In a scene that sees thousands of new artists emerge each year, it’s difficult for anyone to truly stand out. Fortunately, that is not the problem for Anakim, a Los Angeles based producer who is making a large impact in the dance music community. Anakim’s dedication to innovative production methods has led him to release his music on some of dance music’s biggest labels including mau5trap, EIN2, Dear Deer, and most recently, Desert Hearts Black, as well as a debut on our Global Vibe Radio mix series for episode 125 back in April 2018.
Anakim began building his unique sound at the renowned Icon Collective Music Production School. After graduating, he continued to polish and perfect his production methods which have led him to unprecedented success, including a coveted booking at Coachella’s Yuma Tent in 2018. Most recently, Anakim was named as one of Billboard Dance’s Emerging artists for 2020.
Kicking off the decade with his Billboard recognition and his newly released ‘Poseidon’s Revenge’ EP on Desert Hearts Black, which you can find on Beatport, Anakim is showing no signs of stopping anytime soon. We examine his budding career in our chat with him around the release, diving into his unique experience coming up in such a bustling music scene and his path to success on a more global scale.
As a global music mecca, we imagine building your career from scratch in LA has left you with some valuable wisdom. Can you outline a couple crucial industry truths that you’ve learned while observing and participating in LA’s music industry that have helped bring success on a larger scale?
Los Angeles has so much to offer and has such a mind blowingly vibrant music scene. Los Angeles also has a lot of pitfalls and distractions for a young artist. It’s all too easy to lose focus and get caught up in partying too much. I’ve had to really put my foot down over the years and maintain discipline. You must put in the work necessary to put yourself in a position to succeed when opportunities come along, especially in a city the size of Los Angeles. I can’t overstate that enough.
Which decisions/’leaps of faith’ you’ve made over time have benefitted you most in the long run, and why?
I’ve never spoken about this in any interview before, but I kid you not, this is an absolutely true story. It’s a long but great story about taking a leap of faith, so please bear with me…
Back in March of 2014 I had an ex-girlfriend take me to see a psychic for my birthday. She thought it would be fun and entertaining, so I said, “why not?”
We show up to the psychic thinking we’d both get a reading together, but this psychic was adamant about the readings being one-on-one only. She took it very seriously. She proceeds to tell me that she’s not the type of psychic who tells you your fortune. She tells me she’s an energy reader, hands me a crystal, and says the crystal in my palm would communicate with the crystal in her palm and that’s how she would be able to read me.
I’m thinking in my head, “Okay, this lady is a total nut job, but hey, you can’t exactly leave now so just go with it, Riccardo.”
She asks me my name and my birthday. That’s it. Nothing else.
So the reading begins. No less than ten minutes into the reading this lady is asking me questions about things literally no one knows about me. For example, out of nowhere she goes, “I’m picking up that you have a strange relationship with water. I’m sensing you don’t like deep bodies of water.” Almost no one at the time knew I had come close to drowning in Lake Tahoe when I was 18.
Towards the end of the reading she looked at me funny and said, “Why did you leave the music industry?” When I was a student at UCLA I interned for Dim Mak Records back when it was still an indie rock label. I was hell bent on being in the music industry, but ended up as an actor in the entertainment industry. I explained to her my reasons for not being in the music industry, without disclosing what I did at the time, and she looked me dead in the eyes and said, “You don’t belong in acting.”
I was floored and offended. I said, “That’s not true, I’m actually filming a role on The Newsroom tomorrow,” a show that was on HBO at the time.
She said, “I’m not saying you won’t be successful if you continue down this path. What I am saying is if you do, you will feel empty in this pursuit. You belong in music. I don’t know how, but something in my gut tells me that at the beginning of the new year you will find yourself back in the music industry. If that happens, you must come back and see me.”
I walked out of that reading in a daze. How could she know all about me? Why would she think I’d end up back in the music industry?
She was right though. I didn’t feel fulfilled pursuing a path in acting. It all felt very empty, despite my moderate success having roles on different TV shows.
Somehow I came across an interview with MAKJ a few months later and he mentioned Icon Collective Music Production School. I looked into it and was intrigued. Fast forward to November of 2014, I find myself interviewing at Icon. I get accepted, leave everything I was pursuing behind, and in January of 2015 I find myself in music school, back in the music industry, exactly like she predicted.
You only get one shot at life and there is no timetable to which you can reinvent yourself. Leaving everything behind in my late twenties to pursue music was the greatest leap of faith I have ever taken and I have never been happier.
To anyone wondering…. No, I didn’t go back and see her.
A big theme of the LA scene seems to be on collaboration; a lot of collectives have formed out here over the past decade or so, and we often see underground promoters coming together to throw better events together. Can you speak to the power of teamwork in the music industry, especially in a saturated market like this one?
Through the decades, the world has become more open to sharing and collaborating. There is no doubt we have left the age where individuals, especially artists, are protective of their ideas, and have entered into a new era where people understand they must collaborate to take their ideas one step further.
You can have crews like Understated and 900 Block, who throw beautiful events as solo collectives, come together to create an even better event as a team, sharing their ideas and visions together. The camaraderie in the LA music scene between collectives collaborating is so beautiful. Rarely have I ever seen moments of adversarial energy. This type of collaboration really helps to push not only the collectives and all artists involved forward, but LA dance music culture as a whole.
On the note of collaboration, we’re interviewing you around your debut on Desert Hearts Black – another homegrown institution. Describe your relationship with the Desert Hearts brand and how you came to releasing on DHB. What makes this subsidiary movement one that you want to get involved with?
