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Arielle Free's fierce summer

We caught up with the Future Rave resident at Las Mimosas ahead of her last Ibiza gig of summer.

Understatement alert: Arielle Free had a fierce summer.

After bumping into each other in Eden's green room a few weeks earlier, we caught up at the much slower paced Las Mimosas Boutique Hotel & Spa. The DJ and radio personality was staying there, presumably on the assumption that she'd be relaxing and taking things easy ahead of her set... nah, we couldn't picture it either.

Appearing almost weekly at David Guetta's Future Rave during the summer, Arielle is known for being a feisty livewire behind the decks. Watching her animated performance is enough to exhaust you, let alone dancing to it.

Thankfully, Arielle likes to chat, as regular listeners to her Radio 1 early morning breakfast show will be all too familiar with. Interviewees can sometimes clam up and make you work hard to get answers, but there was no danger of Arielle being a closed book.

Arielle Free | Las Mimosas

Reeling off anecdotes without any prompt, Arielle was all too happy to chat about her job.

"I'll never forget the time somebody asked for a shout-out and it was from MC Stef. But because I'm Scottish, I read it as 'McStef' and I got it really wrong. You must think I'm an absolute nut job!"

Nah. On the contrary, this turned into one of the most refreshing artist interviews we've ever done. Whether it's DJing, presenting or producing, Arielle lives and breathes her career.

In an industry where fulfilling media requirements can often seem like a chore, Arielle is a breath of fresh air. None of her answers were pre-scripted or robotic in delivery. It felt like a friend giving you a lowdown on all the action you'd missed.

Arielle Free | Future Rave | Hï Ibiza

Landing the gig of a lifetime

When did you find out about getting the residency?

"It all started last year when Ushuaïa was doing Palmarama. It was when restrictions were still in place and you could only be by your table. They had a few events with Guetta and their other residentsI was invited by the booker at the time to come and be the opening support.

It was a test for them, as much as it was for the DJs, because nothing had been open for however many months. So they were really having to be safe and sticking to the rules.

I was set to play for two hours, but it actually ended up being two and half hours, because Riton was on after and his plane got delayed."

Arielle Free | Las Mimosas

"The Ushuaïa staff fed back to the booker and said they thought I was amazing and they should book me again. Ushuaïa ended up inviting me out the following week.

Later they asked me to come back this year and asked me which night I'd like to play. At that point, I didn't really have much infoThen the offer came in in February, which feels early, but actually, that's quite late.

They asked if I wanted to be a part of this new night called Future Rave? It was David Guetta's new concept with MORTEN."

David Guetta & MORTEN | Future Rave | Hï Ibiza

"I've never had an Ibiza residency. I've only really played Ibiza Rocks for Radio 1 before. So it went from a couple of gigs at Ushuaïa to a full season at Hï Ibiza. Obviously, I jumped at the chanceLiterally booked all my flights there and then, before they got too expensive. (laughs)

Initially, I thought maybe I'd be playing in the toilet, but then I found out I'd be the weekly resident opening the main room. Then they said it would be every week, midnight to 01:30 in The Theatre.

There were just a few weeks I couldn't do, because of festival dates that had carried over from 2020 and 2021. So in the end, I've played 16 out of the 18 parties."

Arielle Free | Las Mimosas

How does it feel looking back?

"I feel like this is my job now.

When it gets to the first week after, I feel like I'm not going to know what to do with myself. I'm not one of these people who gets tired. Everybody asks me, am I not knackered? Usually, I would fly back on Saturday and go straight to a festival gig.

Last weekend all my girls came out. We booked it in March. I said, 'please come out for my set.' We had a full weekend out here. It was such a rarity to come out, play and then get to enjoy Ibiza for the whole weekend. I feel like I'm going to really miss coming out here every week."

Reality will hit hard.

"But I feel like, we'll blink, and then it'll all be starting again.

I was speaking to Danny Howard about it. Obviously, he has his Amnesia residency. That finishes on the Monday after Future Rave ends. In the UK, club season has only just begun. Warehouse Project and Printworks have both just started. Everybody at home is diving into that.

