LE BAIN: Not only have you been playing at Le Bain on a weekly basis for the last five years, but you're also a third of Tiki Disco, and a third of Night People. Should every New Yorker be as busy as you?
ELI ESCOBAR: Well, first off, I wanna say congrats on 5 years of Le Bain! I’m very happy to have been a part of it for all these years, and what’s amazing is that it’s still as fun as it was in the beginning! As far as being a busy New Yorker, I’ll tell you a little secret: I’m not really as busy as you might think. Honestly, I think if you're born and raised here, the crazy, cutthroat pace of this city is never really a shock to your system. DJ Moma once told me that he thinks people who grow up in Manhattan are exposed to way too much, too early, and he might be right. People who move here seem to have a 'do or die' attitude and fair enough because I could only imagine the pressure you might feel coming here from a quiet suburb or what have you. But I’ve been used to this since forever so my approach has always been a little more relaxed.
Eli Escobar and Blu Jemz of Night People (photo by Neil Aline)
What's your secret to staying cool?
I’ve been extremely lucky in that I’ve worked as a DJ all of my adult life and have stayed active in the nightlife scene. You have to make sure you're always a part of it if you want to work in it. And I think that extends to life in this city as well. Just go outside a lot. Check out all it has to offer. I see this a lot in my neighborhood these days … young investment banker types move here and they basically stay inside their boring apartments and watch sports and order Domino’s takeout every night. You're never going to become a part of New York that way! Especially if you eat Domino’s (laughs).
My first impression listening to your album is the Lil’ Louis feeling I get from it. Was Journey with the Lonely an inspiration? And what other albums of House music inspired you?
That’s interesting! I do love that album - maybe not an inspiration musically, but more in the sense of making an album that isn’t just a collection of singles. Deee-Lite’s first album is a good one like that, also. I actually made this album over the course of 3 years or something, so I listened to so much music over that time and the influences are all there. Mr G’s State Of Flux is one I really listened to a lot. I think this album was more influenced by a lot of early 90’s rap albums more than anything. I wanted to make an album you could listen to on the train. Not just in the clubs. When I ride the train, I’m usually listening to the first Tribe Called Quest album or Let the Rhythm Hit ‘Em by Eric B and Rakim. So it might not seem obvious, but albums like that have really taught me how to make something coherent and interesting with samples and grooves. And hopefully the kind of music you’ll want to revisit over and over.
Eli Escobar Up All Night (Night People)
When you think about the greatness of Lil’Louis, how do you think he was able to increase club music's resonance and audience and impact. Is that something you hope to reach?
Sometimes I find it hard to imagine a song like "Club Lonely" coming out now and being a club hit the way it was back then. It’s so sad and reflective. I can’t really think of a song like that moving the new House generation. Especially 'cause they don’t really seem too sad or reflective at all (laughs) ... which is OK, of course. I feel like House music back then needed a little more patience from its dancers. No huge drops or big moments, just a subtle groove that would eventually leave you totally transfixed and transformed. Or a vocal song that spoke to your pain or even your joy. At the same time, a song like "Blind" by Hercules definitely achieved this sort of thing recently, so maybe I’m wrong. But for a song like that to become as big as it did and with a Frankie Knuckles remix that was even more melancholy than the album version, really is inspiring.
What about your own ambition?
I can’t think about stuff like that too much. I like my music to be 100 percent honest and once you start planning to become bigger than you are or become a pop star, there’s no way it won’t effect your music. It will become a product at that very moment. I don’t necessarily think this a bad thing and honestly I really respect people who can do it, but it’s nothing I’m interested in at all.
Eric B. & Rakim Let The Rhythm Hit 'Em
'New York can make you feel so high' / I believed we could love NY and complain about it ‘bringing us down’. What are the 4 NY things that make you feel so high?
Well, that’s the constant thing about this city, right? We love it and we also love to complain about it. I can’t say these are my top 4 things. These are just 4 things that I love to do in New York.
1) Going to A1 records on a nice day.
2) Taking a really long walk uptown through Central Park to visit my grandma.
3) Eating Cuban food from La Nueva Victoria in my old neighborhood.
4) Hanging out on the roof of Le Bain when the weather gets nice (see what I did there?)
Tell us about Night People. What’s your vision with the party and label?
When we started Night People, I think there was a new energy in New York that we were really excited about. Bottle Service was dying out and new places were opening that cared more about the music and dancing. Le Bain was definitely at the forefront of that. The summer of 2010 (I think?) we had the first year of Tiki Disco, the WORK parties at Submercer and Night People all starting out and it seemed like a lot of new people were in New York and coming to all the parties. It was so cool. After a few years, Jemz and I started talking about starting a label but didn’t really do much until I found myself sitting with an entire album on my hands. I had sent Jemz a lot of the songs for feedback, so he had it as well. Just seemed like the right moment to finally put something out.
Eli Escobar Seein'U
Tell us about what makes Jemz an awesome partner.
Jemz was great in making me see worth in some songs that I may have just thrown away. I get way too close to the music, obviously, and it’s good to have another ear. Especially if they're also a DJ. He can text me and say “I played that song you hate and it totally killed" and that will make me think twice about it. He’s also way more social than I am, as most people know (laughs). That helps me because I can concentrate on making music and being introverted while he goes out and makes shit happen. So it’s a good mix.
What’s your definition of ‘Making it in New York’?
Once you stop asking to have your bagel toasted, I’d say you’ve made it.