We sat down with Keota on Halloween before Awaken the Night‘s Sexy Content Bass Bash to discuss future plans for merchandise, the possibility of starting his own label, and his move to becoming an independent artist. What an awesome guy!
Author - Carlie Bradley
ARISE Music Festival returned to Loveland, Colorado for their seventh year of music, art, yoga, workshops and locally sourced food and produce. Held on Sunrise Ranch, a holistically managed ranch based on the pillars of community, enlightenment and sustainability, the entire event was geared toward creating a space that helped maintain the grounds’ pristine conditions.
This year, the event grew substantially, awarding ARISE the title of ‘largest camping festival in Colorado’ (surpassing Telluride Bluegrass Festival and Sonic Bloom). Festival planners say that the reason for this year’s success is ultimately due to the lineup, which included fan favorites such as Tipper, CloZee, Beats Antique, Sunsquabi, Defunk, and Rising Appalachia.
Dave Tipper gave two incredible performances, each displaying the artist’s widely popular blend of ambient bass music and glitchy trip-hop. His famed sound, combined with captivating visuals created by industry-favorite Steven Haman created two completely unique sets that highlighted the mountainous surroundings.
CloZee, a little bit newer to the main stage, followed Tipper’s set with a worldly instrumental bass set that kept the entire crowd on their feet. She played a mix of fan-favorites and crunchy edits of Sumthin’ Sumthin’ and Ratatat. Hailing from France and catching like wildfire over the United States, her music is quickly becoming a household name for music-lovers of all genres.
Sunsquabi gave a high-energy performance to their devoted fanbase. Walking through the crowd, there were tons of families and children having a blast dancing to their upbeat blend of improvisational jamming and electronic funk. If one Sunsquabi set wasn’t enough for fans, the electronic funk band also stepped on stage with Autonomix, a Denver-based electronica jam band. The members had a blast on stage and even ended with some unreleased music that will leave fans refreshing their music platforms for weeks to come.
Oddly enough, my favorite set of the weekend wasn’t from an artist on the lineup. On Sunday, ARISE put on an official Children’s Talent Show, which featured break dancers, singer/songwriters, hoopers and more! The turnout was huge and the cheers were loud for every performer that came out on stage. There aren’t many music festivals that are safe (or frankly, even fun) for kids to attend, but ARISE absolutely made a tremendous effort to make sure that the weekend was fun for fans of all ages.
I think that inclusivity is my favorite part of going to music festivals; it doesn’t matter what you wear, or what you do for a living. The only thing that matters is that you show up in your truest form and that you accept others for doing the same. I can’t imagine a better place to really find yourself than Sunrise Ranch. With the festivals’ impressive turnout this year, I’m hoping that next year the ARISE team works on increasing security staff for quicker entry into the grounds, as well as more elaborate stage designs. Much like the name of the event, I truly think that ARISE is on the rise.
For additional photos from the event, check out the photo album on Facebook.
Matthew Pham, better known by his alias Feelmonger, returns to the scene with the release of yet another complex and bass-heavy remix. Inspired by Mersiv’s widely popular track, Select Da Bass (released March of 2017 with nearly 50k plays on SoundCloud), his remix has been blessed by Mersiv himself, landing Pham an official remix title.
Feelmonger entered the bass arena about five years ago and was heavily inspired by artists like Bassnectar, Jantsen, Craze, and Space Jesus. His sound, while in the arena of Dubstep, sets itself apart with complex bass lines, intense yet balanced layering, and a unique unpredictability that leaves listeners patiently waiting for the next drop.
I had the chance to talk to Pham about his style, his influences, and his plans for the rest of the year. For clarity, my questions will be italicized.
Bradley: Tell me about your inspiration for creating this track.
Pham: It’s been a while since I’ve heard a Dubstep song that reminded me of the earlier era like Bassnectar, Rusko, and Datsik. I wanted to create something that was similar to those but with some influence from 2019. Also, I’ve been digging Mersiv’s releases and his “beautiful and filthy” ethos and I felt that his recent releases leaned more towards the beautiful side. I wanted to contrast this one and go fully filthy with it.
What do you hope to achieve on your journey of creating music?
Pham: I want to eventually move from the bedroom studio into a live environment where I can curate experiences for audiences; similar to what Bassnectar does. I want to have a totally immersive live experience that changes people’s perceptions of concerts. I also want to eventually produce a body of work that is timeless, and evokes the entire spectrum of human emotion.
