A sit-down w/ Arnej

Prior to his spell-binding set that kicked off our 2015 run of shows back in January, we chatted for a while with one of our favorite pals, the man who coined the phrase “Glow Hard or Go Home”: Arnej.

Glow: So, you always have the fans coming back to see you whenever you’re in town. How did your relationship with Glow start?

Arnej: It’s kind of interesting, actually. This all began when I once had a layover in Washington. I remember talking to my manager because Armin was here for Super Glow, and I told him, “Let’s just delay the flight back home for a day, check out this Armin show, and we’ll go back in the morning.” So we did that, and we ended up staying 5 extra days. There’s just something about this city that just pulls you in. I had known Pete for a while, and he knew me, but we never really crossed paths. After that particular show, things started really started to develop here in the city. I came back later that same year for the New Year’s Eve show at Fur with Morgan Page, so that was kind of the beginning of it all. DC, to be honest has a very special place in my heart. It’s just an amazing city, with an amazing energy. I don’t know what it is here, maybe something in the water, but always I’ll keep coming back to it.

Glow: What do you think about the scene in The District? How would you compare the club-life in DC to those of other cities?

Arnej: I would say that DC club-life is one of the strongest in the country. Lots of the biggest names have played here. A lot of people don’t know that Tiesto, Armin, and Ferry all came through DC first. If you look at the current state of the U.S. dance music market right now, you can trace it all the way back to the first days of Glow. People need to know and understand and respect the history that the city has with dance music.

Glow: What do you like to do in your free time here, do you have a specific place to hang out or go eat?

Arnej: Well, for some reason we always end up at Beer Garden right before the show, so things usually get a little bit messy before the show. But to be honest, I’ve been to the city so many times, and collectively it all seems like a blur. There’s been so many times where I’ll be at a certain place, then another, then somewhere else, and next thing I know, I’ve missed my flight back home. You kind of get sucked into the nightlife here, which for me was the biggest surprise when I first came here. Comparing it to government city of my country, which is as boring as boring gets, DC is the complete opposite of that. There’s something always to do every night of the week here. As far as what I like to go eat other than having some German sausage here and there, probably not much. I haven’t done much to be honest, I think I’ve only gone sight seeing once.

Glow: What is your most memorable show in DC and why?

Arnej: It would probably have to be the New Year’s Eve show in 2011, and the reason why is not the most obvious. Ovechkin, who is a superstar here in Russia, showed up at Fur, came into the booth, grabbed the mic and started talking into the mic. This all happened at like 3 in the morning,  and things got a little out of hand. It’s all very funny to me, because it’s definitely not everyday that a superstar hockey player comes in the booth and start talking on the mic.

Glow: What inspired you to start making music?

Arnej: I’ve always been a very inquisitive individual. If I find something interesting, to the point where i have to learn how to do it, then I have to immerse myself into it. Music was definitely something like that. I remember listening to the early days of psy-trance and goa-trance. This was back in like ’95, and I remember being completely in awe at the sounds. I remember thinking of how these guys were doing this, because to me it was both complicated and amazing at the same time. I then picked up a copy of Fruity Loops, back then it was like v.1 or something. I started making simple loops and beats and they were absolutely horrible. However, like most skills in life, the more I worked at it, the better I got. At the time, it still wasn’t something I wanted to do at a professional level, that happened much later for me. I think it was around 2007 where my eyes opened up to the idea that there could be something more to it all. It’s funny, my first-ever show had Armin headlining, and I remember when he asked me to open up for it. Of course, I said yes, but what he didn’t know was that I did not know how to DJ at the time. So the next day I went out and bought some CDJ’s and speakers, and I spent like 2 weeks teaching myself how to DJ. I remember messaging all my friends asking, “How do you do this? How do you do that?” I was very passionate about music production, but DJ’ing never drew me in until I was thrown into it, and I was just like, “well, okay I have no choice, this is a opportunity that I can’t say no to.” I’m glad I said yes.

Glow: Do you have a moment that kicked off your career?

Arnej: I had a couple releases in the early 2000’s, but I was doing music mostly as a hobby at the time. If somebody ended up playing my record, I thought it was cool, but I didn’t make it out to be a big thing. I think it wasn’t until “They Always Come Back” (TACB) came out, where it got support from everybody: Armin, Markus, David Guetta, you name it. I never expected for all these guys to be playing my music, and that was when I was like, “Hmm okay, maybe this is the direction I should go into, since it seems to work with all these superstars.” So, TACB was probably the kick-off point. The interesting story behind that song is that nobody wanted it, it sat on the shelf for like 6 months. I sent it to every single label and nobody wanted anything to do with it, so I almost gave up on it. I remember shortly afterwards, I saw Markus on MSN and I sent him the song saying “Hey man, you wanna play this song on your show? You know, only if you think it’d make sense in your set?” He ended up signing it to his label.

