- Korg M3
- Yamaha DX7 IID
- Ensoniq DP-4+
- Roland JV-2080 expanded with various boards
- Bricasti M7M
- DigiTech Talker
Bingo Players has produced a serious number of floor-filling tracks in the last 10 years. For a while, it felt like you couldn’t escape the bouncing synth lead and punching drums of the 2011 chart-topping track Get Up (Rattle), which was followed by the Billboard no.1, Knock You Out in 2014. Bingo Players was originally a duo act, comprised of lifelong friends Maarten Hoogstraten and Paul Bäumer. Unfortunately, in 2013, Bäumer was diagnosed with cancer and sadly passed away the same year. Per his wishes, though, his partner Maarten continued with Bingo Players, with a slew of successful releases that draw in millions of listeners every month.
Maarten continues to be prolific as ever, with eight releases in 2020 and more to come this year. Touch & Go with Ooomloud is Bingo Players’ first 2021 single and is already proving a success. The Dutch producer invites us into his custom-made basement studio, and shows us which synth was vital to the production of Touch & Go, how he collaborated remotely during 2020, and why he thinks his most expensive piece of gear isn’t worth its price tag.
Tell us a bit about the studio, Maarten.
My studio is located in the basement of my home, in Enschede, Netherlands. Ten years ago, my girlfriend and I came across this house with a basement, which is pretty rare in The Netherlands, and the owner was using it for storage. I immediately imagined this basement as the ideal place to create my studio.
I love my basement studio space. I can be loud without waking up my neighbours or my family in the upper levels. Besides converting the space into a studio, I didn’t make many other changes, slightly expanding the area and adding some comfortable furniture.
Adjacent to the studio space is my retro video game room, where I keep my gaming collection. After music, video games are my second passion. I love having the game room right next to the studio. If I need a break from working on a track or a mix, I can pop into the other room, totally change my mindset by playing some games, and then come back to the project with a fresh set of ears.
Which DAW do you use?
I’ve been working with Ableton Live for over 10 years. I started back in the mid-90s with trackers like ProTracker, which is how Paul and I became friends. We were both nerding out, making music with ProTracker, Scream Tracker and Impulse Tracker. We later moved on to Reason, Cubase, Logic and eventually ended up with Ableton and haven’t changed since.
I’m so used to Ableton right now, I don’t think I’ll ever change to another DAW. I love the interface and the ease of automation it offers. Also, since I switched from Logic to Ableton, I rarely have any major crashes. This answer is not sponsored by Ableton in any way!
What is your favourite piece of gear?
Besides my laptop, it’s my Korg M3. The weighted keys and pads always feel good to work on, and it has some great-sounding presets. It’s just a very versatile all-round synth.
What atmosphere do you try and create in the studio?
Living in a place where the studio and home are combined has its advantages. Whenever I feel inspired, I walk down into my basement, turn on the gear and get started, so no time or inspiration is lost. My studio doesn’t have any windows so I lose track of time easily, which is actually great. Things don’t feel as rushed as renting a studio or owning/leasing a separate building.
However, there is a downside – you can get easily distracted by your daily routine. Running a quick errand, the mailman dropping off a package (just when you have that melody almost locked in), quitting the project because I wasn’t feeling it. Nothing is forcing you to stay there and get work done, which, again, can be a blessing and a curse at the same time.
You’ve made a name for yourself with some massive hits, such as Get Up (Rattle), Cry (Just A Little) and Devotion. Do you feel any pressure to create music similar to this?
When Paul and I started making music as Bingo Players, we never intended to create music similar to our previous songs, even if they were successful. We always wanted to try something fresh, challenge ourselves and see where the music would take us, and this is still how I work today. I’m actually proud that if you listen to all of our tracks, you’ll never hear a duplicate of one of our previous releases. All of our songs are different.
Of course, I get questions like, “why don’t you make another [insert song]?”. To me, that would kill any creativity right away, and I’m 100 per cent sure it wouldn’t be as special as the first time we produced that style. It’s fun going outside my comfort zone and doing something different, even if people don’t like it. Without that mindset, we wouldn’t have made our most successful songs.
