To highlight the upcoming broadcast of the short documentary 'This Was The Place' on website, our intern Lana sat down with BAR co-founder Jetti Steffers and asked her some questions about the closing, DJ-ing, her role as a programmer, and more.
Exactly one year ago this was the week before the BAR-closing weekender. Do you remember how you felt back then?
Before the closing, or during the closing itself?
Basically, I think you automatically activate some kind of self-defense mechanism and you don’t allow yourself to really realize what's about to happen. So, we felt quite ‘numb’ to be honest… Until it actually happened...
Did you kind of shut down emotionally?
Yes, definitely! As I said, I think that’s just a coping mechanism.
So, when BAR actually closed the emotions hit and you realized that it was over?
It’s quite funny I think because Kris (co-owner BAR/POING) already had this realization during that weekend, so he was really emotional during the last hours. Whereas I was standing next to my friend Steven van Lummel (PIP), who is also in the documentary, and I was telling him that I wasn’t feeling anything. I didn’t smile, I didn’t cry, I basically didn’t feel anything. Until a certain point almost towards the end. That's when I started breaking down basically. And then when the place really closed I was just crying... Probably the whole day.
Were you nervous before the closing night?
I was kinda nervous and I felt a little bit out of place I guess, the first night especially. It was all so confusing. You stand at the closing of your club and it is actually too much to take in. You have three rooms of people and there are a lot of emotions going on when a place like this closes. Everybody is partying like it’s the last party ever. Anyways… I remember going up-stairs to the office because I just wanted to get out of it. And then Kris and my co-programmer Sjoerd (Jetti & Post, co-owner BAR Records) were sitting there too. Sjoerd was sending these random emails and finishing some last things he had to do, and Kris was just sitting there at his desk.
When the party was still going on inside the club?
Yeah, so the three main people were sitting in the office upstairs. We really didn’t know what to do with ourselves for about an hour. But then we went back, I think around four in the night and I could finally switch myself on again and enjoy.
So, you owned BAR together with Kris. Did you feel like you could support each other?
Yeah, I think that we could, but we are both very different people, so we deal with our emotions differently. Also, I have to say there was a lot of stress involved because of the closing. And when we get a lot of stress things don’t really work the way they should work. But in the end, we always tend to be the people that can have stress towards each other but at the moment that you really need each other, it is fine. And of course, in the end, you have the same feelings about your life work that is closing in a sense. We owned BAR for almost seven years.
You still play together with Sjoerd, and you owned BAR with Kris?
Yes, and Sjoerd was the co-programmer so he also played a big role in BAR.
Do you need somebody to work with?
Actually, this is a thing I have been thinking about a lot recently. Especially in these times of COVID-19. I don’t know if I need somebody to work with, but it is very satisfying to work with somebody in the sense that it’s nice to not only have to rely on your own opinion, but to have two different opinions which you can put next to each other and see what's most valuable and achievable. I am a very emotional person and I tend to work with people that are more pragmatic. So, then you basically get the best of both sides...I guess.
Can you compare the work dynamic you have with Sjoerd and Kris, does this differ a lot?
Yes, they are very different. Yeah, I guess it is different to work with any personality. And they are very different people too. With Kris, I work on the more practical side of the business and with Sjoerd, I work on the more creative part of the business. So, that’s also a very different approach I guess.
You're also the owner of BAR Records?
Yes, together with Sjoerd.
The name is ‘BAR’ Records. Does this represent BAR as a club?
That’s also a funny question. Well, for the past five records we think it definitely represented BAR as a club. But since BAR isn’t there anymore, and we are both the people that run the label, we are currently working on a redesign. Graphically it’s still going to contain certain parts of the BAR design, like some of the bright-colored elements, but we’re going to adjust it a bit, as well as the sound. The sound is going to be more representative of what we are currently playing ourselves.
