Audien Talks Calvin Harris, Writing On Tour & Bastille's "Pompeii"
It’s Saturday evening of Thanksgiving weekend at the Andaz Hotel in West Hollywood when 22-year-old Connecticut DJ Audien meets me in the hotel bar. Later this evening he will play to a sold-out crowd across the street at House Of Blues on the Sunset Strip.
The DJ/producer has just begun his brief Audacity tour before he goes home for the holidays to finish up new music, with a single expected in January. It’s a great way to cap off a big 2014 for Audien, who has enjoyed a breakout year thanks in large part to his remix of Bastille’s “Pompeii.” The track, which he calls a “reworking”, was frequently played by other DJs at several major festivals this past year, including Coachella and Electric Daisy Carnival (EDC).
What makes a good club song? What does Audien look for in the songs he chooses rework? We asked him.
Do you write on the road a lot?
Tons, that’s the only way I can do it, I’m always on the road so I gotta work on my laptop. I produce everything on my laptop and headphones. I don’t even use speakers, so [I have a] very minimal setup.
Do you drop a lot of new music into your set?
Tons, I have some bootlegs that I do and edits, stuff like that. I have like five new tracks that are about done. So I’ll probably play about three of them [tonight]. But a lot of my sets are comprised of all of my music from the past two years that has done really well and then some shit that I’m digging, so there are a lot of edits, mashups.
So what are you digging right now?
Everything, I play everything from drum and bass to trap. I play everything in between, electro house, progressive house, a lot of melodic stuff.
Are there songs you keep as a fan because they won’t work as a part of your set in the club?
Yeah, sometimes when I overplay music or over listen to music it ruins it for me, so there’s a lot of music I don’t do that to. When I look at songs there’s listening music, then there’s club music, and there’s in between. So I think the in between is something you can still play in the club, something you can still listen to, those are the ones that do best. Those are the ones that get the most reactions, those are the tracks that do well on radio. The ones that are just in the club don’t do as well. They just work in the club, people don’t really recognize them as much, but they love to party to them and they’re just raw energy. Then there’s listening music, which you won’t hear as much on the radio, it’s more underground, more melancholic, and getting that to work in a club is extremely hard. I’ve done with it a few tracks. I did this bootleg of Van Halen’s “Jump” and I made the remix, it’s not official, I’m not giving it out or anything, but I keep it for my own sets. “Jump” is the only [Van Halen song] that I remember from my childhood, so that was the one I really wanted to do and I did it.
What have been some of the in between tracks that have gotten the best response?
I usually have to make extensive edits to those particular tracks to make it work in my setting. But a lot of pop songs recently that I’ve been digging, like “Latch” by Disclosure and “Rather Be” by Clean Bandit, those tracks I’ve been working into my sets in a more edited way. Those are those middle tracks that normally work really well on radio, but end up working in the club as well.
Did you grow up on albums?
It was just songs for me. I didn’t really grow up listening to albums as much as I grew up finding songs and liking songs specifically. I never really cared about the artist either. I just cared if I liked the song, if it sounded good, it was good. My music library was just a wide variety of different artists, not particularly multiple tracks, maybe just one by him, one by her. So I kind of had more of a melting pot going on.
Is there a dream artist to work with?
I’d love to do a track with Calvin Harris or Zedd, that would be my ideal collaboration.
Was there a moment for you where you noticed things starting to take off and people really responding to your music?
A few days ago when I was in San Francisco, my song “Circles,” I was able to cut [the sound off] and everyone sang the verse. That blew me away.
What do you look for in the rock songs or songs outside of EDM you splice into your set?
As I started to look back at the music that did well back in the day, I started to realize a little bit of a trend. Each track has a little moment that everyone can recognize and remember, and it’s usually a hook or a synth riff. For “Jump” it’s that big synth riff and “Sweet Child O’ Mine” it’s that guitar riff. I think it’s important to have something like that in current day music, a moment of identity in your song. That’s really key to making a good memorable song.
So what is that moment in Bastille’s “Pompeii” for example?
The vocal for me was the riff; that was the moment I wanted to expand upon. [With] “Pompeii,” I really just wrote a whole new track around it. I took the vocal and I didn’t even really use much of the instrumental parts. I kind of made it my own thing and for some reason it just blew up the way it did. The Bastille vocal made it more recognizable, but the remix itself as a whole, the drop and everything, is what makes it really in demand for DJs and that’s why it was so played at every festival. It was the most played Coachella track, it was the most played EDC track, it was the second most played at Tomorrowland. To be the most played was insane. For me that never happens.
Tell us about the process working on that song.
It ended up being more of a collaboration because it’s not as much of a remix as it is a rework. It’s like a whole new track essentially. I’ve been kind of stepping away from remixes a bit because I’ve been working on my original music, it’s just stacking up now and we’re just trying to find that next single. Which I think we have, we’re just trying to pick it essentially. We have a lot of good music and we want to make sure we put out the next best thing.
Do you have a timeline to release new music?
We’re definitely expecting a new single by January, we’re just kind of wrapping up this one I have. It’s an instrumental right now and we’re getting a vocal for it. So we’re just getting the right vocal and once we get that I’ll work it in and do some other magical stuff, then it’ll be a track.