Do you have any shows coming up that your fans can look forward to?
Pham: I am playing at the Back 2 Bellingham Festival in Washington State at the end of September alongside Stylust, Neon Steve, Pigeon Hole, and Klutch. I also plan on releasing a mixtape in mid September with some unreleased goodies and collaborations.
Just over a year old as a band, Autonomix has taken the Denver music scene by storm, providing a sound that combines jazz, funk, psychedelic rock and modern electronica. The band consists of Jeff Pfannenstiel (Drums), Zack Smith (Guitar), Danny Littler (Bass), and Josh Nermon (Keyboard). Their debut album Counter Balance (released earlier this month) was a huge leap forward for the band, locking them into even more prestigious opportunities like being direct support for Papadosio at Summit Music Hall on October 18th. Autonomix will be performing at ARISE Music Festival this Saturday, August 3, during sunset, 8:00pm – 9:15pm at the Starwater Stage. With the festival fast approaching, the Autonomix extended an invite to their band practice where I got an exclusive look at their creative process, listened to some unreleased material, and sat down for an interview during their break.
Thanks so much for having me over! How did you guys get started as a band?
Josh: Well, these three started without me at first…
Zack: Danny and I had just come out of playing with Telemetry. Some friends connected us with Jeff and we ended up putting together a sort of casual jam. We had another keyboard player. We ended up “vibe”ing really well together. We got about three weeks into the band before the keyboard player quit. We all freaked out for about five minutes, I called Josh and had him in the band about 5 minutes after that.
Josh: And I had just quit my other band the week before. Me and Zack had been trying to play music together for over a year so it kind of worked out perfectly.
Was the vision for Autonomix always to be a psychedelic jam band?
Zack: I’ve always wanted to make music like this. I went to my first STS9 show as a metal-head and was like “wow, this kind of music can have this kind of effect on people?” So when the four of us started jamming—Jeff’s favorite band is Lotus, Danny’s into Disco Biscuits, Josh and I both love STS9—that was kind of the natural direction we went in.
Josh: It was all super natural. The first time we all played together it was like a 15-minute improv.
Jeff: We pretty much record each practice, which helps a lot in the writing process. Our song off the new album Harmonomix came out of an improv jam.
That’s actually my favorite song on the album.
Zach: That song came out of an improv at our second practice as a band. The improv we did isn’t far off at all from how the song ended up getting recorded.
Do you guys come up with a set list for all of your shows, or is it mostly improv?
Danny: We come up with set lists.
Josh: [laughing] Well, except for that one time…
Danny: As we’re getting better at this, we’re trying to learn to read the room a little bit; the crowd we’re playing to, the location, whether it’s a nighttime Cervantes set versus a daytime festival set and kind of fit those factors into a solid set that tells a story.
Alright, I’m curious… What’s the story of the show where you guys didn’t have a setlist?
Josh: We played this STS9 after party at this mansion and the whole night got pretty wild.
Zack: So we had wrote a setlist and we played our first set… then for some reason we decided to tear the setlist in half and just went for it in our second set… [laughing] things got crazy that night!
It was so cool watching you guys in rehearsal and I think I noticed it at Sonic Bloom too, but do guys sign to each other while you’re playing?
Zach: We have our own sign language. The saxophone player that sits up with us, Carl Cox, him and I used to play in a band together and we wrote our own signs for communicating key changes on stage. Then Danny here expanded on it an came up with even more signs for the rhythm parts of songs. So when you see me on stage making weird signs, I’m prepping the band for a key change, and if you see Danny making them, he’s prepping us for a rhythm change.
Danny: Each of our sets are about 40 to 50 percent improv so communicating is really important.
Autonomix has only been around for a little over a year but I still feel like I’ve seen your name everywhere. Can you tell me a little bit about how you’ve grown so quickly and successfully?
Josh: The great thing about this band is that we’ve all really played to our strengths and have taken the right opportunities to keep the momentum going. We all know that in this industry, losing momentum is detrimental to expanding as an artist. It’s always going through the front of our heads, “what can we be doing to take steps forward?”
Zack: A huge advantage that we have is the fact that we practice here at Jeff’s place for free. We’ve been lucky to be able to methodically pick and choose which shows we want to play and not have to worry about making $400 a month to cover rent space. We’ve only played about 13 big shows in the last year. We really don’t play for money. We all have jobs outside of this band, so any money we make with music gets invested right back into Autonomix.
