Eli Escobar: The Music Connoisseur

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When I started… youd hear rap, reggae, house, disco classics and R&B all together in one night…Most new dance music DJs are not used to playing for a tough crowd that demanded you to keep them dancing all night.

Eli Escobar’s name has become synonymous with good music and is not only an artist in his own right, but a true music connoisseur. Not only a prominent DJ within the dance world, Escobar has become the go-to guy for finding eclectic and hard-to-find tracks, thanks to his ever-popular blog, OutsideBrodcast, which recently moved over to eliescobarmusic.com. The remarkably talented DJ/remixer/lover of music who hails from the Big Apple has built his reputation as being a household name among NY’s dance scene and is quickly growing that reputation worldwide despite liking to keep it low key in his hometown.

With such diverse taste in music, dance may be his foundation, but Escobar can easily mix even the most obscure tunes into his sets, seamlessly combining his own personal favorites with the most commercial tracks. Maybe it’s his love for hip-hop that actually began his affair with vinyl in the ’80s, or it’s his rounds in the club scene during the ’90s, but whatever it is, Escobar possess what it takes to command any dancefloor and has caught the attention of many of today’s biggest artists like Britney Spears, Chromeo, M.I.A., Holy Ghost! and more. Gearing up to release some special projects before the year’s end, Escobar is on a mission to provide the world with good music and paving a new path on how fans experience his tunes…Escobar style! You can pick up Eli's most recent EP "Desire" featuring Nomi Ruiz here. It came out via Plant Music. Which is also a good spot to hit up for more Eli info and gigs and whatnot. The NYC based label has been a key component in Escobar's rise.

Who’s Eli Escobar? When you’re not making music, what do you get up to?
Just a pretty typical music nerd. Record digging and making music; they've been my favorite activities all my life. I also like to cook, and hang out with my wife and my dog. The simple life!

How did you first become interested in DJing and making a name for yourself?
I started scratching up all the rap records I bought as a kid in the ’80s. Then in ’93, got passed along some belt drive tables and a Gemini scratch master mixer. I already had tons of records, so I started mixing and I caught on real quick. Then in school, I started DJing house parties after about a year of practicing. It was very addictive. As for making a name for myself, it sounds cliché, but by working hard. Being a presence in the New York club scene of the late-‘90s and early-00s. Meeting promoters and going out all the time. At times, I'd work five or six nights a week.

Live At The Fool's Gold Pop Up Shop

If music had never been your career, what do you think you’d be doing right now?
That's a hard question, but I always liked to draw and do graffiti, and I was an art major in school. I might have tried to be a comic book artist or something.

So how has the music scene changed since you first emerged?
When I started, for the most part, you'd hear rap, reggae, house, disco classics and R&B all together in one night. Sometimes there'd be a house room or a reggae room for those who were really serious about dancing. Now things seem to be more split up, and the DJs coming out reflect that, for sure. Most new dance music DJs are not used to playing for a tough crowd that demanded you to keep them dancing all night. Obviously, there were also way less DJs back then, so you sorta knew who the top club guys were. Not better or worse, just different.

Rap music, to me, got really boring by the late-‘90s, so my passion for dance music really took over. Of course, I still love to play rap, but usually for some sort of old school party or something.

Is there a moment in your career that really catapulted you to the success you have today?
Well, my career has been so steady and it seems like it's been one long slightly uphill journey. I don't mind that at all, but I don't really think there's been one huge moment that really catapulted me to another level. Once I really started exclusively making and DJing dance music in the mid-‘00s, things took a turn. Less Top 40 gigs and more getting booked to play whatever I wanted to, which is really the most you can ever hope for.

Growing up in the ’80s, how have you seen DJ culture evolve over the years until now?
Not sure evolve would be the right word [ha ha]! No, it's just changed a lot. I can remember when I didn't know ONE other DJ…It wasn’t until I got to school and met, like, two others. It was a lot of work. You had to spend all your work/study (or for people in the suburbs, paper route?) money on records. A lot of times, records you didn't even like, but you knew people wanted to hear. And it took time to build the right collection, the skill and the confidence to play a party—if you could even get booked for one. I used to carry four to five crates of records to do parties and that was actually traveling light! Also, back then you did all five or six hours on your own. Not like now where there always seem to be four or five DJs doing one night. I'm sure none of this sounds like much fun, but it was. Again, not better or worse, just different.

I learned to use Ableton and started making tons of bootleg remixes...I had done one for a M.I.A. song and she heard it and asked me to remix her song Jimmy officially...I think that was my first big time remix. 

First a hip-hop DJ, then transitioning into dance music, can you please explain this evolution in terms of your DJ skills? What sparked the move to dance music? Do you still play hip-hop on occasion?
Once I started working in the clubs, I knew I had to get my classics collection on point. I started buying old records like Cheryl Lynn "Encore" and Black Ivory "Mainline" that I'd play at both the beginning and end of the night. I'd always loved that music since hearing it on the radio as a kid, and once I began collecting it I never looked back. I started buying tons of house records, too, and going to stores like 8 Ball, Dance Trax and Satellite every week. Rap music, to me, got really boring by the late-‘90s, so my passion for dance music really took over. Of course, I still love to play rap, but usually for some sort of old school party or something.

