How did 2016 treat you?
Alesso: It was a great year for me, personally and professionally. I took some huge strides in breaking through the Asian market, collabs with Jolin and Chen from EXO, and working with brands like Calvin Klein during Coachella.
Rabbit in the Moon: It was eventful. Our shows at Ultra Music and EDC Orlando were epic. They gave us the fuel to ignite our passions and drive. And now we will see new music released for the first time in seven years. We are very excited to reconnect with our fans while seeing the excitement of new fans brewing. We can’t wait to see what 2017 has in store. Viva the revolution!
Steve Aoki: 2016 was a fantastic year—lots of touring. I thought I was going to be slowing down, but I topped my number in Europe on touring. I built my studio that took me over a year and half to create… I’m now producing for other artists. I’m going in different studios, working with other artists this year, producing for their albums, sometimes producing without being credited. It’s more like I just want to get music out there, and that’s been an exciting new adventure for me.
Seven Lions: Lots of big changes happened. My wife and I moved out of California, where I’ve lived my whole life, and up to Washington, where we bought our first house. We also went on our first headlining bus tour. I don’t think there was any autopilot in 2016; there were always important decisions to be made because of the large risk factors and big changes.
Anna Lunoe: This year was definitely a huge leap for me. I always take on a lot, and each year is a balance of striving to execute a plan; sometimes I pull it off and sometimes I don’t! However, this year the goals were huge. The workload was immense, and it all happened—and I didn’t totally lose my mind!Kill Frenzy: It’s been a pretty wild year. I have played so many great shows, I moved from Berlin to L.A. for the time being, and made some tough life decisions. Great learning.
Rezz: 2016 has been absolutely insane. I think I’ve learned a lot about myself personally and also improved in production and overall stage presence. I would describe this year as very fulfilling, but I’m nowhere near accomplishing all of my goals.
TC: It was a great year; I had a chance to play some shows I never played before, like Shambhala, and in China. I made many new friends, too, and so many big tunes arrived out of the D&B cosmos!
LOUISAHHH!!!: My challenges expressed themselves through great loss… Several people close to me passed away. Prior to this year, I had the luxury of never dealing with grief of this magnitude, and man, it’s crazy. I definitely “made improvements” in my personal life and my career, but it felt like everything has come through absolute necessity—grow or die. Broken wings learn to fly.
What’s one thing that happened to you this past year that you think you will remember for the rest of your life?
Alesso: I was fortunate enough to have a holiday this year to South Africa. I went hiking, diving, sand boarding, and skydiving! Something I’ll never forget.
Rabbit in the Moon: For one, Bunny from Rabbit in the Moon and his fiancée Loni welcomed his first child, a baby girl named Seven. As far as professionally, we just played EDC Orlando. Going onstage right as the sun went down and seeing this huge sea of Headliners was magical. It was definitely our best performance so far. We have put together a great team of people, and their support has helped us elevate our show beyond expectations.
Seven Lions: The bus tour that just ended was probably the most prolific thing that has happened in my adult life. It has changed my outlook on life. I never thought I would be so sad to end the tour.
Kill Frenzy: There isn’t really one experience; it’s more a bunch of things together. I learned that so much of my creativity is dependent on my mental state, so I try to sharpen that and create a better base for creativity to spring from. For example, just spending all day everyday in the studio doesn’t do shit for me; it’s like getting stuck in a feedback loop with nothing to replenish your energy. I need more input from outside to recharge myself. This can be anything—doing sports, going out, reading, stripping, Quidditch—anything. But I have to do it fully in the moment.
Anna Lunoe: I have been DJing professionally for 10 years, and I moved to the US five years ago and really started all over again. It was really tricky emotionally and financially, but after a hard slog, I’m doing okay. There was also being the first woman to play the mainstage at EDC, which was mind-blowing and an experience that I will never, ever, ever forget.
Rezz: I think in general, traveling as much as I have and playing so many shows will forever impact me. Mainly that it’s ok to be nervous—usually the situations where you’re most nervous, you end up being great and you grow.
TC: My uncle Mat died very unexpectedly, which was a terrible event for me and my family.
