Eli Escobar - How I DJ

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.

Eli’s latest offering Sweet Love (incl. Kim Ann Foxman & The Carry Nation Mixes) Just Landed on Traxsource & with him being a touring DJ, we wanted to find out about his personal preferences in clubs & attitude towards the scene. This is How Eli Escobar DJ’s.

“Sweet Love” is available now on Traxsource.

Are you more of a DJ or Producer —or one in the same?

I started Djing senior year in High School and that was about a year before I started making tracks so I’ll always be a DJ first. Although my mom made me take piano lessons at age 6, so I have always been a musician of some sort. I love them both and there is a connection of course, but I am always ready to DJ. I love DJing in clubs! I think I can go 6 nights a week and never get tired of it. Whereas producing is a little more of a tricky thing. Inspiration isn’t always there and I’m not really a person who looks at my music as a product that I need to dish out. So it comes when it comes. Luckily this year has been extremely productive for me!

Describe what makes a good DJ in three or four words.

Timing, selection and knowledge.

Who or what inspired you to become a DJ?

A friend of mine upgraded to some 1200’s and left his Gemini’s at my house for me and my boy to fuck around with. I think we had one of those really huge Gemini mixers with 5 channels at the crib also. I already had tons of records ‘cause I had been collecting for over 10 years at that point. And I was the pause tape master in my crew so I was pretty anxious to try and figure out the real thing! I just started getting busy, picked it up real quick and started making tapes. That was the summer of 1993 and that fall I went to college upstate and the parties were off the hook. Seeing the local dudes DJ blew my mind and I knew I wanted to get in on it.

When did you know you wanted to DJ?

Once I started to get good at making people scream when a certain record came on, or gaining that control over the whole room, it was a really addictive thing. I don’t think I ever even considered doing anything else. My plan was after school come back to NYC and DJ forever haha! It’s worked out so far…

Who to you is/was “The Dj’s DJ”.

I gotta go with Danny Krivit on that one. He never really got into production so you know he’s just a straight up DJ. And his edits are the best and only make him that much more valuable to all us DJ’s. I always liked him the best because he played all types of music together in one set and made it work perfectly. He knows his crowd so well and that’s extremely important. I would say he is a New York City treasure for sure.

Describe your main and preferred DJ set-up.

3 Nexus CDJ’s and a Pioneer mixer.

Do you use a lap-top? If so, what platform/program?

Nah, just USB’s.

Why do you choose this way of playing?

I don’t like looking at a computer screen all night and although I do like vinyl, I’m not gonna carry it all around just to find out the club’s sound system isn’t properly tuned and have feedback issues all night. USB’s are cool ‘cause you can really organize your music and play all your edits and stuff. It’s just simple and basic which is best for me.

Any special, unique, crazy things on your rider?

I think it says something like “any Madonna album up to Erotica” for the green room or whatever. It’s a total joke but once a promoter actually said to me “I’m so sorry I only have Bedtime Stories!” haha. I actually really like Bedtime Stories.

Beverage of choice while playing?

Vodka/club soda and water.

Favourite country/club/city to play?

It’s too hard to say. I love Athens, Moscow and St. Petersburg, Tokyo, Berlin etc. but New York is probably my favourite place and it’s really awesome to have clubs like Output and Le Bain to play at regularly. I have a very special place in my heart for Chicago though. Every time I play there it feels like a home away from home. It’s similar to New York because the music runs deep in everyone’s blood and if you play it right, people will give you such a warm response. I love it.

Do you Sync, what’s your view on this?

Nah chill, that’s some bizarre shit to me. I hate the quantize button thing too. Sometimes I’ll start playing a set and something feels real weird to me, and I’ll notice it’s always ‘cause that quantize button is on. I don’t think I’d even be able to sleep at night if I used any of that stuff. Mixing is not that hard dude, just learn to do it or find some other line of work you can actually do well!

Has it leveled the playing field for the better or worse?

I don’t really know. I mean this stuff doesn’t affect me so I don’t pay it any mind.

Favourite or “go-to” EFXs while playing?

The filter on the Pioneer mixer for sure.

Read the crowd or just pound it out?

Always the crowd. If I have a night where I feel I didn’t connect with the crowd, I will go back to my hotel room feeling kind of down. It’s very important to me. I don’t ever have a planned set or anything worked out so if the night doesn’t go off I always blame myself. I find it odd when a DJ just appears to be “doing their thing” regardless of what the venue or crowd calls for. You get the feeling maybe it’s all they’re capable of and that would make them an inferior Dj as far as I’m concerned.

Big festivals or intimate clubs? Why?

I’ve done some very fun festivals but overall I hate them. There was one in particular that was just like a sea of 18 year olds staring at me and maybe waiting for “the drop” and it was the most excruciating 1 hour of my life. I never wanted anyone to watch me DJ and a lot of people I know who became DJ’s back in the day were music nerds who preferred being out of the limelight anyway. Every time some club puts up their party pics and it’s all these kids watching the DJ I feel like punching a hole in the wall. They’re doing it all wrong and have no idea! An intimate club is preferable of course. I cannot connect with thousands and thousands of people in any sort of way that would mean anything to me personally. The summer party I throw with my friends (Tiki Disco in Bushwick) reached record numbers this past summer and it’s thrilling of course, but sometimes I really miss the first couple of years when there were only a few hundred people there.

Ever miss the CDs or Vinyl days?

Yes but what I miss doesn’t have anything to do with actually spinning vinyl in clubs. I miss the community of DJ’s, record store employees, record label people and collectors who would see each other every day at various record stores or functions and talk music and new releases for hours on end. That was a very special thing that I may not have realized I would miss as much as I do. Nothing will ever compare to walking into Vinyl Mania and hearing some new record blaring out the speakers and hoping there was still a copy left for you to grab!

How do you maintain your music library?

It’s a real mess actually. Spread out over 4 computers and multiple hard drives. One day I’ll get it together but today is not that day.

Wavs OR MP3 — WHY? Is their a difference?

I use 320’s or waves but I would be totally lying if I said I could tell the difference. I’m the total opposite of an audiophile. Actually I find the whole conversation completely boring. If some DJ plays a song I love on a 128 mp3, I will still be very happy. I mean people like Ron Hardy used to play their edits off of tape players so whatever to all that obsessing over sound quality.

Any Tips for aspiring Young DJs?

Look backwards as well as forwards. A DJ who can play dance music with a real understanding of its roots is so important and people will appreciate it. Anyone can get up there and play the top 100 deep house tracks from whatever site. But I’m not one to give tips ‘cause what do I know anyway.

Do you do any of the Obligatory DJ Poses?

HA! As if.

How do you combat the “Everyone is a DJ” mentality?

It’s another thing that I pay no mind. I’m secure with my place in the whole DJ world and that’s enough for me.

Eli Escobar artist page & releases on Traxsource.

Eli Escobar