meta-scriptUltra Music Festival 2020: Zedd, Major Lazer, Gesaffelstein & More Announced | GRAMMY.com
Zedd - Ultra Music Festival 2020

Zedd performs at Ultra Music Festival 2014

Photo: Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images

 

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Ultra Music Festival 2020: Zedd, Major Lazer, Gesaffelstein & More Announced

The annual electronic music festival, returning to Miami March 20–22, 2020, will also feature performances from David Guetta, FISHER, DJ Snake and many others

GRAMMYs/Nov 26, 2019 - 02:20 am

Ultra Music Festival (UMF), the multi-day electronic music festival, has announced the initial lineup for its 2020 iteration. The festival, celebrating its 22nd edition next year, will include live performances from headliners Gesaffelstein plus GRAMMY winners Flume, who’s making his UMF debut as a live headliner, and Zedd, the latter of whom will present his LED-backed stage structure, The Orbit. UMF, taking place March 20–22, 2020, returns to Miami's Bayfront Park, its longtime home, following a brief relocation to Virginia Key earlier this year.

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Major Lazer, the cross-genre project from GRAMMY-winning super-producer Diplo, also joins the lineup, bringing its electrified takes on Latin pop, dancehall and reggae to the festival stage. Other announced UMF headliners include trance giants Above & Beyond, DJ Snake, Martin Garrix and many others. Australian house/tech-house artist, and 2018 GRAMMY nominee, FISHER and Belgian techno producer Amelie Lens, both breakout stars in their respective genres, will make their UMF festival debuts next March.

Read: Inside Ultra Music Festival's Record-Breaking 20th Anniversary

UMF 2020 will also feature a handful of debut back-to-back (b2b) performances, including techno icon Adam Beyer b2b Cirez D, the techno alias of GRAMMY nominee Eric Prydz, as well as SLANDER b2b Kayzo and Jauz b2b NGHTMRE, among many others.

U.K. electronic icon Carl Cox, who's curated his own stage at UMF since 2005, will once again revive the fan-favorite RESISTANCE Megastructure stage, which next year expands across the festival’s three days for the first time ever at Bayfront Park.

Watch: Carl Cox Plots Electronic/Dance Music's Evolution

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">The Phase 1 Lineup for <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Ultra2020?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Ultra2020</a> has landed! Join us this March as we return to our home, Bayfront Park.<br><br>Tickets are on sale now at <a href="https://t.co/DfKbU1mXZO">https://t.co/DfKbU1mXZO</a> <a href="https://t.co/x1rXx3vhzG">pic.twitter.com/x1rXx3vhzG</a></p>&mdash; Ultra Music Festival (@ultra) <a href="https://twitter.com/ultra/status/1197515415603335168?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">November 21, 2019</a></blockquote><script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

Trance legend Armin van Buuren also returns to UMF with his A State of Trance stage, which will celebrate a decade as a dedicated space at the festival next year. Bass heavyweights NGHTMRE and SLANDER will debut their Gud Vibrations stage takeover, named after their collaborative event series and record label, at the UMF Radio stage.

View the full UMF 2020 lineup on the official festival websiteTickets for UMF 2020 are on sale now.

Cedric Gervais On Ultra Miami, "One Night" & House Music

Moby performing on stage
Moby

Photo: Mike Formanski

interview

"Let Yourself Be Idiosyncratic": Moby Talks New Album 'Always Centered At Night' & 25 Years Of 'Play'

"We're not writing for a pop audience, we don't need to dumb it down," Moby says of creating his new record. In an interview, the multiple-GRAMMY nominee reflects on his latest album and how it contrasts with his legendary release from 1999.

GRAMMYs/Jun 11, 2024 - 01:29 pm

Moby’s past and present are converging in a serendipitous way. The multiple-GRAMMY nominee is celebrating the 25th anniversary of his seminal work, Play, the best-selling electronic dance music album of all time, and the release of his latest album, always centered at night. 

Where Play was a solitary creation experience for Moby, always centered at night is wholly collaborative. Recognizable names on the album are Lady Blackbird on the blues-drenched "dark days" and serpentwithfeet on the emotive "on air." But always centered at night’s features are mainly lesser-known artists, such as the late Benjamin Zephaniah on the liquid jungle sounds of "where is your pride?" and Choklate on the slow grooves of "sweet moon." 

Moby’s music proves to have staying power: His early ‘90s dance hits "Go" and "Next is the E" still rip up dancefloors; the songs on Play are met with instant emotional reactions from millennials who heard them growing up. Moby is even experiencing a resurgence of sorts with Gen Z. In 2023, Australian drum ‘n’ bass DJ/producer Luude and UK vocalist Issey Cross reimagined Moby’s classic "Porcelain" into "Oh My." Earlier this year, Moby released "You and Me" with Italian DJ/producer Anfisa Letyago. 

