Over the last few years, EDM fans have gotten to know and love Korean-Canadian musician and producer Dabin. Since he came onto the scene in 2011, the Toronto native has gained prominence for his experimental melodic dubstep style, collaborations with the likes of Illenium, Elephante, and Seven Lions, and official remixes and original songs for games like Valorant and the popular anime Demon Slayer. And in 2018, he was honored with a JUNO Award for “Electronic Album of the Year.”
The latest in Dabin’s growing list of accomplishments is his part in the lineup for 88rising’s inaugural Head in the Clouds New York Music & Arts Festival, which took place on May 20 and 21. Dabin took to the main stage on the festival’s second day and delivered a sonically stunning set featuring his greatest hits and new K-Pop remixes that showed his range of musical influences. Shortly after his performance, Kpopconcerts.com had the opportunity to sit down with Dabin where he got candid about preparing for the festival, Asian representation in the music scene, and future releases, and even answered a few fan-submitted questions.
KPC: Congratulations on a great set! It was fabulous.
Dabin: Thank you! We had a lot of tech issues, but the audio was fine. I’m very anal about the visuals and all that stuff. We had some issues, but it was okay. We had no soundcheck either, so they were just like, “Go and do it!” (laughs) We made it work, and we did it.
KPC: That is expert level status right there. How does it feel to be at Head in the Clouds New York?
Dabin: Oh, it’s awesome. This is my second time performing at Head in the Clouds – I had so much fun at the first one! I already have such a die-hard fanbase in New York, so when I heard that they wanted to book me for Head in the Clouds New York, I jumped at the opportunity. The New York crowd showed up tonight – it was awesome.
KPC: This is the first time 88rising is holding Head in the Clouds in New York. What was that like being part of the debut lineup?
Dabin: It’s awesome. And I think it’s just so awesome that now we have this organization and this festival that promotes Asian representation and Asian music for people in the Western climate I think just being part of something like that is really important and special, so I’m really happy to be part of it.
KPC: There was something you said at the end of your set earlier – “We have so much to prove, and so much to bring to the table.” That meant a lot to hear [as an Asian American]. For many of us Asians, we grew up in a pretty white environment in music. Was your journey to break through that hard at any point?
Dabin: I just was kind of doing my own thing. And I really did notice when my career started, that I didn’t really have an Asian role model in the West to look up to. Shout out to my boy Steve Aoki though – he really paved the way. But in terms of like, the style of music that I was making, I was looking around and was like, there’s no Asian people. When is it our turn, you know? So, I just kept doing my thing, and then as the years went on I had fans tell me, “Oh, it’s so cool to see a fellow Asian up there doing it,” like in electronic music. And that really meant the world to me. I’m out here doing it for all of the Asians! You know, I honestly feel proud.
KPC: Fans were tearing up in the crowd when you made that comment at the end of your set, it really touched so many people.
Dabin: Aww, that’s so awesome!
KPC: That hit deep! It’s just always good to see a festival like this, too – I never thought I’d see this as a kid.
Dabin: It’s crazy right?
KPC: Things are changing, I feel pretty great about that! So, getting back to your set, how did you prepare leading up to it? You’ve also been on tour too. Was there any specific creative process for planning out elements such as your instruments, and visuals?
Dabin: Well, I just went on my Sanctuary tour and we had this whole band set up. I’m still kind of on tour; the last show is actually at Brooklyn Mirage in June. So I was like, okay, well if [New York fans] are going to see it in June, then I shouldn’t have a band set up at Head in the Clouds. Then they gave us that thirty-minute time slot, so I really had to like, slam all the important [songs] into it. I kind of had to pick and choose the key songs that I really wanted to play for myself, and some songs that I thought would fit the vibe of this festival. I had that remix for XG, so I played that. I also made this new one for NewJeans, you know, so I thought it was a suitable place to drop stuff like that. Then in the blink of an eye, my set was over!
KPC: It feels like there’s a lot of lead time, in a way. Artists and fans fly from around the world to be here, and then once it happens the set times are so short!
Dabin: Yeah I mean, I went and saw XG in the crowd right after my set, and before you know it they were like, “Bye!” (laughs) It’s like oh, well, there you go. But it was awesome, it was super fun.
KPC: It was! You mentioned on Twitter that one of your goals this year was to do a lot of fan interactions. Have you had any memorable fan experiences, especially coming from the tour?
Dabin: I have something from today, actually! I was just in the VIP pen, and people were wanting to take pictures and stuff. Me and my friend were just flipping a water bottle, like the half-filled bottle flip. So I was like, okay you can get a picture [with me] if you can flip this bottle – even if you just try! So it kind of started this whole thing, and then everyone wanted to get in on it, so it was really funny. That was pretty memorable!
KPC: That’s a cool way to have fun with it after you were getting crowded by so many people! You also tweeted recently that you got an email from Seven Lions – should we expect anything new soon?
Dabin: Oh yeah, I’m working on a new track with him right now. It’s very preliminary. He just went on tour as well, so we’re kind of just waiting for the right time to both get in the studio and work on it. But yes, I am working on something with Seven Lions.
KPC: We have a couple of fan-submitted questions from Instagram. First up: How do you choose which anime scenes you want for your visuals?
Dabin: So, Demon Slayer was kind of like the segue into it. I started with the Demon Slayer one because I was just a huge fan, and that kind of led to an official remix for them. And then that led into an official remix for Valorant, so I’ve just kind of been representing the things that I like to watch and the things that I like to play. Demon Slayer and Valorant were a big part of my life at that time. Those were kind of like my go-to, and to be able to do official remixes for them has been a dream come true.
KPC: That’s awesome! Okay, fan question number two: what’s the story behind Harold (your logo/mascot)?
Dabin: So I have a Facebook group. And someone, one day, was like, “Does anyone know if Dabin’s logo has a name?” And then someone just said, “Harold,” and it had the most likes out of anything [on the post]. So I just started calling it Harold too, and now everyone just calls it Harold.
KPC: I’m sure the fan who came up with that is so proud! Was there any specific thought that went into designing Harold?
Dabin: When we started designing it, I was kind of in this place where I have like a logo [for my] name, but I really wanted an icon that could represent my music and something you could put on merch that doesn’t have to say, “Dabin” all the time, you know? I was just watching Princess Mononoke one day, and she has the mask, right? I was like, oh my god, that would be really cool to like, tie that into our thing. So I had an artist mock up a bunch of masks, and I kind of took pieces from this one and this one and this one – and then we made Harold in the end.
KPC: And now he’s an icon!
Dabin: He’s a star – Harold’s a star.
KPC: We have one last question. You’ve obviously collaborated with many different artists, but who is your dream collab?
Dabin: Oh man, I’ve been listening to a lot of K-Pop recently, so I feel like some sort of K-Pop collab would be awesome. Blackpink, or like XG would be really cool. We got the XG remix but getting in the studio with them would be cool. That or like, the polar opposite – Bring Me The Horizon. Something really heavy. (laughs) I have a light and a dark side, as you can tell. But that’d be cool.
KPC: There’s something for everyone! Fans would love it. That brings us to the end of our interview. Thank you so much for your time!
Dabin: Of course, thanks so much!
Thank you to Dabin and Kannibalen Records for the interview opportunity!
Written by: Aleisha F. and Sarah P.