On the first Saturday of April I found myself dancing under illuminated neon lights at the historic Avalon Hollywood nightclub. I only arrived in Los Angeles a few hours before on an early Megabus from San Francisco. Prior to boarding the 12 hour overnight bus to LA, I was stepping off a plane from my month long vacation in Thailand. The journey from the other side of the world to the dance floor of Avalon was a long one: my body still jet lagged from the long flight, my mind still trying to grasp the change in time zones and my skin still smelled like a freshly burned tan from the Southeast Asian heat. But I made it to L.A., I made it onto the sticky, cocktail spilled dance floor (which has seen cleaner days) and I finally made it to my first Coldharbour Night in the City of Angels.
As the late Saturday night quickly bled into the dawning Sunday morning, I mentally prepared myself alongside a crowd of trance lovers who also craved dark, progressive melodies for the American debut of Leed’s rising star. Once the early clock struck two, the eager fans who had been waiting for hours, dancing their way through four amazing DJs, filled Avalon’s atmosphere with cries of joy, giving a warm California Trance Family welcome for Arkham Knights.
Before Stuart Turner, brother and one-half of AK, got behind the decks, I had an opportunity to sit down with him: getting a chance to peek underneath one of the masks that makes up this trance sensation that has been captivating fans with their techno-infused style.
Hey, how’s it going?
All good thanks.
Where is Ben at right now?
He’s at home in the studio most probably, I have him chained up in there working 24/7 (laughs). It’s Mainly going to be me on the road playing gigs, Ben is more focused on production, although we are always in the studio together working on tracks. He’s got this real knack of bringing my ideas to fruition…he knows exactly what to do when we discuss an idea.
So I guess, everyone wants to know, where did the name Arkham Knights come from?
Well, (laughter) I was just trying to think of names and I had Arkham in my head for some reason. I used to be a fan of the old Batman comics. And I just put that with knights and bam! It was as simple as that. Then, like literally weeks later the actual game came out. It (Arkham) just really suit’s our style of the dark, groovy, techno-y kind of trance. We both loved the name and it stuck.
You guys definitely do a great job blending those two genres together. I remember I was on SoundCloud, refreshing your page, trying to catch a new Afterhours set, I saw that you posted your guest mix from the Judge Jules show. And it blew my mind. I like how you guys opened up with trance and blended it with techno and back to trance and ended it out with some hard tech-trance remixes. Are you guys like a trance first or techno?
You know, we love the techno grooves. Fuse that with trance and you got something special. We love the big lead lines too because trance was our first love. We focus a lot on grooves and you get a lot of groove from techno. So yeah, it makes sense to fuse the two together. Defiantly for our sets, I love playing techno and trance because it’s a great fusion.
Your last two tracks, “Legacy” and “Knightfall”, are huge success.
Yeah, they did real good. Did better than we thought.
Because obviously when you’re making them in the studio, you’re locked into this track for like two months or so. And you’re hearing it constantly everyday, and over and over, same bits and by the end of it you don’t realize whether it’s big or whatever, you just know that it’s something you like. So, you just go with it. The feedback from fans and of course Markus & the Coldharbour team is awesome…makes it all worth while.
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So how do you find that perfect medium between techno and trance?
There isn’t a script really. It’s hard to put into words, it just kind of happens, it’s just our vision of music built on what we love and are passionate about. We love it dark, lots of percs, heavy bass, driving grooves and in all that dark madness an uplifting lead. When writing a track I always imagine myself stood on a dance floor and getting that feeling you get when the DJ just dropped something special…if I get that feeling i know we are on to a good thing.
So how long have you and Ben been at this craft of blending those two genres together.
Since we started, in about 2008. We both sat down and started producing. Obviously, it took quite a long time to get there because it’s a hard thing to learn and crafting your own sound is hard too.
Did you face any difficulties when you started coming out with this style?
Yeah sure, when your doing something different it’s always worrying how it’s going to be received. We still worry now, sometimes I think “have we gone to far out of the box this time” but Ben is always the voice of reason (laughs). Markus is such a great mentor, he really gets us & what we do, so we worry less these days since we joined Coldharbour.
I remember reading a quote in February edition of Raver Magazine where Markus (Schulz) compared your guys sound to the old school Tiesto sound. (Laughter) That’s a huge pedestal to be compared to. How did that make you guys feel?
Oh man that was overwhelming to read, because the old sets from Tiesto, the old Tiesto tracks were where we first really got into trance. Myself and Ben were big fans back in the day. I mean, I played around with trance on vinyl back in the mid to late 90’s. Defiantly like the early days of Tiesto & Markus saying that about us was like, “Wow”.
So, that must have been a huge confidence booster.
Oh, absolutely. We’re massive Markus fans. He’s a huge inspiration to us. I’ve followed Markus since 2005. Having him as a mentor and having these kind of comments come from him is just overwhelming sometimes. And being sign on his label obviously is just…wow, it’s where we always wanted to be. So, it’s a massive achievement. To be honest, he’s one of a few DJs that I go out of my way to go and listen to and make the effort to go see. His sets are both inspiring and educational.
Are there any other DJs that inspire your music?
We really like Eric Prydz. Another great artist is Solid Stone, He’s just amazing. But there are so many good artist out there, Nifra is blowing up as are Fisherman & Hawkins too. But really for inspiration we look to the past, rather than the now, because I don’t really think that many people are doing the same thing that we do. We always go for that raw industrial feel. It really takes us back to the old days.
Do you think Arkham Knights are going to stay in the same realm of sound in the future? Or, maybe experiment with another sound?
Oh yes, definitely. But we’re always experimenting. We always try and aim to make each track different, changing the key elements in a track. Like in “Knightfall” you got the drums and “Legacy” has a big focus on a lead. We always try and do something different. In “Blackgate” we got a drum roll that comes out of the breakdown. So we always try and get those main characteristics, that really stands out, to fit in each track. Obviously, that takes a long time because you can run out of ideas. (Laughter).
When you and Ben throw together ideas, do you guys perhaps develop a track that is sometimes a little more techno than trance, or progressive trance, or big-room? Maybe creating another alias to produce those different kinds of music?
I mean, alias’s is good and works well for some, but for us we really want to keep focus on what & who we are. We don’t want to start doing alias’s right now while we are in the infancy of our career and have fans wonder who we are. Then when you start branching out people don’t know whether you’re going to turn up at a gig as this guy or this guy and same goes for tracks. So we just really need to be consistent with what we do, really have that focus on who we are as an artist and what identifies our sound.
And that sound has been doing really well. This week you guys had your debut guest mix on the Global DJ Broadcast and now you’re here for Arkham Knights first Coldharbour Night in L.A., a lot of great things and success are coming your way. Congrats on that. Are there any more goals left for you two?
You know, we never really expected this to be honest. If somebody would have asked us last year would we be here now, I would have said no. Because you just don’t expect it, it all just comes out of nowhere. There is no checklist to be honest, we love music and are very passionate about it. We’ll just keep going with what we love doing and see where it takes us.
Do you guys like to do anything else in your free time?
It really soaks up all your time. There is no free time. (Laughter) It’s the first thing I think about in the morning and the last thing I think about at night. Now we’re here at Avalon. A dream come true.
Any words out there for Arkham Knights fans?
Thanks for your support we wouldn’t be here without you. We have now signed to Schulz Music Group so expect to see a lot more of us at future club nights.
Well, thank you for your time and speaking with Schulz Army.
Awesome mate, thank you, anytime.
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