With his Sandstorm anthem, Darude is an intro to dance music for many. His resume includes appearances on channels like BBC, NBC, CNN, and MTV, as well as being a 3x Finnish Grammy Award (among other awards). Of course our chat covered some talk of the track (did you know how the 2015 YouTube prank was approached?), but we also learned about his experience with a songwriting camp and how he emphasizes having fun over trying to go too commercial.
Being April Fools’ Day and all, let’s talk about the YouTube prank a few years back. Were you in on that?
►Yes. In 2015, we had the huge pleasure of collaborating with YouTube [laughs] with the April Fools’ prank. Let’s just say this: when YouTube calls and asks if you wanna do something with them, I don’t think you should say no. It was amazing. The whole thing was, when you did a YouTube search, it would ask, “Did you mean Darude – Sandstorm?” and the link was to the Sandstorm video. It was rather cool. I think the best thing was the auto-Darude button; normally when you watched a video, you’d have an auto-play button to have the next video play automatically. But with this, whatever video you watched, the next video was Sandstorm. I’m so happy and proud of that because not too many have gotten to do the same thing. It was [YouTube’s] idea based on all the online meme stuff. When we did it, we got probably five days notice when confirming we’d do it. I was about to release my new single off the Moments album called Beautiful Alien. We had already shot the music video material for it, but didn’t have a release date for the music video. So then we forced our poor video guy to get it done for that morning so when people went to watch the Sandstorm video, we had annotations and direct links to the new video. Over one day, we got like 250,000 views on the new music video.
So when you’re out at something like a sporting event and Sandstorm plays, do you roll your eyes?
►I’m like, “Yeah, thats me!” [Laughs.] The egotistical artist in me wants to scream, “I’m here!” But it’s really cool to have a track that, beyond my control, is played at events like that. There are tracks like Zombie Nation and 2 Unlimited’s Get Ready For This that are always being played, and my track is one of those tracks. It’s huge. There’s definitely nothing like eye-rolling going on. I’m bursting with pride, pretty much.
Was there a lot of pressure to make another anthem after it?
►Yes and no. I’m gonna give you a little more; I just spoke with a buddy of mine about this. The track, Feel The Beat, was the follow-up track to Sandstorm and when it was released, I got some sort of shit for it sounding the same and people saying that because Sandstorm became a hit, we tried to do something similar to ride on the same wave. There is some truth in that because obviously you wanna capitalize on stuff; when something hits big, you wanna continue and get that success. We did not plan it like that. When Sandstorm was done and it was released, we were already working on Feel The Beat, the follow-up track. In that, was there was no pressure because we didn’t have success with Sandstorm yet. In Finland, it was on the dance chart and it was doing okay. We weren’t even dreaming of the level of success Sandstorm eventually started going to. The first couple of tracks were made totally jamming and having fun in the studio with no pressure because there was no bigger thing.
Let’s just say the second album was a little different and when we started working on that second album – when I say we, I mean myself and my then-producer J16 who found me and signed me to this label and is the guy I owe pretty much everything from the beginning to for starting to build my name and get Sandstorm out – when we started working on the second album, the first [album] had been a success. Sandstorm and Feel The Beat were #3 and #5 on UK charts, and the third single, Out Of Control, was still #11. With the second album, we were by that time connected with labels outside of Finland expecting the second album and highly suggesting following up with similar stuff. Initially, there was quite a lot of pressure but then we, one drunken night, figured screw that. We had two or three single candidates and decided to go with the least commercial one because we didn’t wanna go with a commercial vocal track that, if it failed, looked like it was desperate. Then we decided to go with the track, Music, that was pretty much an instrumental with a little harder thing. I decided I’d rather have a really banging and hard track and if it’s not the same success as Sandstorm, I could be 1,000 percent proud of it rather than trying to be a sellout and go with a cheesier one. We said, screw chart positions, and we tried to have fun in the studio. It did get commercial success comparable to any of the three tracks on the first album, but I got a lot of good feedback and a lot of DJs played it. The second track, Next To You, was good as well. I think, still, every time I present something new to a label, there’s that comparison to Sandstorm so it has followed me all these years and I’ve come to terms with that. I probably never will have the success chart-wise and sales-wise, but at the same time, when I make music, I don’t think of that. It’s fun.
And now, are there any new sounds you’re trying to work into your music?
►With each album, I’ve widened my scope a little bit. It’s been progressively, not going away from trance, but widening and having other stuff as well. I think the fourth album, Moments, has the most vocal tracks; I think only two of the 11 tracks are instrumentals. I wrote this one differently and collaborated with a lot of people both on production and writing. I also did something I haven’t done before. Not only did I collaborate, which is normal, but I did these songwriting camps. I went to Copenhagen in Denmark and went to a studio with about 10 people and we formed four teams in four different studio rooms. I had a briefing with them in the morning and then I’d go around each of the rooms and spend five minutes or a half hour or two hours with whatever track sounded good and they were all based on material I have them beforehand. One [person] wrote lyrics, one did guitar, and I was sort of picking and choosing which track that day sounded the best to me. That’s the one we developed and made a vinyl track out of. In many cases, I wasn’t in the camp doing production, but I was listening and picking and choosing, and afterwards, when the conversations and lyric-writing was done, I took the material and went home and produced a track. Normally I’d start from a drum loop or a melody and build it myself, and maybe then have a vocalist or a co-writer come in mid-project. But this was started basically almost like a campfire with guitar, piano, and songwriting. As far as styles go, I’m still making music for the dance floor. It’s not 138 BPM uplifting trance exactly anymore, but I still like a lot of layered sounds and melodic breakdowns. I feel the same playing DJ sets now as I did 10-15 years ago.
What’s your advice for the upcoming generation of producers?
►I highly recommend – it doesn’t sound glamorous or anything – that you don’t quit your day job or studies. Make music from the fun place and fun state of mind you have. The minute it becomes your day job, there will be financial and other stresses and that’s not a good place to be creative. If you work part time or study and music is not your main income or main stresser, then it is fun and you have a chance to actually put exactly what you want into it. Until you know you can, with touring or selling music, support yourself, you don’t wanna jump out of your regular source of income. I know it’s not the fun thing everyone wants to hear, but it’s a solid piece of advice looking back, because after my first and second albums, and continuing with the next and this being my only job, there is the factor of having to listen to record companies and other people and looking at your bank account when planning your career. When that comes into play, it’s not the same as just having fun anymore. Outside of that, do exactly what you wanna do. Don’t make music thinking, “somebody might wanna hear this.” While you might get somewhere if you’re really good, you might wanna try and please someone and make music that’s popular at the moment. But it’s way better to stand behind yourself 100 percent, and if it’s good enough and stars align and what not, you’ll get through with that. If you try to do something you’re not 100 percent behind or you don’t know enough about and try to emulate someone else’s work, it might not be as good.