Eric Estornel, best known as
, is a formerly Dallas- and now Valencia, Spain-based producer who left the US for the northern Spanish beach city in 2009. After years of the same very legitimate complaints that many Dallas techno producers had about not being understood or appreciated in their own city, Estronel made the move to more techno-friendly Europe in order to be closer to the clubs at which he was already so frequently playing. And he's now reaping the benefits.
Under his new Maceo Plex name that espouses a much more house-influenced style, Estornel has a full-length album scheduled for release in 2011 on Damian Lazarus' Crosstown Rebels label. To promote the forthcoming album, Esornel scheduled a US/Canada tour with stops in San Francisco, Dallas, Detroit, Miami, New York and Montreal. His Dallas show came this past weekend, at 813 @ Exposition, the former location of the old Minc spot.
Skyping him from his hotel room just before his San Francisco gig, the man of so many names explained the story behind his new Maceo Plex identity, his inability to sit still and his views on the current state of the Dallas techno and house scene. Check out our Q&A in full after the jump.
What motivated you to move to Spain?
Well, I was playing a lot in Europe and so I needed to be closer. I have a lot of family from Spain and my parents are from Cuba, so it was perfect. I know the language, and I wanted to get away from Dallas, so it was perfect.
How long were you in Dallas for?
Since '91. We moved there from Miami to Dallas. My family went back to Miami in the late '90s and I stayed. The rest is history.
I keep seeing in different publications that you started making music in '93. Is that accurate?
I started DJing in '93 and I started messing around with stuff in '93 -- like messing around on early Windows 3.1 programs and some MIDI gear -- but it wasn't until '96 that I started making tracks and actually buying gear.
What was the first name you started making tracks under?
Eric Entity. That was the first record put out, it was in '98, and it was electro. Straight up electro.
Did you ever feel like there was a community of electronic artists in Dallas that were like-minded?
Yeah. I think more so in the '90s. After 2000, that was pretty much gone. I do believe there's more of a community than people think. All the electro and techno heads and producers know each other, and all the house guys that make music know each other. There might be some hating going on between each other, but they're all contributing to the same sound from Dallas, and they play together a lot. Some get along and some don't, but there's still a community. Some of us didn't like each other, some of us did. Among the techno heads there was still a sense of community -- we were still all making tracks with each other and putting out records on the same couple labels from the city -- but the hating didn't start until a little later.
In terms of the way you approach it now or how you did previously or any time in between, did you ever set out to make minimal techno or electro, or was it just whatever came out?
I was only into electro and breakz and techno in the '90s, and it was about 2000 that we started carrying Cologne minimal stuff at the record store I was working at, at Illmatic, and I started getting into that. I was also into house-ier stuff and techno -- never pumpin' techno, but jackin' techno stuff, too. It was whatever I was feeling at the moment instead of trying to focus on anything, which could have been a good thing, to make a name for myself in one thing, but I couldn't concentrate long enough on one thing.
Did your experience at Illmatic inform a lot of your early exposure to electronic music?
No, not the early exposure, it just made me more well-rounded. All through the '90s, I was buying just whatever, but it wasn't until '98, '99 when Illmatic opened, and I was there right off the bat to help open it, that I started finding a sound that I really liked. It was a mixture of all those different things, so I bought a lot of different kinds of records, but when I played it was this certain type of style. It morphed into a lot of different kinds of things, but it made me a more mature DJ working at a record store.
What would you consider your breakout record?
It was the release that came out in 2000. It was on a label called Immigrant, which was a hot label at the time. There were some really good artists on there -- (John) Tejada and some other people -- and so when I got signed of course it was a huge deal. When it came out it was a huge deal and I even called it "Entering the Cycle" because I was entering the cycle of putting out records, opening the door to put out another record and another record. So it's a landmark record, even though it's not that great of a record. It was the first one, and it was on a good label. Right off the bat, I just had doors open and it was easy to put out records.
And that also went hand in hand with starting to gig out in Europe, right?
Well yeah, like shortly after that I started traveling and gigging out in Europe. I was talking about it forever, to move. I went through bad relationships that kept me in the town and things weren't really coming together. Then when Christine (Mooneyhan) and I got together and she wanted to get out of Dallas too, it was perfect. I had been ready for years doing two or three gigs a month at least, touring and all that, but it wasn't until I had someone supporting me in what I was wanting to do that I actually went. I didn't really want to go straight up alone. It would've been nice to have other producer friends to go with me and we could've started something up, but I didn't have that because I didn't have that many friends here, actually, so when I met Christine, that was it.
Before you left, you spoke a lot about the possibility of going to Germany, but why did you choose to go to Spain?
Everybody was going to Berlin, and it's a really awesome city, but I don't really want to go where everybody's going and then get there and have the same problems. What a lot of people don't know is that Berlin is like a huge Dallas. It's like the same thing. There's stuff going on, but no one ever helps anybody out and everybody thinks they've been there longer than the other person. In Berlin, everybody's got their little cliques where they all do the same thing and I didn't want to find somewhere to fit in, so we went to Valencia where right off the bat I could be top dog. I could be like "All right, it's my town. Let's do this." So as soon as I got to Valencia I was gigging and formed my little crew of friends that all make music, so it was perfect that way.
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So Spain is your home now. You want to stay there for a while?
Yeah, because it's a nice place. It's not cold -- perfect weather, good food -- close enough to the rest of Europe where it's a short flight. If I were to move anywhere I would just go ahead and go to Berlin, see what it's like to live there for a year or two, see what kind of people I would meet. Maybe things would go better there, so if I did get up and go somewhere it would be there, and then I would just come right back to Spain. But definitely not back to the US.
So when did the Maceo Plex moniker come about?
In October of '09, I did kind of a new disco-ey type track just for fun, and I sent it to
Damian Lazarus and he loved it. He asked me if I could make a whole album worth of that stuff, so I did, and after that it started morphing into not being so new disco and being more tech house or house. There's a lot of Detroit influence. It was done in five months -- in March of 2010 -- so it's been ready to come out for a while.
Is the release of the album the reason for your US tour?
Yes, but the problem is that since Maceo Plex is brand new, I couldn't do the whole tour as Maceo Plex and had to do some of the gigs as Maetrik. But it is technically the album tour of the US. For the last couple months, I've been doing the album tour in Europe. When a promoter was willing to book me as Maceo Plex, that gig would just be added to the tour, but in the U.S. tour I had to come and do some Maetrik gigs.
Considering your forthcoming album, is that what your focus has been in terms of production lately, or have you worked on other projects?
No, it's been everything, because while I was in the midst of doing the Maceo Plex album, I was doing Maetrik stuff as well and working on tracks for a group that I ghostwrite for. I've been super busy. I don't know how I was able to do it, but I released a lot of records last year, lots of remixes and records and stuff, and still managed to do the album. I was on fire last year because I'd just gotten there in '09 and, as soon as we got there I set up my studio and didn't have anybody bother me. So it was straight away, right into the music. It's been really productive.