ELI ESCOBAR: If that’s what it sounds like to you, then it’s real! I would certainly say the amount of DJs, producers, and clubs catering to house music seems to be at a level we haven’t seen since the ’90s, but I don’t know if that necessarily translates to a renaissance because quantity does not always equal quality. At the end of the day, I think your own experience can dictate how you feel about a moment in time. Surely some people will look back on this era as a high point in the NY house scene, and that’s the most important thing.
I would be lying if I said I didn’t have a moment where I realized I was standing in a DJ booth with those two guys in Ibiza and feeling a bit in awe of it all. The sheer amount of amazing records those two are responsible for is a little too much to comprehend! And then you’re in the booth DJing with them and you’re like, “OK, OK, they’re just human beings...” but then they play one of their best songs and you’re like “No, no they are gods!” [Laughs.]
Deee-Lite, the Jungle Brothers, Masters At Work, Eli Escobar... Thoughts?
Have you been reading my Facebook posts? [Laughs.] I look at the Jungle Brothers as a gateway drug to house music for me. Obviously there’s “I’ll House You,” but on the second album, they had a lot of disco-sampling uptempo songs that are not all that different from the Todd Terry records coming out at the same time. It's so perfectly executed, and I still consider it as one of my top ten albums ever. And Deee-Lite busted the gate wide open. Everyone in high school that I knew was obsessed with that first album, but some of us didn’t even know we were listening to house music. It was just some fly and (despite the group’s backgrounds) real New York shit.
Soon after the Jungle Brothers, hip hop and dance music really went their separate ways. MAW was something I discovered by accident. My friend gave me a stack of records in 1993 when I had just got my first turntables and “I Can’t Get No Sleep” was in the stack of otherwise predominately hip hop vinyl. It did the trick. By the mid-late ’90s, I was way more interested at shopping at Vinyl Mania or Dance Trax than Rock and Soul or Beat Street! Now, I think I just try and throw all those influences together in one pot and see what I can cook up.
Nomi Ruiz is featured on four tracks. We love her. What's something about Nomi that we should know?
She writes songs very quickly and a lot of times can record the vocals in one take. The first time we recorded together in the studio, I blocked off four hours of my day, but she knocked it out in about 20 minutes. I was like, “Umm, I guess I can go to the park now!” We also come from similar backgrounds and she’s a native New Yorker, so that makes it really easy to say something like, “Let’s go for a Noel 'Silent Morning' vibe." She gets it right away.
Eli Escobar's exclusive End Of Summer Mix
What’s your definition of happiness in NY?
A spring day, a good ice coffee, and a walk with my family and dogs. Or a good party with a diverse New York-centric crowd. Old and young, straight and gay, white, black, and brown. I recently played a party just like this out in Coney Island. That was a perfect NY day for sure.
And happiness outside of NY?
Predictably, I really am a city guy. Remote beaches and the like are cool, but I get restless easily. I’d say pretty much the same as New York. I recently spent a day off in Paris and walked about 10 miles all together and did absolutely nothing. It was amazing.
It's too hard to pick just one, but recently I’ve been playing the Pezzner remix of Roy Davis Jr's “About Love.” After the shooting in Orlando and basic unrest we’ve felt all year surrounding the police and gun violence in general, I was searching for a song with a direct message to play out. There are not really any political dance records these days, whereas in the ’70s, disco could be extremely political. It’s a very simple yet effective record and the words speak loud and clear. I love it.
Happiness is out on Classic on September 16th
Eli Escobar plays every Wednesday at Le Bain
The Standard High Line | 10pm
Photos by Neil Aline