Trends in club music evolve quicker than the DJs who create them. That’s why we’re always impressed by those DJ-producers who can defy trendiness and stay at the top of their game – continuously booking gigs, producing hits, and maintaining their own unique sound and style. Erick Morillo is one of those such DJs. This summer marks his thirteenth season heading a weekly party at Pacha Ibiza (he is also a co-owner and resident DJ at Pacha NYC). He’s helped introduce acts like Swedish House Mafia and Steve Angello to the world and he’s witnessed one of the most popular club tracks of the past twenty years (a track he can proudly tag his name to) span multiple generations. Clubplanet asked Erick Morillo to reflect on his success and give us a preview of what he’s still got in store. Here’s what he had to say.
Clubplanet: You started DJing when you were just 11 years old. How did you get involved in the industry at such a young age and did you know at that point that this was what you wanted to do?
Erick Morillo: I started collecting music when I was six, but just because I loved the music. There was a neighbor who lived above my mom who was a weekend DJ—he would come home from college and DJ. I happened to walk in on him one Saturday afternoon and I just kind of fell in love with the art of mixing records. But it was just more of a hobby; I always loved music—it wasn’t anything about me wanting to be a professional DJ. From there I started doing high school dances, Halloween parties, Christmas parties, doing weddings, I played at strip clubs… but again, it was more of a hobby while I was still in school. When I graduated high school my mom was like, “Ok, this DJing thing is cool, but you gotta get a real job.” That’s when I went to school at the Center for Media Arts and learned to be a music engineer. After I graduated from there, I borrowed some money from my grandmother and built a little recording studio in my basement bedroom. I started making tracks and the rest is history, as they say.
CP: What would you consider to be your biggest accomplishment so far?
EM: I always say being able to buy my mother a house— it was one of the goals I always had as a kid and something I was able to do for her. I would say being able to take care of my mom and being able to help out my family. I come from a very poor family and they always gave me what I needed, so just to be able to give back to my family I think is one of my biggest accomplishments.
CP: Your first really massive hit “I like To Move It” came out when I was about seven or eight years old. I remember, at that young age, recording it from the radio onto a cassette tape and now it’s crazy to think that not only is this song still on my iPod, but it’s still a track that I can throw on at a party and get everyone dancing to. How has the success of that song followed you for so many years? Are you amazed that it made such a lasting impression?
EM: Absolutely. Thank God I have that record under my belt because it was that record that brought me to England for the first time and introduced to me to the DJ culture there, which is where it was really taking off and where the whole “DJ is a God” culture started. Because of that record, I flew to England to do “Top of the Pops” and because of that record I wanted to pursue DJing as a career, so thank God for that. To see that record used again for a whole new generation—in the Madagascar movies, and playing at sporting events— it’s definitely humbling and it’s amazing that now a whole new generation is following that song. We’re just re-releasing it and we licensed it to Pepsi—there are still so many licensing deals being made on that record. They always say, “You only need one in this industry,” and to be able to say that I’ve had that one record is absolutely amazing. It’s definitely one of the highlights of my career.
CP: When an artist is involved in the music business for as long as you’ve been, they see a lot of trends come and go and have to evolve stylistically in order to keep up. How have you evolved since you started out and how do you keep your sound new and fresh while still staying true to your identity?
EM: I think for me it’s really important to be open to all styles of music. When people say, “What kind of music do you play?” I say, “As far as I’m concerned, there are only two styles: good music and bad music. I play the good music.” When there’s a new style that comes in, I don’t necessarily immerse myself in that style, but I’ll find the records within that genre that I like. When electro was really big, I didn’t change my sound to electro, but I did play a couple electro records. When minimal was in, I didn’t change my style to minimal, but there were a couple records in my set that were minimal. I just think it’s about finding the good ones that I like within the new trends, because as long as I stay true to my taste and to what I think is sexy, to what I think moves me, people will come to hear me play. They like what I select and they like my sound. They like my energy and the fact that when they come to a show of mine, they’re gonna see a party in my DJ booth because they know I’m going to enjoy what I do. To stay fresh, you have to evolve, and you kind of have to find the good in the trends that come and go, because, you know, you can’t stay stuck. I have been doing this hard now for 19 years, and if I was still playing the same old diva vocals, people would have forgotten about me a long time ago.
CP: What artists are you into at the moment?
