Party Favor Biography:
Photo by Alex Abaunza.
Interview conducted by James Dutta at LED SJSU on April 17th, 2015.
Dylan Ragland aka Party Favor had an incredible 2014. With numerous remixes out – his remix to Showtek’s “Booyah” hit over 1 million plays on Soundcloud. His original mix titled, “Bap U” released on Mad Decent and has had huge commercial success thus far and finally, he played at EDC Las Vegas.
With 2015 underway, he is fresh off playing a great live set at the Ultra Music Festival in Miami and has plenty in store for listeners as the year rolls on. He sat down with Techibeats for an exclusive interview and talks about his new upcoming EP, what plug-ins and sounds he uses in Ableton, and finally, what he thinks of being a “Full Time Knob Turner.”
TB: Party Favor, thank you so much for doing an interview with Techibeats, we really appreciate it.
PF: Of course.
TB: First off, just give the readers just some basic information – what’s your real name?
PF: My name is Dylan Ragland.
TB: Okay, great. Where are you from?
PF: From Los Angeles – La-La Land.
TB: Okay, how’d you get into music? Was EDM your first thing or was it something else?
PF: I got into dance music through film because I went to film school and I was starting to kind of track composed stuff that I was working on, and I started kind of dabbling with some production and different things and at the same time I was listening to a lot of mash-ups when they would – this is before, this was like man, I don’t know maybe like 2007 or so like before this music really blew up and I was listening to a lot of mash-ups that were mixed with European electro and like pop songs here that were mixed with that and I was like “dude these beats are so cool – the background” and I didn’t realize it was like electro was kind of like the beginning and then became Wolfgang Gartner and a lot of these guys so I got into it through the heavier route for awhile…..um, Hazer, some other guys from Europe. And then yeah, it kind of just grew and I found Trap is where my niche ended up just because I love Hip-Hop and I love the influence.
TB: Ok so, people could argue that Party Favor has his own genre of music at this moment – with all your remixes and everything you have out there. I would not even put you in the “box” of Trap, what do you think about that?
PF: I like that! I don’t like being labeled as one thing, but if I had to give myself one name I would just be like energy, like high-energy, I like to play stuff that maybe it has a certain genre that it sits in, but it doesn’t…it’s not limited and it’s not limiting. So, it just depends on where I’m playing and when I’m playing. Sometimes I go from say, 100 bpm to 150, 160. Sometimes I play House tempo, you know. And I’ve been working on a lot of different genres for my next EP and beyond so, I’m really kind of excited to start pushing some different sounds from me.
TB: Solid. That’s good to know. So, you would say that you first got into production and then started DJing?
PF: While I was doing that, I started DJ-ing first. That’s when I found out I really loved and wanted to try and do this. So I started DJ-ing just for fun at my college and I used to be a duo when I started. We went on that for awhile and it kind of started to build and I started working on production and used to make really shitty stuff and then started making something that wasn’t so shitty *laughs*.
TB: *laughs* Stuff gets better over time. So, what was the first “aha!” moment where you were like “this could be something that’s more than a hobby?”
PF: There’s definitely a couple shows that I can pinpoint early on. I think though that one of my big moments was when bigger artists, not even one person specifically – I don’t know if it was Diplo or Skrillex that started playing my music and I was like “wow what I’m making is picking up the ears of the biggest guys in the game” and so I knew that I was either doing something right or I just made one non-shitty song *laughs*.
TB: *laughs* Speaking about Diplo, you know, having your stuff released on Mad Decent and being a Mad Decent artist. How has affected anything you’ve done or has it given you a bigger audience?
PF: Oh, it’s been huge! I think the way that dance music is going is a lot of people align themselves with different brands and I think that a lot of people love everything, but there’s cliques if you will or there’s, you know, you’re part of the OWSLA crew, or you’re part of Mad Decent crew or you’re part of Twonk Team or you’re apart of….House Mafia, or whatever it might be, and it’s like – what’s cool about that there’s something that people can gravitate towards. For me, Mad Decent has been awesome because it has always been, I feel like, people who put out stuff that is pushing, not what everyone else is doing.
TB: New sounds, definitely. Okay, so getting into your live sets – you absolutely killed it at LED SJSU. You could tell by the crowd. What would you say is your favorite song, you personally like playing live?
