Interview: Lange

Nina Ristivojevic

March 6th, 2024

One of the most influential dance artists whose journey started in 1997, Stuart Langelaan a.k.a. Lange has defined the trance genre in his early career, firstly with his unique production but also as a DJ who has remained at the forefront of the scene. Counting among the 20 UK top 40s, featuring on film soundtracks, and remixing mainstream artists such as Pet Shop Boys and Faithless are some of the achievements that have made Lange one of the world’s leading EDM producers.

In addition to his successful studio work, Lange is a prolific international DJ, appearing at top club brands like Insomniac and Cream, and prestigious events such as Tomorrowland, EDC, Dreamstate, Sziget, Luminosity, and ASOT. Known for his emotive, eclectic, and driving sets, Lange draws influences from various genres within the dance music spectrum, including trance, progressive, techno, and electro.

In my humble opinion, and I believe many would agree with me, amidst countless tracks that have gained popularity, one will always stand out – “Drifting Away”. Of course, after hearing Marsh playing his unreleased remix of this very same track during the Luminosity Festival last year, I couldn’t miss the opportunity to ask Stuart what makes this track special. The most pleasant conversation led to getting even more interesting answers from this amazing artist about the current scene and music, his old Firewall project, and the writer’s block he experienced. We invite you to read this fascinating interview below.

Nina: Unlike many artists who usually begin as DJs before exploring production, you took a different route by diving into production first. What led you to choose this order, and were there specific influences or individuals who played a significant role in shaping your path?

Stuart: It all started because I had a keyboard when I was young and realized that producing music was what I wanted to do. DJing wasn’t even on my radar initially. Later on, it made sense to get into DJing, especially when my records were being released. Even though it might seem like I did things backwards, it worked out well (laughs). At that time, some people were a bit cautious about producers becoming DJs all of a sudden, and I get that. You can’t just instantly become a good DJ who knows what to do at the right time. So, I took the time to learn DJing properly, especially on vinyl - it’s a different craft.

Nina: Today, DJing and producing music go hand in hand, right?

Stuart: Certainly, and promotion plays a crucial role, although not necessarily for financial reasons. Making money from producing music is quite challenging these days. However, it’s absolutely essential to have an additional skill set to generate interest and followers. I highly recommend any DJ try their hand at producing music. I enjoy both aspects of my job for different reasons. Writing music is rewarding but can be frustrating, while DJing is more on the fun side. It’s a perfect balance – producing music during the week and hitting the party scene on weekends.

Nina: When it comes to your tracks, “Drifting Away” stands out as your most significant success. Even to this day, producers are seeking permission to remix it. In your opinion, what do you believe is the essential element of this track that instantly made listeners fall in love with it? Was it about the vocals, the euphoric feeling it evoked, or maybe the dreamy build-up?

Stuart: I’m not sure, really. The decision on whether it was going to be a hit was up to others, and it did become quite a commercial hit at the time. There was a significant crossover, with trance music making its way into the charts. Personally, when I listen to the radio mix, it’s action-packed with lots of energy. It features innocent vocals from an era when things were simpler, and I think that’s its charm. The track lives on because, like many old classics, it’s associated with good times for older fans when clubbing was vibrant in the UK and across Europe. It captures the vibe of the 2000s for me.

Nina: Did you expect it to gain the level of success and popularity it still holds?

Stuart: No, I didn’t. Before I wrote “Drifting Away,” I had been heavily involved in doing remixes. I spent a lot of time on remixes, especially in ’98 and ‘99. I had a remix manager who kept me busy with various remix projects. After a couple of remixes gained popularity, things got really hectic, and I ended up neglecting my own original work. So, when “Drifting Away” found success, it felt great because I finally had a hit for myself. I didn’t expect it, but a bit of luck played a role. The label pushed it, there was promotion, and the right DJs supported it. Everything aligned, and I was over the moon.

Nina: Throughout your remarkable 25-year journey in the industry, you have witnessed the evolution and transformations across the scene, including music, production, and DJing. What is your perspective on the new generation of trance producers?