When I was still a student at Icon back in 2015, I attended the Desert Hearts Spring festival. One night I found myself sitting down with my friends next to the stage and I heard this incredible style of music emanating from the speakers. It was a very intergalactic style of progressive house and melodic techno that I had never heard before. Everything sounded like it was the soundtrack to interstellar travel.
My friend Travis noticed I had my eyes closed listening intently and he said to me, “It looks as though you’re having an epiphany.” If there is such a thing as divine intervention, it was at that moment it hit me. I decided on the spot that whatever this style of music was, it spoke to me at my core and I would dedicate the rest of my time in music school to figuring out how to make it.
Had I not gone to that one Desert Hearts festival right at the beginning of my time at music school, a school known primarily at the time for producing bass and dubstep artists, the course of my career could look very different than it does right now.
Over the years since that event I had run into DH Black label founders Evan Casey and Marbs at many stand-alone Desert Hearts parties. In an industry full of inflated egos, they were always so kind and genuine to me. I have deep respect and admiration for people like them, so when Marbs’ agent let me know about the Desert Hearts Black project prior to launch, given my history with DH, I knew I had to be a part of this movement.
Desert Hearts enabled me to find my identity as an artist. Releasing music with the Black label is the very least I can do to give back to them.
Your work has already landed on some top imprints. What are some tips you can offer to young artists when it comes to sending their music out to labels and standing out?
Even from launch, I think it’s important that as an artist you run a tight ship. Most important thing is make sure your production is tight and polished. It’s incredible how many demos labels get that just aren’t up to par with industry standards.
Make sure your branding is tight. Why? Because it’s the first indicator to letting people know your story, your personal narrative as an artist. If a label is going to take a chance on you by signing an EP and pushing it, they should be able to get a sense of who you are as an artist visually. There is no formula to this, so just be authentically you.
Be personal and cordial in your demo submission emails. Don’t email a label with something like, “Hey what’s up! Here’s a demo I think you’d like. Peace!” Make sure you introduce yourself properly, give them a nice, descriptive pitch as to what your track/EP sounds like, so it entices them to listen. Always, ALWAYS, send private Soundcloud links, unless the label notes otherwise. Do not have your demo or EP available publicly anywhere before submitting.
Labels get hit with tons of demos, so these little things can really help a young artist stand out from the pack.
Some particularly snobbish types often discount American artists as ‘behind on the times’ musically, or somehow not as talented/original as bigger European names. This is obviously a flawed assumption. Who are some artists you’ve seen coming out of LA (other than yourself) that are really pushing the envelope musically and putting the city’s name on the map as a respectable hub for underground dance music?
The talent currently in Los Angeles is world class. First person that comes to mind is my friend Rinzen. He’s doing some really fantastic work at the moment and is someone who is really pushing the envelope musically in the melodic house and techno world.
Although he recently moved, my good friend Brennen Grey was the best thing that happened to the LA techno scene in years. He’s an absolute force.
Someone I don’t know personally but admire from afar is Durante. He is insanely talented.
Two artists you will absolutely be hearing about more in the future are 28mm and Sohmi. Just watch. They’re about to take the LA scene and beyond by storm.
Last but certainly not least, I have to mention the trio of Lubelski, Rybo, and Wyatt Marshall.
How has attending Icon/music school helped in building your career? Would you recommend courses to all aspiring artists?
Before attending Icon I had a hobby-level understanding of music production. Thanks to my time there and the instructors I had I developed an incredible foundation for what would become my signature Anakim sound.
Whether it be at an accredited music production school or online courses, I think any student looking to take their production to the next level should look into courses. We live in an age where producer’s are no longer keeping their production knowledge secret, so why not take advantage of all the resources readily available to aspiring producer’s everywhere?
Your rise seems very well planned; you went from signing on with smaller labels, to catching attention of majors, to booking in Coachella gigs. Have you always had a specific plan in place for achieving these milestones? Is it important to continually map out a vision for your career over the next 5, 10, years or so in order to stay grounded and successful?
I’d be lying if I didn’t say I think about every step and move I make regarding this Anakim project. I’ve had a very specific vision for this project since day one.
I was very fortunate to have a mentor in the past named David Garcia, who was a music business teacher. He taught me the importance of having a three, five, and ten year plan regarding my artist project. Although I have evolved as a person and my project has evolved artistically since writing those plans down, they have served as the loose guidelines for the Anakim project, my “North star,” so to speak. I am a firm believer in writing down your goals physically so they can manifest into reality.
Let’s briefly talk about ‘Poseidon’s Revenge’ – did you have these tracks lying around already by the time Desert Hearts Black reached out, or did you craft a new EP upon being signed? What was the writing process like and your inspiration for the mythical theme?
The tracks “Poseidon’s Revenge” and “The High Priestess” were already completed when I learned of the formation of Desert Hearts Black from my friend and Marbs’ agent Natalie. She thought I would be a good fit for the label, so I immediately sent the two tracks to both Evan and Marbs. Luckily for me they loved it and signed it immediately.
A couple weeks later I finished “Alien In The Stargate” and sent it to Evan in case he wanted to play the track in his sets. He hit me back saying they wanted to sign it as well! That’s how the three-track EP came to be.
As far as my writing process, I think by now many people know I am huge on the concept EP. I take abstract ideas or concepts I think of, essentially mini movies in my head, and score what I see. It sounds crazy, but it allows me to get really deep with each track’s sonic vision and I think that’s very apparent once you listen to my ‘Poseidon’s Revenge’ EP.
Finally, what else do you have in the pipeline at the moment?
I’m currently working on three remixes that will be released later this year and I’ve decided to join forces with Understated once again to release an EP with them in a couple of months. Unfortunately, that’s all I can really say at the moment so definitely stay tuned!
Cover photo by Jar.Photo