Photograph courtesy of Constance Chan
There's no doubt that Dash Berlin knows what his music is all about. His demeanor is much like his music—passionate, excited, and full of emotion. If you've heard any of his tracks, caught a set, or watched A State of Trance on YouTube, you'd know that he's a man to bring out the feelings of the melodies.
THUMP: The last time you were here in Toronto was for Digital Dreams Music Festival, and now you're back playing at Muzik. What are some of the differences between your festival and club sets?
Dash: Well it's quite obvious; there's a difference in the amount of people in the crowd and also the intimacy. But there are also similarities, and that's the people on the dance floor wanting to have a good time—that's what I aim for. I don't have a personal preference regarding big or small performances, there are just differences.
I like intimacy but I also like the fact that when you're playing a big party like Digital Dreams, you see the whole crowd waving and moving together. That's the goal. With smaller venues, you can just grasp that special atmosphere a bit better. That's what I like about small venues.
Do you think you tailor your sets differently for bigger audiences versus smaller audiences?
A little, generally people know when I'm performing and I'm playing a lot of my own stuff—whether that's original remixes, Dash-ups, or special edits. But, when you're playing a giant venue, you have these certain tracks that always stand out just a little more.
For sure, I saw you at Electric Daisy Carnival so I can attest to that. Speaking of which, what are some of your favourite sets you've played?
My experience at EDC in Las Vegas last year was definitely something super special, because an atmosphere like that, where everyone is on the same page and the sun is just about to rise—is just overwhelming. It's still something extraordinary for people who are listening to the set to actually witness it. I still see Tweets and comments about that daily. That was definitely a moment.
The A State of Trance events are an annual thing for me, it definitely stands out in terms of the people you can reach over the radio.
What does A State of Trance mean to you?
A State of Trance is a huge collection of people coming together that are open to melodies with good vocals and quality dance music as a whole. It's had a following for a long time, with the most hardcore fans. They're just the best.
What made you lean more towards vocals rather than more instrumental sounds?
I'm definitely a pro-vocal guy. Sometimes when I test out new tracks or I want to try something out in my residency in Las Vegas, you see people wondering, "When do the vocals start?" So, I'm just going to stick with my program, which definitely includes a lot of vocals. I just love it. A lot of people can relate to lyrics and that goes for me as well.
Your new album is coming out this summer. How do you think your sound has progressed?
I think when you start listening to my first album, The New Daylight, and then listen to #MusicIsLife, you'll already hear some differences. Why? Because music has been changing so much. There are so many more options with using sounds and plugins. The way I create music has changed and so has the way I've been bonding with my friends in studio. Also, the amount of tracks we can push out in a year is a lot more than it used to be. Keep in mind, we still do quality over quantity.
Lately, what DJ has inspired a change in your sound?
If I have to name somebody, it would be Martin Garrix. Why? It's really simple. One, he's really young and nowadays people can teach themselves how to make music by using tutorials and the Internet. You can use convenient programs to set up your music.
The second thing is how one of his tracks became a hit so quickly. It shows how important and incredibly popular dance music is right now.
When your online fans say that your sound has shifted from trance to "mainstream"—what are your thoughts on that?
I think it's a great thing that people are being critical because they keep you on your toes. I'm really thankful for that—people critically following you and seeing every step that you take.
But, I have to see things in perspective. I don't see it as shifting away, but I see it as evolving. When you're standing still, nothing is going to happen because you're going to go out just like a candle.
For me, when it comes to DJing and producing music, you want to push forward. There are so many new plugins, sounds, and ideas on ways to create and experience music. For instance, I couldn't have imagined trap or dubstep being created because everybody said that everything has already been done. All of a sudden, within a period of one and a half years, you have two completely new dance subgenres.
Trance to me is a huge music style, which goes from a slow BPM range to fast, and then there's everything in between. And with everything in between, I call that trance. When you hear my newest single, "Dragonfly," you know it's difficult to call it trance but it still has that influence. Although I love this genre, I enjoy doing something different here and there. It helps keep people on their toes and they connect back to me about what they think of it.
So if fans come out and say they really don't like something, do you try something new next time or do you stick to your gut?
I really respect somebody who comes up to me and says, "I know you tried something and I really don't like it," because that's cool. That means I'm open enough for that person to talk to and for them to give me their opinion. The cool thing is that, last year with Armin van Buuren, we were talking over dinner and I still keep this in my memory as a kind of quote: When you're doing a new thing in music, it's just like a painter hanging up a painting. You're asking people to give their reaction and when they actually do, I'm really happy for it. I'd rather people talk about the music I play or the sets I do because if not, I wouldn't know what to do. So whether it's critically positive or negative, it's always adding something to me.
If you could pick a DJ, dead or alive, to play back to back with, who would it be?
[Laughs]. I have to say I'm not a huge fan of back to back sets because I'm used to playing a lot of my own material and I'm really comfortable with that. But, I have to say, in Argentina we played a set with seven DJs and it went off perfectly.
That was something I didn't see coming and it was great. Armin, Orjan, Heatbeat, and Thomas Heredia were all a part of that. It's hard to imagine it working out with that many DJs on stage, but it did.
In terms of ideology to have a DJ share the stage with me, or sharing a stage with, I have no idea at this point. I'm good. [Laughs]
Who would you say has had the biggest impact on you then?
Always the people who speak up and are honest. Especially my fans that are open to giving me opinions about what they like and don't like. My friends and also the people I work with, my manager, are always honest and give me feedback about new music and those are definitely people you can trust. They're all really important to me.
If I were to open your iTunes, what track is the most played right now?
"Jar of Hearts" by Christina Perri.
What song do you think I'd be the most surprised to see?
Some really unknown old school house tunes with enormous acid bass lines, which if you put your headphones on you'd go, "What is this?" Or some obscure hardcore techno tracks, which I also really like to enjoy from time to time. You'd be surprised about that.
You can follow Samie on Twitter: @samiedurnford