We live in a culture of ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’: music artists parading bizarre gimmicks, insane FX, commercially-minded collaborations and stage antics designed to pad out music and DJ sets. Which makes it all the more refreshing – and ultimately humbling – to come across those quiet, authentic creators whose music stands the test of time. Such a producer is US artist Morgan Page. One of the original figureheads of America’s most recent dance music explosion, it was Page’s now iconic single ‘The Longest Road’ that opened countless US fans up to the emotive possibilities of progressive house. Featuring raw, blissful vocals from singer/songwriter Lissie and boasting a Grammy-nominated remix from one rapidly rising Canadian who was yet to don a mouse head, ‘The Longest Road’ has achieved near cult-like status in its home nation, with its producer revered by peers and fans alike. Teaming up with Armada Music to celebrate the track’s 10 year anniversary via two EPs and a full length album, Page took a quick time-out to sit down and talk more with DMC World…
Download or stream ‘The Longest Road: EP01 (Deadmau5, Vicetone and Steff da Campo remixes):
Watch vintage footage of Page, Lissie & Deadmau5:
Interview by Ali Beatky
Hi Morgan, thanks for chatting to us today. Can you tell us where in the world you are right now and what you’re doing?
Right now I’m in San Diego surrounded by a flock of bird scooters. It’s a little out of control here love these things but they are everywhere. Just played Omnia here and I’m headed back to LA by train.
You come across as being first and foremost a producer – is that safe to say? What is it about music production that lights you up?
I did everything backwards – started in radio, made music, then started DJ’ing in clubs. Everyone has their own path. I was never an insider that worked at the local record shop or got a regional residency, working their way up. Music production is just this beautiful elusive thing that you never really grasp in your hands. When you think you know everything, you know absolutely nothing. So it’s very challenging and very humbling after 20+ years of making music to feel like I’m just getting started. Both DJing and production are very rewarding and they obviously feed off each other
You’re predominantly known in the US rather than over here in Europe – do you think there’s a particular reason for that? Is it more important for you to be successful in your own country rather than abroad?
That’s a great question because I see all these spikes on Spotify from the UK and Germany – but I’ve played more gigs in India and China. For a long time there’s been an attitude of “export only” in Europe – export the records, export the DJs, and man the gates unless they are “classic” house or tech-house sensations. Like Jazz artists touring Europe in the 60’s and 70s that played more abroad than at home. I think this has changed a lot over the years, and you’re seeing more Americans touring there regularly. But I don’t expect Europe to embrace me anytime soon.
You’re often cited as one of the key producers who the latest generation of artists look up to and reference as an influence. Which producers had that effect on you and what tracks got you into the electronic music scene in the first place?
That’s great! I think legacy influence gets buried these days – the process moves so fast people will forget what inspired them. It’s a side-effect of how the creative cycle is compressing into shorter chunks of time. I first got into all the electronica and big beat stuff in the late 90’s, then made an abrupt left turn into deep German tech-house (The Timewriter, Terry Lee Brown Jr) after interning for labels like Plastic City in NYC. I made tech-house for years before discovering my love for vocals. The vocal records just last longer over time.
Your single ‘The Longest Road’ turned 10 this year and it’s still one of the most acclaimed pieces of production in America’s latest dance music boom. What do you think it is about the track that still continues to resonate so strongly with people?
It’s an unconventional vocal – we had no idea what we were doing. I was literally looping an instrumental and Lissie was singing stream of consciousness. They I had to slice and dice all the lyrics into one cohesive whole to create some real structure. It’s a very messy way of doing things, especially with comp’ing vocals. Lissie’s voice has a “sawdust” to it that was very unique to the time. You know it’s her, not some random topliner that’s trying to churn out volume of material.
If you had to remake the single with a vocalist other than Lissie, who would you choose and what would you be looking for them to bring to the single to make it different from the original?
I could never remake it. We tried doing a Canadian singer version of “In The Air” to meet Canadian content requirements and it was just so wrong. You become married to the original version. That said, once in a while someone will make an amazing cover – but that works because they are approaching it fresh.
The Morgan Page Quick Tips website – what can producers get from your site that they can’t get anywhere else?
The Quick Tips are all about compressing knowledge into bite size chunks and revisiting the lost basics. It’s not about how to create a fat kick drum. It’s about how to cultivate your muse. More holistic advice. YouTube has amazing production tutorials but they are covering things that are beat to death, like how to sidechain or EQ. What about writing songs, building a career, and finding your voice.
It’s been an explosive decade for dance music in the States – do you think the scene can keep the momentum up for another decade? Where would you like to see the scene in ten years’ time?
The short answer is no. Nothing maintains momentum forever and the pendulum always swings back and reverts to the mean. It will stay very strong, but won’t experience that hockey-stick exponential growth it enjoyed for several years. I can’t predict 10 years from now, but I’d like to just see strong songs, producers earning a good living from their art, and quality clubs and festivals continuing to do what they do best.
What young producers and artists are exciting you right now?
Steff Da Campo is doing amazing work, also Dropgun from Siberia – incredible inspiring stuff.
Your radio show ‘In The Air’ is one of the most successful ever on US station SiriusXM. How important is it for DJs to be able to reach a radio-based audience, and do your radio mixes differ from those you play out in the clubs?
I play a little more aggressively in clubs to maintain that live energy. The Sirius XM audience is so massive and widespread it’s fascinating to see who tunes in, since it covers all of North America – even remote parts of Canada where they barely have terrestrial radio.
Finally, if you could go back in time 10 years and give yourself one piece of advice from everything you’ve experienced and learnt since ‘The Longest Road’ came out, what would it be?
Well, the Quick Tips are basically one big letter to my 12 year old self. I wrote down every technique and idea so I wouldn’t keep making the same production mistakes. One piece of advice I’d give myself is stop focusing so much on gear and just do the work.