An Interview with Danny Veekens of The Find & Rucksack Records

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Danny, Author at The Find Mag

Danny Veekens is a jack-of-all-trades. Call him a musical Swiss Army knife, if you will. As a freelance journalist, Danny has exercised his passion for writing through words and articles. That is something I can truly relate to. As the founder of The Find, Danny features beatmakers, collectors, articles on crate-digging culture, and more. Danny’s passion for print has made The Find one of the more streamlined, unique and honest online mags out there. Lastly, Danny is the founder of Rucksack Records, a label focused on all the same ideals and passions that The Find was founded upon. So, if you’re into crate-digging, Hip-Hop and jazzy beats, then you definitely want to check out The Find here, and Rucksack Records here. In the meantime, check out my chat with Danny below. He’s an interesting and talented guy. Cheers.

Andrew:
Danny, thank you for taking the time to speak with us. This last year has been rough, right? How are you holding up?

Danny:
Thanks for having me, Andrew! Yeah, last year was crazy, to say the least. The shit show called 2020 aside, it was a pretty productive year for me personally. Both for The Find as well as Rucksack Records, which I actually started a couple of months before COVID-19 turned the world upside down. So yeah, that was interesting timing.

Andrew:
Tell us about your backstory. What was your musical gateway so to speak?

Danny:
Hip-Hop was for sure the biggest musical gateway for me. That took me from being an Eminem “Stan” as a 12-year-old to a growing obsession for all things Hip-Hop. Eventually, the samples in Hip-Hop were my gateway to genres such as Jazz, Funk, Soul, and Rock. It never ceases to amaze me how Hip-Hop works “in reverse” by getting listeners more and more into old records and originals, preserving music as part of something new and fresh. Even fifteen-plus years later, it still feels like I’ve only scratched the surface. To me, that’s magic.

Andrew:
You’re the founder of The Find. Tell us the story of how it came together. What are your goals for it?

Danny:
I started The Find back in 2007. Long story short (well, let’s try): I was studying journalism at the time, with one confession: I ran an illegal download blog since 2005-ish. The good ol’ pre-streaming days of Rapidshare, Blogspots, and P2P file-sharing. That blog was primarily focused on jazzy Hip-Hop, and made me see how many people around the globe were digging the same type of Jazz-infused Hip-Hop as I was into. But at the same time, I felt there was a lack of platforms actually supporting those independent artists. So, I figured to start one together with about ten other dedicated people.

We started as The Find Magazine with freely downloadable PDF magazines (yup…). Because going print was a big personal ambition. That worked out with a couple of print editions of the magazine, eventually evolving to The Find Mag as a digital editorial platform that also released vinyl records, cassette tapes, digital releases, and T-shirts. So, since 2007, The Find kinda drifts somewhere between a website, magazine, record label, and agency for collaboration. Or a platform with an ongoing identity crisis, if you will. Haha.

All jokes aside, collaboration is my main goal with The Find: to welcome people with ideas, enable collaborations, and spark new (passion) projects. To give some examples:

  • We host the Diggin’ The Crates podcast by UK producer and music journalist James Kennaby b.k.a. Vice beats (uncut conversations with guests such as Marley Marl, Egon of Now-Again, Exile & J-Live).
  • There’s a mix series called Stay Hungry by fellow Dutchie Jelger Staal (that guy goes all-out with 5-hour mixes crossing genres and BPMs. Truly insane work in the best sense of the word!).
  • We released three vinyl compilations called Jazzvolution together with HHV Records to showcase beatmaking as an evolution of Jazz foundations.
  • And think of an interview series with editorial illustrations by MC Blue Matter.

Oh, and then there’s a new collaboration coming up with a London-based team I’m really excited about. To be announced end of February. That’s got something to do with library music. But more on that later…

Danny, Author at The Find Mag

Andrew:
The Find has a focus on beatmaking, crate-digging, Hip-Hop and Jazz, which is refreshing and truly interesting. How important are these topics to you personally?

Danny:
Very important! I don’t make music myself, though. I tried making beats about ten years ago, but I simply don’t have the patience—or skill—to hone a craft in music. That’s also why playing the trumpet didn’t last for longer than two weeks. So yeah, I have HUGE respect for those who master beatmaking and/or an instrument!

Andrew:
Knowing what I know about The Find, I can only assume you love records, and love to crate-dig. How did you get into records? Where are some of your favorite places to dig?