Music is just one of Moby’s many creative ventures. He wrote and directed Punk Rock Vegan Movie as well as writing and starring in his homemade documentary, Moby Doc. The two films are produced by his production company, Little Walnut, which also makes music videos, shorts and the podcast "Moby Pod." Moby and co-host Lindsay Hicks have an eclectic array of guests, from actor Joe Manganiello to Ed Begley, Jr., Steve-O and Hunter Biden. The podcast interviews have led to "some of the most meaningful interpersonal experiences," Moby tells GRAMMY.com. 

A upcoming episode of "Moby Pod" dedicated to Play was taped live over two evenings at Los Angeles’ Masonic Lodge at Hollywood Forever Cemetery. The episode focuses on Moby recounting his singular experiences around the unexpected success of that album — particularly considering the abject failure of his previous album, Animal Rights. The narrative was broken up by acoustic performances of songs from Play, as well as material from Always Centered at Night (which arrives June 14) with special guest Lady Blackbird. Prior to the taping, Moby spoke to GRAMMY.com about both albums. 

'Always centered at night' started as a label imprint then became the title of your latest album. How did that happen? 

I realized pretty quickly that I just wanted to make music and not necessarily worry about being a label boss. Why make more busy work for myself?

The first few songs were this pandemic process of going to SoundCloud, Spotify, YouTube and asking people for recommendations to find voices that I wasn’t familiar with, and then figuring out how to get in touch with them. The vast majority of the time, they would take the music I sent them and write something phenomenal.

That's the most interesting part of working with singers you've never met: You don't know what you're going to get. My only guidance was: Let yourself be creative, let yourself be idiosyncratic, let the lyrics be poetic. We're not writing for a pop audience, we don't need to dumb it down. Although, apparently Lady Blackbird is one of Taylor Swift's favorite singers 

Guiding the collaborators away from pop music is an unusual directive, although perhaps not for you? 

What is both sad and interesting is pop has come to dominate the musical landscape to such an extent that it seems a lot of musicians don't know they're allowed to do anything else. Some younger people have grown up with nothing but pop music. Danaé Wellington, who sings "Wild Flame," her first pass of lyrics were pop. I went back to her and said, "Please be yourself, be poetic." And she said, "Well, that’s interesting because I’m the poet laureate of Manchester." So getting her to disregard pop lyrics and write something much more personal and idiosyncratic was actually easy and really special. 

You certainly weren’t going in the pop direction when making 'Play,' but it ended up being an extremely popular album. Did you have a feeling it was going to blow up the way it did?

I have a funny story. I had a date in January 1999 in New York. We went out drinking and I had just gotten back the mastered version of Play. We're back at my apartment, and before our date became "grown up," we listened to the record from start to finish. She actually liked it. And I thought, Huh, that's interesting. I didn't think anyone was going to like this record. 

You didn’t feel anything different during the making of 'Play?'

I knew to the core of my being that Play was going to be a complete, abject failure. There was no doubt in my mind whatsoever. It was going to be my last record and it was going to fail. That was the time of people going into studios and spending half a million dollars. It was Backstreet Boys and Limp Bizkit and NSYNC; big major label records that were flawlessly produced. Play was made literally in my bedroom. 

I slept under the stairs like Harry Potter in my loft on Mott Street. I had one bedroom and that's where I made the record on the cheapest of cheap equipment held up literally on milk crates. Two of the songs were recorded to cassette, that's how cheap the record was. It was this weird record made by a has-been, a footnote from the early rave days. There was no world where I thought it was going to be even slightly successful. Daniel Miller from Mute said — and I remember this very clearly — "I think this record might sell over 50,000 copies." And I said, "That’s kind of you to say but let's admit that this is going to be a failure. Thank you for releasing my last record."  

Was your approach in making 'Play' different from other albums? 

The record I had made before Play, Animal Rights, was this weird, noisy metal punk industrial record that almost everybody hated. I remember this moment so vividly: I was playing Glastonbury in 1998 and it was one of those miserable Glastonbury years. When it's good, it's paradise; it's really special. But the first time I played, it was disgusting, truly. A foot and a half of mud everywhere, incessant rain and cold. I was telling my manager that I wanted to make another punk rock metal record. And he said the most gentle thing, "I know you enjoy making punk rock and metal. People really enjoy when you make electronic music." 

The way he said it, he wasn't saying, "You would help your career by making electronic music." He simply said, "People enjoy it." If I had been my manager, I would have said, "You're a f—ing idiot. Everyone hated that record. What sort of mental illness and masochism is compelling you to do it again?" Like Freud said, the definition of mental illness is doing the same thing and expecting different results. But his response was very emotional and gentle and sweet, and that got through to me. I had this moment where I realized, I can make music that potentially people will enjoy that will make them happy. Why not pursue that? 

