Today’s Feature – May 15th-16th: aRk

May 16, 2008 at 9:56 pm (Today's Feature)

Ever since a rooftop birthday party where the two spun together for the first time in 2004, aRk has been on a creative mission to not only perfect their sound, but to take push it to another level. Four years ago, you could hear them mixing a bit of progressive house style music with a handful of dance covers in between. Today, they’re crafting amazing sets, “raising people to a certain level, giving them some air, and then taking them higher.” No more dance covers.

They’ve also been busy developing aRk LIVE, a side project that adds the “live” factor to their shows. There are “DJ’s, there’s live vocals provided by friend and lead singer of (PEV alum) Redline Addiction, Rob Robinson, there’s effects, scratching,” everything. Connecting the best elements of the club with the best of live rock shows, aRk LIVE will likely be more than just a side project in the near future.

Ari and Mark can be heard around the east coast, most often in DC at some premier spots – Glow, Buzz, ULTRA, Chroma, Eye Bar, Spank, you name it. Spend a night with them – they’ll be partying just as hard as you are, so be sure to lose control! And keep and eye out for “The aRkast,” their podcast that currently boasts subscribers from around the world. Get into the XXQ’s to learn more.

XXQs: aRk

PensEyeView.com (PEV): Although friends for many years, it wasn’t until summer of 2004 that the duo spun together. Looking back from the bands first performance, how has your music styling changed since then?

aRk: Technically our first performance was on a rooftop in the heart of Manhattan for our friend’s birthday party. Back then we would say our music was a mixture of funky and progressive house with a lot of dance covers thrown in between. Admittedly we hadn’t really formulated our sound yet and were playing things we thought crowds would like. Remixes of whatever was hot at the time…. basically a lot of vocals. The first time we ever played out in a proper CLUB was probably a year later. Coincidently enough, another friend’s birthday party. At that point we had certainly started to come into our own in terms of our musical styling. Gone were the dance covers. Our style was progressive, funky, disco house and at that point we really started to learn the process of building a set; raising people to a certain level, giving them some air, and then taking them higher. Flash forward some 4 years later and again our style has undergone some changes. I [Mark] have developed a bit of a techy, electro, breaks sound accompanied by some tricks and gadgets; where as Ari has moved into a more groovy, but also more driving, sound ranging from deep house to house to progressive to electro. It would probably be silly to think our sound won’t change again. It’s definitely an evolving passion. Music changes, tastes change, your mind opens itself to new things that you may not have really dug before. It would be quite boring otherwise we think.

PEV: What were your first years in the music business like for the group? When you were first starting out?

aRk: We’re still in our first years we hope! But in a word: exciting. You have to understand, we were going to clubs with our friends and older brothers since we were 18. Actually a bit before, but we’ll deny that considering age laws. This was before either of us had even thought of DJing. Once we took it up, we’d laugh at the thought of someday playing these exact clubs in our hometown. Literally – we’d laugh. The first club we played in was relatively small – maybe 200 people max. Awesome club, but fitting for a first gig. That night our friend and also musical director for Glow (Pete Moutso) asked us to open for him at his party. Glow was probably the club party we went to growing up. It’s huge. Playing our second gig there was… again, exciting. To say the least. We went on to actually get some pretty regular gigs and it was awesome. We absolutely loved it. And our friends and family were SO supportive. We can still remember the moment they opened the doors to the main room when we first played at Glow. Our friends came rushing in, maybe 100 at once, and were all just going nuts. I [Mark] was shaking – it was crazy!! Our friends and fans are the best. We play for them.

PEV: What kind of music were you listening to growing up? Do you remember the first concert you ever attended?

aRk: Believe it or not, the first concert I [Mark] attended was the Monkeys! I got dragged to one of their “reunion” shows with an ex-girlfriend and her family. It actually wasn’t that bad! Everyone knows they’re songs!

