It was a scene straight out of the late ‘80s. L.A.-based DJ and producer Ducky was hosting an event called Ugh Just Rave at a warehouse a couple of years ago, expecting maybe 300 attendees. But word got around and 1,000 ravers showed up for the throwback party, and the cops shut it down within the first hour.
“What was amazing was, because we had created this true rave spirit, the cops showed up and they were like, ‘You have to go’ and everyone just said, ‘OK’ and they just left,” says Ducky, real name Morgan Neiman. “Sixteen squad cars showed up by the way, it wasn’t like one or two cops. Everyone was such a happy raver. There’s this amazing picture — there’s all of these squad cars, and all these ravers with inflatable ducks. Everyone’s partying in the streets. It’s so cool.”
It’s a story that will seem remarkably familiar to those who recall the news reports of E-fueled ravers invading middle-of-nowhere fields and warehouses back in the day. If Ducky’s intention were to offer guests the chance to experience a true rave, it couldn’t have been more authentic. “L.A. is such a special place where I get to do something like that,” she says.
It’s all a far cry from Ducky’s musical beginnings, when she was aping Seattle indie-pop band The Postal Service for a school project.
“I have been producing since I was 13 years old, so kind of a long time,” she says. “I did a school project. It was a weird hippy school where we could do anything we wanted in our eighth year, and I was really into The Postal Service. So I was like, ‘I’m going to make a CD.’ It basically sounds like a worse version of The Postal Service. I think I still have it somewhere.”
We have to admit, we’re pretty intrigued and want to hear that CD. Even then, she was convinced that music would offer her a career, but she moved away from he Postal Service vibe pretty quickly. She’s happy that her music has evolved.
“I would say it’s equal parts melodic and rave,” Ducky says. “I’m really inspired by older school rave sounds. To me, old school rave isn’t ‘90s, it’s the era of raving I grew up in which is the mid-2000s. So I grew listening to Random Album Title by Deadmau5, Benny Benassi, early Calvin Harris. Progressive house, but also heavy stuff like happy hardcore, dubstep — I like to bring in those vibes. Upbeat, powerful drops. Stuff you can really move yourself to. Faster, more intense but still vocals and catchy lyrics.”
That’s all true, and it helps to nail down the Ducky vibe. That name, by the way, has an interesting story behind it.
“I stole a duck from the zoo in San Francisco and was convinced it was mine,” she says. “I was like, ‘This duck is mine,’ and they were like, ‘No, it’s not, give it back.’ I was really young. I didn’t get home with it — I was not that crafty.”
There’s also an anime imagery thing going on, both musically and visually:
“I’m super inspired by anime and cartoons in general,” Ducky says. “It’s definitely a specific kind of surreal cartoons, fantasy, anime — like a dream world. I love the video game Kingdom Hearts — it’s about the dreamworld, fantasy, magic. That’s what it’s more about to me.”
Talking of fantasy worlds, Ducky relocated from San Francisco to New York in time for New Year’s 2014, almost by accident.
“I thought I was just going to come down for New Years and hang out with my friends,” she says. “I posted asking if any of my friends had a place I could crash, and one of them said that they had a room for rent for January, and I said, ‘Yeah, I’m gonna take it.’ And I just stayed. I was originally thinking New York, and then I was like, ‘Never mind, I’m just gonna stay in L.A. now’.”
And she’s made this city her home, seeing her fan base grow at an impressive rate and doing her part to help grow the local rave scene.
“Especially in 2015 — it was such an unbelievable time for electronic music,” she says. “Of course, it still is now. I think I got really lucky that I landed there magically at that time, fortuitously. ‘Ooops, here I am.’ New York is unbelievable too. There’s a lot of house and techno. I’m lucky because I get to go there and play shows and stuff. What I love about New York is you can walk four blocks and show up at a weird secret techno party. You know what though, I randomly showed up at a weird techno party last weekend, so they’re both amazing.”
This week, Ducky brings Ugh Just Rave to Exchange LA, a night that is likely to be less eventful than that first warehouse version. But still, there’s a lot to look forward to.
“I made a rave hotline — there’s a number you can call that leaks more information every week, like the old days,” Ducky says. “That’s (415) 915-2686. It’s really cool. For my set, I do this crazy thing where I’m making an unbelievable amount of my set. I make one edit, and then go ‘What am I gonna play next?’ Then I’m like, ‘I’ll just make it.’ So there’s an unbelievable amount of unreleased stuff from me. I also did promise that if we sell out Ugh Just Rave, then I will leak every single edit that I made for my set.”
That’s quite a promise, but this is an artist who put out “Rave Is not a Crime” shirts and mix CDs after the last event was shut down. She’s there for her people.
“Everyone’s there for the music,” she says. “It’s a place for the weirdos and the freaks. That’s why I got into raving and we just wanted to recreate that vibe.”
Ducky’s Ugh Just Rave takes place at 10 p.m. on Saturday, July 27 at Exchange LA.