Tomas Serrano, also known professionally as DJ IDeaL, has been a critical player in the southern California EDM scene for over two decades. One glance at his resume will leave you impressed. Tomas has been an active DJ since 1998, as well as a producer and promoter.
He has also explored other aspects of the industry such as working in artist relations, being a radio show host, a CEO of record labels, and an online editor for a number of EDM magazines.
Now, he is making his debut as the face of NEW LIFE —a brand that has been taking the underground scene by storm. In this conversation with EDM Maniac, we discuss his career path thus far, what led him to start NEW LIFE, and some insight for the newer generation in the scene.
EDM Maniac: How do you manage your time between all of these different projects?
Tomas Serrano: It’s been more a matter of learning what is needed.
It’s been something that just kind of has happened along the way. I’m learning now to not only manage my time, but to see what I need to be doing versus what I need help with.
For many years it was a do-it-yourself type of thing. I am known to pass out with my laptop on my lap, and I wake up in the middle of the night and get back to it. I don’t know if it’s been the healthiest for me, but at the same time, this passion is what has kept me sane for a long time.
EDM Maniac: Do you find that some of the projects that you’re working on pull more of your attention than others?
Tomas Serrano: Yes, definitely. For example, last year I focused on planning the whole year out for the first three weeks. Figuring out what I needed to be doing for when things started getting busier.
I made a joke last week when I was saying, should we start planning New Years? Because I know other festivals are definitely already thinking of next year.
EDM Maniac: So then would you say that the majority of your attention as of right now is based on planning and event production?
Tomas Serrano: Yeah. That’s the main thing, and then after that comes production. I’ve learned that if I want to get stuff done in the studio, I have to make time and go to the studio. Although I could work on music whenever I want on my laptop, I just need to be focused. I need to be in the zone.
EDM Maniac: Did the pandemic trigger a shift in your career towards event production and music production, more than your other industry endeavors?
Tomas Serrano: Yes, definitely. That’s really how I’ve had to learn to see it.
When we started doing events again I put a twist to the live streams, where we also hosted private viewings as well. All while abiding by COVID safety precautions.
As events started coming back, we got ahead of everybody because of the live streams. The momentum that we were able to start building allowed us to produce more underground events, and warehouse parties. It was the first time I had a chance to create a brand and not have any limitations, whether that be genre or demographic limitations.
So I launched this NEW LIFE brand. Then next thing you know, last year I did 30-plus events. This year it’s looking to be double that.
EDM Maniac: Do you have any wins that you want to share or any lessons that you’ve learned since you started the brand?
Tomas Serrano: As for wins… the response that I’ve gotten to the events. It’s one thing to invite people to something to have them support me. It’s another thing for a stranger to have an interest in it enough that they’ll choose to support with their money and attendance.
All of this is for a bigger purpose, whereas DJ IDeaL that’s about me. NEW LIFE is more about what I can give to this industry that I’ve loved for so long.
EDM Maniac: There’s also two underground party brands that have released Under NEW LIFE as well. There’s the Subverse and Tech House Tunnels. Do you want to talk a little bit about each of these brands?
Tomas Serrano: I was introduced to underground stuff about nine years ago through my buddy Ruo, who goes by Rock Discotech. He’s like an underground promoter here in San Diego.
I created these brands to launch as genre-specific brands.
Subverse is more underground. I was curious at first to see, how it was going to hit. It’s been really cool to see how the audience is so thirsty for a new experience.
As for Tech House Tunnels, I’m trying to make things fun. It is Super Mario themed. I put out some prizes in gold coin boxes, and if you find one of those it gives you a ticket to the next party for free.
I’ll hide some drink tickets in some of those boxes too. We’re trying to create new ways to add to the experience, to connect with the audience.
EDM Maniac: I saw that about a week ago you had an open decks D&B night. Are you planning on integrating bass music and D&B into your brand somehow in the future?
Tomas Serrano: The whole point of NEW LIFE is that I was not going to be genre specific.
The open decks at NEO4IC is always different. It’s tech house one night, drum and bass another one, dubstep, techno, future bass, future house.
So we’re 11 weeks in right now and it’s getting popular! At the last one, we had just over 70 people show up.
The sign-ups are filling up an hour before they’re supposed to start. It’s really cool to see the response to it. It’s another form of culture and community building. We’re giving a chance to some artists that some have literally never performed before.
We might have a DJ that has been playing for 20 years and another that has been playing for 20 days, and it’s all good. For me personally, it’s connecting with others, especially the younger generation. I wish back then there were things similar to what we’re creating right now.
EDM Maniac: Well, that’s a great segue to my last question, which was, what advice would you give to your younger self knowing what you know now?
Tomas Serrano: I would’ve liked to have taken my production as far as DJing. I wish I would’ve started to produce by myself sooner.
Now, it’s standard. Now you can’t be a DJ without production behind your name.
So just tell yourself to get into it, get started, and put more time into it.
But before we finish I wanted to give some shout outs. Much love to EDM Maniac for this, it’s an honor to share a bit of my story. Also thanks for all the established teams and brands we’ve had the pleasure of working with this past year: MI4L, Superfreq, SET Underground, ARPRJCT, TechnoFamLA, MigsCorp, Green Gods, United by Dance and DTLA Records.
Upcoming events for New Life:
3/19 – Richie Hawtin @ Downtown San Diego
3/22 – Thicc Beats Miami @ Clevelander Hotel
3/31 – Tiefschwarz @ DTLA Warehouse
4/8 – Portal 3.0 w/ ShelterVR @ Neo4ic Warehouse, San Diego
4/8 – United by Dance ‘Bring the Light’ @ Woodstock, New York
4/15 – Tech House Tunnels 2.0 feat Harvard Bass @ San Diego Underground
4/22 – Party Monsters @ Rich’s San Diego
4/22 – DISTRIKT Fundraiser @ Spin San Diego
All images provided by NEW LIFE