Before they were famous: our favorite artists’ first-ever releases
Before they were famous: our favorite artists' first-ever releases
Electronic music superstars have attained such a global status that we often forget that, at one point, they too were just beginners. Some artists began making completely different work altogether, while others have maintained their original style and built further upon it.
For curiosity’s sake, we’ve decided to dig deep into the archives of 15 of our favorite artists to uncover and reminisce on their time before breaking into stardom.The following is a list of the oldest releases we were able to find from artists including Calvin Harris, Carl Cox, Flume, Armin van Buuren, and more.
Disclaimer: In some cases, the selection may not be the artist’s true ‘first-ever’ release, as we’ve only included songs that could be found online.
Stay tuned for Volume II, featuring 15 more artists’ first ever releases.
Anjunabeats (Above & Beyond) - Volume 1
Jono & Paavo began producing together before the creation of Above & Beyond under the eponymous moniker Anjunabeats. The two released “Volume 1,” their first single together in 2000. The clip oozes with classic trance sounds of the period, including anthemic saw-synth melodies over consistent fast kicks and a simple bassline. Despite a slight lack of refinement expected in any beginner production, one can already sense the sentimentality the boys are able to tap into with each piece they create. They soon began using the aliases Dirt Devils and Free State, until they met Tony and evolved over time into the Above & Beyond we know today.
Adam Beyer - Drum Code 1
Adam Beyer’s first iteration of “Drumcode” came at the start of his career in the 1990s after techno had been well-established. The Swede put out his first EP titled Drum Codes 1 in 1995, introducing the world to his adoration for all things percussion. Its first offering “Drum Code 1” established Beyer’s music as not for the faint-hearted, pounding out banging acid techno with industrial overtones and trippy riffs. His style has since mellowed out, but he maintains a stern emphasis on use of powerful drum samples to create intrigue in his productions and in those by active members of his famed Drumcode label.
Armin (Armin van Buuren) - Push
Dutch trance legend Armin van Buuren also got his start in 1995 with his video game-esque trance number “Push.” Released under a shortened performer name “Armin” at the time trance was just beginning to branch off techno, the output is rather minimal in nature, with deep bass and a simple melodic elements creating a catchy environment around a steady 4/4 rhythm. Not too long afterward, Van Buuren began his ascension to leadership in the genre with the launch of his “A State Of Trance (ASOT)” radio show and the release of his revered single “Communication” in 1999.
A-Trak - Umbilical Chord
Many are familiar with A-Trak’s coming up as a DJ. The Fool’s Gold owner got his start extraordinarily early at the age of fifteen when he became the youngest DMC World Champion and also the first DJ to win five World Championships for the sport. Hip-hop influenced the young Canadian from the start of his career, and this translated into his first release in 1999. “Umbilical Chord” is employs expert scratching in the right places, with smooth bass, piano chords, and vocal loops flowing over drum machine beats ideal for adding verses to. He cemented his space in the dance world in 2004, when a burgeoning Kanye West recruited him as his on-tour DJ.
Avicii - Lazy Lace
True and its intriguing crossover of country and commercial electronic will remain one of Avicii’s most notorious bodies of work. However, his penchant for fusing classic American genres into his song writing is a recurring motif in the “Levels” composer’s career. Bass guitar riffs clearly adopting a funk arrangement line are used as a launching pad for Tim Bergling to build a 7-minute progressive house clip around, with complex melodic overlays adding dimension over its relatively tame kick. “Lazy Lace” is surprisingly well-produced for what he says is his first track ever produced, indicating his readiness to dominate electronic right as it began bursting into the mainstream.
Lorin (Bassnectar) - Dreamtempo
There’s an air of timelessness about Bassnectar that is backed by legions of hardcore fans. Growing up in the Bay Area, his eclectic tastes drawing from a multitude of musical styles were allowed to flourish. His first official entrance into electronic came in the form of “Ananda Enchanted” in 1996. The track swiftly establishes a tripped-out feeling with a mysterious vocal about Shamanism that proceeds to turn into a hip-hop influenced offering. Dreamy vocals and prominent string samples add an ethereal touch that draws out emotion despite a primal impression given off by heavy drum rhythms. Lorin of course went on to become an early pioneer of dubstep, though genre-defying experimentation is still his primary modus operandi in production.
Boys Noize - The Bomb
Boys Noize was a critical figure during the blog haus era, and his newest album Mayday reminds us why he still is one today. The stalwart achieves high impact in his tracks, whether electro or bare-basic techno, through cunning sound arrangement and sonic accents that hit with impeccable timing. In 2004 Boys Noize unleashed The Bomb/Boy, and two-track EP landing on International Deejay Gigolo Records. The former plays out in a sinister manner, dripping with acidic tones and 1980s-esque melodies that fight with its pronounced drum loops. His sound tightened considerably by the time Oi Oi Oi came out in 2007 – it’s single “&Down” became one of his most well-adored classics.
