Thursday Thoughts 018: Our Interview With Aruna
I had the amazing opportunity to talk with DJ, Producer, and singer-songwriter Aruna. Not only does Aruna have great music, but she has an amazing and inspiring story behind her career, her personal life, and what it’s like to be a DJ traveling around. We discussed topics like her inspirations for music, the state of the EDM industry, upcoming releases, and even a little politics! Dive deep into Aruna‘s story and views and you’ll see what I mean.
Hey Aruna, it is an absolute pleasure to meet you.
Oh thank you, where are you?
I’m a half hour outside of Boston.
Oh cool, where?
You know Salem where all of the witch stuff happened? I’m in the town next to it right on the water.
That’s cool, I’ll tell you a funny story. I don’t know if you know but I’m a vegetarian.
I did not know that. That’s interesting!
Yeah and I’m pretty chill with it now but when I first got into it I was really hardcore, like militant, like I almost joined the ALF. Like I would do protests and crazy vigilante stuff. So I went to Berklee, that’s where I got my degree, so I lived in Boston on and off for seven years or something. And one Halloween, we went to Salem, you know they go nuts there. So I had this idea for the craziest costume, it was so diabolical, it was the best idea I ever thought of for a Halloween costume. So, my costume was, I dressed up as Ronald McDonald, with the white makeup and the clown suit and the wig and the whole thing, but I had a butchers apron, and splattered it with blood, and I had a knife, and I had a sign on my back. I got this poster from PETA, it was like bloody, cut-open, hanging upside down pigs. And I forget what it said underneath, but it was talking about how horrible the animals were treated and being abused and killed. So that was my costume, it was the real Ronald McDonald, and the reaction was unbelievable. There was a couple of people that came up to me early on in the night and were like “Don’t you think that’s a little inappropriate?? There are children here!” and I got into it and was like “No I think they should know what they are eating if they are going to eat at McDonalds.” And then, you know how they have the costume contest? So I entered and they gave me what they called the Boobie Prize, it was like so out there and they wanted to give me something but it wasn’t like the most amazing costume in terms of how detailed it was. But people liked it and they were laughing. Because vegetarian or not it’s kind of really sick to have this child friendly clown with a butcher’s knife and a bloody apron.
Oh my god, that… I can’t even picture that right now, like that is blowing my mind.
I have a photo I would have to dig up somewhere. That would be a good Throwback Thursday.
Oh, absolutely! I’m just trying to picture that, in a Halloween setting I think that could be something straight out of a haunted house. Like that’s so awesome.
Yeah you know like vegetarian issues aside it was genuinely kind of scary, a clown is scary even without an apron and a knife!
Exactly, well I regret to inform you that I am not a vegetarian. I don’t think I could do it to be honest.
You’d be surprised, the substitutes are so good now. I mean I was never a huge fan of meat. I ate a lot of chicken but I was never too big into red meat. And the chicken substitutes are great, like especially the Gardein stuff. Like I don’t miss it at all. And I do eat scallops now, that was the only thing I kind of missed, and scallops have such a unique texture and you cannot imitate that. And they are hard to cook so I’ve been on this quest to cook the perfect scallops.
Well that was a fun introduction right there, I like that. So Aruna, and this is really broad to begin. What is your story, in terms of music, EDM, DJing and producing, and everything you’ve accomplished so far?
You’re right that is very broad, and depending on how I answer that could take up this entire interview. Um, I am not somebody who… you know a lot of these kids today, they start producing very young, they know they want to do dance music and sort of, like the horse blinders, bee-line towards that, and then they have some success with that, they start DJing and it just takes off. That is the opposite of my story. I mean I wanted to be musician, and you don’t think like that when you are nine years old, you just sit down at the piano and stuff just comes, and you hear stuff on the radio and you find yourself playing it. There was this natural gravitational pull towards the piano at my house, even when I was very, very young. So I started taking lessons when I was five actually. When I was nine I started writing, and when I was thirteen was my first foray into wanting to be an artist, and a pop artist. And you know I grew up in Jersey and I used to go to these seminars in New York about the music industry and you’d get these panels of people who would just sit there: label representatives, radio promoters, program directors, and people from the press, every angle and every walk of the industry, artists themselves. And they’d sit up there talking about how record deals suck, how you’d end up getting dropped, and you know, you’re there and there’s like a thousand people there that are all trying to do the same thing as you. And I think that going through several of those experiences, I got overwhelmed and scared and I decided that I’m not gonna do this. I’m going to get really good at piano and I’m going to become a session player, and just ride on somebody’s coat tail, that seemed just more of like a safe and sure way to go. So I started practicing piano like a monster, like 7, 8, 9 hours a day, when I was about 13 or 14. And classical, but when I knew I wanted to go to Berklee I started studying Jazz at that point, and when I got to Berklee, my first semester I got tendonitis in both arms, because I was practicing so much. And that was awful, it was horrible, it was like one of the worst things that ever happened. I had to drop out of half of my classes. And eventually I got rid of it but it planted some seeds of doubt that I was sort of swimming upstream with the whole piano thing, and I was not the best pianist there by any stretch, there were people there that were killing me.
