Milkman knows how to draw a crowd. Thanks to a relatively early set time and opener Doldrums’ sudden cancellation, the crowd gathered for his Friday evening performance at at Electric Forest’s Tripolee Stage was smaller and colder than it otherwise ought to have been. But that didn’t last long. Drawn to the former mashup artist’s infectious, can’t-not-dance beats, the audience more than quadrupled in size and energy by the time he was through.
Milkman, aka San Diego DJ/producer Gregg Luskin, is fantastic onstage. He jumps around frenetically and sings along, and the exchange of energy between performer and audience is mesmerizing. For him, that’s the whole point. “It really is about getting the crowd involved,” he says. “People just want to dance and have a good time and feel involved with something that’s bigger than themselves. That’s what I strive to do.”
Luskin is smart; he earned a degree in Computer Science from the University of Santa Barbara between 2008 and 2011, at the same time he was first gaining traction as a touring force. A self-described “nerd”, he’s known for programming his own lights and sound, controlling both onstage simultaneously. Besides the live production, he also independently records, mixes and masters all his original tracks from his studio in Los Angeles.
Talking to Luskin, you can just tell his brain is going a mile a minute. “[I’m] kind of ADD, if you haven’t figured it out,” he says, smiling apologetically. “He’s probably the only one at this festival who needs an Adderall prescription,” jokes Jonathan Pardo, Luskin’s levelheaded, good-vibes friend and manager. Pardo is obviously the calm and collected Yin to Luskin’s enthusiastic Yang. They’re perfectly matched.
Luskin’s Electric Forest set was a combination of the crowd-pleasing favorites The Hypist recognized from his Movement Detroit set mixed with tracks off his brand new album. Released just that day, the album is called Machines and Dreams Part 1, and it debuted on Luskin’s own label, Electrok. “We just started it,” he explains. “[Machines and Dreams] is the first official release on Electrok.” Pardo, leaning back and checking his smartphone, chimes in. “Up to 12 on iTunes.” “Are we on 12?” says Luskin. “Give me some, baby!” Queue triumphant high-fives around the interview table.
The newly established Electrok is meant to be launching pad for Luskin to curate and promote new young talent. “I get a lot of SoundCloud links and YouTube links and Facebook messages from kids who are like 14, 15 [and] 16 around the world who are like ‘Yo, check out my track!’ and to be honest, they’re really fucking good. These kids have it down,” explains Luskin. “The average kid, if they’re good, if they’re creative… it’s not like it was in the 70s and the 80s where you had to have $10,000, $20,000 to go in and make a good record. It’s not like that anymore.”
Electrok’s launch lends further insight into Luskin’s eye toward the future. He understands the volatile nature of today’s fast-paced electronic music scene and he appears equipped to stay on top of it. “It really is all fan driven,” he says earnestly. “Nowadays in this genre it’s 50% can you make some good music and it’s 50% can you get enough people behind you to help sell it… There [are] a ton of acts out there who don’t get the attention and can’t get the music out there but are great. And I’ll be the first to admit you have to be lucky enough to get attention, but let’s be real, a lot of people can do what a lot of people are doing right now and aren’t nearly as big.”
It’s this balance of ambition and humility that makes Luskin such a terrific act. “My favorite thing to do during live shows—and this is why I like intimate venues, like a 250 or 500 capacity room—it’s because I can jump in the crowd, and I can get up on the security pit… and sing with them and have a great time,” he says. “And that really is a part of my set.”
Fans can watch for Milkman’s bimonthly ‘After Hours’ EDM mixtapes, available free on his iTunes Podcast, SoundCloud and website. He’s been touring with Budweiser’s Made In America Tour since March and will continue touring throughout the summer. For more on Milkman check out his official website. There you’ll find tour dates, links to his latest releases, photos, video and more.
Photos by Steven Pham