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It’s not an overstatement to say that NGHTMRE is one of the most dominant and influential forces in bass music. Not only do the biggest names in the genre play his tracks, but he has influenced many producers with his unique sound.
From 2013 to 2014, NGHTMRE honed his craft at Los Angeles’ renowned music production school, Icon Collective. The institute has spawned other influential artists, most notably Jauz, MAKJ, and SNBRN. However, NGHTMRE’s big break came in 2015 when Skrillex dropped his trap song “Street” at Miami’s Ultra Music Festival. The track became a festival anthem and set the stage for collaborations with Dillon Francis, Flux Pavilion, and Zeds Dead. Festival appearances, world tours, and a residency at Hakkasan in Las Vegas followed.
NGHTMRE’s most recent release, a twerk remix of Terror Squad‘s “Lean Back,” was DJcity’s 12th most downloaded track of May. It marks his highest-charting release on DJcity to date (it beat “Need You” by one place).
Despite his busy schedule, we had a chance to chat with NGHTMRE about production and his meteoric rise.
A lot of dance and electronic producers sound the same, but you have a unique sound. Where does it come from?
I think it’s a combination of a lot of different things I grew up listening to. Everything from old school and indie rock, to the dirty south hip-hop, to the dubstep and house music.
What was the most important thing you learned at Icon Collective?
While all the technical skills I learned were extremely valuable, Icon taught me how to think about being creative, which was most important. I learned to not compare myself to other artists and to focus on creating music for myself rather than for other people or ulterior motives like money or DJ support.
Do you think attending a school makes sense for all producers?
Not always. I think the curriculum can be learned in many difference places, but it’s important to have a mentor or someone who knows what they’re talking about when you’re asking questions. I spent many years searching the internet for tutorials and ways to learn production, and you never really know if you are getting the right answers when just searching through YouTube tutorials. One thing I think is super important is being around other people who are doing creative work. It can really provide you with the spark you need to continue working and producing in times when you get writer’s block.
It seems like some producers have been heavily influenced by your sound. How do you feel about that?
I think it’s amazing! I was certainly influenced by many different artists and producers, and it’s important to me to be inspiring other artists to create and push music forward.
What’s your preferred production gear?
I use Ableton Live for all my production. Having been on the road so much recently, I’ve gotten much better at producing with nothing but a laptop. Keeping a MIDI keyboard nearby for writing chord progressions and melodies is important for me when I’m at home. Almost everything I use is built-in Ableton effects or third party VSTs like Serum, Spire, Omnisphere, and more.
Did you know “Street” would be a hit when you produced it?
Not at all. I knew I liked it, but I thought it was way too weird to be a hit. Fortunately, Skrillex liked it too and played it at Ultra a few years ago. He is such a tastemaker that if he supports something, it really allows it to break through into the scene!
Your collab “Need You” with Dillon Francis was also big for you. How did it come about?
Dillon began supporting some of my originals and remixes in his live sets, and then I finally met him on a flight back to LA one day. We both expressed interest in working on a song together, and I was excited to try something at the moombahton tempo because I didn’t get to do it often. After starting the idea, we met up in LA to work together and finished the song in just a few sessions! We get along great and use all the same production software, so it was a super smooth and easy collaboration.
You play quite a bit of hip-hop in your sets. What’s your take on dance music becoming more open-format in recent years?
I grew up listening to all types of music, so I love when I get the opportunity to incorporate all kinds of music in my sets. Listening to one tempo or one style of music for more than an hour straight can get tiring! It’s important to change it up a little to refresh the listener’s ears a little bit. [smiles]
From a DJ’s standpoint, who are your favorite upcoming-and-coming producers?
What do you have planned for this year?
Lots of touring! I’m going back to Asia and Europe again and launching a NGHTMRE tour near the end of the year. Another NGHTMRE EP will be out in the coming months, as well as a few fun collaborations I’ve been doing on the side.