It was a hot, sweaty, and colorful weekend at Insomniac’s Audiotistic festival. Desperate for relief, attendees used misters to try and cool each other off amid the blaring music. The 808s rattled your organs and the snares pierced your ears. Each set was beginning to blend in with one another. However, one artist broke that monotony and delivered something truly refreshing and original. The change in the air was evident - the crowd was electric. It was as if Shoreline Amphitheater suddenly installed outdoor air conditioning. That special artist is SAYMYNAME.
SAYMYNAME first established himself as a key factor in the electronic dance world in 2013, winning Insomniac’s coveted Discovery Project. Even more impressive - SAYMYNAME earned this accolade within a month of graduating from Chapman University with a degree in Public Relations and Advertising. Though young in his career, SAYMYNAME has already contributed tremendously to the progression of dance music. He has been frequently referred to as “the father of hardtrap.” For those unfamiliar, hardtrap is the unique blend of two styles of music: EDM’s hardstyle and hip-hop’s trap. We met in his greenroom to discuss his formative role in shaping hardtrap and more.
I just went to your set, it was fantastic.
You have a lot of energy and know how to work a crowd. Where does that performer in you come from?
I think… I think it just comes over time. I kind of build on each show and I learn new things. Like how to read different crowds at various venues, from clubs to festivals. I mean it feels natural now, but I didn't start off playing my first festival going crazy. Like it was in me, but I just needed to understand how to slowly develop that skill. Now, I just get lost in the music. You know, the energy.
How did you get into DJing and production?
My father taught me how to DJ. He would DJ at home, and then I would just absorb and listen. I started watching him as early as like four or something. Finally, right after my elementary graduation or culmination, I think he set 'em up and gave me his set of turntables. Yeah, I started off pretty young because of my Dad.
When you started out, did you know for certain you wanted to produce EDM or was there a part of you that wanted to pursue rap?
So originally, I wanted to be a hip-hop producer. After a few years of production, I got into EDM.
Was there a defining moment that flipped the switch?
Um, yeah. My first rave. I was watching Armin Van Buuren. After his set, I thought, this is it. I need to DJ. I want to spin dance music. I put the hip-hop aside for a minute and just explored. The energy was different.
You majored in Public Relations and Advertising from a film school. What prompted you to pursue DJing?
I mean, I’ve always pursued DJing. Even before Chapman. Which I guess we can flip it backward. Like, from DJing is how I actually pursued PR and Ad. I guess it goes both ways. The PR and Ad helped with the branding side of things and marketing. It also helped me understand myself as an artist, beyond just making music and actually creating an identity.
Looking through your SoundCloud, you've had tremendous success there. Tell me the differences in recording a set for digital release versus a live set. What’s the difference in your creative process?
It depends. So I just launched a Dash radio show; Insomniac is apart of it. I'll use that as an example. So before I did the radio show, I prepared my digital sets almost like a festival set. So the same energy, the same mixing style. But this new style that I'm doing with Dash Radio is more traditional and radio-focused. Some songs I'll play out longer than I would have at a festival. In my radio sets - the energy is still there - but it is definitely at a different pace. The track selection too. Like, I'll play stuff on the radio that you probably wouldn't hear in a SAYMYNAME set.
I created hardtrap in 2012. At the time, I was just getting into trap music. I'd already been listening to hardstyle; but one day I was just like, You know what? It would be crazy if I did a trap flip of a hardstyle song. Like take the main synths - that screech from hardstyle - and put it on trap drums. And that was a very early version of my developed style now. My first remix - it was the Showtek “FTS” Remix. The response on the SoundCloud community and the blogs was crazy. They said, "Yo, this is cool. This is different. Hardstyle trap is something no one has heard."
For any art form, developing your own style is difficult. Was there a catalyst or a driving factor in you discovering yours?
Going back to hardtrap, no one was doing it. I created something that I loved and that was new. The sound was energetic. It was just a dope thing to make and play.
How hard is it for you to develop a work/ life balance?
It's not too hard, aside from when I'm touring. I'm on a roll then; but then when I get home, I just wind down and get back to normal life.
Is there something that keeps you grounded and focused during the craziness of the tour?
Yeah, it really just comes down to the love and the passion. That's my purpose. That fuels me to create more music both for myself and for the fans. That love and passion keep my drive going as an artist.
Keep an eye out for SAYMYNAME. His music is available on all platforms, give it a listen. If you haven’t heard of him yet, you will soon.