I spend a majority of my free time trying to curate playlists, whether it’s my Shazam app always running in the background, just in case I hear a song in the wild, or I’m planning future trips around music festivals.
Sometimes I think back to when I was growing up when I wanted to find new music I had to go to the local store and shift through towers of CD's and stand at one of those listening stations mounted to the wall.
This is not meant to be a back in my day I had to walk to school in the snow uphill both ways sort of rant on how it used to be. If anything, I love the fact that I live in my Spotify account.
What do you mean there was a time when the Internet did not provide me a new playlist every Monday that was made for me personally?
That being said, sometimes there is actually too much. Pretty nice problem to have I realize, but often sites like Soundcloud that are rich in new music have so much added every day that you almost don’t know where to start.
That is where Arel Watson, the creator of Special Blends, comes in. He has taken upon himself to be that filter and find fresh tracks for the Seattle masses while supporting producers and artists that are getting started.
He DJ’s handpicked songs at Grim’s in the Capitol Hill neighborhood on Thursday nights, and also makes most of the music that he featured available for his listeners to find after the event.
Are you actually the one who is actually creating the music for the dance parties?
Oh no, I wish I was the person who was stand-alone creating all of this music! Pretty much it is me searching through the dark webs of Soundcloud, looking for music.
I am finding producers who might be big names or just a bedroom dude who is making his own stuff in Denver, and no one knows who they are type kids.
The whole idea of Special Blends is to put producers in the forefront, which is not usually a thing. Like usually people focus on the artist, but no one is thinking about the person that helped craft the structure of the song. Most of the time people pick up on the beat before they lyrics even come on.
I liked the idea of remixes because you can hear your favorite song with a different style to it. For example, some could say, ‘I like this Childish Gambino song but this deep house version of it is actually really dope. It is more danceable.’
I even have this cool weird 80’s version of IloveMakonnen’s Going Up on a Tuesday. That kind of stuff is really rad because it brings something new to the table, and I want to be able to do that while still giving the people something nostalgic and something they can related to.
Sometimes what I think might be misunderstood about Special Blends is that someone might be thinking that we might be picking the really bad stuff off of Soundcloud. Like we are just finding the overly done remixes – those songs where it sounds like someone has sampled a washing machine on this track! I am not going for those. I am still going for the ones that still have a lot of structure, and has a good base genre like house or disco.
When you are planning out one of your dance parties, are you trying to find music that surrounds a certain theme of the night?
I mostly am just trying to find music that sounds cool, but how the night is run usually I try to limit the genre jumps. It is hard to blend and at a dance party, you don’t want to start with disco and then all of sudden, trap! I try to keep the energy the same throughout the night.
How did you get started, and what are your plans for it in the future?
It actually just started in January of this year. The first time it was at Chop Suey, but it was a one-off called Remix Night. The people that helped with putting it on really liked the idea and helped us introduce us to the owners of Grim’s of the idea of making it a regular event at their venue.
I want people to start thinking of Special Blends as a version of Spotify discovery playlist, and we can introduce them to new music! Leading up to every event I create Soundcloud mix with new songs and putting it together.
Helping people to learn more about the artists that I am finding even when they are not actually at the event. And eventually, I want DJ's to be guests at Special Blends, and for it to continue to grow. I feel like there is something for everyone and there is a mix of people that come to Special Blends.
Like there is hip hop but sometimes we have it blended with an indie flix vibe. We want it to be accessible to a wide range of audiences.
Arel Watson is that friend that I think a lot of us had or hoped to make that would make you cooler association. Who always knew the rad bands before anyone else did, and it was generally understood that if he was in the car, he was automatically given the aux cord to DJ the ride.
Now we are all lucky enough to tap those rad tunes at Special Blends, and for those that can’t be there every Thursday - Special Blends can be experienced virtually out on his Soundcloud page.
Would you like to visit one of the parties? You're more then welcome!
Hope to see you soon, at Grim's!
Words by correspondent Lindsey.
Photography provided by Special Blends.