Most times, when a panic bomber is let loose on a city, people flee for their lives. That’s the big idea. If they do gravitate toward any given crime scene, it’s usually long after the dust has settled and generally only to boast that they’d gotten close to the carnage. In other words, they wanna bask in the aftermath. Not so when there’s a strike from Miami’s Panic Bomber, who seems to attract the curious onlooker as if he were made up wholly of magnets.
Of course to feel the full effect of Panic Bomber’s onslaught, it’s necessary to be on the scene during the commission of one of his radical acts, which means the curious generally also possess a certain keen. But even those who stumble upon the madness by accident walk away smarter for having been there to bear witness.
At Awarehouse last Saturday night, after Panic Bomber left the building, one could sense a distinctive bump in the collective IQ. Not that the mad man makes music for eggheads, mind you; just that it’s impossible to not feel a good bit brighter for being present at its creation. It’s the pleasure of being in-the-know and of-the-now. The privilege of shared secrets. And it’s a bet that the effect is gonna help propel Panic Bomber into the hearts and minds of millions.
How a pocketful of inside knowledge will transform the way Miami will be perceived and heard from here on out remains to be seen. Nevertheless there are components from which we can easily assemble a barometer.
Born Richard Haig in California, the man now known as Panic Bomber came to the Miami at the beck and call of our city’s signature University, whose Music School counts luminary alumni like Grace Slick and Ben Folds. Prior the Saturday night, the UM grad was unfamiliar with either The Pinker Tones (who hail from Spain) or Mr. Pauer (one of the Magic City’s worldliest DJs), yet that didn’t diminish his enthusiasm a bit.
“My booking agent Wes from Madison House called and said ‘you’re on this bill,’” Haig tells me in a fast chat before the show. “And I’m like ‘great, let’s do it!’”
Haig hadn’t “played Awarehouse with a band” yet either. “I’ve done DJ sets here,” he adds, “including the Synthesis party where Prefuse 73 was also on the bill. I’ve also attended a couple different events. But I don’t know much about the place. I’d like to though.”
Noting the eagerness with which Haig expressed interest, I fill him in some on Awarehouse’s neo-collective sensibilities, as well as the amount of local talent that’s been staging there lately. Then I ask him if he sees some kinda scene developing.
“People having been saying [there's a burgeoning scene] ever since I moved here,” says Haig. “The thing is I feel like people are waiting for it to break on some national level. I don’t think it’s necessary to have that in order to have a healthy scene. Yeah, that would be great. Who wouldn’t want for that to happen? But I feel like people are waiting around and there’s no need for that. Just keep doing your thing and your time will come.”
Why wait for the door to open when you can kick it in?, I ask, citing one of my own favorite mottos.
“The nice thing is music is starting to go in our direction,” Haig continues. “Miami is a very dance music oriented town and dance music is becoming mainstream. The Black Eyed Peas were on the Super Bowl! Dance music is now mainstream. House is now Top Ten. It’s a good time to be making dance music in Miami.”
Indeed, this year’s Ultra Music Festival, which features Tiesto, Deadmau5 and The Chemical Brothers as respective headliners, sold out all three days. And though the Toronto-based YYZ, who he’ll “be working with on a long-term basis,” released Panic Bomber’s thrillingly-received Discipline EP, Haig “just got confirmation that a Miami-based dance label, who are doing incredibly well considering how young they are, will be putting out” the next extended play, Domestic Violens.
“I can’t announce it yet” he continues. “Though I so wish I could. But you heard it here first.” Off the record Haig did tell me the name of the label, which I’d kinda guessed, and he’s right, it’s young-gunned and making a helluva racket. I will tell you it’s affiliated with and run by some of the coolest kids in town. Put one and one together and you’ll know who I mean.
And whether or not Haig sees a need to define it as such, there is something of a scene stealing thunder here in Miami, especially electronically. And whether it’s the smooth cool beatitude coming from The Wonderful World of DJ Induce or the heady hijinks behind organicArma, it’s increasingly something to be reckoned with. Even Haig can’t help citing some of the Magic City’s scenesters.
“My boy Otto Von Schirach. He’s like my fucking mentor,” says Haig, praising Miami’s most otherworldly electronica artist. “I’m very close to him and [his accomplices] Mr.Feathers, David Tamargo and Jose El Rey,” and he also digs “the throwback style” of Miami Bass Warriors. “The Overthrow crew is really killing it now too,” he adds. “Damaged Goods, Caligula, Troy Kurtz. They’re very good with the Miami-style bangers. They have what I think is kinda defining what it means to be Miami mainstream now. Which is cool. They’re definitely on the cutting edge of it all.”
Considering the Discipline EP came out nearly a year ago and there’s still some time before we see either the aforementioned Domestic Violens, let alone the long-awaited longplayer Captive Audience, you could also say said scene is keeping Panic Bomber rather busy.
“I’ve been writing like a fucking motherfucker,”says he, “but life catches up, man. I’ve been touring a lot, which is great. We did Canada over the summer, and more and more dates are on the horizon.”
As Panic Bomber’s popularity grows, so do the opportunities to stage in places bigger than a breadbox and outfitted for a full-on live show. And now, after infamously ditching (and dissing) Miami’s live music scene, primarily due to the dearth of suitable venues, and adamantly going solo, Haig’s again found himself backed by a band.
“Both sides are great” says Haig. “I love the energy of playing with a band. I still am a pretty ruthless bandleader at times though. But hey, I am the bandleader. I am Panic Bomber. My musicians are fantastic, they’re all incredibly talented and I’m lucky to play with them when I can.”
The sidemen in question are Andy Panayides on trumpet and Tyler Burchfield on saxophone, both of whom are joined by one Madam Asuka on flute and additional vocals. Madam Asuka, who officially broke on to the scene last November with a Stephen Bauer-starring video of a rather frenetic track entitled “StarDust,” is an especially robust belter. And her powerhouse voicings on Panic Bomber’s “Getting on My Mind” add a whole ‘nother dimension to the neo-disco floorer.
Haig is also quite busy working with others, and while he doesn’t want to go on record naming the various projects he’s been producing, he will say it’s “a wee bit more” than merely twiddling a few knobs and lending an experienced ear.
“I’ll basically produce tracks that are then released under other names for those other names. So I’m kind of a ghost.” There’s a practical side to the work as well. “I’ve gotta be able to pay my bills. I’ve got rent just like everybody else. I mean, you’re never gonna see Panic Bomber brought to you by Pepsi, but I don’t mind Richard Haig as a musician. I’ve got certain skills. I went to school for this shit. I know what I’m doing.”
I’ve got a feeling Haig is gonna be Haig under any name. But right now my money’s riding on Panic Bomber — one because I dig singular sensations, and two because I like being in the thick of the action before there’s an aftermath. The there and the then of the right now. If the throngs who assembled at Awarehouse are any indication, I’m not the only cat in this here city to feel that way either.
Photo by Claudia Calle.