Mikey Lion Talks LiB, Desert Hearts and Falling in Love with Deep House

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In the big-hearted, bass embracing world of house music few are celebrated with the same warmth and fervor as Mikey Lion. As a rising DJ/Producer, Boss at Desert Hearts Records and an easily recognized top hat enthusiast, Lion represents the next generation of Techno inspired Deep House with a fashionable flair.

In addition to constantly putting out new mixes on Soundcloud, Lion has become a House-hold name with several festival performances over the last few years.

He also tirelessly works with friends Lee Reynolds, Marbs, PorkchopDeep Jesus and Christopher Kristoff to produce Desert Hearts Festivals twice a year at the enchanting Los Coyotes Indian Reservation along with a tour of City Hearts events sweeping San Diego, Los Angeles, Denver, San Francisco, Brooklyn and Toronto.

We caught up with Mikey Lion to talk about Lightning in a Bottle and the small but growing events expanding the festival scene, like: Woogie Weekend, Dirtybird Campout and Desert Hearts. He even opened up a bit about how he fell in love with House music.

Do Lab: Why did you want to play the Woogie at LiB and what was so important about that experience for you?
Mikey Lion: Lighting in a Bottle 2011 was my first real, I guess, burner festival. I’ve been going to Coachella since I was seventeen. 2006 was my first one and to me Coachella was always like “the end-all, be-all” like in everything that I knew no matter what I’d go to Coachella every year – forever. I was one of those dudes for sure and my friend finally dragged me to Lighting in a Bottle because I was always such a big fan of the Do Lab stage at Coachella. He’s like “it’s a festival put on by the Do Lab completely” and I went there and was blown away by how open and free everything was at Lightning in a Bottle 2011.

Now, I’ve always been a house-head and so the Woogie Stage became my home and I was like oh my god this is the best stage I’ve ever seen in my life. We ended up camping right across the street from the stage and we were there from as soon as music started until it ended every day. To me it was just like the best thing in the world having nonstop good house music and right as I was having this epiphany that I was at the best party in the world someone tapped me on the shoulder was just like “Kid, you ain’t seen shit. Wait till you go to burning man – then you’ll really see what it’s all about!”

When we got home, (we weren’t even desert hearts back then we were just all best friends) we all bought our tickets to Burning Man immediately and that’s kind of what set it off for us getting involved in the whole burner culture, the festival culture and the whole scene. But, you know, it all started with us at the Woogie stage and that’s really where we learned and started growing with the Do Lab. That’s also when I made it my goal to one day play the Woogie Stage.

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Photo Credit: Jorgenson Photography

DL: So, how did you go about earning a chance to perform on the Woogie Stage? 

I ended up infiltrating the Pocket Underground Crew which is Sammy Bliss and Jesse Wright and all those wacky guys who throw the Woogie stage and I just knew that if I could show them what I could do I might really have the chance of playing on the Woogie stage and sure enough I made good friends with them and I remember Jesse asked me to play a Do Lab show King King in Hollywood and right after I finished my set he got on the microphone and said: “give it up for Mikey Lion!”, and my whole crew was out there at the show. Then he was like “who here would like to see Mikey Lion play the Woogie stage” and everyone goes fucking crazy and my mind was blown out of my head.

DL: Wow, what a great memory!

Yeah, I’ll never forget how Jesse was so happy to give that to me because he knew that was my dream to play the Woogie and even now when we get that chance to make that phone call or ask someone in person if they would like to play Desert Hearts it’s the best feeling in the world when you get that reaction from them because I know that how they feel about Desert Hearts is the way I felt about playing the Woogie Stage, so just having everything come full circle now has been incredible. I’ve played Lighting in a Bottle twice now. I’ve played Woogie Weekend – those guys are like my brothers over there and they’re always giving me so much encouragement. It’s really cool.

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Photo Credit: OutLife

DL: We see a lot of these intimate gatherings popping up. There also seems to be a rising interest in festivals like Woogie Weekend, Dirtybird and Desert Hearts. What do you think it is about these festivals that are making them so popular?

ML: I think the community aspect of intimate festivals is one of the best parts of the entire thing because they’re so small and for us we do “one stage, one vibe” where you know that if you can’t find your friends there’s a very good chance they’re going to be at the stage and not only that but there’s not five thousand or ten thousand people at one stage, you know. There’s a thousand or two thousand people there at a time, so it’s very manageable to go find all your friends even in the crowd.

To me, the more intimate festivals are on the rise because people want to go somewhere where they can grow with their friends and grow with the community that surrounds them at Desert Hearts. We have so many theme camps that are there – this is their home – and this is their place where you know it takes for all the camps at Burning Man where everyone works all year round to go just host something that’s amazing with all their best friends to give to a community that’s what we have here at Desert Hearts we have I think like 20 theme camps and this is their home and this is their place to shine.

I think festivals like Dirtybird Campout and Woogie Weekend they’re very theme oriented. The Dirtybird campout was so good because they came in and they didn’t pretend to be something that they’re not. The Dirtybirds have always been about having fun and getting bouncy, so they didn’t come in saying “we’re going to be this transformational festival with yoga and spiritual centers or anything like that.” Instead, they’re like “lets fucking have a summer camp for adults with all of our friends and go and like make that what the theme is” and that was so sick. Yeah, that was definitely a really cool spin on the whole thing and I definitely had a blast at that one.

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Photo Credit: Juliana Bernstein (Get Tiny Photography)

DL: How did you fall in love with House Music and where do you think the future is headed for it?

My very first time I ever heard house music was at 2006 Coachella and it was the debut of the infamous Daft Punk pyramid. And for me, I was a hip hop DJ for five years before that. I was a turntablist, scratching records. After that moment I started buying all electronic music. It was the very tipping point of it for me because all through college I DJ’d with bangin’ electro house and stuff because I think that’s where most people really find house music and electronic music – with the more accessible stuff. For me, it was always the harder the better with Boys Noize and Digitalism, but that all started to change.

Actually in 2009, I studied abroad in Barcelona for 6 months and while I was there I really got a taste for the European sound and that’s always been tech house, deep house, techno. Its just always been a way more refined version of house music and I ended up meeting the right promoter who completely gave me a shot at DJing once a week at one of the best clubs in Barcelona called Sala Razzmatazz. I would play from midnight till 5 am once a week and just that’s what really taught me how to be a good DJ. I just got thrown in the fire and everyone there had an appetite for deep house and techno, so that’s really where my taste in music matured. When I came back I just started strictly playing tech house. It was what I start pushing to all my friends and everyone just kind of evolved slowly toward it. Eventually we all just started sharing this real love for good underground house music.

DL: It seems like as Desert Hearts solidified as a group there was a growing love for the music in the scene too. Like artists and music lovers really started to identify with it in a big way. Did you see that too?
Yeah, I mean deep house is almost mainstream now because Disclosure and those guys are bridging the gap. They’ve made it very accessible music for everyone, which is just fucking awesome. You know, the more people that are into good music the better it is for everyone and that’s what we’re trying to push with Desert Hearts. We made our SoundCloud and record label completely free for everyone because we just want to get music out there. You know? We want to share the love that we have to give with the rest of the world and that’s kind of what our entire purpose of Desert Hearts is.

Featured Photo Credit: Pablo Stanley

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