He’s the latest superstar DJ to nab himself a season-long residency at one of Ibiza’s top superclubs, but Maceo Plex isn’t playing by anyone’s rules. DJ Mag Ibiza joins the much-loved DJ, producer and label boss at Pacha’s luxurious Destino Resort, to talk studio secrets, old skool Ibiza, and how to avoid homogeneous DJ sets...
“I just officially moved to Ibiza recently — yesterday, to be exact!” Maceo Plex is chatting to us beside a gigantic, glistening swimming pool in the burning hot Balearic sun, swathed all in black and brandishing a bright orange smoothie. DJ Mag Ibiza has just met the famed producer, DJ and Ellum Audio boss at Pacha’s lush Destino resort, which sits atop a rocky cliff face in the picturesque south of the island.
It’s not the first time we’ve been to the swanky celeb hangout — the hotel has also hosted nights from DIYnamic boss Solomun and Love The Underground Records, plus more recent additions including Guy Gerber’s Rumors party on Sundays. Maceo Plex (real name: Eric Estornel) has only recently put down roots on the White Isle, the next step in his exceptional professional journey that’s seen him find success under several different aliases including Maetrik, Mariel Eto and, of course, his Maceo moniker.
He’s released multiple albums, though it was his debut on Crosstown Rebels, titled ‘Life Index’, that shot him to underground ubiquity, alongside his well-documented candidness and technical DJ skills. With a penchant for minimal and abstract sounds, as well as a love of classic techno, old skool electro and experimental nu wave, Maceo Plex’s back catalogue is a vast and complex affair — but that’s all part of Eric Estornel’s unquestionable appeal.
Niche musical influences aside, DJ Mag Ibiza is here to talk about his new, season-long Mosaic By Maceo residency at Pacha that he’s launching in 2016 after years of playing other people’s parties on the island. Never afraid to speak his mind, it’s probably come as somewhat of a surprise to many diehard Maceo fans that the outspoken DJ has decided to go ahead with an Ibiza residency at all — but rest assured, it’s something he’s doing staunchly on his own terms.
“The best thing about Pacha is they have a real desire and urge to book something new, something different — and that’s exactly what I wanted to do too,” Maceo Plex tells DJ Mag Ibiza when we ask why he chose the famous double-cherried nightclub. It’s tough to imagine just how many White Isle residency offers Maceo might have had, though rumour has it almost every major Ibiza club had thrown their hat in the ring at the close of last season.
“I’m personally curating the line-up for this, and they [Pacha] have been real partners with me on this. We haven’t been able to get absolutely everyone that we want but they’ve been really supportive of curating a cool line-up, especially for this island.”
And he’s right — Mosaic’s line-ups are some of the island’s most dynamic. There’s sets from UK techno kings including Paranoid London, Daniel Avery and Damian Lazarus already confirmed, plus Steffi, Patrice Scott, Axel Boman, DJ Koze, DJ Tennis, Jennifer Cardini and many more. Then there’s a selection of hand-picked label showcases including artists from Kompakt, Live At Robert Johnson and Permanent Vacation, plus a slew of special guests and secret shows.
Keen to take it back to the “roots of the island”, Estornel admits he actually hasn’t spent that much time on the White Isle compared to other artists of his status — although each of his trips have been personally influential. “I’ve only been coming here for about ten years or so, but from the stories I’ve heard, it was less superstar-orientated than it is now,” he explains.
Not that Maceo Plex is complaining, it’s his own superstar status that’s nabbed him his much-hyped residency in the first place. “Obviously, this night is about a guy called Maceo Plex, and that’s great,” he laughs, “but I do want my night to be about artists coming here to try out music, and to experiment — not to just blow up. I feel like this used to be a place people went to discover new sounds they’d never heard before and do things here that you can’t do anywhere else as a DJ.
“I feel like a lot of DJs are amazing outside Ibiza, and then they come to Ibiza and they adapt to what they think is appropriate for the island,” Maceo continues. “As a result, they end up playing slightly cheesier music, or let’s just say not as good music as they would if they were in London or whatever. I want people to try out some weird music at my night, too.”
It’s no secret that Ibiza’s line-ups have been labeled increasingly homogenous — the topic was broached multiple times during this year’s International Music Summit (IMS) — thanks to the same small selection of tech-house-leaning DJs filling much of the island’s club bills. “Now, it’s just about who are the big DJs and where are they playing?” Estornel explains, slightly exasperated.
It makes sense, then, that his Maceo Plex night is more than just yet another platform for the world’s biggest DJ acts — he’s drafting in a bunch of up-and-comers, too. “I’d like it to also be about the smaller artists that we’re booking as well, and showcasing the new stuff that they’re doing. That’s why the line-up is pretty unorthodox for Ibiza. I’d like it to be a platform for newer sounds instead of an ending place for big DJs to go and play crappy music [laughs].”
Not alone in his opinion about the island’s increasingly lazy line-ups, Maceo Plex is perhaps one of the few big name DJs not afraid to say exactly what he’s thinking. Voicing his opinions is something the DJ/producer has never shied away from — he’s made dance music headlines thanks to contentious comments in the past. “Recently, there’s been this supposed way of justifying those (homogeneous) Ibiza line-ups — you know those line-ups where everything sounds exactly the same for eight hours? People always say, ‘Well, it has a really hypnotic effect’, and it’s like, ‘Well no, actually it’s just really fucking boring and the only way anyone gets through it is because they’re wasted.”’