EM: I love what the Swedish House Mafia guys are doing. They’re great friends of mine and I really love what they do. Richard Grey, he’s been around for a bit, but the stuff that he’s got coming out right now… unbelievable. Antranig, he’s from New Jersey he used to work with Danny Tenaglia, and now he’s coming into his own and doing his own records. He’s got a couple of records coming out on my label and I really love what he’s doing. There are a lot of young guys that are really doing it for me. It’s just good to see all this new blood making really good house music. They give their own twist to it. Maybe they grew up in techno, but then take what we did 10 years ago and give their own spin to it. It just makes you happy to see so much great music out there.
CP: You’re back at Pacha Ibiza this summer for your thirteenth season, which is just insane. The party that you’re doing is Wednesday night weekly called, “Voodoo Nights.” Can you tell us a little bit more about that party?
EM: “Voodoo Nights” started last week and I go all the way until the end of September. I play every Wednesday and I also have other guests that play with me. This year I have Louie Vega, Dirty South, Steve Angello did the opener with me, Harry Choo Choo Romero, José Jiménez, A-Trak, a bunch of people. I’ve always looked at my party as not just “the Erick Morillo show,” but also as a party that introduces new talent. I was the first one to have the Swedish House Mafia, and have Axwell and Steve Angello, and even David Guetta, before he had his own party. It’s good to see all the guys come into their own and do their own events. Now I have A-trak, Dirty South, Richard Grey—all the new guys that I think are going to have their own things in the future. It’s just a good vehicle. I think that in Ibiza it is so important to have a voice; it’s so important at the world stage because you do cater to everybody from around the world who comes to this island for one thing, and that’s to party. I think it’s a great, great place to have an identity.
CP: And the concept of the party, “Voodoo Nights,” can you tell us a little bit more about that scene? What does that entail?
EM: I think it’s about people forgetting their problems and about coming and being mesmerized and being put under a spell by me and my music. For me, it’s about creating an environment. Last year, the theme was “Be Bad” and all the décor was about going to jail and just being bad. This year, the theme is “voodoo” and the dancers are all dressed up like sacrifice women and there are big voodoo dolls. It’s just about coming and losing yourself in the theme of the night. It’s about escapism and having a great time.
CP: You also have a “Voodoo Nights” mixtape coming out, correct?
EM: Yes, “Voodoo Nights,” the compilation. It’s a two-CD mixed compilation. The first CD is really, really sexy, really hot, a lot of girly vocals, but still sloppy and still dirty. The second CD is tribal, dark, six-o’clock-in-the-morning kind of music, and it just really represents what I’m playing right now. I do one every year, and for me, it’s just a good way for people to take the experience home and have a little piece of that memory on their iPod.
CP: Are there any other projects that you’re working on at the moment?
EM: My new single just came out, with myself and Eddie Thoneick, featuring Shawnee Taylor, called “Live Your Life.” It’s already being played by Pete Tong and Steve Anegllo… everybody. I think it’s going to be a big record this summer, so I’m really excited about that. I’ve got the remixes coming out at the beginning of July. I also have a remix of P. Diddy’s, “Hello, Good Morning,” coming out in July as well, and my other record, Nothing Better, which was out a month ago. So, yea, really busy. With the label, Subliminal Records, we have a lot of great stuff coming out this summer. We have a really great project by Ronnie Seikaly, an ex-basketball player turned DJ, who’s got a bunch of great music coming out. The first one is called “Come with Me” and that’s coming out at the end of July. There’s just so much stuff coming out, so much great music, I’m just excited about music again. I’m such a lucky individual, I feel like I have the best job in the world.
CP: Yea, sounds like an amazing job. After the summer, what’s next for you?
EM: I’m in the middle of closing a house in LA, I think I’m going to be moving out to LA, but I’ll still be commuting back and forth between Miami and New York. Acting is something I’ve always wanted to do, and something that I’ve been talking about pursuing over the last five years. I think that this winter I want to pursue it a little bit as well as putting the finishing touches on my new artist album, which should be out at the end of this year. So, I’m really excited about that. Definitely no rest for the wicked.
CP: What sort of movies or roles would you want to do?
EM: I want to do dramadies—comedies with a little drama, like Snatch. Stuff that’s got a little comedy to it, a little funny edge, but stuff that’s still a little bit dark.
**You can catch Erick Morillo LIVE on July 4th at Pacha NYC. Click here for event details.**