Pioneering producer and now record label owner Darude talks about his legendary career, new music, touring, and how it feels playing live to 100k fans!

Darude Interview by Ben Farrin

Hey Darude, it’s been a while! How are you keeping, and feeling to be back releasing your own new music?

All is good, and yeah, it’s great to be releasing new music again!

Your new single Outlaws is a different style of sound to what many will associate with Darude. How would you describe the route you are taking with your music now?

Well, while some people only associate the Sandstorm sound with me, I have released 4 albums each of which have been more and more varied in the dance music realm, and using the signature #dududu very sparingly. ‘Outlaws’ is not necessarily ‘a route’, but just a track I’m releasing now and the next one might be a little different from it again. I’ve decided to make music first – plan strategies, release orders and marketing after the music is done.

Your new single also marks the launch of your new record label – Vibing Out, can you tell us more about this exciting venture?

The music industry and the commercialism of it tends to skew how and why you make music and with my own label I’m taking some of the power back. I want to make music purely for me – for the enjoyment of the creation and the tinkering. That said, I’m not saying there aren’t some business realities in play when making music, and touring is a full-time job.

While the pandemic was of course a terribly challenging time for everyone, one silver lining was that after the initial shock it allowed me to just make music and not think of the next gig, where I’d play the latest track, where I’d need to get the biggest crowd reaction with the biggest drop. I played my Vibing Out DJ set streams every Friday on Twitch during the pandemic (and still do, when not touring) and I realised people enjoyed mellower stuff, as well as pure 138 bpm trance bangers. They liked me veering off from my usual sound and that affected me in a good way. In a way it gave me permission to try stuff and not just think about a track’s dance floor effect. I’ve made slower and deeper house tracks, various trance numbers, some pop-ish stuff and drum & bass, for instance in the last couple of years and it’s been great fun.

Darude Interview

Darude Interview

Other than your own label, which label are you mostly drawn to in terms of its music, and why?

I check out and find a good bunch of players from Scorchin’ Records, Suanda, Enhanced, Statement!, Vandit, Wake Your Mind, Sosumi, Anjunabeats and Anjunadeep, mau5trap, Pure Trance, Armind and various other Armada labels and Black Hole to name a few. Those are probably the labels I check first, but there are tons of others I also check promos from and I find hidden gems here and there. I get tracks directly from many colleagues as well and then it’s not so much label based, but just who do I get it directly from. I look for a melody or groove that catches my ear and I automatically map it as a beginning set groover or peak time set banger and something in between and my criteria for a keeper is me liking it first, then checking out if the track is actually production wise playable and how and where it’ll work.

You’ve probably never been interviewed without being asked about Sandstorm. Whilst we like to be different, we simply must ask about it – Sandstorm is one of the most iconic dance songs ever created! It still sounds amazing today. How did life change for you after releasing this back in 1999?

It did a full 180° I guess is fair to say. I was a student and a part-time worker at a computer store and in a couple of months I found myself being a touring artist with a track out that started climbing the charts first in Finland, then everywhere else and it just kept on snowballing from there.

How does it make you feel listening back to the song, 24 years after releasing it?

I love every single millisecond of the track. Even if I hear it by myself somewhere, I’ll probably listen to it till the end as the build-ups still get me going, the opening filter on the Nord Rack 2 arp bass still gives me goosebumps and the onwards-forcing rhythm still automatically makes me try/run/drive faster. On top of that, and I know I’m being a bit selfish and big-headed here, but imagine playing it live for a crowd that goes mental pretty much every time! Can’t hate that!

I must thank you because I own a copy on vinyl. In fact, I am currently halfway through categorising my vinyl collection on Discogs. I probably purchased it for around £5 and it fetches up to £35 now! I never would have imagined vinyl would grow in value so much, but it’s certainly made a comeback! Do you still have a desire for vinyl, and what is your home DJ / studio setup like?