So then I left Berklee and moved to Miami because I got offered… there was a band I really liked called Cynic, they were signed to Roadrunner. And they are heavy metal, like thrash, progressive metal thrash, I wouldn’t call them death metal, maybe some people would. I was into all of that stuff when I was teenager, and somebody suggested that I write them and tell them I wanna play keys on their tour because the drummer plays all the keys on the record. And they actually wrote me back were like “we don’t’ need you for the tour but we are actually looking to change directions for the next album so why don’t you come down and record for us.” I was like oh my God! So I moved to Miami and joined Cynic, and that was sort of the first time I stepped back into writing, and they also wanted me to sing, so that was the beginning of me finding my voice as a singer and then towards the end of my time there I interned with a big songwriter, Desmond Child. And the last day of my internship I spent with him, he listened to some of my songs and stuff and I told him I was going for the whole piano thing, and he asked “what’s in your heart?”, and by that point it was clear that I’m a writer, and he was like “if that’s how you feel then forget the other stuff, go with writing 100%.” So I went back to school and I changed my major to music synthesis and film scoring, but I was still writing every day. But I wanted to amass as many skills there as I could so that’s why I did those majors. And I was writing every day, I was singing every day, I started taking voice lessons with a really good teacher, Mark Baxter, studied with him for two years. And when I graduated I went full on into pop. As a singer songwriter this was during the height of the Lilith era. And you know I had some successes but I moved to LA, kept working at it, released an album, and I was working my ass off and it just wasn’t going anywhere really. And I certainly wasn’t making any money from it. And I just hit this point around 2005 where I just burned out and was like I can’t do this anymore. I had no idea what I was gonna do, I knew that I had music literally in my DNA, and there was nothing else I really could do well, or wanted to do. I just didn’t know. Then in 2006 I got a random email from this guy Stuart, who found me on MySpace back when that was all the rage, and he said “you have a great voice that I think would work really well on dance songs. Would you like to collaborate with some producers?” And because I was in this place of searching, I said you know what yeah fuck it, let’s try it. So I started working with him in September of 2006, and in March I was hit up by The Thrillseekers to do track on a single of his which would become “Waiting Here For You.” That was my first release, and the rest kind of came from there. So I really kind of fell into this sort of by accident. But it started working quickly, and at the same time, coincidentally, I started falling in love with the music. Maybe six months before Stuart contacted me, I started to get exposed to a lot of dance music and I was like oh my God, I love this! So it was kind of an interesting coincidence that he hit me up to do it then.
That is quite a journey, wow!
Yeah the one thing that I’ll say such a sort of roundabout route has given me, is that because of my days struggling as a pop artist, it was rough out there when I was doing it, I can’t even imagine now. So you get theses stupid little gigs in a coffeehouse or bar or whatever, playing for 10, 20, 30 if I’m lucky 40 or 50 people. And because of that experience, of having to work so hard for an audience, I will never take my fans for granted now, ever. And when I see DJs being rude to their fans it really pisses me off. Because like these are your people, they are your life blood. I’m very grateful for my fans because I went through such a long period of not having any and it sucks. It’s like a tree falling in the woods that no one hears. No it’s actually worse than that. It’s like you planted the tree and watered it every day and tended to it and then it fell and no one heard it. You know what I mean, you built the tree, and no one heard it. It’s even worse.
So through all of that struggle, what kept you going the most?
