Heavy Vibes: A Conversation About DJing With Rising Dutch Selector mad miran
mad miran is a Rotterdam-based DJ associated with Clone and Red Light Radio.
I first met “mad” miran in a secret bunker in the Hague in the summer of 2017. It was 6AM at The Crave Festival’s after-afterparty—the staff party. Matrixxman had brought the official afterparty to a close at nearby venue PIP and daytime was threatening.
Cowering in the darkness of the bunker and drinking beers with the team behind the festival, District25, I met Miran. She had been managing the West Coast Sound stage. She was warm and welcoming, someone you instantly bonded with at an afterparty or otherwise. I’d spend the next six months bumping into her on dance floors throughout the Netherlands. She was a raver, and I was too. As it turns out she was also a DJ, a secret one, burning with a desire to share her music collection with the world but too fearful to actually mix in front of anyone.
Miran has only been DJing publicly for 18 months now, although she looks and sounds like a seasoned vet. That’s because she‘s spent years quietly honing her craft in her bedroom, not daring to tell even her closest friends. “I didn’t want to tell people that I was playing because of opinions,” she confesses when we meet again, this time over beers on a dazzling Wednesday evening in Rotterdam, the city she currently calls home.
She has just finished a shift at Clone, a dream job for the 23-year-old music obsessive. Wearing a tie-dyed t-shirt with Positive Energy written across the chest and talking like she can’t get her thoughts out fast enough, she exerts a kind of comfortable exuberance that’s quintessentially Miran.
Our talk soon turns to the anxieties that initially held Miran back from DJing—and still plague her today. “I’m really inside my head sometimes.” She’s experienced a meteoric rise at a relatively young age and is learning to find the balance between her private and newfound public life. She projects confidence when you talk to her, or see her behind the decks, but she has struggled with self-doubt for most of her youth.
This past year DJing all over Europe, at clubs like De School (where she’s a resident), Salon des Amateurs, Griessmuehle, and festivals like Strange Sounds From Beyond, Flow, Waking Life and Atlas Electronic in Morocco, has helped. “Meeting people outside of Holland, who know me and listen to my sets and tell me stories about when they listen to my sets, makes it easier to stand there and feel more confident about what I do.”
Miran might still be DJing in her bedroom now if it weren’t for her friends Stefan Hagesteijn and Lounes Doulache, who perform together as Twice Upon A Time and Vox Supreme. Hagesteijn and Doulache have a radio show on Amsterdam’s Red Light Radio called Traumgarten (“dream garden”) where they invite guests to soundtrack their dreams. Not long after I met Miran in the bunker in the Hague she went to Morocco with her father. Together they climbed the 4,000 meter high Toubkal mountain—the tallest peak in the Atlas mountain range. On the descent she got a text from Hagesteijn and Doulache begging her to guest on their next Red Light Radio show. “I was still high on the mountain vibes. I thought, fuck it, I’m going to do it!” And on September 2017 she made her DJ debut at last. “For the Traumgarten set everybody came to the studio, eight or nine people,” Miran recalls, “and afterwards we were all hugging each other like I had just given birth. They all knew how bad I was feeling about it.”
The set itself teeters between the melancholic and the serene as it propels through a nebula of otherworldly electronica. It serves as a fine prelude to the DJ Miran would become, where mood is the compass and genres are like putty, made to be kneaded and reformed. “Genres are disturbing. I play vibes,” says Miran, which has resulted in progressive 3 hour opening sets running the gamut from ambient to acid techno, and nonlinear drum & bass on a rooftop in Marrakesh. In each instance Miran frames her tastes within the context of a night, but then has the gumption to step outside of stylistic bounds. “A drum & bass track can be more or less energetic than a hip-hop track, hip-hop can be more on the dance floor than drum & bass,” she explains about her DJ approach. “I try to experiment with vibes, make a fluent vibe line.”
Miran’s Atlas Electronic set was one of my favorite drum & bass sets of 2018, which I followed enviously at home during the live Facebook stream. It’s one of the few Mad Miran club sets that exists online. Miran is careful not to give too much of herself away just yet. “I want to surprise people on the dancefloor.” She also doesn’t want to—and should not be—consigned to any one genre or style. Miran’s Red Light Radio shows, which started in May 2018, are the best place to hear her musical range. There have been four editions so far.
Red Light Radio and District25 have been instrumental in coaxing out the DJ in Miran. Quintin van der Spek from Strange Sounds From Beyond has been the other. Miran’s first club gig happened, unexpectedly, in November 2017 during a SSFB showcase at Bar for REC. Festival in Rotterdam. She was invited to play the SSFB Operator radio show earlier in the day and was badgered into playing a club gig with the crew afterwards. I remember seeing Miran walk into Bar that night with a look of fear and elation streaked across her face.
She caused a riot at SSFB Festival at NDSM docklands in Amsterdam last summer when she dropped “Lekker”, an old track from Noisia, into her Sunday early evening set. In the SSFB Facebook video you can see van der Spek bobbing around at the side of the stage and the rest of the crowd unanimously losing it. “That video haunts me,” says Miran when I bring it up—because, thanks to that video, I rediscovered the track and subsequently played it on my own Red Light Radio show. This is the effect Miran has: she exhumes discarded or forgotten tracks and throws them into unexpected contexts, causing us to fall in love with them anew.
Miran’s sense of duty to the dance floor is what makes her a fantastic DJ. She adapts herself to the night and to the crowd, all without losing her essence. She was sneaking into clubs well before she was meant to, and on the floor she’s a dancer not a talker. Now she’s crossed over to the other side of the table, she’s always mindful of where she has come from. “I think of myself on the dance floor, how I would feel there as the public because I was always the public,” she says. It’s an honor she takes very seriously. “I’ve been clubbing for so many years, now I finally have a chance to change the dance floors with my sound.”
Perhaps she is too mindful sometimes, too aware of the responsibility she now has. Miran is more confident DJing these days, but the anxieties are still present, looming beneath the surface. She’s thankful for mentors like Serge from Clone and the rest of her extended DJ “family”—her “brothers”—for helping her navigate through all the other stuff that can muddy the enjoyment of playing records for people. “It makes me fear sometimes if I am doing it right. But what is right?” She’s also learning to manage her own stress, to be her own therapist and life coach. “Now I just try to write everything down when I’m stressed, to analyze myself and my thoughts, and to remember that music is the most beautiful thing in my life.”
Moving to quieter, hardworking Rotterdam away from the buzz of Amsterdam has enabled Miran to settle into a routine and to focus on the next thing: production. “But like DJing, I want to do this, and I will do it when I am ready.” She’s currently messing around with borrowed gear, “curious” about how she’s going to create music from her vast range of interests. Her idol Luke Vibert is the barometer, someone who can write across genres and still have an unshakable signature.
It’s getting late and Miran has to pack for the weekend. Another busy summer schedule is about to start, which includes festival debuts at Lowlands, Best Kept Secret and The Crave in the Netherlands, the latter performing on the stage that two years ago she managed, as well as Primavera in Barcelona, The Peacock Society in Paris and Dekmantel Selectors in idyllic Tisno. Last year she was managing all the bookings herself, this year she’s joined an agency––one of the things she’s learnt from “exploding” in 2018. What else has she taken away from her incredible and chaotic breakout year, I ask as a closing remark.
“Balance is the key. I am Miran, I am mad miran, but I am in control of my life. When you’re not in control of yourself, then you’re not in control of what you want to do. I know what I want to do, and I want to do more than what I do now.”
Published July 25, 2019. Words by Holly Dicker, photos by Elizabeth Claire Herring.