That was what made me not spend my time in ‘98 making an album inspired by Sepultura and Pantera and instead make something more melodic and electronic. 

After years of swearing off touring, what’s making you hit stages this summer? 

I love playing live music. If you asked me to come over and play Neil Young songs in your backyard, I would say yes happily, in a second. But going on tour, the hotels and airports and everything, I really dislike it.  

My manager tricked me. He found strategically the only way to get me to go on tour was to give the money to animal rights charities. My philanthropic Achilles heel. The only thing that would get me to go on tour. It's a brief tour of Europe, pretty big venues, which is interesting for an old guy, but when the tour ends, I will have less money than when the tour begins. 

Your DJ sets are great fun. Would you consider doing DJ dates locally? 

Every now and then I’ll do something. But there’s two problems. As I've become very old and very sober, I go to sleep at 9 p.m. This young guy I was helping who was newly sober, he's a DJ. He was doing a DJ set in L.A. and he said, "You should come down. There's this cool underground scene." I said, "Great! What time are you playing?" And he said "I’m going on at 1 a.m." By that point I've been asleep for almost five hours.

I got invited to a dinner party recently that started at 8 p.m. and I was like, "What are you on? Cocaine in Ibiza? You're having dinner at 8 p.m.  What craziness is that? That’s when you're putting on your soft clothes and watching a '30 Rock' rerun before bed. That's not going out time." And the other thing is, unfortunately, like a lot of middle aged or elderly musicians, I have a little bit of tinnitus so I have to be very cautious around loud music.

Are you going to write a third memoir at any point? 

Only when I figure out something to write. It's definitely not going to be anecdotes about sobriety because my anecdotes are: woke up at 5 a.m., had a smoothie, read The New York Times, lamented the fact that people are voting for Trump, went for a hike, worked on music, played with Bagel the dog, worked on music some more went to sleep, good night. It would be so repetitive and boring. 

It has to be something about lived experience and wisdom. But I don't know if I've necessarily gotten to the point where I have good enough lived experience and wisdom to share with anyone. Maybe if I get to that point, I'll probably be wrong, but nonetheless, that would warrant maybe writing another book.

 Machinedrum's New Album '3FOR82' Taps Into The Spirit Of His Younger Years 

 

 

Curtis Jones, aka Cajmere & Green Velvet, performing live. Jones is wearing dark sunglasses amid a dark background and green strobe lights.
Curtis Jones performs as Green Velvet

Photo: Matt Jelonek/WireImage

interview

Dance Legend Curtis Jones On Cajmere, Green Velvet & 30 Years Of Cajual Records

As Green Velvet and Cajmere, DJ/producer Curtis Jones celebrates everything from Chicago to acid house. With a new party and revived record label, Jones says he wants to "shine a light on those who sacrificed so much to keep house music alive."

GRAMMYs/Apr 17, 2024 - 02:19 pm

Curtis Jones is a dance music legend, whose multiple monikers only begin to demonstrate his deep and varied influence in the genre.

Jones has been active as a producer and DJ for decades, and is among a cadre of dance music acts forging a connection between the genre's origins and its modern iterations. Crucially, he  joined Chicago house legends Honey Dijon and Terry Hunter on Beyoncé's house-infused RENAISSANCE, providing a sample for "Cozy." He’s also produced tracks with house favorites Chris Lake and Oliver Heldens, and DJed with Dom Dolla and John Summit.

Jones contributed to the aforementioned collaborations, young and old, as Green Velvet. He’s been releasing dance hits like "Flash" and "Answering Machine" under that name since the mid- '90s. He is also currently a staple of the live circuit, his signature green mohawk vibing in clubs and festivals around the globe — including at his own La La Land parties in Los Angeles, Denver, Orlando, and elsewhere.

Green Velvet is appropriately braggadocious, even releasing the popular "Bigger Than Prince" in 2013. But by the time Jones had released the heavy-grooving tech house track, his artistry had been percolating for decades as Cajmere.

Where Green Velvet releases lean into acid house and Detroit techno, Cajmere is all about the traditional house sound of Jones’ hometown of Chicago. When Jones first debuted Cajmere in 1991, Chicago’s now-historic reputation for house music was still developing. Decades after the original release, Cajmere tracks like "Percolator,” have sustained the Windy City sound via remixes by prominent house artists like Will Clarke, Jamie Jones, and Claude VonStroke.

"I love doing music under both of my aliases, so it’s great when fans discover the truth,” Jones tells GRAMMY.com over email. Often, Jones performs as Cajmere to open his La La Land parties, and closes as Green Velvet. 

