Interview: Sneijder

Nina Ristivojevic

January 24th, 2024

This Irish DJ/Producer has established himself as one of the most in-demand artists in the world of trance music. Andrew Liggett, known as Sneijder, has gained immense popularity with his chart-topping productions and frequent appearances on prestigious compilation albums released by renowned names and labels. What sets Sneijder apart is his distinctive sound, characterized by a blend of uplifting and tech trance, infused with the infectious energy of 90s rave music. What is also magical about Sneijder’s production are his exceptional remixes that dominated the music platforms but also earned a special place on the most-listened radio shows. This includes the well-known A State of Trance. It’s impossible to forget his remix of Ben Gold’s “Stay”, the track that keeps thriving on Beatport and Spotify, and still evoking deep emotions and stirring tears among trance enthusiasts.

From a childhood game in his bedroom, he developed a passion for music that he shares freely with others. Sneijder ventured across esteemed labels like Armada, Black Hole Recordings, Subculture, Kearnage, Spinnin’, FSOE, Vandit, and more, where his presence still remains strong. But In 2016, driven by his forward-thinking vision, Sneijder took a bold leap and established his very own label, Afterdark, a haven for innovative tech and trance sound.

Luminosity Festival once again provided a perfect opportunity to converse with well-known professionals in the trance music world. At the time of this interview, last summer, Sneijder’s second artist album “BRING THE NOIZE” was on the brink of release, prompting me an exploration into the background of this project. Our discussion encompassed his talents as both a DJ and producer, delving into his remixing skills and uncovering the secret ingredients contributing to his success and uniqueness. Andrew also shared his perspectives on the new generations of producers and the evolving landscape of genre tags. I aimed to cover these aspects and more in a concise interview with Sneijder. Feel free to keep reading, you might discover something new!

Nina: You began as a DJ like many others in the industry, but over time, the importance of production joined. This transition became a defining chapter where you revealed your true passion and capabilities. Now, the question is, do you find more joy on stage, with its vibrant energy, or in the studio, where your creative visions come to life?

Andrew: It is a tough question. At first, I was all about DJing. But I soon realized that just being a good DJ wasn’t enough. You need a brand, and getting into music production is crucial to boost your name internationally. So, I started making music more as a business move than a personal dream. It helped me stand out and do what I love—DJing. Now, I enjoy both because I can create my own unique sound and play it. It took a while, but I’m passionate about both now.

Nina: You need to share your music to get feedback and know if it’s good. Right, so you did so many amazing remixes. This is not always an easy job to do, especially when dealing with already popular original tracks. But I am curious, when you come across a certain track, what inspires you to do a remix?

Andrew: A good portion of the remixes I’ve worked on were commissioned by people who sent me a track, asking if I’d like to remix it. So, I didn’t always choose them myself. However, my approach to remixing has always been to make the track entirely my own. Many remixes out there simply add a personal touch to the original without changing much. I aim to transform the track into something completely different. I’ve declined some remix opportunities because I didn’t believe I could surpass the original. I could take the remix fee and do it, but I want each remix to hold meaning. The tracks are highly personal to me, and nothing leaves my studio unless I’ve poured 100% into it. It must reflect my sound and my identity. It’s always a challenging process, but I want to ensure each remix is meaningful and uniquely mine.

Nina: How do you gain the confidence that you cannot just meet but surpass audience expectations?

Andrew: I don’t see it as a confidence issue. When I listen to something, I think, “Alright, I can work with this.” Whether it turns out the way I hope is subjective. Some people might like it, while others may not. So I am always a bit nervous about how it will be received. Fortunately, all the remixes I’ve worked on have ended up doing quite well.

Nina: Speaking of remixes. When you first played your remix of Ben Gold’s “Stay,” which ultimately became more popular than the original, did you have a sense that it would ignite such a remarkable response and evoke such intense emotions among trance lovers?

Andrew: Yeah, I had a hunch that it was something special when I completed it. I played a test version a few times, although it wasn’t recorded. The reactions assured me it would do well. Plus, working with Ben, who has good musical knowledge, he loved the samples I sent him. I knew it would be a good tune, but I didn’t expect it to become as big as it did. It resonated with many and left a lasting impact. So, mission accomplished, I believe.

Nina: Considering the immense popularity of your remix, we don’t even need to mention its success on platforms like Beatport and Spotify.…

Andrew: Surprisingly, that track didn’t hit number 1 on Beatport; it reached number two, which is a bit crazy. (Laughs) During its release, there was a lot going on, and it didn’t top the charts. However, I don’t consider it a failure just because it didn’t reach number one. I measure the success of my tracks by their lasting impact, who plays them, and fan reactions. While having a number one on Beatport is good, it’s not the only benchmark for success.

Nina: Your passion for intense trance music is well-known, shaped by your upbringing with a hardcore sound. What makes your style unique is the blend of uplifting and tech trance, with a distinctive touch of 90s rave that has become your trademark. Despite industry changes, you’ve stayed true to your musical identity. Impressive! I’m curious to hear the backstory.

Andrew: I think the secret ingredient for me is that I was a DJ first for so long so I know what works on the dance floor. My music is always dance floor-oriented, designed for playing as a DJ. It’s not really for casual listening, except for the vocal tracks. I don’t envision it being played in the car or in a relaxed setting. It’s always aimed at those energetic dance floor moments, and that perspective is something I consistently bring to every track. So, the secret ingredient in my music is always energy, with a focus on the dance floor, making each track dance-oriented.

Nina: That makes total sense to me. And what about genre tags? Is it good or bad to call something trance or techno, or it doesn’t really matter what genre some track represents?

