DARUDE, THE FINNISH STAR DJ TOURS NORTH AMERICA
REPORTER: TOMI HINKKANEN – ATLANTA, GA
PHOTOS BY MICKEY McNULTY AND TIM WILSON
Ville Virtanen, aka Darude, is best known for his 2000 hit single Sandstorm. He has sold over five million records. For the past decade, Ville has been touring the world, doing DJ sets in more than 40 countries. Ville has been ranked as one of the top 100 DJ’s in the world. He has moved to Georgia with his lovely wife Michelle. They have a 2 year-old child. The family lives in an Atlanta suburb, Georgia, where Ville works in his home studio and collaborates with artists around the world with modern techniques.
Q. Tell us a little about your background. How and when did you get into music?
I’ve always been interested in music, been listening to dance music for years, started making my own music 1996 after some friends of mine showed me what they were doing with just a computer and some freeware programs. I realized that I could make my own music and decided to have a go at that. I bought my first PC and started fooling around with it and losing too much sleep… 😉 I never thought about ‘making it big’, I was just making music because I liked it so much. I tortured my friends with my early production and sent some demos to magazines and radio stations in Finland in ’97 and ’98 and also to some record companies and got some good feedback, but nothing more. I made music on my own and also had two separate projects with two of my friends. On a Wednesday night in August ’99 after his DJ set I gave my later-to-be-producer, Jaakko “JS16” Salovaara, a demo CD (my third one for him actually) which included my original demo of ‘Sandstorm’ (and some other tracks of mine) which got Jaakko’s attention. All I wanted was his professional opinion of the tracks and some tips about better sounds and things like that. What I got was a phone call a week later. We met the same night in the same club in Turku, Finland, and agreed on working together. We spent two or three days in his studio and the next Tuesday Sandstorm (plus his JS16 remix) was ready as you hear it now on the single. It took a few weeks to get the track mastered and to get the singles from the plant and to get it on the Finnish Dance Chart. After three weeks it was number one and stayed there for 16 weeks. The things snowballed from there and I started touring in Finland, then Scandinavia, Germany, Holland, France, Spain, UK, US, Australia, all over the place.
Q. There is a funny story about how you got your stage name Darude. Could you tell that to us?
When I was studying my first year in Turku Polytechnic we had a party at my classmate’s apartment. We were eating and drinking and playing records and I guess I was feeling really, ummm, “happy” as I played one favourite track of mine of that time, ‘Rudeboys’ by Leila K, several times in a row. In short, it’s because of that my friends started kind of mockingly calling me ‘Rudeboy’. I started using that as a nickname online and as my artist name when I started making music. Later on it got shortened to ‘da Rude’ (I didn’t wanna be a ‘boy’ 😉 which was then put together by the graphic artist when the single cover for my first single ‘Sandstorm’ was made; it looked visually better like that so… ‘Darude’.
Q. When people think of musicians they think of a band with live singers but you work differently. Could you shed light on this to those who don’t know about it?
I’m the first one to admit that I’m not the greatest live instrumentalist on earth… My music-making is based more on my ears and my sense of style and sounds, and I work in the studio with computer software and synthesizer and effect unit and other gadgets. I DO compose, though, all the time, every day, even if there’s a general misconception that “that techno music” can be made automatically with a push of a button”… Not true. In a way, an electronic musician can be compared to someone composing for the whole symphonic orchestra, as the producer/composer is often making everything from drums and percussion to bass to lead instruments, their harmony counterparts and everything in between, singing (demo) vocals + they usually have at least partly studio engineer’s and producer’s hats on, too. I usually start from somewhere, whatever it is at the time, a rhythm, melody, a bit of lyrics, and start building from there, one Lego at a time, finding and creating bits that fit together and eventually will create bigger combos and parts of the final full track.
Q. You stuck gold with the hit single Sandstorm. What gave you inspiration to compose it?
In the beginning I tried to learn stuff from other peoples’ tracks, and now later on I still get kicks and inspiration from other people’s great music. The vibe is the key thing, the right mood. Sometimes it might be a track, sometimes it might be a single sound or a drumloop that does it for me. With Sandstorm it was a certain club in my hometown where the DJ played good uplifting trance. I went there 2-3 nights a week just to listen to the music and practically ran back home, switched on my gear and started to make music. After one of those nights and early mornings ‘Sandstorm’ got the basic form and sound it still has.
Q. Every four years or so you release a new studio album. Do you work alone in your studio composing the songs?
I’m usually alone in the studio, but I collaborate with artists around the world all the time via the internet. I make a basic track frame and send it over as separate instrument etc files, they work it further, send it back and I take it further again. We go on like this a couple of times, and every now and then we chat via email, AIM and Skype until we’re happy and get to the finishing part. The same goes for vocalists; they often have their regular studio, or their own one, where they record vocals and they send them over and I put them in the project, edit, mangle, and ask for more lines, like variations, ad libs, harmonies, or altogether new melodies, until we’re both happy.
