Morgan Page perfectly embodies what it means to work extremely hard for what you want and to always put 110% of yourself towards your goals. Known for his flawless production quality and energy-filled sets, the two-time Grammy nominee has a countless number of chart-topping releases on world-class imprints such as Armada, Dim Mak and Ultra Records. Leading up to his stellar set at Marquee NYC, we got the chance to sit down with the articulate and well-respected DJ/producer to talk about his rise to success, upcoming projects, making a "hit sandwich" and what goes into prepping for sets or his radio show episodes:
Tell me a little bit about how your rise to success began. I know you started off as a DJ for your college radio station and now here you are- what happened in between that got you to this point?
The cool thing with radio at the time when I was getting involved with it at the University of Vermont was that you didn't have to be a student to do the radio show. I was living out in the country, pretty much on a dirt road in Vermont between suburbs and farms, and these college radio frequencies would kind of sneak out to the country side. I'd be listening to electronic music and these mix shows would come on, and I was just totally blown away by it and got the bug for electronic music. It wasn't being played on other radio stations and at the time there were no blogs, no iPods and no way to share music since the Internet wasn't fast enough.
I'd tune into these radio shows and there would be dead-air on some nights, which is the cardinal sin of radio- so I said "well, if someone doesn't show up to do the radio show, then I'll fill in". So as a student, I was doing these graveyard shift shows, and then they told me about internships in New York City- so I started interning doing a bunch of things in New York in the business. Eventually, the label I was interning for listened to my demo, which I gave on a MiniDisc at the time, and gave me a shot- and that was the lead domino that led to releases on other labels and demands for remixes. This path that starts with technology and merges with music keeps repeating, which are my two main interests. Also did a thing called "cease and desist", which was a bootleg remix compilation- so I was like, "why don't I make an album and try to get sued?" so I can get some attention. I didn't get sued, but I got attention and Imogen Heap reached out- which led to a remix career. So it's just one long winding path.
You're playing Marquee tonight- what goes into prepping for your sets or for your radio shows?
The big thing I do is that I go in and make sure that all the songs are organized, color-coded and in-sync. I also make sure that the tempo-transitions make sense because if a song is dipping down to 90 BPM or going up to 140, that there are transitional moments that can get me from one tempo to the other- especially since what I'm making now is super eclectic and not as live-friendly as a typical EDM banger. What I'm doing now is sandwiching songs in between bangers- sort of like a "hit sandwich". Everything is also mixed in-key, which is a big part of it as well.
Is there any new material you've been playing out or any other tracks in particular from other artists you've been feeling at the moment?
The new single "Candles" with Steve James- that's a really tricky one to play out live so I've had that one sort of mashed with these 128 BPM sections. It's funny because there actually hasn't been a single like "Levels", there aren't many big songs that break out the same way that they used to. So now, I'm just focusing on my music and keeping the fans happy.
Have you been experimenting with any new genres or playing something out of your element lately?
I started putting a lot more bass in, a little bit of trap too- just sprinkling it in.. kinda like salt.
*laughs* like that meme of that guy sprinkling the salt!
*laughs* yeah- just a lil' bit of trap! I wanna surprise the crowd and there's little tricks that I use. I love putting silence in a track and when people are expecting a certain drop in a track and last minute you switch it up- I love seeing those universal reactions that work with every crowd, it's cool!
You have a new track coming up "Don't Give Up", followed by a bunch of remixes for the track that are about to get released. What was the process of making the track and putting the remixes forward?
"Don't Give Up" is a perfect title for the track because it was the longest process of getting a song together. Lissie is a long-time collaborator of mine- we did "The Longest Road" together, along with "Open Heart", "Fight For You" and a bunch of other tracks. She's probably one of my favorite vocalists- she played me that song acoustically and she said, "do you want to do something more dance-focused around this demo I'm working on?"- so I jumped at the chance.
I call this one kind of a "bridge track" because it's bridging the newer sound I'm doing with some of the classic sounds I've done in the past, so there's definitely a lot of influence from acoustic guitars and other organic instruments. That's still something I want to explore more- not just synths. So I felt like it was time for a classic MORGAN PAGE track with that kind of sawdust, female vocal with good chord progressions and good instruments.
Going off of genres- if you could pick any 5 headliners of any genre and curate your very own festival or event series, who would you pick and why?
I like up-and-comers, and I think there's an art to finding people that are coming up. But if it was a headliner, then DEADMAU5 is always great. I love Grey and what those guys are doing- they're gonna be big in the pop world and they already are with that track with ZEDD and Hailee Steinfeld. I hear AVICII actually might make a comeback to the live world but that's a rumor *laughs*. I'd be cool to have that one act headlining that makes a comeback like SWEDISH HOUSE MAFIA. I think also to have some of these newer, emerging names like Steve James too would be great.
Do you have any hidden talents or a guilty pleasure of some sort?
I just have a lot of interests. At the moment, I'm working on MP Quick Tips, which is my way of giving back to producers and is a side project that not many people know I'm involved in. It's really just documenting everything I know about music and it's kind of like a central knowledge base- so there's tips from other producers as well and it's not just me. It's about simplifying and game-ifying the complexity of music, and hopefully there will be a product released either this year or next year. But right now it's a free thing that's online at MPQuickTips.com.
Do you have any other projects or ventures you're working on?
I'm a really big fan of Tesla and Solar City, so I've been talking to them on how to get involved- electric cars and sustainability are my favorite cause at the moment because that's a huge thing that's gonna affect everybody. I'm excited about that- and also virtual reality! I've been working on projects with Oculus Rift and building VR music videos.
I also saw that you built a VR lyric video- how was the process of making that?
It was awesome but it was a long and expensive process to do everything because there's a lot of coding and development time. I love it because you're in the music video instead of passively watching it; I think the days of spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on music videos are done. With a lyric video, you're actually singing it back and watching the bouncing ball and I think people want to be involved in music- so VR is a great vehicle that can get people inside the experience.
What's your favorite place to perform, if you could perform in any type of setting anywhere in the world?
The outdoor setting is my favorite- a festival at the Great Wall of China would be fun, I've been to the Great Wall but just haven't played anything there. I did a podcast once at the Great Wall, which is not the best place for a podcast *laughs*. Anything that's a unique outdoor venue- Coachella, Red Rocks or Global Dance, The Gorge too- basically anything outside of a typical club setting. When you're out there in the fresh air, it's exciting and something different.
Anything else coming up for 2017?
There's a couple of great remixes coming forward for "Don't Give Up", really excited about "Candles" being out now and "Other Girl" will be another single on the way- we're actually working on a really cool music video for that. Just lots of new music and hopefully people can keep up!