This year’s Desert Hearts festival is set to be the most memorable edition to date. Returning to its home on the Los Coyotes Indian Reservation in California, the event has quickly become a one-of-a-kind display of music, art, and community alongside a nonstop programming of today’s most coveted underground acts. The festival has become an oasis for people of all walks of life, and its slogan – House. Techno. Love. – is a resounding mantra across the grounds. In addition to the staple Desert Hearts crew made up of Mikey Lion, Lee Reynolds, Marbs, and Porkchop, this year’s lineup also features a collection of legendary and up-and-coming talent like Christian Martin, Sacha Robotti, Detlef, and more. Leading into the final days before the festival, we’ve linked up with some of our top artist picks that should not be missed at Desert Hearts this March.
Coveted house artist Justin Campbell has been making great strides since emerging on the scene a few years ago. Hailing from the city of San Diego, Campbell has become a key member of the underground community, incapable of disappointing any crowd with his esoteric, free-flowing technique and compelling energy with every performance. His sets are primarily composed of sunrise-styled melodies and rousing, earthy rhythms that can keep listeners on their feet at any hour of the day. He describes his sound as “stimulating house music” and continues to express his tastemaker status with his consistently impressive Cloud 10 mix series.
This year’s edition of Desert Hearts will be Campbell’s third consecutive year on the roster. Ahead of his performance, we sat down for a conversation with the artist before he heads out to the festival where he’ll be performing on Monday at 2PM.
What was the music culture like where you grew up?
I was a 90’s kid in Southern CA when MTV actually played music and rap was real. I was really into underground hip hop that my friends and I shared and collected over the years, on CD’s that were usually pretty scratched. Once I owned my first computer, I started sampling a lot of 70’s and 80’s music and making a bunch of hip hop remixes. Then the day I touched my first pair of decks and a crate of house records when I was 18, is when I dove head first into the rapidly evolving dance music scene which eventually lead me to Burning Man and the revolutionary Love movement of today’s transformational music festivals around the world.
Who were some of your biggest musical inspirations?
I think one of the biggest musical inspirations I had growing up was Atmosphere. Ant’s soulful instrumentals and Slug’s seamless, poetic lyrics shaped a lot of my musical perception at the time. I was also really inspired by some of the greats, like Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, and Pink Floyd.
What has been the biggest breakthrough of your career?
Burning Man, Desert Hearts and Pile Palace have been my biggest platforms of opportunity and exposure. I can’t point my finger to one specific event, but I do think that my biggest breakthrough overall has been establishing my own style and sound that’s a little less tapped into lately. I like to play music that may be a little risky but can really give the audience that “awe” element by hearing something unique and different, with a constantly evolving flow throughout the set. I like that disco shit too.
What are you looking forward to most about Desert Hearts?
I’m most excited to just be back on the reservation, honestly. There’s not many words to describe the energy out there, but there’s something in the air that brings out the absolute best in everyone and everything. All the live Artists, the DJ’s, the crew and the entire community bring their A+ game.. Desert Hearts also happens to be one of the sexiest places on the planet.
If you could be another artist for a day, who would you pick?
I would be Atish for a day. He’s easily one of the smartest and most talented individuals that I’ve met in the industry. I would sit there and write every thought or idea I had as being Atish, and then I’d come back to Justin-land and apply it to my career.
If you were recruited to provide an Essential Mix in 2017, what’s the one song you couldn’t leave out?
“C64” by James Welsh…