Hm, great question… passion. Because I knew that I really believed in myself. And I believed in my writing, and I felt like I could do it. It was just a question of when. So it was a lot of passion, and a lot of faith. You know when you’re young, you just have a lot of energy and this almost naïve optimism, a lot of it was that too. But that naïve optimism is the key to a lot of people’s success, because that optimism and hope and faith is the key.
That’s definitely true. So I know you have talked about this before, but would you be willing to talk about “The End” and the inspiration behind that song at all?
Sure, that’s another long question. So…2012 was an amazing year for me, but then in 2013 bad things started happening, one after another. In the end of 2013 I was diagnosed with fibroids. Actually that was in the middle of 2013, in the end of 2013 that was when I had my surgery, a myomectomy. And that was what I believed to be the catalyst, it’s a pretty major procedure, its open abdominal surgery, they cut you open like a C-section kind of cut. And they take out your uterus, I had like ten fibroids ranging from 2 inches to the size of a coffee mug. So they cut those out and they put your uterus back in and sew you up nicely and there you are. And the recovery, the first week was absolutely awful. I don’t know if you’ve ever head your abdominal muscles cut through but that’s uh… that’s a trip. But as bad as that was it was nothing compared to what was coming.
In February of 2014 I was doing a show and before the show I started having shortness of breath and I figured it was just nerves, because I get that sometimes. And then usually when I start playing, about 5 to 10 minutes in, it goes away and I’m fine. But that didn’t happen, the whole set I was short of breath like struggling to breathe, and you know when you’re on a treadmill and you’re trying to catch your breath, it was kind of like that. Even after the set I’m sitting in my hotel room with my friend, it’s quiet and I’m still having this. And I’m like what is this? Two days later I woke up with numbness in my left thumb and pointer finger, and I thought I just slept on it weird, but it didn’t go away the whole day and I knew something wasn’t right. And then I started getting weak in my wrist, and my thumb, then I started getting the same thing in my other hand. And the whole week it just got worse and worse and then by Thursday, it was so bad I couldn’t even use a computer anymore. So I figured it was tendonitis which I had before, twice actually. So I called my massage therapist to work on it because that’s what cured me both times and as soon as he put his hands on me he made this face, he kind of paused and he said “this feels different.” I’m like what do you mean, and he’s like “your muscles don’t feel locked up like they did when I worked on you with tendonitis before,” and I was like how do they feel? And he was like “I don’t know I can’t describe it, it just feels different.” So he started working on me twice a week, and it wasn’t getting any better so I started having the sense that, you know, this wasn’t what I thought it was. At that point I went to an orthopedic doctor. Their first thought was carpel tunnel. And then I went and had the test which was administered by a neurologist and that came up negative. Then I started thinking maybe its nerve impingement coming from my neck, so I had a cervical MRI. That came up negative. Then I started thinking maybe its arthritis so I had all the blood work done, and that came up negative. So we were sort of going down this list of every possible thing it could be. I even went to an infectious disease specialist since I just got back from Asia, so I thought maybe I had some weird Lyme disease or I don’t know some equivalent. Meanwhile this is just getting worse and worse and worse to the point where I couldn’t really function anymore. I could barely brush my teeth, brush my hair, I could barely cook, and I could barely open doors. Everything was a struggle. And you know, it even got to the point where it was really starting to hurt, like my hands would swell, and so my doctor put me on Medrol which is a steroid, which helped for a bit. So this whole time it’s like, no one knows what this is, if it’s gonna go away at all, or when it’s gonna go away, and it’s getting worse and worse but every test is coming up negative. The one thing I knew was that there was nothing wrong with my body. I mean I didn’t know that for sure but everything they were testing was coming up clean.
So at a certain point, it was suggested, I said what could this be, if not this, this, this, and this. And the only thing that was left basically was MS (Multiple Sclerosis). And when I heard that, that set off this chain reaction of like now all of a sudden, within like two hours of hearing that, I started having the craziest symptoms all over my body. Like, tingling in my neck going up into my head, really bad dizziness, weakness in my legs so bad I could barely walk. And from that day, it was April 30th 2014, I was basically bedridden for a week, a little over a week. I went to my neurologist and she said we need to do a brain MRI immediately. They couldn’t get me in until Monday, so it was just this waiting waiting waiting. Then Monday I went in and had it done, and then Tuesday morning she called me and said “your brain MRI is completely fine. No plaques, no tumors, nothing.” And there was like this 15 minutes where I was crying, I just was so overwhelmed and grateful, but then immediately it went away and I was like well then what the hell is this!??
