Dim Mak Records Prepares For Biggest Year Yet [Interview]
Los Angeles-based independent record label Dim Mak has proved to be one of the premier electronic outlets of the forthcoming year. Steve Aoki’s label serves as a multi-dimensional electronic music imprint with a strong family structure and an undying will to achieve greatness “by any means necessary.” Founded back in 1996 at the University of California at Santa Barbara, Dim Mak Records manifests one of the most diverse and cutting edge rosters in the current dance music scene. Since the genesis of the record label, Aoki and affiliates have revolutionized Dim Mak as the label has transformed from indie rock to retro-electro to vibey house music.
Due to the imprint’s deep-rooted evolution and the crew’s unbending motivation, Dim Mak Records is a hard-hitting force of good music, positive vibes, and unrivaled determination. During Miami Music Week 2015, EDM.com got a chance to sit down with SBCR, Benny Benassi, Ookay, AutoErotique, and Uberjak’d at the Dim Mak Miami Mixer to talk about the dynamic of the label, current releases, and what to expect in 2015.
Kicking things off with Sir Bob Cornelius Rifo, better known as SBCR from The Bloody Beetroots, EDM.com got a moment to talk about what he has planned as a solo act. SBCR discussed his new series, his latest album, the current state of EDM, and more.
EDM: Congratulations on the first installment of your SBCR & Friends series. How did this come about and what do you have planned in the future?
SBCR: OK so, SBCR, it’s all about club music and I’m trying to reconnect with my fans. I wanted to open my model to the current generation, that’s why I started doing SBCR. The plan is to release three EPs this year, all in between June and October through Dim Mak Records. That’s pretty much all we do. We talk about music, we make music as we are, with no paranoia.
EDM: Your one-hour takeover on the Dim Mak Twitch channel revealed the official music video for “The Grid.” What is the story behind the music video?
SBCR: That was awesome. With “The Grid,” we wanted to do something violent and dark because that’s what we like to do. You’ll see the result is pretty amazing.
EDM: What kind of reaction were you expecting with your new album, you said earlier you are in the process of reconnecting with your fans?
SBCR: Well, I don’t expect any reaction actually. I just want them to enjoy this new wave of SBCR music. It’s all about passion and fun and good music, as I told you there is no paranoia here. We just want to make music all together, with my friends as well, and try to dance with music – that’s all we want to do. We have no expectations not to do crazy shit. We just want to show passion with this and make people go crazy on the dance floor.
EDM: With the current state of EDM, do you believe that electronic music is the rock n roll of our generation?
SBCR: I think so. It’s moving so many people altogether under the same roof. I really believe electronic dance music is a revolution. I started back in 2005 and we didn’t know where this thing was going to and now we clearly see that all of this is taking over the fucking world.
EDM: Why did you decide to continue the mask trend with your SBCR alias from The Bloody Beetroots?
SBCR: The mask, well it’s pretty simple. It’s a catalyst. I want to draw your attention and to make my music known. It was a small project but now it’s bigger and the mask probably doesn’t make that much sense anymore but it is still my catalyst. I might tweak it a little bit and change it.
EDM: Lastly, as a long-time Dim Mak family member with The Bloody Beetroots as well as SBCR, what does Dim Mak mean to you and how has it affected your career?
SBCR: Dim Mak is family. Man, me and Steve, we’ve been friends since forever. It’s a family deal.
Following SBCR is the dance music legend Benny Benassi. Although this longtime producer is forever engraved with timeless tracks like “Satisfaction,” Benassi is still ripping apart the dance floors with four-on-the-floor bangers and addictive vocals. Benassi spoke with us concerning his latest releases, classic EDM hits, as well as his approach to producing music now versus the earlier days in the scene.
EDM: Let’s start off with your earlier sounds. How do you feel your earlier material compares to the music you’re putting out more recently?
Benassi: I think the story has always been the same production wise. With a good bassline and a good kick and maybe some compressor, the story for now hasn’t changed. If we’re talking about electro with four-on-the-floor kicking, maybe a little differently with the drum n bass and other stuff. It’s like you’re in the kitchen and you have to decide what you want to mix together in order to achieve a certain taste, yet the process is still the same. It’s not that easy because when you create something like “Satisfaction,” it has a strange sound but kind of a mash of pop, you know. So it’s almost lucky when something like that is the result, it’s difficult to say you’re going to produce a track exactly like another.
EDM: Speaking of older music, what is your favorite classic song to throw in your sets?
Benassi: A classic song for me is something like Daft Punk, like “Around The World.” You can play it in the club or at a music festival and it’ll work well. “Stardust” is classic house music. Really anything from that album would be a good throwback.