PF: That I personally like playing live…..? Hmmm. Someone else’s or my own?
TB: Could be someone else’s could be your own – just a song, or two that you really like playing live.
PF: I think one of the hype – one of the best songs last year was GTA’s remix of Party Up by Destructo. That’s the perfect mix of just so much hype. Everybody goes crazy. I was actually going to play it tonight, but I realized I didn’t have much time since it was a short set so I stayed away from doing the House tempo since I figured Mord Fustang would be doing it, but that one I love playing. A lot of Flosstradamus’ songs are good live.
TB: Of course.
PF: And then for me, on my end, I think Bap U is one of my favorite to play because it’s really become known for me and it’s really cool to have an original song that did so well and really reached a lot of people and so it’s really neat to have something that’s totally original and not a remix of someone else’s and obviously I put out a lot of originals and I’ve got so many more on the way and a couple more that are on this EP that I’m really proud of, but that one is definetely crazy like tonight it went off.
TB: Okay, great! So, give us a little more information on your new EP coming out – end of 2015 you’re thinking?
PF: No, it’s actually going to be coming out in June. We’re finalizing some of the vocals for it. It’s about four tracks. Got a VIP of Bap U on there with Fatman Scoop which should be crazy. Another song called “Booty Loose,” I played it tonight and then two other tracks. One that has a What So Not vibe with this super heavy drop – crazy anthemic vocal, this great girl singer and then one more that’s like 150 bpm that’s pretty crazy.
TB: Right in time for those summer festivals.
PF: Yeah! I’m really excited. It’s cool to like – I wanted to put out something that is like “here is the music that I have been making, I’m here to stay.” And then I have a bunch of remixes coming out – the one with Dillon Francis I played tonight. One with Major Lazer and then one for Dada Life. So, it’s going to be a good couple of months.
TB: Good stuff! So, when you sit down – first off, what do use to produce? Ableton, or?
PF: I use Ableton.
TB: So when you sit down with Ableton where do you start your production at? Do you start with the chord progression, at the drop, the break?
PF: Ummm, it’s kind of different every time, but I usually start at the drop because I feel like in dance music the drop is the most important part, in a lot of ways. It depends on who you are and what you’re doing. You look at someone like Porter Robinson or Madeon and even What So Not, who are so musically talented – their whole production is beautiful. My stuff tends to be a little bit more simple, but crazy. So, I like to start with making sure that I got a good drop because without that it’s not…..you know. But I’ve been experimenting with different ways because it’s been fun to try different ways of producing. One of the tracks I did – I’m really proud of it, it showed a little bit more of my musical side. I started all with the chords and arpeggios…the piano first and then was actually able to build the drop around that because it was easier.
TB: What are your favorite VSTs in Ableton that you personally like to use a lot of, or something you find a staple in all your songs?
PF: Staple in all my songs…..aw man – you know what’s crazy, I don’t use a lot of processing, I use a lot of the Ableton plugins. I use a lot of Waves plugins. So the Waves EQ is probably my favorite or the Fab Filter Pro Q’s. You can do a lot of crazy stuff with that. Saturn is really cool too. For synths, I do a lot of stuff in Sylenth. Massive is cool. I use Spire a lot. Nexus has more familiar big room sounds. I do a lot of sampling – a lot of my stuff comes from creating stuff with my voice, creating stuff animals. It doesn’t matter. That’s when I have the most fun because I can really manipulate sounds like crazy.
TB: Oh okay, so make it your own basically. So, when you release a new song or remix, do you have any fear of it doing bad or do you automatically get out of the studio, release the final version and know that it’s going to do great?
PF: Oh, I think everybody has got a fear of like “is this bad or is this good?” I’ve learned over time to trust my instinct and I know like – as weird as it sounds, if I get really hyped on something then I usually know that people will because I’ve realized what works and what works for me so I think as far as that’s concerned, it’s definitely….you know. What I’ll usually do is I’ll send it to bigger artists that are definitely bigger than me that I really trust their view and their opinion. Sometimes they’ll be like “hey I’m not really feeling this, this doesn’t mix that well, or this isn’t going to hit that hard,” and I’ll be like “okay that’s great,” because I feel like in this industry it’s really good to have constructive criticism. Sometimes I’ll just test out stuff and people won’t even know it’s my track – and I’ll play without saying anything and if the crowd loves it, then I know I did okay and if it didn’t then I know “okay, scrap it.”
