Montreal EDM pioneers: Ari Tietolman, Mike Robia and DJ Duo Royce&Tan launch new label and Turn It Up!!!

Interview by: Jenna Melanson      Introduction by: Ari Tietolman

Electronic Dance Music, now coined EDM, may not be the newest category of sound emerging from today’s ever evolving music scene, but it is certainly a phenomenon that has become one of the fastest growing sectors in the music industry!!! With that said, there is a wealth of talented Canadian artists, DJ’s and producers that are pioneering this sound and the Electronic Dance Music scene as a whole.

With all the exciting activity emerging from the Canadian EDM Movement, Canadian Beats has decided to showcase our own homegrown DJs, producers, and record labels with a weekly column dedicated solely to the world of Canadian EDM, and we start this week with a set of interviews with a creative group of Montreal based EDM aficionado’s who have some exciting news to share with us.

Meet Ari Tietolman (AKA: RCDJ), Mike Robia, and DJ super duo Royce&Tan, who are sure to soon get the attention of electronic music creators and fans alike. Their upcoming projects, new releases and launch of multiple new EDM record labels cover just about every existing genre of electronic music known to the scene, and they are introducing several new formats that are likely going to take the industry by storm.

When did you originally become interested in Electronic Dance Music?

Ari: For me it all pretty much started at a very young age, having grown up in the music production studios and DJ booths at my grandfather’s radio stations, CKOI FM 96.9 FM and sister station CKVL 850 AM in Montreal. Although CKOI’s format was Rock at the time, my ears did tend to sway towards the likes of a hybrid sound that started to hit the airwaves. It was essentially a mix of pop, rock, punk, and of course electronic music. At the time (early 80’s) I believe it was called “New-Wave”, and was predominantly created using synthesizers to allow for a somewhat revolutionary electronic style of production. This new Synth Pop sound quickly became one of my preferred styles of music, and to this day, New Order (formerly Joy Division) and Depeche Mode, who were instrumental in pioneering this experimental sound, still rank within my top 10 favorite bands of all time!!!

In the late 80’s, a friend of mine who often commuted between Belgium and Montreal, introduced me to a percussive and somewhat psychedelic style of electronic music they called New-Beat. This format was quickly coined Techno in the early nineties. But the UK and Europe were not the only ones experimenting with these sounds. Friends of mine from Chicago had also introduced me to a new style of garage music built with similar electronic sounds, but with a noticeable disco and funk influence. Before I knew it, house music was born by combining these electronic beats from around the world. House music quickly became the fundamental sound for the emerging underground events soon to be called raves. When combined with crazy lightshows, these all night parties created for a somewhat ritualistic atmosphere, and a spiritual connection between all who attended. Suddenly a whole new breed of music lover was born; I was one of them, and I was obsessed!!!

Having lived through this evolution, the answer isn’t really based on when I became interested in EDM, but rather, I become more and more interested in EDM on a daily basis!!! It’s pretty amazing to see how far the scene has come. Today, House music is spread across over a dozen different sub-genres of Electronic Music formats; half of the top 40 tracks on mainstream radio are in fact productions from some of todays hottest up and coming electronic producers; top EDM DJ’s are now commanding upwards of 250k for a 3 hour live set; and the events that were once known as secret underground raves made up of a few hundred people, are now weekend long festivals with attendance exceeding over half a million people!!! And this is just the beginning.

I may not have been around for Woodstock, but I can tell you that we have a whole new music revolution on our hands, and the last 30 years only shows us only the tip of the Electronic Music iceberg. It’s super exciting stuff and I’m happy to be an integral part of it!!!

MR: I’ve playing music since the age of 4. It’s totally a part of me!!! I played piano for six years and the drums for five years. I also had a small rock band that played Zeppelin & Metallica covers in shows at high school. I had my first electronic music experience at 15 years old at a local show and I danced to “World Hold On” by Bob Sinclar and “Put Your Hands Up For Detroit” by Fedde LeGrand, I have been an electronic music fanatic ever since!!!

