Aero provided the concluding instalment of our ‘Top Tips’ series with CUPRA. The Dublin-based DJ and producer covers his first gigs with Human Error, performing at Electric Picnic, being influenced by Sunil Sharpe, keeping creative, and much more.

Aero has grown into one of Ireland’s most prolific Irish artists in recent times, the youngster has carved out a career that is wrapped around the foundations of purist techno. His punishing style of the genre has been haunting Irish dancefloors for over half a decade, as Aero’s deep musical knowledge sees him weave through hard-edged and groove-laden dance music cuts from various time periods.

Aero has played alongside some of techno’s most formidable artists such as Stef Mendesidis, Dax J, KI/KI, SHDW & Obscure Shape, Tommy Holohan and Sunil Sharpe to name a few. Over the years Aero has enjoyed a range of high-profile domestic and international shows and festivals such as Electric Picnic, Life Festival and Fuinneamh Festival coupled with numerous headline shows across the country as well as club appearances in Berlin, Paris, Manchester and so on. Outside of the club, Aero’s productions have garnered immense support from some of the most influential DJs of our time including Freddy K, Amelie Lens, Slam and Richie Hawtin.

We sat down with Aero to talk through all there is to know when it comes to getting started as a DJ in Ireland.

How did you get started in the dance music industry?

My friends James and Alex, started a club night after I had started DJing called, Human Error. They actually didn’t book me for quite a while and would book my friend Dylan Forbes for all the shows, which annoyed me massively at the time haha, but looking back on it, I wasn’t good enough. I knew I could play in clubs as they were running regular parties, an opportunity was there, so I pretty much DJ’d for 3 to 5 hours every single day, learning as much as I could in isolation. I look back on this time pretty fondly, there was a lot of discovery with music, studying DJs I liked, and often stealing their tracklists, recording mixes every day. It was an obsession. I quickly got pretty good for how long I was DJing and my library was growing massively every week, which was integral to my progression. I eventually played my first show in November of 2017. Not many gigs followed for a while, but I relentlessly sent mixes to people, and secured a gig in Hangar in early 2018, after this I started to play more frequently and started to progress more. Since then, there’s been plenty of dry periods in terms of gigs, but you take the good with the bad, the industry isn’t always secure, but I’m in this for the long run.

What are some essential skills every beginner DJ should focus on mastering?

I think we tend to overcomplicate DJing. Once you can beat match and you have a good understanding of the music you want to play it’s pretty straightforward. It’s all about repetition. DJ every day, dig every day, listen to as many DJ sets as you can, and familiarise yourself with labels and artists that are frequently releasing music that you resonate with, this will lead you down the rabbit hole and it doesn’t end. When I was a student at The Bray Institute of Further Education and took the DJ Techniques and Production course, I would come to college early and stay late, playing as much as I could. I credit that year and that intense desire to better myself with any success I’ve had since. My friend Billy Illand and I would meet on the train to college every day, and we’d take the train home together every evening; when we parted ways, we’d set a challenge for each other to spend the night digging on YouTube. The next morning, it was almost like a competition to see who could find the best tunes; we were so into it that Billy brought a headphone splitter so we could listen to each other’s finds on our headphones at the same time. That year and the years following felt like a complete and compulsive obsession. During this time the gigs I wanted and felt I deserved seemed out of my reach but when I got the opportunity I felt more than prepared than other DJs.

What are common mistakes beginners make?

You shouldn’t think too far ahead in terms of your DJ career. It’s good to have goals and an idea of where you want to be and how you’re going to get there, but at the end of the day, it’s creative, you can’t force a good mix, you can’t plan a big track or gig or whatever. If you’re thinking about the end goal, you’re in this for the wrong reasons. DJing, making music, digging, clubbing and all other aspects of this life are pretty much essential to my wellbeing. Even if no one ever heard my music or DJ mixes again, I would continue to make music every day. If you DJ or create music with one eye on the end result, you’ll never be happy.

What are your tips for developing a unique sound or style?

This is a tricky one, but it’s ultimately something you’ll develop over time. Some DJs and producers seem have a certain aesthetic or swagger in terms of how they do things, it can be hard to explain. People naturally borrow ideas from other influential DJs, in my case I can credit a lot of my DJing to be influenced by Sunil Sharpe. He has a very unique way of playing, I remember vividly one day when he described how he used the faders on a DJ mixer as ‘whipping’. Playing in a very physical and almost visceral manner, that’s how I like to do it. I like the idea of kind of playing on the edge, mixing quickly and fearlessly. If you’re scared of doing a bad mix, you’ll never do a great one. Ultimately I believe thinking is the enemy while DJing, trying to carve a certain style or sound can be counterproductive in many cases. When I think too much, I know I’m not properly in it. When you’re in the flow, it’s almost as if the tracks are choosing you, rather than the other way around; once you’re in this state and rhythm, any notion of style or sound fades away. It doesn’t happen every time, but when it does, it’s the best feeling in the world, and I’m constantly chasing it.