Now mind you over the course of that time it had gotten so bad, that Sunday I ended up in the emergency room because I was so weak, I couldn’t stand up or walk. And I was like something is really wrong with me and I was really worried. Like I just didn’t know what. And they didn’t know what. I told them all of the tests that were done and they thought I was just dehydrated, they gave me IV fluids, which I did actually feel better when I left. I could’ve have been a little dehydrated because of course I wasn’t eating during that whole week, and barely drinking or sleeping. But then Wednesday my symptoms were still there and I called 911, and this time they actually took me by ambulance because they found an inconsistency with my blood pressure, which they called orthostatic. And when I was in that hospital that second time, it was the first time anyone asked me, “do you want a Xanax?” and I said actually can you get me a prescription? And she did and by the time I got out of the hospital, I was so at the end of my rope with whole thing cause I had been going through it for a week. And I wasn’t feeling any better, at that point I called my parents, I’d been telling them what’s been going on so they knew. I called them and said I couldn’t deal with this anymore, can you come out here? They live in New Jersey. So the next day they caught a plane and came out here. Once they got here, we filled the prescription. And I stayed with my cousin and them, so they could at least cook and take care of me in that way. So I took the Xanax that night and the next day, I’d say 80% of my symptoms were gone. But my body was still exhausted because it had been pumping cortisol and adrenaline for a week nonstop. My legs had been shaking all the time. And so I was just depleted, I was exhausted. Of course, you know, on Xanax that added to it. I started finally feeling like I was getting a handle on the fact that this was actually a mood thing but I was so shocked about that, because I was like how could this be mental??!? The number of physical symptoms I was having were debilitating. Like I was having a lot of immobility issues, where I would wake up in the middle of the night and I could barely move my fingers or my ankles, and that just made me panic more. My vision going, burning up and down my arms, the craziest symptoms. But nothing will freak you out like immobility especially when you have a potential MS diagnosis on the table. So when I went on the Xanax. It started helping but I still was having problems sleeping. I started seeing a psychiatrist and I told him that I was still having problems sleeping, and so he put me on Klonopin. And once I went on the on the Klonopin, things finally started calming down and normalizing, I was a zombie, I was completely wiped out but at least I wasn’t in a constant state of panic. So, “The End” was written and inspired by my struggle, my fight back to feeling like myself again. To wellness, to health, to having energy and hope from being completely on my knees to the point where I couldn’t take care of myself in the most basic way. I’m a very independent person, so it’s really hard for me to be that dependent even on my parents. But there’s a lot of emotion in that song, it’s probably one of the most personal songs I’ve ever written.
…All I can say is that I read the interview you did with Magnetic [Magazine], but hearing you talk about this live is just… I can’t comprehend it. I can’t imagine what any of that would be like.
I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. It was hell. It was really the worst hell I’ve ever been though. I’m not good with uncertainty. And this was just, it was like the floor was pulled out from under me. You know uncertainty that you wouldn’t be able to function on your own, I mean MS, all those neurological diseases are just… I’d rather have cancer than that. I mean they are absolutely horrible. I started talk therapy also, because once it became clear that this was a mental thing, you know a lot of the anxiety of course was over my health, but when my health started getting better, there was still anxiety. So basically it was a like a vicious cycle, you know what I mean? And the chemicals, the drugs broke the cycle and I know a lot of people have issues with over-prescribing of those medications, and they are extremely addictive, but in my particular case, I would go as far to say they saved me and I don’t think anything else would have worked. I had to interrupt that feedback loop. And that was the only way to do it. But as I started normalizing, it was clear that it was like a boiling point and there were other issues in there that had to be dealt with so that’s why I started seeing a therapist. I was seeing him twice a week for two years, I’m still seeing him, just this month we cut back to once a week. Which was a bigger step than I thought it would be. But I felt, and I still feel ready. But we talked about all sorts of things in there and I wrote another song based on my experience with therapy that’s actually going to be my next single I believe. And that’s a really beautiful song. It’s about, you know a lot of my issues that came up in therapy had to do with self-acceptance or lack thereof. And when through therapy, an adult tells you that, things that stupid 10-year-old boys said to you, that they were just a bunch of doodie heads, you know what I mean? It sounds ridiculous but when someone validates those feelings that you’ve been harboring for 20-30 years about yourself, based on something someone said in the language that you would say, that you would use to speak to someone of that age, it’s almost like going back to when I was 10 years old and just fixing that broken wire. It’s a little bit like Good Will Hunting, the ending, the last part of that, the famous scene. So much has come up in therapy but self-acceptance has been a big part of it, and that’s what song is about. I went into therapy knowing I don’t just wanna accept myself, I want to love myself. And I wanna feel proud, not like in a cocky way, but like this deep care or love like you would have for your own baby. That’s how I want to feel about myself, and I’ve never felt that. And so that is kind of what the song is.