But beyond a few scattered performances and new tracks, Cajmere has remained dormant while Green Velvet became a worldwide headliner, topping bills in Mexico City, Toronto, Bogotá and other international dance destinations. He’s only shared two original releases as Cajmere since 2016: "Baby Talk,” and "Love Foundation,” a co-production with fellow veteran Chicago producer/DJ Gene Farris.

This year, Jones is reviving Cajmere to headliner status with his new live event series, Legends. First held in March in Miami, Jones' Legends aims to highlight other dance music legends, from Detroit techno pioneers Stacey Pullen and Carl Craig, to Chicago house maven Marshall Jefferson. 

"My intention is to shine a light on those who sacrificed so much to keep house music alive," Jones writes. "The sad reality is that most of the legendary artists aren’t celebrated or compensated as well as they should be."

Given that dance music came into the popular music zeitgeist relatively recently, the originators of the genre — like the artists Jones booked for his Legends party — are still in their prime. Giving them space to perform allows them to apply the same innovation they had in the early '90s in 2024.

Jones says the Miami Legends launch was an amazing success."Seeing the passion everyone, young and old, displayed was so inspiring."

Curtis Jones Talks House, Cajmere & Green Velvet performs at Legends Miami

Curtis Jones, center, DJs at the Miami Legends party ┃Courtesy of the artist

The first Legends party also served as a celebration of Cajual Records, the label Jones launched in 1992 as a home for his Cajmere music. Over the past three decades, Cajual has also released tracks from dance music veterans such as Riva Starr, as well as contemporary tastemakers like Sonny Fodera and DJ E-Clyps. 

Furthermore, Jones’ partnership with revered singers such as Russoul and Dajae (the latter of whom still performs with him to this day) on Cajual releases like "Say U Will” and "Waterfall” helped to define the vocal-house style.

Like the Cajmere project, Cajual Records has been moving slower in recent years. The label has only shared four releases since 2018. True to form, though, Jones started another label; Relief Records, the home of Green Velvet's music, shared 10 releases in 2023 alone.

Jones says he's been particularly prolific as Green Velvet because "the genres of tech house and techno have allowed me the creative freedom I require as an artist."

Now Jones is making "loads of music” as Cajmere again and recently signed a new distribution deal for Cajual Records. The true sound of Chicago is resonating with audiences in 2024, Jones says, adding "it's nice that house is making a comeback."

Jones remembers when house music was especially unpopular. He used to call radio stations in the '80s to play tracks like Jamie Principle's underground classic "Waiting On My Angel,” only to be told they didn’t play house music whatsoever. In 2024, house music records like FISHER’s "Losing It” were certified gold, and received nominations for Best Dance Recording at the 66th GRAMMY Awards. Jones is embracing this popularity with open arms.

Read more: The Rise Of Underground House: How Artists Like Fisher & Acraze Have Taken Tech House, Other Electronic Genres From Indie To EDC

"The new audience it’s attracting is excited to hear unique underground-style house records now. This is perfect for my Cajmere sets,” Jones says. "I never saw Green Velvet being more popular than Cajmere, and both sounds being as popular as they are even today.” 

While Jones is finding success in his own artistic endeavors, he points to a general lack of appreciation for Black dance artists in festival bookings. Looking at the run-of-show for ARC Festival, a festival in Chicago dedicated to house and techno music, legendary artists play some of the earliest slots. 

For the 2023 edition, Carl Craig played at 3 p.m on Saturday while the young, white John Summit, closed the festival the same night. In 2021, the acid house inventor, Chicago’s DJ Pierre, played the opening set at 2 p.m. on Saturday, while FISHER, another younger white artist, was the headliner.

In 2020, Marshall Jefferson penned an op-ed in Mixmag about the losing battle he is fighting as a Black DJ from the '90s. He mentions that younger white artists often receive upwards of $250,000 for one gig, whereas he receives around $2,000, despite the fact that he still DJs to packed crowds 30 years after he started.

Jones is doing his part to even the playing field with Legends, and according to him, things are going well after the first edition. "Seeing how much respect the fans have for the Legends was so special,” Jones says. "Hopefully they become trendy again.” 

The story of Curtis Jones is already one of legend, but it is far from over. "I feel it’s my duty to continue to make creative and innovative tracks as well as musical events. I love shining the light on new upcoming and emerging artists as well as giving the originators their proper dues,” Jones says. 

How LP Giobbi & Femme House Are Making Space For Women In Dance Music: "If You Really Want To Make A Change, It Can Be Done"

Madeon & San Holo performing in 2023
(L-R) Madeon & San Holo perform at the Vision & Colour Music Festival in Wuhan, China on Nov. 5, 2023.

