to the situation. Do you think the industry has taken a better approach towards mental health issues?
Jeffrey Sutorius: Yes, but also one of the good things to come out of the pandemic has been that for the people who were actually struggling and not addressing it, Covid has been a relief. You’re able to take a break even if economically, you would not be able to put bread on the table. So I guess that relief still goes back into stress because you cannot work.
But for people who didn’t address it and were working with an underlying problem, the situation is even worse. And it’s not for nothing that I’m in a WhatsApp group with a lot of highly regarded artists who are speaking on this topic daily.
EDM.com: In that same interview, you stated that you produce EDM, or "Emotional Dance Music." Do you still consider your sound trance or has it transcended that label?
Jeffrey Sutorius: So Dash Berlin has always been considered trance artists, which is funny because when we first started the project we were working on a completely different model than what trance was considered at the time. Everyone was doing 138 BPM and the arrangements and setups were completed differently than what we were working with. That was considered cheese back then and I got a lot of shit for that online back in the day. Now everyone's saying, "Wow, that’s trance. That’s really cool."
As Jeffrey Sutorius, my electronic music spectrum is so much bigger than trance. It is very important for me when I’m working on new music that it connects me to something that I feel very strongly connected to. And that’s what I connect with with the people dancing to the music. You cannot fake that, that’s not a marketing tool. That’s real and what people see on stage is real as well.
EDM.com: You're one of the few artists that have been able to tour during the pandemic. How does it feel to be back on stage playing for live audiences in China?
Jeffrey Sutorius: This may be weird to say, but I almost feel a little bit guilty.
EDM.com: Really? Why?
Jeffrey Sutorius: Yeah, I really do because this is something that should be able to be done by everybody in the industry. I see it as unfair. I’ve been holding back when it comes to social media because I don’t think it’s very appropriate to show that I’m doing shows when other artists cannot.
EDM.com: How has the Chinese audience responded to your return to the stage?
Jeffrey Sutorius: I’ve been touring since January. The first few shows were highly emotional and from that point in you start to get into the groove again. I’ve been playing a lot of new music and the audience has responded very well.
EDM.com: Are the protocols in place good enough for you to perform safely in clubs?
Jeffrey Sutorius: Yes, they’re strict [in China]. The big difference here is that people follow the rules that have been applied by the government.
Connected to that, you have QR codes where the government can track your health. You share that code everywhere you go and get your temperature taken. As long as that code shows up green, it means you’re healthy and you’re able to stand anywhere you want.
EDM.com: Here in the United States, each state has different regulations in place that have made it difficult to conduct major gatherings. The team at Insomniac recently announced the controversial postponement of EDC Las Vegas to October 2021. What do you think about the move?
Jeffrey Sutorius: It’s a good call. Look, I’m not a fortune teller or a doctor or a scientist, and I cannot predict how this virus is going to spread or mutate. What I do want to say is that I think it’s a great call by Pasquale Rotella to postpone EDC.
EDC is a worldwide brand and Pasquale always holds his Headliners in high regard, so he should keep them in high regard. Keep them safe. We’re all in this together and we have to beat it first before we can get out again.
EDM.com: You mentioned that you've been playing new music to your Chinese audience. What can you tell us about your upcoming releases?
Jeffrey Sutorius: This latest release is called "Nostalgia" and it marks a new era for me as an artist to be able to present my releases on an amazing label, [Hardwell's] Revealed. They had a lot of confidence in what I represent so I’m really thankful for them. I also have a brand new Blasterjaxx remix coming soon and then a follow-up to "Nostalgia" will take place.
EDM.com: Finally, it's been a hectic year for all of us—what's kept you grounded not only through the pandemic, but also through the trademark battle?
Jeffrey Sutorius: You’re talking to one of the handful of artists that cannot complain at all. I look into the mirror every morning and I know who I’m looking at. I don’t have to portray to anyone anywhere to be something that I’m not. I’m the same guy.