Well you’ve definitely accomplished a lot since then. I mean everything that I have heard from you is so impressive, it’s so emotional, and it’s amazing.
So how, and I guess why, did you come back to the music industry? I mean were you ever worried about something like this happening again? Or that it would be too much to handle?
That’s a good question. Anxiety as a result of my career was definitely in there. As you can imagine this is a very scary lifestyle. Especially for somebody who is not good with uncertainty. Entrepreneurial enterprise, that’s all it is, a barrel of uncertainty. You don’t get a paycheck, it doesn’t work like that. And on top of the uncertainty, in this particular realm there is tremendous pressure. First of all, to be young, and to look hot or cool, be like this cool iconic DJ dude or chick that everybody looks up to. One of things that we had to do in therapy, one of things that came up very early was that there were two parts of me and I had them completely separated. And so it was almost like living a dual life, anytime you are living a dual life because you are cheating on somebody or whatever the reason, you lied about something, it’s gonna cause you anxiety. And so I had to integrate those things, and I’m still in the process of doing that and the more I do it, the more things change. I didn’t think about leaving it, because I just love it too much. But it was like, if I’m going to keep doing this, I have to do it my way. And I have to be me, fully. And if people don’t accept me, so be it. But I have to do it this way or I’m going to go nuts again. Having said that, now, two years later, I’m starting to have second thoughts, for a number of reasons. Part of those reasons, is I’m changing so much in therapy, I don’t know if I still want to be a part of this. Cause there’s a lot about it I really really don’t like. But in 2014, I was still very much invested in it. Even through all that hell in 2014 up until May, I was touring. Of course every time I’d come back I’d be worse. I only had to cancel one show, that was May 31st. But I had an Australia tour that I was amazingly able to do just 6 weeks after this whole episode, and I held up really well considering. I love touring, I love it. So I didn’t want to stop at that time, but I just had to adjust a little bit.
I can imagine, it takes a lot to be a producer and a DJ, and its busy.
It’s the time, it’s a huge mental thing. You know people say really awful things about you, and you really need a strong internal sense of who you are and your worth. A lot of times I get that question about what advice would you give to upcoming producers, singers, DJs. This thing is a mental game, life is a mental game. And they don’t teach that at Berklee and probably anywhere. But you have to get ahold of you mind and your thoughts. Your thoughts create your entire life and your career. So that’s another thing that I’ve been getting better and better and better at. And it’s brought about a lot more internal peace as a result.
Dang… So you recently played “The End” in Enhanced Sessions 358. So what’s it like to hear that song or play it now and what provoked you to play it in that mix?
I love that song, that’s probably, if I had a top three list of the songs I am most proud of that would definitely be in there. A: because it means so much to me. B: I just think everybody involved did an amazing job with that song. Husman did a great job, I co-produced it with him and that made it even more personal to me. Like the whole verse, that breakdown is pretty much me. And Myon mixed it and he did an amazing mix. So I’m very proud of that song and on a more practical level it just fit in the set in terms of key, and all that stuff, and energy. And I know a lot of people like that song so I wanted to throw it in. Songs are like markers in time, especially if you wrote them, even if you didn’t write them. You know you hear a song that’s gonna remind you, if it meant something to you, who you were and what was going on in your life at the time you were hearing it. And that one for me, obviously there’s a lot that comes back when I look back at how far I’ve come. And that makes me very proud.
So what do you think of the progress of your career since you’ve come back to the industry and what goals do you have going forward, or is there anything you would want to change?
