[Interview] NGHTMRE Dishes about the EDM Industry
Over the past couple years, NGHTMRE has been steadily climbing up the EDM ladder and receiving attention for energetic festival sets and innovative production spanning future bass, trap, house, and dubstep. We caught up with him at Opera Nightclub to ask about the journey into the industry and what he’s working on in 2017.
In the past, you’ve talked about enjoying playing longer sets, and those are more common in the House and Techno scene, but it’s pretty rare in EDM. Do you think we’ll ever get that?
I think maybe a little bit. The sets I play move a lot quicker, so if you’re playing a four-hour techno set, you can play six minutes of a song and it’s normal. It makes sense, but you can’t really pull that off in a trap set. People just lose attention a lot quicker. Usually in a 90-minute set, I’ll do 75 tracks almost. Some of them are edits that already have two songs in them, too. It would be nice to see that [longer sets], people going extra for the love of music rather than just banging out a set and getting out of there. It’s a little bit more of a journey.
You have a close relationship with Slander and several others in the industry. Fans see their favorite DJs hanging out as friends, but can you tell us what it’s actually like and talk about the value of industry relationships?
EDM industry relationships in general are that we’re all trying to make some cool music and make some money and have fun together. I feel like in the pop and hip-hop world it’s much more cutthroat. I haven’t really met that many people in the industry who have huge egos. In general everyone is really nice and easy to get along with and not as protective as other music industries. Same with promoters, too. I haven’t worked with hip-hop promoters, but it seems like everyone [in EDM] is a bit more about moving music forward and having a good time and a little bit less about making sure you’re the one that gets to the top.
What’s your advice to other introverts like yourself, trying to break into the industry?
In general, I keep to myself, and I had to practice to be able to get in front of people and perform on stage. You kind of have to get up there and just force yourself to do it a few times. One of my strategies with my management team was to not do shows until I could play my own shows and be the headliner for wherever I was playing.
If you’re playing a show, and people are there to see the show, no matter what you say, they’re pretty much going to respond. A lot of times, what made me nervous was wondering if I said something on the mic and people didn’t hear it or didn’t respond. The thing that got me into everything was the whole sound design idea. I would hear things on the radio and think they were super fucking basic.
You had some experience producing pop early on, right?
A little bit. When I moved to LA I was doing it. I made music growing up, just playing drums and piano and then in college I took a couple music theory and production classes. I was just producing as a hobby all through college. When I went to LA I did Icon Collective and did pop production. But that was just for money to pay rent.
I know you listen to a wide variety of music including a lot of rock & roll. Skrillex is back in From First To Last. Where do you see the next five years of EDM fitting into the larger music scene?
It’s hard for me to make a solid prediction, but from the last ten years that I’ve been involved in the music industry, everything that is fresh or new just seems to be a combination of two things that already exist. Like, the dubstep Skrillex made was UK dub mixed with rock & roll, and then that stuff mixed with hip-hop became this trap thing.
I feel like everything’s coming together. I just talked to Empire of the Sun about doing a song together. My goal is to get better at writing songs and creating great music rather than just tracks. Obviously, I love the super crazy turn-up trap and dubstep. The kid in me has that as my favorite part, but I also want to be a really amazing producer, not just a sound designer. In ten years, I want to be writing with other songwriters and creating great music for the rest of my life. I don’t know where it’s going to go, but I definitely plan on evolving and always trying to innovate.
What’s the difference like for you between playing a festival where maybe some people are still discovering you vs. playing a club or concert where it’s all fans just there to see you?
I definitely change my set. When I play Vegas, for instance, at my residency, people are just there because they’re in Vegas and they want to go out to a club. Half my crowd is dudes in bottle service in business suits, so, a lot of them don’t know the bass music scene.
It’s made me a way better DJ. I play a lot more hip hop in those sets and sing-alongs and throwbacks. I always play “All The Small Things." I’ve been playing Journey and random songs that I throw out in Vegas and people eat it up, so now I play them in my real set sometimes.
What’s coming up for you? Any new projects?
I’m creating a new EP with Mad Decent soon. I think the first single won’t be out for two more months, but I’m super excited for that. I have a track with Dillon and a track with Carmada for that as well as a couple of my own singles. Me and Mr. Hudson were in the studio writing this week, so I’m super excited about that.
I have so much music that I’m working on that I’m ready to release. I feel like I haven’t been able to put out much in the last three months, so I’m really excited to put out new music. We’re doing Gud Vibrations radio, so the Slander guys and I are hosting an XM Radio show every week starting in a month. I’m playing a bunch of festivals and shows this year, and going to do an Asia run.
Just as promised, NGHTMRE delivered a chaotic and fast-paced set with all the favorites of the packed crowd of club kids, and yes, he played “All The Small Things." I agree with his statements about the EDM community’s attention span and actually found it a bit frustrating trying to keep up with the pace of the set. I think being sober might have had something to do with it, but I found myself wanting a bit more of an arc to the night rather than just rapid-fire bangers back to back, but I find more and more that I’m no longer the target audience for mainstream club sets. I hope as the industry continues to evolve, the best parts of EDM can remain, but with perhaps a reset on our tolerance for longer sets and more complex musical production.
Photos by Ryan Purcell for Bullet Music