Me and Danny still have Ibiza shows left! We're still in summer mode. It's 29 degrees still. And then you go back and it's like, now we need to remember to start packing joggies!

I'm already getting the post-residency blues."

Arielle Free | Future Rave | Hï Ibiza

Winning over the crowd

How have you found the crowd? David Guetta is the biggest DJ in the world. He has mass appeal. How's the reaction been for you as a DJ who plays music they don't know?

"Right from the beginning, it was made clear that Future Rave is all about what you play as an artist. My biggest hesitation with playing Future Rave was that I didn't necessarily play Techno or that Lo-Fi rave sound.

James HYPE did his thing. Idris Elba did his thing. I was allowed to do what I'm about."

Free rein basically?

"Free rein, right.

The first week I played, I assumed it would take a good half hour, maybe even an hour for it to fill up. But as soon as they opened the doors, they had people running in. It was a bit unnerving. Even my friends who visited me last week couldn't believe how quickly that room fills up.

That's such a luxury because you have about five or six thousand people there and they're all ready from the moment they get in.

You know, with Hï Ibiza winning DJ Mag's number one club in the world, the clubbers aren't just coming for David Guetta. They're coming for the best club in the world and to witness what it's like as a clubbing mecca."

Arielle Free | Future Rave | Hï Ibiza

"I love that it actually looks like a theatre. I trained as a dancer, so it reminds me of doing ballet shows with the dress circle overhanging.

The other thing is, there’s like these David Guetta super-fans just stood at the front, clasping onto the barrier and just staring at me, waiting for him to come on. I thought they wanted to kill me at first! (laughs) But they were just waiting for their number one.

I was so nervous, but everybody said I smashed it. I looked beyond the first row and everybody else was having an amazing time. They get that with everyone though: FISHER, Calvin Harris. They're used to it. The team reassured me. They were lovely.

The second week was the same, but I was more comfortable."

Arielle Free | Las Mimosas

"It's catering for a global audience. You can see that people have not just flown in from the UK or Italy or mainland Spain. There's Americans, Australians, people from the Middle East and Asia. All over.

We have a saying in Scotland, 'gie laldy' – it's like, give it your all. Give life your all. Last week I saw it was a younger audience and thought, right, they're going to be a crowd who like to Tik-Tok, you know?

So I played the Baby Work It track. I made my own edit of it especially for my sets, for playing at festivals mostly. But I played it and the kids went for it."

"There was a lot of European kids, not so many from the UK. They recognised it straight away and I thought, brilliant, I've got something to pull them in."

We know it's not healthy to focus too much on social media numbers, but on Saturday morning after you've played here, do you notice your followers shooting up?

"It's not so much the number of followers, but it's people tagging me in videos and they're just so complimentary.

They've come to see David Guetta, but then they're being introduced to the girl on before him who they haven't heard of. I'm booked to play the opening set, but the guys here at Hï Ibiza say they don't want a warm-up. It's not a warm-up."

Arielle Free | Future Rave | Hï Ibiza

"The crowd has probably just seen Calvin Harris at Ushuaïa or they've been on the beach all day and had their pre-drinks and now they've come to party.

There were two weeks where I wasn't here because of prior commitments, and Guetta said to me the energy wasn't there. He noticed the difference. For me, that was the biggest stamp of approval. I knew I was doing something right.

But you've seen the crowd there. They know about F*** ME I'M FAMOUS! But they're not familiar with Future Rave yet. They come in and they're not sure what to expect, but hopefully, they leave happy. For me, it's just so euphoric to see them enjoy it."

"I got sent a mash-up of Sweet Harmony and Rozalla's Everybody’s Free by Tony Perry. He sent it a while ago and I instantly loved it. I started playing it at festivals. Even somewhere like Hï, it works. When I finish on that, everyone feels really happy."

What is David Guetta like? Do you speak to him often, does he give you any advice?

