“For me [DJing is] about reading what’s happening around you and playing music to the crowd you have in front of you. That’s part of what makes a DJ great, knowing when to bring it down or drop some rare soul gem at the right moment to blow a crowd away.”
Arveene Juthan, who DJs as Arveene, is a connoisseur of the Irish dance world. Whether behind the decks in Dublin clubs, or behind the books curating events around the world, Arveene has well over a decade of experience in the industry, and has made plenty of friends and connections along the way.
Taking advantage of his contacts and experience, Absolut tagged him as the main man to curate their Midsommar stage at Body&Soul this year – a lofty task, considering there’s nearly forty acts playing the stage over the long weekend. He’s gotten Fish Go Deep, Get Down Edits, Shit Robot, Kelly-Anne Byrne, DJ Deece and many more set to play across the festival weekend.
We chatted with Arveene to catch up on how the stage curation is going, and what we can expect at the “festival-within-the-festival”.
You’ve been active in the Irish dance scene for a good while now, seeing a lot of clubs, sounds and scenes come and go. Did making so many connections and embracing different sounds over the years factor into your bookings for Body&Soul?
I’m always keen on listening to and finding new music, especially underground club stuff. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing people like Fish Go Deep at Sir Henrys, Billy Scurry & Johnny Moy at the Temple of Sound, 110st at The GPO, Aoife Nicanna at RíRá, Dj Deece at the Button Factory, Kelly-Anne Byrne & Ruth Kavanagh at clubs like Mother and so many others from different styles, scenes and places. It gives you a good grasp and feeling for what’s happening around the country, but you have to keep digging and getting to gigs even if you’re not playing.
I discovered Mix & Fairbanks and Jimmy Rouge through mixes and edits they sent me. Aoife O’Neil and Ciara Brady, I heard their mixtapes and thought they were both great and spot on for Absolut at Body&Soul. There’s so much talent out there. I do tend to speak, ask around, constantly enquire and request mixes from people I don’t know much about. It’s really important to have mixes and tracks ready to go if people ask. If you don’t, no one but yourself will know how great you are.
Midsommar is the Swedish word for the summer solstice, where the sun doesn’t set for an entire month in parts of Sweden. Did you factor in an idea of “the party never stopping” for the stage this year?
It’s pretty much non-stop from the start of each day to its end. The music must eventually stop, but the vibe at Body&Soul goes on all weekend. One of the reasons Absolut Midsommar blends so well with Body&Soul is that it’s also centred around the Solstice. The longest day of the year and the turning of the seasons. The way our stage feels and looks is reflective of this time of year too, it’s bright and embraces nature. The cocktails available our stage are also inspired by Midsommar and we’re hosting some great brunches over the weekend, which are very much part of the tradition.
Programming the Absolut Stage was always about building the vibe from scratch and taking it up as the day rolls on, It’s also never going to be the place you go to hear Techno or Grime. It’s more akin with people like Larry Levan, Mike Pickering & Harvey, when they started clubs like the Paradise Garage, the Haçienda and the original Ministry of Sound. In those days it was about the dynamic of the music and a cross section of sounds as opposed to the same vibe all night long. I think the feeling will be the same for all our acts – the music will never be exactly the same, but it just has to have that spirit and it’s going to work.
Arveene And Kelly-Anne Byrne, who plays the Absolut Midsommar stage at Body&Soul on Sunday.
You’ll be working alongside Loosysmokes, the aerial acrobatic crew throughout the weekend. How is that coming along?
We’ve been discussing intro and outro music for their performances, so that it’s more of a seamless transition between the DJs and acts, but it’s really their baby at the end of the day. Loosysmokes have been working pretty intensely to get it right. I’ve been advising them on the music which will be heard over the weekend, but apart from the top and tail the music has been all their own selection. It’s been good to interact with them again this year, they’re great.
You’ve got 15 acts playing over the space of 15 hours on the Saturday. Was it tough to squeeze all of the acts you’ve got into that timeframe? Do you think you’d have so many acts a few years ago when dance music wasn’t as popular as it is today?
To be honest, if I had 24 hours a day and 3 days to programme, I’d still need more time to get on all the great people in Ireland who are making and playing electronic music. There’s been a massive amount of DJs in Ireland since the early 90’s, when it exploded originally. When I worked with Dublin Distribution (an offshoot of seminal Irish techno label D1 Records) set up by Eamon Doyle, we had over 20 Irish electronic / techno labels alone. It’s great to see so many DJs and producers coming through now.
The onset of technology making it more accessible for people to create music is amazing, I say bring it on. I was booking stuff 3-5 years ago for festivals and didn’t have enough time to fit everyone in then, so it does make it harder with so many people around now.
One thing that makes me extremely happy and proud, is seeing Irish talent making it abroad. So many people breaking through these days it’s inspiring, various Irish talent are making waves globally, Shouts to Get Down Edits, Matador, Mano Le Tough, New Jackson, JMX, Bicep, Ejeca, Saoirse, Timmy Stewart & the Extended Records crew, Sunil Sharpe, John Daly, Fish Go Deep, Above Dat, Bon Voyage, The Drifter, Moths, Kormac, Le Galaxie and loads more. It’s a great time for Irish Electronic music.
With so many musicians to curate over the day, did you factor in a specific sound for each artist to play over the course of the festival? Or does each DJ have free rein to play whatever they’d feel like?
I look at what people can do, chat with them about what they would like to do and then fit it in, where best suits. I do speak to people about what to expect around their set but most of the DJs we have playing, totally get how to work a crowd. I’ve never been a fan of DJs who just bang it out for the sake of it.
For me it’s about reading what’s happening around you and playing music to the crowd you have in front of you. That’s part of what makes a DJ great, knowing when to bring it down or drop some rare soul gem at the right moment to blow a crowd away. I love Donal Dineen for his mastery of what’s in front of him, he seems to read people very well. Ciara Brady is another one who can work a crowd and Fish Go Deep are the masters of taking you in and on a journey with washes of warm engulfing sound, without banging it out, yet somehow raising the energy of a space or room to fever pitch and frenzy. We have some world class and great DJ talent in Ireland, period.
Everytime I sign into iTunes it asks me if I want to redownload an old electro tune of yours called Hells Bells – I tend to decline as those sort of tunes aren’t great for home listening. Will there be any Hype Machine influenced electro at the Absolut stage this year?
None of those records were ever made for Home listening unless you were keeping the fire burning through the night. We’ve just been booked by Erol Alkan to play XOYO in July, I’m doing Room 2 with Dark Circles which will be more of a Proto-house / Disco / Kraut affair but I get the feeling if you catch Erol in the main room that night, he may be teasing in some of those quality moments from the 2000’s and if not that one then maybe one of the vinyl only nights. He’s doing one with Boyz Noise. Thing is, some of the better made stuff is still worth playing out in a club still, so maybe it will come back in some shape or form. Music has always been cyclical. The better stuff always comes back around at some point, I’d be happy to drop some Fischerspooner or Etienne De Crecy classics from my NYLON days, for those who remember it. So why not?
Finally, have you any tricks up your sleeve for your own sets?
I was planing on a massive pyrotechnics show, streamers, confetti cannons and go-go dancers but I’m going to settle for some percussive acid-tinged disco and the odd bit of vocal Chicago house from the mid 80’s. Also watch out for one of the most stylish MC’s you’ll ever come across called Shamon Cassette, backing me up over my sets that weekend. He’s a true ace in the pack. No Sleep No Doughnuts!
You can catch Arveene and his band of merry DJs playing the Absolut Midsommar stage at Body&Soul on June 23rd – 25th. Pick up tickets for the festival at this link.