EDM: Can you tell us about any upcoming collaborations or releases in the works? Are there any pop vocalists you would like to work with in the future?
Benassi: Big collaborations…. But can't tell anything more at the moment! I’m reaching out to different artists, like working with Bono from U2 would be a dream come true. I’m a huge fan.
EDM: Your latest releases “I Wanna Be Disco” with Chicco Secci and “Aphrodisiak” with Chris Nasty carry different styles. Can you explain where you’re heading with your developed sounds?
Benassi: It’s hard for me to say. I just absorb what’s going on around me and I guess it gets processed somehow and influences the music we make.
EDM: Do you prefer a festival performance or club show with the current EDM scene?
Benassi: Now I prefer to play in the club. I love music festivals because it is an experience, but I think sometimes, the festival is better if you’re a fan. If you’re a fan, it’s amazing. If you go as an artist, you can only play for an hour or maybe even 45 minutes, and you have to share the booth with other DJs who are playing the same music. Sometimes I prefer playing two and a half hours in the club so I can actually connect with people. With the festival you get a great experience with the food and you can meet a lot of people, but it’s not just about the music.
EDM: What was it like being on Mad Decent Boat Party alongside the trap and bass music heavy lineup?
Benassi: For me, it was difficult. I loved the party on the boat because it was crazy. You could go to the buffet with the fans, it was amazing. With the music, for me, it was a little bit difficult because I play four-on-the-floor. But I love Diplo, he’s the man. He plays a lot of different stuff. Boat party was one of the biggest experiences of my career. Everyone on the boat was just listening to good music together.
EDM: Lastly, in an interview with Forbes back in 2012, they asked you where you imagined yourself five years from then, and you said “hey! I can’t imagine where I’ll be in five months! Maybe in five years I’ll be a gardener or selling bikes.” Looking back now, how would you answer this question?
Benassi: Looking back at that question now, I would have to give the same response. Like I said earlier, nothing has changed with the process, I still approach everything the same way, there’s just different influences out there.
Due to the exceptionally hilarious character that is Ookay, the trap lord x pizza lover x Internet guru sat down with us for a few moments to discuss his new track “Echo,” his extreme infatuation for pizza, and his hilarious social media presence that we have all come to love.
EDM: How was touring with Borgore these past few months?
Ookay: Oh man, that was incredible. We pretty much sold out every show and it was wild from the beginning to end. Everyone got along, the entire team from the production to the merch to the dancers. Everyone that was apart of the bus was just great people. We got to do a lot of sight-seeing and a lot of rock climbing. Rock climbing was really big on this tour.
EDM: Do you have any crazy stories?
Ookay: Actually you know what, we were really well behaved. Well, we did get really drunk sometimes, I think I blacked out maybe three or four times. We probably had some crazy times I just don’t remember them. We would all get back to the bus and we would have FIFA competitions all night until like six in the morning and have Spotify jam sessions. We were also sponsored by Jäger so we were just taking it down. We had a bunch of crazy nights on stage with dancers twerking and people from the crowd came up on stage. It was just a blob of hectic. People were throwing up on stage, it was funny.
EDM: You just released a new track “Echo” with Scott Sinjin at the end of March. What’s the story behind this song?
Ookay: I’m pretty excited about it. It’s my first time working with vocals and that’s the kind of world I want to explore more so I think this is a good introduction to that. Way different from my Ghost EP, which was exactly what I wanted. I don’t wanna be making the same stuff over and over again. I really wanted to push the boundaries like I’ve been saying. I wanna keep progressing and try new things so I feel like this is a new step for me. I’m really excited with how it came out, I’ve had a lot of people supporting it. A lot of my trap fans aren’t happy but I’m a music lover not just a trap lover. Scott and I got introduced through Bad Robot, so it was an honor for me to get to meet him. We just sat down in the studio and stuff started to click and we were like we’re making some progress. The last thing we needed was a singer, so we went through Dim Mak and got us Maribelle, who’s an amazingly talented singer from Australia.
EDM: We’re gonna switch up the gears a little bit. You are a pizza connoisseur, a pizza king, there’s a plethora of ways you could describe your infatuation with pizza. Is that your favorite food out there?
Ookay: It’s definitely in my top three, that’s for sure. But you know, doctors do not recommend eating a slice of pizza every day.
EDM: Round or rectangle?
Ookay: If we’re talking about slices, then rectangle because it’s way easier to bite. But if you’re talking about the overall shape of the pizza then I’m gonna have to go with circle.
EDM: Brooklyn style or thin?
Ookay: I like thin crust, I’m not too much of a bread lover. Plus I’m trying to work on my festival body. Carbs are amazing but cheezus Christ I gotta keep it down.
