As 2009 draws to a close, describe your year in a few words for us.
If I could sum it up all in one word, it would definitely have to be busy! Balancing music production, DJing to video game sound design can get overwhelming but I definitely enjoy the challenges that each brings and I need each to break the monotonicity.
When you started out producing, you worked under the name of 8 Wonders, and in a more uplifting trance style. Were you encouraged to attempt a different production style in the form of your Arnej work, or was it something you wanted to try yourself?
It was essentially the realization that I am not going to get far trying to imitate someone else's style. I had no identity, nothing to claim as my own, so the day came when I realized that I need to just drop following the formula and the cliches of the genre and just go with the flow, wherever that takes me. The end result of that was being the first single under the Arnej name, Rendezvous.
Your first release on Coldharbour Recordings was "They Always Come Back". Could you describe the feeling when you heard Markus Schulz debut the track to the world on the Global DJ Broadcast World Tour from Vancouver, and the reaction of the live audience?
That is an interesting story all in itself. I produced They Always Came Back the day before my birthday and instantly I loved it. Strange that I should say that I loved it since it's my own? Well sometimes you make a track and you think to yourself ... wtf was I thinking? :) I felt like it could be such a big track so I sent it in to Armada. The reaction overall was positive but eventually fizzled out over time. I sat on it for about 3 months and then gave it to Markus, who shortly after that, fell in love with it. It debuted some 6 months after its completion. When I heard the crowd reaction to the track in the aforementioned set, it was bananas! So much so that the clip I use on Myspace of the track is still a cut from that very set!
You also made quite an impact on the remix front with your interpretation of Evgeny Bardyuzha's melodic number "Bali". When approached to take on the task of remixing Bali, did you have a particular sound in mind for it?
I was approached by Markus about the track, he wanted me to do a more clubby take on it. The original had seen quite a bit of attention on Sirius, but being downtempo, couldn't really capitalize on that on the dance floor. As with pretty much any record I do, the end result is almost always a result of trial and error. I'll play a few notes and then a few more and eventually I will come to a melody. Once I find a melody that I like the rest falls into place relatively quickly. The remix ended up having that "Coldharbour flavour" to it, not by design but by sheer fluke and I think it worked quite well!
Many members of online communities have remarked on the clever names and often thought-provoking phrases you give to your productions. Does each track title have a personal story behind it?
Some do, some don't. It's actually a question that I get asked quite often. Some tracks are self-expressive while others are self-interpretive. I always felt that if you put a bit of yourself into the track that people will relate to it better and on a more personal level. Often the title of the track drives the feel of the track, but not always. I think if people think about the track title and what it really means and then they try to relate to it, that it gives the track longevity over a track with a generic title.
Over the past number of years, there have been lots of new Canadian producers who have stormed the scene, such as yourself and Glenn Morrison on the Coldharbour imprint, alongside established names such as Max Graham. Do you take a sense of pride for putting Canada on the global dance map, so to speak?
Toronto seems to be the hot spot these days, maybe it's something that they put in the maple syrup that is distributed here? Who knows :) It definitely feels well, considering that across the whole of Canada, there aren't many trance producers, perhaps a handful at most. Occasionally I'll see a polar bear here and there trying to make it, but I just tell them, silly bear just stick to what you are good at, eating fish and destroying perfectly good igloos.
Let's talk about your home city of Toronto. The city is home to the world famous Guvernment complex, a venue Markus ranks as one of the best in the world to play. If you were trying to convince a clubber who had never previously visited the city to give the Guvernment a try, what would you say?
I'd say "Come with me if you vant to live" :) Guvernment is definitely the place to be in Toronto if you are a fan of the music. There are other smaller scaled venues in the city but none of them have that massive feel that the Guv does. Even if you aren't a fan of the music, there are plenty of other rooms to accommodate your needs.
Each year, Markus releases a compilation named after a particular city which has continually inspired him throughout his worldwide travels. As a Toronto native, what did it mean to you and the fans to have him name the 2009 compilation after your city?
Markus, whatta guy! If he was only as good in basketball as he was naming compilations, then he'd be in the NBA by now. I thought it was a very cool thing to take name the compilation Toronto 2009 and shows just how much he really loves to play here. Or maybe it's not even the city or the venues he plays at but simply that he's a maple syrup lover in denial... maybe he wants a piece of what we all get here, a piece of that greatness. Who knows!
In April this year, you were invited to participate in all three of the A State of Trance Episode 400 parties. Do you see yourself undertaking more and more DJ gigs, or do you feel that your best strengths are as a producer?
I have just recently parted ways with my previous agency so my gig status is relatively non-existent at the moment. I would absolutely love to take my craft to the next level, take the story-telling aspect of music to the grander stage. I have learned quite a bit DJing this year and all in all it has made me a better and more aware DJ. As for shows, they are far in between this year, but you can catch me in Finland alongside Cosmic Gate in early December and as well in Indonesia in mid December.
Recently, your latest production "They Need Us" has been one of the most talked about tunes in Markus' live set playlists, featuring in his sets from the Electric Zoo Festival in New York and Godskitchen's Birthday in Birmingham. The track also won the fan-selected Global Selection accolade in its first attempt. What can you tell us about the track?
The better question is what the track can tell us? :) There's quite a bit of an interesting story behind this one and who knows maybe one day it will all be revealed. The track is basically what I call the "anti-Arnej", meaning that most of my previous work all revolved around a big or dramatic theme. Basically the melody drove the direction of the track and everything else was a supporting element. This track is opposite to that in a sense that the bassline IS the melody, while there is a hook that plays in the breakdown, it is a supporting element.
What does the next 12 months hold in store for Arnej?
Hopefully the finish and release of my album! Hopefully I'll get involved with a booking agency that share my vision and will help me take the story-telling to the next level and eventually do a tour to promote the album!
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