Photo: Haley Lan

interview

2024 Ultra Music Festival: Madeon & San Holo On How They'll Recreate The "Magic And Excitement" Of Their Spontaneous Pairing

After a last-minute joint headline performance brought Madeon and San Holo together in 2023, they'll do it again in Miami on March 23. The dance stars give a preview of the surprises they'll bring to Ultra Music Festival — for both them and the crowd.

GRAMMYs/Mar 19, 2024 - 07:34 pm

Before last year, the closest French producer Madeon and Dutch DJ San Holo ever came to collaborating was touring together in 2016. But on Nov. 5, the two dance stars found themselves closing out the 2023 Vision & Colour Music Festival in Wuhan, China, together after a last-minute cancellation from the original headliner — and their unexpected set was so magical, they're bringing their chemistry to Miami's Ultra Music Festival just four months later.

Madeon and San Holo — whose birth names are Hugo Leclercq and Sander van Dijck, respectively — will play a back-to-back set as headliners of Ultra's intimate amphitheater-style Live Stage on March 23. Like their VAC performance, the joint Ultra set will offer hard electronic beats, live mash-ups and fan-favorite cuts from both of their catalogs, curated by each artist in an attempt to impress the other.

"I've noticed a trend in dance music where audiences are attracted to moments — things that feel spontaneous, like back-to-backs that you didn't expect, shows that are announced very late," Madeon tells GRAMMY.com. "There's something about 'You had to be there.' As a performer, I want us to feel that energy."

San Holo echoes, "This all came from spontaneity. As long as we keep that alive, people are going to have an amazing time." 

Ahead of their Ultra set, Madeon and San Holo caught up with GRAMMY.com to hear more about their serendipitous partnership  — and why it's not guaranteed to ever happen again.

I'm excited that you're bringing this joint effort back. I was so intrigued when you did the set in China. 

Madeon: The way it came about is probably why it ended up being so special. We were both in China playing our respective shows for this festival, VAC. I played Good Faith Forever, Sander played a DJ set hybrid. We were about to fly back, but the headliner that was supposed to close the entire festival was sick. They had this big fireworks show already, a huge production, and then they didn't have an artist. 

They asked us about a back-to-back, and we were like, "Well, that sounds kind of fun." Basically, 24 hours before going on stage, we were like, "We're gonna headline this mega festival and create a whole new show from scratch," which was a little reckless. I think the sleep deprivation and the time zone change probably played a part. 

Sander and I met up in the hotel room and took some big swings. We made a whole new visual show with a black-and-white camera feed. I was on my laptop making visuals on the way to the stage. Sander and I decided to each have succeeding sections, like 15 minutes each. We did not show each other what we were going to play. We're trying to make sure we would impress each other, like a proper back and forth. 

San Holo: The complicated thing is that Madeon is actually on different equipment. He has his own crazy, secret setup that is insane. He's extremely flexible, and I'm on the CDJs [turntables]. It's like trying to get different machines to talk. We have to really pay attention when we transition from our sections, which was really exciting and challenging.

Madeon: For me, the best part is that when you start playing, I know you're gonna play for 10 minutes or so, which is long enough for me to just dance, have fun and get lost in it. Then after 10 minutes, I think, "Okay, where do I take this next?" It feels very celebratory, and most of what Sander played was music I had never heard before. I felt like it was in the audience partying with everybody whenever he dropped something cool, and hopefully vice versa. 

San Holo: Absolutely. That's a fun thing of back-to-backs. You're like, "What is this?" Normally I would go look at the CDJ, but now I had to look over to this laptop machine with your setup. I was like, "Where can I find the song title?"

Madeon: We were supposed to only play an hour or so, and when we were gearing up for the ending, the festival was like "Do you want to play longer?" We ended up playing an extra 40 minutes completely unprepared. It was very magical. 

We had this handheld camera. Whenever he was playing, I was filming him, then whenever I was playing he was filming me. We looked at the footage and saw the way that it looked, and it felt strong and different. It didn't feel like a typical Madeon show or a typical San Holo show. So it felt true to what it was, as far as this spontaneous idea. It was such a special moment, and so unexpected. We didn't know how fun it was gonna be. 

I'm really shocked to hear this happened so last minute. Listening to the set, it felt like you had put so much thought into mixing your styles.

San Holo: I was a little bit scared, to be honest — like, "Is this gonna work?" But that actually made it so fun.

Madeon: I think if it was earlier in my career I would have been more scared, but we both have enough experience to know we can figure it out as DJs. When I do my live show and I'm singing, it's all super rehearsed — and same for you Sander, right? But when I DJ, I don't like to prepare, because otherwise I'm bored. 

This felt doubly exciting. The risk factor is what makes it real. We were there, we took a risk, and there was this magical memory. 

