We caught up with viral sensation MAU P for our latest Digital Cover photo shoot and interview.
DJ and producer Mau P – aka Maurits Westveen – had a decidedly unique introduction to music. Alongside being raised in a household of talented musicians (his mum was in multiple folk bands while his late saxophonist father wrote and arranged music for orchestras), the ground floor of his Amsterdam family home just so happened to be a recording studio. “My dad bought that house without thinking about having children and a wife,” he laughs.
Having so many different instruments around all the time certainly had an impact on a young Maurits, however he didn’t realise it back then. “As a kid, you don’t really process what is normal and what isn’t,” he says, adding that he would go and try to play the piano or bang on drums. “There was every sort of instrument that you can imagine.” Because of this, Maurits always said to himself ‘if I don’t find anything else I want to do in life, I can always just do music’. “It’s the classic story of doing what your dad does.”
But it was when he got into dance music by playing video games, aged 12, that his world opened up. “I would watch videos on YouTube of people playing video games and they always had dance music accompanying them,” he remembers; “Skrillex sort of dubstep songs”. Seeing these clips helped Maurits to discover a totally new side to music that he hadn’t yet found. “I was like ‘oh this is a different way of approaching music. I’d always just known instruments, but this was people processing sounds on a computer.” This realisation was the moment when he decided to try to turn the possibility of making music into “something serious”.
Aged 14, he started producing “the easy way” via GarageBand. “I was messing around with it – but at a really serious level, I thought at least,” he laughs, having made songs by using the loops that were included on the software. “I remember putting weird effects on the songs and I actually made four full tracks, called it an EP and put it up on YouTube. It sounded horrible, but I was still promoting and marketing it and trying to come across as a professional.”
As Maurits got older he realised that if he wanted to be serious about producing then he would need new software and to do his research. “I think that’s how it grew on me,” he says. Learning to DJ was “the extension of the stuff I made in the studio – because I’d make the songs but then, at the same time, I wanted to see how a crowd reacted to it in real time”. Even in his teenage years, Maurits would sneakily add his own songs into his sets “to see if the crowd would react in a different way compared to all the songs that were made by the big, professional guys”. For Maurits, this is the beauty of DJing: “you can test out stuff whenever you’re playing in front of a crowd”.
However, experiencing dance music beyond the computer screen wasn’t as easy as he perhaps hoped. His parents only allowed him to go to raves if he did well at school, which meant that, “because I wasn’t that good in school”, he didn’t go to a lot of parties. “They sort of locked me in because they didn’t know what I was going to do yet. They probably thought ‘we don’t know what his passion is yet, so let’s just keep him in school’,” he suggests.
In fact, the only times a teenage Maurits managed to go to parties was when he had been booked to DJ. Aged 16, he’d play field hockey parties; “it’s a big thing in the Netherlands”, he says. DJing at those was Mau’s “escape”, because he could party too. Two years later, Maurits started getting into techno after going to Awakenings festival; “that was my first real rave experience,” he says.
In the years that followed, he would make pop music, jingles for radio commercials and even a Christmas song for Disney. He also went on to tour the world and work with the world’s biggest EDM DJs under a different alias. However, his big break as Mau P came after he started sending his tech-house tracks to other DJs that he liked and thought were cool. “I had a lot of songs finished that had a similar sound, but we didn’t really have a plan to release it,” he recalls. Soon after, some of Maurits’ biggest heroes would start dropping the track in their sets.
It wasn’t long before he was receiving DMs, too, asking for Maurits to send the track over; these included Lee Foss, who set the ball rolling for the track to be released on his scene-leading label, Repopulate Mars. “At that point, I didn’t have anything so I was like ‘yeah, for sure, let’s do it’. This snowball just became so big, up until the point where I saw a TikTok of two DJs playing ‘Drugs From Amsterdam’ in New York, while I was on the beach during a vacation to Greece. It had just been posted and already had a lot of views so I kept track of it,” he says. 100,000 views quickly became five million and the track took on a life of its own. Then, the release had to be planned because everyone was asking when it was coming out.
Far surpassing his original goal of achieving two million streams in a year; it has since clocked up nearly 70 million streams on Spotify alone. “It was something you’d never expect,” Maurits says, reflecting on the song’s organic success. “But I guess that’s the thing with hit songs, you never think ‘I’m gonna make a hit right now’. When I made it, it was just me in the studio, having fun, and then it just exploded out of nowhere.”
