The Effervescent Erick Morillo
Erick Morillo is many things to many people: a DJ, a producer, a platinum-selling, global chart-topping artist, the American/Columbian composer of many-a-movie, commercial and ringtone melody, the boss of the legendary house label Subliminal Records, the party planner extraordinaire, whose mid-week Ibiza shindig, Voodoo Nights at Pacha, is (in his own words) ‘one of the best musical nights on the island’.
THERE aren’t many things in the music biz that Erick Morillo hasn’t turned his hand to. So he certainly isn’t humble. Why should he be? The effervescent, supercharged, multi-talented multi-tasker has every reason to blow his own trumpet – not arrogantly, but confidently. In Ibiza 2010 he’s about as high profile as they get. This summer he seems invincible. His hard house, techno and electro party, Voodoo Nights, sees him assume the role of the Witch Doctor (even his phone’s voicemail recording says simply ‘leave a message’ in bewitching, gravelly tones) and features the best of what his label has to offer.
So he has a lot to be thankful for. And he is appreciative, incredibly so. His energy exudes optimism. He confers at rapid speed yet he never skips a beat. His manner exudes professionalism at all times; you know this is probably his umpteenth interview that week, but he engages you like it was his first. He counts his musical influences as Quincy Jones, Louie Vega, David Morales and Frankie Knuckles. He is ever-smiling, and he clearly loves his job and everything it entails. ‘You know I’m a pretty lucky guy,’ he says. ‘I love playing in New York, I love playing in LA. I play everywhere because I love it so I have the best time in the world I have to say. There’s no complaints here, I love playing everywhere I go.’
How has the 2010 season been for you, and how have you found Voodoo Nights at Pacha this year?
‘Absolutely amazing. I’ve had a phenomenal season so far. Our numbers have been up from last year, which is unbelievable. It seems that every year is just getting better and better.’
How did the concept for Voodoo Nights first come about?
‘That’s something that we were kicking around with after October, after I finished the season last year; you know I like to start working on the following year right after, and that was one of the three concepts that I had going on in my head. And then once we sat down and started brainstorming with everybody the Voodoo Nights one just kind of spoke to everybody the most. We could have the most fun with it. I do believe in black magic and I do think that when I’m playing anyway I’m putting people in a trance in a way, so it just kind of linked in.’
Kelis recently made a guest appearance at Voodoo Nights. Do you know her well, and how did she come on board?
‘Actually I’ve met her a couple of times but I wouldn’t say I know her well. But it was something that came up in the middle of the season and they said, you know, would we like to have her. And because I’d already played a mix of Acapella this entire summer, I easily said “absolutely”. I mean the lyrics to that song; they speak to me for sure. So it was like a no-brainer. For me, I don’t necessarily like to have people just to have performers, you know. The only other person who’s done that party before is [P] Diddy and that’s because we’ve done records before. So I loved Acapella. It was one of my biggest records of this summer.’
How do you go about choosing your DJ line up?
‘I think that it’s a combination of DJs that I like, and obviously up-and-coming guys. For me I really take pride in creating a night that pushes the new sounds through. You know, before the Swedes were the Swedes they were playing on my night. Before David Guetta was David Guetta he was playing on my night. And that’s what I like to do you know. For me it’s about pushing the new talent as well as having some of the established guys like Louie Vega. You know we have M.A.N.D.Y. who’s on the techno side and Dirty South. For me it’s just about spicing up the night with talent that I like.’
Is there anyone who particularly stood out this year?
‘All of the parties have been really, really phenomenal. Carl Kennedy’s been a great cast of ours. M.A.N.D.Y. I LOVE the parties that we’ve done with them. Obviously Diddy did a great job when he performed. I’m a very lucky guy and I get to work with some incredible people.’
When was the very first time you came to Ibiza, and what was the scene like then?
