Rest & Music, a conversation w/ Arie Cole

Cole on the digital wheels of steel

My Creative Discipline series continues with Arie Cole, one of the most popular DJs on the scene in Pittsburgh today. Cole and I met while I was writing my play Shoptalk as artist in residence at Boom Concepts - a Black owned arts incubator in the Penn Ave Arts and Business District offering unique support for underrepresented creatives. I was impressed with the subculture of DJs in the city - and I wanted to learn more about the process behind the ministers of music who keep us dancing. In our interview AC and I discuss his love for music and the science behind his creativity which includes mindful-rest. 

TS In a previous article I define Creative Discipline as the ability to complete a single project from idea to creation to development to production. However, it may also be defined as one’s creative practice e.g. cinematographer, musician, or sculptor. How would you describe your creative discipline? 

AC I’d say my creative discipline is DJing. It’s super project-based. Most of the time, it has very harsh deadlines like a performance date or the due date of a mix or something like that. It forces me to have to be ready to end a project or to have a usable conclusion. 

TS What determines your interest as a DJ? 

AC What determines my creative interest is just a love for music. I really like listening to music and understanding how people feel when they write or perform it. A lot of the time I remember the place, time, and the emotions I felt hearing particular songs for the first time. Relaying that to other people is really fulfilling. So, that feeling informs my discipline..

The first thing I can’t create without is rest. I'm very invested in rest… “

TS What are three things you cannot create without? And why?

AC The first thing I can’t create without is rest. I'm very invested in rest and I get very brain foggy when I don’t have enough of it. The way I sleep and eat allows me to maintain a pretty demanding schedule during my busy season.

The next thing is systems. For a long time I thought creativity meant that I couldn’t be too organized. That I had to let things come to me. I started implementing systems that allowed me to create a certain time and when I’m not feeling it I have exercises and videos for inspiration. Those systems give me more free time, which feeds back into my ability to create.

The last thing I can’t create without is my equipment, specifically to get the best product. I need the PLX 1000 turntables and the Pioneer S11 phase remotes. That setup is very specific, and it allows me to create my best work. Of all of the equipment I’ve used, I am most familiar with it, and I practice with it the most.

TS Walk me through your creative process? How do you create? Can you identify a routine?

AC I can walk you through the process I use to create my Youtube mixes. Unlike my live performances, my sets on Youtube are planned. The first step is to listen to music. I listen to songs from people’s instagram stories, other playlists, websites, videos etc. Then I create a set list from the songs I’ve set aside. I keep large folders and playlists of songs I think would sound cool together. Once I’ve narrowed it down for Youtube, I set the list and start planning my shoot. To plan the shoot, I figure out my 3 best camera angles. I’ll go in with a relative idea that nails down the actual shots at the location. Next, I record at the location. I use 2 GoPros and a Sony camera. To avoid using a crew I set them up with 256 gb memory cards. I keep my mixes to 30-40 mins while the cameras can store 4-5 hours of 4k footage. Once recorded, I send the footage to my editor, she gets it back to me - and then my social media manager posts them.

I think it’s because I've worked really hard to have a fun job!”

TS Where does your inspiration come from? 

AC My inspiration comes from two places. The first place is this need to do cool things. I think it’s because I've worked really hard to have a fun job! I started off working in coffee, then I worked at a bank, and I worked really hard to make sure that my job is fun. Djing full-time is very fun, and now I've reached the point where it feels like we’re not just throwing parties, but we’re also throwing art in a way. The DJ sets feel more like performances for me, so that’s kind of what inspires me – it’s just the need to keep upping the product, keep creating, and keep giving people different experiences and things like that.

The other thing that inspires me is a very deep need to be competitive. I’m a very competitive person, and anytime I’m skipped over for an article or I’m not mentioned somewhere, it kind of lights a fire in a way that comes through in my work. The goal is always to do things like fill everyone’s Instagram stories, so no matter where you go on the Internet, if you’re in Pittsburgh, you’re gonna see us. It shows the people that ignore us the caliber of work that we put out and how many people appreciate it.

