Since arriving onto the world stage in 2000 with arguably the most loved dance anthems of the 21st century in ‘Sandstorm’, Darude has become one of the most globally recognised DJs, playing hundreds of club and festival shows around the world every year and having his musical workings featured in some of the biggest sporting events, advertising campaigns and video games.
He is also a proud Finn, flying the ‘Siniristilippu’ (or Blue Cross) flag of Finland, wherever he goes. This included a special performance in the Finnish capital of Helsinki on New Year’s Eve in 2016, as part of the celebrations of 100 years of Finnish independence in front of more than 100,000 people.
Never one to shy away from the commercial possibilities of music, Darude again flew the flag for Finland performing his new single, ‘Look Away’ as part of the semi finals for the 2019 Eurovision contest in Tel Aviv, this week.
While the two semis will be shown again for Austrailan primetime audiences on SBS tonight and tomorrow night, keen Eurovision fans would already know – SPOILER ALERT – that the DJ unfortunatly did not succeed in progressing his country to the 2019 grand finale.
Still, a semi-final performance is no small feat. Music Feeds chatted with Darude ahead of the Eurovision shows.
Music Feeds: What was the decision behind wanting to enter Eurovision and how does the selection process work?
Darude: Earlier, except these last 2 years, we’ve had this traditional selection process so different writers, different artists pitch their songs. If there’s tonnes of them, they’re whittled down to 10 or 20 and then the nation votes for their winners. That’s how the act or song was picked earlier. Last year we were invited and we created 3 songs of which the nation and an international jury decided a winner from. So I was basically competing with myself (well me, and my buddy Sebastian Rejman).
I was very honoured to be invited and it took me that one day, when I got the phone call, to process it. I was talking it through with my manager and my wife and it’s a lot of stuff to take on. It’s a big commitment. It started in September and here we are now, in a week and a half it’ll be done. I needed to re-shuffle some schedule stuff and also consider what Eurovision is and how my stuff will fit there. I’m so happy I took it on because it’s been an amazing ride. We talk about the Eurovision bubble, which sounds cheesy, but the bubble is amazing. The organisers are great and professional, the fans are some of the most fanatical I’ve ever met. I would highly recommend it to anyone even if you were doubting what it might be. Last but not least, if I get to the final, I’m not gonna mind the 2 million people seeing me do my thing!
MF: Are you a Eurovision fan and have you watched it before?
Darude: I grew up in Finland and Finland has a very big Eurovision following and we love to hate our songs and/or others. It’s definitely a topic of discussion every year but I hadn’t really considered it too much earlier. I had actually been invited a couple of times earlier but timing-wise it didn’t fit before. I’m not a Eurovision know-it-all at all but there’s been years where I’ve watched more carefully. You always still hear the main tracks and who’s high on the betting charts and it’s the talk of the town. So in that way, I’ve always been aware of Eurovision.
MF: You’ll be performing your new single, ‘Hide’ is that correct? How are preparations going for that?
Darude: Actually no, the song I’m performing is ‘Look Away’ with my Finnish buddy Sebastian Rejman, who’s the singer and writer of the original ‘Look Away’ demo of which we made this dance version. ‘Hide’ just happens to be released right now, weirdly and hopefully catching some Eurovision waves as well. ‘Hide’ came about with my buddy Audioventura who’s a Finnish producer, Sami Tuomi, and then, when we got the instrumental sorted, we decided that we needed a vocalist. I previously worked with the amazing [Australian Singer-Songwriter] JVMIE on a track called ‘Timeless’ earlier. I just sent her the track and asked if she had any ideas. A couple of days later she’s just like, “Yeh, how about this?” and I pretty much dropped the vocal in the track. It’s almost as you hear it now, with some minor tweaks. I know it sounds cheesy but I’m such an Australia lover myself, I love coming to play there. You guys know your music and you love partying so I’m very excited about this Aussie connection too.
MF: Speaking of the Australian connection with JVMIE as your guest vocalist on your new single, ‘Hide’, how was it working with her and how do you find the Australian work ethic and the Aussie music scene in general?
Darude: Well I’ve worked with a couple of Aussies before. I released a track with Zac Waters a couple of years ago, called ‘Singularly’. That was an impromptu studio session where we hashed out likes and dislikes and came up with some sort of song structure. We finished that track later, online. I also worked with Uberjakd, we still haven’t released that song, but I also made a remix of one of his tracks a while ago. I sincerely like the Aussie spirit of free flowing but yet, still doing your jobs well and taking it seriously. That’s one of the things I really love about JVMIE. I just simply sent her my stuff and asked if she’d like to work on it. I don’t even remember if she responded yes or no at that point but she just sent me the vocal so I was like, “Good, I guess that’s a yes then!”