I listened to a lot of different things growing up. As a young kid I remember listening to the “oldies” station with my parents. Anytime we were in the car they were playing. The station played anything from Don McLean, to the Beatles, Michael Jackson, and Lionel Richie. Being Portuguese, I was also exposed to a lot of folklore (Fado) also. As a teen I listened to a pretty wide range. Hip-Hop with the likes of the Beastie Boys, RunDMC, Slick Rick, Snoop. Latin-style dance music like C+C Music Factory. Rock, 311, 2 Skinny J’s, Rage, Bush. Growing up in the 80’s with an older brother meant I heard a lot of Depeche Mode on MTV. I can still remember their videos. Their sound is so influential in not only what we do, but the entire EDM scene. In my teenage years I can recall the dance anthems that were starting to make their way up the charts. La Bouche, Real McCoy and Ace of BaseÉ I think I have a Real McCoy track on vinyl from before I was a DJ. Go figure. To be honest though, when I first heard “house music”, which was notably different that the dance music popular in the late 90’s, I didn’t really like it. I remember thinking it was really repetitive, dull… all the common misconceptions. It was just the wrong music; wrong DJ. Eventually I started going out with my older brother more and being exposed to this stuff frequently. It was an acquired taste to me. It started sounding better and better; more and more intelligent. I just started to understand it. I learned to absolutely love it. The beat wasn’t repetitive. It was driving. Synchronizing. The melodies and bass lines are hypnotizing. And the DJs, over the course of 4 hours, could take someone from anxious, to ecstatic, to calm and back again. It just made sense.

Being Armenian, I [Ari] also grew up listening to foreign music. Actually now that I think about it, it was a huge influence in the sense that whenever there was a party my parents were throwing or a function that they made me attend, the music was loud and people were getting down, and I mean getting down. So from an early age I learned that people really got moved by music. In my very early teens I feel in love with Heavy metal and Rock music. Before then music was just something in the background. My first love of music came from bands such as Guns ‘n Roses, Metallica and Skid Row. I loved watching these bands perform; they had such amazing energy and stage presence. When you see an aRk show, there’s no doubt you’ll see me going crazy up there and I learned it from guys like Axel. What’s the point of going to a show and seeing the performer being “too cool for school?” If you love what you’re doing, people will feed off of that. Another big influence musically was 80’s pop music. There’s a lot 80’s remixes that are produced in the Electronic music scene and I am a big sucker for those tracks. Then came techno in the 90’s with groups like 2 Unlimited. Finally about 10 years ago I was introduced to this unforgettable sound and scene called EDM. There was just something so exciting about the club and the bass of the music running through your body. It made we want to never leave. Soon after I was exposed to the scene, came along a DJ named George Acosta, trance DJ form Miami. Let’s just say the music he played made me feel funny. I still wonder about some of those tracks he was playing back then.

PEV: Was there a certain point in your life when you knew that music was going to be a profession rather than just a hobby?

aRk: We actually both hold regular jobs. We’d love to make this our careers. So in that sense, we have probably wanted it as a profession from day one. Music in general. DJing, producing, the works. But for now it is a passion. Not really a hobby. It’s a second career. We’re always looking for and trying new ways to get ourselves out there to try and get to that point. We used to laugh at the thought of actually playing out, so… we’ll see.

PEV: What is a live aRk performance like?

Energetic. We’re definitely not the DJs standing still in the booth. We love to interact with the crowd. We love the music, so we can’t help but dance, jump around – egg on the crowd. Musically, we think we bring a unique sound to the table. We each have our own sound individually, and those that know us can usually tell who’s playing – but together, we blend very well. The night will be techy, then groovy, then hard, then progressive. We have this knack though for being able to play off one another. We never really decide how long one of us will play – we just kind of wing it. There’s a good dose of effects and the like going on in our sets as well. So often both of us are standing at the helm, and crowds respond to that. WE respond to that when we see that in a club. We just like to have fun right along with the crowd. As a DJ should!

PEV: Which city sticks out as having the best aRk fans?

aRk: Well, it has to be Washington DC. We have played a few other cities; New York City, Norfolk, but 99% of our gigs have been in DC. Our fans are great. Many are friends.

PEV: Tell us about “aRk LIVE”.

aRk: aRk LIVE is a side project we started working on about a year ago. The concept is just to add a “live” element to our show. So there’s DJ’s, there’s live vocals provided by our friend and lead singer of Redline Addiction, Rob Robinson, there’s effects, scratching, etc. We’ve only put the show on stage a handful of times, but each time it’s been better than the one before. We’ve been working with Ableton more lately and hope to incorporate that into the show as well. The end result will be a combination of decks, laptops, effects, vocals. Obviously we would love to use our own productions in the show, that’s something we’re working towards, but have really only started to produce. For now we play the same tracks we might normally play, but with added layers. Suppose the Ableton portion, once added, would be another ‘original’ layer, as are the vocals.