TS For whom do you create? 

AC I create for myself. I perform in front of people all the time, and the performances, I believe, are for the crowd and for other people. I have to make sure that the people watching have a good time. But the creation phase of my projects are something that I keep for myself. Most of the time, I’m alone when I do it. It’s just nice to keep something for yourself, the creation phase of my projects is for me.

TS When do you know it’s time to abandon a project?

AC I abandon projects when a deadline is coming and it’s holding me up. Sometimes I have other things I need to work on and it's just not worth it to continue. 

TS Have you ever returned to an abandoned project? If so, why?

AC I’ve definitely returned to abandoned projects, and most of the time it’s because maybe there’s a piece of it that I want to use in a future project. So I return to that project not to finish it, but to take some of the work that I put into it and invest it into other work that I’m doing. For instance, my friend used to have this doodle that he would draw, he carried a Sharpie in his pocket and would draw that doodle of himself everywhere. It was called the Tim face. I kind of copied it, but I wouldn’t draw it on different things. I’d just draw it in my notebook. Later when I played around with rap, I created a logo off of that doodle. That was a short-lived rap career. But when I started DJing, I revisited that logo and turned it into the Arie Cole logo that I have now. Each instance of use is about 2 to 4 years apart from each other. I just left it alone, but I went back to it based on a need, just to take a piece of it and use it to further the current work.

TS At what stage in your creative process do you invite collaborators?

AC Honestly, I’m trying to reach a point where there’s a collaborator at every stage and where stage one would be when I invite collaborators. My work has gotten to a point where I do need a team of some sort to help me get things moving forward. I’ve watched my friends embrace collaboration earlier on and they’ve loved their results.

TS What creative obstacles do you face? Personal or professional. 

AC So, a personal creative obstacle I have is just the day-to-day operations side of things, like maintaining emails and distributing flyers. Personally, it takes away from the time I have to do the work that I want to do, and it’s very hard for me to change gears from being creative to being more office-like.

“The best way to get the best help is being willing to pay the rate of the person who you want.”

TS Yes, it’s hard to strike that balance. What tips do you have for creatives who may be facing their own creative challenges?

AC My tip for someone facing their own creative obstacle would be just to get help. Sometimes, help is watching a YouTube video of something that you are trying to do, watching someone else do it. Another way is just hiring someone or getting someone to do tasks that you find difficult. A lot of times, they’re willing to do it for an affordable rate if they believe in your work. However, that shouldn’t be expected. The best way to get the best help is being willing to pay the rate of the person who you want. If a specific person is too pricey then find someone in your range. 

TS What projects are you currently working on and where can our readers follow and find your work? And/or What projects are you excited about?

AC I’m currently working on my YouTube channel. I've released one video this year, and I am way behind on releasing more. But as I talked about earlier, I’ve begun hiring people. So recently, I hired a video editor. Now, all I have to do is shoot the videos; I don’t have to edit them, which is saving me a lot of time. The other thing is having a social media person whose job is going to be to post YouTube videos for me. So, I will just pay them to maintain the channel, do the postings, and I’m free to just shoot. That’s a project that I’m working on, and it’s going to start moving faster, and I’m going to start getting more videos up because of the help that I was able to get. I’m very excited about it. I can be found below.

IG: thearie_cole



Arie Cole is an open format DJ based in Pittsburgh, PA. His sets mix sounds designed to make you groove in one moment and rage in the next. More than a DJ, Arie Cole curates the vibe with sharp cuts and face scrunching mixes of songs you’re more than familiar with or hearing for the first time. He is currently a resident at Umami, Thunderbird, and Trace Brewing. No matter the party Arie Cole is coming with new gems and familiar sounds. 


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TyLie Shider

“I consider myself an investigative-playwright with a background in journalism. This is an exciting opportunity for me to marry my degrees in media and theatre as I continue to develop plays and make a holistic contribution to the American theatre.”