Darude, a Finnish DJ and record producer, gained international fame with his 1999 hit single “Sandstorm.” This track became a dance anthem and is recognized as one of the most iconic pieces in electronic music. Darude has continued his successful career, releasing several top-notch albums and collaborating with artists worldwide, including Oskr(FIN) and Sebastian Rejman. His achievements include prestigious awards such as the Finnish Grammy for Best Debut Album, Song of the Year, and Best Dance/Hip-Hop Newcomer, solidifying his imprint on the electronic music scene.
With the release of his much anticipated new music, Funktasy Magazine sits down with Darude to discuss into his latest album “Together”, music tech , skateboarding and much more.
Congratulations on your new album! Could you please tell us more about the inspiration behind it? What was the production and the creative process like?
The theme of the album is, “I want to thank my group.” The name for the album, “Together,” came from that. Several of the tracks’ lyrics have the word “together” in them, especially with the track “Closer Together,” which is sort of the title track, so we decided to go with “Together.”
Can you tell me more about your favorite collaborations? What made this special?
Oh, wow. Okay. So I couldn’t say which one is more of my favorite than others on this album, but when I realized that I want to make an album, I made this track called Outlaws. That was the first single. I made it in 2019 in California, in Oceanside with my friend Jaakko Manninen a.k.a. House Body who’s the co-producer on that album. We’re about the same age and we’re quite busy with our families and touring and we were hanging out in his studio and we were talking about if we got to go out what would the track be like?
We said it should have distorted 909 drums and go through the same bus, like they did back in the day. We made it a little saturated and distorted with compression, and then it sat on a shelf on my hard drive for like a year and a half before Jaakko played electric guitar on it. We were thinking of a banger song but with an Avicii style breakdown with beautiful vocals. Then, I discovered Oscar on a TV show and he came up with the lyrics even more perfect than I would have imagined. So, I’ll definitely pick Outlaws as my best collaboration because I got to work with House Body. It’s definitely a banger track and it works really well in a club or at a big event, but when I listen to the breakdown, it still gives me the emotional chills because the lyrics and the story behind the scenes matter to me so much.
How does it feel to have such a diverse global fan base who admire your music and your role as a producer?
It’s a crazy, humbling, and sometimes scary experience. I’m incredibly proud and happy about it. When I started making music, I didn’t see myself as a musician but more as a noisemaker. Electronic music provided a means for me to create without aiming for worldwide recognition. The journey has been unexpected, and it’s not about making money or chart positions. What matters most is the personal connections and stories shared by fans. I’ve met people who found love on the dance floor during my sets or played my music at significant life events like funerals. These moments, whether light or heavy, are the most incredible and meaningful compliments. I didn’t initially strive for this, but when I got my chance, I ran with it and have continued to learn and evolve as a producer. This is my fifth album, and I hope my music continues to have a positive impact on people’s lives, regardless of commercial success.
How has music technology advancement influenced your music making process? Are there any favorite tools or software on your go-to list?
Well, first of all, I don’t think I would be a musician if I didn’t have electricity, computers, synths, samplers, etc. Technology has played a pivotal role in my music-making process. Electronic instruments like synths, samplers, and computer technology, as well as softwares like Cubase, Pro Tools, Logic, and Ableton, have opened up a world of possibilities for music creation.
In the past, technology was less developed, and we had to be innovative with simpler setups due to budget constraints. While it was more challenging, it also spurred creativity and innovation. Today, even with basic equipment like a cell phone, iPad or laptop, you can achieve higher sound quality. However, the key remains in having a vision, creativity, and the desire to create something unique. Despite the advanced technology, without these elements, you risk adding to the noise in the music world.
As for my favorite music software, Logic is my primary DAW, which I’ve been using since 2002. I also rely on plugins from companies like iZotope and Waves. When it comes to vocal tuning, I prefer Melodyne for its hands-on approach, natural and transparent tuning, and the ability to preserve the singer’s unique style. It allows me to nudge the vocals in key without making them sound overly processed, making it one of my favorite tools.
Tell us about the infamous Sandstorm lead sound… is it a 303 bass?
No, it wasn’t a 303, it was a 303ish dull mid bass sample. It was an 8-bit sample that I basically just found somewhere in a sample pack. It was really a crappy 8-bit sample, but you wouldn’t recognize that original sample even if I play it for you right now. It became that sound when I semi-accidentally put it through a distortion unit. When you distort it, it creates these weird crappy harmonics. A lot of people who have tried to replicate it, just make it way too clean and then they don’t realize that there’s a fifth in the sample as well. You have to have the right relationship with the root note and the fifth for it to sound good with the crappy sample.
Other than Sandstorm, is there a song, collaboration or event that you hold dear to your heart?
