Eli Escobar - Inside The Track 'Emotion'
Eli Escobar is the quintessential New York City DJ. Over the past ten years he’s built a reputation around his parties, emerging as one of the most talented in the NY dance scene. With a style based on his diverse tastes, Eli subversively drops his influences and personal favorites into even the most commercial of sets. If you still don’t know about Eli Escobar, you will.
His talent as a remixer is reflected in the wide range of artists who have sought him out to turn their songs into something specifically his. The list boasts work for Diplo, M.I.A., Britney Spears, Chromeo, Holy Ghost!, Pase Rock, and Amanda Blank, whose debut album featured two Escobar-produced tracks. Miss Blank was also featured on Eli’s EP, Love Thing. He’s also work with respected house labels like Nurvous Records, Nervous, Get Physical, Strictly Rhythm & Defected.
1) Congratulations on your new Nervous ‘Emotion / Strong’ EP release. How are the tracks being received in your sets? How are other DJs responding to them?
Thanks! I think I’ve only played it early on as the track is pretty melodic and deep… I’m not sure you can pull off a track like this during prime time with today’s dance crowd. They want the bangers! But that’s what the b side “Stronger” is for. Definitely all my DJ friends have been telling me they like it. Usually before I decide what song to release next, I sent a demo out to a few people (people I know I can trust to tell me what’s up) for feedback. I got an overwhelmingly positive response to “Emotion” so I figured I should release it! And most importantly, of course, I was pretty into it as well.
2) Tell us more about the “Emotion” track. What was the main inspiration behind it?
I wanted to bring back the idea that house tracks could have real musical elements, not just drums and bass with a vocal sample. I think I was listening to “I Loved You” by Grampa off the A Basement, a Red Light and a Feelin’ EP (which is a track I’ve been playing for like 20 years now!) and just wanted to do something with that major 7th chord feel. And top it off with a musical hook instead of a basic synth riff or whatever. The xylophone sound is obviously very 90’s but I don’t want anyone to think of “Emotion” as a retro track because I’m just making the music I feel from the heart. Hopefully that transcends time or trend.
3) Production wise, what is it about “Emotion” that makes it work?
To be honest, I made this entire song in a hotel room during some down time on tour. I didn’t even have a keyboard with me so I played everything on the computer keypad. I have never been very excited by studios or lots of recording equipment and I think sometimes I thrive under “less is more” circumstances. So I have a laptop that I mostly use on tour for iTunes and putting music into my USB’s for my DJ sets. But I do also have Ableton in it for making edits. There is only one plug in set up which is the G-Force Minimonsta. So all the sounds are coming from that except for the piano which is the Ableton acoustic piano sound. I composed all the music and programmed the drums in about half an hour but something felt a little incomplete. So I looked through my accapellas and found Mariah Carey’s “Emotions” and just chopped that up a little and it fit perfectly! So this was the sort of song where in an hour or so, it was done.
4) What is the one machine, plug-in, sound, technique, etc. that characterizes the sound on “Emotion”?
I wanted this track to feel very live and musical. So there’s no quantization on any thing… I just looped up my favourite sections. I wanted the drums to have that swing in them. You know, THAT swing… So I’d say the natural swing and the piano chords are really what makes the track. I also gotta give props to Emanuele Esposito who mixed the track down and gave it a warmth and space I’d never be able to achieve on my own. Since I use such minimal equipment I think it’s really important to have someone who understands sonics to take over once I’ve done my part. I don’t know the first thing about mixing down songs and he got it exactly how I wanted it to sound on the first try!
5) Any advice for DJs and Producers on how to make it in today’s fast paced game?
Well I’ve been doing this for 21 years and things are super weird now. All the house music parties in New York seem to have 15 DJ’s playing in one night and the bigger clubs (and even the small ones!) aren’t giving out residencies to anyone. And then you’re also expected to be a promoter on top of being a DJ! So I don’t know how you can really get good if you aren’t working 5 nights a week, for 5-6 hours. That’s how I learned how to read a crowd, and pace my sets. Sometimes when big producers come to town and headline at clubs, it really shows that they never went through that whole learning period and it’s kind of a bummer. So I guess I’d just say try and work as much as possible and don’t go right out trying to be a famous producer/dj playing all the biggest spots and burn yourself out. Take your time and learn how to be great at what you do because that will always make you invaluable in this thing.