What’s your favorite show or festival that you guys have played so far?
[all laughing]: Album release at Cervantes!
Josh: But ARISE this year is going to be really special because we actually won a contest to get to play there last year.
Can you tell me more about that?
Josh: So every year, ARISE holds a Rock the Fest contest where fans vote in a list of their top 10 artists and then a panel of judges choose their three favorites. Our fans really came through for us and got us a TON of votes. We had only been a band for about four months so ARISE ended up being like, our third-ever show. It was epic.
This is actually my first ARISE. What can I expect to see?
Zack: ARISE is definitely a lot more family-oriented. I’d say it’s half about the music and half about the workshops and the yoga and the art-installations. It’s all-encompassing.
Josh: It’s one of my favorite festivals… the grounds are absolutely beautiful, it’s right on a lake. The people who put it on put a ton of focus in keeping the event sustainable, not using single-use plastic, that type of vibe.
Zack: I’d say environmentalism, safety, and fun are the three pillars of ARISE Music Festival.
Jeff: The very first thing I did when I moved to Denver a few years ago was go to ARISE. It’s really cool to get to be on the bill.
Josh: Not quite ready to announce this yet, but we will have some very special guests on stage with us. People are going to lose their minds when they see what we have planned.
Can we have any hints?
Josh: The people or persons sitting on stage with us are also on the ARISE lineup… and it’s definitely someone big.
As a band, how do you like being based in Denver?
Josh: The music community is something like I’ve never seen before. We help other bands, they help us, it’s really a symbiotic relationship.
The music industry in Denver, to me, definitely highlights collaboration rather than competition.
Josh: Right! And it’s not like that anywhere else. I moved from California. Out there, it’s cutthroat… the fanbases are divided… I knew I wasn’t going to make it as a musician out there. Danny and Zack are actually the guys who convinced me to move out here…
Zack: To join a totally different band!
Josh: But they’re some of my best friends. They knew that being a musician is what I wanted to do and they helped pull me to where I needed to be to become successful.
Zack: The competition that does exist in Denver is healthy. There are a million different shows happening every night, so if you want to stand out, you constantly have to be working really hard to put on a good show. So while we aren’t necessarily competing with other people, we see our peers stepping up their performances and it pushes us to do the same.
Your fanbase is clearly really supportive of your music and your message, do you have anything you’d like to say to them?
Zack: We worked really hard over the past year on this album and learned a ton. The final product is something we’re really proud of. We have so many friends who have been with us since we started the band, and they have totally shown up for us. They’ve been patient with us during the last 6 months of trying to get this album out there and while we haven’t been able to personally thank each and every one of them, none of that goes unnoticed.
Josh: We have so much gratitude for every single person who’s ever shown up to a set, bought a tee shirt, or even just pressed play on a song. We’ve got some amazing friends in our corner.
What is it like being a part of this band?
Zack: [laughing] It’s like dating three other dudes except you don’t get any sex out of it and you spend a lot of money.
* Be sure to check out Autonomix at ARISE Music Festival; Saturday 8:00 – 9:15 at the StarWater Stage
(Photo by Matt Love)
Among the many talented acts at Sonic Bloom, the unique sound of one duo specifically stood out. Hailing from Western Canada, Moontricks brought on a high-energy performance to the Hummingbird Stage. Sean Rodman and Nathan Gurley specialize in the creative combination of bluegrass and bass music. They were kind enough to take a few moments to sit down with me to discuss their art. For clarification, my questions will be italicized.
Thank you both so much for sitting down with me; so, tell me a little bit about how Moontricks got started.
Nathan: I started a long time ago, just with the intent of combining electronic music with acoustic music… guitars and harmonicas and things. I’ve always kind of been into both. Sean started playing with me about five years ago.
Sean: I had started playing the banjo, which is such a random instrument (laughing)… it seemed to be a good fit.
You guys have a really interesting sound. To me, it’s a perfect example of how electronic music is able to seamlessly combine two seemingly unlike genres of music. You’ve got bluegrass and bass music. Who are some of your influences from either side of that spectrum?
Sean: I’m going to say Bob Dylan…
Nathan: Maybe like, the Grateful Dead? Bunch of stuff like that…
Sean: Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles…
Nathan: I guess anyone who’s kind of combining electronic music and acoustic music. We’re always trying to pay attention to what’s going on with our peers and our friends.
