Raised with a love for classical music, Drew Wilken’s natural draw to melodic chords presented him with a new twist: Ableton. The software’s multi variability appealed immensely to Drew; so much so that after 8 years, he’s not even close to being done with it. His journey through Ableton and recent success is featured below – check it out!
Did you go to school for music production, or are you self-taught?
I am 100% self-taught! I started learning Ableton by myself and from the help of my friend Michael. Obviously, I can only learn so much on my own, so I have watched a bunch of YouTube videos, watched other artists in the studio, asked friends, etc! I’ve also been using Ableton since early highschool, so probably around 8 years now. It’s my favorite program, by far.
What’s your current, favorite genre to produce in? How did you get here?
Well, it really started with dubstep. When I first started making music, I really wanted to be a d
Pursuing music and a degree at the same time can feel like getting yourself split into two. How do you keep yourself focused on both computer science and music? Do you find yourself feeding off this dynamic energy in both good and bad ways?
I’ve definitely had to master time management and face the struggle of what I want to do post-grad. I study computer science at the University of St. Thomas and I am so close to graduating. Studying computer science at the same time is obviously super tough. I feel like I’m split in two when I have to work on both. I usually try to take time to do both when I have to, but lately I’ve been prioritizing music far more than computer science, but obviously still getting my work done. I usually will just spend a few hours on computer science projects when I have to, but all my free time is spent on my computer writing music and playing on Ableton.
The dynamic obviously has its benefits, like giving me something to give me a break from being creative so that my mind can refresh. But computer science and coding is another game in itself and both require all of your time if you want to be good at it. So, it’s hard for me to focus on computer science and music, and pursue both fully. It’s a huge dilemma for me to either try and pursue something risky like music, or go the safe route and just go for coding. But music wins every time, and I think it will continue to do so. When I study computer science, I definitely struggle to find enough time to work on my music and accomplish my goals within the industry, so I’m looking forward to having graduated!
How do you stay organized and keep yourself on track with music production?
Honestly, I just try and finish what I start. A lot of times I hear of a lot of people starting a bunch of songs but never finishing anything and that has motivated me to try and finish music as much as possible. Even if I don’t release it, I think it’s a good habit to just finish. So, I just try to push myself to not think too hard and just write music. If a part is taking me too long, usually I’ll set a deadline for it, or I’ll just take a break and get back to it later and then work on something else. The trick is to always be working on something.
How has networking helped mold your perspective of working in the music industry?
Building connections and networking in the local industry has helped me so much. It has showed me valuable perspectives on music production – learning from others has been a huge factor in my improvement over the years. It also has just put me in a community with a lot of like-minded people who have a passion and love for music. It’s contagious! The support I’ve gotten from people in the local scene has been awesome, and it’s really showed me that there’s a lot of love.
What is something you wish you had known sooner about working in music?
The music industry is really dependent on ‘who you know’ and that it’s good to meet a lot of people. I wish I had known this sooner too, because obviously networking is a huge, huge part of it. But, I’m just so happy to be where I’m at right now. I also wish I would have worked with other producers way more often when I was starting off to get an insight at what others are doing – but I’m definitely doing that now!
Are there any highlights you’ve experienced that celebrate your progress as an artist?
Some of the proudest moments would have to be when people are recognizing me after a set and telling me they really liked it. Or when someone I don’t know messages me on Instagram and tells me they love my music. Those are the moments that keep me going. Another huge milestone for me was recently having the honor to release my first single on one of my favorite channels and labels of all time: Proximity. I’ve been listening to their releases since I first started djing, and to have a track on their channel really is a dream come true.
You have an awesome release with Proximity called “Move On”. How long did you work on that track? What was the hardest part
Thank you so much! It’s definitely one of my favorites. I worked on it for about 2 weeks, it really came out so easily and naturally. The hardest part of writing the song was probably just the intro and getting it to flow nicely into the drop, as I had written the drop first, then met Montana after! I met her at a party through some other friends and she told me she was a singer, and I just immediately reached out to try to get her to sing for a track!