Q. There is a whole secret world out there of star DJs who travel the world, playing in clubs. Teel us about your gigs: where do you play and who is your audience?
99% of my gigs these days are DJ sets, consisting of up to 50%, or sometimes even more, of my own material, either my own tracks and my remixes and the rest is great banging music new and old. I play all over the world, I’ve played in over 40 countries, but the last couple of years my main territory has been North America. I play mainly in clubs, but every now and then also bigger arena and outdoor events. My audience is quite broad, usually from 18 or 21 to people in their 40s and 50s, and I’ve even got a couple of grandmas & grandpas showing up here and there, too, which is amazing! I also love doing underage shows, but unfortunately those are not as common as the usual club nights.
Q. For years now you have played various discos, clubs and dance events in the United States. What does the club scene look like these days?
I think US has a great dance music culture, though it still is way more underground in general than it is in Europe, but there’s been growth and breakouts to Top40 the last decade, especially the last two or three years. Mixing and matching sounds and artists from different genres has been the trend the last couple of years, and I like that a lot. These days the DJs seem to be playing a wider variety of styles in their sets and not only ‘trance’ or ‘house’ etc, so the sets are more interesting and also that way might be of interest for wider audience as well. I think the electro house wave of the last couple of years has brought a breath of fresh air to dance music because there has been several top40 breaking tracks so the general public has been exposed to the sound as well, not only the clubbers. Trance has been merged with all kinds of things like electro, rock, r’n’b and it’s all exciting, it keeps the music alive and approachable for both long-time producers and new-comers. I think the US has always had a great scene, but it just hasn’t gotten widely recognized until recently. Dance music is not just “that techno” any more, but accepted and cherished by mainstream media and people outside the usual clubbing crowds.
Q. As an outsider to the club world, I have to ask you: Why does the music have to be so loud and how do you protect your ears?
The best clubs create a full audio-visual sensory tickling experience, where the music is heard and the bass is felt in your body, and the visuals, lights and lasers support all that with rhythmic movement, mood affecting and ambience creating colours, images on screens… I’ve worn professional ear protection since the very beginning, custom-molded earplugs with -15dB near-flat frequency response filters. I love my earplugs, and I’m almost religiously spreading the word about them. Granted, the custom molds are costly, in the +/-$200 range, but if you work in a club or other noisy environment, you owe it to your ears to get them, they’re a perfect fit, comfortable, protect your hearing really well, yet you can hear the music and people speaking really well. Contact your local audiologist for details, there are a lot of places who can do the molds, and many of them use Etymotic Research filters (Google it! 😉 )
Q. There has been a lot of press about drug-related incidents in clubs, such as a death of an overdose at the Electric Daisy carnival in LA about two years ago. Do drugs flow freely at these venues?
There are definitely drugs in the club scene, sure, and I in no way support any kind of drug use, I’ve never touched any of that stuff, but I think it’s unfair to label electronic dance music “drug music”, like I often hear, because there are drugs in every genre and every profession. Take rock’n’roll, reggae, goth and numerous more, you name it, I’m sure you’ll find both users and suppliers… And check out behind the scenes in the medical world, med students and doctors self-medicating… Or to the business suits world, where some people work 18 hours a day, I don’t believe it for a second that it’s only caffeine they’re on… I KNOW, the above sentences are big generalizations, and I don’t mean that EVERYONE uses something, so my apologies to anyone offended, but I’m just trying to make a point.
Any overdose, fatal or not, is horrible; but I, as a producer and a DJ, performer of an event, can’t be held responsible if someone that I don’t know decides to pop pill that are known to be not the safest thing in the world. It’s their call, and I have nothing to do with it. I don’t make music on drugs and I don’t make music to be specifically listened on drugs, either.
Q. When is your next record coming out and what are your future plans?
My next release will come out very soon. It’s a DJ compilation called ‘Salmiakki Sessions Vol. 1’ mixed by me and consisting of several remixes by me, a couple of previously unreleased ones, too, and some Finnish favourites of mine from the last year or two. I’m also working on an original artist album, but it’s way too early give any kind of deadlines, let alone release date, yet. It’ll definitely go to the 2012 side. Before that there’ll be a Darude & Randy Boyer remix on our label EnMass Music’s latest release ‘Welcome To The Future’ by Kristina Sky & Randy Boyer feat. ShyBoy, which got its first ever airplay on BBC Radio 1 exclusively by none other than DJ legend Judge Jules. The release date is November 15th and you can already pre-order from iTunes (http://itunes.apple.com/preorder/welcome-to-the-future-feat./id474392104) and take a listen to it there or on www.soundcloud.com/enmassmusic.
Q. Finally, can you give us a little peek into your private world – are you married, dating, single, any kids?
I keep my private and public music life pretty much separate, but it’s no secret that I’m married and I have a 2+ year old kid. We currently live in Roswell, GA, USA, and we also have a place in Turku, Finland, where we stay a couple of months every year.
Ekat kuvat – Mikey McNulty
Kaks viimeist – Tim Wilson