Morgan Page reflects on his artistic evolution, fatherhood, and collaboration as he marks ten years in the dance music industry [Interview]
Being a touring DJ for over ten years is like being a professional football player at the age of 40. Most people can’t sustain the career for more than a few years, so for those who hit the 10, 15, and 20-year marks, they are often revered as the anomalies of the industry. The DJs and producers who have successfully made it through the commercialization of the field are few in number, though Morgan Page is certainly among that class, building a decorated career on the key ingredient that dozens of others have failed to master — consistency. His journey has seen fair ups and downs, but since his breakthrough release “The Longest Road,” in 2008, the Vermont-native EDM mainstay has managed to remain relevant amid electronic music’s rapid global boom. He continues to release a steady output, and as a result, manages a brimming itinerary of shows at some of the top venues and festivals around the world year over year. Morgan Page recently sat down with Dancing Astronaut to look back on the last decade of non-stop touring action.
A Grammy-nominated producer, Page is the first to admit his career has not been free of strains. Page says he recognizes he is where he is today because he has not been afraid to reach for that he most desires. In fact, he attributes his Grammy nomination to his own self-cultivated initiative, explaining,
“I got [myself] my Grammy nomination. I submitted it myself; the label did not submit it. You have to take things into your own hands.”
While a Grammy nomination is no small feat, it is his personal life that has brought what he considers “his greatest collaboration yet,” to fruition. Not a song or sold-out tour, but his now-four-month-old daughter, Bea. Page spent years persevering his way to the innermost holdings of the industry, and countless more working to steady that spotlight — to stay relevant. However, Page says having a daughter has reconfigured his entire outlook.
Page says all the toiling and tumult behind him are most gratifying in that they have laid out immeasurable opportunity for his daughter. While he has resolved not to be a “stage dad,” he is optimistic that raising her in a musical environment will prove worthwhile.
“I’m going to do a lot to encourage her to do music. She can do whatever she wants, but I am going to encourage her not to settle for a realistic job. I’m definitely going to raise her my style. I just think it’s a very unique situation to have a kid in these times. There is this great studio right downstairs. Why not use it?”
Unsurprisingly, Page says his memories of walking his daughter down to his private studio are among his fondest to date, rivaled only by the experience of introducing her to his own music. In addition to growing up with state-of-the-art equipment just a stone’s throw from her bedroom, Bea will also have access to her father: a model of resolve and improbable success, as well as a wealth of industry knowledge.
Page speaks about his path to becoming an artist in a revelatory lens, bringing a formerly untapped dimension to his career retrospection. It’s both hope and hindsight that had yet to surface when Dancing Astronaut sat down with him a year ago. At that time Page did not know he would soon become a father. His reflections now posit his own efforts to secure success beside hypothetical musings of his daughter’s chances at a similar undertaking.
“It’s such an unlikely career, but I want to make sure it is possible. I never expected to make a living. I was never the resident DJ, and I was never given those opportunities. No one was like, ‘hey do you want to play in Avalon in Boston and see how it goes?’ No one gave me the time of day,” reflects the “Against the World” producer.
As an artist who has amassed a fiercely loyal following over the last decade, signed to an international label, that has managed to deliver a continuous output of music, Page is among an elite breed of industry players who have learned to navigate the circuitous industry staircase. He is not reluctant in the least to speak on the near impossible feat of attempting to make a living in this space without help from the record labels and management companies. Page asserted that of all the dizzying idiosyncrasies at work in the music business, the most complicated mechanisms at work here are humans. “I think human dynamics are harder than anything,” admits Page — an interesting acknowledgement from a career entertainer.
Human dynamics are the most challenging part of collaborations, Page shares. Two well-known artists co-producing music isn’t always (or even frequently) born out of a happenstance encounter or coming to an agreement upon one party’s first inquiry; there are often other forces at work. Creating the music itself together, he says, can be the easiest part of the entire process. Management usually has their own ideas about how collaborations will come to life.
“If artists actually worked with one another it would be so much more simple. [With] management, it’s all a block because they are like, well my artist is worth ‘x,’ and then it’s a counter of what the other manager is saying their artist is worth. I think the hard part about collaborating is usually who stands in the way when two artists genuinely want to work together because the management will get into an over-protective ego war.”
The dance music industry may flaunt a lustrous exterior, but the behind the scenes, interactions are not always so resplendent. According to Page, artists often find themselves at a standstill while their teams go to war about what point font he or she is on a lineup. When it comes to a collaboration itself, the collaborators don’t even always get to sit in a studio and work together. Co-productions are also susceptible to dizzying artist schedules and personal preference.
“My collaboration with Swanky Tunes was fine, for example, because there was only one person I was dealing with. But it’s difficult. Everyone is touring. You don’t hear back for a month, and if you don’t hear back, either someone doesn’t like [the music] or they are busy,” recalls Page.
Page’s recent song with Swanky Tunes is a diversion from Page’s typically melodic style, and showcases how working with new producers can push an artist’s personal boundaries. The collaboration is an example of the shift of his personal interests when it comes to what satiates him sonically. He has been focusing on outreach with fellow producers, mentoring younger artists, and even returning to remixes, which Page admits he distanced himself from for a while.
“Some of the remixes are so off the mark, and from good producers too. The dynamic has changed a lot now where I think people don’t want to do remixes because stuff gets denied or things are done on speck. People will hire emerging names, and many are like, well unless it’s Rihanna and I’m getting $10 grand, people are so finicky. I’m like, it doesn’t matter, and I will go find an emerging name while I’m playing my radio show.
Not only is Page taking on remixes of his own again, like his reboot of Elephante’s “Come Back for You” featuring Matluck, but he will be releasing a remix package for “The Longest Road” in honor of the iconic track’s tenth anniversary. The first The Longest Road EP features three remixes: a brand new take from Steff Da Campo, the 2012 bootleg remix from Vicetone now receiving its debut official release, and the song’s most famous edition, deadmau5‘ unforgettable 2008 remix.
While Page’s life remains in a constant state of flux both personally and professionally, he was immediately able to peg the catalytic record that catapulted him out of unnamed monotony, the fittingly named, “The Longest Road.” He stands firm that his daughter is by and large his greatest collaborative effort, but ascribes “The Longest Road” a close second. Like the electronic arena he knows and loves, Page’s priorities shift. His interests broaden. Yet, Page remains an unpredictable and immovable force in this inconstant arena.
Photo Credit: Morgan Page Instagram