WORDS: Alex Caslano
“What happened to the days when you went to a party or a club because it was the place to be? Before people danced with each other, now it’s like a concept.” If there’s anyone who is qualified to comment on the current state of modern club culture, it’s David Morales. Recognised as a rising star by none other than Larry Levan in late 80’s New York, he started his career in the most humble of surroundings. A regular at legendary venues like The Loft and Paradise Garage (where the emphasis was purely on dancing), his skill as a DJ – in the traditional and most relevant sense – has seen him become one of the all time greats.
Headlining the first of two magnificent days at the Electric Frog May Weekender, his extended set on Saturday is likely to be a talking point for weeks to come, as he offers a true schooling in the art of playing records. Hand most DJ’s a 5hr set these days and they’d probably shit themselves, but through years of experience and an undying passion for music, his job has never changed. The DJ is there to make people dance, and that is what David does best.
Of course it’s not just his reputation as a DJ which has seen him play some of the most respected clubs in the world - his remix catalogue reads like a who’s who of popular music, with everyone from Mariah Carey to CeCe Rogers benefiting from his golden touch. There’s also the legendary ‘Def Mix’, an undisputed stamp of quality which has ruled Pacha Ibiza for nearly twenty years and directly influenced the course of house music through the years. Classics like ‘Needin U’ and ‘Gimme Luv (Eenie Meenie Miny Mo)' will always stand strong in any set, but DJ’ing will always be David’s first love, and come Saturday night when you're deep into that fifth and final hour, you’ll soon recognise why…
Check out recent mixes for both FG Radio and Defected below, as well as an exclusive interview:
SG: As a DJ and producer, your history in club music is really quite incredible, do you still feel as excited about it as you did all those years ago? Obviously the culture has changed extensively but I guess it is and always will be your passion?
David: Yes, clubbing has changed a lot. First the music and then the technology, but I still love to play music. The rush of seeing people scream when you drop a track is still euphoric. I still prefer to do long sets as apposed to the typical 2hr sets that have become the norm.
SG: You were lucky enough to experience the very birth of house music and some of the most legendary clubs of that time, including The Loft, Paradise Garage and Sound Factory. When you look at the dancefloor now, how do you feel things have changed? Do you feel there is too much emphasis on the ‘superstar’ and production element of club culture as apposed to the simple nightclub, dancefloor, DJ formula?
David: Gee where do I start? Yes there is way too much emphasis on the DJ than the party itself. I mean, anyone can rent a space and book SHM etc and pack it in. What happened to the days when you went to a party or a club because it was the place to be? What happened to productions, decor, themes? Before people danced with each other, now it’s like a concept. More and more clubs are now catering to the VIP crowd. There’s less dancefloor and more tables. I just started a residency in Tel Aviv at a club called The Block. It’s back to basics there – no tables, it’s all about the music and I get to play all night (6-7 hrs).
SG: And if we concentrate on New York, do you feel the city is starting to reclaim some of the original magic with clubs like Ceilo and the Sullivan Room? And how do you feel about the current ‘EDM’ wave in America in general?
David: There are a couple new venues and parties going on in Brooklyn right now. Most of the clubs in New York, as in Manhattan, are all catering to the model/table service crowd. Some are booking good DJ’s I must say, and then some are commercial. I play at Funkbox which is at Sullivan Room and it’s one of my favourite clubs in NY. My opinion of the EDM wave in America is that it’s overdone. The same DJ’s play at all the clubs and they all sound similar. There’s not enough variety. And the problem is that it’s all manipulated by one-two agencies. The good thing about it is that it’s brought out clubbing in places where it wasn’t previously.
SG: Def Mix celebrated its 25th anniversary last year, how did it feel reaching such a huge milestone and, if you can, what would you describe as your defining Def Mix track and why?
David: I’d like to think that I’m just starting, but I must say that there’s something to be said about being part of a culture and playing a defining roll in it. We have worked with some of the best artists in the world and we’ve created many hits for many artists. It’s nice to know that ‘Def Mix’ stands for something. My defining track would have to be ‘Dream Lover’ – it was the beginning of remixing going to another level.
SG: You’ll be playing a five hour set at the Electric Frog in Glasgow later this month, do you find that extended sets can engage a dancefloor on a different level and how do you approach them? Are you ever tempted to plan parts or do you keep it spontaneous?
David: With extended sets you can go places and I never plan my sets, what's the point? After 37 years what gives me the passion is being able to entertain myself as well - the rush of putting records together and creating magic. I don’t see the point in practicing mixes or planning a set - you limit yourself, this is why a lot of DJs can’t play more than their planned set.
SG: Following on from the Electric Frog, what are your plans for the rest of the summer? We see you’ll be playing the Defected party at Bomba in Ibiza, how do you feel about the relocation from Pacha and all the changes they’ve made?
David: I would be lying if I didn’t say that I’m sad about not playing at Pacha anymore. I’ve been playing there for almost 20 years, but good things must come to an end and change is inevitable. Nevertheless I look forward to playing Bomba, I’ve seen the specs for the soundsystem and all I can say is wow!