Exclusive Interview with DJ/Producer Dave Neven

Dedicated, hard-working, passionate, and humble are just a few words that describe Dave Neven. Originally from Chicago, (now based in Los Angeles, CA) Dave Neven’s work ethic has matured him from a 15-year club DJ into a hot and buzz-worthy trance/progressive producer. Catching the attention of industry big names like Markus Schulz, Dave Neven has the talent, and charm that’ll take him beyond his conscious potential. We chatted with the Ocata alias producer about music, his career, and thoughts on the craft of producing.

OnEDM: You got Miami Music Week coming up next Tuesday at Rockwell with the Coldharbour crew, does it make it any more special since its all label fam?

Dave Neven: Yea, of course. It’s great to have a lot of us together at a show. Most of the Coldharbour artists I kinda “grew up” within the scene, so we have a history together.

What does Trance family mean to you? What’s special about trance among other genres of electronic dance music? What does Trance bring that other genres don’t?

Trance lovers/fans are a different breed when it comes to anything under the “EDM” umbrella.  I feel like they/we feel the music in a way deeper level. I mean, trance is the genre expressing the most emotion, so this obviously would go hand and hand. And because of that, I feel like we are more connected. We feel the music, and understand what the person next to us is feeling. So it makes us closer. 

Out of all of your latest music, “Phoenix Rising” has to be my personal favorite. Can you talk about the collab process with Sean and Xander?

I had a gig out in Phoenix about a year ago or so and I was talking with Alex (Xander) about music stuff. We went out, grabbed tacos (of course) and we shared some of our new music with each other. I liked the direction they were going, and we threw out the idea of a collab. A couple of weeks later, they sent me a melody and I instantly fell in love, which is rare because I am very particular about melodies. They then sent me a couple of different parts and I put the track together and the collab was born. Then it was deciding a name and I felt like “Phoenix Rising” was appropriate since we stirred up the idea while in Phoenix. 

50 episodes of Digital Noise radio just last week congratulations, how does it feel?

Thank you so much! Honestly, it may not seem like a lot to some, there are guys hitting 500, 600, even almost 1000. However, I only do my show once a month, so 50 episodes take a little over 4 years. There have been countless times I thought about just giving it up, because when I’m in the studio, honestly, I would rather be creating something new, rather than going through 500 promos and selecting maybe 10. It’s very tedious! I spend the extra time finding those hidden gems because I don’t want my show to be the same as the next guy. So hitting 50, to me, is a milestone. And I absolutely love hearing from fans how much they love my show, that is the main reason I haven’t given it up. 

You mentioned you much rather be making music than sitting making a mix and doing voice over, but the people and their love for it kept it running this long. I think that really proves the power a good DJ has. You can make the best music but if you don’t know how to build a set if you don’t know how to throw a party, how good are you really? With that being said, how has the podcast shaped your skills at entertaining?

Yes, I completely agree! However, radio shows and live sets are completely different. Radio shows are to showcase the new music out there or coming out. Not necessarily mixing in key (harmonically), and mixing very quickly to play more tracks within your time. I will try to still stay in key when mixing my show, but it isn’t an essential part of the concept. When playing live shows, I definitely mix harmonically and will also make special edits, mashups, bootlegs, all that good stuff. Luckily for me, I was a DJ before I was a producer.  Actually, next year will be my 20th anniversary as a DJ. I have been actively Djing in nightclubs for almost 15 years, so that has taught me the most about how to prepare a proper set. 

For aspiring DJ/Producers, what’s a big misconception about the DJ career that people overlook while stepping into this field? / or what is a big surprise to you while pursuing this career?

I think the biggest misconception is that most think once you get a track signed and start getting support from the “big guys” the touring and gigs will pour in. That is a big NO unless you create an absolute HIT, and you have a huge team behind you, which most new guys won’t, this idea is very far-fetched. It takes years and consistency for the gigs to start coming. If you really want it, you need to stay dedicated, make positive relationships with others in the scene, go out and support the scene, and most importantly, work your ass off. 

