May 24 | 2022
Valentijn Kolf, also known as Millean., has had a passion for music for many years. Starting on the guitar he later moved on to piano but found that playing instruments alone didn’t satisfy his musical needs after which he moved on to composing complete electronic songs.
He continuously works on putting out more records to reach a bigger audience to party with. Right now he is releasing music with some of the biggest names in the house music scene.
With over 15 million plays on Spotify, a collaboration with KREAM and support by the likes of Tiësto, CID, Diplo and Afrojack, Millean. and his tunes are a force to be reckoned with.
Why did you start producing music?
It started more or less as a joke. I had a group of friends and we said to each other: “Shouldn’t we just be making music?” Soon enough everyone had downloaded FL studio, but most of my friends were already fed up with it after 3 days, but it stuck with me. Since then I’ve had some breaks from it but overall it’s something that stuck with me for life.
What kind of music did you make in the very beginning?
“Haha, Big Room, Dubstep, Trap, and Future Bass.”
When did you start making music in the style that you still make music in now?
I started with that only one and a half to two years ago.
How would you describe your music style?
As of now, club music that can also be played on mainstream radio.
What are your recommendations for producers who are just starting out?
Focus on being creative and coming up with cool ideas. You could for example sample a great track that people don’t expect.
I would recommend that instead of being purely technical like: “Oh I am going to learn everything about a compressor” which is also important in it’s own right, but the creative aspect is much more important because there are already plenty of high quality samples out there.
For example Splice, Loopmaster and Techhousemarket samples are high quality and can be used pretty much out-of-the-box.
What is the first thing you do when you’re creating a new track?
I asked this question myself to many a producer who I looked up to, and I was always very annoyed when they said “It’s different each time.” However, in practice this is actually how it is, it is different each time.
Maybe it’s better to say what I never do. I never start from nothing. There is never a time where I open up Ableton with an empty project and then just start making drum patterns and continue from there. So I always start with an idea, like a melody, chord progression, or vocal sample.
Sometimes I first make a beat, like an R&B beat, and then I write a top line for it together with a vocalist. After that, I would start a new project with this top line and go from there. I always start with something, like an idea or a theme. I always start with something.
How long does it take you on average to create a new track?
It differs a lot from track to track. For “What You’ve Done to Me” with KREAM Featuring Bemendé, most of the track was already in place after two sessions. I was able to do this because I was in a good flow when I started the track and it continued throughout.
What is your favorite part of producing?
Designing chords is definitely one of them. I also love when you write a cool top line, and you get to fill up an empty project with musical elements to support the line.
What is your least favorite part of producing?
Making bass lines.
Yes, it is just very hard to make a good bass line. I also really hate sustain bass lines that are built off of a saw wave with a cut off filter at 100Hz and then play G and G# notes. So I am constantly looking for ways to give the sound something special. That can be quite tricky, and because of that it is not that fun for me.
Is the bass line not the core of the track in the genre you produce in?
Yes, if your bass line isn’t good than neither is your track. On top of that, it’s hard to make an interesting bass line that isn’t too standard.
That’s true, but most of the standard bass lines work very well in the track.
I agree, but if I use them myself I usually do not get excited about the track, and if I’m not excited about the track I cannot finish it.
Speaking of bass lines, a popular topic of discussion among producers is how to mix the low end. What is your number one tip for this?
Use the right sounds. Don’t try crazy stuff with for example compression and EQ tricks. If you have a good quality bass and kick sound that work together well, all you need is a little side-chaining.
How do you know if a kick and a bass work together?
It’s a bit of ear training. If you want to develop this skill, try to replicate your favorite tracks with kick and a bass. Go through your sample library and try to find a kick and a bass sound that are really close to your reference track, and then try to process it to be as close as possible to the sound from the reference.
By doing this you learn what to look for, because at the start this is very hard to do. At a certain point you know “Oh I need this sample, and need to modify it a bit like this and then it will sound something like this.”
How did you come in contact with record labels?
My first record label was Trooper. Trooper is Remy Cooper’s record label. I took lessons with him for a while. After I stopped with the lessons we stayed in touch a bit, and he would check the music I was working on sometimes. I then sent him a couple of my songs. After listening, he was very excited about them, and wanted to sign them.
When it comes to Spinnin’ Records, I followed producer education here in the Netherlands, and the main teacher there had a connection to the publishing department of Spinnin’ Records. Through him my demo reached Spinnin Records. They ended up loving the demo, and that’s how I started working with them.
Goes to show that networking is extremely important!