Are there any go-to techniques, effects or synths that you use on every track? How do you use them?
Every track needs its own treatment, so I try to avoid using the same tricks. But, of course, there are particular effects I apply when hearing some aspects in a song. For instance, I love to use my DP/4+ phaser whenever I’m working on a funky disco loop. The same goes for the DigiTech Talker when trying to replicate the Daft Punk vocoder sound.
What synth or effect can be heard the most on your new release, Touch & Go?
We pulled the main chord stabs from the Roland JV2080 Dance Expansion Board, if I’m not mistaken. I love going through the patches of the JV2080 and its expansions. It contains some great 90s house sounds that were an excellent fit for the old school vibe of Touch & Go.
You’ve collaborated with several artists over the past year. What did your remote collaboration process look like?
Most of the time, it’s as simple as e-mailing each other an idea and using that as a starting point. The guys from Oomloud, who I collaborated with the most last year, live close to me and we would meet up once a week, which was nice during the pandemic. It felt good having those face-to-face sessions every week to get our ideas out.
When we get together, we play some ideas, speak our minds about current music and treat the day more like a jam session with whatever comes to mind. Those ideas then become the basis for a track we would finalise and release. It all feels natural, and we would always end up with a solid concept at the end of the day.
I’ve also been doing Zoom sessions throughout the quarantine and, even though it felt a bit awkward at first, I’ve gotten pretty used to it. It’s just adapting to a new situation. I have a ton of music coming out that was written over Zoom sessions.
What’s been the most significant investment in your studio? Was it worth it?
The most expensive piece of gear was my Bricasti M7M with the Model 10 remote. Was it worth it? Nope.
I was in a studio in Sweden a couple of years ago, and they had the good ol’ Lexicon 480L. I was blown away by how good that reverb sounded, and decided I wanted something similar for myself. So I was recommended the Bricasti as an alternative to the Lexicon.
Don’t get me wrong, It is a great reverb unit, but I’m too lazy to use it in every project. I’d rather use a plug-in because it’s much quicker and more versatile. It’s a shame, actually – I should use it more. Let’s call it an expensive impulse buy!
How did you go about getting the acoustics right in the studio?
I had a company come to treat the basic acoustics. Placing acoustic panels, bass traps, and even a big couch helped massively. Even though it’s not perfect, I’m happy with how it ended up and, most importantly, I know its weaknesses. I’m fine with that, and I can anticipate and make adjustments where needed.
What is your dream piece of gear?
I would love to own a Juno 60 or 106. I’m a sucker for everything 80s and can get lost playing around with my DX7. For me, these synths define that era. I’m not gonna pass on a PPG Wave 2.2 either!
You were pretty prolific in 2020, with eight releases. What else is in the pipeline for 2021, beyond Touch & Go?
I have a handful of tracks finished and a bunch more in the works; it’s just figuring out when and where to release each of them. 2021 is going to be an interesting year, though, since clubs and festivals are coming back again, thankfully. So I can start releasing more club records, in addition to vocal records like Touch & Go.
Before the pandemic, the clubs were the perfect playground to see which tracks would work and which wouldn’t. Unfortunately, I’ve lost that feedback, and I’ve been producing music from a different perspective, which means more focus on listening to dance music at home rather than live shows. I’m looking forward to getting back to touring and testing out all my forthcoming club records.
What is your top piece of production advice?
It’s easy to get lost in all the YouTube video tutorials and advice about production, which is great if you’re struggling with a certain aspect of it, but sometimes you can’t see the forest through the trees.
Everybody has an opinion but, in the end, you are the one that decides how a record should sound and it’s okay to break the rules if you like the end result.
What is the one piece of advice you would give someone starting out building a studio?
Do your research and decide what is most important for you and your goals as a producer or musician. You don’t need lots of cash to get a comfortable space.
Paul and I started with a cheap Behringer mixing desk, an outdated sound-card and speakers that looked like they came from a Goodwill store, and we made our biggest songs on that gear. In the end, it’s about the music, not the tools you make it with. I know it sounds cliché, but it’s true.