TB: That anonymity of everything actually works out in your favor. Okay so, on your Instagram you have your description as “Full Time Knob Turner.” Would you say that DJ-ing and even producing is something the general public, aside from the dance music world, does not give enough credit to?
PF: I think it’s because there is a stigma of how easy it is and I think the hard part is, is that it’s – anybody can go to Guitar Center or Wal-Mart and pick up a DJ controller and technically be a DJ, but obviously, as Craze has shown, A-Trak has shown – real DJ-ing is a completely different thing. A lot of times I wouldn’t necessarily consider myself a “DJ,” I DJ to perform, but I’m not “a DJ.” I would consider myself a producer, first and DJ second. I think sometimes now that the music is growing people are taking it more seriously, but I think the hard part is that there is so many people that are doing this that I think a lot of times it’s easy to laugh it off because, oh, “everybody knows the DJ,” so I think until you get to a level like where I’m at or above me, even some small level guys are starting to be taken more seriously.
TB: With that, you’ve had your songs “” and “Drama” featured on T-Mobile the commercial and the NBA 2k14 Draft Commercial. Would you say that when your songs are featured on that national scale type of commercials, would you basically just say “this is it, this is pushing the envelope,” for DJ-ing and giving a better name for it and making it more acceptable.
PF: I think it’s awesome! You look around and it doesn’t matter. Someone like Dillon Francis who’s on every commercial out there – like Taco Bell, Fast and Furious etc. I think people are really gravitating towards dance music. The good music – the good side of it. I think it’s hard to escape the energy and the music that’s why we all love it so much, that’s why we’re all here and I think that it’s totally certain it’s grabbing on to people. Doesn’t matter where they started, but they’re starting to find what they like within this genre. There’s so much for anybody – something for everybody in dance music.
TB: That’s the best part. Winding down – a few more questions before I let you go, who are you currently listening to on your iPod?
PF: I listen to a lot of G-House guys, I really like that stuff – it’s more mellow to me, but it’s really dope because I love the vocals. I listen to everything – my iPod is all over the place. Currently listening to “Through The Roof,” is like a Reggae/Dub band from California. I love that kind of stuff, more mellow stuff. I like rock-metal, hip-hop, a little bit of everything. It’s hard to pinpoint one thing I’ve been listening to.
TB: Kind of all over the board for the most part?
TB: Who would be an artist or producer that you would want to work with outside of dance genre?
PF: Probably Dr. Luke – who’s like one of the best pop producers in the world. A lot of people are quick to hate on pop music, there’s a reason why it’s so popular, reason why it catches on to people. It’s simplistic, but it’s very catchy, but he’s also – his repertoire, he’s worked with Rock bands to Hip-Hop artists. He has some of the biggest records in the world.
Or Timbaland would be dope. Timbaland is my favorite producer.
TB: So, craziest fan story? When you walk around, are you automatically known as Party Favor? Have you had fans run up to you?
PF: Dude, it’s actually crazy I’ve started having more people come up to me. One time I was walking on Haight, up in SF and some girl just started tailing me and it was kind of weird, the people I was with were like “I think this girl is following us.” She kept peeking her head around and kept looking at us. Finally, I stopped and I said “can I help you?” She responds by saying, “are you Party Favor?” It was just the weirdest thing to me to think that like someone was willing to walk around and do that, but probably the craziest thing was when I was in Japan and I went before my show – there was this group of girls and they saw me and they started screaming like I was Justin Bieber and it was the freakiest thing to me ever, it was so foreign. One of the girls fell on the floor screaming and I didn’t know what to do. I just can’t imagine because to me I’m just some nobody.
TB: Okay, so last question. Going off Coachella last weekend, how do you feel about the Madonna/Drake kiss?
PF: *laughs* Oh my god. Looks like she liked laid an egg in his chest or something.
TB: *laughs* That was crazy. Well, thank you so much Dylan. I appreciate you doing this interview with Techibeats.
PF: Thanks for having me!