Panic City Gives DJ Advice in Exclusive Interview
We talk to Dim Mak signee Panic City about DJ school, finding a mentor and making music. Read the transcript here!
Panic City currently resides in Los Angeles where he is the newest member of the Dim Mak record label. The house producer has produced remixes for Diplo, Steve Aoki and Tove Lo, to name a few, and has over four million plays on SoundCloud. His original production “BANG BANG” recently made it into Honey 4 (the sequel). He can also be spotted regularly at Bay Area nightspots such as Ruby Skye and Infusion Lounge. When we sat down with him he was drinking a bottle of beer in the restaurant lounge, about to play a rooftop pool party called SNBRN at the Hard Rock Hotel in San Diego.
BPM Supreme: Where are you from originally?
Panic City: I was born in Oakland and I was raised in a small town (called) Union City in the San Francisco Bay Area. That’s where I’m from.
BPM Supreme: Are you a graduate of the Blend DJ Academy?
Panic City: Personally I am not but it’s funny you ask that. I’m pretty sure you got that from my Instagram. My boy who actually founded that Andrew B. — shout out to Blend Las Vegas by the way — he actually was the person who mentored me over a decade ago. So I’ve been doing this for a long time. He brought all these DJ’s from the Serato forum. Are you familiar with Serato?
BPM Supreme: Yes.
Panic City: Yeah so there used to be this forum back then when Serato came up. I guess that was kind of popping and it brought a lot of DJ’s together. So he invited a bunch of people to his residency and he saw me DJing and he picked me. He was like, “Hey man do you want to open up for me?” And from there it took me from DJing mobile gigs to sweet sixteens, all that stuff, weddings, straight to the club.
BPM Supreme: Was this in the Bay Area or Las Vegas?
Panic City: This was in San Francisco. He’s originally from San Francisco. He just moved.
From there it put me on a fast track of things you’re supposed to do as a DJ, like how to rock a crowd. Little tricks like how to rock a mic. Songs you’re supposed to slam. Songs you’re supposed to mix. Stuff like that. And if I didn’t have that I really feel like I wouldn’t be at the place where I’m at now. He taught me things like how a DJ is supposed to stay humble. How to maintain relationships and stuff.
BPM Supreme: So you think DJ school helps?
Panic City: Most definitely. Everyone is different for sure. You know everyone has their own path. But I think that if you’re a beginning DJ and there’s a DJ in your vicinity or city or whatever that you really admire and respect their skill, and you think they’re really good and that they would be a good influence on you I think that it would be a good idea to see if they would be willing to take you under their wing. You can open up for them for free. That’s what I did to try to pay my dues. And ultimately I think it was good for me because it really builds a solid foundation to succeed. Instead of just going out there and doing it all yourself, and trial and error by yourself. To have someone there leading the way for you.
BPM Supreme: What about record pools? Have record pools helped with your career?
Panic City: For sure, 100 percent. First off I think its super cost efficient. You get a whole shit ton of songs at your grasp that you can choose from. And on top of that there’s usually DJ’s you admire. For example Miles Medina or J. Espinosa. They’re on BPM Supreme. Me personally they’re from my city and I know they kill it. I going to want to play some of their edits. I would definitely say that record pools are the way to go especially for a starting DJ.
BPM Supreme: What’s it like playing music on the radio?
Panic City: It’s good. I like it.
BPM Supreme: How did you get into that?
Panic City: I guess they asked me really. And I just took the opportunity and ran with it. I think there’s some people that might think that DJing on the radio is corny. It’s because some people want to be underground or whatnot. But it’s on every DJ to take an opportunity like that. And if you’re a DJ you want to flex, and you want to share your skills. And at that time that’s what I wanted to do. Who am I to not take that opportunity?
So I did and at that time I was also a budding producer. If they wanted me to play — like this Bruno Mars song. Personally I didn’t like to play that regular radio version so I made my own remixes cause I was a producer then. And what happened was it caught the attention of some record labels, and some guys that wanted to manage me, and stuff like that. And that just snowballed into doing remixes for Pitbull and Diplo and Tove Lo. Really if it wasn’t for the radio then I don’t think I would be here right now.
BPM Supreme: So clubs to radio to music production success?
Panic City: Yeah, it’s really all intertwined. I think that as a DJ this game is so saturated and there’s so many people who wanna come up. I really think it’s on you to hustle while you could be sleeping. If you don’t want to do that it’s cool but if you can use it to your advantage I definitely recommend you use every opportunity that you can.
BPM Supreme: Is there a difference between DJing in LA versus San Francisco? Is the crowd different or is there a different attitude?
Panic City: There’s definitely a difference with the crowd, just like with any city. Do you know what I mean? Local music and stuff like that. There they might like Dr. Dre more or in the Bay you get way more (of a) reaction when you play hyphy music by Mac Dre.
But I think the biggest thing to me for a person that has lived in both cities is in LA you could be the biggest dude in your little town and once you move to LA you’re a small fish in a big pond. It’s so fucking huge. It’s such a big place for somebody that only has one bar in their city. If you want to play old school music, there’s tons of that. (If) you want to play EDM music there’s tons of that. But at the same time there’s tons of competition too.
On the flip side, in San Francisco there might be less competition and less spots for you to be able to do your thing. But it’s so much easier for you to rise to the top. So it’s like pick your poison.
BPM Supreme: Are you working on any new musical projects?
Panic City: Right now I’m still doing the remix thing and bootleg thing. I’m still DJing a whole lot. That’s been taking a lot of my time. I’ve really started falling back in love with DJing. You guys know I’m signed to Dim Mak. My first EP came out last year, it’s called Up All Night. But I’m working on my second EP. You guys can just follow me on SoundCloud <leans in toward recorder> SoundCloud.com/PanicCity. Stay up to date on that. And on Twitter. The new release stuff will be out soon.
BPM Supreme: How do you approach writing music?
Panic City: I guess like any other artist in his respective art. When it comes to house music, since I make house music, if I wanna make something that’s really groovy or something that has a groove, usually I’ll start out with drums. If I want to do something really melodic, something with more emotion, I’ll start out with pianos. For example the Tove Lo remix. A lot of times when I do a remix I start out with pianos. Because pianos never lie to you. Do you know what I’m saying?
If I could give advice to anyone whose stuck or who has writer’s block I would say definitely listen to other styles and genres. You don’t wanna be locked in your genre. You don’t want to be stuck on a house song, and then you just keep listening to house songs. You want to listen to other stuff too. And from my experience you find the missing piece of the puzzle that you were looking for.
BPM Supreme: So what is your musical style? How would you describe it?
Panic City: I’m kind of known as a house guy, for sure in the Bay Area. But growing up in the Bay Area, I think the Bay is super heavy hip hop. So in high school I used to rap. I used to make hip hop beats. I used to listen to the gangster shit — to the backpacker stuff.
I’ve produced the big room electro stuff. I’ve produced the trap stuff. And now I’m settling down with the house stuff. But what’s cool I think is that you can still hear the hip hop swag that I — you know my roots, my hip hop roots in the house music stuff that I have now.
BPM Supreme: So do you ever scratch?
Panic City: I do scratch. That’s the thing a lot of house DJ’s are known to just mix for one minute, you know intro/outro. And make songs for however long. But I think the advantage that I’ve had has been being able to mix house like a hip hop DJ. But still knowing how to mix what’s tasteful for a house DJ but at the same time bring the energy of a hip hop DJ. I think both worlds are colliding right now and that’s my style.
Panic City often makes use of the BPM Supreme record pool.
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