What were some of the biggest challenges you faced when starting out?

I think being visible has been, and will continue to be, the most difficult challenge for both emerging and established DJs. The market is fairly saturated, and standing out among the sea of DJs and producers is difficult. When I was younger, I had a lot of confidence in my ability to DJ at a decent level, but I always felt like the crowds weren’t big enough to expand my audience, or that I was just playing for friends of friends and so on. It’s crucial to maintain consistent in your output. Look at DJs you admire, but also at DJs you believe are slightly better than you or a DJ in the position you aspire to be, and research what labels they’ve released on, podcasts they’ve recorded, and promoters they’ve worked with. There is a lot of transparency on social media, so use it to your advantage when looking for a path that is right for you. Being active and moving forward is extremely important. Every opportunity I’ve ever received has stemmed from something I’ve done in the past. Release that mix, send that track, finish that mix down, respond to that email, seek advice… all of these actions will help you progress, and your future self will be thankful. You only regret the shots you didn’t take, and you quickly forget about the ones you missed.

How do you stay motivated and inspired in a competitive industry?

I don’t really stay motivated, I go through stages of motivation and inspiration. I occasionally go through periods where I don’t hear any new music that excites me, but this is usually a reflection of my own mental state, which isn’t always positive. It’s something I know many artists struggle with, and it’s not often discussed. We pour a lot of our lives into this industry and our art and sometimes we feel hard done by and it’s ok to feel that way, if you didn’t it would be weird. When you’re passionate about something, it’s natural to feel emotional, whether for good or bad. Exploring new sounds is something that generally excites me; to put it simply, I love bass, drums, and synthesisers. There’s a primal feeling I get when I listen to good music when I hear music that makes me want to move. I suppose when I stop getting that natural high from music, I’ll stop. You should always chase that feeling; when you hear a good track, there’s no thinking involved. We spend a lot of time overthinking and overanalyzing our lives, and when we listen to music, that generally stops, so I suppose I enjoy the escapism aspect of music; it just sucks you in, and that’s what keeps me motivated.

You’ve garnered numerous international gigs over the years, can you highlight how they might differ from playing local gigs and explain how your preparation process might change due to playing in a generally unknown environment?

The preparation processes are generally similar to playing in Ireland; it’s helpful to have a good understanding of the club night you’re playing for and the sound they’re associated with, so I try to cater to that without deviating too much from my sound. Having a good understanding of your set time is critical, as is having an idea of what the crowd wants or needs at that time, which differs slightly in Ireland because the hours abroad are longer, so clubs typically move in and out in different cycles. In Ireland, people generally arrive early and stay until the end; in places like Berlin and Paris, this isn’t the case, so you have to work with what’s in front of you. It’s always easier to play to a full room that’s bursting with energy; as long as you can match the previous DJ’s energy, you’re usually fine, but if you’re playing to a crowd that’s a little tired from dancing all night, it’s important to give them a chance to breathe and, in some cases, force them to move. I like the idea of not giving crowds any other option but to move and dance; I believe that’s a sign of a good DJ when they’re firing on all cylinders, perfectly bringing the energy up and down, effectively forcing the crowd to stay on the dancefloor because they don’t want to miss the next track or moment. It’s most important to remain true to your sound and how you operate as a DJ; if you are reasonably satisfied with your abilities, it usually translates. Sometimes we complicate things to our own demise; if the music is good, people dance.

You performed at Electric Picnic’s Anachronica Rave In The Woods back in 2022, which is arguably the most lucrative and idyllic gig every Irish DJ dreams of, what words of advice would you give to DJs who are looking to break the cycle and aiming to get to the next level in their music careers by securing these dreamlike shows?

I’d played a few festival shows before Electric Picnic, so I’d like to think my name would have been in the hat for Rave In The Woods, but it’s always a highly sought-after slot. Bookings for festivals such as EP, Life, and Fuinneamh are typically based on how DJs performed in the months preceding the event. Electric Picnic came at an ideal time; my tracks were being supported by Dax J, Slam, Klangkuenstler, and Amelie Lens at the time I was booked, so I assume I was on people’s radars. I had also released a lot of music right before I was booked; I believe the music I released was of a higher quality than my previous offerings, so it definitely served as a statement, and there may have been some ‘hype’ surrounding me as an artist. That was also a busy year for me; it was the first EP after COVID, and I had been extremely busy during the lockdowns, which I believe benefited me.I believe that being busy and active is essential for receiving those bookings; there are many DJs competing for those slots, and you must produce a large volume of music and mixes while also maintaining a busy schedule in the club throughout the year. You want to make yourself the obvious choice, which comes from the work you did prior to receiving the booking.

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