Darude on Changing EDM Culture, New Projects, and Johnny Monsoon [Interview]

Finland DJ Darude took over the 2000s with his hit track Sandstorm. Even till this day, DJs are still playing the track at festivals, shows, and clubs. With the success of his earlier tracks, Darude released multiple debut albums. Being one of the most influential DJs in the EDM scene, Darude has been touring for over 10 years in North and South America to selling out shows worldwide. Without a break in his career, Darude is back with a new track Singularity, combining his new and past sounds. We had the opportunity to ask the legendary DJ a few questions (again!) about his view on the new EDM scene, upcoming projects and more. Check out the full interview below.

You’ve been DJing for a very long time. What are some things that newer and younger DJs are doing that you enjoy seeing?

Darude: I like the open-mindedness of many young DJs and producers. They can create something that older-schoolers might be too rigid to even think of and that’s a good thing. That said, in general, I’d recommend younger people in the industry to look into both the people and tech that were before their time, because that teaches you to respect the groundwork someone has done before you.

What are some of your dislikes in the rising EDM culture?

Darude: I’m not excited about the new “attention span of a gnat” – generation where in wider scale music is consumed and forgotten in an incredibly short cycle and in smaller practical scale in a DJ set a lot of people are used to and want very high impact and quick mixing and don’t (know to) care about slower building of moods and ambiences. Around the time I started DJing, it was common to mix 10-12 tracks an hour and now, even when I don’t think I mix TOO short, I often mix 15-17 tracks an hour and there are a lot of DJs who cram 30-50 drop-to-drop-to-drop tracks in an hour. Of course, there are skilled DJs who do that with style and purpose, but when the fast mixing becomes the purpose itself, uhmmmm, well… My mom told me to keep quiet if I don’t have anything good to say *wink*

Your new song “Singularity” just came out, what makes this track unique from the others in your opinion?

Darude: Haha, I don’t know, I haven’t thought of it like that… Zac’s style is different from mine, so combining the more my kind of melodic layered breakdown with the vocal with the very banging drop creates a nice contrast for sure. I’m not sure about claiming it to be a unique snowflake, though, as it’s electronic dance music containing similar elements to other tracks in the same ballpark! Of course, Enya’s lyrics are original, our chords and melodies are not ripped from somewhere, so there’s that!

How did the collaboration with Zac Waters come to be?

Darude: My Australian booking agency and Zac’s management are connected, and when we were prepping for my Australian tour I told my manager to put out feelers if there’d be anyone interesting interested in a studio sesh while I’m there and that’s how we connected. Zac and I had a great day at the Ministry of Sound studio in Sydney! We talked ideas and listened to each other’s demos and sounds first. I actually did very little production wise in our initial session, I just sat back and let Zac be in the driver’s seat! I’m a Logic guy, Zac uses Ableton Live, which I know a good bit as well, so we decided to use it. He is so freaking quick with it, it was natural to have him be in charge of the actual manual input and such. Also, we chose as our starting point something he’d prepped earlier and then we started discussing and trying out ideas on top of that.

In this first and only face-to-face session, we decided to go rather hard and straightforward in the drops and have a melodic trancy breakdown and build. I had this guitar like synth melody that I’d been saving for a good while, and it fits perfectly in this track and got even better when Zac re-did it with a real guitar. After that session, we continued online exchanging files via a common Dropbox folder and conversing via Facebook Messenger. Zac put the basic arrangement and instrumentation together and I had my hand in the production and mixing, too, especially with the vocals and final mix and adding a bit of ear candy here, a synth layer there.

While definitely not an afterthought, Enya Angel’s sweet vocals were added in later, as initially, the track was an instrumental with some small vocal samples to spice it up. The vocal makes the track way more user-friendly and softens it just the right amount, gives it a real story and meaning, I’m very happy how it all came together!

I love the shared responsibility of a collab, as in most cases, like here, it leads to less stress about getting stuck or having doubts about something. When you let go a bit and let the other one tell you what they think should be done, the project goes forward all the time. Zac’s style is not something that comes to me naturally, so doing a track with him forced me outside my usual ways of working, which is refreshing and obviously opens my mind to new sounds and ideas and gives me a chance to learn new things, too.’

You managed to somehow keep your unique sound throughout the many years that you have been in the music scene, from “Sandstorm” to “Singularity”. How do you do that?

Darude: I don’t know. I guess I have some go-to sounds and techniques I gravitate towards automatically. I also don’t try to straight up copy what the newest hot thing is, but I’ll perhaps ingest and filter that stuff when listening to other people’s music and when finding tracks for my DJ sets, find my likes and dislikes and apply that stuff in my own way on my own productions. Having a hit record and somewhat long career creates a complicated challenge: a lot of people expect something that sounds like the hit record, but if I’d just copy that, they’d be like “he’s repeating himself”… And if I’d try too hard to sound like something or someone else current, I’d be accused of copying… So my middle ground is this somewhat natural process of gaining new skills and views over the years and taste in music changing or developing, thus making me create something new that is relatively current but builds on everything I’ve done earlier.

What attracted you to trance instead of the other genres of EDM?

Darude: It’s not really trance vs. others… I haven’t considered myself a trance-only producer pretty much ever, though of course my sounds early on were on that side of things. As long as I’ve DJ’d, I’ve played various kinds of house, occasional breaks, even dubsteppy sounds in addition to trance in my sets. I’ve always made “just music” in general without thinking of genres, but just melodies, chords, vibes, energy. With my skill set and somewhat limited instrument playing skills compensated by programming and sequencing, it translates to electronic dance music, trance even. But like on my 2015 ‘Moments’ album, there’s house, there’s my older style trance, a chill track, festival style bangers and such, no genre limitations.

Any new music and other projects coming out soon that fans should be looking out for?

Darude: I’m on somewhat of a collab kick currently, as in addition to a solo track or two I’ve got collaborations being planned and worked on in various phases with Uberjakd, tyDi, Orjan Nilsen, Tom Fall and Funkagenda to name some. No release dates or other specific public plans set yet, but looking at releasing at least two tracks this year still.

When are you planning on coming back to the pacific Northwest?

Darude: Soon I hope! Always good times there!

Any last words to add?

I love Johnny Monsoon!

If you want to see Darude live, he is currently on his Endless Summer Tour. Check out the dates and grab your tickets!

What is your all-time favorite track from Darude? Let us know in the comments below!

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