Maceo Plex on Nina Kraviz, the return of Maetrik and juggling fame with family life
Last week Maceo Plex took to his Facebook page to voice his opinion on the already controversial short film made by Resident Advisor following Nina Kraviz ‘on the road’ for a few days.
His post, which has since been deleted, opened the flood gates for more people to join the discussion, which went viral and caused a furore with accusations of institutionalised sexism within the world of DJing and a flood of ‘in the bath’ parodies – based on the infamous bath scene in Nina’s documentary. No matter who you were, it seemed everyone had their take on the film, the use of female sexuality and the way in which Nina’s image has been marketed. I spoke to Maceo Plex (AKA Eric Estornel) a few days after the storm had cleared.
You wrote a post on Facebook about ‘that’ RA video, which caused a storm, were you expecting such a huge reaction?
I guess I should have expected it, but I definitely wasn’t expecting the speed at which it would spread. I think it’s because I tapped into something that was already bubbling under, with Resident Advisor users, Greg Wilson’s review (which went out a day before I said anything) – there was already some controversy, I just tapped into it from a different perspective where, perhaps friends of mine or people who agreed with my opinion now had more of a voice to go ahead and speak out as well. In hindsight, now it’s been nearly a week… I’d like to clarify one thing, which is; I never attacked – or meant to attack – Nina’s music, nor her DJing because I’m actually a fan. I listen to her music and her DJing is very cool. I didn’t have any scene in particular that I was pointing at in the video, my whole feeling was about the overall marketing strategy, the overall feeling of the video. But, in hindsight, we all have strong opinions, everybody’s got something to say about everything that’s going on in the scene – just because I’m entitled to my own opinion, and we’re all entitled to our own opinions, it doesn’t mean I should put them up on Facebook for everyone to see. I’m in a unique position where my voice can be heard by many and I used it for the wrong reasons this one time – I never have done that before, I’m usually a very positive person, I don’t hate on anybody, I don’t like people hating on me, so it was just not right to put it up. I’m entitled to my opinion, but it’s not right to throw another artist under the bus. With that said, this is a perfect time to apologise to Nina and her crew for causing such a s**tstorm, or at least boosting what was already a controversial video – for that I am definitely regretful.
As you say though, there was already underlying frustration and a lot of people who shared your opinion may have kept it to themselves until you opened up the gates.
And you know what, sometimes that can be a good thing – to use my position, politically, to not be politically correct and to get my opinion out there but, at the end of the day it was wrong in this case. People think I’m sitting here enjoying the attention but I feel pretty awful about it. It’s a life’s lesson learned. Now I have such a huge following, which is pretty new to me – I’ve been making music for 15 years. It’s only been the last two years or so that I’ve had such a powerful voice and I shouldn’t use it for that.
How do you feel about being labelled as macho and sexist?
I understand that, but the post wasn’t written correctly, I didn’t calculate it or think about how people might react to it or the assumptions people might have made about me once they’d read it. But it’s definitely not true because I also did a shout out to the ladies in the business that I’m friends with, but I should have been a little more respectful with the way I worded it. It’s okay if people think that, but I hope they’ll eventually realise that I’m not this ‘macho’ guy.
It’s an argument that doesn’t really have a definitive conclusion.
It doesn’t. People are always going to come up with their own conclusions and their own judgements and I can’t change that. It’s in the past and they’re going to judge me the way they want, my goal now is to move forward and show them that I’m not. I do make all kinds of music, not just house and techno, and to be open-minded musically you have to be open-minded as a person, as a DJ and I’m not sexist at all, that’s the crazy part.
So, when you eventually cross paths, how will you approach Nina?
I don’t want to search her out, I want us to cross paths as you said – If we have a moment to speak, in a civil way without any kind of arguing, I just want to express to her that I drew up my opinion of the video and other images of her and I made that opinion public, which is wrong. I’ll tell her the same thing when I apologise in person.
Moving on, you were thrust into the limelight after your work as Maetrik. How does it feel to gain some recognition now?
It’s really nice, the Maetrik stuff is what I do, it’s what I’ve always done. The Maceo Plex stuff is fun, sexy house music or whatever you want to call it – the timing was perfect with that, I had the right sound at the right moment. But now things are changing, my music is changing, I’m doing more Maetrik stuff and going back to my roots. I’m in a position right now where I do have this success and I can basically do what I want with it and go in whatever direction I want. It’s a comfortable feeling to be up here, to have gigs, to not worry about paying the bills and be able to make whatever I want.
What was the reason behind your move to Barcelona?
Well, I’m from Miami and I was living in Dallas – I moved from Dallas to Valencia and I did all the Maceo Plex stuff in Valencia, the whole album. To be honest I had nothing to do in Valencia, I got tired of it and moved to Barcelona, where there was a lot more action. All of my friends are here, I can find all the gear I want, there are more record stores so I can find all the music I want, it feels much better. It’s good to be here, in the thick of things – in the US you can’t make as much money, the scene is a lot smaller.
You must feel a need to switch it up every now and then.
I don’t know how some of these artists keep doing the same kind of stuff all the time, even when you look at some of the old-schoolers, they changed it up. They might be known for a certain style for most of their career, but they try different things and I think it’s important to try those things or we all go crazy. It’s nice that I already have a following with Maetrik so, when I go back to that sound, they’re waiting for me – that’s a nice feeling.
