We caught up with Claus “Nic” Terhoeven and Stefan “Bossi” Bossems a.k.a. Cosmic Gate not long after their IDMA Best Male Trance nomination. Our mission was to find out three things: which changes in production and promotion they've seen over the years, what advice they’d give their younger colleagues, and what keeps them from “divorcing” after spending decades together.
Congratulations on your IDMA nomination. You’ve been on the scene for more than 20 years, and still regularly get nominated for awards and invited to play major festivals. What is the “secret sauce”, when it comes to making music that people love?
Thank you very much! It still feels unbelievable to be nominated, and for a Grammy too, it’s amazing. If there's any “secret” to it, it’s simply that we keep doing this job for the very same reasons we did from the very beginning: making music that touches us, and not resorting to tracks or genres that would be “hot” or “trendy”. That’s not us. Every new production means new challenges for us, we always want to achieve slight changes, some variety to our albums, also because routine would be boring. So after, say, a year and a half of producing such singles “organically", we’ll put out a “Cosmic Gate-sounding” album with a signature overall vibe, which at the same time feels like a step forward in our discography.
“As musicians, even more as electronic music artists, we feel change is important. You’re similar to a tech company. Standing still is the first step back, so push your limits.”
Your tracks and visual aspects of the show address connectedness, unity, and all energy flowing as one. Staples of Trance music, really. How much of this is “showmanship” for your gigs, and how much is your personal belief, a message you’d like to get across – especially in times that favour individualism and competition over emotional connection?
Yes, individualism is praised these days, but a good show brings unity. Sometimes people breathe at the same moment during it, smile at the same time, the crowd is as one. This Trance magic and energy is what makes it so unique and outstanding. The “Trance family” thing is very real. People are not only connected through music, but through interests and values that go way beyond clubbing. Trance lovers are very peaceful and social, and in these tough times will surely stand up and take care of others, not just themselves.
You've said many times that you don’t prepare much for your sets, because you need to “read the room” first, to feel the vibe and play accordingly. What do you think makes a better musician – the talent to improvise on the spot, or the ability to perfect your tracks in the studio? In a way, emotional intelligence or IQ?
Good question – we think it takes both. Feeling the crowd is necessary for a DJ, and so is tweaking your tracks in the studio to work on the dancefloor. We approach producing our tracks like we're preparing for our DJ sets in advance. That way, when we feel the vibe of the crowd, we almost immediately know which tracks to select, and which tracks could switch the energy to another level. If all goes well, some improvisation and good production, combined with emotional intelligence, ends in a good set.
Which country has the best Electronic and/or Trance scene?
Hard to say, as things can change so quickly. Argentina was one of our favourite places to play, but their scene suffers because the bad economy hit everyone hard, and we haven’t been there for way too long. Now, Europe seems to be back into Trance again.
Which big shifts in the last two decades stand out the most to you, and which ones do you like best?
We've seen two huge shifts. First, the production. We began in full-on analogue studios, and thanks to digitalisation, are now working with a Macbook only. It can have as many options and power as a fully equipped million-dollar studio, so that’s pretty amazing.
“These days anyone can make music. Software is affordable, tutors can be found online – so let’s do it!”
The second huge shift, maybe the biggest difference since the beginning of our career, happened in marketing. When we started, each new single or album was announced through a magazine, on billboards, etc. Now social media rules everything, and a lot of acts can fully market themselves and their music through their own channels. No record company could reach the fans as well as today’s artists can, and that’s pretty amazing.
In your previous interviews, you mentioned your personalities balance out nicely when you’re making music. What still surprises you about each other after all this time and gigs?
After a literal 20-year “marriage”, there might not be too many surprising things anymore, but this job still keeps challenging us and keeping us sharp. New things still happen all the time, be it on the road or during a set, even if one would think everything should be pretty routine by now. By improvising on sets, we still can surprise each other, or even ourselves.
Finally, merely speculating on your name: could you imagine your music in a sci-fi movie/series soundtrack?
What many may not know is that our “Exploration of Space” was actually used in a super long sequence in Jackie Chan’s “The Tuxedo”! Sure, our music might not be “made” for movie soundtracks, but it might fit some director’s taste and vision. Maybe more will come, let’s wait and see. :)
Cover photo: Artist’s archive
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