As the heart of Fort Canning Park thundered with the deep house moves of Austrian duo Möwe, Bakermat sauntered through the crowd, unnoticed. With a vodka Redbull in hand, the Dutch DJ and producer — whose real name is Lodewijk Fluttert — and I were finding a quieter spot to conduct our interview. While his height made him stand out, the up and coming talent was pretty unrecognisable without his trademark sailor jacket. But once his sound takes over the reins on stage — you'll recognise Bakermat for sure.
It's a sound that infuses deep house with jazz and soul. His top hits are One Day and Teach Me, which fans love for their melodic and tropical vibes. The 24-year-old started his career four years ago while still in university, and is now touring the world, making a name of himself in festivals as big as Tomorrowland. Employing saxophones, flutes and trumpets in his music and shows, Singapore's Garden Beats Festival 2016 was the last stop of his debut Southeast Asian tour, which saw him touring in Bali, Ho Chi Minh City and Jakarta.
Recently, Bakermat released Living with Brit singer-songwriter Alex Clare, known the world over for his single Too Close back in 2012. The uplifting track seals the musician's place in between the mainstream and underground, producing music the world has yet to sit up and take notice. But we're glad we've got a head start.
Welcome to Singapore, Bakermat. How did you set out to become a DJ?
Very random, actually. I was just a student and was really bored, and I had to clean my room and stuff. I was looking for music online, but I couldn't find the music that I wanted — with a lot of soul and blues and jazz. So I just downloaded software and made it myself that day. That's basically it!
That music of yours now is a unique mix of tropical house, jazz and soul. What inspired you to incorporate these different genres together?
I was always interested in jazz and all those kind of genres, like soul and blues music. I always listen to it a lot. Even though I love every genre of music, those three genres are the ones I love the most.
And you made them sound very tropical...
Yeah, tropical is a term I didn't make up, but it's a stamp people want to put on. And that's cool with me.
How did you come up with the stage name Bakermat?
I can tell you a very romantic story, but the truth is that I had no idea what to fill in on the YouTube thing. I had a track name and just needed an artist name, so I got one of my study books and picked a random word that I thought sounded nice.
What does it mean?
It actually has quite a nice meaning. It means a cradle, like where something starts. Like how Detroit is the bakermat of techno music — how it all started there and grew up there.
That's actually pretty romantic.
Yes (laughs), I should say that in the future. I can say the truth.
You often bring in saxophones, trumpets, and flutes into your music. Do you play any of these instruments yourself?
No, I don't play any instruments.
How did you learn to make music with these instruments then?
Well, I play a little piano and I used to play the saxophone when I was younger. But I'm more like a writer and composer than an artist.
So you had to teach yourself how to make music?
Well you know I can read notes and stuff, sometimes I write it. When I have the chords and a melody in my head, I write it down. Then I invite a saxophone player and say, "Could you play those notes?" So that's how I do it.
The sailor jacket of yours seems to be your symbol now. Where did you first acquire the jacket? Was it a random occurrence or a planned outfit?
Again random (laughs), but that's the story of my life. Everything happens very randomly. I don't really think about stuff, it just happens. I had a Halloween-ish party, and I saw a dude rocking that jacket. I immediately really liked it and asked him where he bought it. He said he rented it from a shop. And then I rented it and played in it. The next day my inbox was filled with messages from people saying "Holy sh*t, that jacket is so cool, bla bla bla" so I went to the shop and bought the jacket after.
And you made it in different colors too, I noticed.
Yeah, and now I design my own actually.
You recently hosted your own 'Bakermat and friends' stage at Tomorrowland. Did you get to choose the 'friends' playing at the stage?
Yes, the DJs are my friends. The people I invite, I see them a lot at festivals, and you know I'm not going to invite people I don't like. That's the rule. And secondly, I invite people that inspire me musically and that I think brought a lot to the table that year, release-wise and music-wise.
So which artist inspires you the most?
Right now, it's got to be Flume.
Have you met him in person? You play at so many big festivals at many places. You're probably friends with him, right?
No, I haven't actually. I'm surprised as well.
Your top hit song One day/Vandaag starts with a snippet of Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech. How did you come up this idea to incorporate that?
I'm going to say something that's reoccurring in this interview. It was also random (laughs). It was a coincidence because I had an essay that I had to write about which incorporated this speech. It was to find out the good in this speech. And my conclusion was that it wasn't as much the words that were spoken — they were very important — but more like how he brought it. It was very inspirational and it's almost like a piece of music on itself. So when I was done writing it, I listened to the speech one more time and I played some chords on the piano with it. And I thought "f**king hell, that's very nice!"
There are a few other songs where you mix in speeches. Do you find the speech first and then make the music around it? Or the other way around?
Now I find the speech first. I always build around a melody. I always start around a melody and then come up with chords.
So where do you find your speeches?
Oh, I just downloaded a pack of all legendary speeches of the world (laughs). It is very exclusive, like you can't get it anywhere. But I found it deep, deep in the Internet. Good stuff.
Congratulations on your first Southeast Asian tour! Have you thought about mixing in some Asian instruments in your future songs?
Yes, I have one track lining up right now that uses only Asian instruments. I think it's coming out in 2017, because it is very experimental for me.
When was the first festival you played at? Were you nervous?
Oh yeah, I was very nervous, because of the whole random thing we discussed (laughs). I was 20 when I suddenly got huge in Europe, because the track (One Day) blew up on the internet. My first gig was in front of 50,000 people and I've never even played before. So I was shaking and drinking heavily because I just couldn't hold myself.
This drink (vodka Redbull)?
Yeah this drink, but a lot more (laughs).
How do you feel about playing in front of thousands now?
After that one, I was never nervous again for anywhere else, because that was so extreme and it went well. So I thought "Oh f**k it, I can do anything I want. I can conquer it."
Bakermat performed at Garden Beats Festival 2016 on 30 July. For more on Bakermat, click here.