In just the past few years, Bay Area native DJ Panic City has seen himself go from being in the crowd at music festivals to playing on their stages. He recently released his debut EP, Up All Night, on Dim Mak Records and resides in LA in between tours. His remixes and original productions have made waves in the big room house world and he continues to impress, showing his versatility on the new release. We sat down with Panic City to hear about his rise to the limelight and what he’s planning for 2016.
You’re from Union City and you were really into hip hop as a kid. Was it the Bay Area’s legendary rap pedigree or the hyphy movement that got you hooked on the genre?
Yea I’ve been listening to hip hop since I was a kid. It was really the first genre of music I hung onto. I remember watching the music video countdowns on MTV and one of my first favorites was the song “Slam” by Onyx. It just grew into listening to everything else. As far as the hyphy movement, that did have a big influence on me because that’s how I started making beats. When I was in high school I made hyphy beats for my friends to rap to – that’s how I learned to produce.
Turning to the new Up All Night EP, you have a Dutch house synth in the track “Go Grey,” future house sounds in “5AM,” and the title track “Up All Night” is breaks. You draw on such a variety of sounds and genres – what prompted such a wide range of styles on the EP?
This EP I wrote in the span of about a year. Once I got on Dim Mak, my goal was to release my first EP with them. As a traveling DJ you’re listening to so much new music – and music changes so much within just one year these days. All these songs are just different moods I was in. When you do come to my show there is a theme, but it is made up very different genres of dance music. I don’t stick to one thing. Each one of those songs is like one part of my set and I was trying to show my versatility. I’ve never been someone to play a straight up 128 BPM set. I didn’t wanna box myself in so I just did what I felt like and this is what came out.
How did the collaborations on the EP come about with Kris Kiss, Reid Stefan and Mike Taylor?
Well for my lead single, “5 AM,” I had been listening to a bunch of future house records when I had made that song. I heard this Chocolate Puma track, “Step Back,” which featured vocals from Kris Kiss on it. It was like this UK grime style. I thought to myself, everyone’s doing “put your fuckin hands up” or something generic like that. So I wanted to do something different. I hit up Dim Mak and asked if we could get Kris on it. He just sent the vocals over and it was crazy when I first heard it. He actually wrote a whole song to it – there’s the iTunes version with all his lyrics, but the one on the EP is just the club edit where we pair down his vocals so it’s easier to digest.
Reid Stephan toured with Aoki and he’s actually my roommate. Since we became roommates we’ve just worked on tracks. Mike Taylor is one of his homies and he recently did a track with Afrojack, so we all just got together and collaborated on this track.
You said in a recent interview, “One year I was in the crowd at Ultra watching Aoki, the next, in his office playing him my tracks.” You’ve had such a rapid rise to getting on a labels, do you have any advice to other aspiring producers?
If everyone is saying yes to you, like, ‘you’re shit’s good, it’s good,’ and no one is giving you any kind of constructive feedback, start showing your work to people you can trust who can give you legitimate criticisms, or else you’ll never get better. Try to surround yourself with successful people and people with good habits because it rubs off on you. Since I became roommates with Reid, we’ve been exchanging ideas and getting so much better through teaching each other stuff. If I didn’t room with him, I wouldn’t have reached that next level of knowledge in producing.
You’re pretty tight with Miles Medina and have played with him quite a bit. What does your relationship look like these days?
Sometimes when I’m in the Bay and he’s playing I’ll come do a surprise little guest set, but like me, he’s also making the move to LA soon. We used to have this project called Urfriends. The funny thing is that Zac Efron movie came out, We Are Your Friends, that was pretty much the nail in the coffin for that DJ duo name. When we do come out with another project, it’s gonna be something to look forward to.
We heard you’re sort of a space nerd, would you want to be one of the first to colonize mars and throw the first rave on another planet?
Rave on Mars? (laughs) For sure man, sign me up. Elon Musk let’s do this!
How’s the Dim Mak family been treating you?
Those dudes are super supportive. They push us to push our boundaries with new music and not make the same old stuff. I’m not just making big room, I’m making breakbeat, I’m making house – I can produce whatever I want and that’s what’s perfect about it. Plus they throw really good parties and as an artist you get to be a part of that. My next EP is gonna be with them.
What are your favorite spots to play at around the Bay? Where do people get the most hyphy?
Well I’m doing a lot of festivals these days. But the best recent memory I have in the Bay was when I played at Insomniac’s Boo! at the Bill Graham. It was the frickin’ Bill Graham! I’ve seen so many tight ass performers over there, so playing there was surreal. As far as the clubs, I did a super sick show at 1015. I like it there because people are there for the music; it’s more like a concert venue than a club. DJ Dials always books hot artists there, shout out to DJ Dials.
What’s on deck for this year?
I’m already getting ready for Miami Music Week in March. When that comes around, everyone’s debuting their new stuff. Since this first EP came out, I feel like I’ve made leaps. I finished that a while ago, almost six months. I have a couple new songs and my sound is getting tighter. Super excited about this new sound.