‘The first time I set foot in Ibiza was in 1993 and I played the terrace at Space when it was just a terrace and it was still open air. For me it was like a dream, I couldn’t believe that a place like that existed. Back then it was all really rustic, all the roads were like dirt roads. Privilege was an open air club. Amnesia had the terrace which was open air. There were day parties, night parties, it was really different but it still has that magic I mean, everybody comes here for the same reason, or a lot of people come for the same reason, which is for their love of dance music, which is great.
‘Although Ibiza has many other things to offer as an island. Obviously you can come here with your kids and not see a club and it’s fine. Go to Formentera and have a chilled one. You don’t have to party you don’t have to go to clubs, but it does boast some of the best clubs in the world.’
How have you seen Ibiza change over the years, and what do you think of the island nowadays?
‘I loved Ibiza back in the ’90s but I love the direction that it’s going. It is appealing to a wider audience. Now we have a lot more five star properties, so you sort of have a lot more of the San Tropez club coming down and you sort of have a lot more of the people with money coming down but Ibiza is still staying true to what it is which is some of the best DJs in the world playing at some of the best clubs in the world.
‘Now we have more five star properties and we’re catering to other people and it’s just growing and growing and Ibiza is… you know every year people are saying “oh Ibiza’s not what it used to be”. There’s only one Ibiza in the world and there’s nothing like it. So that’s why Ibiza will always be Ibiza. It’s the best place in the world for dance music.’
Have you had a chance to check out any of the other parties on the island?
‘Absolutely. You know I usually go to Cocoon. I love Sven Vath and that whole crew. Amnesia’s one of my favourite clubs. I went to see Deadmau5 there the other day and he was really, really awesome. And Luciano, I love what he’s doing at Pacha. I went to see the Swedes on Monday as well. I try to get out as much as possible.’
What do you have in store for the Voodoo closing party this year – any surprises?
‘We’ve got Shawnee Taylor coming down to perform. Obviously my Subliminal partners Harry Romero and Jose Nunez are going to come down. Yeah we may be having a special performance by somebody but I’m not at liberty to say just yet.’
When did you first start DJing, and what inspired you?
‘When I was 11. I was collecting music since I was six years old. My mother really started me with that, and then I met a neighbour of my Mum and he was a DJ in New Jersey and I just fell in love with the art of mixing music, and I begged my mother for money to buy two turntables and a mixer and the rest is history, as they say. I became known as the school DJ, I played all the school dances, school parties, and it was just something that was always part of me.’
Who do you think is the most exciting DJ in the world right now?
‘I love what the Swedish House Mafia is doing. I’ve seen them come from nothing and I love their sound and I think that they are going to be humungous on the scene. I’m one of their biggest supporters and they’re really exciting to watch.’
What promising acts can we look out for on the Subliminal label?
‘Shawnee Taylor is a Subliminal diva. We have a lot of key tracks coming out from her within the next four months. I mean her record Live Your Life is really starting to catch some fire right now in the UK. We’re going to be releasing commercially with her very soon, so I think Shawnee Taylor is one of the acts to follow in the next couple of months.
‘Richard Grey, for sure, he’s got an album that he’s got coming out next year. I’m gonna be releasing a couple of singles. Carl Kennedy’s got a new record called Sugar Man. I’m really excited about what the label is doing. I’m just excited again about music. I’m really happy.’
Where will you head to after the Ibiza season ends – what are you plans for the winter?
‘I stay here until the first week of October and then I go back to Miami. I just bought a house in LA so I’m going to move back and forth between LA, Miami and New York during the winter, but I travel quite a lot so I live on a plane.’
Of all of the places that you’ve travelled where do you most like to play?
‘I love playing everywhere. Ibiza is one of my favourite places but I love Brazil, I love Australia.’
Will we see you back at Pacha next summer?
‘Absolutely. I’ll be back at Pacha as long as people continue to come and support my night. People on the island still talk about Subliminal as one of the best musical nights, you know we like to break not only DJs but also music and people love the music that I play. That makes me happy and that makes me want to come back and play again.’
First published on I Voice, Ibiza, September 2010.
© Abbey Stirling