LOUISAHHH!!!: I mentioned that I lost several important figures in my life—my horse was one of them. This sounds like some bullshit white-privilege problem, maybe, but this creature was my friend and partner in competition and my anchor for the last 16 years. He was a big motivation for my getting sober a decade ago (and staying clean since). I had always feared his death—all living things die, after all, and he was getting older… so his passing really changed my life, in the same way his presence did. I learned that if I surrender my ego from the whole thing, I don’t suffer. I can experience the pain without the suffering; I can feel him everywhere, instead of the concentrated, living connection we had. It is really beautiful. The adjustment is hard, though; I hope I never forget what that love felt like.
Do you feel that there are any producers right now who have the opportunity to define the direction of dance music?
Rabbit in the Moon: I like some of the darker vibes going on. Rezz is one that comes to mind. She’s taking a nod from industrial music, which is a sound we love to incorporate into our dance music.
Steve Aoki: Diplo and Mad Decent. Skrillex and Owsla. Those are two incredible personalities and innovators and are really pushing their sound and their culture to the future. I give props to them. Also, Steve Duda’s Serum is an incredible plugin, it’s pretty much the plugin for EDM.
Seven Lions: I think as a whole, dance music is pushing toward pop music, but there are a lot of producers who are responsible for that.
Kill Frenzy: That’s a hard prediction, but I am really inspired by Recondite. I don’t see anybody doing what he is doing; his music sounds so pure. It’s a very minimalistic approach, which I love and admire. He’s on another level to me. Same with Jimmy Edgar—he’s very good at making these stripped-down, simple loops sound interesting.
Anna Lunoe: I think in the mainstream dance culture, we are seeing song-based production become dominant—in both radio and clubs. I think that will continue to be huge—but that might also mean that the dance industry fractions off into two lanes: the mainstream pop artists, and then the darker, club-orientated producers who rely heavily on sonic and intensity, and less on catchy toplines. I think that will emerge as a clear antithesis of that now-mainstream sound to forge an alternate lane. The first artist who pops to mind who really embodies that is Rezz. She has forged a cult following without a radio hit in sight, which is really cool and definitely necessary right now.
TC: I think whoever makes music authentically and passionately will have an impact on generations to come.
LOUISAHHH!!!: I run a label with Maelstrom called RAAR, and part of our mission statement is to really push the boundaries of techno in a punk direction—make it anarchic and ferocious and exploratory—and I believe we are working with artists that do that. This is all fearless stuff that will definitely not change the mainstream but hopefully makes room for a deeper, braver subculture in dance music. Outside of RAAR, the artists I am most excited about are Jlin, Powell and Jonny Teardrop. I believe these guys are visionaries on a scale that is deeply inspiring and innovative.
What’s one thing you’d like to see trend in 2017? What’s one thing you saw in 2016 that you wish would go away?
Alesso: I love seeing how much social media has evolved this past year. Platforms like Snapchat make it easier for me to communicate with my fans. There are definitely a few things I would like to see go away forever, but I’ll keep those to myself.
Rabbit in the Moon: Most dance music genres… have all gone to the furthest reaches of their sonic elements. New songs are starting to all sound similar. Usually when that happens, it means that something new is going to happen. It just takes one song to change the scene and the world. Who will write it?
Steve Aoki: It’s very embarrassing for us Americans to have a president like Trump, who should just be on reality TV shows. But to lead this country, to lead the free world and make decisions that can honestly kill millions of people and harm a lot of people domestically—especially the Muslim community, especially the Latino community, especially people of color, especially women—that amount of people is a huge percentage of America. A really interesting fact that I learned: The millennial vote, [which] generally is progressive and leaning toward the progress America has made, is actually the lowest voter group in America.
Seven Lions: In 2017 I’d like to see a trend where listeners don’t immediately jump on the bandwagon of “what’s next.” I think there has been somewhat of a backlash on that with traditional trance festivals like Dreamstate. I hope in 2017 we don’t reach a point where all DJs must be cartoon characters or DJ personalities. I get people want to be entertained, but so much of what makes a DJ successful and “cool” has nothing to do with music. It’s good marketing campaigns, talking shit on Twitter, and having “lit” snapchats.