As DJs, how did you get actively involved in the EDM scene?

R&T: A friend of ours wanted to start a weekly Friday night event at Time Super Club and offered us our first residency.

MR: I’ve been a DJ since 2010 but I would say that my career got more serious the day I started my own radio show on M103.5 FM radio in 2012, and then became resident DJ at the popular Redlite Afterhours in Montreal. Soon after I launched a project called “Wake Up” Music Festival in Joliette. It is a brand new outdoor electronic music show happening twice a year, in June & January. The event showcases International DJs, but also spotlights new local talents. The first event was held in June 2013, and it was amazing!!! We will be bringing it back this summer with a huge lineup of established DJs and new emerging talents as well.


(See Above: Royce Groome, Mike Robia & Chrys Tan at Wake Up Music Festival 2013)

How did you all meet and decide to work together, and what can the EDM scene expect from your collaborative works? 

R&T: Tan and I have known each other for quite a while, we went to the same high school. We also loved to DJ for as long as we can remember, but things only got serious when we were hired as resident DJs at the Time Supperclub in Montreal. It was there that we met Ari, who we didn’t know much about at the time, other than his mutual taste and passion for EDM. He literally approached our DJ booth every 30 minutes with a list of new song requests, and unintentionally wrote our set list out for us for the night. The energy in the club was amazing!!! And soon our residency saw more and more attending in the nights to come.

Ari and his entourage quickly became regulars at the club, he showed up literally every night we played. It wasn’t long before he hired us to perform at some of his events, including his wife’s surprise birthday party where we let him hit the decks for the first time. The next day he texted me to tell me he went out and bought 2 Pioneer CDJs, and a mixing board. He asked me to show him how to use them properly, and after a few sessions, I asked if he knew that 4 decks could be linked together so that 4 tracks could actually be played at the same time, his eyes light up. It’s kind of funny, but sure enough, I was in his garage the next day cabling up 2 extra decks. We spent a lot of time mixing together and our friendship grew from there.

Ari: After I got more familiar with using my equipment, we basically started talking about launching a record label in 2011. At first it was suppose to be an Electro-House label we called “Prankster”, but after Royce introduced me to his old DJ friend Anthony Boccardi (AKA: Mr. Vita), we decided to start off with the biggest challenge of our lives; the launch of a mainstream Pop label, and Studio One Productions was officially born. The pop label is finally taking off!!! Royce, Anthony and I are pretty happy with the initial fan reaction to our debut EP for Jaden Chase, entitled “Level Up”. It was a lot of work, but we love it.

As a bridge between our pop label and Prankster, we have also recently planned the launch of a unique new concept, which is designed to bring mainstream artists and labels together with underground EDM DJs, producers, and re-mixers.

Remixing is a big part of the EDM scene. We often see major artists hiring re-mixers to render their own creative adaptations of Pop originals, but what we see more of, is an entire Remix culture that create great adaptations of other artists works on their own, but never legally acquire the rights to sell their versions of the original song. We decided to try and make it easier for re-mixers to be rewarded for their work. So we launched RMX records as a means to encourage re-mixers by offering them the support needed to acquire the rights to remix original work, and sell their remixes legally, while sharing the financial rewards with the original artist.

We are further diversifying our product line in this April with the launch Sofa Records, which is a sub-label that will focus mainly on House, Deep House and Tech House formats. We have partnered with an amazing DJ and businessman, Mike Robia to lead this endeavor. Mike, go ahead, the floor is all yours…

MR: I met Royce&Tan in Toronto. The 3 of us were attending a course designed specifically for new EDM producers. We all went there for the same reason: pushing our musical knowledge to the next level and learning from one of the best producers in Canada, Adam K. We kept in touch ever since then, and I eventually booked them to play at the “Wake Up” Music Festival in June 2013. They did an amazing job, and had the crowd going wild during their set. I realized that these were serious guys and hard workers, so I decided to spend some time in the studio with them to create a new collaboration! They are very talented and they are always looking for new challenges, just like me.

