Many artists claim that they are in tune and connected with their fans. They boast about being down-to-earth and humbled by the people who have committed so much time, money and energy into their careers. Many say it, but only a few truly have it and feel it. Ville Virtanen, better known as Darude, can not only claim that special connection with his fans, he should get an award for it! Darude has every excuse to adopt the aloof superstar mentality — he’s won numerous awards including international Grammys, headlined the world’s biggest festivals such as Tomorrowland, and then there’s that thing about creating arguably the most popular and important dance music track of all time. Instead of letting it go to his head, Darude has channeled this energy into his music, performance, and the people around him. Look no further than the Groove Cruise for the best example of this. He’s one of the most beloved artists on the boat, respected by his peers and his fans to the highest degree. He’s approachable and always available for a conversation, and of course quick to flash that smile and take a picture (or selfie).
It’s no surprise then that Darude was introduced to the Groove Cruise by Shannon Williams, one of the original DJs and supporters of the festival. Darude’s first performance came on the 2012 Miami cruise, and he’s never looked back since then. In anticipation of his 7th Groove Cruise voyage, Darude takes us through some of his favorite moments from his adventures at sea. You’ll see numerous people mentioned in these stories, because as Darude explains it best “that’s what the cruise is ALL about, the amazing new people you get to meet and the Groove Cruise family you get to hang out with. And of course the music!” With that in mind, we’ll let Darude take it from here…
2012 was my first year on the cruise and I got to share the experience with my wife, who’s also a big dance music fan. The great vibe among the DJs and performers was immediately palpable already while boarding. The first hour or two freely walking around the boat showed that the interaction with the crowd is very lax and mutually appreciative. Outside of hanging out with everyone my favorite 2012 moment was my pool deck closing set. The hype man on the video is one of the Groove Cruise staples, Buster.
The Miami 2013 highlights for me include my buddy Kenneth Thomas (and his better half Georgia) being on the boat as well. In the video clip we’re pondering whether we’re in the right place or not 🙂
I got to play a pool deck set again and it was great, SO much energy, so much happiness! The other set I played was in the Stardust theater where I was doing my thing, minding my own business and all of a sudden there was this laser shooting alien robot up in my face (or neck, rather)! Video explains more than million words.
On the Miami 2014 cruise Randy Boyer and I hosted our EnMass Music label night in the Spinnaker Lounge. We also had Kalendr and Kenneth Thomas take the decks, both great DJs and producers and both have released music on EnMass Music. The whole night was received in such a good and supporting way by the crowd and having long time friends such as Randy and KT on-board and sharing on and off stage moments was such a treat!
On the Los Angeles 2014 cruise I was accompanied by my friend Lars, who’s more a techno and techy minimal head than trance so we spent a lot of our time at Anthony Attalla’s Incorrect stage on the back of the boat. Numerous hours slowly sipping beer, enjoying the one or two build-ups per set and taking it all in. Even though I absolutely have nothing against deeper and techier house and techno, it’s not exactly my thing, but on this cruise it was THE thing! My own set was on Saturday sharing the so-called Trance Stage with Cosmic Gate and Kristina Sky, which of course was a big highlight, both as a performer and music-lover. Kristina opened the night, Bossi closed and the crowd left the room sweaty and tired, but smiling.
My fave moment was Lars, Seattle hero Johnny Monsoon and I waiting for and experiencing sunrise together with Anthony Attalla’s Incorrect beats chucking along in the background.
Despite the man-flu and mega hangover that followed Miami 2015, it was a memorable one as I got to share it with my best friend Ville Heikkilä aka Weirdness. He was the first ever co-music maker of mine over 20 years ago and he’s also been my VJ for the last 10 years. He was documenting the cruise for me, so if you saw a funny guy with a winter hat and a GoPro going nuts somewhere, that was probably him. You can see him in the end of the Great Stirrup Cay video shot from the crowd. The moment was very special, the crowd made a track with me called ’We Love Groove Cruise’, which of course is self-explanatory. 🙂 Here’s what happened:
Here’s Ville ’Weirdness’ Heikkilä & I at the pool deck:
Another guy I got to hang out a lot is Rudi Dittmann, ATB’s friend and tour manager. We met in Spain at a club more than a decade ago and getting to catch up again was priceless. Here’s Rudi & me on the deck bromancing in the wee hours of one night, I’m wearing his dope jacket 🙂
No words needed here… Ferry Corsten & me up to no good in the backstage after our sets in the main Theatre on GC Los Angeles 2015. Love this guy, never a dull moment around him!
In addition to these little glimpses of awesomeness that is Groove Cruise, I’ve shared many a moment talking, making the world a better place with Shannon Williams, combining work & play with Jason Brotman, done some social hacking (don’t ask!) with Justin Hunter, busted out laughing with so many people that I can’t name them all… But here’s a few of them I want to thank and can’t wait to see again: Scooter, Lavelle, Louis Dee, Bam Bam, Scotty Boy, Kalendr, Cato K, Sydney Blu, Dean Mason, Funkagenda, Anthony Attalla and several of their better-halves and close friends & family. I most likely left many names out, too, but anyone who knows me knows how much I appreciate the friendship, the fan appreciation and the moments we’ve gotten to spend together! All of you have been equally crucial to my Groove Cruise Family experience, you know who you are. See you soon again!
Special thanks to Jason Beukema, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jason Partee Young, Jason Brotman & Kathy, Holly the rest of the GC crew and all the security, sound, lights & visuals people and stage managers with never ending patience!
Special mention to all the people I’ve group-hugged along the way, let’s do it again on the next cruise. Also, please no JD in my eyes this time, Ryan!
If you have a chance, go see Scooter play a classic hip hop set, guaranteed to make you sweat and smile!
Thanks to Darude for sharing these candid Groove Cruise moments with us. Darude will be playing in the Main Theatre on Saturday at 12:30 AM following Kristina Sky, and then again at 7:00 PM at the Main Pool Deck on Sunday. Are you ready for it? “WE LOVE GROOVE CRUISE!”
Listen to all of Darude’s sets from the past Groove Cruises at his Soundcloud page here.