How did you two meet in the first place?
Nathan: We have known each other for quite a few years.
Sean: Small town, basically. Nate grew up in a small town, I ended up there.
Nathan: I knew his ex-girlfriend (laughing) in Canada there’s only so many people.
Sean: Yeah, it was just like, “you play music, I play music….”
Nathan: That’s really what it was though! I found out he played music and he was really good. I was like “sick!” Someone to collab with!
Speaking of collaborations, I especially love the track you guys make with Dirtwire. Who are some other artists that you hope to collaborate with one day?
Nathan: (Laughing) Yup! That’s it! Nobody else!
I’d love to see you guys work with someone like CloZee
Sean: Oh yeah that would be sweet
Nathan: I agree! But I don’t know, you guys tell us! We love hearing back from our fans.
You guys have played some of the coolest music festivals. Lightning in a Bottle, Shambhala… they’ve been on my bucket list for years. What is it like getting to perform at such cool places?
Sean: Lightning in a Bottle was just last month, and it was phenomenal.
Nathan: First time there, it was awesome. And we actually live right around the corner from Shambhala, so that’s kind of like our hometown festival. We’ve been there many, many years.
So what can your fans expect to see from you guys in the next year?
Nathan: Well, we’ve got a bunch of releases coming out. Undetermined when, but we’re working on a lot of music, a lot of videos and different things. I can’t really give specifics, but there will be lots of surprises. Hopefully touring more and traveling to new places.
With your music really being split down the middle between bluegrass and bass music, what is your fanbase like?
Sean: Well, I guess it’s like, tonight we’re playing Sonic Bloom and tomorrow we’re going to a folk festival in Edmonton.
Nathan: It’s a mixed bunch.
Sean: We can kind of get away with a little bit of both. It’s awesome.
How does it feel to be here in beautiful Colorado?
Sean: It’s awesome! The sunset, the mountains, it’s been great. Getting to hang out with our agent, Matt, it’s been really fun. I love Colorado.
Does this mean I’m going to get to hear ‘Mountains’ tonight?
Sean: We’re in the mountains! We have to play ‘Mountains’!
I love that! I’m so excited. Thanks so much for sitting down with me, I hope you guys enjoy your weekend!
Wow! What a weekend… Sonic Bloom returned to Hummingbird Ranch for yet another year of absolutely fantastic music, beautiful art installations, and probably one of the kindest groups of festival-goers I have ever witnessed. From start to finish, the entire event ran like a well-oiled machine, utilizing all 300 staff leaders who have been meeting for months to make sure Sonic Bloom maintained the standard of excellence they have achieved year after year.
Driving up to the event, about three hours south of Denver, CO, I realized that Bloom, while absolutely a staple in the underground music scene, was kept a hidden gem from the outside world. There weren’t any massive signs pointing us towards the event, there weren’t speed traps and police officers crowding the surrounding area, there wasn’t even traffic. The only hint that we were getting close was the familiar sight of the Spanish Peaks and the beautiful grassy hills surrounding them.
Looking at the absolutely stacked lineup featuring Gramatik, Opiuo, Emancipator Ensemble, Russ Liquid Test, Yheti, Jade Cicada, Detox Unit, The Widdler, The Librarian, and Funkstatik (just to name a few), it completely shocked me to find out that final attendance for this festival was about 5,000 people. For me, getting the chance to see Gramatik with only a few thousand people was a memory I’ll never forget.
Not included in that number are the performance artists, yoga instructors, VJs, workshop leaders, stage managers and artists who made Sonic Bloom a true gallery of art in all mediums. It seemed as though each person there, whether staff or attendee, had something special to bring to the table. The food vendors carried a wide variety of different flavors from all over the world (I personally enjoyed ‘Umami Mobile Eatery,’ where I ordered a pork and rice bowl filled with veggies and covered in a Thai-inspired peanut sauce). The painters set up shop right next to a stage so people could enjoy live-painting while listening to their favorite artists. The dancers, hoopers, aerial artists, and flow artists were absolutely everywhere all weekend, creating a circus-like feel to the event. And most importantly, the musicians each had something truly wonderful to say about Sonic Bloom, claiming it to be one of their favorite events to play music for.
While all the acts were fantastic, one really surprised me.
