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John Summit On Remixing the Kaskade & Deadmau5

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It was August of 2011 and John Summit was a child standing in the pouring rain, having his little mind blown.

The producer, then 16 years old, was at Lollapalooza among a crowd of thousands, getting soaked while deadmau5 played onstage. A resident of the Chicago suburb of Naperville, Summit had trekked to downtown for the festival, with this deadmau5 set not only serving as his first electronic show, but a premonition of the path his life would take.

“I feel like everyone always has that moment when they’re like, ‘Oh my god, this is my genre,’” the producer says. “That’s when I knew I wanted to be a part of electronic music.”

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During the show there was one song in particular that struck Summit especially hard — a dreamy, moody, sort of sexy slow burn, “I Remember,” the 2008 classic by deadmau5 and Kaskade. “There was not a single phone in sight,” Summit recalls of this first time hearing this song. “Everyone was lost in the moment, and I’d never been to a concert like that before.”

After the show, Summit “listened to that record on repeat for like, a year straight” while getting further electronic music, becoming a regular at Michigan’s very heady Electric Forest, starting to DJ locally in Chicago and over time becoming one of the hottest names in the scene on the power of his scintillating live shows and tracks, including “Where You Are,” a March collab with vocalist Hayla that’s become the biggest hit of his career thus far.

Now 28, Summit has worked with a flurry of veterans, including Green Velvet, Dennis Ferrer, Diplo, Lee Foss and more, releasing a steady stream of music while touring relentlessly across continents, launching his own label and event series Off the Grid and offering up a more or less endless social media stream that highlight his goofy sense of humor and bananas lifestyle. Over Zoom, Summit moves around his recently purchased Miami high-rise condo, noting that up until a few months ago he was still living with a roommate in Chicago, having only come into money following his post-pandemic ascent.

“I was very fiscally conservative,” he says, turning the laptop camera out the window towards the beach, “but now I’m finally learning how to treat myself.”

Now, 12 years after hearing “I Remember” during that Midwestern deluge, Summit has released the track’s first official remix since its release. (It got edits back in the day from producers including Caspa.) Summit’s version toughens up the vibey original and comes on the heels of deadmau5 regaining his back catalog from Ultra Records. The song, now 15 years old, is widely considered to be one of the greatest dance tracks of all time — instilling this project with, Summit concedes, “a lot of pressure.”

But the fact is that Summit has made everything he’s done so far look kind of easy, with this project taking on the same meant-to-be quality that’s defined the rest of his career. Here, he talks about making it all happen.

How did you first connect with Kaskade and deadmau5’s teams for this remix?

It wasn’t until they came out with the “Escape” record as Kx5 with [vocalist] Hayla last year. The day that came out I was listening to it nonstop. I was up in Aspen for a show with my manager. We got drunk at night, and I was on my [Instagram] story just like belting it. Then Kaskade DMs me like, “Glad you’re liking the record. Would you be up to remix it?” That was the first time I ever talked them.

I’m six beers deep, and I’m like “f–k yeah, let’s do it.” The “Escape” remix ended up being the biggest remix of the year. That’s how I got connected with Hayla, and how we made “Where You Are,” which ended up being my biggest record of all time and which is still huge right now. From there, I got asked to do an Essential Mix for Pete Tong and BBC Radio. With an Essential Mix, you [work in] all your influences, and “I Remember” was the first song that got me into electronic music. I needed to make an edit of it for the Essential Mix to show my love, because I didn’t want to just use the original. [Kaskade and deadmau5] heard it in the Essential Mix and were like, “Let’s make this an official remix.”

But it’s also pretty crazy, right, given that this is the song that got you into electronic music. What does it mean to you that all this is happening?

It’s insane, because it happened so naturally. I didn’t have to beg or ask for any of this.

“I Remember” is basically a sacred text of dance music. How did you approach the remix?

It’s a lot of pressure. The one in my Essential Mix I just made that overnight while I was in Colombia. It was only one build and one drop. It was quick, only like, two minutes long. From there, I made, like, 50 different versions. I got super in my head, too. You can hear in all my sets for the last six months, there’s always a different version I’ve been playing out. I ended up combining two versions I made, so it’s the first track I’ve ever done that has two different drops, which is not typical for house music — where it’s a totally different kick drum, bass and everything. But it’s just because I was stuck between which one I liked more, so I was like, “Let’s just do both of them as one.”

Were Kaskade or deadmau5 advising you while you were working on it?

No. They were like, “We trust you, just do whatever you want.” They didn’t micromanage me whatsoever. They know that if I’m playing it out and it’s working, they have trust that it’s good.

It’s such an ethereal track, and your remix maintains that — but you also toughened it up.

Yeah, exactly. It’s a more modern take on it. It’s still respecting the original, while putting my stamp on it. Which I think is the goal for a remix, right?

Do you have hopes for what it will do?

The hope is that it will revive the track. I’m not calling myself old, but I’m 28 now, and when you think of all the kids — especially the post-COVID kid ravers are 21, 22 — they’ve never even heard the original. When I play it out live, they think it’s an original track. I’m like “No, it’s a remix of a classic.” But 15 years ago, they would have been like, five years old.

I hadn’t really considered that part of it. You get to introduce this song to a whole new generation.

Exactly. While also putting my own stamp on it too, which I think is really cool.

What were Kaskade and and deadmau5’s reactions when they first heard your edit?