Stouffer (Calvin Harris) - Brighter Days
In 2002 Stouffer was a relatively quaint producer who’d just put out a groovy EP on Prima Facie. Its B-side “Brighter Days” was particularly catchy, as infectious salsa joined upbeat house to prove their pairing near impossible not to dance to. It became evident he had a natural skill in crafting music appealing to a wide range of people. Fourteen years later, he has evolved into the longtime EDM/pop hit-maker, model, and “electronic cash king” known as Calvin Harris. He demonstrated one of his prime specialties of composing summer anthems recently with “This Is What You Came For,” his beachy second collaboration with Rihanna.
Carl Cox -Let The Bass Kick
News of the end of Carl Cox’s Space Ibiza residency cast a somber shadow over the dance world. However, the legendary Brit’s seemingly endless time in the dance world is far from over. Twenty-five years have already passed since he began adding “producer” to his resume with “Let The Bass Kick” in 1991. The clip is a mashup of popular hits at the time graced with slight edits, reminding us just how far he’s come since his first years in the scene. Cox plans on continuing down the festival organizer path in addition to label boss and performer, having successfully executed the inaugural edition of “Pure” in Australia in April.
Daft Punk - The New Wave
Daft Punk’s early work fell on the heavy end of techno before evolving into experimental french house and electronica that cemented their reign over dance music despite not having toured in nearly a decade. “The New Wave” surfaced in 1994, treating listeners to a bout of marathon techno moving at a pace where there’s little room to breathe. Synths play a minimal role in the track, yet the robotic way they’re edited makes the early record easy to identify as Daft Punk. “The New Wave” received final editing and a re-release as “Alive” three years later on Homework, their debut LP whose singles “Around The World” and “Revolution 909” catapulted them to fame.
Sidney & David Guetta - Nation Rap
David Guetta is one of the first producers that comes to mind when recalling the explosion of EDM onto the national scene into pop. He became one of the very first DJs to join forces with pop stars, manufacturing hit singles with the likes of the Black Eyed Peas, Sia, and Akon. The Frenchman got his start as electronic was just becoming a phenomenon however, working with Sidney to produce “Nation Rap” in 1991 for an educational show. A video of his live performance reveals fascinating shots of Guetta performing basic, youth-friendly and scratching on vinyl, a feat no one would expect him to show off in his current sets.
deadmau5 - Can't Remember The Name
Joel Zimmerman began composing tracks at 14 years-old. His first production was dubbed “Can’t Remember The Name,” establishing a cheeky song-titling strategy that is still in place today. The clip is unmistakably 90s, weaving light drum & bass elements into a mellowed hardcore background with a melody reminiscent of a video game. Joel later found his footing with progressive house and techno, honing his craft to become the eccentric prodigy deadmau5 is today. The maestro is getting closer to unveiling Project Entropy and thus has been sharing an abundance of clips for unfinished songs with his audience in addition his recent Twitter announcement that he was strongly considering resurrecting “The Cube” for touring in the near future.
Diplodocus (Diplo) - 'Sound & Fury'
Before Diplo there was Diplodocus, a recent college grad and an aspiring DJ who’d recently tasted success in throwing parties under the name “Hooked on Holletronix” with his peer DJ Low Budget. He put out several promo CDs as a budding artists as was the norm at the time, including Sound & Fury which came out in 2003. Jazzy elements appear quite frequently in addition to heavy bass guitar and electric guitar, highlighting Diplo’s classic influences at this time. His mixtapes made it to the right people, with M.I.A. picking him up a few years later. The pair created their mega hit “Paper Planes,” whose impact cemented the producer as a reputable force and began a swift climb to the top where he currently sits.
Eric Prydz - By Your Side
Eric Prydz can almost compare to Prince in the sense that both have vaults containing an endless supply of unreleased music. He is known for playing a song once in a set only to release it years later, or never at all. One of the first releases we were able to find from the Swedish progressive leader is a retro cut called “By Your Side,” taken from the By Your Side/Mr. Jingles EP released on New Religion in 2001. The track boasts plenty of disco and French house hallmarks — a far cry from the techno and progressive style of his modern releases. Embedded in the framework, however, are plenty of alluring sound design bits that allude to the Prydz we know and love so well.
Flume - New Hectic Sausage
Future bass pioneer Flume became inspired to start his music career upon discovering Kellogg’s “Make Your Own Music” program at the tender age of 12 — at a time when MySpace was still the primary platform to share music. His first venture into electronic music production was far from what you might expect from the young Australian now — “Hectic Sausage,” as his first track goes, is overwhelmingly hardstyle in nature, likely drawing from the subgenre’s strong influence in his native land. Regardless, the finished product is rather catchy for something coming out of such a young brain, foreshadowing Flume’s ability to craft sounds into edgy songs that capture the attention of all types of music listeners.