Aaron Holstein, of VibeSquad (typically of the new age electronic dance music), got up on stage during the afternoon sunshine and played a stunning set comprised of classical piano music. Besides a few flow artists dancing gracefully to the sound, the entire crowd was sitting down silently or laying quietly in the surrounding hammocks completely in awe at the sounds they were hearing. The set became even more special when Holstein got on the mic towards the end of his set and announced happily and teary-eyed that it was his birthday. After his set ended with a large cake, party hats and a beautiful group photo, I had a moment to greet Holstein, wish him a ‘happy birthday’ and thank him for his set. He revealed to me that while he had been making music like that at home for years, he had never gotten a chance to perform it for anyone live, and that he thought Sonic Bloom was the absolute perfect place to debut this music that he has held so closely to his heart.
It wouldn’t be a Colorado music festival without a completely random and unpredictable change in weather. Throughout most of the weekend, it was sunny, windy, and (be warned) very, very dusty, but come Saturday afternoon, nothing surprised us more than a massive 30-minute hail storm overthrowing the entire festival and covering camps and cars with ice the size of golf balls. After the storm, I emerged from my car expecting to see people packing up and leaving but was surprised to enter the festival grounds to a nearly full event of festival-goers wearing ponchos and dancing like nothing could stop them.
My favorite art installation from the weekend was ‘The Complimentary Bar,’ which was a small booth set up between stages where patrons would “friendly heckle” people walking by. I met one of the owners of The Complimentary Bar, Heather Stiver, and stood with her for a half an hour shouting things like, “I love your outfit!”, “Your smile is contagious!”, and “I’m so happy you’re at Sonic Bloom!” The reactions from the people that passed us made my entire weekend. It reminded me that sometimes going out of your way to tell someone something positive can turn the entire day around (for you and for them!). It’s one memory from the festival I have packed in my suitcase and taken home with me.
Overall, Sonic Bloom reminded me of the feeling I got from my first music festival; it reminded me that there’s no such thing as a stranger, that sometimes the best part of your weekend will be someone else’s smile, and the importance of being kind to our planet as well as being kind to ourselves. Sonic Bloom will certainly be a festival that I return to for years to come.
Sonic Bloom, Colorado’s premiere electronic music festival, is celebrating its 14th edition this year with a bold nod to the thoughtful and diverse musical curation that has catapulted this boutique festival into worldwide recognition. The lineup is nothing short of incredible, including artists ranging from Of The Trees, Yheti and Detox Unit to Opiuo, Gramatik and Emancipator Ensemble (featuring Jamie Shields from The New Deal and Michael Travis and Jason Hann from String Cheese Incident). The intimate music festival brings a large variety of underground artists, giving festival-goers a chance to experience their sound far before the general population of mainstream festivals.
Sonic Bloom is an ideal festival for those looking for something different. With short lines, respectful community and plenty of room to dance, camp and be, this weekend in paradise is a step away from the day to day. Thought provoking workshops hosted by internationally acclaimed speakers, a diverse range of yoga and movement workshops, overflowing visual art and unique vendors provide a little something for everyone.
Hosted once again on the stunning Hummingbird Ranch, riverside camping is easily available, children and families are welcomed end encouraged and a hand is always outstretched to join in, contribute and participate.
Sonic Bloom remains an event for the true individual; a welcoming, creative community encouraging the exploration human potential, the next wave of art and music and the possibility of a more beautiful and just world. We come together June 20-23 to celebrate a global community that believes in the power of art, music and innovation to inspire a future worth believing in.
Early-Bloomer 4-Day GA Passes are on sale NOW :: June 20-23, 2019 :: VIP Early Bloomers 4-Day Passes, parking passes, car camping passes and RV passes are also now on sale, available from the ticketing website. For more information on SONIC BLOOM, please visit the official website: sonicbloomfestival.com.
SONIC BLOOM’S Network Links:
Hidden away in the northern cap of Finland is a place called Levi—home to the largest ski resorts in the country and known for being one of the few places on earth to spot natural phenomena like the Northern Lights and the midnight sun. During the off-season, Levi is home to fewer than 1,000 people, but during the holidays, the many restaurants and hotels (and one top-of-the-line dance club) open up to nearly 20,000 tourists hoping for a winter wonderland getaway.
