Mike Kivits isn’t your average DJ/producer. A veteran of some 30 years behind the turntables, the man best known as Aardvarck has spent three decades defying conventions, mixing things up and successfully overcoming personal demons. His story, soon to be published in an autobiography offering advice to those battling depression, is nothing less than extraordinary.
Now based in the Asian paradise of Bali, Kivits continues to divide his time between DJing and music making. Outside his native Netherlands it’s the latter he’s best known for, having built up a bulging discography over the last two decades. While lesser producers would focus on one or two key styles, Kivits has released everything from floor-filling house and techno to broken beat, jazz, jungle, ambient and electronica. Given his now legendary status in Holland, it’s unsurprising that he’s recorded for many of the country’s most acclaimed labels, including Delsin, Djax-Up Beats, Rush Hour, Kindred Spirits, Music For Speakers (an imprint he had a hand in founding), and Voyage Direct. Soon, he’ll also be appearing on Dekmantel, another Dutch imprint that has been wowing critics in recent years, and has an album for Skudge in the pipeline.
It’s DJing, though, that remains Kivits’ greatest passion. “You just give and take them higher,” he enthuses. “It’s fun. I do my best always, and am always happy when I’m DJing.”
He’s been doing this longer than most, of course, and has the scars to prove it. He bagged his first residency in 1985, in his home city of Den Bosch, where he’d join the dots between soul, funk, hip-hop, disco and B-boy electro. As the 1980s progressed he began adding the new sounds of Chicago house and Detroit techno to his repertoire, earning more residencies and a number of regular guest spots at Amsterdam’s legendary Roxy Club, mostly at Joost van Bellen’s infamous Wednesday night parties.
As a musical magpie, Kivits was not content with simply playing the latest house and techno, and spent much of the late ‘90s and early 2000s “avoiding the 4/4 beat”, instead playing a mix of jungle, broken beat, trip-hop and breaks. During that time he extensively travelled the world, playing alongside good friend Steven De Peven with lauded eccentrics Rednose Distrikt.
Since moving to Bali a few years back, Kivits has got his passion back for house and techno. Now, he enjoys playing sets that make connections between contemporary productions and tracks rediscovered in his vast collection of early house and techno. “I love the warm feel and raw energy of early house and techno,” he says. “So many of those records still sound fantastic. It’s great to see the reaction to these records from a new generation of dancers.”
More importantly, he’s now happy. “I spent 20 years battling with depression,” he admits. “I’ve never been happier – I’m better than ever. I’ve lived that life, now I have a new life. I changed my surroundings to help myself, and it worked.”
This newfound happiness is reflected in the quality of his club sets, which have rarely been better. While rooted in 30 years of house and techno, he often finds time to throw in tracks from his other musical passions – a trait that marks out the greatest DJs. “House is about the four to the floor beat, and you can get in and out of that easily if you know music,” he says. “If you keep the energy up, you can play anything.”