Fans of disco unite! Our next Mixed By guest is New York mainstay, Eli Escobar. After two decades behind the decks and three albums to his name, Eli continues to be an inspiration for both dancers and DJs alike. We asked him about the scene, his favorite closing track, and what the future holds for the disco evangelist – hint, it might just be a full-length LP with singer-songwriter Nomi Ruiz. Enjoy! Be sure to catch him on Sunday, Sept. 1st at MEG festival @ SAT for Disco Disco special night!
Welcome to Mixed By, Eli! How has your Summer been? Any highlights?
It’s been lovely although it’s flown by as usual. One highlight was finally DJing in Fire Island (at Pavilion). I went there every summer growing up and it’s where I was first exposed to the sounds of disco and new wave, way back in 1979-80. I was incredibly young but it clearly had an impact on me! The party I did was magical and the crowd was up for anything musically. I loved it.
You’ve previously cited New York itself as one of your biggest inspirations, do any other cities hold a special place in your heart? Why?
I’ve grown fond of many cities over the years but if I had to pick one, I’d go with Tokyo. Somehow, every time I get home from a trip there, I am immediately ready to go back. I’ve got some dear friends out there at this point and the food, record shopping and vintage clothing situations are insane! I also love the pace of the city and it’s open all night just like New York. I feel very at home there!
What keeps you in New York?
Well I’ve never thought of leaving and I guess, in the same way, never really thought much about why. I think the history is nice. It feels right to be involved in a culture that was, for the most part, invented in your city. And that goes for more than dance music- it’s hip hop, electro, art, fashion… the list goes on. Also, I have to take care of my 95 year old grandma!
What’s different about the scene? Is it healthy right now?
It’s very healthy I’d say. Even though I could talk forever about things I wish were different. That’s part of living here though. People have been saying night life is over in New York City since the 80’s. I think when you are passionate about something, you can always imagine ways to make it even better, and that can come off as complaining or whatever. But ultimately it’s coming from a place of love.
How have you evolved as a DJ/Producer throughout your career? What’s next for you?
There’s always been a consistent obsession with disco music and record collecting. Everything else comes and goes in phases. I’m into this at one moment, a moment later I never want to hear it again. I can’t help it, I tend to feel unsettled when I stick to one thing too long. I made three albums in a row that followed a similar formula and now I’ve made one with Nomi Ruiz that is completely different and I couldn’t be happier. It was nice to write some actual songs and explore a more traditional pop music route. I can’t wait for people to hear it!
How has technology influenced the way you dig for music? Is it getting harder to find records and samples that haven’t already been rinsed?
It’s just added more options. I buy records as much as usual and also I’m all over bandcamp and juno and traxsource. iTunes too. I just use it all now!
Would you agree there’s somewhat of a disco revival (or at least a disco edit revival) going on? If so, thoughts?
I dunno. The stuff I’m hearing people play never sounds like what I think of as disco. No offense to anyone but these clean, quantized edits or tracks with huge chunks of a disco song in them just bore me to tears. I don’t see the problem with playing the original or a more raw edit if you wanna go that route. Things sound too neat and tidy for me. All the groove and soul removed for the sole purpose of easy mixing? Nah I’m good. Just learn the song. I got like a million drum fills and random speed up moments memorized cause these songs are my life. You also have to realize for a lot of people in NYC, disco never went anywhere. So it’s great that other people are into it but things feel pretty much the same over here!
Do you go out when you’re not on the bill? Where can we find you on a night off?
Yeah. I try. Cause I care about the scene here. And you can’t really understand a city and its scene if you’re not a part of it. My favorite party is Pat at Union Pool. It has the absolute best crowd and energy ever!
Lastly, do you have a favorite closing track? Why?
I have a lot. It’s usually something people know and can sing to. I like to leave people feeling that pure joy when they leave a party and singing is one of the best ways to feel that. That’s why I don’t get dj’s who don’t play vocals or think playing familiar songs is not cool or whatever. I like to connect with people in a multitude of ways during my sets and listening to people sing back to you, it’s really special. So I’ll play anything from Chaka – Ain’t Nobody to Dreams by Fleetwood Mac or Erasure – A Little Respect. But my all time favorite is I Need You by Sylvester.
Interview by Adam Johan
Photos: Kenny Rodriguez