That’s a juicy one. When I came back, things got really weird. Things were very different when I started in this scene, in 2007. Now things move very fast. I think the fact that dance music has blown up here the way it has, has definitely contributed to the massive surge of new talent in the market. And that combined with Spotify and the popularity of those types of services, you disappear for 6 months and you’re practically irrelevant. So when I came back I really had to fight my way back. And “The End” was a good weapon for that. But things just got very weird. In 2015, a lot of things slowed down and when I got sick, a lot of people stuck by me and a lot of people didn’t. And that hurt, a lot. So that was part of the fallout of that whole episode, I lost a lot of my footing in the scene. So you know I’ve been fighting to get it back ever since then, but the combination of this oversupply of talent, and then you add to that, the fact that, as far as I can tell by many many markers, it seems to me like the bubble is bursting. And the demand is contracting. And almost everybody I know, is touring less, making less money, unless they’re A-list, or high B-list. It’s just gotten very weird.
So my goals have started to change. And I’m looking at other things, I’m looking at other genres too, this is another thing. I am kind of burnt out on 128 to 132 (BPM), and there’s other genres that I love that are slower or faster, that I’ve been exploring. And I wanna continue to learn and grow as a producer. That has become very very important to me. And a lot of people in this scene have a hard time accepting that, which is extremely frustrating, they just want to hear me sing. The problem with that is that the market does not support singers at this point. So that’s not something I can do. It doesn’t make any sense. But producing, if you can produce you’re like a little music factory. And it just opens so many more doors in terms of ways to support yourself, now and into the future. And because I come from pop background, I will at some point in the near future look to start getting into producing more pop type music, and expand my skills in that direction. I wanted to initially learn to become a great trance producer, but now I find myself questioning that because it just doesn’t make any sense. There’s no money in it. So why spend time doing that when I can learn produce something else, that I actually can make money in, that I like just as much.
So you asked me that question at a very strange time. I’m almost at another point right now to be honest, and you’re the first person I’m telling this to, like even my team doesn’t know this. I’m almost at the same point now that I was back in 2005, when I stopped doing pop and was looking for something else and had no idea what it was going to be. I’m in that searching process, and I’m confident I will land somewhere and find something. Because I do believe, in my heart of hearts that I was put here to do music, and I will follow that to the end of the earth. Just, I’m not sure it’s going to be trance anymore. So as far as goals, I want a house here. That’s just nagging at my constantly. I really want a house. So that’s one but on a more career oriented level I want to get really good as a producer, A: for the opportunities it brings. And B: because it’s so fascinating, producing is like unlocking the secrets of the musical universe. You learn why a sound is what it is. Like oh my God, a hi-hat is just white noise and kick drums are just sine waves. That’s like one harmonic and all harmonics. It’s just so cool and I’m very much into the whole principle of cause and effect in writing. And you can really see that in action when you produce. So that whole art and science of producing, it wouldn’t call it an obsession just yet but it’s getting to that point. Much to the chagrin of my fans who, like I said, just want to hear me sing. I feel like singing for me, I love it, and I love singing and I love writing, but it’s sort of like the law of diminishing returns. I don’t know how much better I could get as a singer, which isn’t to say… like obviously I could get better. But as a producer, there’s a huge amount of growth for me, huge. Even for people who have been doing it for ten years, they are still growing. I would love to play festivals and all that stuff, but I don’t know if the scene is ready for a female up there. I would love to think they are. Let me rephrase that. I don’t know if they are ready for me up there. I’m not that young, cool, iconic, shallow, you know, doing shots and pouring alcohol into people’s mouths, I’m not that and I don’t want to be that. I’m not going to be that. And at this point in my life I want to be someone real, and I want something to matter and I just don’t know if there is a place for any of that in this scene. And that’s why I’m having misgivings.
So this is another thing that will be news to a lot of people but I started working with, I don’t know if you know who Jaci Velasquez is, but she was huge in the Christian market. And contemporary Christian is something that I really always liked, but I find myself getting into it more and more as I started getting into God and the Bible more. And wanting to be a person who’s full of light and touch people in that way. You know I went Nashville early last month and I stayed with her and I was in writing sessions every day for a week. And I loved it. I loved the lifestyle out there, and writing with great writers. I mean, Grammy nominated, really talented people, so that’s something I might be getting more and more into. As a writer, possibly even as an artist who knows. So that’s the short answer I guess.
Yeah I mean the EDM scene, dance scene is always changing. And it’s hard to keep up with.
