Thomas de Rijk has been entangled in the local music scenes of Rotterdam and Amsterdam for a long time, both as Halp and as Dow Jones Brotherhood, with four mind-bending EP’s to show for. His latest musical project, Polar, appeared in digital form earlier this month, and the limited edition vinyl release drops in two weeks on Golden Mist. Also a professional animator, De Rijk’s artistic output is multifaceted: One of his clips is a frequent sight on the MTV channel, and he made a trippy 360 video for the new EP, to name just a couple of his undertakings. Intrigued by his various activities, we asked De Rijk to tell us a little bit more.
Please note that it is a 360 video; for a full virtual reality experience you’ll need to use chrome or the Youtube app on a smartphone on 2160p.
You’re a musician, graphic designer, animator… what else?
Mostly just musician and animator. I would not consider myself a graphic designer really, I just happen to also make still images but whenever something needs to portray actual information, I will always check with someone else. Typography is my worst enemy. I also enjoy video games a lot (if anyone plays Street Fighter 5, add me on psn: swiftpawpaw).
Personally, I think I would go insane in a few months.
What’s the story behind Halp?
I started DJ’ing around 12 years ago and making music a few years after. I was not really doing anything with my life but really enjoyed music, so figured I might as well go do that. Turned out it was a lot harder than I thought and it took me a few years to get it going properly. I decided against doing a course related to music and went to art school for film. That helped a lot because we didn’t have too many hours at school so there was enough time to do music as well.
I did my first two releases around that time. Then I had to do an internship and finals and didn’t really have any time for music, so the songs on this EP have been made somewhere in the last 4 years since my last EP.
Do you recognize or consciously create differences between Thomas, Halp and Dow Jones Brotherhood?
My music and visual stuff used to be very similar (5-6 years ago), glitchy, neon coloured, and shit. Both musically and visually I got pretty bored with what I was doing so I started developing it in different ways. My animation work became more story/comedy driven and my music became a bit more serious (or I hope it did anyway).
The DJB project came to fruition when Willie Wartaal (from De Jeugd Van Tegenwoordig) lent me his OP-1 synthesizer.
The first song I made on it is on the album; I think only one or two didn’t make the cut. The way it sounds is born out of how the Op-1 actually works.
It made sense to make a pact with the devil and go for Youtube.
My Halp stuff is all made with Ableton, which is sequenced to the grid and has an actual set tempo. I get to constantly change stuff, and actually mix it properly, arrange it etc, so the results are quite different. The two music projects are more divided in workflow terms than actual aesthetic terms.
My animation work is really different. It’s my actual full time job and it’s really structured for me. Also, I actually feel like I know what I’m doing sometimes, music-wise that’s far from the case. I guess there are a lot of people that would love to do music full time, but personally, I think I would go insane in a few months.
The digital version of Polar is already out and the vinyl drops later this month on Golden Mist – can you tell me about the video you made for the track?
It’s all based on the artwork, which uses a fully reflective material to reflect a distorted gradient. In the video it’s about the same, but the geometry changes around all the time. It’s my first try at making a 360 video for Youtube, and probably also the last. This stuff takes forever to render because you actually need 4 times the size of a normal HD video and then Youtube compression comes along and makes it all look shit again. It’s more suited for actual VR but that market is so small right now that it made sense to make a pact with the devil and go for Youtube.
Lucky for me, there’s always some titles that need animation or random visual effects that need to be done.
I checked out some of your animations – Horses and Their Many Issues is amazing! I can imagine it’s a lot of time and work. How do you find the time to do all of this and how long do you spend on an animation like that one?
That one only took about 2 weeks to make, but some projects can take about 2-3 months of full time work. I can really only find the time for it if it’s paid work, either through a client or through funding. Luckily there is quite a bit of funding for music videos and film in the Netherlands and I was lucky enough to be able to do a music video for Titts (Jameszoo and Y’skid) and Palmbomen with this funding. The music video for Polar was also made quite fast (apart from all the rendering hours) and I was able to fit it in between other work quite well.
The remaining part of my work schedule is made up of commercial projects and animation/visual effect odd jobs at Opslaan Als. Lucky for me, there’s always some titles that need animation or random visual effects that need to be done. I’ve been doing this for a few years now and more and more time is opening up for personal projects which I’m super thankful for.
Look out for the limited edition vinyl release of Polar, due out in two weeks on Golden Mist.