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Sunday 14th, May 2006
First State
Updated: Thursday 28th, May 2009

Dutchmen Ralph Barendse and Sander van Dien are the 2 producers behind the 'First State' project. Their first track 'First State' saw a release on the Black Hole sublabel 'In Trance We Trust' at the end of 2005. Besides this project they had some other successful solo projects as well. In 1999 Ralph's first record 'Alpha Breed - Beyond The Moon' came out on Deal Records (Combined Forces). In the beginning of 2001 Ralph created a track which was a bit different from the Alpha Breed style. The track was noticed by Black Hole Recordings and it was released in July 2001 as 'Ralphie B – Massive' on 'In Trance We Trust'. The track became a huge success. It was slammed by all the big jocks: Tiësto, Paul van Dyk, Ferry Corsten, Armin van Buuren, Judge Jules etc. After this release many Ralphie B remixes followed for artists such as Tastexperience, Dance Nation, Misja Helsloot and Dario G. A project with a somewhat harder, tribal style was finished and released summer 2002 as 'Midway - Monkey Forest. With success again! Ralph focussed on his Midway guise and released another record in March 2003: 'Midway – Inca'. Also, a Midway remix of 'Solar Stone - Solarcoaster' was released on Lost Language with a lot of success. The new Midway track 'Cobra' will see a release very soon! Sander van Dien released the track 'Terms' under his own name in 2004. Besides that he made remixes of tracks like 'Midway - Amazon' and 'Thomas Bronzwaer - Close Horizon'. Trance.nu caught up with Ralph and Sander in their studio in Dordrecht (NL) for an interview.

Trance.nu: How and when did you guys meet each other?
Ralph: That was on a birthday of somebody as far as I can remember.
Sander: True, we were on a birthday and there we have met. We started to talk a bit about music and so it started!
Ralph: And later on Sander did a remix for one of my tracks, ‘Midway - Amazon’. I didn’t asked for that, but he thought that it would be nice. I really liked it, so I gave it to Black Hole and they wanted to have Sander’s remix on the B-side. So that’s how we met.


Trance.nu: When did you guys decided to team up together?
Sander: That was after the remix that I did for ‘Amazon’. We started to work on some productions together and the result is that we have a few tracks finished now.
Ralph: I had a couple of unfinished tracks and when Sander listened to them he told me that he really liked them a lot. Too be honest, I didn’t wanted to do anything with them anymore. But when I heard Sanders opinion, I was like … Hmmm, they’re pretty good indeed, so then we decided to finish them both. So we’ve made the first ‘First State’ and because that went very good, we decided to work together on other tracks as well. We’ve put our studio’s together and moved it to Sander’s place. The neighbours here don’t complain, so that’s easy, hahaha!


Trance.nu: The first release by the 2 of you was the track ‘First State’. This one was released under the ‘First State’ projectname. What’s the meaning behind this name?
Ralph: The name means something like ‘first class’, or ‘number one’, like a number one position. And it also means something else. When you’re searching on the internet, you will find that the first state in the hypnosis, is the state that you’ll get in trance. So we thought that that would be a nice name for our project.


Trance.nu: So you two really thought about it before you came up with the name of the project?
Sander: Yes, we think about all our projects and titles. So it’s not that we’re just picking names out of a dictionary or something.


Trance.nu: The first ‘First State’ track was very successful. It was on popular compilations such as ‘In Trance We Trust 11’ and on the ‘A State Of Trance Yearmix 2005’. When can we expect a new ‘First State’ track?
Sander: The follow up is already finished, but at the moment there is no further information about where and when it will be released to be honest. So, we’ll have to see in the future!
Ralph: What we can already announce, is the title of the track. ‘Evergreen’ will be the new ‘First State’ track. We hope that it will get played as first a bit more underground. And on a certain moment, it will be released of course! It’s a track that has a bit the same style and structure as the first ‘First State’ track. What we try to do now, is try to make the ‘First State’ name and project big and famous. Our new website (<a href="http://beam.to/firststate" target="_blank">http://beam.to/firststate</a> or <a href="http://www.ralphie-b.com" target="_blank">http://www.ralphie-b.com</a>) is online already and there you can find a lot of information about us and of course also about our productions and remixes. So we want to keep the ‘First State’ name in the picture.


