US progressive house label Pangea Recordings recently celebrated their 15th anniversary, so we sat main man DJ Samer down for a little chat
If you're a fan of progressive house, you surely don't need us to tell you much about Pangea Recordings – not after they've been in the game for an impressive decade and a half. And even if you're not a big prog fan, the name should still be familiar to most iDJ readers, given how generous they've been in chucking premieres our way over the past couple of years…
But in case you've just wandered in, we'll have a quick recap anyway! Formed in Tampa, Florida but now based in California, Pangea have been stalwarts of the US prog scene since emerging with Evrydaydowners' This World in 2004. Packing remixes from Andy Moor and Chris Lake, the label's debut release remains its biggest seller to date. That's certainly not for lack of competition, though: ask label boss DJ Samer exactly how many records they've put out and you'll get a shrugged "Jeez… 300, at least. I quite counting a while ago!"
Samer runs Pangea pretty much single-handedly – making the label's longevity all the more remarkable – with all releases coming out on vinyl, but available digitally only via streaming services. He says the most rewarding thing about doing it is "producing and working with guys I look up to and progressive icons such as Luke Chable and Barry Jamieson, Inkfish, and earning respect and becoming friends with many DJs that I admire, like Jerry Bohnam and Spesh."
Read on to learn more about the history of the label and get Samer's views on one of 2019's thorniest questions: is it progressive house or melodic techno?
Where are you based? I've read Los Angeles, I've read Fresno and I've read Springville, Florida, so I'm a bit confused!
"You have the right to be confused, because Pangea has different connections to each of those cities that you just mentioned. But the label’s roots are based in Tampa, Florida, although I moved the label to California around 2007."
When did you set up the label, and why?
"The label was created to showcase the progressive sound that was sweeping electronic music again in the late 90s and early 2000s. Even after an initial incline, and trance becoming mainstream, progressive music in general was really hard to find in Tampa’s nightlife and club scene. There was an incredible, world-famous breakbeat scene being pushed by guys like Rick West and Keith McKenzie, and a bustling deep house scene underneath it all, but no progressive nights whatsoever.
"Simon’s in Gainesville was a few hours drive away and did bring some of the best acts in the world (including progressive ones), and Miami was just a bit further on the other side of the State, but it was shocking to me that you could not regularly find progressive music or acts in the Tampa clubs – even though I knew a lot of people there loved progressive music, because our house parties were always so vibrant and full of people, and I managed to gather a small group of loyal fans who would come watch me play regularly.
"The first time I saw Sasha and Digweed at the Zen festival in the late 90s, along with Rabbit In The Moon and their efforts to bring progressive and electronic music to Florida in general, it confirmed to me that I had to put effort into bringing that type of sound to Tampa for good. Because of that, I formed the concept of Pangea, and it grew with the progressive sound once again in the early 2000s."
How do you describe the label's music policy?
"Anything that sounds good! If you have to lump us into genres, then progressive music for the most part, but we've released many tracks that don't tow the progressive line, and will continue to do so."
Earlier this year you celebrated your 15th birthday – that must feel like quite an achievement?
"It certainly did! I remember 15 years ago like yesterday: wondering where this journey was going to take me, going to as many conferences as I could, playing anywhere I could to spread Pangea and progressive music. There were many highs and many lows.
"There were times that I wanted to quit, frankly, because the music seemed to become more and more commercial in the clubs, and musical fads were changing. We had shows that were sold out, we had shows with no one there. It took quite a lot of grit and determination to keep on moving, but I knew that if we stayed true to our sound, we would still be relevant. And here we are, still releasing, still relevant, still progressive."
…especially as it means you clearly survived the great label die-off of the mid-00s! Was that a tough time? Or was that perhaps more of a UK phenomenon?
"No, that phenomenon was worldwide! The use of MP3s destroyed a lot of vinyl labels in the early 00s, and Pangea was not spared casualties. We had so much music being sent to us back then, that we actually did have quite a few sub-labels, like Pangea UK and 1Shot Recordings, because we couldn't keep up with demand. However, those sub-labels died off when MP3s really flourished and the pool of music started overflowing with sub-par music and labels."
What has been the secret of your success, do you think? Pangea seems to have stuck quite determinedly to a definable sound, is that part of it?
"One word: Consistency. I think that is exactly right. I do not attribute it to anything else."
During those 15 years – what was the worst mistake you ever made, as a label, and what was your smartest ever move?
"Worst mistake I ever made was to trust other people to do the same job that I would do. That is my mistake not just in music, but in life in general. I handle and keep everything quite close to me now, and things just seem to work out."
You don't seem to have gone into "the events space" as many labels do these days. Is that correct and if so, was that a conscious decision?
"We delved into events in the early life of the label. But I wanted to stay focused on the music because I knew the challenges coming from an influx of labels and music without the filter of the distributor. Maybe in the future, we will go back to doing those, but for now, I feel like we just need to stick with the music."
I say potato… you say potato! But do YOU say progressive house, or do you say 'melodic techno' these days?
"It’s all the same thing. Business and corporations always take the same products and remodel and repackage them to sell them to the same and perhaps a different audience. This does not surprise me, and no doubt there will be more genres created to celebrate the same music in the future! It’s how the business works."
The last things I heard from Pangea were Dark Architect's Cough & Laugh and your WMC sampler.... what's coming next?
"Some big packages are coming by amazing artists like Luke Chable, Barry Jameison, Inkfish, Michael Wilson and more."
And finally, now you've got 15 years under your belt, what else is coming up and what's the next mountain to climb?
"Try to last another 15!"
Words: Russell Deeks
Pangea's 15th anniversary compilation XV: Fifteen Years Of Pangea is out now
Tags: Pangea Recordings, DJ Samer, progresssive house, melodic techno, Tampa. Sasha & Digweed, Rabbit In The Moon, Luke Chable, Barry Jameison, Inkfish, Michael Wilson, Andy Moor, Chris Lake, Evrydaydowners, Jerry Bohnam, Spesh