INTERVIEW // LA Riots :: Coachella, The Compound and the Real L.A. Riots

During one of UFO’s busiest weekends ever, we were humbled by our encounter with Daniel LeDisko of LA Riots fame, who was still cooling his guns after two Coachella weekends and ready to spend his last bit of energy on Beta Night Club.

The show was a wild one.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen the cold air jets shoot that many times in a single night; by the eighth or ninth it almost seemed cruel.  His set showed no mercy or remorse, but Daniel himself, on the other hand, is incredibly pleasant to be around.  As you are about to find out, he is right at the vortex of EDM by several definitions, and we took our respect level up a few notches after the following conversation and anxiously await our next chance to see him spin (spoiler alert: unreleased tracks are all over his live sets).

So what’s good Daniel?  How is life?
I’ve been good!  Just been on the road a little bit.  I get to go home tomorrow so I’m super stoked – just for a few days, but yeah.  Just played Coachella yesterday and last week, and then a pool party earlier today, and now I’m here.

How was Coachella?
Really good, REALLY really good.  Last week the weather was weird.  It was really cold, but for my set it was perfect; on a dime, it went from being awesome to just being frigid.  Then this week it was the total opposite, 107 and really, really, really toasty.  But man, I played second, I played at 12:15, and there was a band on before me named Mea – I don’t want to say they were bad but they didn’t really have a crowd, maybe 100 people both weekends.

Probably wasn’t the best warm-up for you.
Yeah, and it’s weird because it’s the dance tent, and it’s a band.  Nothing against them, I think it was maybe bad placement, but they really should have had a DJ open up the dance tent, honestly.

If you could have had a pick…?
I don’t know, actually, because there’s nobody that I’d want to be like “[scoffs] Okay, YOU’RE playing first.”

…but they had no problem putting me second.  [Laughs]  No, it was good.  Both weekends, in that fifteen minutes where they had to strike the live stuff and put up all the DJ stuff, the Sahara Tent – I don’t know how many thousand people it holds, but it’s huge – that tent in that fifteen minutes got more than three-quarters full, and two songs into my set it was completely rammed, both weekends.  And they stayed!  So it was good.

Oh, and what’s crazy, the first weekend I had no idea.  I’m backstage, y’know, and I walk up [pulls out iPhone to show pictures] and I had no idea there was an LED wall in front of me, I basically just saw the one behind me and that’s my view.  I was just up there Fred Flintstone-ing it, y’know?

[Flips through pictures] This is two songs into it last week.  And, uh… this was this week, two songs into it [tent is packed].

That was something I really liked about that tent, they had the LED screens going all the way across the top, too.
Yeah, there were four of those.  See, this is my view, and I don’t see any of THAT.  That’s this huge wall, and basically THIS is the setup when the band was on.  That’s Afrojack on the same stage, there’s lights all the way on the back here and everything, it’s just crazy.  And like I said, the first weekend I had no idea, I’m just up there playing what I play, not really paying attention to that.  There were cameras, they had amazing camera-work too, it would be on my hands when I mix and then they would show regular shots of me standing up there.  I thought that was really cool, but like I said I had no idea.  People were telling me afterwards and then I was seeing video and stuff, and just thinking “Whoa, maybe I shouldn’t have been picking my nose.”

So I know you have a huge following in L.A., but did you think the audience at Coachella crowd was different than the fans you see around town?
No, I don’t think so.  I think people came from pretty much all over, but once you get into a situation where you’re playing in front of that many people, it’s all the same I think.  Just mob mentality, people go crazy when there’s that many of them.

I get asked a lot in interviews “What’s the most memorable set you’ve played?” and I always struggle because there’s so many.  But now it’s clear to me.  Basically, I built the dance stage at Coachella: it went me, and then R3hab, then Breakbot; I think SebastiAn went after him, and then, uh… yeah, Feed Me, Madeon, Afrojack, and then Datsik, that was yesterday’s lineup.  I kicked that tent off.

And it kind of sucks, because I play a lot of festivals and I’m usually billed in the middle of the road.  I’m either playing the sunset set, or if it’s an event that starts at night I’m usually playing in the middle of the night, y’know?  Definitely not headlining any of those big stages.  But for this, Coachella was right down the street from my house, I’m billed low on the flyer, AND I’m opening.  I was just like, dude, this is the suck right now.

But every time I went up there, it was obvious that people had come for dance music and arguably to hear me at that point.  People were getting there hella early.  That’s very California, “hella.”  I think that’s the first time I’ve ever said that.  Please note that.  [Laughs] I don’t walk around saying “hella.”

There’s a lot of progressive house on your SoundCloud lately, between your remixes of Lana Del Ray and Manufactured Superstars, your collab with MAKJ and the Pacha podcast from months ago.  But after all of that, there’s a Coachella mix from 2008 you guys did and it’s pretty straightforward electro.  Now granted, that’s what was big in 2008 – but do you think that indicates the musical distance you’ve traveled since then, or can you otherwise explain that difference?
Yeah, it’s really funny, because that year the LA Times approached me to do a mix for the 2008 Coachella, and they asked if I would do a mix featuring artists that were playing Coachella that year.  So at that point, that was the sound of indie bands and stuff like that being remixed.  The Afrojack’s and Guetta’s, they weren’t doing that, or the Tiësto’s – they were sticking to their peers, kind of.  So the SebastiAns, and the Kavinsky’s, and the A-Trak’s and Boys Noize and people like that, they were focusing on more of the indie stuff.  Obviously, that had a lot to do with it.