Glow: How do you pick the names to your tracks, and what track did you enjoy making the most?

Arnej: You know, the names tend to be very self-interpretive, but at the same time they are self-reflective as well. So for example, a track like TACB. People always ask for the meaning behind the title. I found out early on that if you can associate with the song title on a emotional level, it’s more likely to resonate with you, compared to some generic title. I always pick titles that have more of a deeper meaning. Some of them will be related to things that I have experienced in my life, some of them won’t. I’m sure everyone has been at a point in their lives where they’ve been with somebody, things don’t work out at first, and sometime down the road, they come back into your life. So that’s what I was trying to get at with TACB. As far as my favorite track that I’ve worked on, I find it very difficult to go back and pick a particular song and try to figure out what it was that I was thinking about. When I listen to TACB, I don’t know what the thought process was behind the song, but I can say otherwise with the processes on my current projects. Over time, you kind of forget what made you pick that particular kick drum, or that hi-hat, or why you went with that lead or this lead. So I can’t really answer that one faithfully. At some point, every single song that I’ve made was my favorite until the next one came around. Right now the one I’m working on is my favorite just because it’s the one I’m working on.

Glow: What do you think about the future of trance? Do you think it’s headed in the right way, or is it going downhill?

Arnej: I don’t wanna use the word downhill, but it’s definitely going in a downwards direction right now, especially in the U.S. because the market is all about EDM and big-room. But eventually, I believe trance will come back to the top. We do know that music is synchronous; it comes in cycles, right now we are in this Deep House phase which is very reflective of the early 90’s sound. So keeping that in mind, what happened after the early 90’s house? You had your introduction to quality techno, and after techno came trance. If we are following that particular cycle, then as far as trance is concerned, it’s right around the corner. I think there needs to be some innovation in the genre, everything right now feels like people are just doing it because that’s what the sound is, rather than trying to be a little more experimental. We’ll see if it happens, we’ll see where it goes.

Glow: You posted on Facebook that last year was a shaky year in music, can you elaborate on that?

Arnej: It was shaky because deep house, or what they like to call “deep house”, all the sudden came in and it was just on fire. The thing is, that sound has been around for 20-25 years. So why is it that all of a sudden now it’s making a lot of noise? I think it’s because people are fed up with what’s being presented to them right now. Another reason why I called it shaky is because you had other genres come in quickly and just vanish. Dubstep is probably the most notable example. If you go to Google Trends today and search “dubstep”, you can see it hit a peak in around 2012, and then it went down a sharp decline. I have nothing against it, but when a genre of music is based strictly on aggressive sounds that caters to a younger demographic, it has no life span, because that younger demographic will grow old and say to themselves, “I like something else now,” That was the fundamental flaw with dubstep. A little bit too sound-based rather than establishing itself on musical content, and pandering a little bit too much to just guys. Music needs to be widespread and not just appealing to a single demographic.

Glow: I know you’re big into video games, what made you pick a career in music instead of video games? Do you think you made the correct decision?

Arnej: Truth be told, I worked on video games. I was in the industry for over a decade, and that’s when I discovered the production side of music. So I was still working on games, and when I was making songs like TACB, I was still about 90% into video game stuff, and there came a point where I was spending 19 hours a day working on those two things at the same time. I came to realize that I only have so many hours in the day and I couldn’t do both. I lived that way for about like a year and half with no sleep. It was a very difficult decision to pick one or the other, because I loved video game development, it was what got me into the music. It placed me on a sort-of weird journey and who knows, maybe I’ll go back to that kind of stuff. I think I made the right pick decision for now though.

Glow: Lastly, you’ve been pretty quiet last year. what does 2015 have in store for Arnej and will you be showing us some new stuff tonight?

Arnej: You know, I will definitely debut a couple records that I’ve been working on. I purposely chose to sit on a whole bunch of music until the time was right. It’s funny because I have songs I did 2 years ago that didn’t make sense then, but they do now. I’m probably sitting on 12-15 tracks that I know will do well, it’s just a matter of choosing what exactly what I wanna do with them; do I wanna approach it where I’ll put them all out as singles once every couple months? Do I make a few EP’s? Do I make a album? That’s kind of the decision-making process that I’m going through right now, what to do with all this music that I’ve spent most of last year working on. I still don’t have the answers, I’m trying to figure it all out. The quiet period wasn’t without anything to prove for it. It will be a interesting year for me I think, there’s a couple things I’m working on that aren’t specifically trance. I don’t wanna reveal anything just yet, but let me put it this way: I’ll be bringing back some of the emotions and feelings that people have known through my music.

Interview by: Halil Ozi Cakar

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