DJ Times: What equipment were you using when you first started?
Rayel: Like most other producers, I started with FL Studio. It was a really old version, like version 3.2 or 3.5 and just looked really, really old. I didn’t know anything about recording, but there was this square where you could add loops. For about a year, all I did were different kinds of loops and tried to connect them to do something major. After a few years, I got experience and that’s when I did a full track.
DJ Times: How did DJing come into the mix?
Rayel: I started DJing late compared to producing. I started to produce when I was around 13, and I started to DJ somewhere around 17. I started as a producer, but I saw that a lot of big names and DJs were playing my music, and I said, “Hey, why would other DJs play my music when I can play it for the same people?” That’s when I realized I had to learn how to present my music to the people.
DJ Times: Which artists have particularly inspired your music?
Rayel: I get inspiration from so many diverse and different artists. One of them, of course, is Armin van Buuren. Dash Berlin, Gareth Emery, and—from a completely different genre—Hans Zimmer. During my life I used to listen to lots of music of all styles. Like with rock, I used to be a big fan of Linkin Park. I wasn’t a big fan of R&B, but it was popular in my country, so we all listened to it. After that, I got into electronic music. I’ve pretty much heard everything, so I tried to structure everything and create something of mine.
DJ Times: Why did you decide to make a full album of material, as opposed to one-off singles?
Rayel: I always knew that I wanted to release an album because I think that “the album” is a place where you can experiment and release the stuff that you would never do on a single. I did the intro and outro for it, but I would never release them as singles because nobody would ever play that. They’re a melody for a soundtrack, which is perfect for the album. I also did a chill-out track called “Fading Echoes” that wouldn’t work as a single. The album was the perfect place to let me choose projects and ideas to put together.
DJ Times: You’ve talked a lot about melodies. Do you start with a melody when producing a track?
Rayel: Most of the time, yes, but it doesn’t work the same way each time. Sometimes I start with just a bassline, loop, or sound that I just really want to use in the track so I build everything around it.
Top 3: Rayel’s Club/Fest Faves
- Marquee, Las Vegas: “One of my favorite clubs is definitely Marquee Nightclub & Dayclub—that’s why I chose to have my residency there. It has all you need as a DJ to create your unique show and experience: amazing sound system and visual production, incredible crowd and last, but not least, they make you feel like family. So, it’s always nice to be there, even when you’re not performing—they still make you feel like home.”
- The Electric Daisy Carnival Festivals: “They are something extraordinary. It’s always a surprise with Insomniac’s innovation and seeing them take things to another level. EDC Las Vegas was one of the best gigs of this year, and I will definitely remember it for a very long time. The whole night was simply magical.”
- Tomorrowland, Belgium: “It’s very well-known that Tomorrowland is truly a magical place and it totally deserves to be in my top three. It’s the most international festival with an incredible vibe, and every time I play it gets bigger, stronger and better.”
Always in the Box: My Top Tracks
- “Daylight”feat. Jonny Rose (Armada Music): “It’s the track I’ve been playing as an intro of all my sets for a while—it gives an amazing vibe for the whole night.”
- “Chased” with Mark Sixma (Armada Music): “The collaboration with the very talented Mark Sixma, which is a killer on the dancefloor. Every time I drop it, everyone starts going crazy and the track is also featured on Armin van Buuren’s A State of Trance at Ushuaia, Ibiza 2015 compilation.”
- “Dark Warrior” (Armada Music): “The track that has been out for almost two years, but still sounds so fresh every time I play it. I think it’s the only track that I cannot exclude from my set list when I play out live, because it’s so expected by the fans and not playing it would be a crime.”
DJ Times: How long did you work on Find Your Harmony?
Rayel: I’d say one and a half to two years from the moment that I decided I want to start working on an album, but I was saving ideas before that. I had a folder called “Album,” so every time I came up with an idea that I thought would be good for an album in the future I would save it there.
DJ Times: What went into naming the album?
Rayel: Most people thought that Find Your Harmony was something really easy like, “finding your harmony in the music,” because I’m a musician, but I thought a lot about it. It’s deeper than just a harmony in music. I’m trying to say that we’re always looking for something in our lives. Some people are trying to find their home, some are trying to their second half in love, some are trying to find their peace, and some are trying to do something big in their life. During the last moments of the end of their lives, they can say that they found their harmony.
DJ Times: The album feels structured like a DJ set. Did you specifically approach its creation to do that?
Rayel: Yeah, I tried to make it a journey. I didn’t want to just put random tracks that were completely diverse; I wanted to come together. I did an intro to show what’s coming up, and then it starts really hard before going into more melodic and uplifting sections and ending on a really melodic track called “The End at Pianoland.”
DJ Times: How did you go about finding and working with vocalists on it?
Rayel: Sometimes I wanted a specific vocalist, like for Jonathan [Mendelsohn] on “One in a Million,” I said, “Jonathan, I love your vocals and I have this demo, so I want you perform on this one!” He loved the melody and did an awesome job. For “Hold Onto Your Love,” though, Cindy Alma sent me an a cappella she already did and I just did all of the melodies and harmonies behind it. It’s always different; sometimes you’re trying to find someone and sometimes they find you.