Interview: Dim Mak’s Panic City Talks Miami Music Week, and Kicking Off Green Label Live: Las Vegas
The very first act on the bill is Dim Mak signee Panic City. (On Saturday night, NYC DJ Hesta Prynn will be headlining the party. RSVP here.)
With Panic City’s new single, “O.A.K.L.A.N.D,” released on Steve Aoki’s Dim Mak Records, the San Francisco native is quickly making his mark within the DJ circuit. With over three million total SoundCloud plays, the artist has had his tracks co-signed by the likes of Diplo and has remixed tracks from the Mad Decent boss as well as Daft Punk, Lana Del Rey, and many others.
We chatted to Panic about his new Dim Mak release, his hip-hop influences, Miami Music Week, and headlining our first installment of our Green Label Live: Las Vegas series at LAX Nightclub.
Most people don’t know this, but I saw that you began your career in local radio. Can you relate your early history in this medium to the success you have as a current touring DJ and selector?
Being on the radio gave me a lot of opportunities. Not so much directly, but indirectly. I got remix opportunities that kinda popped off just because someone from the record label liked my work. A huge thing about being on the radio is it’s how I met my current manager; his job was to get music to DJ’s and he knew I was starting to make an impact in the remix game so he tossed some opportunities my way. We clicked, scored some big official remixes, and boom—now we’re here. To make a long story short, make the most of the opportunities you get, keep building from them, and be nice to everyone. You never know how far that’ll get you.
Your early releases gained a lot of praise and support from blogs and DJs alike, most notably Diplo and his BBC1 radio show. Since then, you’ve done remixes for Major Lazer featuring Ariana Grande and Diplo’s Revolution EP. How was your initial interaction with Diplo when he asked you for your Zedd remix for his radio show?
I woke up and checked my phone in bed like any other day. Then I did a double take—“This can’t be Diplo.” I think the subject said, “Lemme get” and the body said, “that zedd remix”—exactly how you think Diplo would write an email.
O.A.K.L.A.N.D. is a hip-hop/big room house hybrid that pays homage to the city you grew up in. Interestingly enough, most musicians that rep the Bay Area are hip-hop artists (e.g. Mac Dre, E-40, Too $hort).
I think it’s cool to be proud of where you’re from and I just decided to let that spill over into this song. When you’re at my show, you’re definitely going to hear a mixture of genres. I had a lot of people who don’t listen to house saying, “Yo, man, that track is heavy, and I don’t usually listen to EDM.” I had guys on Dim Mak who make the best big room stuff telling me, “Yo, this is really fresh.” So while it represents where I’m from, my focus was to show people where I want to take them this year with my music.
Going along with the hip-hop aesthetic, I find it interesting that you’ve claimed that DJ Qbert and DJ AM are influences of your work. I even heard you doing some scratch routines on your early mixes and heard that you wanted to be a rapper earlier on in your career. Does hip-hop still have its importance with you making dance music now?
Most definitely. It peeks its head out in my “O.A.K.L.A.N.D.” track and in the trap breakdowns in a few of my other songs. Where it comes out most prominently is during my DJ sets, though. I feel like I still rock a party like one, and I’m proud of that.
I saw you were dropping your Tove-Lo, “Talking Body” remix sometime this week. Are you planning on working with Tove any further in the near future? Are there any artists you’re looking to work with?
It’s actually coming out this Thursday, after the Miami craziness dies down. All these artists I remix I usually never meet in person—I just get the project files. However, if I ever got the chance to work with a vocalist/songwriter as talented as her I’d love to. Speaking of collabs, I literally just got back from Miami and finally got to meet all the guys on the Dim Mak crew. So yes: You’re definitely gonna hear some collabs soon!
You played the Dim Mak pool party for WMC earlier last week. The line up included the likes of Shift K3y, Craze, A-Trak, Felix Da Housecat, DJ EZ, Crookers, Benny Bennasi, and more. From DJing an AEPI house party two years ago, to playing alongside some of the biggest names in EDM, how has the transition been? Were there any interesting stories from the party?
The transition has been exciting but a perfect pace. It’s been a steady upward progression, so I’m definitely ready for anything now. I’m so excited for the future—the timing of everything that’s been coming my way feels really good and organic. Interesting stories? Nah, but having the time of your life with a bunch of major producers you’re only used to seeing on Twitter was real dope. Oh, and I did have to DJ in Boise, Idaho, the day after Miami, which was a huge contrast.
As a collective, Dim Mak seems to share an aesthetic across all of the artists signed to the label while still maintaining their differences. As a label, how would you describe the camaraderie felt between you and the rest of the roster?
Oh, man, all these dudes were insanely chill. From all the artists to the A&Rs, it really feels like a family. And keep in mind: this was my first time meeting everyone. I think what I definitely noticed is everyone has their persona online, but when you meet these dudes in person they’re just regular dudes and I’m so down with that. I’m super proud to be a part of this team.
There was a status on your Facebook page you posted earlier last year, aimed at younger producers: “If you want to push yourself to get better, send your work to someone who cares enough to tell you that you can do better. You can't influence the world sounding like everyone else.” What’s particularly interesting about this is that I interviewed Armand Van Helden earlier last week and he had very similar thoughts on the subject. With the saturation in EDM, has it been a gift or curse for new producers trying to make it in the scene?
AVH definitely knows what’s up. This actually stemmed from me sending music to my manager. For weeks he’d be like, “It’s cool” or “eh, doesn’t do anything for me.” Demo after demo. I thought these were hot! But the truth is I realized I was trying to sound like another EDM star, and you’ll never become one by making the same ol’ stuff everyone else is doing. You really gotta find your own sound and make music from within, which is how O.A.K.L.A.N.D. was made.
The funny thing about the saturation is a year ago, everyone was trying to sound like Dimitri Vegas and Like Mike. Then came the big room backlash. But now those same people are all trying to sound like Tchami. It’s never going to end. So is it a gift or curse? I say it’s definitely a gift. Now is your chance to do something different, but most importantly be yourself. That lane is always wide open.
As broad and encompassing as EDM has become, it’s also incredibly guarded and full of self-proclaimed purists and critics. Do you think big room house gets unnecessary flack it doesn’t deserve?
To the people who hope it’s going to go away, I don’t think it will because it’s party music for a lot of people. But so is tropical house for people who are chilling at the beach. There’s a time and place for everything. On the flip side, it did make a lot of producers lazy and that’s why they get hated on.
With you heading our first installment of Green Label Live: Las Vegas at LAX Nightclub in Las Vegas this Friday, what are your thoughts going into the show? Are there any surprises in store for us?
Working with you guys and Mountain Dew I know this is gonna be insane. Surprises? You’ll just have to wait and see!