In present day, Darude remains one of dance music’s most influential stars. At the age of 24, during the height of the trance boom of the early 2000’s Finnish DJ / artist / producer Ville Virtanen created the milestone single ‘Sandstorm’ under his pseudonym Darude. The track went on to become one of the biggest selling dance singles in the history of EDM.
Now almost 20 years later, Darude is back with a great new release ‘Surrender’. We caught up to discuss his latest release, speak about his daily life, and the EDM industry.
Hey Darude, thanks for taking the time to speak to Bassview today about your new release Surrender on Armada Music.
Thank you for having me!
I want to understand how you describe your music, and how its developed over the years; that got you to this stage.
This is always the most difficult question for me, there’s no short answer… I make dancefloor aimed energetic emotional dance music. Or something. I think my ‘Moments’ album continued the more and more varied range of tracks my 3rd ’Label This!’ album already started, but not totally forgetting the trance many people associate me with. It’s been a natural development for me. I like good music, be it whatever genre, as long as it moves me in some way. That’s why I didn’t try to ”EDM-ify” everything on the ‘Moments’ album, but to go where the music itself and the production process was taking me. I also let a couple of tracks that I started making quite a long time ago keep their own, dare I say older, sound, because I thought that they are what they are, I started making them for a particular reason at a particular time, so they should sound like that, too. Production wise I basically knew with some tracks that I wanted something more or different than where I ended up myself, so I reached out to for instance my Finnish buddies Lope & Kantola, whose tracks I’d played a lot with great reactions in my DJ sets, to get some of their sounds and production angles to spice up mine, the same with Tom Fall, who co-produced the name track ‘Moments’. All in all, I think if you’d give it all a listen, you’d hear similarities in all my music since the beginning, regardless of the exact genre. After ‘Moments’ I’ve continued the collaboration kick, first in July 2017 releasing ‘Singularity’ with Aussies Zac Waters and Enya Angel on Bourne Recordings and just now in the beginning of February with ‘Surrender’ with Ashley Wallbridge and FOUX on the newly relaunched Garuda label.
In the right environment and state of mind, I love some deep hard stuff, monotonous techno, various type of house, instrumental, uplifting & vocal trance, some pop, some r&b and hip hop, some rock, metal, punk… I don’t care what it is, as long as music moves me, physically or emotionally, it’s good music and I think very many people put music in unnecessary boxes and limit themselves doing that, and cause unnecessary friction, especially in social media being elitist pricks shitting on anything they don’t like.
You've begun your Tour in the states, and then head to Canada, Europe and back to the USA in the coming months; how does touring compare now to when you first started touring (How have your hobbies, family life, priorities, changed or unchanged)
When I started touring I wasn’t a DJ, I started producing music first and took it on the road doing live shows with synths, samplers, effect unit, hardware sequencer, MC, dancers, live VJ, sometimes singer(s) and percussionist(s). In 2003-2004 I started officially touring as a DJ, as I’d sort of on the side had learned to beat match and mix, and since then most of my gigs have been sold as DJ gigs. I do a couple of things live on the side here and there, though, because I have that background and technology today allows way more and different on-the-fly manipulation than using “just” CD-players or vinyl before that.
My touring itself is not THAT different, but as I’m older and I have a wife and two kids, you don’t usually see me going too crazy and heading to after parties and such. I’ve been there, done that, and I rather leave the hangovers to others and get some work done the next day, and get as much rest between the gigs as I can, so that when I get home, so I don’t have to take a week to recover, but to be able to jump back being a dad and husband.
Crowds everywhere are equally amazing as they’ve always been, and these days even more knowledgeable of music, so DJs have to create unique tracks and remixes of their own and to have their A-game on everywhere, every night, to impress people and to stand out.
Can you tell me about an average day in your life when you are home and not touring?