Trance.nu: The ‘Solar Stone’ track ‘Eastern Sea’ got a ‘First State’ remix in 2005. Can we expect more remixes under the ‘First State’ name in the future?
Ralph: Yes, I’m sure we’re going to do some remixes under the ‘First State’ alias, but for now there aren’t any remixes scheduled. Remixes take a lot of time and we decided to focus first on our own projects and releases. Sander: We already got some requests to remix tracks, but we all turned them down. That was because we didn’t liked the tracks that much ourselves. And besides that, it takes some time to do a remix. It will take us about 2 weeks to make a good remix.


Trance.nu: Are you guys going to work together on other projects as well?
Sander: Yes, you can expect a new project by Ralph and me as well in the future. At the moment we have some tracks finished already, but we are thinking about a new project name now.
Ralph: We’re trying to release tracks under different project names every now and then. We have the ‘Midway’ project, which is more experimental with some nice elements and influences of the past. The ‘First State’ project are pumping and banging tracks. And our new project will be a trance project, with the real, beautiful trance melodies etc.


Trance.nu: Can you already tell us something about the titles of the tracks for the new project?
Ralph: For the new project we’ve finished 2 trance tracks. The first one is called ‘Frozen Tears’ and the other one is ‘Iron Eyes’. The projectname will be ‘Ralphie B vs Sander van Dien’ and they will be released through a label of United Recordings. We don't know which yet.

Trance.nu: Solo you both are also pretty active. Ralph, we know you of your projects such as ‘Ralphie B’, ‘Midway’ and ‘Alpha Breed’ for example. I’ve heard that there will be a new ‘Midway’ track called ‘Cobra’ very soon. What can you tell us about this one?
Ralph: The new ‘Midway’ track is a bit more experimental. There is a sort of a snake sound in it, so that’s why it has the name ‘Cobra’. Johan Gielen already played it at Trance Energy as his first record. And besides that Armin van Buuren and Tiësto are playing it as well. ‘Cobra’ is a bit different when you compare it with the other ‘Midway’ tracks, but it’s still a self willed track. If you listen carefully, you will hear some Commodore 64 sounds in it, some old synthesizers etc. So it’s not the standard JP-8000 trance sounds with a standard melody.
Sander: When you listen to the break, you will hear that the track is based a bit on the old work of Jean Michel Jarre.


Trance.nu: So the new ‘Midway’ track was done by the both of you together if I’m correct?
Sander: Yes, I have the pleasure to be part of the ‘Midway’ project from now on. And ‘Cobra’ is the first one we did together.


Trance.nu: In 2001 the track ‘Ralphie B - Massive’ was released on the ‘In Trance We Trust’ label. In 2002 a double 12” was released on Paul van Dyk’s ‘Vandit’ label with remixes by the Filterheadz and Mirco de Govia. Will there ever be a follow up of this track?
Ralph: Yes, there will be a follow up for sure. But I didn’t produced a track yet that I think that’s worth to be a follow up as a real ‘Ralphie B’ track. I did produced a few tracks, which sounded like ‘Massive’, but then I got the reaction that it was too much the same and I didn’t wanted that. It’s really funny, I mean, there is only 1 ‘Ralphie B’ track, but everybody seems to know it. I think that the follow up has to be at least a track of the same value as the first one.


Trance.nu: Do you have an idea how successful the ‘Massive’ release was?
Ralph: Well, yes! Especially if I check the amount of money that I earned with it, hahaha! I also have a nice story about it, which I can share. In the beginning when I just finished ‘Massive’, I did send the track to Black Hole and ... they rejected it! A few weeks after, I did a second try and I asked if they wanted to listen to it again. Then Tiësto picked it up and he started to play it in the UK. Then it became big! Paul van Dyk also picked up the track and he even putted it on his ‘The Politics Of Dancing’ compilation. Then it was signed to the Vandit label and also to the Ministry Of Sound label Data Records. So yes, I know that it was a very successful track.