"He's very in the zone for his gigs. He never plays the same set from week to week. Because he does F*** ME I'M FAMOUS! over the road, he wants to make sure there's a distinction between each party.

Guetta usually comes in half an hour before his set. He's very psyched. He talks to MORTEN about what he's going to play. For me, I'm just soaking it up to see that professionalism. It shows why he's the biggest DJ in the world."

Arielle Free | Las Mimosas

Getting to grips with production

Since we're on the subject of music, let's talk about production. You started releasing music this year, starting with Soul Full.

"Yeah, Soul Full with Mortimer and Joe Killington. I was so nervous. I started producing on Ableton but it didn't really work for me. Me and Ableton were not friends. Somebody suggested I try Logic and see how I got on.

A really close friend of mine showed me the key things I should know, then another friend told me to watch Disclosure's tutorial videos on Twitch, as they work on Logic.

I'm not self-made. Not yet. I still call up friends and ask, 'how do I do this?' and 'what happens here?' So I'm still not where I need to be. It takes a decade, I think. Minimum. To become one hundred per cent accomplished as a producer."

"I think the biggest compliment I get from everyone is that the music I make is me. Like I'll play You Can't Stop Me tonight. It is so lovely to see people's reactions. They go for it.

That was my first solo record. I wasn't going to release it, as the vocal is just the Spice vocal and I thought it had been used lots before. Then Eats Everything heard it and wanted to send it to Edible. I was like, 'okay, does that mean you're going to release it?' Yeah! Brilliant.

The next one is the Gorgon City remix, which comes out soon. It's terrifying because when I think of accomplished producers, they are the epitome. I will never forget the first time I heard one of their tunes. Ever since I've been their number-one fangirl.

When Amazon Originals approached me and asked who I'd like to remix, without hesitation I said Gorgon City."

"Tell Me It's True is this gorgeous, euphoric track which came out on their Olympia album.

They released it as a single and I knew I wanted to put a rave synth on it. I was trying to find these little highlights. My favourite moment from that production was I couldn't find the perfect 'whoop', so I recorded my own.

I called a friend and asked him for help and he said, 'yeah, yeah. Come down to my studio and we'll do it.' Shout out to Louie Soyeauvv. And yeah, it's the first time I've put vocals on a track."

The biggest weekend of summer

Let's move on to another summer highlight: Radio 1 weekend.

"Yeah, Radio 1 weekend.

Before I was on contract, I was covering Radio 1 for about a year and a half. When I was asked to go full-time, they offered me a slot on weekend early breakfast, which is 04:00 to 07:00 Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

I knew I had this contract starting on the Friday, but the weekend before was the 2019 Radio 1 weekend. The first time I met all the Radio 1 family was at Ibiza Rocks. Everyone was buzzing, but I was adamant I was on best behaviour."

BBC Radio 1 Dance Live | Ibiza Rocks 2019

"When I woke up on the Friday morning and I thought I'd been really well-behaved.

Next thing I knew, Danny Howard posted this video saying 'ladies and gentlemen, please meet Radio 1's latest presenter' and it was me standing on a hot tub cover with a bottle of rosé wine in my hand swinging it around and my skirt around my knees, going 'Woooooooo!'

So much for being on my best behaviour!

This year, we were up against the pandemic during the planning period, so we didn't get to do the big stage in front of Café Mambo.

Instead, we dipped into everything you can do in Ibiza. So Sarah Story covered Pyramid on Sunday. We had Pete Tong doing ANTS on Saturday and me and Danny doing Defected at Eden on the Friday."

"We had Diplo as a special guest at Future Rave, as well as doing a secret set at Café Mambo. Everybody kept double-taking, saying 'is that…?' And I got to do probably one of the most coveted gigs on Radio 1: Dance Anthems Live from Café Mambo.

I've heard Dave Pearce do it, Danny Howard, Vernon Kaye, MistaJam, Charlie Hedges did it with Ricky and Melvin – and thank you Charlie for getting pregnant, because I stepped in to cover her. (laughs)

There were a group of hens behind me who said they were listeners of my show. They asked if I could shout out the bride-to-be."