So you whipped together this wild concept and the wheels didn't fall off mid-set. Going into this Ultra set, is that now part of the parameters of this project? 

Madeon: We're implementing a little surprise in the show, and we're very excited about that. That one is more planned, but it's also spontaneous — you'll see. We want to make sure it's not exactly what we did in China. 

Sander is just going to tell me the opening and closing song of each of his sections, and then it's my job to find the connection between. It's like a puzzle I'm going to solve, but I'm not going to over-prepare.

San Holo: I've got to talk about your setup. I'm jealous of your setup, because it really allows you to be completely free with the key and the BPM tempo. You can just flip it in whatever way you want. 

Madeon: But I'm jealous of your setup, because CDJs are everywhere. It's so convenient. They feel great to use. 

San Holo: It's just harder with CDJs to actually pitch things. You can pitch up tracks, and it's the Ableton algorithm so it still sounds pretty good.

Madeon: That's true. Sander sent me a bunch of his acapella and melodies, and I pitched them to the right key, and then I could play them on the launch pad so I could do mashups live. That's not something you can easily do on CDJ.

San Holo: No. I am a bit more prepared. I want to play some tracks I found from some really small artists, for example. I want to put them in the set because I think this is amazing music. People have to hear this.

Madeon: Well, there's one thing you're gonna have to prepare for a lot, that secret moment. I trust your skill there. 

San Holo: The fact that it's scary is also why it's fun. People will feel that too, in the audience.

Madeon: I love going on stage and not knowing exactly how it's going to go. I feel like my favorite moment of the set is going to be something that I did not expect. Certain shows are very prepared. It feels like performing a recital, but like this feels like going to a party for me. We know we're going to run into cool people and hear cool music, and things are gonna happen that are memorable. 

And you're closing out the Live Stage, which is more intimate than the 200-foot Main Stage or the airport hanger-style Megastructure that hold crowds of thousands.

Madeon: I love that stage, the amphitheater — and we have the honor of headlining it, which we're really proud of. That stage is where you get the most control over the look and feel of your show. When you play the main stage, it's so massive, so it has to be a collaboration between who you are as an artist, and what Ultra is. That's awesome, too, but it's fun for us to do the live stage because we can control a bit more of the experience. 

Are you bringing back the black and white camera?

San Holo: I've got to give a lot of credit to Hugo. He has a huge vision regarding visuals. 

Madeon: You also had some great insight. It's cool we were both willing to do something different than our normal show. We want to make sure that, if people have seen our shows a lot of times before, they feel like this is a different, secret, rare experience.

San Holo: You gotta tell about the logo.

Madeon: When I make music, I have a lot of self-doubt and I can be really nervous and work on songs for years. But when it comes to visuals, I tend to be very radical, cutthroat and confident. I will take a thing and then really double down on it. 

When we first were trying to figure out the visuals, the natural idea was to use half of my visuals and half of Sander's, and this didn't feel right. So, I started making those black-and-white things, and one of the first things I made took Sander's logo and my logo and just overlapped them on top of each other to create this abstract shape. I thought it looked cool and had a good gut feeling about it.

San Holo: The first time I saw the logo I was like, "Wow. That's kind of crazy," but I really love and admire the cutthroat approach. That's easier for me in my music sometimes. 

Madeon: If we had used it just a little bit, it would look like a mistake, but if you just commit to it, like "No, this is it," then people trust you. It's all about confidently committing. In the photos, we ended up really liking how everything looked. Some people in China who were there even got that logo tattooed, so it's one of these things where you have to feel the moment, feel the energy in the air at a given time. Again, I think that's where dance music is at right now. It feels more spontaneous, like you react to the magic in the air, and then go with it. Chase that excitement. 

Madeon & San Holo

(L-R) Madeon and San Holo at the 2023 Vision & Colour Festival | Photo: Haley Lan

It fits the way you're approaching the music as well. It's the two of you together and you're giving each other space to exist. It's more than the sum of its parts.

Madeon: I think audience members, one of their favorite parts is being with their friends, and [when] there's a song they love, they look at each other and react. As a solo performer on stage, you don't have that, because you know what you're going to play. But because there's two of us, we get to surprise each other. 

That's why I don't want to know too much about what he's going to play. I know he's made some edits to some of my songs, and I'm going to sample some of his songs too, but I want to surprise each other. I think that magic and that excitement is going to make us DJ better.

To give each other that space requires a lot of trust. Where does that come from?

San Holo: We haven't worked alongside each other a lot. I was on the Porter and Madeon Shelter tour [in 2016], and that was a life-changing experience for me. It's not like we call each other every day. If anything, our friendship is starting to really grow as we're doing the music thing together. I know Hugo has been doing this for a long time, and we trust each other in our professionalism. I made a huge mistake on the China stage. I spun back the wrong CDJ at some point, but we know how to fix it. 