The great thing about aRk LIVE is that it’s different and exciting to be a part of. The influence for the project definitely came from the likes of Infusion and Underworld – an attempt to turn a normal club night into more of a “rock show” atmosphere. It’s really fun. We certainly look to pursue the LIVE act more and more in the near future.

PEV: What can fans expect from this project?

Development. The beauty of what we’re doing in aRk LIVE is that you can constantly change it! We’re not a group of 2 or 3. The core is Ari, Rob and I – but we could bring on other vocalists, female vocalists (which we have done with friend Laura Weiss), guitarists, percussionists – you name it. That’s something we’re always talking about. What else can we do in the show? What other instruments or processes can we introduce? What strange sounds can we make with our voices, a mic and an effects unit? The possibilities are amazing and exciting.

PEV: What happens when you hit that “creative brick wall” and feel like a song is just not coming out right? What is your method to cure that?

aRk: We haven’t really done too much on the production side yet. So it’s tough to say what are process would be there. However, we encounter that type of situation when we’re either putting together a demo or working on aRk LIVE often. We just move on. Work on something else or another part and come back to the trouble spot later. Einstein said that “the definition of insanity is repeating the same action and expecting different results.” If we just can’t get something to work, we move on and come back to it later. Try something different. Maybe we come up with another idea while working on something else that helps progress the part that was giving us an issue.

PEV: Is there a certain environment you surround yourselves in when you sit down to write music?

aRk: Again, we haven’t done too much on the production side – but with aRk LIVE we are coming up with melodies, writing lyrics; and the majority of it is done in our basements. Rob, Ari and I will spend hours in the basement. Ari might be playing a track he thinks will work well for aRk LIVE; Rob might be in the corner with his pad and pen, jotting down lyrics and humming a melody. We almost work separately and then come together to try out our ideas. A lot of times we’ll record our ideas, the foundation and take it to one of our cars; get ourselves out of the studio and separate from all the equipment. It give us a different perspective and almost every time we come up with something to change, add or take out. Sometimes just listening to it on a different system can breed ideas.

PEV: How have all your friends and family reacted to your musical career?

aRk: Amazingly supportive. Living at home while learning how to DJ can’t be a pleasant thing. The sounds we used to subject people to in the early part of honing our skills was probably enough to destroy relationships. But our friends and family have been the backbone of what we do. We really do play for them at our gigs. Our families are proud to see us take something they thought was just an annoying hobby and doing something with it. Something real.

PEV: Having traveled everywhere, what city do you think offers the best appreciation for music? Why?

aRk: Well we certainly haven’t traveled everywhere. At least not related to our DJing. But we have had the chance to play in a few cities. New York, DC, Norfolk… More so we have traveled and been consumers of the music. Florida, North Carolina, France, Germany, Portugal, Spain, etc. If you’re referring to appreciation for electronic dance music, it’s different everywhere. It’s very easy to say that Europe appreciates it more because it’s so much more prevalent. But I think the party-goers dancing the morning away on the terrace of Club Space in Miami during the Winter Music Conference might challenge you on that. It’s just more mainstream in Europe. There are radio stations dedicated to it there. It’s played in every night club and bar. But it’s not to say that the love and appreciation for the music doesn’t exist here in the United States. It may not be on every radio channel or in every club but its here if you want it. Every city has EDM clubs. Satellite radio has stations dedicated to the music. Internet radio is available at the click of a button. The people dancing to the music in Charlotte are just as appreciative as those dancing in Miami; as those in Lisbon, Milan and Paris.

PEV: What is life on the road like for you? Best and worst parts?

aRk: We’ve only had to travel a handful of times for our gigs. Couple times to New York City; few times to Norfolk, VA. We can’t really say there’s anything bad about it. It’s been great and a wonderful experience every time. The best part is meeting new people. It’s nice to have people enjoy your music that we know haven’t enjoyed it before because we’re not from there. We’ve been lucky enough to have great crowds and great feedback from our gigs on the road. It’s something we want to and very much look forward to doing more of. As we start to develop the aRk LIVE show a bit more, hopefully we’ll get on the road with it.