That’s had an influence on your DJ Kicks mix, right?
Yeah, just because you only have one chance to do a DJ Kicks mix – it’s not a Maceo Plex mix, it’s not a Maetrik mix, it’s just me, it’s what I like. It’s got some Maetrik-ish stuff… I have another alias, which is Mariel Ito, and I did some things on labels like Modern Love, so it’s got that kind of sound on it, too – it’s all in there. I went back and grabbed records I’ve enjoyed over the past twenty years, I wanted to let them be heard because people might not know them, and I did some re-edits. It’s a full package, it’s more of an album really and there’s much more production in there, than just mixing.
I’ve seen you DJ several times now and I’m always impressed with the way you work – looping things and using effects, you work really quickly with devastating effect. How long has it taken you to get to that stage?
Well, I did it with vinyl – I used to use something called a Soundbite and outboard effects as well as drum machines back in the nineties. Now it’s just a loop, it’s a lot more compact – I used outboard effects, like analogue pedals… it’s just stuff I’ve learned how to do over the last twenty years. Back in the day it was totally normal to hook up a drum machine to your set-up, it’s not that much different now – you just get quick and comfortable with the gear.
Beyond DJ Kicks do you have any other big projects coming up or is it mainly EPs and stuff?
I’ve been touring a lot more than usual, so I’m making slightly less music than I was last year but I’ve got a new record by DJ Spun, a really well-respected DJ from the US, and it’s called TV Baby – New York Is Alright, it’s his remix and I’ve done a remix. There’s the stuff I’m doing with Danny Daze as Jupiter Jazz, there are no labels set for that yet, we’re just building up a good catalogue of music – also a lot of Maetrik music I’m working on, hopefully I’ll find labels for, if not I’ll release it on my own. That’s about it and I’ve got this one track I’m working on called Pressure, with Cajmere.
Will that be a Cajual release?
I would love to have a Cajual release because I grew up on Cajual Records and all the Green Velvet stuff, so it would be a dream come true. It took 20 years to get there but it would be amazing to have a release on his label.
What’s coming up on Ellum?
More from Jaydee, more from DJ Spun. There’s a guy from London, who’s been making some really interesting music – he’s already had a release on my label and has some stuff coming up on Visionquest – his name’s Eric Volta. He’s making amazing, warm, analogue-sounding music – we’ve got another release coming up from him, I’m a huge fan of his. I’m trying to find artists out there that aren’t known and aren’t releasing on a bunch of other labels.
Do you even have time to listen to demos?
I have some time, it’s always best if someone sends a demo to email@example.com with a creative subtext to get me to listen to it. There are hundreds in the inbox so it takes a lot to get my attention!
You must be so busy with touring, but obviously you have a personal life as well. How do you manage your time?
That’s difficult because I do have a fiancée and she has an 11-year-old daughter, who is pretty much my daughter, so I do come home to a family, we have three dogs… It’s nice, I’m not s**t when I come home, I’m not Maetrik, I’m not Maceo Plex, I’m Eric and I have to wash dishes! And that’s keeping me grounded. Time-wise, it’s just a case of coming off the road and getting home.
I guess when you get swept up in this whole ‘being famous’ thing and having the bookings come flooding in, there’s a temptation to rinse it in a short space of time because you don’t know how long it will last but then there’s that thing where you think, ‘I want to have some longevity and a normal life so should I take every single booking?’ How do you deal with that?
That’s a very good question because you feel like you’ve got to keep going and have some kind of longevity, at some point though you’ve got to realise what’s more important; being at home with your family or being on the road and being around longer. When you first get to my level, the first year is tough – you’ve got to work really hard, but it evens out. You know when you can take vacations and have family time, and still get to all the right festivals and clubs at the right time. When you have a good agent and good management, you can arrange a nice strategy for the year and maintain your longevity too. Longevity has to do with your own creativity and what you’re releasing, what kind of sets you’re playing – if you’re not doing anything good, you won’t be around forever.
How do you manage to keep yourself motivated in terms of making new music?
I don’t have to be motivated, that’s all I know how to do. So it’s not only therapeutic, it’s a hobby, it’s something that I like to do and so I’ve got to be near a computer and a MIDI controller or my analogue at the studio, I’ve got to be near it at all times or I’ll go crazy. I don’t have to motivate myself to make something, I have to make something anyways – not everything that comes out is good, but I have to make something at all times. If you think of a guitarist, it’s a good analogy – they go with everywhere with their guitar, they don’t need to be motivated to play it or jam with it, they just do it and that’s how it is. You take your music everywhere you go, especially now with technology you can make something on the road.
So now you’re at this stage, where do your ambitions lie?
What we were talking about before, having longevity, comfort, family and continued success but also continued quality output. Now, I don’t know where to go from here – I’d have to go pop or commercial to make any more money or to have any more success or recognition, but I can’t do that, it’s not me. So from here, it’s just about enjoying it.
Have you ever considered applying your skills to making music for film?
I’d have to really up my music theory skills for that. Maybe later on down the line, I’m only 35 now, so maybe when I’m in my forties!
Maceo Plex DJ Kicks is out on 29 April – for more information on Maceo Plex, head to his Facebook page here.Tagged in: Ellum Audio, Eric Estornel, Eric Volta, Maceo Plex, Maetrik, Mariel Ito, Nina Kraviz
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