Stuart: Well, I feel for them because breaking into the music industry is incredibly tough. There might be more opportunities to connect with labels or others in the industry, but on the flip side, there’s a surge in the number of people trying to do the same. With the ease of sending demos via email, the competition is intense. It’s challenging to stand out. I see many inspiring young individuals doing great work, and I consider myself fortunate to have started in the early days. My advice to them would be to persist and keep believing! Take Craig Connelly, for instance—when he was starting out, he dedicated a lot of time and effort, pouring his heart into his work and showing it. Now, he’s doing exceptionally well. It’s rewarding to witness people succeed, but it does require a lot of hard work and you have to believe in it!

Nina: Do you believe the music scene is a bit oversaturated? Do you sense a lack of inspiration, leading to tracks often having a similar sound?

Stuart: I think there are two reasons for that. Firstly, there’s a greater emphasis on releasing more music, as it has become a crucial promotional tool. Tracks don’t linger like they used to; the promotional cycle has shortened significantly. Back in the day, DJs would play a track exclusively on white label vinyl for about six months, building anticipation before a big release. Now, promotions often start a week or two before the release, and the track tends to fade away in the following weeks, which is a critical period. Many artists create new tracks to replace the old ones on DJ playlists during this time.

Secondly, technology plays a role. When I started, we had to buy hardware, so our sound was limited to what we could afford or the equipment we had. Nowadays, with software and sample packs, it’s much easier for everyone to achieve a similar sound, especially when inspired by another track. It’s a bit of everything, but there’s still room for innovation. Tracks that stick around often have a unique element that people want to hear again.

Nina: You mentioned sample packs, and in many music genres, it appears that everyone uses the same samples. This might be the reason why tracks end up sounding very similar.

Stuart: The thing about sample packs is that they’ve become really top-notch. Some of the engineers creating them do it day in, day out, producing high-quality sounds. I’m guilty of it myself – I use Loopcloud, which is excellent for pulling out samples and building rhythms. It’s much easier than it used to be when you were dealing with a lot of raw sounds and had to work them together. With high-quality sounds available, why not go for them? It makes the music sound better. So, yeah, you end up hearing a lot of the same sounds being used. (Laughs)

Nina: Where do you see electronic music heading in the future? I know it is a difficult question and no one can give a real answer to it.

Stuart: If only I knew. No one knows, but I believe there will always be a demand for what trance music offers. Trance is unique; it has a way of deeply connecting with people. The events are also special, with minimal trouble, and there’s a rare love between everyone attending. I think music will always have a presence. However, predicting the future is uncertain. Many people assess things from a commercial standpoint, wondering if they will regain popularity. Perhaps not. Occasionally, you see hints like Calvin Harris producing a track like “Miracles,” giving a significant nod to late nineties music. But he can do that and still have a hit. It’s also about marketing, so that doesn’t necessarily indicate a commercial resurgence of that sound.

Nina: But this is not the first time it has happened. It was always like this with music and sounds being recreated.

Stuart: Yeah, well, it’s essentially a loop. There’s inspiration coming from various sources, with techno and trance even crossing over. I think one way it evolves is when people say, “Let’s add a bit of this over here,” resulting in a mix of genres. Ultimately, it’s all part of the same spectrum over the years, but the quality has become incredibly high technically. As for the future, who knows? Perhaps at some point, we might see the 3D sound and Dolby Atmos and those extra experiences becoming more common in the future. But in the end, people are drawn to the melodies in trance; that’s what they’re there for—the melodies and that unique feeling. Similarly, techno enthusiasts seek that drop moment when the kick comes in. It’s all interconnected, but a trance takes you that little bit further.

Nina: I’m aware of your appreciation for the techno sound, but if given the opportunity to travel back in time, would you consider altering any decisions you made within the trance scene and transitioning to a different genre?

Stuart: No, I don’t look back. Like everyone, I’ve made numerous mistakes, and I could argue that I should have approached things differently. However, I don’t regret any part of the journey because, ultimately, it has led me to where I am now. I wouldn’t say I want to change anything. Perhaps I would have focused more on creating my own records back in the day when it was more profitable, rather than doing so many remixes.