I get up in the morning, wake up our son, if he’s not already up, then let our dog, Italian greyhound called Texas, out to do his biz, then I’ll make some hot cereal & slice some apples for the boy, send him to school, make myself & the wife some coffee and I’ll hit the studio for 3-8 hours, taking a lunch break at some point. In the late afternoon I’ll take our son to hockey or piano lesson, try to act like a regular dad and hubby. Despite my not-so-usual job our family is a very regular family doing family things and hanging out with our family friends. And at the moment we’re sleeping a little less, as we have an 11 week old baby in the house, too! :D
This song "Surrender"; tell me about the creative development of the track and how did the collaboration process with Ashley and Foux play out?
Ashley & I have known each other for a couple of years now online and over the years starting way before that I’ve played a good bunch of his track as well as other Garuda family tracks in the same vein, so when we met in San Diego when I played at TwitchCon 2016 and went to see him afterwards smash it at Omnia, we hung out and got to talking about collaboration, I was more than happy to do it. Some time later Ash sent me this uplifting and empowering vocal bit sung by FOUX that I fell in love with and as he already had a basic idea of what to do with it, he took the first turn in production and made a great first draft with his signature synths and bassline and such. Some time later I happened to play near him in the UK and we did a studio session together, messed around with the arrangement and build-up, some sound choices and just like that the track was pretty much done! BTW, there’s no dull moment when in the same room with this mad man, whether it’s about production or just hanging out! I had to hold on to my seat trying to keep up with him, not fall behind or not to physically fall of the chair from laughing too hard! :). We exchanged further ideas and tweaks over Skype and email the following weeks and then Ash sent me the stems and I tweaked the final mix a bit before sending it to mastering. Boom!
You’ve seen the progression of the electronic industry in your own country, but also the active scene in the west; so what does that ultimate success look like to you as a producer/DJ who's actively touring for decades?
Ultimate success to ME looks like what I’ve had the pleasure and good fortune of doing since 1999; to be able to make a living out of something I love + spreading good vibes and the positive message of dance music all over the world.
In terms of dollars, I half jokingly say that my initial success was like a decade too early, as the industry grew and became a huge business and there are numerous examples of that now in the Forbes millionaire DJs list! Good for them, though, and it’s just showing how big the demand for this music and the stars of it is. To the complainers I say… Does a DJ “deserve” $100k for spinning an hour of music? From a technical point of view not any more than a small bar DJ, but there’s something that made those 30k people show up, so as in any business the laws of supply and demand dictate a lot of things, whether you and your taste agree or not :)
Now that you've experienced the music scene for a while, in the present day, what's the most exciting thing you do?
Especially with today’s technology it is amazing that I can literally start a track or a mashup when I jump on a flight in Europe, get the first version done by the time I land in the US, put it in my DJ software Traktor and check the mixing spots in the car to the gig, play it that night mixed and mastered, fresh new music from me to the crowd. That directness and the possibility of getting stuff done and that feedback immediately, not weeks after getting something done, having it mastered and pressed on vinyl, then playing it, that is exciting. Even more exciting in my job, though, is meeting people around the world who share the love of music and having fun!
I have to ask, do you still play Sandstorm during your sets, and do people love it just as much as they did back in the 90's?
I do play it, various versions, depends on the spot in the set, and the crowd that specific night. It seems people still go nuts every time I play it, even if I say it myself, which makes me very happy! BTW, ‘Sandstorm’ was released in Finland in October 1999, so not THAT many people heard it in the 90’s ;)
You've understood what it takes to make it in this industry, who are some of your favorite producers you are currently enjoying yourself that others may enjoy too?
My Finnish brothers Super 8 & Tab, Lumïsade, Tom Fall, Audioventura, Max Millian & Orkidea to begin with, + Ashley Wallbridge, Ferry Corsten, Orjan Nilsen, ilan Bluestone, Luke Bond, Zac Waters, Uberjak’d to name some… and Armin, Paul van Dyk, Mark Sixma, Giuseppe Ottaviani, Ben Gold, there are so many names, old and new.
Thank you for your time today Darude!