I had a collaboration that really stands out to me, from my third album, with a Finnish singer-songwriter named Jonna Emilia. We worked on a track called “In the Darkness.” I had a chord progression and a bit of a breakdown in mind, and she came to the studio. In just 20 minutes, she wrote the lyrics for the track, and we had our first demo vocal done. This was one of the first times I personally worked with a vocalist, as my first two albums were produced with JS16. He helped with sound design, arrangement, and more. However, the third album Label This! was produced by me, and it was a coming-of-age moment. Recording Jonna made me feel I could handle it myself.
My Moments album that came out in 2015, I had a session for the song “Be With You Tonight”. My then record company and publisher had arranged a session for me in Copenhagen. In the morning, I presented everything to the four studios working for me including my samples and references. During one session, a guy called Will Sly was singing just this one line “be with you tonight” and then there was this other guy who was banging out a cool riff similar to my reference, and I was like “dude, I see a music video”.
I saw a huge EDM show that I was headlining, and then the show stops and I come off stage and I start going slow mo style and I end up home with my family which fits the title of the song “Be With You Tonight”. Even though during all the sessions, I didn’t pick up an instrument or write lyrics, I still felt huge ownership because the guys made the song around my music video idea. It was actually really hard at first to not do anything besides saying what I like and what I thought was cool but once I got the hang of it, it was kind of nice to not be on the spot. And the cool thing is almost all the tracks were initiated like that.
How do you see the music trends being effected by technology?
Well, in the late 80s, early 90s, a lot of the electronic music was shaped directly by 909 drum machines and then the arpeggiators became a thing as well. I think the same still applies today, meaning that every once in a while something new comes out and all of a sudden within the next two years or so, everybody is using the same sound such as the sound of Dubstep.
In the trance era of late 90s and early 2000s the Roland JP 8080, the blue synth, shaped a lot of the trends with its lush pads, super saw leads and stabby pads. I also have the Nord 2 that I used a lot for my first album for its bass sounds. So if you look at the likes of Ferry Corsten, Armin van Buuren and myself, all of us from the early 2000s era, the JP 8080 was our go to piece of gear followed up by Access Virus and its many versions. Today, my Moog sub 37 is one of my only analog synths which is also used for a lot of deep house and on a chiller side of house. But then we have about a million third party plugins.
Also as a producer, you’re tuned to certain sample packs and preset kits that you recognize. While some of us are more musically inclined to live playing, a lot of us are more like programmers. That’s actually interesting because we look at the machines from not only an engineering perspective but also a math point of view. I’ve realized that when I’ve talked to a lot of my peers, they ask “what happens when I press this button” or “if I think delay times then there would be milliseconds and sixteenths”. Going about it this way, you see that there’s a lot of math involved in electronic dance music. And I think today, when we have very complex mixes of pop music and various kinds of electronic dance music, there’s a lot of producers who are highly trained these days both musically and technology wise. That might not be the case in many places or many studios where people make music first and tinker after, which was the other way around for me.
Let’s get a little bit light hearted. What are some things, besides music, that you are passionate about? What do you indulge in when you’re not in the studio or DJing?
Well the first thing is being with my family. I do have two kids and a wife so a good amount of my time goes into taking the kids to school and daycare and caring for them. Second, I have a label called Vibing Out which I run with my wife where she works behind the scenes managing everything whereas I make the music and then we both A&R together. Those are my family and business passions but a day in my life is half a day in the studio and half a day of skateboarding. It’s just something that I clear my head with and come home with some bumps and bruises, but hopefully nothing more. I’m at my best skating level ever now, there’s so many resources available for everyone to pursue any hobby like YouTube which has tutorials and then there’s Google. I usually take my skateboard wherever I go. If I know that I have some time, a couple of hours a day, I’ll Google the nearest skate park in that city and then I just try and hit it.
Do you have any advice for any aspiring artists? Like the young ones are the ones that are just coming into this industry?
I’m asked this question a lot, so a couple of things come to mind. First and foremost don’t be a dick as funny as that sounds. I think it’s incredibly important to try and connect with your local, like-minded people, and obviously if you can connect with more seasoned DJs and producers, because you will learn from them and gain from your presence in their network. But don’t try to abuse that connection, just be cool and let it grow organically. Self promo is tough. So, second thing would be to always have a link or USB stick with you. There could be a chance to hand over your music to somebody. The other thing is don’t quit your day job or school. After your job or school or even before, you will have more motivation because you have a limited window of time and you will also have less stress about the outcome because you don’t have to think about next month’s rent. The last thing, which I always say, is do it for yourself. Don’t go through charts. Don’t go through YouTube. Don’t go through TikTok and see what’s hot right now and try to do that. Do what you want to do!