I've interviewed Andrew Rayel more than any other artist in this industry. One of the most remarkable attributes of Rayel is his steadfast passion and focus on music, which seemingly never wavers for a second. What's more, he actually follows through on his goals and promises from previous interviews (you can even look them up to prove it) and is without a doubt a perfectionist when it comes to his production. Say what you will about his music or trance in general, but he is without a doubt committed to his craft, by putting his unique perspective on all aspects of his work, from his upcoming album, to his new solo show, all the way down to his remixes.
Only The Beat got a chance to catch up with Rayel before his Electric Zoo debut. Making a rare appearance at a festival during this time, Rayel is currently buried in work as he tries to wrap up his follow up album to his 2014 release, Find Your Harmony. Check out our conversation below:
Only The Beat: So we're sitting down as you're just getting into the city, where are you coming from?
Andrew Rayel: I'm coming from home, Moldova. It's about a 15 hour flight, but I got a chance to get a long sleep and I'm well rested for Electric Zoo.
OTB: I noticed after this stop it doesn't look like you have any tour stops afterwards.
AR: No, it's because I took the whole month of September off in order to finish the album. This break has been planned since around February actually. I wasn't going to be touring in September because I have a deadline that I'm not going to tell you *laughs* to finish the album. Electric Zoo was the only opportunity I wanted to take. New York is special and this is my first time playing at Electric Zoo and I've heard a lot about this festival. I really didn't want to miss it. I'm not doing any other shows, just Electric Zoo, and then I'm going straight back to the studio to finish the album. I'm going to drop some new songs today in my set that are from the album. I'm going to try some new things and see how they work.
OTB: So what have you heard about Electric Zoo that made you so excited to break your time dedicated to finishing the album and come play a set?
AR:Armin van Buuren played a bunch of times at Electric Zoo and he's always telling me how great it was and how excited the crowd always is. And now I get to play the mainstage, so it's a pretty good start *laughs*.
OTB: If you weren't working on your album, which you're spending this next month trying to finalize, what are your other passions besides music that you follow?
AR: It's honestly the same passion. It's for the fans that come to my shows. You get very tired and sometimes your inspiration goes away and sometimes you ask yourself "why am I doing this?" And as soon as I see the crowd and people wearing my T-shirts and singing the lyrics of my songs, I get an instant answer. Then I just continue. Obviously every artist has tough times in his career, and I can definitely say this is and continues to be the hardest year of my career and probably my life. I have to be focused on so many things at the same time. I'm moving to a new house, I'm building a new studio, I have to finish the album, we're working on a huge new solo show and trying to get more people on the team for that. There's so much going on.
OTB: So as your career has grown, it has gotten far more difficult to manage?
AR: Absolutely. That's why I have all these people to help me to accomplish these goals.
OTB: I remember last December we had spoken about your goal to have a new live show concept. How is that coming along?
AR: It's pretty much finished. We're just finalizing some details, some individual things, but the whole idea, the whole concept is already done. We know how everything is going to be. I just have to finish the album because a lot of things are actually going to be connected to individual tracks.
OTB: So the presentation is actually tied into the album?
AR: Absolutely. That's why we can't finalize those things until the album is finished.
OTB: Whenever you're writing a track, do you find yourself writing based on whatever location you're in, or the time of year it is, can you feel like a time and place for the music you write?
AR: I can definitely feel that, that's why I was never a fan of writing in big studios like in L.A. or New York or wherever. I've gotten a chance in my career to try those things, but it never really works out as well as it does when I do it in my studio. That's just my comfort zone, where inspiration comes to me. I'm also very well connected to emotions. There are stronger emotions, weaker emotions, I feel them at a certain point and the more inspired I get. It's not necessarily good emotions…it's well-known that the stronger emotions are not the best emotions, like pain or struggle or all those things. I feel like in order to create something amazing, like something genius, you have to go through some difficult times. History proves that most of the genius compositions were written when the composer was going through some really tough times.
OTB: Do you find you have to wait for those emotions in order to write or...?
AR: I started realizing that, because sometimes I have those emotions connected to different events in my life, suddenly something really cool jumps into my head when I'm working in the studio and I ask why is it only when these negative emotions…not negative but harder emotions. It's obviously different with every person, but I'm not going to push myself through hard times just in order to create something new.
OTB: Your latest single, All Systems Down, with KhoMha, do you have anything to say about the development or release of that track?