When my boyfriend and his family invited me to spend the holidays in the Arctic Circle, I did not expect to find myself on the back of a speeding dog-sled or eating copious amounts of reindeer meat in a dimly-lit elvish cavern, but above all else, I certainly did not expect to run into one of Europe’s most famous producers of all time. Ville Virtanen, better known by his stage name Darude, was thrust to international stardom in 1999 with his hit song, Sandstorm. Although Virtanen hails from Finland, Sandstorm gained worldwide popularity, especially in the US, as it exposed many people to the world of dance music for the first time ever. While Sandstorm is one of the most widely recognized songs in dance music, Darude is still regularly producing new music and performing around the world. I had the opportunity to see one of his performances in Levi, while I also got some time to ask him a few questions. For clarity, my questions are formatted in italics, while Virtanen’s responses are standard styling.
Carlie: Coming from Finland, what’s it like getting to perform in a place like Levi?
Virtanen: I’ve actually played here numerous times. It’s an interesting place because there’s always a mixed crowd, but obviously it’s ski season, and it’s almost New Year’s Eve so the area is very festive. With this area you never know what you’re going to get. Not going to lie, I’ve had weird gigs here, like mid-week or Easter time where I’ll play for a small handful of people, but I’m always excited to come here because I love the snow, myself, and I think tomorrow I’ll probably go do some snowboarding, as well. The Hullu Poro Areena is a really nice venue. There’s great sound both on the stage and on the dance floor, so I’m very much looking forward to being back there.
One thing that makes interviewing you interesting is that you actually started making music the year I was born—1995—what are some noticeable changes you’ve seen in the contemporary dance music scene?
Well, I guess the big, main difference is that back then it wasn’t a big industry and it wasn’t mainstream like it is now. A lot of things contribute to that, but I’d say the internet and the development of technology—all the possible ways to create music and how it’s available to everybody— have not only contributed to people being able to share music, but also people being able to create music. Somebody like me, who back then and even now, I’m not that great of a live player. Unfortunately, I never took piano lessons or anything. I played ice hockey as a kid. But even people without live music playing skills have access to computers to make music. Now almost everybody who wants it or is interested in it has access. With all that, I think the awareness and the accessibility to dance music has become so easy and so wide that nowadays, we’re not talking about the underground dance music scene. It’s mainstream, it’s pop, and any big artist—the Armin van Buurens, the Calvin Harrises— they’re all basically pop. The dance records that end up on the radio or on the top of Spotify, those artists can still make harder or darker or more underground dance music, but what becomes their biggest hits are just clear-cut pop songs with an electronic beat.
Yeah, we have kind of started to see electronic music sprinkle its way into every other genre. There’s even electronic country music now.
Oh of course, exactly.
Who are some modern artists that you listen to— some of the younger artists that are coming up that have impressed you as an artist?
I don’t really know about younger. I don’t really know anyone’s ages and I don’t want to bring anybody down by bringing him up, but Avicii, to me, was kind of a younger kid who came after me and his rise to stardom was obviously one of the reasons why electronic music became big. He was one of the huge contributors. Like how you mentioned electronic country, he was one of the guys who fused, quite freely, different aspects of different genres and probably contributed to that melting pot. Martin Garrix has been around for a good while and has obviously established that he’s pretty much the biggest DJ in the world, according to DJMag Top 100. He’s done slow, ballad types of tracks, he’s done a little bit of trappy stuff, and a little of this and that, in addition to his sort of normal, festival-style bangers. Which, again, is one of the things that makes people more and more used to the idea of not having such separate boxes for what an artist can do. I like the idea of there being more freedom and people not shunning you for not always doing what people expect you to do. I made a track with Ashley Wallbridge this year called “Surrender,” and we had a singer called Foux on it. Ashley has sort of also been bubbling under for the longest time, but I think sometime soon he’s probably going to be a mainstream name. Definitely someone to look out for.
Who are some of the artists that first inspired you to get your start in electronic music?
Oh wow. I was actually listening to a lot of 80’s hair metal [laughs], like Bon Jovi and Twisted Sister. Around the same time a lot of German-style dance music like Bad Boys Blue and Modern Talking, that kind of stuff. None of it was really trance, but it was more of my generic background in melodic, sort of easy, mainstream music. That’s kind of what I’m about and really where I come from. In Finland, we never really got all the new stuff or all the big stuff, but we had a pretty decent dance music culture, even when I was getting into it. We even had some mainstream dance music on the radio, like Rhythm of the Night or Dr. Alban. After I started touring internationally, I realized that a lot of Europe had similar music to Finland, but America didn’t and that was weird to me. The US is a big country and when I was getting booked, it was always to these huge cities—LA, New York, Seattle, Miami—the cities are so big that even though dance music wasn’t even close to mainstream, the club scene was very good. To me, those club scenes seemed very similar to Finland, or Europe. What I didn’t understand was why dance music wasn’t on the radio at all.
