(Original Photo By: Kaitlin Parry)
It seems as though the dance music industry is in a constant state of evolution. In terms of rising to the top, it’s no longer just about what records you spin, but also the overall experience you create for your fans. Stage presence, as well as “drops” have become almost a requirement, and an important factor in how the crowd judges a musician’s performances. Despite this, for LA-based DJ duo, LA Riots, dance music is not about being in a popularity contest, it’s just about creating good, timeless music.
Daniel Linton, ½ of LA Riots, shared some of the successes and struggles of trying to solely focus on diversifying his sound over the years, and how keeping away from the “putting on a show” mentality is a struggle in itself.
His career first blossomed with the help of his close friend, Steve Aoki…who despite their friendship was first skeptical of Linton’s musical abilities.
“Steve had Dim Mak…I asked Aoki one day if I could do a remix. I don’t think he expected much from it, I actually know he didn’t. We turned it in to him around the beginning of April, and as it turned out, Steve loved it…so he was like, ‘okay cool, what do we call you guys?’ And in all honesty, we didn’t think that far ahead.”
Unlike most aspiring DJs nowadays, it was never Linton’s deliberate intention to start a music group right off the bat. Lucky for him, his new and rebellious sound could not be ignored, leading Linton to conceive LA Riots.
“We didn’t just think ‘oh! Let’s start a DJ group,’ and try and get some remixes. No, we had a remix, and THEN had to figure out a name because of it. We had until the end of April to come up with a name, and we couldn’t decide on anything. So April 29th came around, and it was the 15-year anniversary of the LA Riots. We live in LA, so it was all over the news. Honestly from there we just went with the name.”
Although unsure of how others would react, the name stuck. And with 10 years of mixing and melding genres such as techno, house, and drum n’ bass under his belt, Linton has still managed to separate himself from others in the scene by maintaining his underground credibility, even while remixing world-renowned artists such as Weezer, Lady Gaga, Tiësto, Justice, and Sidney Samson.
After years of building up his musical career, Linton has expressed his concerns and personal struggles with fitting into the new and emerging aspects of showmanship expected from DJs.
“When we first started out I thought it was bad, but I feel as though it’s only gotten worse…like you have to go as far as lighting yourself on fire to gain people’s attention. It’s really hard for me as a DJ to wrap my head around the fact that you have to put on an actual “show.” Coming from a drum n’ bass background where DJing was taken very seriously, this new idea of being the center of attention is not a part of the art…it’s just a spectacle now.”
Despite the rising flamboyant showmanship in the DJ world, Linton does not have many fears for LA Riots’ future other than being labeled a “sell out” by fans through his progress and experimentation.
“The music that we made when we first started out, as opposed to where we are now, we’ve progressed, and we’ve never stayed still. It’s unfortunate because you lose and alienate fans along the way. They tell us we’re selling out, especially after our last record, which was different from anything we’ve ever made. But dude…we started LA Riots 10 years ago. We’re not going to make the same retro sound that we did at the onset of our career. We’re progressing as artists and people. We draw inspiration from so many different places now, and trends catch on so quickly and spread. I’m not trying to say it’s about switching genres or trend jumping, but I just want to create music that makes me happy. I’m not going to make a trap tune just because trap is ‘hot right now.’ I would make a track because I actually enjoy that style of music.“
Linton explains how fan interaction has had an impact on him, and impacts elements of his music.
“It’s crazy because I’ve seen the transition. DJs are now the ones with millions of followers. We’re not these huge rock star people, you know? We’re just DJs, and we as people are a lot more approachable nowadays. We’re constantly talking to people. Unlike before, everybody now knows what we look like; there is an approachable mentality. DJs have a personality now. I interact so much more with the fans, and it’s people who are genuinely interested in our music. It’s just crazy.”
Linton hopes to inspire others in the music industry by encouraging them to not give up, and to not be afraid of taking the next step in exploring different genres of music. Linton wants others to feel confident making music on their own, and be able to draw inspiration from his productions.
“At the end of the day I just want to make good, timeless music. I felt like the tracks we made before had a short shelf life, and we don’t want that. We were making disposable tunes so we took a step back and started working on different projects, and it’s starting to pay off. I just want to make music that has longevity, that isn’t going to be irrelevant in a short amount of time.”