And yeah, I think my taste has definitely changed over the years.  But my whole goal is that I want to be that dude – and I feel like I’m there – where I can play a bottle service club in Vegas and also play a Dim Mak party in L.A. and still pull a crowd.  It was really apparent to me this Winter Music Conference; I hang out with people in both worlds, and when I would go to these events where the bigger guys were playing, the Tiësto‘s and stuff, I could walk in; I know most of the DJs and they know me.  But a lot of my peers from the whole electro-indie scene, they would come over and nobody knows who the hell they are.  But THEY know who these bigger guys are, the love just doesn’t come the other way.  I feel like I’m right in the middle of that.

I think the sound has changed a lot, too.  I think the music has become a lot more blurred.  It’s funny, my building in downtown L.A. and my next-door neighbor is Dillon Francis.  Two floors up is A.C. Slater, two floors up from that is Dave Nada from Nadastrom, the building over diagonal is 12th Planet and the compound where Skrillex and everyone hangs out.

Damn, that’s like H.Q. right there!
Yeah, pretty much.  And one day, I’ll walk down the hall and knock on Dillon’s door and pop my head in and A-Trak and him are working on stuff together.  I’m on Fool’s Gold, y’know A-Trak’s label, and I walked in like “Dude, what are you doing here?” and he’s like “Just working on music.”  “Oh, cool.  You know I live on the other side of that wall, right?”

Dillon comes over once in a while.  A.C. Slater is actually borrowing one of my cars…  he was over at my house and I was playing him a lot of stuff, where the breakdowns are really prog-y and big-room on a lot of this stuff, but once it drops it’s pure fucking hard electro.  And he’s like “I can’t play this!  I can’t get away with playing this stuff” and I was like “Wait for the drop” and then it drops and he’s like “Whoa!”

Everything’s like… Tiësto doesn’t make trance anymore, y’know?  If you had told me four years ago I’d be playing Tiësto tracks – and I love the guy to death – I would have said you were fucking crazy.

And a lot changes in four years.
Yeah, so that’s where I’m at with that.

What are the conversations like in that building? What do you guys typically talk about when you’re just hanging out?
We don’t.  We live together, but just pass each other in the hallways.   We’re all always gone on tour, always.  Dillon is my next-door neighbor, I’ll see him twice in a month, and that’s if I’m lucky and he’s coming out of the elevator.  Our places are pretty much sound-proof, so we don’t hear anything when we’re in our units.  We all have our studios in our lofts.

Basically the central meeting point for everybody is what we call The Compound.  Skrillex shouted it out in SPIN and actually it’s on his Grammy speech and everything.  It’s where 12th Planet and Danny United and Danied Riddim (Jungle Riddim) live there, it’s this huge loft.  We’ll get around and trade music, and we always talk about collaborating, but like I said, nobody is EVER around at the same time.  Dave Nada, I don’t see that dude ever – he’s lived in my building for over a year now and I think I’ve seen him maybe five times.  But we’re all good friends, everyone is just so busy, y’know.

Let’s go back to what you said earlier about everything blending together.  Everyone’s throwing this into that and whatever.   Borgore said that too when I spoke to him last, that the only dubstep DJs with their heads above the water are the ones who know it’s more than just dubstep.   It’s probably the same with you playing Tiësto when you wouldn’t have four years ago.
Yeah, I just did that remix for Manufactured Superstars and it’s on the trance charts on Beatport.  It’s labeled trance, and I play Matisse & Sadko, Arty, all those dudes, and those are all trance records, y’know?

With all of this cross-pollination going on, what do you think will break ahead of the pack in the next year or half-year?
Heck, I don’t even know.  If I knew that, I’d be up there with my arms up [gets in DJ/Christ stance].  I wouldn’t be opening Coachella, that would be for fucking sure!  [Laughs]

Yeah, but I really don’t know.  It’s funny, I was having a conversation with somebody really big in dubstep, we went out to dinner and I was like “Man, dubstep is fucking crazy right now.”  And this is a guy who’s kind of been with it from the start and helped build the whole American scene, and he’s like “Eh, I see it going out soon.”  And I’m like really?  I don’t.

I think it’s just like everything else, just integrated into the general format of how things are done.  I was just listening to that Torqux and Twist remix from a year ago of “Sharp Attack,” and it starts with drum and bass then drops into dubstep and rounds out with 108 jump-up kinda stuff.
Like moombaton?

It didn’t have the reggaton rhythm behind it, but it was at that tempo.  I dunno, I’ve heard that called “jump-up.”
For me, jump-up is that old hip-hop-tinged, bouncy stuff.  Or old drum and bass, like jump-up like “When I raise my trigger finger…” with that [sings a bass line].  That, to me, is jump-up.

