On Saturday, Smirnoff’s hotly anticipated Sensation event rolled into London for an unparalleled night of mischief in white. The setup – which drew together 22 fountains, 13 laser systems, 100 different pyrotechnic effects and 16 6-meter wide jellyfish – was like nothing we’ve ever seen. Following on from last week’s chat with the man behind it all, creative director Duncan Stutterheim, one thing he said resonated with me: “the show is close to perfection”. I’ll be the first to admit that the statement sounded a little arrogant initially, but after experiencing Saturday, I find myself in agreement.
The show was beautifully executed, and no expense was spared as the London crowd piled into the O2 Arena to be treated to a spectacle that incorporated performance art, installations, new technologies, and music from some of the world’s finest DJs. The DJs performed from a rotating booth in the centre of the dance floor, while legions of clubbers hailed them like gods dressed head to toe in white. This was a clubbing experience like no other.
The most enjoyable set on the night came from Joris Voorn and Nic Fanciulli, who really set the standard with some awesome techno and house, before Fedde Le Grand and Martin Solveig took the party to the next level with some huge big-room anthems. All DJs were really well received, but the night was less about the music than it was about the experience and overall staging of the event which was a total sensory overload. We had a great time, and would like to thank the Smirnoff team for their awesome hospitality.
On a night out, it’s always nice to hear praise for the work we do here at Gotta Dance Dirty, and when that praise comes from a world renowned DJ it’s even more flattering and lets us know that we must be doing something right. Getting kudos for our blog from Martin Solveig was a surreal highlight on Saturday night when we caught up with him before his headline set. You can read our exclusive interview with him after the jump…
GDD: So is this your first Sensation event?
MS: This is somewhere around my 15th!
GDD: And from a DJ’s perspective, what is it that makes Sensation so different from other dance music events?
MS: It differs a lot. Playing Sensation is not like playing your regular festival – it’s being part of an integrated team for one night and so it makes it very interesting. For me, I treat it almost like a side project, as it’s not solely about me like my shows are. I’ve been working with the team in Holland for 4-5 years, it’s a super cool event, really well organized and the production is amazing. Sometimes it’s also a really good way for all of us to travel and play to crowds we wouldn’t usually play to. When I played Sensation in Spain, it was almost the first show I’d ever played there, so it’s a good vibe.
GDD: So does your Sensation set differ from your club set, and are you playing to your surroundings and the visual spectacle?
MS: It differs for sure, firstly with the energy levels: my personal style is very much a fidget house oriented sound, lots of fast cuts and the festival mentality of keeping a crowd very busy. When you play a festival you want to make every minute count, but when you play Sensation, you are kindly asked not to do this, and to play a little bit more on the vibe so the people can feel the production more. This also has to do with the length of the event, which lasts for 7 or 8 hours, so you don’t want to kill the vibe or peak too early. At Sensation, there’s more of a progressive element and each DJ seeks to build the night, so you take it a little bit easier and let the record do the job. This means the rhythm of the mix is a bit slower.
GDD: How do you go about finding your records?
MS: I have a pretty wide range of stuff I can play and I’d say that my normal set is pretty rock-ish, and sometimes a little bit urban. Most of the time there are guitars, but tonight I’ve set that aside and am going a little bit more electro.
GDD: Do you ever plan your sets or is it all spontaneous?
MS: I have a few tracks that I’ll drop almost every set – of course my own tracks – but aside from that, the rest of it’s floating. Today because we’re in London, I thought I’d play more UK producers, guys like Calvin Harris or Michael Woods.
GDD: And where’s your favorite place to play?
MS: My favorite place in the world to play is and always has been Australia. It’s what I’d call “DJ’s paradise” [laughs]. It’s for a reason though, the music taste of Australians seems very close to mine, so I’m always able to connect really well with crowds out there. Chatting with other DJs and musicians, everyone thinks they’re probably the best crowd you can play to. You always get fierce party animals out there, and because of the weather, the sky is always blue and everyone’s always wearing swim suits, so of course that always helps. It’s just an amazing place to play!
GDD: As a high profile DJ, how do you manage to balance DJ sets, production commitments and your private life?
MS: Private life always suffers when you’re very busy, but being almost a 35 year old man and having done this for quite a bit of time, I’ve decided to balance things a little bit more and so my DJ schedule will not be open all year round now. I’ll take some time off for production and also a little bit for the rest.
GDD: When was the moment you realized that you’d accomplished your dream of becoming a professional DJ and a producer?
MS: That sort of thing crosses my mind almost every day, because it’s a very lucky life. I studied until the age of 23 or 24, and at the same time I was already starting to DJ and produce in Europe. When I graduated, I took one year off to finish my debut album, but it didn’t work at all. For a reason, I had one track that did break through called ‘Madan’ (a remix of legendary Malian musician Salif Keita) and that sort of made the first step that led me to where I am now. So I guess I’ve had 12 years of being a professional DJ, I’m not the only one, but yeh, it’s crazy!
GDD: And if you weren’t a DJ?
MS: My next fantasy – I don’t know if it’s possible, but let’s have dreams – would be a movie director.
GDD: What sort of stuff?
MS: A lot of different stuff. I think comedy is very difficult but very interesting. This is what we try to do a little bit with Smash on a very low key way. But yeh, why not!
GDD: Your videos are very distinctive as is your dress sense. How many headbands do you own and why this one?
MS: This is my official one, I designed it, so I have plenty of those and throw them away into the crowd during my sets.
GDD: What does 2011 have in store for Martin Solveig?
MS: I have a new episode of Smash coming out in September with a new single, and the story will go on like this. We have a few things that we shot already and a few things we need to finish, but the album is done and I’m gonna make some remixes. I’m also starting a couple of new productions, but that would be for 2012.
GDD: And Finally, when you’re not DJing and you’re on the dance floor as a punter, do you dance dirty?
MS: Of course I dance very very dirty. And if you don’t believe me you can ask Skrillex!