What vocal elements were you looking at when considering Montana for this track? How did her vocals end up playing up the song?
She showed me a few videos on her Instagram of her singing and I thought she’d be a great fit for my music. The styles of vocals that I usually look for completely depends on the track I’m making, but for this one, I wanted a female vocalist with a powerful voice, but also the ability to sing softer (for the intro). It worked out super well because she was exceptional in both of those fronts! Her powerful vocals really added a strong emotional aspect to the song, the kind that gives you goosebumps.
What “doors” has this track led you to, or what has it taught you in terms of “getting yourself out there”?
Having this track out and also having it as my first officially released vocal track, especially on such a big label, has really gained me some recognition from others. Also, having a track on the channel and label really shows that people like my music and I couldn’t be happier with that! It also showed me the process of how getting a track signed to a label is and how the release process goes. Super valuable knowledge and I can’t wait for future releases!
Word on the street is you’ve got a recent release with Hoop Records, a record label based out of Italy. How did you discover them? Is there a story behind why you chose to release “Beautiful” feat. Mason Murphy with them?
Yes! It came out February 1st! I actually found them while looking online at different labels and listened to some of their releases, and I felt that my track fit super well with them. They love emotional and melodic tracks like mine, so it was only natural to send it to them and see what they thought. They loved it and we thought it’d be a great fit to their label! h
What did “Beautiful” feat. Mason Murphy teach you about yourself as an artist?
My track ‘Beautiful’ was such a fun track to work on. It showed me that I can really turn ideas in my head into reality. I actually came up with the song when I was in one of my classes and I had to step out to go and record me humming it so I wouldn’t forget it! I’ve actually come up with so many ideas like this. Writing this track just furthered my knowledge in writing singles and was just a great experience!
If you have not yet, make sure to check out Drew Wilken! This up-and-coming local is creating his own waves, with music to change the tides.
We’re gearing up for Euphoric Nation’s “Trance Paradise 400” tonight at REV Ultra Lounge! Featuring a seasoned local lineup to start the night, AZNPERSUASIAN and RENNO will keep the floor hot before Euphoric Nation takes over. This month’s #OnTheRadar shout-out goes to RENNO, a local notorious for her love of bass. Check out her interview below!
What initially got you into Djing? Do you have a preferred style?
I actually fell into it by accident. In 2015, my freshman year of college, I joined EDM Club at the U of M because I had discovered Flume, Dream Koala, Chrome Sparks, and some other electronic artists in high school and wanted a community to enjoy similar music with. After making friends with a couple other club members, I realized they were all DJs. They told me I should learn and they volunteered to teach me the basics. I initially couldn’t ever see myself being a DJ but I agreed to try it out. I fell in love with it instantly, and the rest is history!
As for styles, I’m not really partial to anything in particular. I think there’s value in keeping an open mind, trying new things, and even developing your own style. I would like to get good at spinning vinyl though!
How did you get involved with the University of Minnesota, EDM Club? What drew you to it, and what keeps you there today?
I was trying to put myself out there, try new things, and mostly find where I fit in. I literally pulled up the roster of every single existing club at the U and made note of the ones I wanted to look into. EDM Club was near the top of my list. I’ve always loved music so I figured I’d go to the first meeting of the year to see how I liked it. I had no idea how deep the “rabbit hole” of EDM went. I was so fascinated that there was entire culture to go along with the music, and that there was such a variety of music that falls under the EDM umbrella. Furthermore, the community within the club was something I connected with right off the bat. I knew it was where I fit in. The people and culture of EDM Club is what keeps me there today. Like I said, it’s exactly where I feel like I fit in and it’s great to be surrounded by like-minded individuals
As a DJ, what do you expect from yourself when performing live? What do you hope your audience sees when you perform or collaborate with other acts?
