mardi 31 janvier 2012

An Interview With Maceo Plex

2011 was the year Eric Estornel, aka Maceo Plex, aka Maetrik, went supersonic. His deep, dark, melancholy house captured perfectly the mood on the dancefloors, and, riding the euphoric wave of the 2011 house revolution, Maceo Plex was the name on everybody's lips.

His work as Maetrik is darker: heavy, cavernous techno. But it seemed that his releases as Maceo Plex – lighter, groovier, soul-infused and apparently “for the girls” – were what really drove people crazy.

His 2011 long-player, 'Life Index', on the innovative and impeccable Crosstown Rebels imprint, was a perfectly timed, soul-steeped stunner. This was followed by the epic, hook-laden nine-minute belter 'Can't Leave You' - further displaying his versatility. The love – and the hits - just kept on flowing. He launched his own label, Ellum Audio, with the addictive 'High and Sexy' EP – deep, dark house music at its most hypnotic.

I had a chat with Eric before his set this Friday at Return to The Future.

So the last year has been insanely big for your Maceo Plex moniker. Has it been fairly dizzying becoming so massive so quickly?

It's kind of been dizzying, I was used to gigging and making music but not at this pace. It was just all of a sudden I had to get really busy – work really hard, do a lot of touring. It was kind of dizzying but a nice feeling – it's just been really perfect actually.

House was totally the London vibe in 2011. It was an amazing year in house and your sound seemed to catch the mood perfectly. Did you have a sense of that happening at the time and did it influence you as you were producing?

Yeah I kind of did. I know that a few years ago it was a different type of house – that Mannheim thing was taking over and before that the whole minimal thing. I felt that at the beginning of 2011 there was a major shift going on with the help of Jamie [Jones] and all the Visionquest guys. I was trying to make a newer, fresher, futuristic type of house with a lot of romance but with a lot of new sounds you don’t normally hear in house. As I was releasing I could see the reaction of the fans: they were getting really into it really fast. You could almost see it happening right before your eyes.

At parties I was playing – the Hot Natured and Visionquest and of course the Crosstown parties as well – you could see that each party was better than the last, each release was better than the last. And now we just have to keep it up.

Your music, although soulful, has undertones of darkness and a real air of sadness at times...are you making it intentionally sad?
Yeah it's pretty intentional. I really like playing a lot of types of house music: happy and darker stuff, but I lean toward a melancholy sound that can be uplifting but is also a little sad. I know that Art Department – I couldn’t say for them if it's intentional – but they were some of the first people to make a really melancholy, deep house sound. At the same time I was working on stuff and I thought it was a really good idea. It's my own take on house: a little bit melancholy but still pretty uplifting and really groovy.

I'd like to ask about the construction of 'Can't Leave You'. There is so much going on, but each hook is given room to breathe. How did you start that tune? What came first? And how did it all come together?

That was written pretty fast because it was written for another group. I've made music for other artists that I’m not gonna mention, but I was making it for another group. And it was coming together perfectly. And – this is a little known thing – I sent it to them and they didn’t want it. So I thought, OK I’ll release it myself. I added the vocals afterwards and changed it round a bit to make it slightly more discoey, slightly more housey. But basically it was something I wrote in a couple of days – I thought it was really cool – but I never thought it was going to be a hit or anything like that.

Your 'High and Sexy' EP kicked off your label Ellum Audio – is this a good example of the sound you're aiming to showcase?

Yeah, that's why I released it first. But it's not the only sound. I thought it was pretty fitting to follow up 'Can't Leave You' and 'Stop Your Hate' with something a little darker and a little deeper. The ultimate goal is for Ellum to be dark and deep house but, in the end, if it's something cool that I get, we're just gonna put it out. We're not gonna think too much about having a certain theme or vision. Certain labels want to have a great disco sound, others want to have a great pop sound – we're just releasing stuff we think is cool.

Are there any young new house hotshots that you’ve got your eye on?
Yeh there's a new group – they're actually friends of mine out of Philly. I did some vocals for them on their new record coming out on Ellum - it's called 'Fame' and they’re called Odd Parents. It's a very similar style to me and we work together on the music. It fits perfectly with the sound we want to put out on Ellum. Very deep and dark, futuristic house, with my vocals.

There's also a new talented artist out of London that sent me a really amazing demo. He goes by the name of Eric Volta – I think he plays with the Loki crew. He sent me a really awesome demo. Every now and then you get a demo that sticks out, and he continues to send me really good music so we're going to release some of that. I think he's gonna rise up pretty fast this year.

And then there's my friends – the My Favourite Robot crew, of course Tale Of Us and all of them are continuing to raise the bar on what we can do with the sound that we're coming up with right now.

What would you be doing if you hadn't made it in music? What was your plan B?
I never had one. I've been making house and techno for 15 or 16 years, 'cause I'm kind of old now. I'm not gonna tell you how old but since I was in high school I've been making house and techno music. I never thought about plan B. I just worked really crappy jobs until I could live off it. I never cared about getting into any other kind of career. I was either gonna be a waiter for the rest of my life or I was gonna be a music artist. There’s nothing else that makes me happy. I have to be honest, I think other people have more glamorous alternative plans.

Who are your musical heroes, dead or alive?
Obviously everybody says Michael Jackson. That was when I was a little kid. It wasn’t until I discovered new wave: New Order, Joy Division, the Smiths that I really found my musical heroes. In the past 20 years my musical heroes have been mostly DJs. Laurent Garnier, and in the late '90s I was really into the London tech house sound – Bushwacka, Terry Francis. They’re still kind of heroes of mine. I think they make amazing music. And they influenced me greatly.

What's going on with the house scene in the US? Is it as big as ever?
I think it's sporadic – it's spread out, there's still a lot of really good American style house music – people like Brett Johnson and JT Donaldson making really cool tracks, but as far as pushing the envelope and pushing forward it's few and far between. I don't want to say anything bad about the US 'cause its where I'm from but at the same time in the club scene it's so difficult at the moment.

A lot of people are coming up with really innovative stuff that is maybe kind of over our heads, that we can't understand at the moment. And then there’s people making house music we can play now with a more classic sound that's not necessarily pushing the envelope.

The guys from Detroit, they have their thing going on, then there's the San Francisco crew, Dirtybird making their own sound, but really for a country of 300 million people there's not that much coming out of there. There should be a lot more.

OK so final question. The dancefloor is flagging, what's your failsafe tune to rev it up?
A couple of tunes I've been playing lately are this tune from the late 90s called 'Not Reggae' by the Idjut Boys and another new tune remixed by Pezzner. It's a remix of Roy Davis Jnr 'About Love'. And that is it right there. As soon as it starts coming in it works. I don't think people know it but it's got an amazing beat and an amazing vocal. It's a really perfect tune.

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