This may come as a shock to people, but I’ve never spun vinyl professionally. I did have a crappy home hifi turntable as a teenager, but I wasn’t a DJ when I started making music and my first demos were actually recorded on cassette tapes and later burned on CDs. My first 3-4 years of shows were live shows with a hardware sequencer, synth, sampler, effects unit and I had a twin CD player in my rack for certain background parts, I learned to sync all that manually and technically to DJ on the side as well. When I started being booked as a DJ around 2003-2004 change, I went on with CDs and later around 2008 changed to Traktor. I tour with NI X1 & F1 controllers (and my laptop) and I have a Pioneer DJM-900nxs2 or V10 mixer in my rider and I’ve got that kind of setup in my studio as well.

You’re in a room with two doors, one leads to a dream studio setup, the other to the main-stage of the biggest party on Earth with fans going mental, which door do you open?

Easy. I’ve got access to my dream studio every day I’m home, so I’d rip the main-stage door open and go rock the party with the stuff I just made in my dream studio!

When I ask about Darude career highlights and best moments, what springs to mind?

I’ve got so many great memories, but I’ll pick two very significant ones:

1) MTV Ibiza 2000 party, my first time in Ibiza and I was in the crowd half an hour before my own set listening to Underworld, laughing, excited about hearing them, being in the moment, then sort of fast-forwarded to being on that stage myself, dropping Sandstorm and the crowd went crazy. It was very surreal.

2) December 31st 2016, I played a New Years Eve set in the middle of Helsinki, Finland, for 100k people. I timed Sandstorm so that it’d drop exactly at midnight, there were huge fireworks, it was absolute mayhem as a gig, but possibly even bigger in significance was that it was my track that started Finland’s 100 years of independence year celebrations, which I couldn’t have been more proud of!

Getting back to the present moment, your new track is dropping later this month. How are you feeling on the lead up to its release, especially as it’s your first new song (excluding remixes) since 2019…

Well, I’m no stranger to taking my sweet time with my releases, so that’s not exactly new, but this time it’s extra special because we had to put stuff on hold due to the pandemic, then re-shuffle various plans as for some stuff the moment had passed or conditions had changed. But, now finally getting the label off the ground and getting to release my own music this way for the first time, it feels great! Mind you, I’m not the only one doing things here, or in fact I’m ONLY making the music, so any pressure there might be is a shared one, as will be the successes as well. My wife is the primus motor in the backend of all the label stuff and I’m very lucky to have her and her team running stuff like the social media and PR etc. We feel great having the control of how my music is pushed out. We’re also very excited to get things going and moving forward to start releasing music from other producers and artists as well!

We live in a different world these days. As an artist, how have you had to adapt, to ensure your longevity?

I’m probably not the best to give advice here as I feel great resistance to change. The new generations don’t see and feel the same about things older generations do and that I think that is amplified with the internet. For example, release promos are VERY different today from what they were 10 years, let alone 20 years ago and I have people who are in the know and I let them do their thing. Also, I still make the music I want the way I want, but it’s definitely shaped by the stuff that I hear and play, so every promo I get and choose to play, it has an effect on my taste. Seeing something work at a club that you didn’t hear by just listening to in on your laptop, that’s interesting. Then you either actively or subconsciously alter or add to your own way of working to get to things that make you feel the same as the new thing you saw or heard. I think that’s maybe one of the important things – you don’t have to change your core being and thinking, but you should adjust to the times and combine your knowledge and attitude and message with something new to stay relevant or interesting to catch fresh ears of today as well.

What has this summer got in store for Darude?

I’ll be touring and promoting my new music and label, likely wearing Vibing Out logos with a smile everywhere. I’ll be playing in the UK along with other places, so I won’t be bored, that’s for sure!

To wrap things up, what message would you like to send to your fans, old and new?

I’ve always said the same: Come see me live if you can, don’t be a stranger, tell me face to face or on the socials if I sucked or rocked! Also, if you like what you see and hear of me, the biggest thing you can do for me is to just simply tell a friend or your social circles to check me out, too! When I’m not on the road, I’ll be streaming on on Fridays starting at 6 PM EET / 4 PM UK.


Darude Interview by Ben Farrin