So you’re debuting a lot of new music on Friday during your set, what are the thoughts that run through your mind when you’re sharing new material for the first time?

Honestly, it is the biggest rush for me. Its almost like (from what I’ve heard… haha) getting butterflies in your stomach when falling in love.. in a way… I get super excited and well honestly, I can’t even explain it properly. It’s a ‘feeling’. I also pay attention to the crowd because their reaction will tell a lot about the melodies, structure, etc. It is very noticeable when a track has a “dull” spot. The crowd almost looks as if they lost their energy. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but for the club mix, back to the studio to make it flow better and not have that dull moment. 

How do you prevent yourself from going down the spiral of, “damn, I could have done that better”, or “I should have done this instead” before it affects you? How do you keep from being sucked into a negative thought pattern?

Haha, this is a good one. Producers are creative artists, so of course, a lot of us are perfectionists. For me personally, it can sometimes take me weeks to get a track to the point where I say, this is good enough. I always feel like I can change something to make it better, and sometimes over-analyzing makes it worse. So there has to be a point where you say “this is done”! You take what you have learned and move forward. A lot of times, that little details you’ve noticed, no one else notices, so don’t get stuck on one minor detail. 

When you make new music, what is the driving force? Is it how the music feels to you or what the music will feel like to a listener?

Definitely how the music feels to me! My style has been drastically changing over the past couple of years. I’m leaning more towards music with meaning, and synth/sound design, rather than just your everyday banger. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still make a banger, just on a deeper level. 

Who are some of your peers that you really admire?

The first one I have to mention is Daxson. He’s like me, ALWAYS in the studio working. His productions have progressed massively over a short period of time. Niko Zografos, same, he is always sending me new ideas to check out and constantly working. He’s definitely one of the up-and-coming US trance producers. And lastly, I have to mention Tinlicker. They have been a huge inspiration for my Ocata stuff and what’s to come with that alias. Their productions, every single one, are out of this world.

Alias Sector7 music and alias Ocata, how are they different how are they alike and where does Dave fit in the mix?

As I just mentioned, Ocata is my deeper progressive alias. When I feel like doing more detail with sound design and slower tempo, deeper melodies and just all-around ‘feel good’ stuff. My Sector7 alias, on the other hand, is the complete opposite end of the trance spectrum. Banging uplifting trance. Still emotional AF and all that, but faster. I love uplifting trance and a lot of the older early 2000’s trance, so this alias is influenced a lot from that era. 

What’s the best piece of advice Markus has given you being your label boss?

Be patient!!! Simple as that. Work hard, and be patient.

Are the opinions of others on you and your music important to you at all?

Absolutely! I always try my best to take opinions as constructive criticisms. It is very important to hear what the listener has to say as far as their interpretation. You don’t necessarily have to change anything, just keep an open mind. If you’re an aspiring producer and you ask someone what they think of your track, if they take the time to listen and give you their opinion, DO NOT get defensive and shut it out. This has happened to me several times when others have reached out to me and that immediately makes me not want to help you on your journey. Be kind, be humble, be open-minded!

“Gratitude is the attitude”. The more grateful you are the more opportunities arise. What are you most thankful for in your life?

These transitions are incredible. Props to you my friend! Lol, This goes into what I was just saying. Be grateful for the time one takes to give you advice, or direction. You need to remember, they don’t have to and could have easily just ignored you, but they chose to help by giving their opinion. I am immensely grateful for the fact that Adina Butar and Markus Schulz saw something in me years ago and helped fuel this burning desire to express myself through music. If those 2 are reading, I thank you!  

I am Dave Neven, and I create____________?

I am Dave Neven and I create moments!

What can we expect from Dave Neven this year?

This year I am pushing full force on music. I have several tracks on all different monikers, Dave Neven, Ocata, and Sector7 already lined up. So you will definitely be seeing more of my music around! 😉

Dave Neven performs tomorrow night at the Bogart House in Brooklyn, New York. Find tickets here.

Show More

Related Articles