Arielle Free | Café Mambo

"I was broadcasting to millions of listeners, and I said 'shout out to Sophie the hen, she's here with all her girls' and she screamed 'OH MY GOD!' We saw that hybrid of radio, dance music and live come together in that one moment. I think I've peaked.

It was so lovely because, after two years of not being here, it was great to be back.

Radio 1 weekend is such a flagship moment in our schedule. It's been here for 25 years and it's never going away. I probably shouldn't say this on record, but next year is going to be supersized. It's going to be brilliant."

BBC Radio 1 Dance Live is already confirmed to be back next year, taking place from 28 to 30 July

Arielle Free | ANTS | Ushuaïa

We can't wait to hear the plans. You also played other gigs on Ibiza this year. Let's talk about ANTS.

"Yeah, it was 19:30 to 21:00 – the sunset set. You notice that people want that sunset vibe but the minute it gets dark, wanting that 'boom'. I was prepping on the plane over. I was going through it the whole time, even after I landed.

Then when I got here, I got the worst sunburn of my life. Even though I put on sun cream, you could see fingerprints of where I had applied and missed spots. In terms of embarrassment, that was up there. People were exclaiming how red my back was.

Everybody knew how big a deal it was for me, especially as it was being live-streamed as well. You just want it to be perfect."

Arielle Free | ANTS | Ushuaïa

"Afterwards Calvin Harris asked me how it went and I told him I thought it was the best I've ever played. I got such good feedback from that. Even Yann Pissemann came up to me and told me it was amazing.

What I play at Hï Ibiza is very high-energy. It's stuff that the crowd will recognise or at least edits of them. Classics. Making sure they're aware that I'm with them, but also introducing them to stuff we play in the UK at the same time.

But ANTS was me getting to be underground and I love that. I got to play a bit of Afro House, as well as that classic ANTS sound. I was really quite spoilt to be able to do that. It was amazing."

Ringing endorsements! You're well known for your energetic sets, but we've got to ask, do you go for it that much when you're in the studio broadcasting?

"Yeah! Have you not seen? That's basically how people discovered me because I do Radio 1 Dance 35 hours a week. Even the other presenters, like Greg James, always say, 'when do you ever sit down?'

About four years into the job, I came in really hungover after a night out – Danny Howard's fault again. (we see a pattern emerging) He called me and said, 'get down to Night Tales.' He was throwing a label night and we ended up playing back-to-back.

We played until 03:45. I was on the radio at 07:00. I got there and I just started lying on the desk. A producer who I worked with way back when I first began said, 'we've finally broken her. She's finally sitting down!'"

"I do tend to sit down if I'm doing early breakfast, but when I hear a good bop, studio raves are a thing. Steamroller by Anish Kumar has been my main studio rave soundtrack recently."

What do you have planned in winter?

"This winter is Warehouse Project in Manchester, Free Your Mind events, which is my club night and then several ski resort festivals, including Rise Festival.

Then Me and Melé are going back-to-back for the first time. I love him, because I love tribal and Latin and Afro, and he's like the Don when it comes to that. I'm really nervous. Melé was like, 'YES' too. When I last saw him, he said, 'this is going to be so fun!'

It's part of Eats Everything's A History of Rave, so I'm not sure which era of rave we're going to do."

Sum up your season at Future Rave.

"Unreal. Just unreal. I can't say it's been unexpected because I know what the crowds are like here, but it's unreal. Mind-blowing, unreal and unforgettable."

Back next year?

"I hope so! (laughs) I hope so, so much."

Arielle Free | Future Rave | Hï Ibiza

After the interview, we come back to that Scottish phrase, gie laldy. Give it your all. It couldn't be more appropriate. There's no denying that Arielle fearlessly throws herself into all her work commitments - not that she would really consider them work at all.

She has an enthusiasm that's highly contagious. She's had a fierce summer.

Back next year? On an island where you can rarely predict what will happen next, we reckon it's a given.

PHOTOGRAPHY | by Peter Young

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