Nina: Between 2017 and 2019, you experienced a period of writer’s block, during which you took a step back from the music industry and prioritized self-reflection. This allowed you to discover your inner space and define the musical direction you wish to pursue. Now, as you move forward, where do you see Stuart’s journey taking you?

Stuart: Yeah, I did take a bit of a break. It was probably a midlife crisis, especially when Covid came along and I started doing live streams. I was doing four or five, sometimes seven hours every Friday. During that time, I listened to so much music that I didn’t get to play. Over those weeks and months, it really made me appreciate the music scene, something I hadn’t experienced in previous years. The break, coming back in 2019, and connecting with people online who were watching me made me realize how much they appreciated that.

It became a more personal moment, and it made me understand that I shouldn’t be stepping away from this at all. Instead, I should be working doubly hard. (Laughs)

Nina: That’s great, and we’re all glad you decided to continue. I often say that hearing other artists’ music and exploring different genres is when the inspiration kicks in. Now when you started producing you had one goal, when you started DJing you had another. But what remains consistent throughout your presence in the music world?

Stuart: It has evolved. Initially, it was driven by a pure love for music. DJing then became an additional source of fun, as I mentioned earlier. My aim in the scene is simply to be someone who can provide people with the joy and connection that trance music brings. Things became more personal for me from 2020; I felt a stronger connection with the scene than I had before. So, for me, it’s become very significant. I see myself as part of the scene, not just someone who delivers music or a DJ who shows up briefly and disappears. I’ve embraced the scene more as a home, if you will.

Nina: Quick questions, 3 words to describe your music based on:

Your style

Stuart: I would describe my style as typically emotive, an emotive trance. The goal is usually to create something that evokes emotions, whether it’s a bit of melancholy or a touch of happiness.

The most important ingredient

Stuart: Harmony! It doesn’t always have to be just a chord; it could be elements interacting in a certain way. I’ve always been quite strong at harmonies. From a production standpoint, crucial elements include ensuring the kick and bass work together, forming the backbone of the track. However, for me, particularly in my more emotive tracks, it’s all about the harmonies.

The type of emotion it evokes within people

Stuart: I think of hope! While some of my work tends to be on the sad side, I also enjoy creating pieces with a touch of hope. I’ve tried to shift towards making more tracks that incorporate that element of hope. However, I don’t produce too many overly happy tracks; that’s never been my style. There has always been a bit of an emotive edge to my music.

Nina: Is Firewall making a comeback? After its first appearance in 2003 with “Sincere” and its most recent release last year with “Together,” you are now presenting Firewall once again at Luminosity. What inspired you to start the Firewall project at first and what inspired you to bring it back, and why did you choose to showcase it at this particular festival?

Stuart: The concept behind Lange Presents Firewall is not only showcasing some of my Firewall tracks but also playing some lesser-known classics, some of which may have a darker vibe. In recent years, I’ve been delving more into Ibiza Classics, featuring a lot of nineties stuff. Playing at Amnesia a couple of times and again this year, it’s tempting to go for the obvious tracks that capture those moments.

However, there are numerous hidden gems that people don’t often hear. So, the goal is to bring in some of my lesser-known tracks, including those from Firewall.

Nina: Are you sensing a strong demand from the audience to experience the nostalgic sound of the classic trance era?

Stuart: There’s undoubtedly a strong nostalgic moment, especially in the UK with numerous older classic events and a resurgence of nineties-style clubbing. The older crowd is vibrant and not showing their age at all—they go absolutely wild. With the demand for classics, I felt that hearing the same ones repeatedly, particularly at the moment, needed a change. It became an opportunity for me to bring in some different and lesser-known tracks.

Nina: Anything you want to share from your music lab with us?

Stuart: Alright, I’ve got a new single out at the moment with Christian Burns, released last week, titled “Force Field.” Working with him has been a privilege, his vocals are amazing. I’ve got several projects in progress, including a few collaborations, though I can’t reveal too much as some are still unsigned. I’m also leaning towards working on another album soon. It’s been a decade, and I believe I’m finally piecing together what will become my next album. My wife keeps reminding me about it (laughs).