Danny:
Yes, indeed. I got into records at the age of seventeen or something. I have to admit, though, during my days of studying, it was expensive enough to pay for my own study and student pad, and the life that comes with it (read: beer, concerts, bad pizzas, and all of that). So, I wasn’t able to buy as much vinyl as I would’ve loved to back then. So, let’s say the real “collecting” started around the age of twenty. That’s ten years ago now.

In terms of favorite places here in Amsterdam: Black Gold is my favorite go-to place (bonus: they also have the best coffee in town), as well as local record stores like Waxwell, Platypus & Distortion. During these lockdown days, Discogs, Bandcamp & HHV are the surrogate record stores, though. Couch-digging.

Andrew:
You’re also a freelancer yourself, right? When did you know you wanted to get into journalism? Who were some of your biggest influences and inspirations?

Danny:
Back in elementary school, I already wanted to be “a writer” as I was writing a lot of stories. So, I guess that was the first seed. Fast-forward to actually making the step to become a (music) journalist: the gonzo-style of Hunter S. Thompson was without a doubt my biggest influence and inspiration back then. And in terms of Dutch journalists, Saul van Stapele was someone I looked up to.

About Rucksack Records – Rucksack Records

Andrew:
You’re also the founder of Rucksack Records. How did Rucksack get started? What led to you wanting to make the move to start a label? What are your goals?

Danny:
Over the course of ten-plus years of doing The Find, people kept telling me, “You should start a record label.” So, I kept toying with that idea for a LONG time. I released one 7” through The Find back in 2012, and curated three vinyl compilations together with The Find contributor Kamir, which I really-really loved to do. Eventually, also fueled by stories (the good, the bad & the ugly) from artists about (indie) record labels, deals, and—at times—lack of proper promotion for artists and their hard work, I decided to start Rucksack Records next to The Find. I’m not a DJ or a label owner in the traditional sense, so I wanted to start a label coming from a background in journalism and music promotion. I hope that reflects on the releases.

Andrew:
What types of artists are you hoping to promote through Rucksack? How has it gone so far? What are some of your favorite releases through the label?

Danny:
The label’s tagline, “Looking back, thinking forward” kinda sums it up: artists with a deep love for the golden years of Hip-Hop and beatmaking, who at the same time are not afraid to create something fresh, bold, and/or cutting-edge out of that foundation. Or who even dare to cross genres.

To share last year’s two LP releases as examples of that: Lahringen by Dutch musician Thijsenterprise, who made an intricate clash of Jazz & Hip-Hop production from a Punk ethos. Very groove-based with rough, no-mercy saxophone playing and elements of improvisation. This guy is insane! He also makes crazy beats, by the way…

And then there’s Monolith by Russian producer LTF, who went all-out with digging through rare Soviet Jazz and Funk records to come up with a deep and heavy body of work. All-instrumental, using analogue synthesizers and dub techniques to craft, in his words, “A retro-futuristic Soviet wave.” On top of older music as a big source of inspiration, such as productions by Large Professor, The Herbaliser & Scientist.

Andrew:
Let’s talk about the state of the music industry a bit. What are a few things you would like to see change for the betterment of both the fans and artists alike?

Danny:
Good question. That reminds me of a tweet by Alexander Nut (of Eglo Records) I saw recently: “Some of the most incredible musicians don’t make commercially viable art or create functional, industry-friendly music. They don’t have management or promo teams so the music press ain’t gonna be covering them. So you better get out there and get exploring and supporting!”

I couldn’t agree more. There are insane artists “out there” who can’t—or don’t know how to—keep up with the rat race for streams, followers, and/or playlist fame. So, for artists, I truly hope that gets better, that music gets picked up because of the music. No matter how big, small, marketable, or industry-friendly someone or something is.

I guess that’s a bit idealistic as that’s simply not how music press and the industry works. But then again, platforms like Bandcamp (and specifically their editorial publication, Bandcamp Daily) lead the way and show it IS possible to feature and support an open, diverse and fair mix of (independent) artists.

Watch the world's first TED talk on the culture of record digging

Andrew:
As a record guy, how do you feel about the state of the vinyl industry specifically. I often hear complaints regarding QC, and the prices of new vinyl. What are your thoughts on that?