Aside from not screwing up on stage, my expectation is to have fun. I’m doing this because I love the music. Of course, the preferences of the crowd are really important to me, too. They play a huge part in how I tailor my set and what genres of music I play, but the second I stop having fun is the second that there’s no point in being up there anymore. The audience knows when you’re not into it. That’s why I think it’s so important to be in it for the music. Not for the money, the attention, or anything else.
When I play, I hope the audience can grab onto the music I play and feel something. I think we’re all there because we want to feel something, whether it be to let out pent-up emotions, find something new that you’ve never heard before, or get lost in the music and reflect. That’s what I want for the audience when I play.
What sets have really grown you artistically as a DJ? Why were they so memorable to you?
Some of the most memorable sets I’ve played have been all of the small practice ones in the kitchens of my friends’ apartments. The ones where you can mess around and try new things without repercussions. Those are where I feel I grow the most both stylistically and artistically. However, as for most memorable sets, I played direct support in April 2017 for Dack Janiels and Quix at The Loft. It was about a year after I started learning to DJ. The crowd was insane and filled up most of the venue. Looking out and seeing people feel the music and react to my set was so surreal. I think that set was a turning point for me when I realized, “Whoa, I can really do this. I’m not stuck DJing in my bedroom’s corner anymore”. I got that same feeling last October when I opened for Steve Aoki at TCF Stadium. I think about those sets all the time – they motivate me to keep moving forward and progress, and they remind me that anything is possible if I work for it.
What do you hope to accomplish as a local DJ? As a local artist?
As a local DJ, I want to keep pushing myself to progress and grow in my abilities. I’d love to tackle production next. That’s the next step that would be most important in order to help keep me progressing and growing. I also want to be a resource for other locals, and look for opportunities to collaborate. I’m always looking to try new things no matter what they are!
What producers inspire you to grow yourself as both an artist and individual?
I love following producers and DJs that aren’t afraid to break out of the mold and try new things. I’m inspired by artists that create their own sound and do their own thing. Medasin is one of my favorites. I also am an OG Flume fan, he was such a pioneer in trying new sounds, song structures, and other cool things. If it’s weird, unconventional, or odd, count me in. I love it.
We’re excited to see what Lauren plays tonight at REV Ultra Lounge! It’s going to be a fantastic night for music with RENNO, AZNPERSUASIAN and Euphoric Nation on the decks! Doors are at 10 PM, no cover – see you there!
Event Details can be found here.
Keep up to date with RENNO!
SIMshows and Euphoric Nation are proud to present,”Trance Paradise 400”. We’ve got a talented team ready to make your Saturday night, with a headlining set by yours truly, Euphoric Nation. Check out this SIMshows exclusive interview with Euphoric Nation!
What led to the current evolution of Euphoric Nation? Why did you both decide to grow into a duo, and what did that transition mean for both of you?
Don: Euphoric Nation was originally formed as a group. When all of the members left and I was the only one left, it didn’t make sense to come up with a new name. I love working with other people in music. So, when Justin and I decided to collab on a couple of tracks it only made sense to team up to see what we could really accomplish together!
Justin: Don and I had been collaborating on tracks, and generally just chatting on and off about music industry/business stuff for a few years. We were both reaching a crossroads where we knew we’d have to get really serious about music if we wanted to go any further. In evaluating what we should do next, we realized that we shared a vision, got along well, and our skills complimented each other, so It was kind of no brainer to team up!
What technical and personal skills do you believe your fellow producer brings to the table?
Don: Justin is probably tired of hearing me say this but he really is a production genius. He spends so much time experimenting with different ways to do things, taking classes, learning from the pros. His production skills have far surpassed mine and I have no problem admitting that. It’s really become a specialty to him and I’m excited to see how far that yearning for knowledge will go.
