I had a chat late last week with one of the biggest Producer/DJs out of LA right now – John Dadzie, aka 12th Planet. He has had an incredible year with respect to original productions and collaborations, and his busy summer tour schedule which has included huge festival dates such as Electric Daisy Carnival(s), Lollapalooza, Camp Bisco, and many more! And he’s not even done yet! In just over a week, I’ll be taking in his set stageside down in New York City, at Electric Zoo.
So as you might have guessed, he has some interesting things to say about touring, writing music, and promoting your works of art. He also happens to be super easy to get along with – we hit it off pretty quick (no homo), so the interview didn’t really have what traditionalists might call a “start”.
So on that note, hit play and enjoy my chat with 12th Planet!
12th Planet: I’m pickin up what you’re throwin down dawg!
Cal: My name’s Cal by the way, and I run Salacious Sound… started the site a few years ago and been goin hard on it. Our biggest market is actually LA.
12th Planet: Woah, LA’s the new Toronto?
Cal: Or Toronto is the new LA.. I feel like there are a lot of similarities in the musical tastes and style right?
That’s what comes with a first rate city man, is first rate taste!
12th Planet: And snow too.. we got a lot of snow in LA heheh
Cal: I can’t believe that.. you’re ruinin’ the dream man. I’m going to escape this snow-capped land one day for California.
12th Planet: haha
Cal: So yeah, besides the candy ravers I saw at EDC though, there are a lot of similarities. The tastes and style are really similar.
12th Planet: That’s what comes with a first rate city man, is first rate taste! So Toronto’s got it, New York’s got it, LA’s got it, Chicago’s got it, Miami’s got it, Philly’s got it, Austin’s got it!
Cal: I have a question I wanted to ask you about that.. you toured a LOT this summer right?
12th Planet: Yeah!
Cal: Crazy many dates, big important shows, EDC was huge! Any highlights you wanna brag about?
12th Planet: So many great great times this summer. From the beginning, at the end of May, which I consider the beginning of the summer festival run.. this year in North America in Canada and the US especially there have been so many new festivals popping up, and so many old festivals getting the numbers they’ve been trying to get for the last five or ten years, all the EDCs, Lollapalooza, Camp Bisco, Electric Forest. All these festivals are amazing, and different, each in their own regard. My favourite this year was prolly Camp Bisco, Lolla, and EDC Las Vegas. They were all so super different! EDC was over the top, everything was so money and over the top… Bisco was GNAR! One of the most epic things I’ve ever experienced… people were going so hard! Lollapalooza, it was my first time playing, same with Camp Bisco. So those were the highlights for sure.
Cal: True! So as a follow up, how have your experiences this summer been valuable to you as an artists What have you taken away from those experiences, and what opportunities have they provided you?
12th Planet: Inspiration! You see what songs work, what kinda works, what songs don’t work on the crowd, and it really inspires you to go home and try to do things in the studio, to see what kind of reactions you can get from the crowd the next time DJ out. That’s my thing, I’m a producer right, and I spend more time making music than I do playing it, and so making the music for me is all about getting to that level where its good enough to play out, and the initial reaction from all the people that are supporting what you’re doing especially when you’re spending 17-18 hours on a song just to get it started!
Cal: Yeah I’ve really appreciated both your collabos and originals this year! Westside Dub, I put that on a mixtape of mine a month and a half ago and it did REAL well.
12th Planet: Awesome!
Cal: Not to jump away from shows.. but your tracks strike me as being a bit different from what most people typically conceive of dubstep being. That’s just to say that you use vocals in most of your tracks, like 90%! Why do you make that choice to use vocals so often?
Skrillex is a great songwriter! He can whip up a tune in like 20 minutes man, and it’s HOT. That’s when you know you’re competing at a high level..
12th Planet: Ah yeah, I mean most of the stuff I’ve been doin in the last year has been remix stuff, so the songs I’ve been choosing have had vocals, and there’s no real way around it. I toured so hard last year up until summer this year that I didn’t have time to work on original songs, and so the direction was remix work on something that already had vocals. Or I would have a song already done or a collaboration already finished and I would be in someone else’s studio and another vocalist would be there, and I would just ask them to top line write and maybe those are the ones we ended up keeping! At the same time, I’m a big music fan, not just an electronic music fan. I’m talkin about real music, like Led Zeppelin, Ice Cube, N.W.A… I just like making songs!
Cal: So you have so many amazing people to collab with in LA, Sonny being notable.. you’ve done a couple with him and his vocals are really powerful!
12th Planet: Skrillex is a great songwriter! He can whip up a tune in like 20 minutes man, and it’s HOT. That’s when you know you’re competing at a high level.. everything you do is like butter! He’s like Midas! And he can pick up any instrument too AND he’s learning how to DJ on CDJ turntables!
Cal: So Electric Zoo is comin up real soon for you right?
12th Planet: Yep, Electric Daisy Carnival next week in Puerto Rico!
Cal: Do you feel like there are differences in the cities, LA and NYC, that characterize the differences in lineups between EDC and EZ?
a long time ago there were a lot of genre distinctions…the walls got broken down, and its just about having fun, its not about what type of music it is
12th Planet: I think in a major market in North America, the trends are the same for the people who are getting booked.. there’s no real difference in the lineups. They both have the same characteristics. EDC has crazy dancers, and doo dancers, and parachutes and planes, but Electric Zoo is on an island and that’s dope! He who can affordeth it will throw the best party!