It was definitely in a big, big period of expansion for a long time, and I don’t know if you are into the market or follow any of that, but any stock, it never just goes up, there’s corrections, and we are in a big correction right now. There’s going to be a lot of people selling out, that’s my prediction. It’s happening already. So there will be this kind of shakedown, and when the smoke clears we will see who’s still there. Like are these big companies like SFX that bought a lot of our scene. You know, when they bail, what’s going to happen? Are these companies like Beatport just going to be left in tatters or is someone else going to come in and pick up the pieces or form a new company? It is in a big state of flux right now.
So where do you think that the dance music industry is going? Or what do you think about its state right now?
God… you’re asking some juicy ones. I don’t think anyone knows where it’s going. I certainly don’t know where it’s going. Obviously deep and tropical have made a big resurgence which I’m all for. Anything that brings a sort of softer, more feminine sensibility, where it’s not sawtooth everything and these nasty hard drops that feel like you’re being beaten over the head with a 4-foot steel penis. I just can’t do this anymore, and I think a lot of people have hit that point too, which is why deep started coming up. It’s interesting when you listen to the sort of modern deep that’s coming up now, it still has a drop, it’s just a kinder, gentler drop. And I love that, and like I said I’m all for that. As far as the rest of it… it might go back underground honestly, and trance may have a resurgence, who knows.
What would you say is currently driving and influencing your music and your sound right now?
That’s another really good question. The thing I was talking about, wanting to be a person who is full of light. That is huge, that effects everything you think, everything you say, and obviously the songs you write. So that’s a big part of it. Wanting to be a really talented producer, that’s a big driver. This is one thing that’s really giving me pause about walking away, is I really would love to make a dent in the scene for women. It’s just so hard because there is so much backlash, for whatever reason. Social change in that way is something that drives me a lot. Cause you know life is short, and who knows how much longer I have here, but if you can clear-cut, or help clearcut a path for women to see you, whether it’s playing somewhere, or guest mixing on Group Therapy, it says to them, if she can do it, I can too. And that is something that will live well beyond my lifetime. Because I don’t believe for a second, that women cannot produce as well as men. I think women may actually be able to produce better than men, because they are so much more in touch with their emotions. Certainly as composers. With producing, one of the hardest things I think for women is that you have to be decisive as a producer. That’s been one of my biggest struggles, if you’re hemming and hawing over every single parameter you tweak or every decision you make, it’s gonna take a year for you to finish a track. You know what I mean? So you know, I’ve had to learn to be decisive and trust myself in the process of the productions I’ve done so far. One question I get asked a lot is why aren’t there more women on the scene, and I really think that a lot of why is that they just don’t have a lot of very visible role models. There’s a couple, but there’s not a lot, and not enough. If I can be that for somebody, somebody who is actually really talented, and then finds herself believing in her talent and developing her talent and then she comes to the floor and inspires other girls and it kind of goes like that. You know what I mean? That’s a legacy. That’s something I can be proud of. Girls expressing themselves, creating art that would not have existed in the world had they not believed in themselves and stepped up. So that drives me.
Well that’s a huge motivator. I think I have an easier question for you here. What do you think of the remixes for What If? Is there a hope that you have for them?
You know everything you put out you want it to reach as many people as possible, you want it to do as well on Beatport as possible and all that. But I’m at a point in my career where, I wouldn’t call it ambivalence, but I used to drive myself crazy with this stuff and get really upset if something didn’t do what I wanted it to do. And I don’t know if it’s the meds I’m on or if its confidence or peace or what it is, but I’m kind of at a point now where I’m just like “eh”. You know, you do the best you can, anybody who works with me or for me will know that I’m somebody who’s very hands on in every aspect of my career. And I probably drive my label crazy. And I probably drive anybody I work with crazy. Because almost every remix I’ve ever done, I’ve had a lot of feedback sometimes to the point where the label is like, “okay pick three of these, and we will send them on.” And I had like eight revisions that I wanted. This is one of the reasons by the way that I started producing is because you sometimes, you try to explain something to someone and they’re just, they’re not gonna get it cause it’s their vision not yours. And you can use reference tracks and that kind of thing, but sometimes is just easier to get your own hands in there and do it yourself. So that’s what I started doing. I can’t remember the first time I did that, it might have been “The End”. And that kind of became the norm, that’s why my name is in the remix slot of almost every original I do now, cause they are pretty much all co-productions by now. I definitely feel a sense of ownership around everything I put out, but you can’t drive yourself crazy. There’s so much you can’t control, you do the best you can with a track, you do the best you can with feeding back on the remixes and getting them as good as you can. Do the best you can with your promotional efforts and that kind of thing. You know like the Instagram takeover I did, the Enhanced Sessions, the Facebook Live DJ set, all that stuff. And then as some point you just have to step back and surrender it, to God, to the universe, to whatever it is. And then move on.