Kill Frenzy: I don’t like trends in music. They are like the wind: As soon as you grab a hold of it, it’s empty and it’s moved off somewhere else. A good trend I see, though, is that in America more people who perhaps got into electronic music from EDM are starting to dig deeper and are learning to like more underground stuff. Something from 2016 that I wish would go away? Snapchat.
Anna Lunoe: I’d like to see a little more exciting house/techno/bangers that are uptempo and still really high-energy; we could use a few more people doing exciting things in that tempo range. I think it would be great to generally have more diversity in dance music—more women, different nationalities, different sounds from different cultures, and telling different stories. Let’s keep things weird, meaningful and alternative in 2017! I would also love to see the figureheads of the dance music community step up and lead more, offer more substance, be a voice of inspiration and meaning for the younger generation.
Rezz: For 2017, I really hope more producers make music straight from their soul, based on their own vision and what is real to them. I hope to not see people copying each other.
TC: I’d love to see everyone flourish that makes D&B, so we can all make the scene stronger. I make a point of never being negative. There is always a positive to take from a negative, and most of the things I wish will go away quickly disappear ‘cause big hype is a short-lasting thing for most. I am only interested in the week in, week out soldiers making tunes, making things happen—doing nights.
LOUISAHHH!!!: I am devastated by the outcome of the election. I wish this message of hate and fear, of building walls and actively disenfranchising or putting down “other” (any person besides wealthy white men) would go away forever, but wishes don’t cut it. The trend I observe that I want to celebrate is that this is a wake-up call. We can no longer rest on our laurels and take civil liberties for granted. We cannot afford to battle hate and fear with hate and fear. It is a dark moment for the USA and for the world, but instead of blaming each other and whining about what our future looks like, it is time to get to work harder than ever in standing up for what is loving, kind and just. America is bottoming out on a media-driven fear culture. This is merely a symptom. The solution to this problem is not merely talk of faith and love, but serious action in this realm.
Tell us about a time in 2016 that you did something nice for someone. Conversely, what is the nicest thing someone did for you in 2016?
Rabbit in the Moon: I always try to give back, whether it’s mentoring new producers on their tracks or giving advice on the music business. But on a non-music-related episode, I did see a friend in need online asking for help to get his car fixed, and I helped make that happen. To see people so happy is a real natural high for me.
Seven Lions: We put a lot of the super fans on guest lists throughout the year and hung out with a lot of them backstage. I think it’s nice to show how much we appreciate them and that we do notice and want to say hi. Someone gave Khaleesi (our dog) a bracelet with her name on it and a little dog bone. Someone also made her Seven Lions dog treats, which was awesome.
Anna Lunoe: It feels funny to gloat about when I was nice to someone… The nicest thing someone did for me was a little kid who came to my house trick-or-treating… I felt terrible because I had just moved in; I was disorganized, and I didn’t have any candy to give him. But he was totally understanding and came back and gave ME some candy! WHAT A LITTLE TREASURE! He was dressed as Einstein and was so sweet. I nearly cried, it was so cute.
Rezz: Something nice I do often is hook fans up with tickets to my shows. Nicest thing someone has done for me is definitely all of the amazing gifts the fans create and give me at shows.
TC: There is a bridge when you go from Bristol to Wales; when I go across, I always pay for the car behind me to boost the karma. My girl does nice things for me all the time; I am blessed to have her.
LOUISAHHH!!!: Part of my spiritual practice is constant thought of others, to leave some room in my life to get swerved into a place where I can be of service, usually anonymously. If the thought comes, text someone; tell them you’re thinking about them. Give up your upgraded seat to someone who looks like they’re having a worse day than you. Give people your time, donate to good causes, smile at strangers in the street, send your favorite book to someone who might appreciate it. Show up when a person you know is struggling. If you have space, invite people into it. People have been incredibly kind to me this year and every year. I am overwhelmed constantly by this sweetness in my life. When I was sad, friends took me to roll down hills in the park near my house. When I needed to rest and didn’t know how, I got to visit a different city and go to museums and get lost there with someone dear to me. Crowds of people showed up for shows and danced with me, which is a powerful healing tradition in itself.