Danny:
I personally think it’s a shame when there’s more focus on creating scarcity rather than creating a release with added value. That’s what I’m seeing a lot these days. “NEXT DROP AT 12PM, 100 COPIES ONLY.” Obi-strips for no reason. Randomly colored vinyl. Hyped releases because of the scarcity and social media marketing rather than for the actual music (in ten years, do we really still listen to those zillion Griselda ultra-splattered limited edition obi-stripped records out there? Asking for a friend). With, as a result, excessive resell prices…

Sure, it’s all smart marketing, and I get that pressing vinyl is expensive so you need to play the game smart. But it makes me appreciate and respect labels and artists more who put music before hype. With care for mastering, sound, graphic design, liner notes—you name it. I mean, I don’t want to act like vinyl is some sort of sacred medium. But part of the (Hip-Hop) vinyl industry is turning into one of easy wins, easy money, and all-hype. That’s in line with the fast-paced streaming era we find ourselves in, I guess.

On a more positive note, it’s also a beautiful thing that manufacturing vinyl is within reach for anyone in this day and age. There are a TON of awesome labels with great output and quality self-made releases by artists. That’s truly inspiring and liberating to see.

Andrew:
Are you only into records? Tapes? CDs? Digital? Where do you like to shop for music?

Danny:
Records are definitely the format I love most, but I also use platforms like Spotify (for daily listening) and Bandcamp (for buying and discovering) on the regular. Plus, I have a small collection of cassette tapes—about 30 of them—I’ve been meaning to play. Ranging from old indie Hip-Hop from the Netherlands to recent beat tapes.

Andrew:
What are a few albums that mean the most you and why?

Danny:
Oh, snap. Where to begin…alright, to skip the classics as usual suspects and all-time favorites, here are three personal ones that come to mind:

– Blue Scholars – Cinémetropolis: A cinema-inspired concept album by Seattle-based Hip-Hop duo Blue Scholars, using less samples than usual. This one brings back a lot of memories from the early 2010s. I’ve been after this record for five-plus years now. So, if anyone reading this happens to own a copy and wants to get rid it—hit me up…

– Ohmega Watts – The Find: This 2005 album inspired the name of The Find Magazine. This album represents everything I love about Hip-Hop.

– Stereolab – Dots And Loops: Glad this one got reissued as a special 3-LP edition in 2019 with liner notes and demos. Every time I listen to this record, I feel like I learn something new about music and production. A true piece of art.

Andrew:
Last question. In a world dominated by capitalism and social media, can indie artists really, truly get ahead? How do we keep the playing field level so that everyone has a chance to succeed?

Danny:
I can’t lie, it’s hard to get ahead when you’re fully independent. The pressure is on now that, next to making music, you’re also expected to be a social media manager, content creator, music promotion pro, and to have a clue on how to distribute and monetize your music. Or to find the right people to help you with all of that. The (re)sources on how to get ahead are free-for-all, though. So, I guess purely in that sense, the playing field IS levelled out. Read online articles to learn the tricks of the trade, watch tutorials, interviews or lectures, subscribe to newsletters, follow the right people on social media, talk or connect to people to learn from their experiences and failures…

It’s a matter of how much time you can (or want to) put into all of that next to making music. Plus, it depends on what your goals are; how you define “succeeding.” For some, that’s living off of music completely. For others, it’s the total freedom to create whatever they want next to a day job. There’s a lot in between.

The Find | Ohmega Watts

Dig this interview? Check out the full archives of Vinyl Writer Interviews, by Andrew Daly, here: www.vinylwritermusic.com/interview

Published by Andrew Daly

Since he was a young child growing up on Long Island, NY, USA, Andrew has always loved writing, music, drumming and collecting music on CD, tape and vinyl. After losing his life-long vinyl collection in 2014, Andrew began his vinyl collection from scratch again when he met his future wife Angela in 2015. Andrew’s love of music only further blossomed as his collection spanned all genres possible. After amassing over 3,000 albums in under two years, he knew it was time to finally follow his dream of being a music journalist, and thus, Vinyl Writer was born.

Andrew’s not only the go-to friend for music trivia, but his intricate knowledge of the ins and outs of the music industry allows him to develop engaging questions that really tap into each artist and individual to deliver insightful and enjoyable interviews. He’s proud to share his love of music with the world through his writing, and the result is nothing short of beautiful: articles and interviews written by a music addict, for fellow music addicts.

Andrew lives on Long Island, NY, with his wife Angela and their four cats, Oliver, Patrick, Charlie and Kevin. Andrew’s collection of over 4,700 vinyl albums, plus several hundred tapes and CDs, tells the story of his passion for all that is music. Andrew works as a Horticultural Operations Manager by day and runs the Vinyl Writer website by night. Andrew is also the admin of several Facebook groups dedicated to music.

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