In Conversation with Mary Droppinz
Here at Underrated, we want to do more than just throw parties. We want to bring like-minded people together. We want to provide an escape from your troubles. We want to curate a vibe. So when Mary Droppinz, a seasoned veteran of the Los Angeles dance music community, says Clinic is her favorite party in LA, we know we’re doing something right.
Mary has been crushing the music game behind the decks and behind the scenes for years already. Other than her considerable career as a DJ that’s taken her all over the country, she’s supported eminent forces in the industry like Native Instruments and Desert Hearts working on their marketing teams. Now she’s also taken up production at the well-known institute IO Academy.
Coming to SoCal all the way from Nebraska, Mary has been a wonderful addition to our city and our community, and we’re thrilled she is the next in our “In Conversation” series. Read on to get the story behind her DJ name, her recent adventures with Gari Safari, and take a listen to her set from her last date at Clinic at the bottom.
HL: For this one, I’m just curious how the name Mary Droppinz came about? Was Mary Poppins your favorite Disney character growing up?
MD: I wouldn’t say Mary Poppins was my favorite Disney movie, although she is great. I would say Beauty and the Beast definitely was. The name actually came about from a joke with Travis Dagz. He and I were going to a lot of the underground shows in Orange County when I first I moved out here from Nebraska, and we saw this DJ playing who looked like Mary Poppins. She was this older lady, and she was crushing it playing techno. He made a joke: “that’s Mary Droppinz,” and we were all laughing about it. Then we just kept running into her for the whole next year at different festivals. So we were like “you know it’s gonna be a good time when Mary Droppinz is here.” So it kind of stuck with me, and then my first show was on the rooftop of my job at Chiat Day which is Playa Del Rey. They had me DJ and all my co-workers were there, so I was like “I’m gonna say my name is Mary Droppinz,” cause it’s gonna make them laugh 🙂
HL: I used to be an uber driver and I met literally hundreds of people who weren’t born in LA, but are now living here, and they all had very interesting interpretations of the city; especially for me because I was born here. Being from Nebraska yourself, how would you describe this city to someone who has never visited? How would you describe the house music community specifically?
MD: Most of the people from Nebraska ask me “how do you survive?” That’s the main question and I would say that LA is not for the faint of heart. Although I’m an open, sweet person, it’s always good to take things a little bit lightly in the sense of your sensitivities so you have to grow some thick skin. For me, I would describe it as a melting pot like everyone says. I’ve gotten to try some food I thought I would never get to try or even hear about. Also, all my friends have completely different backgrounds than where I grew up. When I went to high school everyone came from the same family were all the same ethnicity and things like that. So it’s really refreshing to get to come to a place where all things go. All walks of life. Everyone’s here. So I would just it’s a way to see the world in one city.
HL: I feel like in LA if you’re honest about who you are and you actually put yourself out there you’ll be able to connect with anyone. It doesn’t matter how many people are in the city. For example, I’m really proud of our house music community. It honestly blows me away on a frequent basis, and it’s not made up of thousands of people or anything like that. It’s made up of people you see around all the time.
MD: I feel like the house and techno scene here is very welcoming. Although we’re in LA, and it’s cutthroat because the best of the best are here, I feel like getting the opportunity and chances to play aren’t slim around here. There are a lot of opportunities to play. There are a lot of parties and stuff, but I feel like from my experience with promoters everyone’s been down to earth and really open to meeting new people and it’s on you to show them your light and who you are and that’s where things happen. I definitely have a soft spot for the LA house and techno scene because they totally accepted me with open arms and I don’t have a background in the music scene out here. I came in as a free bird you know? And it’s been really cool so I like it a lot out here.
HL: Recently you’ve been playing outside of LA more and more in places like Vegas, San Diego and OC. How would you say playing for the LA crowd compares to other areas?
MD: I like playing for LA because people actually listen to your tracks, and it’s a little more challenging because your friend probably already has that track or they’ve already all heard it. So I get really passionate and amped up about digging for music. It’s like a game out here because there are so many DJs; so many people in the scene that finding that track that no one’s heard is exciting for me, and then also blending in classics and things that people can remember. So it’s more of a challenge out here I would say, but I really do like playing for other cities because they don’t all have that pro attitude about it. A lot of the people at the parties are just going out to party. Not everyone’s a DJ. Probably most DJs live in LA and New York I would say. When I played in Seattle I was getting a lot more of the things that I get when I play at Focus for the 18+ crowd. People screaming and interacting with you and I like that. In LA, sometimes people are just chilling in the back, and not as animated as the other cities. But it’s different at Clinic 🙂
HL: You played in Seattle with Anabel Englund. How did the two of you meet?
MD: We met about a year ago. She hit me up because I was working at Native Instruments, and she wanted to start DJing. So I got her on the Traktor controller, gave her the basics, and we just really vibed and kept in touch. Then out of nowhere this year, she hit me up and asked me to play with her for a B2B at the Gari (Safari) party here in LA. I think she just wanted to test it out and we definitely noticed the crowd really culminated around the front. It was really powerful and it was cool for us to become friends that way and see our talents mesh together.
Then she invited me to go to Seattle with her, and I got to play my own DJ set. Then I played her tracks and she sang over them, and then we played back to back. It was like a really vibey flow.
