It's storming in the Netherlands, with winds up to 140km/h and torrential rains but that's not stopping the Steppin' into Tomorrow crew! We are on our way to Nijmegen for our first Sonic Spaces interview outside of Amsterdam. We talk to Marijn (aka Mario Marini from Marini Records) and Menzo about Paak, a listening bar with great cocktails, food, and even a record store.
Who are you? Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your connection to this place & music?
Marijn: I am a record dealer from Nijmegen. Previously I had an online-only store but now we have a pickup point here at Paak! It's a place to discover & enjoy music - with good food and cocktails to go with it.
I was asked to join the crew because vinyl culture is a big part of the venue and I am kind of an authority around Nijmegen if it comes to records haha. Most DJs around here buy records from me once in a while so opening a physical space made a lot of sense.
I’m also partly responsible for the programming. Together with Davy Brandts (from Draaikunde, a local DJ school), we create a concept and then talk to the team to see if everything fits together or if anyone has better ideas. So there's lots of room for creativity and everyone is involved! We are trying to get some resident local DJs and hopefully support their growth & career by giving them a platform at Paak.
We’re still figuring out a couple of things. How to navigate the bookings and find a balance between locals and people from other cities. Timing-wise (in the day and the week): when do people come by, when do they eat, drink, and when are they ready for a boogie.
Menzo: I own a sneaker shop called 'De Bijsmaak' down the road. In the basement there, Draaikunde has their DJ school. Our online shop was going really well so we needed the basement space and this place showed up at the right time.
We are trying to create what we were missing in Nijmegen, current nightlife in Nijmegen is dominated by studentcafés and club nights. We wanted to create a more diverse place to enjoy music, good company, nice drinks, and more.
Tell us about the sound system / booth please!
Marijn: We have a Danley Soundlab sound system (like in Doka). We chose the Danley Soundclab System because, in our opinion, it comes closest to a HiFi setup. Two SH50’s and a TH mini 15 sub are powered by MC2 audio amps. Because the space is quite big, we have a delay line with two SM60’s. We choose a delay line so we have the freedom to do live music with the same setup.
For now, we don’t have speakers in the back because it is nice to have a place to retreat from the music a bit. Maybe this will change in the future, though! Now during the summer, we have the terrace open, with small speakers outside to give the passers-by a small taste of what they can experience when they join us inside.
The Taula 4MR mixer is our temporary mixer. We have a Bozak as a backup. We’re looking into getting an Alfa Recording System. It’s also a subjective thing and depends on the music you play and how you prefer experiencing it. The Bozak has a bit warmer sound. We tried different ones and rented an Isonoe and an E&S to compare. The Taula is nice but we are looking for something higher end. It also needs to work well with the sound system. There are no guidelines, you have to hear what works best.
What was the inspiration to start this place?
Marijn: The main inspiration is to enjoy music in the best setting possible, preferably with your friends. In Nijmegen, this didn't exist yet. We have some places that are focused on drinking and/or dancing but not a place focused on listening.
We got some inspiration from the Resident Advisor x Asahi Super Dry 'The Rise of Listening Bars' series. Those places take sound quality and design really to the next level! We were very involved in the music scene in Nijmegen (as well as artists & designers through the tattoo shop) so we knew it’d be received well.
What’s in a name?
Menzo: Apparently Paak is old Dutch for heroin/hash and although there is a connection between heroin/hash and the time period most of the music we play comes from, that's not why we chose it. A name also doesn't necessarily need a meaning, it can also just sound right.
What’s on the menu?
Marijn: Olivier and Iris are behind the menu. The menu is focused on comfort food, mostly vegetarian options. Like the delicious sweet potato pizza and the roasted cauliflower meal salad. Since last month we introduced ‘Paak’s Meal’, every day the chefs Iris and Olivier get the chance to introduce us to new recipes and ingredients, to keep it spicy!
Our mixologist Troy (Dutch IBA champion '18) is an integral part of the team and takes care of the cocktails.
Can you tell us a bit about the design of the place? It looks beautiful!
Anne Propper designed the place and did a great job. From the record bins to the vintage furniture, she had a clear vision and it shows in the design.
There are lots of details: the wood the bar is made from comes from trees in the city. They had some sort of fungus which now looks super beautiful and it's a more sustainable material as well.
A lot of work went into the place! 4.5 months of blood sweat n tears - and a lot of love! Big shoutout to everyone who helped. We’re very proud of the result.
Where do you see the place go in the next years?
I hope we can create a hub for DJs, music lovers, and allround creatives. With a variety in program, we try to offer an experience of dedicated listening, exploring, and dancing.
For the DJ scene in particular we hope to be a nice meetup place, a place where they can meet like-minded people. Where they can take steps in their career and where they can evolve their musical knowledge.
What makes this place unique?
We keep accessibility in mind a lot. Our communication is in English, entrance is free, and the team is diverse which makes for a diverse program as well. It all needs to fit together nicely.
This space needs to be something we can all enjoy together, as a crew of like-minded people.
Paak is located on the Bloemerstraat 23 in Nijmegen and is open Wednesday to Sunday from 5pm. Check out their website here .
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