Yes exactly. Even now, the music that my friends and I listen to— experimental bass music, future bass, even the big-name house artists, the ones on Dirtybird Records— you’re not really going to get any of that on the radio. We mostly listen to our music on Soundcloud. It’s just a great platform for less mainstream artists to share their work. Who are you listening to right now?
Hmm…[laughing] I sometimes feel guilty. I don’t really actively listen to music in my free-time. We might have some techno on Spotify on in the background, or just the other day I searched “uplifting house” and got a mix of like, techno and 120-125 BPM house. I enjoy it, but it’s not like I need to be listening to my bangers when I’m off. Some house or deep house, softly playing in the background is what I like. Rufus Du Sol, Fisher, stuff like that. When I first got into music, I was actively listening to it all the time. Exchanging CDs, recording on the radio. It was everything I did. Now I sit in front of a computer making music and playing in front of crowds, so when I’m off, I’ve just sort of hit my limit of actively listening.
What was the experience of having Sandstorm become such a hit like? Did you expect that to happen?
It’s funny, I wasn’t even really considering myself to be a musician at that point. I had one synthesizer, one computer, and one sequencer, and I was just using any and every little sound or gadget or software I could to put stuff together. I was really just having fun. I wasn’t trying to put myself down, but I was always thinking “professionals are up here, and I’m somewhere down there” and the gap was just so huge. I didn’t have any education in music. I didn’t have the right gear. I never dreamt about this life, not because I didn’t believe in myself, but I just never even saw this as a possibility.
Is it crazy now being one of the huge names and playing on lineups with artists that you once looked up to?
Oh, so let me tell you one of the things that blew my mind just a couple months ago… Pet Shop Boys played in Helsinki and I got to open for them. I did a soundcheck and had a chat with Neil Tennant (Chris Lowe wasn’t there at that point) and it blew my mind. I still have some of their tapes that I’ve recorded. We had a good chat and he was just such a nice guy. A lot of times people tell me that they started making music or that they got into dance music because of my tracks or something and that’s the biggest compliment ever to me. That’s the cool thing, if you end up getting to meet that person that you look up to, most of the time they’re normal people. It’s a nice thing to be able to sit down with someone who has a skill similar to your own, or just have a quick high-five and kind of recognize that they might be older or have more career experience, but that mutual respect is still there. Most of the time it’s the press or other people that put artists against each other, but most of the people actually in the industry are totally fine with each other, even embracing each other.
I actually notice that a lot, especially in the electronic music community. Instead of competition, there tends to be a lot of collaboration. With technology nowadays, you could sit here and have a collaboration with an American artist and never even meet the guy or girl that you’re working with. There really are limitless opportunities for artists to work together.
Oh, I know! My track “Surrender” with Foux… I’ve never met her.
Really? So you just went back in forth online, or?
The connection came through Ashley, who’s the other writer/producer on the track. He had a connection with her so he asked her to sing. They didn’t even sit in the same room while she recorded the vocals— he’s from England and she was all the way in America. It’s the same with my track “Timeless” that was released a couple months ago. Jamie Lee Wilson (JVMIE), who’s an Australian artist living in LA, we’ve never met face-to-face. I’ve chatted on the phone with her, but those vocals came from me sending her the instrumental and her saying “cool!” A couple of days later I had the vocals.
What are you looking forward to in 2019 with music?
Well, all going well, I should have six tracks come out next year, last year I only released two, I’ve been holding back for a big project that’s coming soon.
A new album?
Hmm… Not an album. But a project. When you see it… you’ll know! [Laughing] But I’m excited! I think there will be some guaranteed exposure. It’s a big thing… A good thing! Some people will definitely be surprised or weirded out by what’s coming, but what I like about the last ten years or so is that there has been a lot of collaboration and mixing of genres. I find that cool! After being around for a while, I feel that it’s necessary and healthy to venture out and be outside your comfort zone. That’s what I’m doing now… no country music for me though!
Some dialog has been edited for clarity.