What’s the biggest lesson learned in 2016?
Alesso: Keeping the balance between travel and my relationships with family and friends. It never gets easier, but being on the road really makes you appreciate all the time you get with loved ones.
Rabbit in the Moon: To just be present in your life and pay attention to the signs, both good and bad. When people show you who they truly are, believe it the first time. Forgive people always, but when the universe pushes you in a new direction, go. Let go of the branch as you float in the river of life, and see where it takes you. That’s where the magic is.
Steve Aoki: I feel like the main thing is that there are no rules. You can do whatever the fuck you want, and you shouldn’t really care about what other people say, what the critics say, what the haters say. Just do what you love to do. I’m generally inspired by people outside of my space, by people that are doing something incredible and unique, that are shaping culture. Those are the people I want to be in the same room with; those are the people I want to absorb with, I want to collab with creatively. It doesn’t necessarily have to be music-related—creative collaboration of all kinds.
Seven Lions: To say yes when opportunity comes to do something that you’ve never done before. This bus tour was the best two months of my life. It’s important to just fucking go for it. We really do only live once, and there is so much stuff out there to do and see. Don’t waste a moment.
Kill Frenzy: Not attaching yourself to wanting to make something amazing, to forget about the result. There were times when I put pressure on myself to make something great, and I failed before I even started. Another lesson I learned is that more stuff like hardware doesn’t equal better music; it can often just confuse you, more than anything. I want to keep my setup simple and dial in my technique. I don’t want to be dependent on hardware.
Anna Lunoe: I’m excited about creation. I’m really bringing it back to the music next year. Touring a little less, putting more effort into making music and making amazing radio shows.
Rezz: To just relax—even in crazy stressful moments—because everything will be okay.
TC: Tom Sachs, the New York artist, says that his rule number one in filmmaking is to finish the fucking movie! I like this a lot and will apply it to my next album and subsequent projects.
LOUISAHHH!!!: The biggest lesson has been quite surprising: Maybe it has to do with turning 30, but finally I feel entirely ready to embrace everything I am. I can no longer change who and what I am to fit into somebody else’s idea of what I should be, or worse yet, what I think they think I should be. I have had the most amazing time this year opening into who I am, what I like—embracing all of it. Creatively, spiritually, sexually, personally, it feels like I finally really love what I have been made to be. Of course, there is room to keep growing, but I spent so much of my life in self-loathing, that this is truly a revolution. The lesson learned is not a second more of this precious life can afford to be wasted on hating myself.
In regard to the electronic music scene as a whole, what gets you most excited when you think about the year to come?
Rabbit in the Moon: We can’t wait to release everything we have done this year, and for the new shows we will play and people we will collaborate with. Collaboration is the key to success. As for the scene, I’m most excited for the new exploration in technology, VR, lighting and sound.
Seven Lions: Personally, playing a festival and seeing all my friends. As a whole, seems to me like more producers are jumping around from genre to genre and even blending things that haven’t been blended before. It’s an awesome time to be into electronic music.
Kill Frenzy: I love discovering music I have never heard before—things that make my hair stand up and get me fired up to make music myself.
Anna Lunoe: In this industry, the only constant is that it reacts and changes constantly! I love that about it. It’s evolve or die! I’m ready.
Rezz: I get excited thinking about what Porter Robinson is doing. He is doing something very unique and working continuously toward his vision. I plan to do the same.
TC: I like the unknown, the wild card, the joker of the pack, the rank outsider. I’m gonna be dropping another album in 2017 with a sound that maybe you have not heard from me before but was hinting at with the last album.
LOUISAHHH!!!: I feel like 2017 will bring a lot of things to fruition for me and for RAAR. Though I do have a “keep your eyes on your own paper” mentality, I also see people around me thinking outside the box, bringing in bigger narrative concepts, cross-disciplinary art making it into their work. Dance music isn’t just for the club anymore. It’s coming into its own (or re-establishing itself) as an exciting sociopolitical art form, and that is incredibly exciting.