Trance.nu: After ‘Midway - Amazon’ it took a while before we heard something about you. Why was that?
Ralph: Well, there was a small problem with a company that should take care of the payment of my tracks. And I must say that this was not very good for my motivation at all. It was not Black Hole, but another company that I had a contract with. It took very long, but finally they’ve paid me, so it’s all cleared up now. But I was still busy in my studio, so in the meantime I’ve made a lot of productions. None of them saw a release back then, so at the moment we’re busy with updating some of them, so they will see a release later. So it was quit for a while, but I was still busy in the studio.


Trance.nu: So we can expect a lot of new things by the 2 of you in the near future?
Ralph: Yes, for sure! We keep on producing together from now on. In 2005 we released 1 track and now we’re already busy to release more tracks, so that’s a good thing! It all goes very well, since we’re working together now and everything goes a lot faster. Two people always know more then one, we both come with ideas and we also learn from each other of course.


Trance.nu: Sander, in 2004 you released a record called ‘Terms’ under your own name on the ‘Twisted Pulse’ label. Can we expect a follow up of this one soon?
Sander: Absolutely! I think the follow up will be finished soon, so it wont take long before it will see a release.


Trance.nu: So you’re both going to take care of the production for the ‘Sander van Dien’ tracks as well?
Sander: Yes, we’re going to work together on the project as well.
Ralph: We just finished the ‘Sander van Dien’ remix for a track called ‘Benja Promoteus’ (formerly known as 'Yamin - Almathea'). This one will see a release on the Armada label ‘Coldharbour Recordings’.
Sander: The style is different as well, a bit typical for the ‘Coldharbour’ releases; a deep bassline, percussion, wide effects etc. You can hear a sample on our website.


Trance.nu: And are you busy with other projects as well?
Sander: No, Ralph and I decided to work together on all our projects. It works perfect for the both of us this way, so I’ll think we keep on collaborating together.


Trance.nu: You remixed ‘Midway - Amazon’ and also ‘Thomas Bronzwaer - Close Horizon’ already. Can we expect new remixes made by you as well in the future?
Sander: I think that we’re going to remix the B-sides of our own projects in the future. So for example a ‘Sander van Dien’ remix for a new ‘First State’ track and so on.
Ralph: This way you’ll get a different vision on a track. Like Mr. Sam is doing as well with the Mojado tracks for example.


Trance.nu: Are you both working fulltime as producer or do you have another job besides this as well?
Ralph: Sander is producing fulltime. I’m not a fulltime producer myself, but I have to admit that I’m putting almost all my spare time in producing music. I have a normal daytime job as well, which is a very good one. I would be stupid if I would give up that one now. The music industry changed a lot, so if I will ever become a fulltime producer, some things have to change for sure. But you’ll never know what the future brings.


Trance.nu: When did you both started with producing music?
Ralph: It started when I was a little kid. I started to play piano and later on I bought myself a small keyboard. Then I got a simple computer with a soundcard were I did some things on. Later on I did some things with those tracker programs and then I started with midi and synthesizers and on a certain moment I finished a track, which was signed and released.
Sander: When I was a little boy, I got myself an 8-bit Casio keyboard with a sampler. I was hitting that sampler the whole day long. Those sounds were pretty annoying, so that must have been a nice period for my parents, haha! Later on I started with guitar lessons and that’s how it all started.
Ralph: And the funny thing is that we both can’t read notes! Haha!



Trance.nu: What was your first release ever?
Ralph: My first official release was ‘Alpha Breed - Beyond The Moon’ on ‘Deal Records’. And it was played immediately by DJ Jean, which was a big name then, with the Madhouse stuff.
Sander: Mine was the track ‘Devoid - Cremona’ on the ‘Twisted Pulse’ label. It wasn’t a big hit, but I had some good support from some DJ’s in the UK. Graham Gold seemed to love it and some others as well.