DJ Mag nods in solemn agreement. “That didn’t really exist when I first came out here — it was more new tracks that no one knew,” he continues. “Different house and techno stuff, you know? Now it’s just people doing loops and letting it go forever. I’m not talking about anyone in particular, but that’s not what I’m into. So, our party is about changing that, trying to discover things again.”
In a bid to avoid said monotonous line-ups, Maceo Plex is also drafting in live acts to join him at Mosaic, including Gold Panda and Honey Soundsystem, as well as an all-vinyl night to take place later in the season.
One artist in particular that springs to mind is Steve O’Sullivan, the man behind influential imprint Mosaic Records, something that didn’t go unnoticed when Estornel first announced the name to his fans. “I’ve been a fan of Steve’s for such a long time, since the late ‘90s. I’ve always been really into minimalism, that dubby kind of house sound, I guess.
When I was trying to think of names I just kept coming back to that one. And I couldn’t remember seeing — and maybe there were — any Mosiac parties and I remember we tossed around other names, Spectrum was one we thought of. I really wanted the name to symbolise different pieces of sound — something you can represent visually and audibly.”
So, will O’Sullivan be making an appearance at one of the Mosaic dates at Pacha? “Yes, of course! I knew right off the bat that I’d have to ask Steve O’Sullivan about the name and he said it was okay. He is coming to play as well, which is the icing on the cake!”
It’s curating the line-ups that Maceo Plex is enjoying most — “right now, where I am, this is perfect,” he explains to DJ Mag Ibiza. “I don’t need to sell out huge arenas, stadiums. Career-wise, this feels like a big goal for me, yes,” he nods. “Every year is a new challenge, every year something new to stress about [laughs]. I’m actually trying to finish my album at the exact same time that I’m doing this — so I feel pressure to be the best DJ I can be, and provide a great party for everyone. Oh, and of course, the other thing is trying to be a good dad to my son, which is the number one thing to me. It’s everything.”
Since he’s decided to settle with his wife and son in Ibiza for the season, one would assume Estornel has bought his studio set-up along for the ride. A master of rich, analogue sonics and flawlessly crisp production, it’s no secret that Maceo Plex is one of the most technically impressive producers of the last decade — something he’s looking to continue with his next LP, ‘Solar’. “I’d be lying if I said my whole set-up was hardware,” he says.
“I own a lot of drum machines but I don’t use them that much anymore, it’s mostly synths and using pedals and guitars and even some vocals. It’s just about getting it into the computer and then putting everything together.
“The new album is more like that than ever before, it’s much more electronica. It’s very live, and it’s something I’m planning to do for this album — a new Maceo Plex live show, with which I can present this new stuff on a big stage, I guess. I’ve got a makeshift studio out here at the moment since I only just got over here. We’re going to bring a whole car-load over next week, too.”
There’s a distinct lack of information on the exact method behind Maceo Plex’s productions — there’s almost no ‘In The Studio’-style features ever done with the producer. “To be honest, I think it would be really hard for me to let anyone into my studio,” he says.
“Or should I say, the press, into my studio. I don’t want people to know, it’s very personal to me. That’s my work-space and I think there’s almost a nice mystery to not knowing where an artist made his art. Aphex Twin is a great example, you’ll never see him in his studio, and I think that adds a lot to his mystique and my ongoing obsession with him — it’s always going to sexier when you don’t know.”
The idea of stage persona is something Maceo Plex has always struggled with, preferring the behind-closed-doors approach of artists like Aphex Twin over the unabashed bravado of DJs like Seth Troxler. “I’d really love to be able to do this — and I’d basically have to go against the entire clubbing industry to do this — but I’d love to just play and be hidden away, everyone’s enjoying the music and I’m over there in the corner,” he shrugs.
“It’s like the way clubs used to work. If you ever go into an old club, one that still has their old DJ booth set-up, it’s usually somewhere in the corner of the room, never in the middle. Now they have these huge, grand DJ booths, it’s more of a spectacle than before. One club I always wish I’d made it to was The End in London, actually. I was always a huge Mr C fan and he was the co-owner. I heard they were playing a lot of my tunes there but I never made it.”
We talk about London for a little while longer before we finish — it’s time for Estornel to head back to his new villa to get into Maceo Plex mode before it’s off to Pacha’s for tonight’s opening. He’s drafted in Agents Of Time for a special live set tonight, alongside Israel-born duo Red Axes, as well as a three-hour set from the man himself.
When we arrive at the gigantic club later that evening, it’s kitted out like something from a big budget Hollywood film. Costumed dancers are gyrating seductively on elevated podiums around Pacha’s main room, as strobe-lights flash wildly with eyeball-burning intensity.
For an artist who’s not a fan of spectacle, it’s a pretty extravagant show, but it’s clear Estornel also takes great pride in what he’s built so far — and has an iron-clad long-term vision in mind. Better still, Mosaic By Maceo is soundtracked by some of the weird and wonderful sonics promised to us in our interview earlier that day, albeit to the slight confusion of a couple of high-spenders in the elevated VIP. It doesn’t matter at all — the floor is rammed right up until 6am, before Maceo Plex heads off to play a private after-party in a hillside villa sponsored by 808 Whiskey.
We meet up with him one final time at the villa, following a storming back-to-back set with long-time pal and fellow Miami local, Danny Daze. “All I want to do is do this residency and make it great, and play some great gigs around the world, and keep making music,” Maceo tells DJ Mag Ibiza. “The residency feels like this could be a big goal ticked. In my mind I’m like, ‘Okay, let’s just stay here and do this for awhile’,” he smiles. “This is it, so let’s make this great.”
Copyright Thrust Publishing Ltd. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.djmag.com as the source.