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Sander Kleinenberg: Everybody Is Having Fun Again

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Look back at 2004 and Kleinenberg's notoriety has been consistent the entire 12 months. He started on a high note, as his role of progressive house wunderkind was unexpectedly complemented by a new one as underground remixer of choice for big pop stars. Annie Lennox's "Wonderful" was making noise on both sides of the Atlantic, and his massive 2003 reworking of Justin Timberlake's "Rock Your Body" was still having residual effects, scooping up this year's Best Remix award at the Dancestar USA Awards.

Elsewhere that same week at the Winter Music Conference in Miami, there was Kleinenberg's much-lauded Essential Mix set with Pete Tong. N*E*R*D got sliced and diced Sander-style, and the twisted synth stabs of "The Fruit" are a natural progression from his chart-topping remix of Janet Jackson's "All Nite (Don't Stop)."

The latter was one of the biggest records this year in several different scenes, and Kleinenberg attributes its success to embracing the best elements of mainstream pop music and not simply dismissing the entire medium as creatively barren, he said.

"First of all, I've got to decide if the song I've been offered to remix is something I like," he explained. "It needs to be strong and has a sense of realness. I feel that if something that you work with has just kind of been thrown together by someone as a marketing thing, or someone with a big plan, then the interest for me to do something with that kind of fades."

That mindset harkens back to the New York DJs Kleinenberg first heard on radio while growing up in the eastern Netherlands. Jocks like Shep Pettibone and Jellybean Benitez ruled the dance music world, but a key ingredient of their success was their prolific output of straight-ahead, get-up-and-party remixes of pop songs. Ironically, some of Pettibone's greatest late '80s and early '90s success was with Jackson tracks like "Miss You Much" and "Escapade," and now Kleinenberg finds himself following in his early idol's footsteps.

The Jackson mix is one of the more unabashedly funky tracks to find acclaim in recent months, and hot on its heels has been wave of similarly swaggering hits like "Lola's Theme" by the Shapeshifters (Shape:UK in the U.S.) and Deep Dish's "Flashdance." I pointed out the number of guitar- and bassline-heavy selections on This is Everybody…too, and Kleinenberg developed a theory on their recent comeback after years of apocalyptic drum domination.

"We live in different times, and I think that everybody understands that it's not 1999 anymore," he said. "It's like, to be locked up in a dark room and munching E's and not care about life, not care about danger… I think we are in a time where there's a clear and present danger, you know what I mean? And when people go out, they actually want to be entertained and taken away from their financial issues or whatever. It's a different world than four or five years ago."

He paused. "That's just me being a philosopher about it, but I guess there's a point in there somewhere about why people want to be more entertained…it's a tough world…and people want to smile," he said, laughing. "Does that make sense? Can you get something out of that?"

Clearly, while Kleinenberg has serious thoughts on the state of clubland, he tries not to take the art itself too seriously. We discussed his recent month-long U.S. trek, which commenced just after the presidential elections, and he noted how enthusiastic and escapist the crowds were.

"It's like, funkiness, and showing off, and showing yourself and dressing up, there's hedonism in it," Kleinenberg mused. "I think hedonism usually comes as a reaction to the times. Look at the '30s in Berlin. The '30s in Berlin were a really grim time, because there was a financial crisis, and everything was really going down, but cabaret and nightlife were thriving. Everybody wanted to go out and pretend to be rich, not rich but just kind of a make-believe world where everything is fine."

"I think as a result the '60s were the kind of same, the '80s were kind of the same, the backlash of the '80s… it's where hedonism and the whole dance music revolution came from opportunist English people who took acid house as an escape from the ultra-ultra right government that was in England, and the youth was just like 'Fuck that. We want to enjoy ourselves,'" he said. "I guess that's how it goes. For a long time, we've seen sliding economies, and we're going to a different age, and with that comes a little more hedonism, I guess."

As long as Kleinenberg continues to provide hedonism for everybody (and Everybody) the world may not feel like such a scary place to be…certainly not as scary as, say, the Parisian highways.

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