PEV: Is there an “up and coming” artist or band right now that you think we should all be listening to?

aRk: Besides us? Kidding. Yes. Absolutely, but it’s hard to name one and in one industry. The local DJs in Washington DC are great. Everyone should try and support them as much as possible. There’s great talent that people might be missing out on if they don’t. Anyone looking for electronic dance music should look to up and coming label Brandnewvibe Recordings. The guys running this label are friends of ours and are really putting out quality music. In only a few months they have made a footprint in the industry and are getting their tracks played by some really big DJs. Our friends and producers Roberto and Javier Gonzales are also ones to look out for. We have had the pleasure of starting to work with them on a track – actually an original adaptation of something that originally started as an aRk LIVE project. If you’re into rock music you have to check out Redline Addiction. They’re a great group of guys; great music; and they put on a great show.

PEV: With a long list of names you’ve worked with, is there someone you have not had the chance to work with or collaborate with, that you would like to?

aRk: There’s so many. We have plans for the near future to work with some DC legends: Scott Henry and Charles Feelgood. That’s something we are VERY excited about. In the past we have had the opportunity to play alongside Tiesto and Robbie Rivera. The Tiesto show was probably the most fun we’ve ever had. We were one of the openers for his Washington DC leg of the Tiesto outdoor event “Elements of Life”. It was crazy! We were so privileged to take part. It was a massive party; really the first of its kind in DC. Panorama Productions, the same that run Glow, really did an amazing job. DC had never really seen anything like it. And Robbie is probably one of Ari’s favorite DJs and producers, if not THE favorite. So I [Mark] guess I will be selfish and say I want to work with James Zabiela. He is quite literally my biggest influence when it comes to my music – not just with his sound, but also what he does behind the decks. We’d love to share the booth with him.

PEV: When not traveling or performing, what can we find you doing in your spare time?

aRk: What’s spare time? We both work regular jobs and that takes up a lot of time in and of itself. Much of the time we have outside of work is when we focus on music. Whether it’s practicing, searching for music, working on production, working on aRk LIVE, the podcast, etc. Obviously we try and get out to enjoy the music of others when we can too. It’s what got us here in the first place and it’s still a rush to hear a great set from a great DJ. We hang out with friends, family; we love sports. We do all the normal stuff too.

PEV: What’s one thing we’d be surprised to hear about the members of aRk?

aRk: That’s kind of hard to answer. Probably that we both work in the financial industry. We both are involved in financial consulting. Yet we play really loud music in really large clubs at night. There’s a good chance we might lose a lot of clients if they knew our hours!

PEV: If we were to walk into your practice studio what would we find?

aRk: We each have our own set-up, but when we get together: 3 Pioneer CDJ’s, Pioneer DJM600, Pioneer EFX1000, Korg MINIKP, Macbook, M-Audio Axiom 49, M-Audio studio monitors, M-Audio Xsession, Ableton 6.0.7, a mic, some big speakers and a lot of wires. There’s hundreds of records and CDs laying about as well.

PEV: In one word, describe aRk.

aRk: Progressivelektrodiskohouse. It’s convenient. We came up with that to describe our sound a while back and it just happens to be one word… kinda.

PEV: So, what is next for aRk?

aRk: Bigger and better things hopefully! We’re really working hard on our podcast right now. “The aRkast”. So far we’re only 3 months in and we’re really happy with where it’s going. There’s been great support and feedback. We’ve had listeners subscribe from across the country and overseas. We’ve had great local DJ guests and have some really exciting guests planned for the future, like Scott Henry and Charles Feelgood – those guys are pillars in DC. The podcast is a monthly mix that we put out, plus a special guest mix and interview. It’s interesting to get a feel for the DJ you’re listening to. Getting their tastes, influences, all the things we’ve talked about today – while you’re listening to their set. It gives the podcast a bit of a personal touch. It’s a lot of fun and we really hope to have it become something that everyone is listening to in DC and hopefully beyond.

For more information on aRk, check out www.arkshouse.net

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