If you hit up Auckland's nightlife or events, chances are you've seen DJ Arii Jade. With her distinctive long purple hair, the talented creative has played at some of the biggest clubs, both in the City of Sails and the Pacific Islands. She's also performed alongside the likes of Stan Walker, Ed Sheeran and Tike Tane.
She recently chatted with us about her incredible life, including how she became a DJ, what inspires her and the biggest 'fuck yeah' moment of her career. She's also set to release her own music soon, so watch this space.
What’s your earliest music memory?
When I was 11 years old, my mum sent me off to a performing arts school (exactly how you see in the movies—music/dance/drama was practically all you did) and when I arrived everyone else was already sooooo good at piano (the compulsory instrument), and because I was stubborn and didn’t wanna be the only kid who was a beginner, I worked my ass off for a year to go from grade one to five within that one year. Glad to know I had the drive from a young age! I also studied guitar, vocals and percussion during this time.
When did you decide to become a DJ?
It wasn’t exactly a conscious decision—I knew I always wanted to work in music while I was at university (studying a Bachelor of Communications) and the universe made it happen. I met the right person at the right time, a DJ who plays some amazing shows and tours constantly with his DJ duo alias Sweet Mix Kids. I went on a trip to LA and NYC with both of them in 2014 and when we got back to NZ they taught me how to DJ so that I would work alongside them. Everything began to take off for me over the next few years. We parted ways back in 2016 however (on good terms, it was just time for me to do my own thing). I started my own separate business, dyed my hair purple, and from that my current brand was born. I am still forever incredibly grateful to them, there’s no way I’d be here without them.
What do you love most about it?
Being my own boss. And getting paid to travel the country and overseas to play shows. I’m extremely grateful and lucky to have achieved this. Also, having a residual income where I can take time off and have the flexibility to wake up at whatever time I want every day or get on a plane and take a holiday whenever I feel like it.
And the least?
The things I love about it sometimes become the things I also dislike. With this lifestyle, there’s no time stability or set work hours...most of the time they’re super late finishes at 4am. It took me a few years to become fully disciplined to make my own routine every day otherwise you can fall into crazy patterns and sleep all day and then miss sunlight completely.
Who are you most inspired by right now?
For me firstly it’s never been who, it’s been what. And that’s to prove others wrong. The ones who didn’t believe in you at the beginning or the online bullies that have nothing better to say about you. The best revenge is to prove them wrong.
DJ wise, I’ve always owned up to loving my cheesy EDM producers like Calvin Harris and Avicii (RIP)—they are just geniuses. For my songwriting side, a mixture of electro-pop Major Lazer and singer/songwriters like Ed Sheeran and Mitch James.
Life wise, I now surround myself with positive, driven people who inspire me to be a better version of myself. Omg it sounds so cliché but it’s actually so true.
What does an average day look like for you?
During the week I wake up around 11am-ish most days (I have to, since my main gig hours are always so late) and then go off to an afternoon of meetings with clients/venues. A lot of the time I have an event to attend in the evening, whether it’s a product launch, a movie premiere or just a media event. On Thursdays/Fridays/Saturdays, I’ll either be getting on a plane to play a show in another city and spend a whole day sleep deprived (ouch) or, if I’m playing locally in Auckland I try to take it easy during the day and do last minute music prep before a full night of gigs.
What advice would you give to someone following in your footsteps?
Networking! Honestly, no matter what city you live in, you need to get out there and meet the right people in the industry, whether it’s club owners, promoters, other DJ’s, etc. Already being in the scene helps a lot as the world is already so saturated with DJ’s now. You need to have a point of difference and not be scared to hustle at the beginning.
What does the creative process look like for you?
When I’m feeling emotional or lonely I lock myself in my room and let it all out. Whether it’s writing bits of a song on the piano or spending hours browsing the web for new music/inspiration. I spend a lot of time by myself since most of my friends work opposite schedules. When I’m travelling, I’m just eating room service in my hotel alone. I don’t mind it though, I enjoy being content with myself.
I’ve also been getting into the social media game quite a bit lately—you have no idea how long I take to edit my photos! But hey, Instagram is where it’s all at right now, as much as some of us hate to admit it.
What’s the biggest ‘fuck yeah’ moment of your career?
That type of feeling always comes when you least expect it. I’ve played some incredible shows in other cities like Hamilton, Christchurch and Fiji, and whether it’s to 100 people or 2000 people, the feeling of fulfilment is so strong. There’s a moment when people feel the rhythm, singing every word back to me, there’s complete balance and embrace to be at one with the sound. It makes me happy to see other people so happy, I just stand there smiling with this massive euphoria thinking, fuck yeah, this is what I love doing.
What’s your dream for your future?
Probably to become a more successful songwriter and move away from doing as many late nights and ‘DJ’ shows and be able to perform my own material (which will be released soon! I’m just OCD with it, haha) I’d also love to play Coachella one day, it would be such a dream. Then when I’m old and grey and retired, I want to own a bangin’ nightclub.
Favourite song when you’re needing inspiration?
I always blast out SIA The Greatest when I need reminding of what a boss I am, haha. The lyrics are so good to just remind you that you can do anything.
The one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
I’m not actually a Kiwi, just a really pale Latino. I’m half Venezuelan (I was born in Caracas, the capital) and half Italian. And my real last name is Ruggiero-Guerrero.
What’s at the top of your playlist right now?
Hmmm, I have two forms of playlists! In my spare time, I’ve been cranking Mitch James—No Fixed Abode on repeat. SO AMAZING.
In my party set playlist—Seven Nation Army (mesto remix) by Ill Phill will 100% always go down such a treat haha
Favourite place to play in Auckland?
I’d have to say Impala Nightclub, The Roxy nightclub and Revelry are pretty tied for number one.
Favourite café to visit the morning after?
I usually get Ubereats the day after coz I’m too tired to go anywhere! But if I do, I’m loving Welcome Eatery in Grafton or Dizengoff in Ponsonby.
Looking for more inspo? Take a peek inside the creative mind of Stan Walker