There really is very little in the world of music and entertainment that Erick Morillo hasn’t turned his hand to. He’s a platinum-selling artist, he’s topped the charts worldwide as the producer behind Reel 2 Real’s hit I like To Move It (used in both Madagascar movies, reaching millions of viewers worldwide and covered by Will I Am in Madagascar 2) and he’s been responsible for a bewildering array of dance-floor tracks including ‘Reach’, ‘Believe’, ‘Do What You Want’ and ‘I Feel Love’ – under pseudonyms including Ministers De La Funk, The Dronez (with Harry ‘Choo Choo’ Romero and Jose Nunez) and Li’l Mo Ying Yang. He’s remixed everyone from Whitney Houston to Basement Jaxx and continues to run the legendary Subliminal Records house music empire. On his debut album he collaborated with Puff Daddy and Boy George alike. For over a decade now, Erick has remained one of the most in-demand and instantly recognizable DJs in the world. From the instant success of his weekly ‘Sessions’ parties in New York, to hosting events like the annual road-blocking Subliminal Sessions parties in Miami at Winter Music Conference, to his coveted residency at Ministry of Sound (he’s still one of the only American DJs to ever hold one) and of course his now legendary Subliminal Sessions parties at Pacha Ibiza, Morillo just doesn’t stop. His non-stop DJing schedule at one point saw him straddling the globe playing up to a whopping 30 gigs a month, particularly in the summer months where he’ll play from Rome and Mykonos to London. He’s also become a familiar television personality through his appearances on MTV and MTV Ibiza two years in a row whilst starring in a seven part series for UK TV station Channel 4.
How has the DJ scene changed since you started out?
When I first started DJing we all played vinyl and now we use USBs and or use laptops. Also DJs used to actually mix music whereas nowadays that is optional. The technology has changed significantly over the years. But the core is still the same – people still go out and listen to DJs to escape their problems and have an amazing time.
Specifically, how has tech changed the game?
Technology has, in many ways, made it easier for people to venture into the field of music production and DJing. From a DJ perspective, I am grateful for the innovations that have transpired over the course of the last 15 years. For example, I carry several USB sticks as opposed to five heavy bags of vinyl records, which is a massive improvement and life changer. In the early 90s, we traveled all over the world carrying large bags of vinyl records each weighing 50-60 pounds. At times the airlines would misplace one of the bags. The pain and frustration of this was unbearable. The advent of the CDJ (device that plays CDs and digital music) has allowed artists to be more creative. We’re now able to remix records live during a performance by looping one of the CDJs, mix in a second track and perhaps play acapella on the third CDJ. Additionally, the ability to link the CDJs together via a hub was revolutionary when Pioneer introduced the concept. It allows the artist to view the USB stick content on each of the CDJs from one location.
So tech advances have changed up the entire music industry ?
Yeah, music production tech has advanced over the years, too. I personally love that I no longer have to use a reel-to-reel machine when creating music. In the early days, it could take days to record a simple piece of music, but today it takes seconds with a Mac or app such as Logic. Producers from the early 90s laugh at how simple technology has made certain tasks. I welcome the new tech as it has made my life easier. There are those who would argue it technology has become too easy for anyone who wants to produce music or become a DJ. I tend to believe you still need to have the skills and talent to produce quality music and become a respected DJ.
Which musical trend/genre has surprised you the most and why?
I’m pleasantly surprised at how the underground sound has moved to the forefront right now, and how well it’s perceived throughout the world. It’s also interesting to note how people want to hear more of old house music sounds these days.
Why did you revive the Subliminal Records label? And what is the signature style you are trying to bring with this?
I went through some personal struggles a few years back and I wasn’t in the right head space. Once I got my passion back, about two years ago, I decided to move to LA. I felt that I was ready mentally and spiritually to come back into the scene. The scene had sort of split into two ways, one very commercial, and the other very underground with no vocals. Two scenes that were thriving, but nothing in the middle. I thought there was a niche we could fill. Underground music with sexy vocals, nothing cheesy about it. I go out a lot, and a lot of times in these places there is no vocals, and I know why. A lot of people making underground tracks don’t have the education or knowledge to work with vocals.
You’ve worked on so many remixes. How do you approach a remix project?
For me I listen to a record when they send it to me and if I get a good vibe from the record then I just sit in the studio and I just vibe. One of my favorite remixes is Whitney Houston -“I’m Your Baby Tonight.” We did this Latin piano thing and it’s just nasty as fuck. I’m always trying to make whatever record it is sound like the original so when you hear it on the dance floor, people who may not be into dance love the dance elements and people who may not be into the pop elements love the vocal. But there are certain records that I will just not touch.
Is there a track you find consistently works on the dance floor?
There’s a classic – If I’m playing a house venue or a deep house venue, I still love to drop Donna Summer – “I Feel Love”,, especially if I’m playing a tough tech record. I call myself a mixologist, you know I’m having a great time if I start looping a vocal on one of the decks.
Which current artist would you most like to work with today?
I’m a fan of Lenny Kravitz. I admire how he keeps himself relevant after so many years in the business and respect how he uses many different musical elements in his music. From R&B, funk, jazz, reggae and hard rock. It would be great for him to add a bit of house music, too!
Do you have any advice for artist or producers?
My advice, there are going to be ups and downs. Don’t let your ego command what you want to do. Do what you love to do, and don’t let the stresses in life guide you. We make the stresses in life, we set the benchmark. And don’t let using alcohol and drugs be a way to deal with that. For the the guys trying to get a break, stop trying to be like everybody else. Stop trying to make what’s hot right now. Take your experience, whatever it is, however you were raised, take that all, put it in a ball and start making music that you love. Because it’s the only way you’ll stay passionate enough to keep doing it.