Submitted by Clubsguide on March 29th 2006
A jack of all and master of many could be Erick Morillo’s motto. Morillo is a livewire with the drive of a Ferrari, the chutzpah of a patent medicine salesperson and the charm of a beetle. He can play a bit, too. As a producer, he has churned out tracks under a bewildering array of pseudonyms (Ministers De la Funk, Pianoheadz, RAW, Smooth Touch, RBM, Deep Soul, Club Ultimate and Li’l Mo Ying Yang to name but some). As a DJ, he has played the world over from his base in Jersey, to Ibiza, Greece and beyond. Then there’s his coveted residency at Ministry of Sound, the first American to secure this spot since Tony Humphries back in 1992; and, for whom, he has released 2 compilation CD’s. For good measures he’s also remixed Whitney Houston, Crystal Waters, Jocelyn Brown, Basement Jaxx, Madison Avenue, Enrique Inglesias, and so many more. And then, of course, there’s a small matter of one of the biggest selling dance acts of all time. Reel 2 Reel. Yep, Erick Morillo is a busy guy.
Born in New York and raised in Colombia and Union City, New Jersey. Morillo has been a DJ since the age of twelve, entranced by the turntable trickery of the masters. Starting out at local parties, weddings (“more that I care to recall”), as well as ministering the beats at his graduation party, Morillo’s thirst for dance music was sated when he spotted an ad on TV for the Center of Media Arts. Within two days he had enrolled on a studio engineering class, swiftly followed by graduation (at the top, notch).
Shortly after, Morillo got his first break whilst spinning at Shanghai Reds in nearby Weehawken, when reggae don El General happened to hear a re-edit Morillo had done of Nardo Ranks “Burrup”. So impressed was General with the spunky Latino in the booth, that he invited him to contribute a track to his next album. “To be honest,” recalls Erick, “up until that point I never saw myself as a producer. I’d done re-edits and that was that. “Muevelo,” the product of the pair’s liaison, wound up attaining platinum and being named Billboard’s Latin Single of the year in 1992 (Morillo won the same award in 1997 with “Muevela La Cadera” Reel 2 Real featuring Proyecto Uno).
Morillo was introduced to the house fraternity through his friend Marc Anthony (the Salsa King), then working with Louie Vega and Kenny “Dope” Gonzalez on a future anthem: “Ride On The Rhythm”. “Louie’s kinda watched out for me since the beginning. He never told me how I should do anything, but he’s just been so supportive. The only thing he ever said to me was, “Erick focus more on vocals.”
The studio Erick had begged, stolen or borrowed to build (and that loan from his grandmother didn’t harm the cause either) started churning out the house tracks. Truthfully speaking, they were of varying quality and usually not all that good. “Well, I thought I was making house that sounded like the stuff that was around then, but I wasn’t. Gladys Pizzaro, then of Nervous, knocked him back several times. Until one day he turned up at Strictly Rhythm, the hottest label in New York with something called “The New Anthem” by an act called Reel 2 Reel. Pizzaro, newly ensconced as A&R at Strictly, snapped it up (she also gave him his nickname “More” because he always delivered enough mixes to fill a triple album).
The productions got better and better. And they sold in increasingly large numbers. With “I Like To Move It”, Reel 2 Reel went ballistic. Growing by stealth on the underground, “I Like To Move It” wound up in pop charts across Europe and Asia (and the sales in the US weren’t to be sniffed at either). It was finally certified platinum in Holland, and gold in the UK, Germany, France, Belgium and Australia. It also gave him the chance to travel to Europe for the first time.
“Coming over to England was a revelation to me. It was the first time people were coming up to me and saying, “Wow, Erick, I really love that R.A.W. track or that Smooth Touch rocks, man.” Although I knew we’d have good sales on those records, when you get direct feedback like that, it’s inspirational.” Erick Morillo had arrived.
Flush from the success, but determined to keep his head and music firmly in the underground (“It’s where I come from, where I always go back to.”) he hit big with a pair of Billboard #1’s in the shape of Smooth Touch’s “In My House” and his sublime collaboration with buddy Louie Vega, Li’l Mo’ Ying Yang’s “Reach”. “Actually, we’d been out together for the evening,” says Erick, “we’d had some glasses of wine and we came down to the studio about midnight and just went for it. My studio is set up to make tracks quick!”
In 1997, after many months gestation, Subliminal crashed on to the scene with the club smash by Constipated Monkeys, a twisted slice of filtered disco-funk. Morillo’s view of what a label should be is precise down to the smallest detail. It also reflects what he’s seen in Europe. “We spent eight months getting everything right. Getting the logo right, getting the design just so. We didn’t want to look like any other US label, that’s why we went for the picture jackets. We didn’t want those black die-cut record jackets. I think small things like that set you apart from the herd. I want the label to be known for the quality music, so you can go into the store, buy a Subliminal record and know that you’ve got a quality record.”
The quality has been reinforced by a slew of club hits, including Octahvia’s “In My Life” , Da Mob featuring Jocelyn Brown’s “Fun”, Pete Heller’s Big Love, and Ministers De la Funk featuring Jocelyn Brown “Believe” - each one a distinct take that reflects Morillo’s vision, neither New York garage, nor European progressive, but incorporating elements of both. Naturally enough, the prestige gigs have followed closely behind his verve in the studio. Erick is currently one of the most in-demand US DJs and, it has to be said, one of the few Americans who hasn’t priced himself out of the European market. And, on top of his Ministry residency, he won Best House DJ award at the 1998 Ibiza DJ award, as well as being nominated for Best International DJ in the Muzik awards 1998, 1999 and 2000 and winning best independent label for 2 years running at the 2000 Muzik awards. Donning numerous magazine covers in Europe, Erick’s popularity increased as MTV made use of his natural presenting skills as he stood in for various presenters and hosted specials in Miami, the Ibiza Festival in 1999 & 2000.
Musically, Morillo embarked on yet another journey. Joined by labelmates, Jose Nunez and Harry ‘Choo Choo’ Romero, the trio formed “The Dronez” and produced some of the most cutting edge remixes for artists such as Whitney Houston, Jocelyn Brown, Diana Ross, DJ Rap, The Sneaker Pimps, Basement Jaxx, and Mystic 3.
On a solo tip, Erick has recently remixed Bob Sinclar, LL Cool J and Macy Gray.
In between producing, remixing, running an ever expanding label (he has recently created a home for deeper and darker sounds on Subliminal offshoot “Sondos”, and the self-explanatory “Subliminal Soul”) and DJing all over the world, he can also be found in the studio working on a new album penciled in for an late 2002 release.
And what’s else is on for 2002? Following the red hot reception of his “Subliminal Sessons Vol 1”, Erick’s next compilation in the series is set for an early June release. As well as Subliminal Sessions residencies in US and UK, this summer sees Erick continuing his Wednesday‘s at Pacha Ibiza, which garnered the award for Best Ibiza Party at this year’s Muzik Awards. Already a familiar television personality with appearances on MTV UK and host of UK’s 2001 Dancestar Awards, in production is Erick’s seven part series that follows him around the world to the biggest parties and will air throughout the year to millions of viewers on Channel 4.
Disc jockey, producer, all-round social gadfly and party animal. Are you ready for some more? Ladies and Gentlemen: Erick Morillo.
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