Madeon: Yeah, that's the magic. A few years into doing this, you grow this connection with the audience where they trust you and you trust them. Some of my favorite memories on stage have been things going wrong. At the end of the day, it's not about perfection. It's about memorable, beautiful, joyful moments, and once you trust that, and you know that in your heart, you'll always find the path back to something joyful. 

Is this a collaboration you might continue? Is it too early to say?

Madeon: We're looking at returning to China where this began to do it again. The spirit of it needs to be spontaneous and quick. There's no pressure in trying to build something, but you never know. We might have so much fun [at Ultra] that we want to do it a ton. It's more about what feels right. 

Ultra asking us to do this was unexpected. I thought it was gonna be one-and-done. We accidentally created something other festivals were interested in, and now we get to bring it to the United States exclusively at Ultra. 

You never know. It might be a lot of music, maybe a lot of shows, or not. But I would say that people at Ultra, if they want to see this, they should go — because there's no guarantee.

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Tkay Maidza
Tkay Maidza

Photo: Dana Trippe

interview

Tkay Maidza On Her 'Sweet Justice' Inspirations: Tarot Cards, Lost Passports And Trusting Herself

Tkay Maidza knows karma tastes sweet. In an interview with GRAMMY.com, the singer-rapper reflects on her second album Sweet Justice, self-discovery after getting stranded in Berlin, and working with GRAMMY-winning producers Flume and Kaytranada.

GRAMMYs/Nov 21, 2023 - 03:10 pm

There are few situations more stressful than losing your passport. But luckily, for Tkay Maidza, the panic-ridden circumstance ended up being a blessing in disguise.

Forced to wait in Berlin for her visa, the hip-house musician decided to take advantage of her involuntary months-long stay by making a pact with herself to do something new every few days. Soon, late nights and new friends reminded Maidza what life was all about, and Berlin became the birthplace of creative renewal — and her second album Sweet Justice.

"I feel the most creatively free when I'm having fun," the Zimbabwe-born, Australia-raised artist tells GRAMMY.com over Zoom. True to her vibrant spirit, Sweet Justice is a product of not only her search for novel experiences, but also the liberty she unlocks by breaking routine.

Long before her rejuvenating Berlin ventures, Maidza's 10-year-plus musical journey took off with her stomping debut single "Brontosaurus," leading to the success of her 2016 self-titled debut album. Influenced by visionaries like Azealia Banks and Kendrick Lamar, the singer/rapper honed her skills even further with a refreshing EP trilogy titled Last Year Was Weird (2019-2021) — and her ambition landed her opening slots on Billie Eilish and Dua Lipa's massive 2022 tours.

Ups and downs transpired after her three-prong EP series — as Maidza changed management, ended some rocky friendships, and moved to Los Angeles. Following this transitional period — and a few insightful tarot card readings — karma emerged as a core theme for Sweet Justice.

While Maidza is in firm control of her artistic vision (she gives thanks to her Capricorn placements), she's still welcome to the liberation that manifests upon leaving everything up to the universe. There's a restorative, exhilarating energy that floods Sweet Justice, and with influences like Missy Elliott and Janet Jackson, it's no wonder her fusion of hip-house, R&B, and alternative pop resonates so deeply.

Maidza is continuing to tap into life's many joys and adventures. As much as she loves diving into Reddit threads and playing tennis, she's back on the road, celebrating her album release by touring through 2023's last couple months.

Fresh off a flight from London, Maidza chatted with GRAMMY.com about her creative reinvention, understanding music as an experience, and how Sweet Justice came to life.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

Tarot card readings helped inspire some of the themes in Sweet Justice, like karma and rebirth. Tell me about that.

I've kind of been always obsessed with tarot card reading since I started touring. I think it's because my mom would tell me that she kind of knew that I was going to venture off into music, but she was waiting for the right moment to tell me. So it became something to do whenever I had some confusion in terms of where to go.

After the Last Year Was Weird project, I was going through a lot of transitions — in regards to friends, from moving cities from Australia to LA. There was a big question mark of what to do next after my EPs. I remember, in a lot of the situations that I was experiencing, it didn't feel really fair. But when I had tarot readings, I kept getting the Justice card… that was kind of my theme for the album. I was like, I just have to regain my confidence and be healthy and be well and leave it all to the universe.

Also, I just took inspiration from the actual [Justice card] artwork with the reds, golds, and how the person in the terracotta is like sitting down in the middle; it's about balance and transformation.

I was just about to say, the album cover is gorgeous. Was it partially inspired by the Empress tarot card, too? I feel like they're a bit similar.

Definitely. There's always the High Priestess and the Empress. I just felt like with the Justice card, there's a lot of red, and I wanted to focus more on those colors.

