The last time we saw Arty was at Identity Festival 2012 at the Comcast Center, where we played a little bit before him on one of the stages. The Russian DJ/producer, known for his crossover between house and trance, just hit Boston and we got to chat about his musical upbringing, the new album, Star Wars, and the teased collab with Audien.
We last saw you at Identity Festival in 2012 at the Comcast Center. That was such a great festival, a one-day thing happening in different places…
►It was amazing. It was a good experience for the artists as well because we got to travel with the crew and DJs again and again and again. That was cool.
Back in LA? How was it?
►Yes, it was amazing. I loved it. I was like crying. I have to go next week as well… it wasn’t IMAX.
So you’re originally from Russia, but living in LA now. Was it a big change moving to the US?
►Sort of. Life is different.
Is it weird seeing Russia in the news all the time? Is the messaging completely different when you’re here compared to when you’re back there?
►It depends what you’re speaking about. Politics are one thing, social life is another thing. There’s not much difference, especially since I moved to LA and felt like I became a different person. I’m super tolerant to so many things around here. It’s like taking advantage of being in both cultures. I still speak to my family a lot and visit them, and my best friends are in Russia. I get the best of both worlds.
Is the music the same? Is it received the same?
►I’d say America is really oriented in bass music right now, like bass house, future bass, etc., and that’s super big here. Russia, not so much. Russian people are still really focused on more progressive vibes. It’s slightly different, but people have been really reactant to my music and they support me as an artist. It feels pretty amazing.
And your new album is out now; that must be a big deal. What’s the process like when it’s your first one? There must be a lot of pressure.
►Yeah there’s a lot of pressure, especially in the last half of the year when you really feel the deadline. It’s like I have all the tracks but not sure if they fill the right shape I want to have. It took two years to create this album. The first time I went to the studio I had 100 ideas. I’ll go to sessions with different songwriters and see if we feel chemistry. Then you have the song, but it’s one little piece of the complete track because then you have to shape it. It took me a year and a half to finish a song; in a year and a half, a lot of things change. You like different stuff, there’s different music, a new movement in a scene… like, there’s a new genre you get excited about and influenced by, then you get back to the track and might want to change it, then start to change and end up with a completely different track. That’s what happened with me. At the beginning, it was one type of album, and at the end, it was different. There wasn’t one song I didn’t make changes to. Time is also pressuring you a lot – seeing it changing so fast and so many things popping up every few months… new artists, new music. You feel inspired to come up with something new for your production.
Do you work on music while on the road, or do you wait until off-time?
►It depends. The creative part for me is way better when I’m off the road, at home, or hanging with friends. When you’re focused on a show, it’s harder to come up with musical ideas because you’re playing music for people and you’re focused on just that music. Another part is when you nail the melodical idea, it’s easy to fix on your own. It’s just a process of making the track to a complete form you can play or release.
How does an idea start for you? It probably starts with a melody for you since you were a piano player ever since you were a kid, right?
►It’s always the melody. I never really played midi keyboard. I know how because I’m a classically trained musician with piano but I never used it.
And early on you knew you wanted to go into music seriously. You pursued music, then you went to college for something else?
►When I was a kid, I liked a lot of things. I really liked music, but was kind of tired of classical music because it was something I had to play every day. I was playing festivals as a kid – classical festivals – very different. It wouldn’t be 10,000 people screaming; it would be 1,000 people in complete silence.
With everyone just staring at you.
►Yeah, one mistake and you’re fucked. It’s actually changed me a lot to have some sort of presence on stage and it’s not as scary anymore. But back to the question, I was a kid who liked a lot of stuff. I was really into video games, which I still am, read a lot of books, watched a lot of movies. I self-studied 3D design and modeling, kind of preparing myself to be a game developer. That’s why I went to university for an engineering degree.
►I kind of liked mathematics and was pretty good at it, but when I went to university and saw math on a bigger scale and on a deeper level, it became a little bit boring for me. For me, it wasn’t as fun as making music. Making music for me was a pretty natural process. I didn’t feel a connection with all the levels of math. I did a lot of stuff when I was 14 and 15, so for that reason, I went to university. But the second year of my education, I decided to focus on music. I was still in university – I finished and got my degree – but music was my priority
So you were focusing on music while in university. Was it constantly on your mind that you could be doing music full-time, but were being held back by school?
►You have your time to make music in university, but while going to lessons and lectures, I would have rather been in a session. But with exams, that was the time I was done with music temporarily and had to focus on my studying. I’d study a whole week, pass the exams, then get back to music.
There are a lot of kids, students, who go through the same thing. They love music, or sports, or whatever, but feel like maybe they should do something more “serious.” Is there something that happened when you knew you could do music for sure? You probably didn’t just wake up one day with a record offer on your desk.
►It wasn’t like that at all. My parents were pressuring me a bit with the fact I had to get a degree to be a secure person. I was like “I know,” but I had a different plan. There was something calling me, making music. At some point I realized I could be way better than I was. In 2008 or 2009, I made a huge step forward in my production and knew it was a track I could send to labels. I remember I showed the first track to my mom and she was so happy, she finally saw an opportunity for me and that I could be a human being without working a serious job like they imagined. My friends really helped me as well. They were supportive and told me my music sounded good and I should go for it. So I went for it.
On a new record, how do you choose who to work with? It must be a big risk for you if you to decide on a few people and they don’t perform the way you thought and it doesn’t work out.
►You mean the vocalists?
Yeah, or people you’ve collaborated with.
►I don’t think there was ever a collaboration people would have accepted in a bad way. All my collabs have been great. Everything we do is a natural process and a mutual feeling, which is important for the creative process.
You recently teased an upcoming collab with Audien. Can you talk about it?
►We’re working on something but I can’t talk about it yet. That’s actually him texting me right now. *Laughs.* Just wait for next year because maybe it’s more than just one track.
And for those who listen to the new album, what do you want them to take away from it?
►Something. As long as people take something away from the album that’s great for me; it means it was not a waste of time. If people take emotions, I know I did a job and I can be proud of it.