Producer and rising star in the EDM scene Manic Focus will return to Summer Camp Music Festival for the 3rd year in a row this Memorial Day Weekend!
He recently swung though my city of La Crosse, Wisconsin as a part of his spring tour before launching in to festy season and I caught up with him for a fun conversation – read on for a preview of his Summer Camp performances and collaborations this year!
Camp Counselor Alex: Thanks for taking the time to talk with me here! This is your 3rd year in a row now playing Summer Camp in a few weeks. What’s it like to be welcomed back again?
Manic Focus: It’s amazing and I’m very honored! It’s humbling that I get to work in this industry and it’s a dream come true that the Goldbergs bring me on. Everybody putting on the event is so cool and amazing. I’m very grateful for them and all the hard work they do to put on the festival… I’m incredibly stoked to be back this year, and I want to do it as long as I can! If they want me back for the 4th year, or 10 or 20 or whatever I’ll do Summer Camp every year. EVERY YEAR! (laughs)
And that would be an amazing show each time! Do you have a favorite Summer Camp memory?
Honestly, I’ve never attended prior to performing, at least for a full weekend. I went once just for a day and it was a lot of fun. Overall though, Summer Camp is definitely one of my favorite festivals. As far as memories go, last year was incredible. Every time I’ve performed in general has been really amazing; the vibes, the crowd, the people putting on the event. This year is definitely going to top it, too. I get to do Manic Science in the Barn, plus my own set – I’m looking forward to this more than a lot of festivals I’m doing this summer.
I’m glad you mentioned your Manic Science set! You have performed that collaboration with Break Science before. How did this relationship start?
That was honestly a dream come true for me being such a smaller artist. I met Borahm (Lee) and Adam (Deitch) (the Break Science duo), had opened for them once or twice, but I wasn’t really close with them. You know, it was always a dream to collab with them but I never had the guts to be like, “Hey, guys, you want to make a beat?!” (laughs).
But Summer Set, shout-out to Summer Set, they threw an offer together, and Jake at React Presents, suggested to Lucas at React, to do Manic Science because we were doing Manic Menert at Electric Forest that summer – we hadn’t done that yet, but they heard we were gonna do it, so they’re like, “We have this after-party, how about Manic Science?” They really facilitated it and started it. So big shout-out to React Presents and total thanks for making that happen. If it wasn’t for them, it would have never happened, and now we created some of the best music that I’ve ever made, in my opinion. I’m very grateful for all of that.
I’m actually going to drop a brand new track tonight, it’s Manic Science plus Lettuce, and it’s called Funky Style, it’s going to be a single this summer. I finished it two days ago (April 29) with Break Science and the Lettuce guys. I’m gonna close my set with it, and it’s going to be a hit. Break Science and Lettuce are all down at Jazz Fest this weekend and they’re gonna drop it too. Funky Style! Funky Style! Manic Science and Lettuce. It’s the future, I swear. I think it’s the best song I’ve ever created in my life. Tons of credit to the Deitch and Borahm and Lettuce. Even today on the way here from Chicago I had the song on repeat for pretty much the whole drive (laughs).
Just getting hyped!
Just getting hyped! I’m really stoked to play new music for people.
As you should be! You recently did a surprise opening set for Big Gigantic in Chicago. How did that come about?
I was headlining the House of Blues the week after, so it was partially promo for that, and it was also Big Gigantic. They just wanted to have somebody playing music right when the doors opened, as opposed to just being silence or whatever for an hour. And Big Gigantic and I actually have the same agent. So he was like, “You want to play for a little bit? I know you’re playing next week but it’d be a super surprise for those who come early!” and so I said, “Yeah, I’ll try out some new stuff and then promote the show next weekend.” And I mean I love Big G! They’re my homies and I’m forever grateful to have their support. Anytime they want me to play for them, I’m always down.
So you guys are close… Is it fair to expect you to be part of the Big G & Friends late night show?
Honestly, if I was still at Summer Camp, I would 100 million percent be there but I’m only at Summer Camp Thursday and Friday. Saturday I get to perform at Mysterland in New York, and then I’m doing CounterPoint on Sunday. So I’m gonna have a lot of fun playing those festivals, but I’m gonna miss out on that jam too. Big G, GRiZ, I love those guys. That’s my favorite part of festival season, crossing paths with all the friends you don’t get to see as frequently as you’d like.
It’s always fun to run into old friends at festivals! Your Facebook page says, “Manic Focus is not your typical electronic dance music” with descriptions of different sounds you have on your albums. What separates you from other producers?
I think one of the big things, at least in this particular scene, is my background as a musician and a producer. I came from making hip-hop beats. I never really had a professional career; I don’t have any hip-hop collabs or releases before Manic Focus. I was just a basement beat-maker. But I never got into DJing. It’s not cause I didn’t like it, or it didn’t interest me, cause it definitely did, but at the time I couldn’t afford it. And I was so fully invested in making beats that I was just trying to stick with what was making me happy and what I was good at. I’ve slowly learned more about DJing, but DJing is a very different art form. It’s the art of reading a crowd and organizing music and energy in your head. Reading a crowd and playing off of that with beautiful, awesome transitions. What I do is I make a bunch of beats and then I showcase them. A lot of people call me a DJ, and I appreciate it as a compliment, but I’m not a DJ. I’m a producer that plays beats that I made. If people want to call me a DJ, I’m cool with it, but the reality is I’m not a DJ.
Most people don’t know the difference.
The performances are almost exactly the same. It’s a dude on stage playing his computer as an instrument. I think that’s what sets me a part as far artists in the scene is a lot of EDM guys started as DJ and got into producing, but I started as a producer and am now learning the DJ part. DJing is hard as hell. Someone that says anybody can DJ is like saying anybody can play the piano. Yeah, anybody can sit down and play the piano, but it takes hours and years of practice to get amazing at it! I do think there’s some DJs today that give you a lot of bullshit, but also there’s a lot of amazing DJs out there killing the game that really understand the art form, and I aspire to learn a fraction of what these amazing DJs know.
And you’re clearly learning quick! You go all over when you’re on tour. Are there any cities you always like to play in?
One of my favorite things about touring is seeing how people react to different songs in different areas. So every place has a different groove. I’ll drop a song in one place that goes very hard and then another place that doesn’t go off, but a different song will! The fact that people want to come and listen to my music, it’s so humbling and I’m very grateful. Even this interview! This is dope, thank you.
You’re welcome and thank you! Any final messages about Summer Camp?
I could not be more excited for Manic Science in the Barn on Thursday, and then my set on Friday, which happens to be right after Break Science too. If you don’t have your ticket yet, grab one, and be sure especially to come out to the Barn Thursday night! I’m excited, it’s going to be epic, thank you guys so much!
Thank you! Looking forward to seeing you at Summer Camp!