Justin: Don is definitely a marketing and promotion genius! What he’s done to help grow the Euphoric Nation name and the Trance scene in Minneapolis has been amazing to watch. He’s also an expert DJ! He doesn’t flinch at tricky tempo changes or moving through different genre’s. Track selection as well! It’s rare that you find someone who seems to love and mix all different sub-genre’s of trance. Last but not least, he’s always willing to help out or give feedback. I love that he’s never too busy for anyone, and always makes time to help other producers out!
Don – What has Euphoric Nation taught you about producing alone versus with other individuals?
Don: I think it’s been a while since I’ve been producing alone to be honest! I was working a lot with my friend David Thulin on vocal tunes in 2016, 2017, and early 2018. I think I work best when I can bounce ideas off someone else. My extroverted nature makes it difficult for me to be a 100% studio guy. It’s almost as if I can satisfy that part of my personality by combining studio time with hang out time and working with another person.
Justin – What have been some of your favorite moments within Euphoric Nation?
Justin: Overall it’s been really fun to work together and generate new ideas for tracks! We both have big imaginations, so one day we might be trying to make a classic 138 track, the next day we might have an idea to make a slower borderline deep track. There has even been some talk of Happy Hardcore… but don’t hold your breath on that! One moment in specific I would say was traveling to Chicago together. We played out all the new music we we’re working on at a gig, and that gave me a taste of what touring would be like. I gotta say it was pretty awesome! I’m excited for what the future holds and I’m sure I’ll soon be adding Trance Paradise 400 to this list as well!
How do you both navigate situations in which you disagree on a sound?
Don: I don’t think we have really disagreed on the tracks we’ve been working on so far. I think we understand each other’s expertise really well and we both know there has to be trust in the other person’s opinions. If we are trying to communicate certain sounds we expect to hear or are defending why a change should be made we usually go out and find examples in other tracks to make our case. I think we have such a high quality standard that we actually appreciate each other’s criticisms. You have to learn quickly that in order to be successful in music you need other people to tear your tracks to shreds. Nothing is taken personally and so I can’t really see us getting in a situation where we disagree so badly. We are always willing to hear the other person out and to try different things with the song to make it work.
Justin: We have been really lucky that most the time we tend to agree on how we think something should sound. Due to that, if one of us thinks something sounds off we usually just assume the other one is right, and try to investigate what might be wrong with the synth patch or EQ.
How do each of you handle artistic cynicism?
Don: I think it’s really easy to fall victim to cynicism. In music the common belief is everyone is out for themselves. DJs say they are in it for the music but you see a lot of people stroking their own ego and making it about their own personal fame. When you are surrounded by that constantly I can see how you might fall victim to that mentality. I think it’s easier for me to escape that because I see the effect the music has on the fans. I’m reminded after every show why I do what I do. It’s always been a part of my being to want to have a job where I’m working for purpose. In day jobs I’ve been in non-profit or public service jobs for this reason. So, when it comes to music it’s always been about giving an escape to people – allowing people to free their emotions in the music. If you think about it that way then it really doesn’t matter what other DJs do because you have a responsibility to deliver a fun and emotional experience to the fans that enjoy your music.
Justin: It’s definitely difficult since there are so many things people associate with being a Producer/DJ like money, fame, attention, etc. But for me at least, if that was my motivation I wouldn’t be making music… I’d do something easier! More specifically though, when it comes to production this means not being afraid of abandoning bad ideas and situation. If I’m no longer motivated to finish a track, or unhappy with the changes the label wants, the song probably isn’t true to me anymore anyways. It’s easy to think getting a track signed to a label might put you on the map but it’s even more important to ask yourself, “If this song does put me on the map, is this what I want to be known for? Am I happy with this track? Or, “Will my current fans even like this?” I try to keep these questions in mind with every project and it usually helps!
Lay it out: What is Euphoric Nation’s vision for themselves in 2019 and beyond?