I met Ari for the first time at New City Gas in Montreal, during a Mark Knight set. I quickly realized that this guy was an electronic music specialist. He knows a lot of stuff about the music industry and he has a very creative mind. When he proposed that we all work together on some new projects, I was extremely motivated because serious people are hard to find in this world! We have a lot of awesome projects about to unfold, and when combining all of our knowledge and passion for music together, we are certain to end up with successful projects. 

What sets you apart from other DJs?

R&T: One of our unique characteristics is the way we perform live, we are known for playing high-energy, technical sets with lots of breakdowns, drops and unique mixing points. We strive to make all of our sets as unique as possible with lots of preparation, and we avoid playing the same songs that everyone else plays!

MR: I am a DJ for one reason: I love music so much that I want to share it with as many people as possible, and I think that wherever I perform, the dance floor can feel this passion!!! The fact that I am a musician helps me a lot on the technical aspect of being a DJ, and as a producer.

Ari: I’ve never played a live event, with the exception of one fundraiser for the Montreal Children’s Hospital, I only really DJ in my home studio and co-produce beats with friends for now, but I do intend to release my sets on sites like Mixify, Soundcloud and start my own radio show very soon!!!

What were the most exciting achievements in your DJ career so far?

R&T: Winning the ABSOLUT Vodka Mashup Competition and being picked to create a track for Bud Light as well as Sensation White Canada, were pretty cool milestones in our career. We also recently played a 2-hour set on the “Clubaholics Radio show” hosted by Vito V. on Virgin Radio Montreal. This was a great opportunity for us to showcase many of our upcoming productions in front of a new fan base over the airwaves.

We’ve also been very blessed to play with many of the top ranked DJs in the world, including: Calving Harris, Avicii, Steve Aoki, Adventure Club, Dada Life, Eric Prydz, DVBBS, and many more. This has given us the motivation to better ourselves as DJs and producers in hopes of one day being the big name on the banner.


(See Above: Royce & Tan play for a crowd of 1000s at Escapade Music Festival, Ottawa 2013 (courtesy of DJMAG.CA)

You have opened for many of EDMs biggest DJs, who would you like to have the chance to work with in the future?

R&T: Tiesto! We got into dance music by listening to his compilations years ago and have always looked up to him. With that said, he still owes us a beer pong rematch as well!

MR: I am inspired by a lot of different people, from the insane songs of Gregor Salto, to the energy that the legendary Carl Cox puts out during his performances. I would love to collaborate with Fedde LeGrand; the producer of the first electronic music song I ever listened to! This guy is still inspiring me and he emits strong positive energy when he plays. Another dream I have would be to play a DJ set with a live Orchestra!

What can you tell the readers that haven’t heard your music yet about your style and sound?

R&T: We both love trance and classical music so that definitely plays a huge part in our writing; it always ends up being full of emotion and energy. We start each project from scratch and go with what we feel at that time. We try not to stick to any particular formula, and don’t let the restrictions of genres limit us in our productions and in our DJ sets.

MR:  I played in a lot of different places. Everything from private nights at Cirque du Soleil with world music, to 7 a.m. after-hour sets at Circus, to finally discover that I love so many genres that I can’t associate my name with one single type of music, but you can find a lot of common things between my sets: a dose of organic instruments, a pound of emotional melodies, and a huge amount of groovy basslines!

Can you explain your process of creating an EDM track?

R&T: We start with a writing phase. If the idea is great, then we move on to production, and then mixing. Once we have a track that sounds good we test it in the clubs and send it to our friends for feedback. From there we make tweaks until we are satisfied. This whole process could take months for an idea to mature but it is always different, sometimes the workflow is great and we can make a track in 24 hours. At the end of the day our job is to make people dance, so the dance floor is always a huge deciding factor on whether a track works or not. If it flops, we go back to the old drawing board!