Networking continues to be very important.“ Guys, E-mailing demo’s doesn’t work anymore, networking is everything.”
Is there a certain moment in life that dramatically changed your future?
For sure! I had two of these moments. One of them really changed my mindset regarding my career, and the other really changed the sound I go for when making music.
The first moment was when my first track got released under Remy Cooper’s label: Trooper. Remy has a great DJ network. Because of him, my track got to Sam Feldt. Sam really enjoyed my track and decided to include it in his DJ set which he played at Slam FM (The biggest electronic music radio station of the Netherlands).
When I heard my own track on the radio for the first time, I had a moment of realization where I thought to myself: “Oh shit, I think I can actually do this, I think I can really make this work, and I have enough talent and skill to make this my job.”
So it gave you confidence?
Yes, with producing at first I would always try to manage my expectations. I would remind myself that there’s a high chance that this was never going to work out. After the radio moment I thought to myself: “You know what, fuck it, maybe this can actually work out for me.”
From that moment on I only started working harder.
What about the other moment?
The other moment was when I was at a point in my life where I was making music all day, and I wasn’t really happy with it. I really wanted to make Tech House but somehow it just didn’t work out. One night I really had to head home because there was a curfew at that point due to Corona restrictions.
I had ten minutes left, and I figured I would just quickly mess around with some sounds in those ten minutes for fun. I got to work and ended up making a melodic bass line, which is a bit unconventional in TechHouse. At one point I wanted to delete it, even though I liked it, just because it wasn’t really Tech House, and I wanted to be a Tech House Producer/DJ.
In the end I decided to keep it, and worked on it for five more minutes. This new thing ended up turning into “What You’ve Done to Me”. From that moment on I started to realize that you should let go of trying to be someone, and just make whatever sounds good to you. That’s the genre I make now.
Let’s talk about your track “What you’ve done to me”. The track has over 14 million streams on Spotify as of today. How did you achieve this success?
So I wrote the track in two sessions, starting with the bass line which I just talked about. I then sent the track to the publisher of Spinnin’ Records with whom I got in touch with thanks to the networking I talked about before.
They loved it and wanted to pair it with a big act since they really believed it had hit potential. If you do something like that, the reach increases drastically. If you write a hit song yourself, it doesn’t have that much reach unless it goes viral on the internet or something like that. So they proposed to send the song to KREAM.
At this point I thought: “Ok that’s pretty cool, so let’s just send it.” Turns out that KREAM also loved it, so they were like, we’re going to tweak it a bit as well. The track ended up blowing up.
In addition to producing music, there are more things you do as a producer, could you tell us something about that?
I do some occasional mixing and mastering, but I don’t do ghost productions anymore. In addition to that, I teach at a school for producing. I went to the same school as a student before which is quite funny. I am also a feedback coach at Kick and Bass, and create somethings for Techhousemarket every once in a while.
Which artists inspire you?
Shall we do three haha? In no particular order: Chris Lake, Skrillex, and uh… the third one is quite tricky, let me think, uh… (two minutes later) Yeah that’s very hard to say. Skrillex is the person who really got me into music with his song First of the Year. Before that I only listened to pop but I can’t really call it listening to music either. When I heard First of the Year I immediately thought "This is sick."
When it comes to Chris Lake, Chris is simply the king, he really got me into house music. Apart from that there are many other artists that I think are dope but I can’t really put them alongside Chris Lake and Skrillex, so let’s keep it at two.
Apart from artists that inspire you, you must listen to music in your spare time right?
What do you listen to?
I do also listen to house but I mainly listen to funky neo soul music. I also listen to a lot of rap but usually the kind with a more chill vibe, not lo-fi but just something with a less aggressive beat.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Oof! Uh… I hope on a main stage somewhere haha!
I have no idea actually, I am just really working hard to earn my name in the industry, and between now and five years I do really want to achieve that.
I want my life to be producing and DJ-ing and that’s it. That’s probably the best way to broadly describe where I see myself in five years.
So you want to do what you love and make a career out of that?
Yes, and with that I hope to make people as excited about my music as I am about the music of artists that I go and see myself.
That’s an admirable goal! What can we expect from Millean. in the near future?
On the 27th of May I’m releasing a new track: Mysterious Feeling with Sven Fields and Black V Neck on Spinnin’ Deep. The vocals on the track are done by MarynCharlie again but this time I edited them a bit more so it sounds a little different.
Sounds amazing, can't wait to hear it. Thanks again for being here.
Thanks for having me!