Andrew: Honestly, I don’t buy into the whole idea of genre tags. When I started as a DJ, I mixed everything from breakbeat to psytrance. The concept of categorizing music really took off with the introduction of download stores. They needed to organize the vast array of music available so that fans could easily find what they were looking for. That’s when genre tags came into play. However, when fans say, “This isn’t trance,” or “That is trance,” it’s just music to me. I’ll listen to anything, and if it evokes an emotional response, then that’s all that matters.

As for defining a trance, it’s subjective. To me, a trance is a feeling, an emotion. If you can capture that, whether it’s in a techno tune, a hardcore tune, or a traditional trance tune, it doesn’t need to fit into a specific category. The abundance of tags can be confusing for people. This current era, especially in the last year, feels refreshing. Artists are doing what they want, and the constraints of top record labels defining what trance should be are fading away. Now, young producers and DJs are bypassing labels, sharing their work on platforms like SoundCloud and Spotify, and letting fans decide its identity. This shift is liberating because it allows fans to choose what they want to listen to based on the DJ’s style, rather than being dictated by record labels.

For me, music should be about letting fans decide. If they enjoy a DJ because they play a certain type of music, let them follow that DJ. The same goes for other DJs with different styles. Music is diverse, and I don’t like restricting myself. My music is a mix of everything—some days it’s hard stuff, other days it’s a trance. I believe this openness should apply to everyone. Let the fans decide what they like, and let DJs and producers create without unnecessary constraints.

Nina: Do you believe that managing your own label, as you’ve been doing with Afterdark since 2016, is not only the best but also the easiest way to release your music and make it accessible to a wider audience?

Andrew: I think I started the label with the idea of exploring more experimental sounds and having the freedom to release tracks relatively quickly—sometimes within six weeks of completion—without waiting for scheduled release slots. Working with the flexible and supportive team at Black Hole has been crucial. Arny, Mark, and the guys are incredibly encouraging and essentially tell me to do whatever I want.

After Dark is, in a way, an extension of my personality. I’m not fixated on names or a specific sound. If an unknown artist sends me a track and I like it, I’ll sign it, provided I genuinely want to include it in my sets. I won’t sign a track I won’t play. So, it reflects who I am and what I consider good music, even though it’s inherently subjective. While I’ve declined some tracks that went on to be successful, my personal preferences don’t necessarily determine their quality. It’s a subjective process.

Nina: Finally, the long-awaited release date for your second artist album, “BRING THE NOIZE,” has been announced as August 4th. Congratulations on this exciting news! The title itself is fantastic, by the way. :D We’ve already been treated to a sneak peek of a few tracks from the album, and choosing a favorite is impossible—they’re all incredible. Support for your music has been massive so far. You worked on this album for 2 years right? Why did we wait this long for it? :D

Andrew: I began working on the album during the lockdown, and it felt like an inappropriate time to release anything until things returned to normal. During the lockdown, I took a break from everything, spent less time in the studio, and immersed myself in listening to old sets. It was a journey back to the roots of why I fell in love with electronic music, revisiting the sounds and moments that inspired me.

The album serves as a collection of work that not only reflects the influences that shaped my past but also paves the way for my future sound. It was a reset, a return to basics to reconnect with what inspired me initially. Fortunately, having a two-year span during COVID allowed me the luxury of time. I took my time, ensuring each track was unique and compelling. There’s a variety on the album, including faster tracks, vocals, and pieces inspired by my musical journey over the past several years. I’m genuinely excited about the release, and I hope everyone enjoys it.

Nina: If my memory serves me right, your initial appearance at Luminosity was in 2013, and you did a B2B set with Will Atkinson, isn’t that correct? Can you recall that particular moment? It’s quite remarkable that, a decade later, you are essentially a resident at Luminosity.

Andrew: That’s correct. It’s been a decade, and I’m still going strong! (Laughs) To be honest, I can’t recall that specific set; it was quite a while ago. Will and I share a similar taste for trance, so I believe the set went quite well. It’s great to continue playing for Bo and the team after all these years. I’m grateful for their support of me and my sound, and I hope to be here for many more years to come.

Nina: When you reflect on your early days at Lumi and compare it to your sound today, what do you see as the main differences? Furthermore, where do you see the future of music heading?

Andrew: The festival has made tremendous strides, not just in scale but also in organization. My hats are off to the team, and I have immense respect for what they’re doing for the entire Trance community. It feels incredible to be a part of it. As for the evolution of my sound, I can’t really predict it. I don’t confine myself to a specific style; I go with my instincts. What I created a decade ago and what I produce now is an extension of my personality and how my musical taste has evolved and refined over the years.

I believe the quality of my productions has significantly improved. While I always had good ideas, execution has become much better, and I can produce music more efficiently. I truly enjoy this journey.

Nina: But where do you see the future of music heading? Generally speaking, not just within the realm of the trance genre.

Andrew: That’s the beauty of trance. It’s an open book and it keeps evolving all the time. What’s particularly beautiful about the genre is the constant influx of new individuals with fresh ideas, breaking molds, and defying rules or labels. The current state of the genre is refreshing, driven by people doing their own thing, and introducing new ideas and identities. This perpetual evolution is what makes me believe it will continue indefinitely. I hope to remain a part of it in the next 10 to 15 years. Over my 15 years of production, I’ve witnessed various genre changes, from EDM to psytrance. I believe there will always be something new, and the key for a producer is to adjust their sound to stay current while staying true to their roots. Take, for instance, one of my heroes, Giuseppe Ottaviani. He has constantly innovated himself, and everything he produces carries his distinct stamp. I aspire to be like that, maintaining my identity while adapting to the evolving scene. This is my goal in the music industry. I have immense respect for artists like Giuseppe, John O’Callaghan, and Bryan Kearney— not just as incredible producers but also as like-minded individuals who aim to contribute to the scene while creating the best music possible and staying true to their identity.