AR: I've always wanted to do something with KhoMha, he's a very cool, chill, interesting, unique guy. We've known each other for many, many years from the day he was working with Markus Schulz. We were meeting each other constantly at shows, and we've wanted to do something together for a long time, but we couldn't because of some issues back then with the labels and everything. Now he's moved completely to Armada, so he became a guy I can collaborate very easily with, because working with to different labels is very complicated. He was sending me these ideas and he sent me this demo with All Systems Down. It sounded completely different, but what caught me was the vocal. He made it very electro, through all these different vocoders and I loved that vocal. And I dropped pretty much everything else. I took his drums, he's very good at drums, and the vocal, and I just threw up a completely new track on top of that. We started analyzing it from there and it took a while to finish. It's pretty interesting because I did the whole first demo in about four hours before my flight to Miami for Ultra Music Festival. I got so excited about this that I wanted to play it at Ultra. I played the first version there, which if you listen to the live broadcast now, it has a COMPLETELY different break, different melody and everything. I did not have too much time to spend on the melody, so I just did something to play it. We were listening to the track months after, realized the melody isn't quite what we wanted, and then the final version came up, which blew a lot of people's minds. A lot of people are playing it, Armin is playing it in all his sets, W&W are playing it, a bunch of people are playing it. We took the more EDM side AND the more trance side so it appeals to both types of DJs.
Andrew Rayel & KhoMha - All Systems Down
OTB: Your remix EP for Winterburn, how many remixes of your tracks do you get to hear? Do you hear a lot of remixes of your own work?
AR: Back in the day, I used to not take any remixes at all. I was kind of known as having no remixes for my tracks. I was so focused on my own music that I wasn't focused on finding another person who could remix my tracks. It takes a lot of time. But eventually it got to me, so I said OK I should start asking people to do remixes on my tracks. On Winterburn we got a bunch of great guys, we got Craig Connelly, who did an absolutely amazing remix, and Jorn van Deynhoven who did a more fast banging remix. There is more coming for Winterburn as well, but I have more. There will be remixes for "Once In A Lifetime Love" coming up.
Andrew Rayel & Digital X ft. Sylvia Tosun - Winterburn Remixes EP
OTB: What was it besides being known as the guy that doesn't do remixes that made you want to do more remixes?
AR: All the original mixes were…very good and there wasn't any point to do a remix. It doesn't make a point to do a remix for a track that already sounds good to me. What else are you going to do with a track that sounds amazing? There is nothing you really want to change in it. So it was kind of a compliment for me that there weren't any remixes of my tracks. It's like when you get the responsibility to do a remix for a track that everyone knows and loves. You don't really know what to do or what to change. If you touch this are they gonna be upset or whatever. But eventually, I realized I was kind of bored playing the same track again and again in a set, so it might be a good idea to send it to different people to remix it, so in different sets in different locations I can play different remixes of the same tracks but I can still play my music.
There are a bunch of remixes coming out soon too, like Embrace and Rising Star, which has an interesting story. He did this track and I heard it at his Armin Only show, and I really liked the vocal. And I said, "Hey Armin can you send me the vocals? I want to do something with it, it's very emotional and trancey." He said sure and I started doing a mashup or something and it clicked, I started adding more and more elements and it started to sound like a remix. So I created a completely new remix and surprised him.
OTB: Have you ever taken something out of someone's track when you're remixing, like Armin's where it was something they really loved? Like, how you were hesitant to allow others to remix your work?
AR: That's what I really love about doing remixes myself, because in a way, some people like a completely different sounding track. When I do a remix, I like to really remix it. Write a new melody and leave only the vocals. I try not to take anything else from the original. I did that with Armin's as well. I created a completely new track. If you take away the vocals, you have a completely new track.
OTB: Over the course of 2016, what have you accomplished so far that you wanted to, and what haven't you accomplished yet?
AR: Well I'm playing Electric Zoo today so that's one, but I don't know...a lot of things happened this year. The solo show is one of the things that I really want to accomplish. I haven't done it yet, but it is planned for next year. This year was and still is a year for preparation for a lot planned next year.
OTB: Any teasers for either the album or the solo show to really pique our interest?
AR: The only teasers I can give is to listen to my Electric Zoo set. I'm going to do my best to drop a couple tracks already planned for the album, so you can hear a sneak peak there of whats coming in the album, even through there is so much more there that I can’t even describe.
OTB: Anything else for today?
AR: Keep supporting Andrew Rayel and grab the last single All System Down!
A big shout out to Andrew Rayel's management and PR team for organizing this interview!