EDM: Whats the most interesting pizza you’ve ever eaten?
Ookay: I had a calamari pizza once. I think that’s the most different kind of pizza I've tried. I haven’t tried anything psychopathic.
EDM: What is the maximum amount of pizza you’ve eaten in a single sitting?
Ookay: Oh shit. Well I had one of those Costco pizzas that are on steroids. That’s a big ass pizza. I think I maybe had two and half slices of those combo pizzas.
EDM: Your meme game is super strong. Where do you discover all these great memes and vines?
Ookay: I have a lot of time in the airport, so that’s where the best Twitter and Vine Ookay comes out. I will spend countless time searching the Internet. Bathroom time equals vine time. I just go deep Internet, you know? I used to go on Fortune a lot, and Reddit. Everyday life, like I’ll see stuff all the time like the goofiest people and I’ll be like oh my god I need to tweet this.
EDM: And how do you feel your social media interaction has helped with your career?
Ookay: With a lot of the younger kids, they are always on their phones using Twitter, Facebook, Vine, Instagram, Snapchat. For me, I feel a lot of support. That’s where a lot of the communication between DJs happen. We’re all friends and we’re on the road. During Miami and other festivals that are coming up, it’s like lunch break where you get to sit down with everyone and catch up. Interacting with fans and they can get into the conversations with DJs. My fans, in general, I’m gonna brag about my fans. They’re fast, they’re quick, they’re hilarious. They’ll have me dying half the time because people are sending me pictures of myself and coming up with the funniest shit. It’s incredible. The Ookay squad is growing.
Hailing from the land down under, Uberjak’d plans on making 2015 his year to spread the sounds of the Australian dance music scene with a little bit of a twist. With numerous collaborations from producers around the globe, Uberjak’d lives and breathes Dim Mak’s desire for diversity.
EDM: Let’s talk about your upcoming tour. Coming from the Australian club scene, where do you plan on taking your hybrid sounds?
Uberjak’d: I just announced a tour through Dim Mak, its called Uberjak’d And Mates. It’s me partying with a bunch of my friends and we’re bringing it all around the world. We’re starting off in Canada, we just did a couple dates over there. We’re in Miami at the moment, but then we’re going back to Canada, and then touring through the US, coming back through Asia, and ending back in Australia. We’ve got Reece Low, JaySounds, and Savage on tour, and I’m so excited to bring the sound and everything together. Being with your friends is what the party should be all about.
EDM: How does the Australian dance music scene differ from the American dance music scene, in your opinion?
Uberjak’d: Everywhere in the world has a certain sound that’s popular, but I think in Australia as a whole is very forward thinking, people are always looking forward to the next thing. When you’re on the other side of the world, you have to be different in order for people to want to hear your music. The Australian sound, it’s more of just a mentality of being innovative in music.
EDM: Where do you get your influences from?
Uberjak’d: In the early day, I started listening to a bunch of drum and bass, like Prodigy. Pretty heavy electronica and drum and bass. Somehow, I got on the tip of this house music thing, the first track I heard was “Put Your Hands Up For Detroit” by Fedde Le Grand, and I heard this tune and was like 'woah this is awesome.' I had heard dance music before but when I heard this I was like fuck what is this? I did a little research and that was the original spark for me to get into DJing. One thing lead to another. You gotta be influenced by what inspires you, from anything. You can draw influence from culture, what people want to experience and turning it into a musical interpretation.
EDM: Your latest release “BTLR” with Reece Low is a hybrid of Melbourne and electro. How did you go about producing this track?
Uberjak’d: Yeah so with that tune, Reece and I have a little bit of history. It was back three or four years ago, I was just a resident DJ in my hometown Adelaide. He was the first dude that got me a gig in the states. We had known each other for a long time and have been working together without making any music. So we got together and made this, and you can definitely see the influence from more of the harder edge of electro. He influenced me with the bounce sound as well. It's heavy, it’s got lots of energy, and its great for Dim Mak because the label is all about energy and being different.
EDM: The Ubercast series just reached its 18th episode. Where do you see this podcast going in the future and how did it begin?
Uberjak’d: I love DJing, and I love playing new music that would spark peoples minds. I think I started that like two years ago, just randomly starting a podcast like a mixed tape. So I took it to the 21st century with the podcast. Its about new music. Its not genre constricting but its geared towards what I’m into at the moment. I wanna deliver something different and fresh with the Ubercast. A lot of people don’t want to cross over with the Melbourne bounce sound. The guys that are doing it are their own separate world. The interesting thing about it is taking it and mixing it with deep house, electro, trance, trap, and that’s the kind of music that I love where you can’t pinpoint the genre you’re listening to.
