Ville Virtanen, commonly known as Darude, is a DJ and record producer from Finland who began producing music in the mid-90s, making him one of the first massive trance music producers. Darude’s most renowned track, “Sandstorm,” released in 1999, went platinum, establishing him as a mainstream figure on the world music scene.
His other singles and albums reached the top of international music charts, with his debut album, Before the Storm, winning Finnish Grammy Awards. The new millennium welcomed Darude to major music festivals worldwide. After appearing at events like Colors Festival in Finland in 2012, Tomorrowland’s tenth anniversary in 2014, and Australian Future Music Festival in 2015, he released his signature album Moments in 2015, followed by a sold-out tour across North America the same year.
Darude Headlining Dreamstate SoCal 2021
This year, Darude made a much-anticipated appearance at the largest trance music event in the U.S., Dreamstate music festival, which is presented by Insomniac Events. Dreamstate SoCal, in its sixth edition this year, is one of the most sought-after events for trance, progressive, and genre-bending electronic music.
Image via FB Darude
Darude’s last pre-pandemic performance was at Avalon in L.A. with Andy Moor in February 2020. Our music team couldn’t pass up the opportunity to hear the trance master’s thoughts after Dreamstate, as well as his views on the modern EDM scene and plans for the future.
Darude x Respect My Region Exclusive Interview
The long-awaited guest from Europe, Darude, was one of the main figures the trance-craving crowd came to see at Dreamstate music festival that night. The feeling was undoubtedly mutual, as the artist himself genuinely missed his fans throughout the pandemic.
Image via FB Darude
Darude was clearly thrilled to be able to commune again with fans in a live venue setting after almost two years of being cooped up at home, performing only on digital streaming platforms. The artist said the night felt like a breath of fresh air and that the audience brought him the power and energy he needed to view the world through a brighter lens, which he felt he desperately needed at that point in life:
“Standing on that stage in front of that pulsing mass of happiness was incredibly powerful and moving for me, I had several teary-eyed moments during the set and just couldn’t stop smiling.”
Darude was excited to see his fans, but he was also delighted to see new faces, including friends he made on Twitch during the pandemic. The festival was a “real-life streamer get-together” and included appearances by Genix, Ilan Bluestone, Gareth Emery, Solarstone, and others currently making major waves in the industry.
EDM 2000s vs. 2020s
Darude noted that electronic music has grown in popularity since he began 20 years ago. An underground phenomenon as recently as a decade ago, EDM is now firmly in the mainstream thanks to Internet platforms, raves, and genre-specific festivals. Darude remembers the “good old days” when EDM represented a special form of expression confined to true enthusiasts, with a tinge of nostalgia:
“People at clubs and other dance music gatherings were much more dedicated to the music and culture back then, compared to today’s massive crowds at festivals, because they had to really look for it to get it. I’m not saying that judgingly, but just pointing out there’s a difference.”
EDM has evolved with the times and with the tastes of listeners. When Darude originally released “Sandstorm,” for instance, it was over seven minutes long – typical for EDM tracks of the time. Today’s tracks average three to four minutes, by comparison. The artist further noted that the life cycle of a hit composition has also been shortened dramatically, given current listeners’ fickle nature and unceasing demand for new content:
“Back then a track with some success life cycle could’ve been altogether several months, first promoting, then having it play on the radio, and today you aim at big impact on release day, then it tapers off in weeks if not days, as people go from hit to hit to hit on Spotify or YouTube for e.g.”
Darude prides himself on always being on the cutting edge of technology. He told RMR that he migrated from FastTracker2 to Cakewalk to Cubase VST and finally to Logic in rapid succession, as each new step became available.
He also revealed that he began with live performances using sequencers, samplers, synths, and effect units. In 2003-2004, he began DJing with Pioneer CMX-5000 players and the CDJ-1000 when it was out. Around 2007-2008 he added Traktor as a third deck to the CDJs and soon realized he was spinning more and more, eventually spinning all of his music from the computer with Traktor. “I still have CDJs in my rider as I need them as a backup in case something happens to my laptop, but I think it’s fair to say I’ve been a ‘modern’ DJ for a while now.”
Advice for Newcomers
The advancement of technology and computing power fascinates Darude. In his view, it has practically erased the line between professional and amateur DJ. He notes that any high school student today can create tracks whose sound quality is essentially indistinguishable from something produced by a professional DJ.
“Anyone coming to me today handing me demo going, ‘yeah, it doesn’t sound that great yet, because of my gear…’ I stop them mid-sentence as there’s been no reason to blame your equipment for lacking sound quality in the last 10, even 15 years now, if you can afford a computer.”
In his view, anyone with a laptop or even a phone can achieve a crisper sound and higher quality for free, which then would have been possible with $200,000 in a studio 20 years ago. “I’d recommend first trying out and selecting a DAW that feels best, then learn it and its built-in effects and synths etc. before investing in third party plugins as it’s WAY better to know all the ins and outs of what you have than to get something new all the time without even scratching the surface of what you already have.”
“Sandstorm” Brings the Wave of EDM to the US in 1999
Fairly to say, the master of trance music, Darude produced his game-changing hit “Sandstorm” in 1999 armed with nothing more than FastTracker2, in the process launching a wave of electronic music across North America at the cusp of the new millennium.
“Sandstorm” set off a firestorm, but the artist politely denied his genius, claiming he was simply producing what he loved, doing what he enjoyed, and having the time of his life. He gets the greatest satisfaction from his work when his music has a concrete effect on a person’s life and becomes associated with pivotal moments in that individual’s life path.
“There are couples who met on the dance floor at my shows, then had their first dance as a married couple to my track, how cool is that? THAT and countless other stories I do feel deep in and have been told and experienced first-hand, and those all mean the world to me.”
New Music is Coming
Like all of us, Darude dreams of the elusive “return to normal,” when fans can gather, hear his music, and bang heads oblivious to social distancing and all the mess brought on by the pandemic. For now, he produces music in the comfort of his home and distributes it through streaming platforms. “The key for me at the moment is that I’m letting stuff flow organically and naturally, no deadlines, no genre, style, bpm, or other external limitations and defining factors.”
The artist is currently working on new music, with over a dozen tunes in various stages of production, both solo and collaborative, that should be finished and released throughout 2022. He stated that these include a couple of “lower 120s, deep or progressive stuff, some 124 & 126 bpm house-ish grooves, some 128 bpm EDM-trance, some 132 bpm trance 2.0 or hybrid-trance tracks, with maybe some drum and bass, and a 114 bpm pop ballad-ish tune.”
“If there’s a silver lining, it’s that the pandemic has steered and enabled me to think broader…”
If there is a bright side to the pandemic, it is that Darude had the opportunity to expand his horizons, unconstrained by the urge to repeat, show after show, what worked with the last audience. He found himself experimenting with sounds and techniques that, by his admission, he would never have tried if he were on the road with a multi-city tour. In that case, he would have simply tried something that he’s confident would work.
“Keep Your Ears Peeled”
One of the quickest and most reliable ways to hear the Finnish music producer’s new music is to watch the Twitch show VIBING OUT, which he presents every Friday to perform his DJ sets. DIAL IT IN, where the DJ interacts with his fans, airs on Wednesdays. Also, every Monday, the DJ hosts IN DA STUDIO for those interested in the production process and want to learn firsthand from the expert.
The artist began streaming at the beginning of the global lockdown in 2020. The Twitch family of music fans is lovingly named “Darudians.” Stream Darude’s VIBING OUT show on Twitch every Friday 6 PM EET | 4 PM UK | 11 AM ET | 8 AM PT | 1 AM AET (Saturday).