Followers of dance music are used to hearing DJs talk large about producing tracks in hotel rooms and on airplanes, as though they're able to churn out dance-floor killers with just a few keystrokes and clicks of the mouse. Not so much, says Morgan Page, the Grammy-nominated producer best known for "The Longest Road," a track that was catapulted into dance music history when it was remixed by deadmau5.
"I'm not really comfortable producing on planes and in hotel rooms," he told HuffPost Entertainment in a recent interview. "I think a lot of guys are BS'ing about that. I think that some guys can produce on the road like that but a lot of these guys are using ghost producers. I never do that."
Dubstep phenom Skrillex is known for having created much of his genre-redefining sound on a laptop with a busted speaker, a factoid that Page doesn't doubt. "Skrillex is probably an exception, where he probably is really doing that," Page said. "He's insanely gifted and it probably comes easier to him than others. When we talk to each other as fellow DJs, we speak a little bit more truthfully about everything. Everyone is just like, 'Yeah, I just sleep most of the time.' Lack of sleep is the biggest thing -- that's why you're seeing a lot of DJs ending up in the hospital or suffering from exhaustion. Most of your time is in transit and just recovering. I spend the rest of the time doing radio shows. But I've never made a masterpiece on the road. The best thing you can do is work on the arrangement or make changes, which you get as soon as you play it live. You might swap a kick drum out. Being able to make those changes before the next show is crucial."
It's the thirst for studio time, then, that Page quickly identified as one of the biggest downsides of being a globetrotting DJ. "I was going to do an hour in the studio at least this week, but it's just non-stop getting ready for lots of travel," he said, a reference to an extensive Asia tour that he's wrapping this week. "I'm even mastering my own stuff right now. I'm trying to get better at it, I'm going to force myself on this tour. People rent out studios and you have to work quickly, because you're spending good money."
Today's dance music climate also puts an emphasis on what Page called "breathless, anthemic performances," a particular condition of the American scene. "I mean here, in the States, everyone likes to look at us like we're idols and pop stars," he said. "When I play in South America, people are more facing each other and dancing. But now, you have to have a very big, very anthemic performance. That's cool, it's fine -- it definitely ups the challenge. And the experience is shorter, it's more about playing the big songs than the journey. I try to do both, because both are very important."
Short festival performances may offer the most spotlight and highest fees, but it's club gigs that Page finds particularly freeing. "I will explore and try to play a deeper set," he said. "When you do a festival, you really have to appeal to a wider range of people. But when you're in a club, you have more free reign and you can wing it and do whatever you want." That's true of the Asian countries Page is touring as well, though he admitted being surprised by the "hit and miss" nature of Chinese gigs, which he said cater mostly to the bottle-service crowd.
Despite being nominated for a Grammy for "The Longest Road" in 2009 and again in 2011 for a remix of Nadia Ali's "Fantasy," Page has never reached a level of fame commensurate with Tiesto, Avicii, Skrillex and Armin van Buuren. That's only endeared him to fans more, as something akin to a dance music best-kept-secret.
"I think the Grammy thing is awesome," Page said. "But I think that these things used to be bigger things that used to be able to change your life. But I don't think it really changed anything for me. You can be on the cover of Rolling Stone, win a Grammy and have a song on the season finale of some amazing show, and it might not do anything for you. It's a very exciting time, but also kind of hard in that way."
One accolade that evaded Page last year was a spot on the DJ Mag Top 100 DJs poll, a popularity contest dominated by Facebook kings like David Guetta and van Buuren. "I didn't get in it last year, and I wasn't upset, but I definitely appreciate fans getting involved and voting," Page said when asked if he cared to campaign this time around. "A poll is a poll -- it's cool, but I definitely don't think it's a definitive list."
For the Vermont native who now calls Los Angeles home, music is still just a launching pad. The 32-year-old is known as a huge green energy advocate and even advises Tesla's engineers on how to tweak their electric sports car. He even installed solar panels on his house, a plan which he announced in a HuffPost blog last year.
His status as a beloved outlier with interests outside of music also affords Page the freedom to speak freely about the state of the scene. "I agree with people who say that there is too much of the same, but the flip side of the coin is that a lot of is really good," he said. "In two weeks a song might be considered vintage. I would be more upset if a lot of the stuff was bad, but there's a lot of good stuff coming out. Even if something wasn't intended to be disposable, it ends up being so. That's the tragedy, when a really good song is lost because someone else has a better marketing plan. But then you have stuff like Skrillex which has no marketing plan and radio play and took off and became a movement, because people wanted to piss their parents off."
Page views his biggest hit as a learning experience (after which he "started making clubbier music") and source of pride. "'The Longest Road' is still being remixed and posted, which is crazy to me, because it has been more than five years," he said. "It showed that you just need a powerful vocal, a chord progression and a beat."
Morgan Page will be completing a residency at Surrender in Las Vegas. Full tour dates are available at his website.