Damn that’s intense. That about wraps up what I have. Are there any more songs or projects that we can hear about? Anything we can get sneak peek on?
There is nothing that is ready for sneak peaking yet. But obviously you know that remixes of Sunrise are coming.
And I actually co-produced one of them. That remix package is quite a package, there’s a lot of them, and they are all very good. So that’s one thing. I have an original that is being wrapped up that will be released shortly after that. That’s the one I was telling you about, that was inspired by therapy. I have another original that I am wrapping up as well, actually two originals, that are not trance. So this next one, I don’t want to say that it could be my last in Trance, but it could be my last for a little while. Just moving in other directions. You can only do the same thing for so long, you have to grow, you have to evolve. And I know a lot of fans just wish that their favorite artists could just turn out variations of the same track for their entire career, but we are humans at the end of the day and humans need to grow and evolve. There’s a lot of that going on with me these days.
Well that’s awesome. So yeah that’s all I have.
It’s a lot, you’ve got your work cut out for you haha.
Well it was well worth it. This was an honor to do I’m happy that I got to talk with you, I mean for an hour, that’s amazing.
Yeah I can talk! You asked me some good questions and off I go.
Yeah when we first heard that this was potentially coming up and I looked at the previous interview you did I’m like “okay this is insane I need to get at least somewhere close to this.” Your story is so deep and inspirational, and it’s amazing how far you’ve come.
You know what’s really interesting? All of us I’m sure get a lot of comments, emails, messages, from fans saying nice things. One thing that I see in almost every single message and email I get is that word: inspirational. Which I love, that’s like the biggest compliment you could pay me. That’s the most important thing to be. And I find it curious though because like I could totally get it from a girl, but I get it from guys too. And I’m like, “how am I inspirational to you?”
Hahaha, I mean I think it’s the fact that, at the end of the day whether you’re a girl or a guy or anyone else, you’re human. And things like stress, anxiety, and everything related to that, happens to everybody, no matter who they are. And so being able to, to the level of what you experienced, get through, and still keep going, and to be back into this intense, fast-paced industry, that is quite a feat right there.
I see, I mean I don’t know how many of my fans know about that whole thing, I mean the ones that do I could see how they would say that. Whatever the reason, I’m always curious, but I think that is really cool to hear. And thank you for that compliment.
Well you are very welcome. So is there anything else you would like to say or add?
Vote for Hillary haha!
Haha I will put that in if you want me too!
I mean honestly the election is not even about her, and of course the idea of having a women in the White House totally lights my fire. But if all the Bernie voters were like “screw Hillary we’re not voting for anybody,” …Trump could win and that idea of that man having access to the nuclear codes, like I wake up in a cold sweat. I probably shouldn’t get into politics in an interview cause that is a great way to piss people off. I’m sure I have fans that are Trump supporters for whatever reason. I was being kind of facetious, but there is kind of some truth, people in this election really need to just bite the bullet and do what keeps us all from getting in a world war. There’s a quote somebody said, “not voting is not a protest, it’s a surrender.”
That’s interesting, that’s a nice quote I like that.
On a more music-related note, I would also want to say for anybody who enjoyed my recent takeover of Enhanced Sessions, or my Group Therapy guest mix, or is just curious about my DJ sets, or wants to hear an hour of damn good music every week, check out my podcast The Hot List. It’s free on iTunes and also airs every Sunday on DI.FM Trance.
Well Aruna it was a pleasure to talk to you. Thank you so much for doing this. It was great to meet you.
You as well!
The remixes for Aruna‘s track “Sunrise” come out next Monday on Enhanced Music. Check them all out below!
About Thursday Thoughts:
At Dance Rebels, we strive to bring our readers as close to their favorite artists as possible. One of the best ways to make that connection is to discuss a wide range of topics with the biggest names in the dance music scene. If there is an artist that you think we need to talk to, reach out to us on Facebook or Twitter!