MF: Last question on Australia, we have our own entrant/contestant, Kate Miller-Heidke, who many are saying may go far in the competition. We’ve been in since 2015. What are your thoughts of having Australia in a European song contest? Is it a bizarre thing or do you embrace it?
Darude: I think it’s great. We’re in Tel Aviv, in Israel, which is not really part of Europe either. Israel won it last year. I think Eurovision obviously has the word ‘Euro’ and we’re in Europe but it’s all about the EBU (European Broadcast Union), who are, in that circle, business/interaction-wise but also, I think Eurovision is all about inclusion. That’s one of the reasons why it’s possible for Australia to be involved and I think the more the merrier. By the way, about Kate, she’s just incredible. I actually met her last night, there was a little reception last night at one of the rooftop bars that the Aussie embassy had organised. I got to meet the ambassador Chris and said hi to a lot of Aussie people last night so I had a great one.
MF: In terms of your whole career, your songs have featured at some of the biggest sporting events (Wimbledon, Euro 2000, The Olympics, NFL, NBA), huge advertising campaigns for NIKE, Playstation and on video games too. Would you say Eurovision will be your biggest challenge yet? What are your expectations going into it?
Darude: Biggest challenge definitely in the sense that, I’ve made vocal tracks before and never shied away from commercial or mainstream stuff, but there’s a time limit of 3 minutes. Going into this contest, I decided not to play tricks…I decided to go full pop, it’s a pop format song, which is a new thing to think of the radio edit first and then go from there. It’s a challenge but it’s been a fun one and now I know I can do it. The contacts you make doing this stuff. It’s like a huge music festival green room where everybody’s just smiling, having fun and exchanging war stories and business cards. It’s such a big bunch of fun really.
It’s also a huge place of exposure for your music and talent. That’s one of the reasons I’m doing it as well. You asked about my goals. I’d love to win and I’m going to be really disappointed if we don’t get to the final. And if you do get to the final, you’re expecting 100 to 200 million live viewers which is a pretty big stage to be exposing your stuff to and I’m very happy about that possibility as well.
MF: Before 2006, when Lordi became the first heavy metal band to win, Finland were the perennial underachievers (and arguably still are) at Eurovision. Do you think this influenced their decision to choose you as probably the first DJ ever and are you confident you may be able win it?
Darude: I don’t know, there’s talks about the artists that enter the contest every year and there’s pluses and minuses. There’s been questions if I was invited because I have some international career behind me and whatnot. I don’t know if that’s an advantage or not because it’s all about the song and it’s all about that 3 minutes that happen on stage. But obviously it doesn’t hurt if you have some name or face recognition. I don’t know what motivated why I was invited other than I’ve had a career and they trust me professionally (hopefully).
Our history in Eurovision hasn’t been the brightest. Of course there’s been this shining light of Lordi, like you said. Everybody wants to win but this is still such an amazing event and opportunity. Even if I didn’t win, I’d still be happy. You could still ask me the same question in a week or so and I’d still say the same thing. The contest is, sort of, only one part of it, and there’s a lot more to it other than that.
MF: Are you taking this really seriously or are you just gonna have a bit of fun with it?
Darude: I think Seb and I will look at things the same way. We are really serious about our work, doing it the right way, doing it the best we can. You should’ve seen and heard us at the practice yesterday. The whole team was very focussed but we were cracking jokes and talking some naughty stuff on the mics that I hope no one else heard. That’s the whole part of the thing. When they say 10 seconds and stuff gets real, things will get real and we’ll do our thing. This is not a joke for me. I’m here to do my best and make myself and hopefully Finland look good.
MF: How do you think this will compare to the club and festival circuit?
Darude: The performances, it’s a grand stage. It’s nice, big LED screens and everything, floors, lights, everything is great, tech-wise but it doesn’t feel that different from the modern, current, dance festival spaces. It’s all about that 3 minutes and you barely get going in 3 minutes if you don’t know how to hype yourself up beforehand. It’s really short sprints versus an hour or two hour DJ set marathon. It’s very apples and oranges kind of thing but I really like this as well. It’s a good thing on my CV but good as an experience and I’m really glad I took it on.