HL: I first saw her in 2015 when she performed with Hot Natured and her voice; let’s just say there’s a reason she’s found the success that she has, and it’s even better live.
MD: Oh yeah. I tell her all the time. She has an angel coming through her body and transmuting out the most gorgeous voice. She’s really special.
HL: You recently quit Native instruments and now you’re working with Desert Hearts in their marketing department. How has this transition affected your personal career in music?
MD: It’s helping me find stability within my music career. Probably was one of the hardest decisions to make was leaving Native because it’s honestly a dream come true career and the team there became family! I was starting to feel my mental space becoming worried about quitting Native because I’ve been in an office for ten years now. I don’t have any structure outside of my nine to five, so I was like, “I’ll just rack in gigs all day.” Then reality hit that it’s not a good idea to over-gig at this point. Obviously, my direction of quitting Native was pursue music full-time, but also it was more to focus on music production which is why I’m going to school at IO Academy and absolutely loving it.
So, Desert Hearts really came at the right time when I was transitioning to being out of the office. It was a universe thing, and I love working with those guys. They’ve been very welcoming, and we all grind it out for house, techno, and love. It’s cool to still use all the tools I built at Native Instruments, but now I just do it from home while working on music with less pressure to make ends meet with performances.
HL: So you’re getting the best of both worlds in a certain way because you have the steadiness, but because they are all touring artists themselves they give you more freedom in that regard
MD: Definitely. They’re very understanding about it, it’s the business. I also appreciate working close with legends like DH because I am getting a great advantage to learn from them.
HL: How is the production going so far?
MD: It’s great. I’m loving it. I’m on Ableton. I started with Logic, and now I’m very confident on Ableton. I have three tracks in the works now. One I’ve teased in a few of my mixes and I’ll play out to get the vibe going and see what the crowd’s reaction is, but I’m realizing this is just a journey that you’re always on. It never ends in terms of improving and learning new things, so I’m excited to be going to IO Academy in Hollywood to really hone my skills. Originally, I was doing the Youtube video route, but it makes a difference when you’re in a classroom with like-minded people. Also seeing their perspectives on music production for other genres is super enlightening.
HL: What are they teaching you at IO Academy? Is it mostly the program or do they go into other aspects like theory as well?
MD: It’s a full program so they’re teaching music theory, all Ableton, arranging, automation how to get your ideas down, mixing/mastering, sound design, and the engineering side of it. Then they’ll have other extracurricular classes you can do that are specific like “how to make a house and techno track” or “how to work with a manager” and they’ll have someone crushing it in the industry come speak to the class. So that’s on your own schedule if you want to make it to that. Otherwise, it’s the standard full program of building a track, mixing it, finishing it, and also music theory. Highly recommend this course if you’re looking to up your game on your tracks!
HL: In seeing your sets numerous times it’s clear you have an affection for acid house. What is it about acid and the 303 that you enjoy so much?
MD: When I first heard the sound something triggered in me. I felt a calming come over me even though it’s an intense alien-esque sound. It felt like it was almost able to, it sounds crazy, but align my spirit. I felt like it was a sound healing method of some sort. Then I researched it and got to know more about acid. It actually started in the Midwest, in Chicago, and I just think it’s a sexy sound. But also it gives the music a creative edge and makes your mind go somewhere else so you’re out of the box a bit and in another dimension.
HL: I’ve always found acid interesting because it’s just that one sound that defines it; that 303. Then it almost doesn’t matter what else is happening in the rest of the track whereas with deep house or tech house that isn’t the case. There isn’t just one sound that defines tech house. Personally acid’s not my favorite, and so it just seems to me, because it’s based on that one sound, that either people love it or they don’t really pick it up.
MD: It was like a fine wine for me. I had to acquire a taste for acid eventually. Like when I first heard it I thought it was some weird trancey sound, and I wasn’t really into it. Then it just started showing up for me, now it gives me goosebumps and intrigues me. The basic college tech house tracks on the top ten of Beatport don’t do that for me.
HL: Is one of the tracks you’re making right now that you mentioned acid?
MD: Yeah one of them has acid in it and another one is just your standard 808 kit. I love it, it’s timeless.
HL: You play Clinic quite frequently compared to other DJs in the area, and thank you so much for that. What do you enjoy about playing Clinic?
MD: Specifically for Clinic I absolutely love that the space is in Hollywood, and it’s really just about the vibes that Cyril, Izzy and the whole crew are all bringing. That for me is what initially made me fall in love with Clinic. They’re so hospitable when I’ve been there, and it’s been really cool.
Then also when I worked at Native instruments, which is in Hollywood as well, I would be with my co-workers hanging around and we’d all go to Clinic after work. So it was an ideal gig for me to get my coworkers out with me as well, and they all loved it and still come through. They were looking for some good house and techno. The headquarters for Native Instruments is in Berlin, too, so when all the Germans would come over I started becoming like the guestlist girl, and I’d bring them all to Clinic lol.
Overall I just really love playing there. It’s my favorite LA party. It’s always a packed house for Clinic. I moved to Orange County first [from Nebraska]. So that was the first party I heard about from all the house and techno heads; that Clinic is the one to go to in LA. So I went multiple times in the summer and stuff with my friends down there, and it was always an aspiration for me to get to play Clinic.
Photo Credit: Night Moves Me, Modern Paparazzo