Don: There’s a couple of goals I think we have set for 2019. Some of them are really high goals such as getting a small tour together by the end of 2019. Some are more attainable, such as having tracks ready to go to release every other month. One personal goal I have is to try to get support from ASOT or ABGT on a track in 2019. I think it’s very attainable and Justin and I aren’t going to give up to make it a reality. I feel like we are so close to a breakthrough in something big next year and it’s really exciting and energizing!
Justin: One of my all time production goals would be to have a track played on ASOT, or ABGT, if we keep at it I know we will get there eventually! We’ve already done some preparation for some of these goals, so it will be exciting to see how 2019 pans out for us!
Is there anything else Euphoric Nation would like to share?
Don: One miscellaneous item that I think is a taboo subject around other Trance people is “other genres”. It upsets so many people that in Minneapolis, Dubstep still continues to be the king of the EDM scene. The people that get upset about it sit in the corner and complain and don’t do much about it. I’ve met amazing Dubstep DJs that are just as passionate about their music as I am about mine. Why not support them? Why not wish success for other musicians in the scene? I’ve been trying to do that by experiencing other shows in Minneapolis. I’ve even told some of these Dubstep DJs about amazing Techno shows in the city. Why not experience other genres and get out of your comfort zone? People in these other genres know I am a Trance DJ and that won’t ever change. As a result, they’ve been also willing to give Trance music a try as well. We are all trying to do the same thing as DJs – deliver an emotional and unforgettable experience to our fans. It only makes sense to make sure our communities grow, and we can help each other grow as DJs and Producers as well.
Euphoric Nation is ready to make 2019 their year. Make sure to join Don and Justin on Saturday, January 5th for Trance Paradise 400. Supporting talent will be provided by RENNO and AZNPERSUASIAN. Curious? Event details can be found here.
Stay up to date with Euphoric Nation!
At long last, our rescheduled Kristina Sky show is making its debut. Right in time for the guest of honor’s birthday as well, Kristina Sky is set to make REV move! Saturday night is shaping up to be an especially special one, as SIMshows and Tee So co-host “No Boys In The Booth”.
Kristina Sky is notorious for a style ranging from progressive house, to melodically intoxicating trance. Her tracks have found themselves on some impressive labels, such as “Ultra”, Armin Van Buuren’s “Armada”, and Paul Van Dyk’s “Vandit”, to name a few. What’s more, this LA local is always looking to customize her sets; she’s keen on fresh material.
Kristina Sky’s sound has placed her at impressive festivals such as Coachella, Groove-Cruise and Dreamstate SoCal. She’s played on the international stage multiple times, and has even found herself making appearances in China, Ecuador and Costa Rica. Her fans are notoriously die-hard too, keeping her placement on the Tranceaddict Top 250 DJ Poll steady since day one.
REV is about to get turned into quite the memorable party. Make sure to swing on through, and see what surprises “No Boys In The Booth” has in store. Tickets are still available for Kristina Sky; buy yours here!
This week’s #SIMSLAM feature spotlights the talented Greg Grease! One of the latest editions to the faculty roster, Mr. Grease instructs Slam Academy’s renowned Hip Hip program.
Over the course of 12 weeks and 3 levels in Slam Academy’s Hip Hop Program, students learn how to record vocals, sample sounds, and polish their artistry for the Hip Hop industry. What’s more, students find themselves taught by both a talented artist, and by a professional who’s “made it”. As an artist, Greg Grease performs both under his self-titled alias “Greg Grease”, as well as with local band Astralblak (a.k.a. ZULUZULUU). Greg’s spectrum ranges from Hip Hop and Rap, to Soul, Funk and Future Space. Much of his work features a blue-collar, Afrocentricity feel, and aims to elevate his listeners.
Slam Academy has gained an incredibly talented instructor. While the Spring session has already begun, Fall spots are still available. If you’re curious to learn more, head on over to Slam Academy and see what else is on their rooster.
More here: https://slamacademy.com/hip-hop-program/