Trance.nu: Which is the production or remix of yourself were you are the most proud of and why?
Sander: I think that ‘Frozen Tears’ is one of the best tracks that we worked on together. I really hope that this one is going to do very well in the future. In fact it’s always that your latest production, is your best production. I’m sure a lot of people are saying the same, but it’s just the way it is.
Ralph: The productions i'm proud of would probably be Massive of Monkey Forest. Those made me make a name in the scene. The remix I'm the most proud of is the Midway remix for Solarcoaster!


Trance.nu: Which other producers do you like a lot yourself?
Ralph: I really like Gabriel & Dresden a lot myself. Their ideas and productions are awesome.
Sander: Andy Moor and of course Leama and Moor. I really like Rank 1 a lot and Sander van Doorn also has some great productions.


Trance.nu: Are you both also DJ-ing besides producing?
Ralph: Yes, we have plans to start DJ-ing in the future, but for now we decided to focus first on our own releases. But in the future you can expect us with DJ sets as well. Sander is already busy, since he’s also the one who’s working fulltime as a producer, but I also want to join him with the DJ-ing part of course. In the past I really didn’t had time for it, but now I do, so those are plans for the future.
Sander: I think that it’s an amazing feeling to play your own productions in front of a big audience, so you can see perfectly how the people react on your tracks. It’s a great way to see why you are producing music and what it does to people. At the moment we’re only doing some DJ sets for radio stations and we have plans to set up our own radioshow at DI.fm, but that’s not 100% confirmed yet.


Trance.nu: What kind of equipment do you use in the studio?
Ralph: We have a Virus C, a Virus B, Nord Modular, the Nordrack, Waldorf Pulse, the Nord G2 and we have a JP 8080 as well. (If we ever decide to make something cheezy happy
Sanders: We’re doing all the mixing digital. We really hate analog noises, so we prefer to do things digital as much as we can. Software wise, we’re using Reaktor a lot. We’re making our own synth sounds, so we have unique sounds.


Trance.nu: What is (besides this interview of course! grin2) the highlight in your career so far?
Ralph: That was the moment when ‘Massive’ was doing very well everywhere around the globe! It was really cool, because I didn’t expected the success at all. I just made a nice record and I never had the feeling that it would be such a big hit. When I look to more recent moments, I think that it was the moment when Sander and I were at ‘Armin Only’ in Ahoy. Armin played ‘First State -First State’ and the B side (‘Sacred’) as well during the party.
Sander: The moment when Armin dropped ‘First State’ was amazing! We’re really happy with Armin’s support.


Trance.nu: Do you guys have other hobbies besides music?
Sander: Digital techniques and music! Haha, yeah, music is my biggest hobby for sure!
Ralph: Same here. All my spare time goes into music.
Sander: Oh, and blond girls as well! Haha! I also like dark haired girls, but I prefer blondes!


Trance.nu: How do you see yourself in 10 years? Sander with a blonde maybe? Haha!
Sander: Haha, yeah, that would be nice! I hope that I still can make a living out of music, because that’s my biggest dream. Music is my thing and as long as I can do that, I’m happy!
Ralph: I also hope that I’m still busy with producing in 10 years. Of course I don’t know yet, which direction the music goes to, but as you look to 10 years ago, there isn’t really changed a lot. There is still a lot of dance music, so I’m not really worried about that. It would be cool if I could do some A&R things myself. Picking up new tracks and stuff like that.


Trance.nu: What can we expect of the 2 of you in the near future?
Ralph: The new ‘First State’ EP will be released and also ‘Midway - Cobra’, which is coming out on the ‘In Trance We Trust’ label. Our brand new project with the tracks ‘Frozen Tears’ and ‘Iron Eyes’. I’ll guess those will be released somewhere around September.
Sander: A new ‘Sander van Dien’ track probably and we also have plans to produce a new ‘Midway’ track as well soon.
Ralph: We have a lot of ideas. We even have the ideas already for the new ‘First State’. So the one that should be released after the new EP. And we’re planning on doing the DJ sets of us. And if you want to be one of the first people to hear our new productions, you have to listen to those sets of course!


Trance.nu: Thanks a lot for your time and good luck in the future!
Sander: Thank you too and it was nice that you have visit us!
Ralph: Yes, thanks a lot and keep up the good work!


Written by:
Twan van Loon

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