But yeah, when I was doing my last EPs, that was more based on the High Priestess, where the centerpiece is a woman, and it's also the idea of birth and rebirth and abundance and enlightenment. And I think it has this ethereal feeling as well, and those three pictures, they also give that emotion of endless possibilities.

You've worked with some big names to produce Sweet Justice Flume, KAYTRANADA and Stint, to name a few. Tell me about a moment one of those producers helped you push your creative boundaries.

I feel like I've always been working up to working with these producers. They were on my wish list since I began making music. Working with them in person, I feel like I was being pushed by basically trying to impress them, like I wanted to make sure it was a song that I could imagine them having with another artist. It was just putting my best foot forward.

I'm so lucky that they're all really nice people. And they were like, Whoa, this is sick. Wow. This is cool. They weren't really trying to control the sessions or anything, it was more so them letting me be myself. And that level of me pushing myself just came from making sure it was up to par with how I see them as producers.

What surprised you the most about the album making process?

The thing that surprised me the most was probably the amount of trust that I had in myself. I hadn't really trusted myself that much before, and in this process, I was working with so many different producers, so I kind of held it together more than I thought. I thought it might turn into a big mess where you're like, Oh my god, I need to rely on someone, but it flowed so easily. I felt like I was in a really good energy for two or three months where I made six songs that I just really love.

Beforehand, I was kind of in this bubble of not writing for eight months. So I was like, oh my god, I have to literally finish this before the end of the year. And it was the right time, right place, right people. And it came together. I think it was mostly just my attitude towards the whole process was what surprised me because I've definitely had moments where I feel stuck.

Right, finding the right headspace is just so important, especially for creative projects. When you kind of stumble into a period of uncertainty, or face a creative block, how do you navigate that?

I try to listen to a lot of music, but I also just try to live and have fun. If I get into a block, there seems to be some sense of monotony going on in my life; I'm not as inspired because I'm not experiencing enough. It could just be like, I'm just too zoned in on one aspect of my life. But when I open it up, then there's like a more free flowing energy, and I'm able to make the most out of every moment of the day.

It's important to switch up your routine! What are your favorite hobbies, outside of music?

I love playing tennis. I honestly love being on Reddit. I don't even know if that's a hobby. Listening to podcasts, hiking, going bowling, going to aquariums. Going on long drives to random places that I've never been, just seeing the environment that I'm in. And I think I'm really lucky being in LA because you can travel 30 minutes to an area you've never been in. It's a completely new experience.

Your EP trilogy Last Year Was Weird served as your reintroduction to the world. What was your approach to that three-part project versus Sweet Justice?

When I went into the three LPs, it was almost like a rebranding for me, in the music sense, but [also] as a person. I wrote down 50 things I hoped to achieve five years from now… I had to grow as a person as well, because I was on the beginning of experimenting with old R&B, old rap, and all that. I knew I really liked it.

But then those three EPs were the process of me improving. I hoped that when each project came out, it would catch onto more people. So that was the rebrand and hopefully, there's new people that come on the journey. And I was really lucky to see that that's what happened.

With Sweet Justice, the idea was reconfirming and doubling down that this is the space that I sit in… In some ways, it's saying I'm a chameleon, but I think there's a common thread with a lot of songs from the EPs and this album.

And that's what I wanted to further cement because I feel like sometimes artists can do something that's really dope, and then they just completely jump to the other side again, and you're just like, What? So yeah, I just wanted to further cement that I'm like, This is who she is, and I hope you like it.

You mentioned rebranding. Does that process feel natural to you, or do you feel like there's more of a pressure to reinvent yourself constantly?

It wasn't natural; it felt necessary to me. When I started off in the music industry, I wasn't really sure what I was doing; everything I released felt like trial and error. By the time I got to Last Year Was Weird, I was like, OK, we've been in the music industry for like, five years, and now we can't be reactive, we have to be proactive. So it just felt more meaningful when things worked out, because it was what I was setting out to do each time. I just wanted to make sure that I had control of the direction that I was going instead of being like, oh, this random song that I made in a session worked out.

One thing I love about your artistry is that you emphasize making music into a full, lush experience. What are some of the ways you feel music transcends just pressing play on your phone?

Having the complete package brings you back to a moment in time. When I think of when Kanye West released ​​My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, you can remember that year — when you saw the music videos, the emotion that evoked. And how it was relevant to your actual life.

When you cover all those bases, it's not just a song. You're living it. And I'm almost inviting everyone to understand my perspective… Making it immersive is so important to me. Because sometimes you might not understand the song, but if you see it, and you see the way the person is holding themselves, it sells it more to you, and it makes you love it more… they're coming along on this journey with you.

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