Passion. For many it is just a word-turned-prop to bandied about late-nights in smoke-filled drawing rooms by young Turks, thugs, cheapjacks, hapless philistines and those of the Oprah-loving persuasion. For me, it is different. It is a way of life. But you don ‘t have to be an investigative journalist to figure out that there is a distinct breed of people out there who feel the same way I do. Who live by the smoldering sword of… passion. Such individuals nurture deep, driving interests. Interests that, somewhere along the line, become a necessary artery in the participant’s “lifeworld.” Lifeworld. I made that up. It sits nicely alongside passion and whispers of tender introspective blended with a macro-sensibility that hints Zen, sustainability and hairy armpits on women. I’ll call my agent at Hallmark; I think we’ve got a friendship card in the making.
Much of my life has been the pursuit of finding these universal ways to manipulate emotion through song. Its a challenge, but Im getting closer.
But enough blather. And that’s what that was. I was about to tell you that Morgan Page, Grammy-nominated pedigreed DJ, and I having something in common, we share a passion. Ours is for BBQing. We both have many more, of course, but this is the one we have in common—and we discovered this last weekend at Lady J. Weston’s Outdoor Gourmet Cooking Class and Certification Program in Santa Monica. It is an exclusive class with a wait list three miles long, but I was working for National Geographic and they were picking up the tab. As the luck fairy waved its wand Morgan and I were Bastin’ –n- Grillin’ partners. I knew who he was off the bat—he’s what we writers call a media darling. And my girlfriend had commented on how handsome he was at the Grammys. My EX-girlfriend. Yes. I remember.
I used it until I stuck a Popsicle between the keys and it melted.
Anywaywhooo… we got to talking about grillin’. Beef versus chicken? Coal or butane? The versatile salmon versus the finicky cod? Is there anything vegetarian that’s worth dirtying your tongs? Heady questions, and we found that we often took the same line. All of this led back the guesthouse off Fairfax Avenue where I am currently domiciled. Beer and would you believe it, brats? Done right. Inevitably my journalistic sensibilities took over and he fell into the comfortable role of the interviewee. So, dear readers, what follows is our banter, verbatim for your perusal. So grab a cold Bud and a steak, mosey on out to the patio, throw a shrimp on the bar bee and read on.
Who is Morgan Page? Really?*
New music is the lifeblood of my work, so I am constantly searching for new songs. I know what I like pretty immediately. Songs that have dramatic emotional reactions turn me on. I'm not a big fan of subtlety anymore. If it doesn't give you goose bumps, what's the point? Much of my life has been the pursuit of finding these universal ways to manipulate emotion through song. It's a challenge, but I'm getting closer.
I start each day with a nearly toxic level of caffeine via my French press, and a heaping portion of egg whites. If you don't have an amazing breakfast, it's much harder to have an amazing day. Caffeine helps the creative process. I don't really cook, but will occasionally barbecue. My drink of choice for shows are Red Bull vodkas—if I don't have this, the show feels off. My new house is surrounded by grapefruit and lemon trees, and there's a nice backyard in the canyon—so I like to hang out, do a bit of gardening, and decompress when I get home from the weekends shows.
I spend a lot of time running the fire roads and hills in Los Angeles—this is crucial to staying balanced, grounded, and healthy.
Music. Why. How?
I'm not tall but I have larger hands, so those helped when I took piano lessons. I wasn't born from a musical family, but I do think I was born with a bit of ambition in my blood that forces me to keep moving. I hate being idle. You acquire real skill and talent through time and dedication—10,000 hours as Malcolm Gladwell talks about.
A fulcrum point for your philosophy?
The day I auditioned for a radio show in high school changed everything. I'm not sure what I would be doing for a living if I didn't take that risk of failure.
Influences. Indicudual? Era?
The era of NOW inspires me. A lot of people like to look back and get romantic about old music, but we are living in a truly historic time for electronic music. It's time to appreciate the present and combine new sounds that inspire the future.
In the realm of the musician, nature versus nurture? Go.
My music focuses on quality songwriting, chord progressions and arpeggios that move you, and beats that propel everything forward. The vocal is king, and it's typically the center of everything I do. I don't just slap a vocal on an instrumental. I start with an instrumental draft, record the vocal, and often rebuild everything around it. Deadmau5 brought melody back to electronic music and pushed a lot of producers to take it to the next level. The music should be fun, not just created to be cool. My approach is always to serve the song.
I do a draft a day, shop those to vocalists who I think are a good fit, track a rough version, build around the new vocals, and then whittle away until I can't remove anything more. That's when it's done (and also when my gut tells me). The environment has to be quiet with no distractions. No phone calls, no pets, no neighbors. I will push vocalists but never break their spirit. You can't force anything. My setup is a hybrid of analog and digital. I use Pro Tools and some outboard analog gear for vocals, but I primarily use soft synths and the occasional analog keyboard for warmth.
I want to develop your sound as cologne. What do you want?
It would have to be something giddy that is a mix of happy and melancholy with a touch of endorphins. That's what I like to go for with my chord progressions and lead melodies.
“Jubilant Survival?” Call Calvin Klein. No. Then we’d need a one-word title. Hm. Ebullience. Yep. “Soft-scented sentimentalism for people who love Thesauruses.” Ok writer humor is good for no one and nobody.
I’m writing a book of Great Quotations from Great Human Beans. A contribution? Please kill me with a potato if I ever use that homophone for being again.
Sure. I firmly believe that you achieve success by how you handle failure. This determines everything.
First favorite instrument?
My Casio SK-1, which apparently everyone had as a kid. It had a built in sampler, so I would sample myself belching and make songs out of that. I used it until I stuck a Popsicle between the keys and it melted. That was the end of my Casio keyboard.
What are some mainstream beliefs you feel might be a little off the mark?
I think right now college is not worth $40k a year. People should still go to school, but invest more in themselves and their ideas rather than bloated institutions. A lot of people feel entitled to a job, but you really need to carve your own path—even if you aren't running your own company.
Gaze into your crystal ball. What’s the next tectonic shift in the world of music?”
The advent of streaming and faster mobile wireless connections will move us away from files and to a better user experience where the content can be controlled and used to share and account for music in better ways. I'm excited for it.
But you just can’t hide it. If you lose control…
...you think you’ll like it?
Yep. Obscure Pointer Sisters allusion, there. Maybe not so obscure. Let’s find out. A signed copy of this interview to the first reader who emails me the name of that song. Got any travel stories which would make me blanche? Or drink more of that beer?*
Top two scariest moments: 1) Almost getting eaten by a mountain lion in Yosemite National Park while camping in the wilderness 2) Having a gun held against me in Brazil, while on tour.
If you couldn’t work in music, what other career would you have?
Something in travel or photography
I would be a professional BBQer.
Morgan Page, Sultan, Ned Shepard & BT "In The Air" (Nettwerk)
Florence & The Machine "You've Got The Love" (Mark Knight remix) (Toolroom)
Fedde Le Grand "Metrum" (Toolroom)
Felguk "Blow Out" (Dongle Records)
Quintino "Raider" (Wall)
Avicii "Sweet Dreams" (Gregori Klosman Remix) (Joia)
Pryda "With Me" (Pryda)
Swedish House Mafia "Save The World" (Alesso Remix) (EMI UK)
Nicky Romero "Keyword" (Spinnin)
Bella "Nobody Loves Me" (Hardwell remix) (Ultra)
Pryda "Mirage" (Pryda)
EDX "Angry Heart" (Sirup Music)