Patrick (Marsman, Operator/Pinkman Records) told me that two years ago during an interview at Blijdorp Festival for Operator with Samira that you don’t really see yourself as a DJ. How do you feel about that now?
(Laughs) Yeah, yeah!
Yes, I had to ask this;)
Well, did it change? I still know why I said that, and I still tend to have that feeling. But I also learned that I have to tell myself that I am. Because, if I don’t take myself seriously, other people won’t do it either.
Yeah, that’s true...
So, I have to have more guts and say that I am. This statement came from the fact that I was a programmer, and ran a club. So, in that sense, I see a lot of top quality DJ’s that I think are really pro at what they do. I wouldn’t call myself super ‘pro’. You know, I look up to a lot of really good artists. And I don’t see myself in that range of quality. But I also don’t have to see it like that because I do know that I can entertain people and that I have a broad knowledge of music. Or well, not a broad knowledge of music but that I know a lot about music. Because I worked in music for a long time and I programmed for a long time. Maybe technically I’m not that good, but is that the definition of a DJ? I don’t know. I think it’s just a different approach. So, I gained a little bit more of appropriate arrogance, but I still find it very hard to say that I’m a DJ or to see myself as an actual DJ. But then again, I need to! Because I also found out that it is something that I really want to do and find super interesting.
Did this interest grow after BAR closed or was it already going on?
It already started before that. But when BAR closed we got more gigs and then I started to get more and more pleasure out of it. I also realized that it wasn’t only an extension of BAR but it is also something that I’m purely interested in. So, I’m trying to tell myself that I’m good enough to get those gigs. But like I said, I’m still insecure about it. Because I know so many people that are so good!
But do you think since you started as a programmer that this has an advantage for your DJ career? Because you have maybe more insight on what’s happening in the music scene.
Do you mean that I can get gigs out of it?
Sure! That’s the whole reason that people know me. It’s not that I’m an unknown person and they think ‘wow' this person plays great music’. But I still have to provide good music in the end. They book me probably because the name of BAR but if I come there and I play shit music then they’re not gonna book me again, I guess. So, in the end, you need to prove that you can do more than that. That part made me very insecure. Because it made me feel like ‘they’re booking me for the name of BAR’ and then maybe I can’t really do it, you know?
Yeah and maybe that they also want the same vibe as you had in BAR so they book you because your music is a bit like ‘the music in BAR’.
But yeah, what is ‘the sound of BAR’? That’s a good question. Because it’s very diverse I guess. So, should I play all those genres then? I don’t know!
Would it be possible to describe the sound BAR had? Wasn't there like a typical sound?
No, we had so many different nights! Was there a typical sound? No there were just the more progressive sounds and exiting artists that played stuff that we liked. You know, back in the days we had a bit more of a ‘happier sound’ that became a bit darker and harder over the last years. But that’s not because we didn’t like that ‘happier sound’ anymore. It’s just the way that our taste developed. You know, there are always trends and changes in music, and I always tried to pick them up as much as possible. I think that’s something you should always do as a programmer. When you are creating a program I think you should always try to reinvent yourself and look beyond your current taste. Just don’t be scared of change and keep an open mind.
Do you have the feeling that there still is a future for BAR as a club, or did you already move one?
There might be a future, but I'm not sure!! One thing's for sure, we still love to organize events and when there is more possible again/opportunities arise, we will definitely continue to do so in other clubs and countries. We keep our options open regarding coming back. But at the moment with the municipality and the number of permits that they give out, as in ‘none’, I don’t see it happening that quickly.
So BAR is not a closed chapter?
No, for me it's not! But maybe it is. Also, if there would be a BAR at a new location then it would definitely not be the same. I wouldn't copy something that we invented seven years ago. I would maybe use the logo and pick out some elements, but as I said, there should be space to reinvent yourself. You cannot do the same twice. You can’t put the same DJ’s up as you did seven years ago or have the same sound. Like, there should be space for development.
Photo by Mark Bolk