Cal: So my personal feeling is that these huge production-heavy festivals with tons of talent goin on, hours and hours, its really cool, but there’s a criticism which I think has some merit that says it’s kindof.. I hesitate to say lazy way, but its a way of watering down what it is. Instead of really selling one thing you’re trying to appeal to more people.
12th Planet: I see what you’re saying.. with that, it’s like, a long time ago there were a lot of genre distinctions. People who listened to drum and bass only listened to that, and people who listened to house only listened to house.. same with trance. These promoters would capitalize on that by booking these big acts in each one of those genres in their own little area, and give some areas more attention than others. Now the kid who listens to trance probably listens to Skrillex and has a 12th Planet tune, and listen to Wiz Khalifa and Metallica, and has a such diverse taste now.. it’s cool. So I think it’s the natural evolution – the walls got broken down, and its just about having fun, its not about what type of music it is… vibing out and partying, and forgetting about the fact that the economy is SHIT!
Cal: Ok I have something semi-related. It’s a term that’s thrown around, its derogatory.. I personally REALLY don’t like it. Bro-step. You’ve heard it, bro-step this and that. What do you think of people who throw that around. Is bro-step even a thing?
12th Planet: It’s the closest description to what the sound of dubstep IS right now, in my opinion.. I don’t like the term but it pretty much states the fact of the situation at hand. What people call dubstep now isn’t what I would have considered dubstep.. you played this stuff 5 years ago to me and called it dubstep and I would have laughed in your face. It sounds more like heavy drum and bass from 5 years ago at a different tempo, and that’s kind of the difference. If you listen to people like Horsepower, Artwork, Zed Bias, Scuba, it really sounds nothing like what it is today. So for lack of a better term, if you wanna classify it as bro-step fine. Just don’t put it on a flyer classifying me as a bro-step guy! I think it needs a new name to be honest, to classify.. it’s a whole different beast!
Cal: Ok, so last question is about music promotion, and music blogging specifically. I think it’s fair to say things are gonna be shaken up in the States. The policy environment is changing towards music blogging and streaming music and especially music downloads. As an artist, if you had to make three rules that every music blogger had to follow, what would they be?
it actually makes it harder to get your tracks in the hands of someone well respected, to get them to play it, because if its on the internet its not special anymore, and so why would they play it
12th Planet: Rule #1, ask the artist if you can leak the stuff, or someone from it. Like hey, can we stream this youtube link that we found? I guess there’s no stopping it, but in a theoretical world if the artist doesn’t want his stuff out there it shouldn’t be out there.
Cal: So do you make a distinction between streaming and downloading?
12th Planet: That’s a tough one.. my thing is I come from a drum and bass background, and it takes a really long time to get the respect of the artist as a DJ to play their music out live. It takes you making really good music, and you getting other people songs before other people get them – dubplates right? That’s huge in the culture of being a producer and a DJ. That’s where the most fun is. That’s what establishes the hierarchy. So when people leak artists’ songs, it throws off the structure of how music is made and released. When Joe Schmoe has the same tunes as Rusko, what’s the difference between them? Someone who doesn’t know that is gonna think that guy’s like Rusko. That’s where leaking is bad.
Cal: That’s an interesting nuance.. people focus on the argument that if it gets leaked sales are gonna go down, which…
12th Planet: That’s not true.
Cal: Yeah, that aside, I mean we’ve both seen the research that says that’s not true. But so what you’re saying is that it actually makes it harder to get your tracks in the hands of someone well respected, to get them to play it, because if its on the internet its not special anymore, and so why would they play it.
12th Planet: Exactly! Even myself, I’m a victim of the same argument. If it’s not an anthem I am gonna play the most cutting edge shit I can get my hands on. I got the brand new Skrillex, 16 bit, 12th Planet, brand new Doctor P, brand new Flux Pavilion.. everything you’re hearing is brand new from these people, and that’s why I get booked at a party some times because people wanna hear that new shit! So what makes me different from Joe Schmoe if he’s got the same tunes. So the last rule would be take it down if the artist asks you to. Please!
Cal: Quick follow up – do you think there’s a role something like a Soundcloud can play in mediating this?
12th Planet: Yes! That’s another thing I wanted to bring up. I love Soundcloud, and I think the artist should be collecting the analytics. The blog is the source of news and the artist gets the credit, so if it a track gets a million plays then the artist gets the credit. The blog is like a news feed where people can find out what’s the new hot shit, but when it becomes a place where you’re passing out mp3s for download then it becomes no different from the pirate sites. It’s bad for the economy right, but that’s how it is.. Napster set the world on fire. That was a genius move!
Cal: We’ve come a long way!
12th Planet: If it were up to me and I could make money, I’d give away my music for free. I’d rather people hear my music rather than not hear it because they can’t afford it. I make music because I want the whole world to hear it, not because I want them to buy it!
Cal: Awesome man, and a great place to end. I can’t wait to see you at Electric Zoo! I’ll come say hello when I’m there! Have a great time in the Caribbean at Electric Daisy Carnival!
12th Planet: See you at Electric Zoo! Come say hi man!