How did your transition into a remixer come about?
Well, for years I would just put acapella records over my tracks since I didn't have a vocalist to work with. Eventually, I learned to use Ableton and started making tons of bootleg remixes for my own use at parties. They started to get around and soon it translated into actual work. I had done one for a M.I.A. song and she heard it and asked me to remix her song "Jimmy" officially. I might be remembering wrong, but I think that was my first big time remix.

Is there a certain special way you approach your remixes?
Usually I listen to the original song a bunch of times, then lay the vocal out on a kick drum, and build it from there. Depends on the song, though.

Which is your best remix to date in your opinion?
Probably the bootleg mix I did for Midnight Magic's “Beam Me Up.”

How would you describe your DJ technique or skills?
Pretty straight forward. I like good clean mixing, and I also like to do a lot of mixes with a vocal from one song and a beat from another. But I'm more of a crowd-pleaser type of DJ than a skill one. I'm most concerned with keeping people dancing.

I’ve always been attracted to left of center music and after disco and punk came in the ’70s, people in the ’80s took those two genres and created all these other amazing sounds.

Is there a musician or an era that has influenced you? When and how did you come upon what moved you?
Maybe it's because I grew up in the ’80s, but I still look to it as a great era. There seemed to be so many new ideas and sub-genres emerging—synth pop, alternative, rap, house, techno, dancehall reggae, Goth, Italo, the list goes on. I've always been attracted to left of center music and after disco and punk came in the ’70s, people in the ’80s took those two genres and created all these other amazing sounds. I can remember that feeling, hearing Public Enemy or Bad Brains for the first time and thinking it sounded like nothing that had ever come before it. Again, this could be attributed to youth, but I don't think so...

You have a very popular music blog that many follow. What made you want to start it, and how does it feel to be such a trendsetter in the scene?
I came across Blogspot.com and it was so easy to use I figured it would be fun to post some songs and talk about music, but I really just started it with the idea that maybe some of my friends would read it and I could show off my record collection via scans of my 12-inches. It was a total surprise when it became so popular. I think it was one of the first blogs to really concentrate on ’70s and ’80s club music, but I don't think I'd say I was a trendsetter. Music blogs were already pretty standard at the time.

Are you working on any projects at the moment?
I just finished a four-song EP for release on Dither Down records in a month or so. And, I've got an album's worth of original material that I'm going to finish up once I get home from tour in December.

When I check the Beatport charts and stuff, a lot of the music is great, but a lot if it also sounds the same and there are so many remakes of old songs. Ill be excited to see what happens when that phase ends. 

What can we expect from Eli Escobar in 2012?
Hopefully an album's worth of finished material!

What’s your most memorable or favorite DJ experience thus far in your career?
My friends Lloydski, Andy Pry and I started a summer party in Brooklyn called “Tiki Disco” and it has gotten so popular and brought in such a great, responsive crowd. I think I'll definitely look back at it as the most fun I ever had as a DJ. We've been really lucky with that party.


You’ve collaborated and remixed with several big names, but who has been the best thus far?

I don't think I was ever actually in the same room as any of those big DJ guys I worked with, so it's hard to really evaluate. As far as singers, it's fun to work with your friends. I like working with Amanda ’cause she's really a good friend and we can make a song super quick, and then go watch Gossip Girl and order take out for the rest of the night.

What’s it like to DJ night after night?
It can be exhausting especially when you have an early flight and you really want to kill yourself. It has its ups and downs just like any other line of work. But if you're lucky enough to make it your profession, you'd be a fool to complain about it.

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What are some top tunes that are in rotation in your sets right now?
I like the Round Table Knights remix of MK's old song “Burning” and Legowelt's “Stark Island Acid” is really awesome.

Where do you see the future of dance music?
It's lasted a long time at this point hasn't it! What's going on in the States with Top 40 and stuff is obviously shitty, but dance music started here and the underground has been going strong since the ’80s—even if it hasn't always been in the public eye. When I check the Beatport charts and stuff, a lot of the music is great, but a lot if it also sounds the same and there are so many remakes of old songs. I'll be excited to see what happens when that phase ends. I'd love to see more actual songs coming out with good vocalists. Like the first Hercules and Love Affair record.

What type of music career did you want to have when you first started out, and have you achieved those initial goals yet?
When I was young, I wanted to be in Duran Duran and RUN - DMC (maybe even simultaneously) and even though I never became a rock or rap star, I'm quite content knowing that I've made my way, thus far, doing what I love. It doesn't get better than that. I'm not concerned with being the most popular or famous (obviously!) DJ out there. Actually, my worst nightmare is DJing on a stage. I hate it! I just want to throw good parties in New York to keep the scene alive and introduce some good songs to people while at the same time playing ones they love to dance and sing along to. That's enough for me!

Holy Ghost! "Say My Name" (Eli Escobar Remix)