EDM: Lastly, what are your future plans with the Dim Mak label?
Uberjak’d: So I’ve got the rest of the EP coming out on Dim Mak. There’s a collaboration with these guys from Jerusalem, Ruby & Tony, it's called “Hit Me.” I’ve got one called “Smokin” with Danny David, a 16-year-old kid from Israel. There’s this other one with a guy called Huarache Bass from Australia. This EP is definitely different. It has that Melbourne bounce style but pushing it to where you wouldn’t think it would go. It’s not defined by a genre.
Finally, EDM.com spoke with an A&R of Dim Mak, AutoErotique, who is pushing the boundaries with genres both behind the turntables and within the label’s roster entirely. AutoErotique explains to us the difference in music the label is putting out as well as the strong family structure within the imprint.
EDM: Speaking as both an artist of the Dim Mak imprint and the A&R, what has the rise of Dim Mak been like from your perspective?
Auto: It’s been two-fold. The initial image that the label had when I came onboard was sort of negative but there was animosity towards it from certain labels in the same realm. Now I feel like we’ve never been more diverse and stronger as a team, both inside and out. As a crew, as a family, as artists, and employees. The unity we have between Dim Mak has allowed us to block all the negativity and stay more positive about everything. Music speaks for itself. We’ve put out more diverse artists and more “good music” than I think we have in the past, probably three or four years. It's been a complete turnaround. It’s been a welcoming change, for myself, for Steve, and for anyone who’s been on board for as long as we have. We look out for each other, because we’re more family orientated.
EDM: What do you see coming from the label over 2015?
Auto: A lot more house music. A lot more retro electro, 2009 and 2010 wobbly stuff like Wuki and Ghastly type stuff. I don’t like the word futuristic, it’s like a renaissance and a revival of the 2007 fidget, wobble house. Having it come back and to be considered future is funny for me because it's just retro-electro. You’re seeing guys like Crookers just dominating right now with their different sounds.
EDM: In your opinion, who are a few Dim Mak artists to keep an eye on this year?
Auto: For me, Shaun Frank is gonna be a fun one. He’s done a lot of really cool house stuff, he just did something with Borgeous. I’m not typically a fan of that big room sound but what they did together was really good for both of them. He’s returned to Dim Mak and he’s doing a couple follow up tracks with us, its great. The Ghastly track “Every Night” via New Noise opened up a lot of eyes from artists who weren’t paying attention to Dim Mak previously. You’ve got that underground house scene coming to us.
EDM: How would you describe the impact of your 2011 track “Turn Up The Volume” on Dim Mak Records?
Auto: “Turn Up The Volume” is great, not many people know it’s how Steve started throwing cakes. It opened up a lot of doors for people who are doing what was called “complextro” but we did more of a sample bass traditional electro vibe to it. It wasn’t as complex as what a lot producers were doing at the time like Porter Robinson or Wolfgang Gartner. We approached it with more of a hybrid electro house beginning followed by a choppy wobbly second drop. It definitely carved a way for people to be adventurous with that stuff, but its just apart of the natural progression for people to search for what’s coming up next.
EDM: With your latest release “Flyaway,” it appears you are changing up your sound. What genres are driving you to produce a different style?
Auto: I think we are just going back to our origins. What I think encapsulates AutoErotique as a whole. That retro-electro sound with a little more of an updated twist, you could say. It is more techy, housey, and vibey. I’m just tired of the typical big room, four on the floor bangers that have no emotion to them. I want to put a little bit more heart into my music.
EDM: With this new style in mind, who are some artists you would like to collaborate with in the future?
Auto: I mean Maceo Plex would be a dream come true. Galantis is also really, really cool. I’m always saying Armand van Helden would be sick because of that old-school type stuff. Working with A-Trak would be fun too obviously. Just fun, groovy house, honestly.
EDM: Lastly, I saw that Oscar Wylde tweeted at you yesterday talking about three new tracks of yours. Can you tell us anything about these mysterious songs?
Auto: Caked Up has a torn image with their persona as DJs in the production community but if you look at them from behind the scenes they are truly talented guys. While they do have this crazy wild party side, they are really genuine guys who make good music and they are talented. The future they have in store for their career is more diverse than anything we’ve heard from them so far. I have really high hopes and expectations for what they have coming next.
All in all, the Dim Mak family has big plans in store for the upcoming year. With a ton of tracks set to be released and a blend of sounds the electronic dance music community has yet to hear, Dim Mak Records will only continue to push the boundaries and have fun with dance music. The innovative mindset behind Dim Mak will help the label reach new heights and exceed genre-ridden boundaries.
Cover photo via NoisePorn