If you’ve ever had a beer at Biergarten, you might’ve noticed the blue shipping container overlooking it. Decked out as a radio broadcasting studio, it’s home to Operator Radio, an online radio platform dedicated to alternative and cutting-edge music in Rotterdam and beyond. Jeff van Hoek, also known by his DJ moniker ‘Jeff Solo’, is one of its founders. “The station exists because of and for the community,” he says.
Operator Radio has been broadcasting for two years now. How did you start?
“We were inspired by Amsterdam’s Red Light Radio and London’s NTS, online radio stations that are really feeling the pulse of the scene in those cities. Looking to do something similar here, we pitched our idea to the folks at Biergarten, who were interested in adding a creative ‘layer’ to the area. They were immediately drawn to it and sponsored and placed the container. Internet agency Mangrove (now named ‘We are you’) built our website. The people from ZUS helped us with renting an office space and record store space (which is run by Pinkman Records) under the condition that we put in work to contribute to the vibrancy of the area and city. We often organise events around certain releases, and we do live DJ streams here. You can say we exist because of the community and the people who believe in us.”
Tuning in to Operator Radio, what can listeners expect?
“It’s a mix of music and talk radio. Our resident DJs play a monthly set, and we invite a lot of upcoming talent to the studio as well. It’s cool that they can use the station as a stepping stone for future success. By now, international DJs who are touring the Netherlands also know where to find us; they often approach us asking if they can come play a set. Our talk shows discuss anything from music to theatre, to architecture, food and more.”
What gives Operator Radio its Rotterdam flavour?
“Our resident DJs and all the people who run the station. We also often collaborate with organisations within the city. We do events with the Kunsthal, the Dutch Fotomuseum and festivals such as the International Film Festival, Motel Mozaique or North Sea Round Town. Since 2017, we’ve also been broadcasting live from Blijdorp Festival, one of the best festivals in the city. This year not from a radio studio, but from a greenhouse with a big dance floor. All of our shows can be found and accessed with a few mouse clicks, so that people from outside the city can quickly get an overview of what’s on here: which DJs are making waves, what the scene is like and where to go to listen to live sets.”
How would you describe the music scene in Rotterdam, in and out of the studio?
“There’s a lot of techno, house and electro here, with long-running label Clone as a great example, but also ‘younger’ labels such as Pinkman that are world-renowned. There are also a lot of young and really talented kids who make exciting contemporary hip-hop, r&b, funk and soul. The scene is getting better, more diverse, and more fun, with many collaborations. Many cool events take place in the west of the city, such as Keilecafé, where we recently hosted an outdoor club night, or at creative sanctuary Weelde. I also like Mono in the Zomerhof Area, where I will be hosting my own club night starting August 2019. It would be nice to have more locations outside the city for events and festivals, though.”
What’s the future for Operator Radio?
“At the moment, we can run the station thanks to all the sponsoring and support we get from the community and all the young volunteers who help out in the studio. Our dream is to support the station by running it from a building that also houses recording studios, a café and event space, a record store and offices. It would be a new creative hub for the Rotterdam music industry. Rotterdammers are known to be quite tenacious, so it’s bound to happen.”