Eli Escobar is a producer based in NYC, famous for his innovative disco infused house tracks and pumping DJ sets.
You’re well known for combining pumping house beats with classic disco in an awesome manner, how did that start? When and how did you figure out that this combination is what you love?
Well this is how all the DJ’s I learned from played and in NYC when I was coming up, it was the norm. House is an extension of Disco and although the sonic can be quite different, the four on the floor remains. I used to go see Danny Krivit DJ a lot and he would play anything from early Kool and the Gang to the latest record I had just bought at Vinyl Mania and it always made perfect sense to me. Even way back when I was just starting if I heard someone refer to themselves as a “Hip Hop DJ” or a “Drum and Bass DJ,” I would think to myself, ‘Don’t you get bored playing only one genre all night’?
I stumbled across your track ”N.Y so Hi”, which left me craving more. Tell me a little bit about that track and the process behind it? And why did you choose to use that sample in particular?
The truth is I made that track in about 10 minutes. And on an airplane! I was on my way home from the Los Angeles which, to be frank, can leave me with a strong yearn for my hometown. So I had this a cappella I had been using in my sets that said “New York, can make you feel so high” and I figured I’d make a simple track around it. Really just for my DJ sets. I always travel with a hard drive with lots of samples and rips of my records and I had the Sylvester song in the drive. It just matched perfectly. I threw a few other samples in and it was finished. My label partner Blu Jemz was the one who said “this should come out!” So that’s all thanks to him. I never intended for it to be released.
Your newest release ”Muzik” is quite different sound wise compared to your previous ones. What inspired you for this track?
This song is on my next album and the whole album has a bit of a concept. It may or may not make sense when you hear the whole thing but I’d rather the listener figure it out for themselves. I don’t really want to be to overt about it. This song is somewhat of a quiet tribute to the majesty of music and to how powerful of a tool it can be in troubling times. So I didn’t want the production to be too overdone or too complex. I liked the chords a lot and thought they were compelling enough that just adding some bass and 808’s would do the trick. I guess it came out sounding a little more techno than a lot of my stuff but, like my dj sets, I really just do whatever I feel like regardless of genre!
What have been the biggest challenges in regards of trying to make it as a producer in one of the biggest and most influential cities in the world?
When I first started, I thought the main idea was to get my music into the right hands. All the record labels are here and the scene is here! So I made lots of CD’s and tapes with my tracks on them and handed them out when I could. I was always going out to clubs and industry things trying to get to know everyone. And eventually I did really know everyone on the scene. As a DJ it worked great. I’ve always worked here in all the clubs and been in demand. But for my own music, I really got me nowhere. I’m not sure why… but I learned, eventually, that it makes more sense to just make it happen for yourself on your own. That’s why I put my first album out myself. My label partner and I really believed in the music and I didn’t really need anyone else to cosign it or express interest to give me a feeling of validation. I also felt that the music I made was way more true to myself when I wasn’t making it with someone else in mind, such as a label or DJ’s or the Beatport charts or whatever. And in the end, it ended up doing very well and raising my profile significantly.
Is there any song (out of all your releases) that is a little bit more special to you?
I have a special place in my heart for the song ”4 Luv” that I made with Nomi Ruiz. The original version had drums on it that sounded a lot like Grace Jones’ ”My Jamaican Guy.” We recorded it with those drums and that’s how Nomi was used to hearing it. At some point I decided the drums were whack and deleted them completely to try and program some new ones and I as listened to the song without any drums, it took on a new level of beauty to me. Some of my all time favorite songs have little or no percussion or just a light back beat behind them. Like Depeche Mode’s ”Somebody” or George Michael’s ”Father Figure.” It kind of gave me the same feeling those songs do. So I’m really proud of it. And I love Nomi’s lyrics and vocals so much!
You’ve been around the NYC club scene for quite some time now. I traveled there back in 2015, and didn’t really manage to get the ultimate clubbing experience. The atmosphere was a bit stuck up and forced (might have been due to NY fashion week taking place during my stay), but what are your thoughts on the night life in NYC? And please, hit us up with the best clubs there according to you?
Fashion week is definitely annoying. I think one of the things about New York is you have to know what’s going on. It’s not always about the club, it’s about the specific night. For example you may go to Le Bain on a Saturday and think it’s okay but if you go on a Tuesday night you will have the best time ever! There used to be a party called 11:11 on Fridays in the East Village and I was always surprised how no one knew about it unless they lived here. I never got to go because I always work on Fridays but the one night I dj’d it, was one of the best nights I’ve ever done. A sweaty basement packed out and sweat on the walls for real. But the best party is still 718 Sessions to me. That’s where you have to go to get the true NYC dance experience!
Tell us about your ultimate night out!
To be honest, I would love to go back in time just once to the 90’s when me and my friends would drink 40’s on the corner and then head downtown to Soul Kitchen. It was all so exciting back then! I would love to be able to reach out and touch that feeling just one more time.
You DJ:ed at a Boiler Room event about a year ago, what was that like?
That was a special night. I had already done Boiler Room once before and it was amazing. NYC really showed up and turned it out for me and made me so proud. The second one I did happened just a week after Trump won the election. The atmosphere in NYC the day after was like one huge funeral. Like if everyone’s grandmother had just passed away the day before. It was really gloomy. I went off to Europe the following day and came back just in time to do the Boiler Room gig. A lot of people told me it was their first night out since the election and they weren’t even sure they wanted to be out. But once we started playing music, the room came alive and people danced their asses off. I think it translates in the video. Towards the end, you can see an old friend of mine singing and dancing to ”Days Like This” with a huge smile on her face. She had worked very closely with Hillary Clinton on her campaign and was obviously dealing with the harsh reality of that moment. I think she needed that release and I did too. It was a testament to the power of music and dancing!
If you could pick any venue or arena in the world, where would you love to play in the future?
I would love to play the main room in Output from opening til closing. Who knows, maybe I’ll get to someday! I also really love Barbarellas in Croatia. Luckily I’ll be playing there in August!
What’s coming up next for you this summer/fall?
I have a new album coming out in late August. Digitally in early September. I’m very proud of it and excited for people to hear it. Also I’ll be touring Asia and Australia in the late summer. It will be my first time in Australia since 2008 so I’m really excited.
And lastly, name one song that you feel inspires you at the moment!
Right at this very moment I’m feeling inspired by Fela’s – Water Get No Enemy. The horns, the vocals, the keys… it’s perfect!