The first time Ryan heard it in the Essential Mix he just said, “Can you make it hit a little bit harder live?” That’s why I have the one drop where it’s just the kick and bass and it has a huge synth on the drop, to make it work for festivals and stuff. Tying everything together too is that on August 5, me and him are headlining HARD Summer together. That’s gonna be by far my biggest show to date. It’s at the L.A. Coliseum, which is where I opened up for [Kx5 last December] when I premiered “Where You Are.” There’s gonna be like, 60,000 people, so that’ll be nuts.

You’ve been adopted, for lack of a better word, by some of the pioneers — Kaskade, Lee Foss, Green Velvet, Diplo. Do you feel like the next gen? What’s the relationship with these artists?

Yeah, that’s a good question. What makes it new and next gen is that my fanbase and community is so different than theirs. Mine is very young and very vocal on social media and Twitter. They’re kind of a very rabid fan base in that sense… I played with Kaskade for New Year’s Eve, and he has a more seasoned crowd that’s been going to EDC since 2008 or whatever.

But when when it comes to actual music, it feels like we’re on the same wavelength. I grew up in the Chicago scene DJing. I wasn’t part of the L.A. EDM scene. I’ve always been DJing with older people.

What have you learned from these artists?

Now that I’m touring all the time, it’s good to [get advice] from guys who’ve been doing it for 15-plus years, and way longer than that. Green Velvet put out “Percolator” the year I was born, so 28 years ago. One thing I worry about is burnout, with how crazy my lifestyle is now.

It’s interesting that you worry about burnout, because I look at you’re social media and think “How is this guy surviving all this?”

Yeah, that’s what everyone thinks. I just played at Space [in Miami] last weekend — I did an eight-hour set and posted about it online. Even my mom called me like, “John, do you really have to be doing these eight hours sets?” I’m like, “It’s what my fans like, mom. It’s what I like doing.” I posted about it, and she just tweet responded, “Call me.” It is tough, though — to maintain a tour schedule — because then I’ve gotta be making music non-stop. I just don’t have a personal life too much. But I don’t mind it. I’m a workaholic, and I love it.

What’s the best place for you to play right now?

It’s also why I live in Miami, because Miami’s my favorite to play, because there’s creative freedom, being able to play whatever I want. I also loved playing in Denver. I did a show there at 1STBANK CENTER and at Red Rocks the next day. In Miami and Ibiza, I can play all types of underground music — I can go minimal, tech house. It’s not like a festival where I have to just play just the huge hits.

But then in Denver, it was cool because I could play anything. They like dubstep and everything, and I even played like a riddim track during my set. Everyone went crazy. So it fun just being able to just do whatever the heck I wanted. I’m a house and techno guy at heart, and that’s basically all I really listened to. When I when I started raving I was very into everything, especially when I’d go to Electric Forest and stuff like that.

“Where You Are” has been on Hot Dance/Electronic Songs for more than four months. It’s a huge hit. What’s your relationship with that song? Has it changed things for you?

Yeah, it’s changed everything. I was big before, but after that song, it’s just been crazy. Especially because every single big artist either they play the original — Martin Garrix has been playing out the original, then Hardwell has a remix, Tiësto has a remix, GRiZ came out with a remix, Gorgon City. It kind of blew me up — because I used to just be in the house and techno bubble, and now I’m really taking the next step for my career. When I was at EDC, I heard it at literally every stage I went to. It was kind of tripping me out. [Laughs.] It just reminded me of of the EDM days where you would hear the same song, like “Animals” by Martin Garrix, at every single set.

Everything I’ve ever read or heard about you has come with his tagline of like, “the hottest guy in the scene!” Do you feel like a pressure to maintain that? What’s the strategy with you and your management now that you’ve ascended to that level?

It’s been the same strategy for the last three or four years now. There is as lot of pressure, and sometimes it does really get to me. It has a mental toll, but not too bad. Just always, always, always being relevant, always having to be pushing things, whether it’s music or new sets, because every one of my sets is different… Then obviously social media, to always be posting. If I go two days without tweeting, people are like, “John, are you alive?”

That’s why I just have so much respect for artists that have had super long, storied careers. Obviously deadmau5 and kaskade are a perfect examples; they’ve been relevant for how long and are still putting out relevant records. It’s definitely an industry [where] you can get left in the dust if you’re not pushing and innovating.

The social media aspect, you’re obviously just really good at naturally. Is it all genuine, or do you ever feel like you go, “Okay, this is what people think John Summit is going to do, even though I’m not feeling it today.”

That is what I super pride myself on, being genuine. My managers don’t tweet for me, they don’t post for me — everything is all me. But it is a lot of pressure, because then I spend the entire day making TikToks, then it’s 9 p.m., and I’m like, “D–n, I haven’t even started working on my set.’ So then I work on my set until 3 a.m., and then I’m like “Oh, I haven’t even made any music.” It’s really tough when I’m traveling.

If I take a few days off, that’s when you know I’m really cranking hard in the studio. But I like to think that I’ll never just be posting things I don’t actually mean. That’s my version of selling out, not not being myself. Some people think selling out is like, having a big record or something like that. “Where You Are” is a perfect example. Obviously, I didn’t know that was going to be as big of a hit as it is, but I f–king love that record, I put my soul into it with Hayla and spent months and months on it. But if a record label was like, “Can you make this but five times again?” that’d be my version of selling out.



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