Interview: Fonzerelli

Nina Ristivojevic

June 7th, 2023

Black Hole Recordings, particularly Magik Muzik, collaborates extensively with Fonzerelli for almost 15 years. After the massive success of his “Moonlight Party” as the most listened track in 2006, various labels and artists have been eager to request remixes from Aaron McClelland, including big names such as Adam Lambert, Tiësto, Fedde Le Grand, Sash, Mauro Picotto, etc. Although Fonzerelli has his own label where he showcases a variety of genres like Progressive and Deep House, Indie Dance, and Nu Disco, he always aims to add more melody to his portfolio.

During this interview, we had the privilege of learning more about Aaron McClelland’s impressive producer journey, his visionary record label Mena Music, and the massive success he achieved with the groundbreaking track we all know. Furthermore, we explored the challenges he encountered along the way and the endless passion that drives him forward. Continue reading to discover more about this musical genius, who finds solace and inspiration in his studio sanctuary.

Despite the many changes the electronic music industry has undergone during the last 30 years, what has driven you to remain active and loyal to your sound?

My passion for all kinds of music knows no bounds. As a producer, the compulsion to create is an inherent drive that I’ve never questioned. Music flows through my veins and defines who I am. It is like breathing.

This brings us to our next question: How precisely do you define your sound? Your musical journey has been quite dynamic, embracing various genres such as Progressive and Deep House, Indie Dance, Funky House, Nu Disco, Breakbeat, Techno, Trance, and Melodic House. It appears that you enjoy experimenting with a wide range of existing genres, and excel at it. How is that possible?

Defining my music is challenging, as it evolves with each creation. As you rightly pointed out, my work often carries distinct electronic influences. Some compositions beckon an 80s ambiance, while others exude a House or Indie dance vibe. I simply follow my instincts and stick with what resonates at the moment, allowing the music to guide me toward what feels right.

Music production is evidently your passion. However, what about DJing? Was there a particular moment in your life when you also desired to become a successful DJ? Or has your primary focus always been on being a studio enthusiast, with occasional ventures into DJing?

DJing has never interested me like producing does. However, I started DJing years ago with vinyl and transitioned to CDJs, organizing my own events, and performing in front of thousands of people. The thrill of observing their reactions couldn’t match the exhilaration of discovering that perfect hook during the production process. It’s a different kind of excitement, which is why I chose this profession. While DJing is more lucrative than producing, it’s essential to have an inherent passion for it. Money alone cannot sustain the drive needed for success in this field. As for fame, it was never a goal for me. Pursuing DJing or producing solely for the purpose of becoming famous contradicts the very essence of my own aspirations. Admittedly, we do live in a world where popularity often takes precedence, but ultimately, each person follows their own path and chooses their own priorities.

Certainly, your immense dedication to music production culminated in the establishment of your own label, Mena Music, in 2005. What motivated you to initiate this project at that time, and how would you characterize the music and the artists associated with it today?

To be honest at the time I started Mena Music because I was bored of hearing monotonous tracks on dance music platforms without any special thrill that just went on forever, it was around the stage where it was really moody progressive house where the arrangements became predictable. My realization was simple: if I yearned for captivating hooks in dance tracks, there had to be others who shared the same desire, so I started the label, dedicated to crafting tracks that not only resonated with my personal taste but also had the potential to resonate with others. As it turns out, my instincts were spot on.

As for today, I like to think of the label as a mixed bag of upfront, original, hook-based music a distinctive blend that sets us apart from many other labels. Following trends was never an option so that’s why the tracks we created back in 2005 still sell today as they’re unique and timeless.

2005 was a remarkable year for various reasons. Mena Music became the #1 Label of the Year on DJ Download gaining immense popularity in Australia and Holland. However, it was your first release, “Moonlight Party,” that truly acted as the catalyst for the recognition of your multi-talent, securing the position of #1 Download of the Year. Can you recall that significant game-changer moment in your career when renowned artists began reaching out to collaborate with you?

“Moonlight Party” skyrocketed to the number one position on numerous download stores, and its enduring popularity continues to baffle me to this day. It simply resonated with people in an inexplicable way. When I first played it out people went crazy leaving no doubt in my mind that it possessed an irresistible quality. During that incredible time, artists from various genres reached out to me to express their sincere admiration for the track. These interactions also resulted in valuable connections within the industry. I prefer to work alone so any collaborations that happened throughlabels mainly took the form of remixes. However, I have a deep passion for collaborating with exceptional vocalists like Adam Lambert, who at the time was still relatively unknown. Today, he achieved global fame following his appearance on “American Idol”.

Multiple major labels and numerous minor labels worldwide eagerly requested your remixes. With hundreds of productions in your portfolio, keeping track of all the notable artists and labels you have collaborated with becomes challenging. What do you think drew them to seek your partnership and you on their side?

I believe it was the diversity of my remixes that resonated with listeners, along with the fresh perspective I brought to each song. When working on remixes, I specifically requested the vocal stems and nothing else, as I preferred to reconstruct the track entirely from scratch. For me, simply rearranging someone else’s stems in a different order didn’t constitute a remix—it felt more like a rearrangement. Instead, I would attentively listen to the vocals and create new compositions around them, ensuring they seamlessly fit within the song context.

Indeed, as we previously mentioned, your creative and dedicated nature is evident through the numerous activities you have undertaken. However, were there any significant challenges or obstacles you encountered that profoundly impacted your career path or artistic direction?

Financial limitations were a significant obstacle, forcing me to maximize my creative potential with limited resources. Unable to afford the latest and most cutting-edge synths back then, and still facing the same situation today, I have learned to be resourceful and spend wisely. It has taught me to appreciate making the most of what I have, emphasizing that true artistic expression transcends expensive gear.

Apart from releasing music through your own label, your tracks have mostly been featured on labels such as Black Hole and Magik Muzik for the past 15 years. This trend has continued with your recent breakbeat release, “Adrenaline.” However, it appears that regardless of the genre, you place the highest importance on melody and vocals as the key ingredients. Is this how you see and feel the music?

The melodic aspect holds immense significance in my musical approach. The track “Adrenaline” embodies a nostalgic and uplifting old-school rave vibe that gets hands in the air. While I also enjoy exploring moodier tracks, I always infuse them with deep melodic ingredients. Without a strong hook, a song is just a series of loops joined together.

Your connection with Ibiza holds a special place in your heart. This affinity is often reflected in your productions through the incorporation of synths that capture the essence of the White Isle. Could you please share the story behind this connection and how it has influenced your music?

To be honest, Ibiza didn’t directly influence my music. I simply created tracks that embodied summer vibes, and they resonated with the audience on the White Isle and beyond. However, I must acknowledge that Ibiza is an extraordinary place where electronic music enthusiasts from all genres come together to embrace the experience. The range of musical options available is truly unique, catering to diverse tastes, from grand trance nights to laid-back chill-out sunsets. It truly has something for everyone. The opportunity to DJ at Privilege, in front of 20,000 people, was an absolute privilege and an unforgettable experience. This will always hold a special place in my heart.

What exciting projects does Aaron McClelland have in store for music lovers in the future? Can we anticipate another chart-topping hit like “Moonlight Party”?

I possess a diverse collection of new music stored on my hard drive, and it’s impossible to predict which tracks will gain mainstream success. However, the primary goal should never be chasing fame. I create music that resonates with my personal passion and I hope that it resonates with others as well. Ultimately, I believe in letting things unfold naturally and accepting that whatever will be, will be.