Something even more unexpected followed: a remix of the track from dance legend Armand Van Helden. “I was at my mum’s one day and his number just popped up and he was calling me,” Maurits remembers, “so I picked up the phone and he was such a nice guy. He was just telling me how he loved ‘Drugs From Amsterdam’. I was really nervous, but I got to ask if he wanted to remix the track.” Much to Maurits’ surprise, Helden agreed and asked him to send the stems so he could “try something. I couldn’t really believe that this guy who made all these classic songs wanted to remix one of my songs,” he adds. “It’s a big honour.”
When it came to delivering his second solo single, Maurits says he “cheated” a little – only as ‘Gimme That Bounce’ was another of the tracks that was in the original folder he had sent out. “Once all these DJs that had the folder had played ‘Drugs From Amsterdam’ for a while, they started seeing what else was in the folder. And then everybody started playing ‘Gimme That Bounce’ and realised ‘, oh shit, he’s got another one’!” ‘Gimme That Bounce’ is available via Insomniac Records.
In just half a year, Maurits’ life has changed dramatically. “Everything that’s happened feels pretty surreal,” he says, talking to tmrw from his home in Amsterdam. “I wake up and think ‘, I bought this house because of my song’.” Maurits’ recent tour of North America was also “a lot of fun”, he says, adding that his meme-loving fans keep track of whatever he posts on social media. “At my shows they always put their phones up with funny stuff to try to get my attention,” he says, citing a very specific example: “someone on Instagram posted saying that I look like Squidward from SpongeBob SquarePants in that one episode where he’s handsome and has the good features and good cheekbones.” Since re-posting the comparison on his own story, he’s been met with a sea of handsome Squidwards staring back at him when he DJs, naturally.
The US crowd, in particular, is “really there to rave”, Maurits says, adding that whenever he’s allowed to extend his DJ set and play longer they will stay until 5 or 6am. “I’ll end up playing for four or five hours and we will go on a musical journey together. Sometimes during longer sets I’ll just freestyle and test certain routes. It’s not just me playing and showing people ‘hey, I’m DJing’, I’m actually feeding off whatever the crowd is feeling. It’s so much fun.” When it comes to his track selection, Maurits plays a mixture of “everything that I’m into, to show people the music I like and the experiences I’ve had”.
Now that he’s gigging internationally, Maurits has begun to achieve one of his main goals: putting Amsterdam’s club scene on the map. “It’s really progressive and at the forefront of whatever is happening with dance music,” he says, adding that minimal and deep tech-house is the on-tend sound there. “It sounds like the stuff I’m doing, but it’s a little bit more mysterious.” In Maurits’ opinion, he thinks techno has never been as it is now, adding that “there are a lot of young kids who are into really hard techno.”
Having gone from playing house parties to proper clubs in the city, he says “I know what people my age are into and I’m just trying to show the rest of the world, wherever I play. I’m trying to take that sound from Amsterdam to the rest of the world,” he says, adding that in the US, especially, “there’s not a lot of people representing the sound that I’m trying to represent. It’s really fun to play all these songs that people haven’t heard before, but they love them.”
He’s also recreating the energy of Amsterdam’s nightlife scene with his own radio show turned party, XXX, which he is taking to Miami Music Week. “We get to bring our own production and decide everything that happens on the night,” he says. Looking ahead, Maurits and his team are “putting a lot of time into making it bigger and bigger”. Crucially, though, he says “I don’t want to just make it about me. I want to have all these other artists who I’m really into that can help to fill the whole night in a logical way”.
Aside from playing shows, Maurits has been spending the majority of his time working on new music. “The folder was basically me testing out one sound so I’m done with that folder now,” he says. “I’m working on a lot of new stuff because I just want to keep evolving and try to see where this sound can go next,” he says. “To see what else there is to explore in that sort of universe.” Though remaining tight-lipped, Maurits also teases that he was asked to do a remix for “one of my favourite artists ever… he’s one of the dance music hitmaker legends, but I can’t say his name!”
Looking ahead to future releases, Maurits wants to “combine genres so that I bring something new to house music. Even though it’s been around for so long, I still feel like it’s always evolving and that’s the cool thing about it,” he says. “I’ve been into that kind of music for so long that I know what’s going on.” After so many years working his way up, Mau P’s place at the top of the dance scene is thoroughly deserved.
More images from this exclusive MAU P x tmrw shoot will soon be available in Volume #46.