MR: I would say that it always starts on the keyboard. Piano always puts me in my comfort zone. It allows me to best express my emotions and transform them into melodies. Once I find my melody, I add some rhythm until I get a groove, and I dance alone in my studio. If I like it enough to dance (I hate dancing) it means that it’s ready for the dance floor!

Which do you prefer, remixing tracks or creating your own original tracks, and what are the main differences between the two?

R&T: We certainly enjoy both! It depends on the mood you’re in and how the workflow is going. When you get stuck with writers block, it’s usually a good idea to take a stab at remixing. Sometimes it’s just easier to take already established ideas and go from there, it’s almost like having a startup kit. When it comes to starting an original piece, we usually start from scratch, or on some occasions it can branch off of hearing the smallest sample or loop in the most random of places, but it often requires a lot more work than a remix since there is no template to start with.

MR: I prefer working on original projects because I feel free to create anything I want without any boundaries.  But I also like remixing a track because in my opinion, the biggest challenge in creating music is to give an existing track a new direction and a new energy!

Do you have any advice for people looking to get into the EDM scene?

R&T: I know its cliché, but whatever route you take, don’t give up! Be open to constructive criticism, and just give it 110%.

MR: Here is my personal recipe:

  1. Do it with passion.
  2. Produce your own music.
  3. Stay humble and be nice to people you meet.
  4. Work on your projects, always.
  5. Sleeping and taking vacations is for old people.
  6. Enjoy!!!

What’s up next for you guys?

R&T: A lot of releases! We’ve built a pretty good library over the last couple of years and now we’re finally comfortable with it’s quality so its time to share it with the world.

Ari: Expect about a dozen releases under Prankster before summer. Including my latest collaboration titled “BANJO”, along with “Turn It Up”, a collaborative work by Mike and Royce&Tan, and stay tuned for the launch of our new label: Sofa Records… A great selection of House, Tech House and Deep House tracks planned to roll out this April!!!

RMX Records also has a great lineup of remixes coming your way, including an amazing Killabits rendition of a Trespasser William’s track titled “Different Stars”, along with Jaden Chase’s remix EP, which includes works by Carl Nunes, David A., Marc Remillard, RCDJ, Mike Robia, and 14 year old music prodigy, DJ Housefly to name a few…

Oh yeah, I almost forgot to mention the launch of EDMTV, EVNT Records, and 2 new music formats never yet seen before: EDM Rock & EDM Jazz, but let’s leave these to your imaginations for now, we can cover them in our next interview!!!

Now, in true Canadian Beats fashion, we have included a portion of “fun” questions that may help your fans learn something new about each of you.

What could we find you doing in your spare time?

R&T: What is this spare time thing you speak of? Just kidding, we spend so much time in the studio or at the office, which means we rarely get any time to ourselves. But on the rare occasion that we do we’re usually out somewhere grabbing a few beers.

MR: Last time I had spare time I was 4 years old and as I remember it was a very boring day.

Ari: More work!!!

What is your current go-to song?

R&T:  Fisherman & Hawkings – Apache

Ari:  Trent Cantrelle – Crush Groove (dirty mix)

MR: Shadow Child – So high (Hot Since 82 Remix) 

Do you have any hidden talents?

R&T: We’re both amazing at snap chat.

MR: I can play the guitar while wake surfing.

Ari: Ask my wife!!!

If you weren’t pursuing music, what do you think you’d be doing?

R&T: We both attended university for different concentrations Royce (Engineering) and Tan (Economics), so I assume it would be something along those lines. But you never know, life throws you curveballs when least expected.

MR: I studied in Civil Engineering so I guess that if I haven’t followed my passion, I would probably be designing some kind of building structure right now!!! 

And last but not least, is there anything you’d like to say to your fans?

R&T: Good morning.

MR: Believe in your dreams.

Ari: Buy our music, thanks!!!

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