The 20th anniversary of the L.A. riots is coming up, I’m sure you knew that.
I did know that, April 27th.

What are your thoughts on it?
I’m trending on Twitter!  [Laughs].  I’m getting a lot of attention right now.  Y’know it’s crazy, when I started this and at that time I had a partner, we picked the name because we had to do a remix for Aoki and he asked “What are you guys gonna call yourself?”  And we didn’t have a clue what we’d call ourselves.  It was April 27th of 2007, and it was all over the news and basically deadline day so we were like “Oh, we’ll be that.”   We didn’t think it was going to go anywhere.  Would I have picked a different name?  Probably.  I like the name, it’s fine, but it’s just kind of like “We’ll just do that.”  We didn’t think that in a month, like fucking Kylie Minogue would be hitting us up to craft a track for her.  It just kinda snowballed.

If you Google “L.A. riots,” I come up before the actual riots.  Yeah [laughs].  It was like that within six months.  I read this book on search engine optimization, and then I went online and started talking to some of the world’s biggest SEO people, like, “Yo, this is gonna be an uphill battle,” y’know, trying to get placed higher than an actual historical event that 100 years from now people will be reading about in high school.  They’re not going to be reading about my ass.

It is all over the news, though, and it’s crazy because I get these Google alerts now and then when people post stuff.  Usually I’m inundated with posts about myself, but in the last week I don’t even show up.  There’s too many stories on the actual riots.  I guess it’s kind of a big deal [laughs].

Just a little bit, right?  Okay, last question. Do you consider yourself to be more L.A. or more riot?
I’m a little of both.  Definitely an L.A. guy, it’s the place I’ve lived the longest.  I’m from New Zealand and I’ve lived all over.  My dad is ex-military, so it was the place I settled down the longest.  The last year I’ve really settled down.  I’ve never been that out-of-control party dude – I don’t really drink, I might every once in a while, but they MADE me put on a 21-and-up wristband tonight – the guys I’m with, my manager, because they’re apparently going to try and make me drink tonight.  I’m definitely not rioting that much anymore.

It’s crazy though, because I’ll be in the booth with Steve Angello or Tiësto, and Steve gets a fucking Jager machine in the booth with him, pouring Jager for everyone.  I’m like… how do you get up in the morning?  I just don’t see how people can do that.  I’m not that guy.  I wake up and I don’t want to get on a fucking plane as is.  You add a hangover to that mixture…

Especially a Jager hangover.
One day, I’m just going to be in a quiet place with those dudes and I’m gonna say “How the FUCK do you do it?”  Like most people would be like “Hey man, how do you make that sound?”  I’m going to be like, “How the fuck do you function?” [Laughs]

Alright, anything you’d like to promo or say to your fans?
I think a new track drops this week, a new original.  It’s called “Take Off” [sic].  The flip-side is “Nugget’s Adventure.”  I named it after my dog, his name’s Nugget.  The first time I played here was actually the first time I played “Take Off” [sic] out.  That’s about it, lots of remixes coming out.

A lot of people are like “You don’t play a lot of your stuff in your sets,” and it’s true because I have ADD so I’m always getting new music, so there’s a lot of stuff.  But the stuff of mine I play is normally stuff that isn’t out and people don’t even know about.  I’ve been playing this Spencer & Hill remix a lot lately, this Roy RosenfelD remix, and I don’t think anyone has heard any of that stuff.  And I’m not at liberty to put clips up to let people hear them.  People are like “When are you going to put out that remix, when are you going to do this or that?” and like Laidback Luke tweeted the other day, “Real remixers don’t release tracks.”

Because they’re precious?
No, it’s not that.  If I do a remix for Katy Perry or something like that, it’s hers.  They release it when they want.  There’s a Kings of Leon remix it’s like three-and-a-half years old now, and I just broke down and put it online to stream in low bit-rate quality.

I listened to that today, I really dig it.
Yeah, it’s more of that older sound.  But yeah, I don’t know when it’s ever going to come out.  It’s not up to me, y’know?  If it was up to me, I’d put everything up the day I do it.  There’s a Flinch remix nobody’s heard, like I said the Roy RosenfelD; I did the NERO one and the Lana Del Ray, and I’m keeping them for myself as weapons.  You always want to have stuff that people don’t have.

Dude, that’s a really good strategy though.  If you’re playing the regular stuff that people expect to hear in a club and in between you put in that hot new shit, and it all happens to be your tracks, that’s a marketing strategy right there.
And see, I come from drum and bass, where it’s all about the dub plates and all about the “shit that you can’t have,” or you don’t have.  But here, everybody plays out stuff so quickly… I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, but y’know.  I don’t want to go to the club and hear the same fucking tracks that everyone’s playing.

But there are a lot of people that do want that.  We’re totally with you on that, though.
I want to go and hear the new shit.  I want to be like “Yo, what the fuck is that?”  Like there’s this track that Swedish House Mafia and David Guetta played at Coachella, it’s the only track from Swedish’s set that I don’t know and Guetta played it.  It’s got a “here we go” vocal in it.  If anybody know what that is, fucking tweet at me!  @LARiots or @danielRiots, I want to know what that fucking track is, because it’s huge!


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